It is rare that ambient music can compel you to close your computer, get out of your seat, and rise to your feet. On a typical Tuesday night, as I was working from The Assemblage John Street, readying to complete work for the day, I heard a looping melody amplifying louder and louder. I began searching for the sensuous sounds radiating through the air. There, standing tall with his chin in the air, was Violinist Andrei Matorin.
While his music is first and foremost centered around the violin, Matorin has evolved his sound through a journey of exploring and experimenting with improvisational techniques and harmonies. He grew up playing classical music—difficult concertos and etudes that led to his precision and mastery of the instrument. Through honing these skills, Andrei became free to express his ideas in new ways—learning, composing, and performing contemporary jazz, indigenous folk, modern classical, or even more abstract representations.
If you have had the pleasure of hearing Matorin play, which he does every Tuesday night at The Assemblage John Street as a part of the VIBE musicians series, you will have noticed his musical talent can be attributed to so much more than his technical skills. There is reference to his Brazilian heritage, with a nod to African rhythms, and a hint of Jazz melodies. But more, his sound evokes a feeling; one of reminiscence, an other-worldly character that resonates with the audience in a deep way. What spawns are layers of musical textures; Matorin breaks all of the rules of traditional music that most musicians are taught and still makes a coherent composition that can stand on its own.
Matorin and I sat down before his weekly performance to a room of hopeful and excited guests to speak about the role of collaboration in a creative community and the emotional impact of his music. It is through this experience of playing that he connects with the audience, allowing them to collectively address issues of pain, trauma and love, while individually sinking into the sound.
Samantha Katz (SK): When did you first pick up a violin? Did you immediately know this was your calling, or rather, is it your calling?
My mother brought me to an orchestra concert when I was three years old and living in Brazil and I was immediately fascinated by the instrument. On the way home, I asked my mother if I could learn while holding her hand.
I picked up the violin three years later when I was six. The first few years of playing were anything but easy, especially because we were moving between countries often—Boston, Italy, Switzerland. Everytime we moved, I had to start over with a new teacher.
It felt like I wasn’t progressing and the instrument had got the best of me. I thought of giving up or playing another instrument, but I could never bring myself to let it go. I could never really explain it, but I could not see a future for myself without a violin by my side.
I realized pursuing music as a career was what I wanted to do after attending jazz camp at The Litchfield Jazz Festival. For the first time ever, I was immersed in the world of music 24/7 for two weeks and surrounded by some of the best young musicians in the country and top faculty of world class musicians.
SK: What has contributed to influencing your sound?
On the classical side, Bach as a violinist and composer. As far as popular music goes, everything from The Beatles, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Coincidentally—or not—John Coltrane and I share the same birthday. Not only is he one of the greatest and most innovative musicians of the 20th century, but I strongly identify with his ability to use music as awareness for the social challenges of his time. His spiritual journey and the way his music evolved from a very ego driven approach to a meditative and often transcendent experience is also something I am very inspired by.
I like indigenous traditional music from the Americas and from Africa, and a plethora of Brazilian music. I lived there until I was five years old, but I grew up in the US and Europe, so I picked up music from all over. But in terms of the approach to music and the approach to sounds, checking in with my feelings and recognizing where I’m at [has been a great influence]. Ysaye is also a composer whose works for solo violin have greatly influenced my approach to my instrument and to composition.
How about other(s) influences?
Outside of music, I have always looked up to leaders who inspired millions to see the possibility for a more compassionate world. Obvious names like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela were figures I always greatly admired. On a more silly note, I also always looked up to athletes because of the hard work and disciplined required to interact with the physical universe with such mastery over their bodies. Soccer players from my home country of Brazil like Ronaldinho and Neymar, or Quarterback Tom Brady, always served as examples to me of what is possible for human beings when you combine dedication and creativity.
I have also had a few people in my life who have provided me with unequivocal support and guidance. Firstly, I am eternally grateful for my mother who gave me her all and did everything she could to make sure that I was afforded every opportunity to pursue my passion of music. Her dedication and commitment inspire me every day. I also had a teacher in High School David Eure who always went above and beyond to provide me with everything I needed to succeed in music. Not only did he spend hours with me after hour dedicated class times pushing me and inspiring me, but he always gave me tons of material for me to absorb. Not only did he open the door for me to walk into the world as a professional musician at the ripe age of 16, but he also inspired me to break down all the barriers and confines of music as I saw them.
SK: Do you compose work for other people, or just for yourself and your fans?
I have not yet composed work for other people. Only myself. Whenever I do write, it has a musical setting or a group in mind. It has been for fun. My songs wouldn’t make sense for other people’s performances or for reinterpretations.
SK: You have played at major institutions and in various settings, like the MoMa and the Kennedy Center. How were these experiences for you? How did they come about?
Through all different paths! At the MoMa I ended up performing a very contemporary piece in front of a work of art. It was a nine measure score by Stravinsky, and I repeated those measures for an extended period of time while visitors danced and swayed to the music that was played. We did this for two hours at a time, five times a week for four months. It was challenging. It was a mental endurance to play the same nine measures of music for months on end. Hours and hours and hours. This is something that classical musicians are definitely not accustomed to. It pushed me, and lent to the practice of repetition. It was also a very meditative experience.
The exhibition we performed in conjunction with did not include any other performance art, so the power of sound became so evident. It was powerful – music playing in a museum where everything was otherwise quiet. There would be no music, and then as soon as I would start playing the violin, that resonance was heard around the large room. That focus on sound in space was incredible.
SK: What have been the benefits for you in performing with and alongside others?
Once different mediums and art forms come together, understanding how one form of art can compliment the other—seeing them work together—can create beautiful harmony. Since learning this, I have been interested in focusing on the visual aspects of what I do.
I have intentionally collaborated with visual artists. And I am just interested in developing more friendships in the world, and in being more conscious of the sound of things and how they affect people.
SK: Your particular sound, the vibration your music helps elevate people to, is particularly unique. What is the emotion you want to convey? How do you want listeners to experience it?
The feeling I want to capture is ‘compassion’. Compassion for ourselves. And as I experimented with my music—and saw how the sound affected the audience—I came to this conclusion. I realized that I wanted to develop awareness around the darker emotions that we sometimes experience. That is necessary for us to be able to understand compassion for ourselves in terms of how the sound affects us. I am looking to create an atmosphere.
SK: What are some rituals you have around your practice?
Currently I start off every day playing the violin. After a short yoga practice at home, I play the violin for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before I even shower or have breakfast. My routine around music has varied throughout different stages in my career. I had phases where I had very regimented practice schedules throughout the day, I had phases where I practiced very little if at all. Whereas in the past my main focus was practicing in order to able to play faster, louder, more in tune, nowadays I find my goal is to incorporate my growth in self-awareness and mindfulness in my music in a way that allows me to connect deeper with myself and therefore others.
SK: What is your relationship to creative community? How about the community here at The Assemblage in New York City?
Well, I was introduced to this community as the first artist member. The Assemblage reached out and it really seemed to resonate. It didn’t seem a vague, but, it’s hard to really define. This community speaks to me. I find it to be a community of people who want to cultivate higher levels of awareness, and a higher level of contribution to the planet. That can be awareness within ourselves or awareness within the community’s awareness of what’s going on in the world. I’m at a place where we can find like-minded people who are striving to grow in that way, too. To grow and to create. Some different people and different communities are out there for different reasons. Sometimes it’s just financial. Sometimes it’s just power or looking good. I feel like here [at The Assemblage] people are really cultivating awareness and compassion for the world.
SK: That is beautiful! And so true. So what is next for you?
I’ve starting hosting cacao ceremonies and sound healing sessions. I’m currently working on completing and releasing several new albums of my music in various genres for 2019. Other than that, I’m working with several people on creating new structures, whether that’s a media structure or cultural centers to create platforms for artists and people to come together and, similarly to The Assemblage, become more aware of the impact that we’re having on the environment and on ourselves. I want to introduce sustainable solutions to the world and serve as a model for that. For that I’m working with several entrepreneurs to create centers that would showcase these efforts.
For instance, last year, after coming to terms with the fact that I could indeed use music as a catalyst to create impactful experiences, I organized and performed for 100,000 seconds (27 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds) as fundraiser to help raise awareness around the worldwide refugee crisis we are currently undergoing. I put this on with the help of Peace Accelerators. It was the first experiment to see how I could use music and performance art to inspire people to be more aware and challenge them to go beyond their self imposed limits to create the world we all want. Aside from striving to create transformative experiences with every performance, I am also working with several entrepreneurs to create platforms and structures that would facilitate the production of transformative art for artists around the world.