Backstage with Magik*Magik Orchestra

This interview with Minna Choi, artistic director of Magik*Magik Orchestra, originally appeared on the Stern Grove Festival website as part of a series of artist interviews. A quartet comprised of members of Magik*Magik Orchestra performed alongside indie rock trio Geographer.

Magik*Magik is a rather protean ensemble; the personnel changes according to the needs of the project. That said, who is Magik*Magik, and what does it mean to be a Magik player?

As Magik's director, I choreograph each performance project we take on, whether it's composing, casting or conducting. In that way, Magik functions more like a dance company than a traditional orchestra. Each project requires a different cast of players and newly composed arrangements (depending on our collaborator), and Magik brings the different pieces together. Because of this, Magik players need to be very versatile stylistically and able to communicate well with me and with our principal players. A Magik player has a very high level of classical technical proficiency (they have to be almost perfect sight readers), but also possesses a casual and amiable personality and are able to get along with all different types of artists.

This is not Magik*Magik's first appearance with Geographer. What has working with the band been like?

It's been great! Every time we work with a new band, I never know how much creative control they are going to give me. Geographer was one of those wonderful instances where the band granted complete arranging freedom from the get go, so it was very easy writing for them. They seem ready and willing to trust a new voice.

Describe one particularly fruitful or imaginative collaboration.

I've never had to write as much music at once as I had to do for the Death Cab for Cutie Tour; so in that way, it was memorable and challenging, but rewarding. It's hard to write strings for 20 songs and not have the audience get tired of the strings by the fourth song. It was an exercise in trying a little something different for each one but still maintaining a cohesive tone. The band also gave me completely freedom to write whatever I wanted so that was a gift as well.

Copyright Stern Grove Festival Association, 2013