Who or what inspired you to take up composing and performing and pursue a career in music?
I remember asking my parents for a keyboard as a child and never looking back.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since my teens, but I decided that I wanted to spend a great deal of time perfecting my musical craft first. This would give me something interesting to write about later, a topic with which I would be not only intimately familiar but also passionate about.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My musical influences include but are not limited to Beethoven, Yann Tiersen, Philip Glass, Dolly Parton, Lana Del Rey, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen, Fever Ray, and Bach. My mom is one of my role models because she is the quintessential creative woman: she works as an engineer and is also a visual artist (halinamontrey.com). Tom Plaunt, Wolfgang Dosch, Anne Wieben, Karlheinz Essl, Barbara Lueneburg, and Suzana Stankovic are artists with whom I’ve either worked or studied (or both), who have helped shape the way I approach creativity.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I believe that the greatest challenge for an artist that strives for authenticity is remaining true to oneself while surrounded by various sources of pressure. For me, this means time, resources, and the opinions of others. Not only have I been true to my own musical and artistic intentions; I have defined my own voice as an artist. I continue to speak with that voice every day and strive to communicate from the heart with my audiences.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am always proud of a performance in which I reach someone. If I make you laugh, cry, or ponder, I feel that I have accomplished a part of my continuing mission to connect with the people taking the time to listen to my work.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I’m told that my solo piano compositions both with and without electronics, such as Raven Dress (https://soundcloud.com/clio-em/raven-dress) or Serge’s Song (https://soundcloud.com/clio-em/serges-song-piano), make quite an impression when I play them live. I personally love performing my folksy favourites such as Orca Smile (https://soundcloud.com/clio-em/orca-smile-banff) because I can convey so much emotion, and I often get a very positive audience response.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It depends on what I’ve recently written! This year, and, I suspect, for much of next year as well, my set is mostly about GRAVITY WING, a science fiction concept album written in various musical genres and styles. I describe it as folktronica/classical crossover. You can read more about it at this link: clio-em.com/gravity-wing
In preceding years, I focused more on contemporary classical repertoire I’d composed, and on classical pieces by other composers. Some favourites by others include song cycles by De Falla and Rodrigo. The longer I make music, however, the more I enjoy performing my own compositions. This way, I can convey a certain intention that I carry from beginning to end throughout the entire creative process.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I’ve performed in venues across a wide range of spatial arrays and sizes, from the Vienna Musikverein and the Austrian National Library (in the Hofburg Palace) to jazz bars, coffee houses, and, one time, a cupcake shop called Brass Monkey. Every venue can be made magical. I just need to find the right recipe of sounds and songs! It’s like casting a spell, and when it works, the venue breathes with the music.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
Where do I begin? There are so many. I’ll focus on what’s been on my mind recently.
I absolutely love to play Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in Bb minor (book 1).
Lately I’ve been listening a lot to Apparat [Sascha Ring]’s fantastic work. He strikes a wonderful balance between classical, new music, and pop. His songs pull apart my emotions and put them back together.
Magdalena Kozena does a beautiful interpretation of “Connais-tu le pays?” from Thomas’ Mignon that I just keep listening to over and over again (with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Marc Minkowski).
Who are your favourite musicians?
I really enjoy listening to Owen Pallett. He’s completely down-to-earth when performing live and his music speaks to my soul. Tanya Tagaq’s music is full of joy and pain and both raw and processed energy, really so much of what it means to be human. Her powerful live performance makes you redefine the term “force of nature.”
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Singing the Carmen Habanera on the runway of MQ Vienna Fashion Week 2013! Fellow operetta singer Anete (Liepina) and I arranged a duet version for a show put together by Mario Soldo, showcasing a collection by Lisi Lang for her label lila. We walked onto the runway as if we were modelling the clothes, and suddenly we started singing duelling strains of the aria. The audience responded so enthusiastically, it nearly overwhelmed me. It was then that I decided to move more into the world of crossover music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Music gives us a way to experience ideas, emotions, and atmospheres collectively, and so it is a tremendously powerful tool. Fearlessly and honestly share your love for sound with those around you.
Remember, though, that you are a part of your own audience. Be kind to yourself. Perform what you are passionate about. Have passion for what you perform. Learn to love music you may not have liked in the past. Give new pieces a fair chance, but don’t waste time adjusting to others’ expectations of what you should sound like. There is room enough for all our musical ideas in this universe, so express yours.
What do you enjoy doing most?
As much as I love performing and composing music, the act of writing a story is what holds my heart. You can find some of my speculative fiction on my blog (at clio-em.com). I incorporate a great deal of my musical knowledge into my writing, though. Descriptions of surreal instruments and futuristic compositions, that sort of thing. My texts inform my musical work, and vice versa.