5 Questions to Allison Loggins-Hull (composer, flutist)

Allison Loggins-Hull is a composer and flutist based in Montclair, NJ. She is one of two musicians selected to receive support from Alarm Will Sound’s newly established Matt Marks Impact Fund in its first year for her forthcoming work Love Always. The stated goal of the Matt Marks Impact Fund is to develop collaborations with “the potential to make significant cultural and social impact.” Loggins-Hull connects Love Always to social themes in a preview for the piece, reflecting on the experience of parenting a young son in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting and on the role of communication in her work.

Press about the Matt Marks Impact Fund seems to emphasize working relationships and the collaborative process as much as the resulting music. Is there a connection there for you between the ‘social’ aspect of music-making and the content of this project?

I consider myself a collaborator in most of the things that I do, and I prefer to be part of a team. In my duo Flutronix, I’ve been collaborating very closely with my partner (Nathalie Joachim) for over a decade–not just as performers, but as composers and business partners. That relationship has shown me the power of true collaboration and working with others. Having more than one brain in the room makes it possible to have a soundboard, exchange ideas, receive feedback, and learn. In any great collaboration, there sparks a tactile energy that can often only be described as something magical.

Of course, collaborating is also fun and a means to discover new things about other people and yourself. With that said, I look forward to collaborating with Alarm Will Sound and getting to know them not only as musicians, but also as people. In fact, we’re currently in the middle of figuring out when a group of us can get together for a “hang” with our instruments, and we’ll see where the night takes us. I see this as a great introduction to our partnership and a catalyst for the starting point of this project.

Previous works of yours have tended not to take the concept of musical genre for granted — do style archetypes come into your plans here, as well?

I have always struggled with classifying my music into any one genre. I have such a wide range of musical influences, and what ends up coming out is a true reflection of that. I grew up in a household full of eclectic records, and they were often played loudly. It’s no surprise that these sounds are embedded in my subconscious. With that said, I do not intentionally set out to write in any specific genre. I just write. Perhaps works of mine come across as favoring a certain style, but the music is simply a result of whatever the inspiration is. For this project, I’m positive genre lines will continue to blur, as I honestly can’t help myself, and I look forward to expanding my musical language by learning from and working with my collaborators.

Text is a big part of Love Always, and you’ve said that your relationship to letters changed in the context of parenthood after Michael Brown’s death. Can you tell us more about this as it relates to the present work?

Love Always, is a song cycle, and each song is inspired by a letter written from an adult to a young person they care about. These letters serve as a means to offer guidance, history and love, in an effort to help the reader navigate life as an adult.

When the Michael Brown shooting occurred, my then 5-year-old son learned about it at school and came home with many questions and concerns. Up until that point, my husband and I made an effort to wait to talk to him about such loaded topics until he was older. We were frustrated because we were forced to address it at an age we believed was too young–he still believed in Santa Claus, to put everything in perspective. We felt robbed of choice and sad to have to explain this tragic and complicated situation to him. In talking with my husband about it, we quickly realized we would have to continue to have these conversations with him not only sooner, but more frequently than we had hoped.

When I read Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ “Between the World and Me,” I was of course reminded of the conversations I had and will continue to have with my son. “Between the World and Me” is an extensive letter from Coates to his son, and through historical and personal lenses, he advises him on how to maneuver in this country as a black man. This work has inspired me to communicate similarly to my son. In thinking about this, I was inspired to gather and research other letters and set them to song. This is how the idea for the project more or less began.

Allison Loggins-Hull

Allison Loggins-Hull–Photo by Rafael Rios

You’re active as a performer and teacher in addition to composing. Do the former two practices inform your approach to the latter (or vice-versa)?

All of my practices inform each other. Performing has given me the experience to teach and a unique perspective when it comes to composing. Teaching forces me to articulate what I do in different ways, which in turn reaffirms what I already know (or might have forgotten!) or connects dots that I didn’t immediately recognize. Composing has given me confidence in my musical intuition and often forces me to be quite studious, beyond my flute practice. All three have made me a better listener, thinker, musician, and collaborator in countless ways.

You’ll be working on other projects concurrently with Love Always. Are they connected?

They are connected in that I am focused on making work that is responsive to the times and/or highlights the experiences of marginalized populations. I am writing and performing for my project Diametrically Composed, which is a collection of newly commissioned works featuring flute, voice, and piano exploring the duality of being a mother and an artist. The collaborative artists are mothers and include composers Sarah Kirkland Snider, Paola Prestini, Jessica Meyer, singer/composer Alicia Hall Moran, and pianist Gabriela Martinez. This work will feature the narratives of women from other artistic disciplines and aims to confront the notion that motherhood and professional life can be limiting factors in their interaction.

Flutronix is working on our biggest project yet, Discourse. Discourse has been commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts and is a site-specific music, community engagement, and social change initiative that aims to ignite conversations in communities across the country with one another, and to present their shared experiences in an evening-length performance. Discourse is an artistic response to the collective need to examine differing perspectives and ignite social change. We are in the middle of a two-year residency at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and working with students, faculty, and community organizations throughout the region to source material for this work. Discourse will premiere at Carolina Performing in the spring of 2020. There are other like-minded commissioning projects in the works, both large and small, so stay tuned as they develop!