On June 7th, Rooftop Films is dimming the lights to experience the eerie beauty of darkness with “That Impending Sense,” a short film program to be accompanied by the delicately hypnotic sound of pianist Bruce Levingston. Levingston’s graceful style at once haunts and soothes, much like the films in this Friday’s series. Rooftop Films had the chance to talk to Levingston about his own work and relationship with film.
Rooftop Films: Tell us about the work you do with Premiere Commission.
Bruce Levingston: I founded Premiere Commission, a non-profit foundation, in 2001. My idea was to form an organization that would support the work of living composers and find ways to present their works in great venues around the country. We have commissioned over 50 new works and premiered them in places like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Library of Congress. The organization has commissioned works from some very well-known people like Philip Glass and Pulitzer Prize-winners William Bolcom and Charles Wuorinen but also many brilliant younger composers like Lisa Bielawa, Sebastien Currier and, most recently, Timo Andres and Mohammed Fairouz, whose works I’ll premiere in the coming season at Carnegie Hall.
RF: Which other artists or writers have influenced your development most as a musician?
BL: I have been strongly influenced by many figures inside and outside music. Pianistically I would say Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin and Annie Fischer, all very different pianists, were hugely important in my conception and approach to the instrument. But painters like Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Bonnard, Picasso, Kandinsky, Rothko and Hofmann were also hugely important in shaping my sense of color, light and form and their works have shaped my conception of music.
In terms of writing about music, I have been tremendously moved and impressed by the great works of Charles Rosen: first, his classic, The Classical Style, and later, The Romantic Generation. In terms of traditional literature and poetry, I am a pretty big fan of Austen and Baudelaire. And, of course, from my home-state of Mississippi, I adore the incisive works of the superlative Eudora Welty.
RF: Following up from the last question, is there an artist or writer, past or current, that you would love to play their work or collaborate with but would still find yourself hesitant to do so?
BL: Interesting question. I’ve performed with some incredibly cool people like Philip Glass and George Plimpton but, yeah, I admit it, I’d like to play with the big fella himself, Beethoven. He is the original rock star. It would be daunting, and probably a little wild, but would be an amazing encounter. I think I’d get over any hesitancy in order to do it!
RF: What are some of your favorite noir/noir-ish films?
BL: I love noir films. In a sense, the 1931 Dracula from Universal is both horror and early noir so I’d have to include that. It is still totally creepy. But in the traditional sense of noir cinema I’d say my top picks are: the immortal Maltese Falcon (of course), the superb Thin Man and After the Thin Man films with Loy and Powell and Asta, the incredibly steamy and nasty Double Indemnity, the strange, sexy, violent, ultra-dark, and weird The Glass Key, and, more recently, if you can count it in a retro-kinda way, LA Confidential.