Steve Hilmy is a rare breed of professor—insanely knowledgeable and the type that you’d want to go get a beer with because he’s so cool. If you speak to him for one second you realize this guy has more knowledge than you could potentially absorb in a lifetime. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Steve was then sent to a British boarding school at the tender age of 7. He went to GW for undergrad, and has been the Director of the Electronic and Computer Music Studio since 1992. Before heading into the electronic realm of music, Steve was a symphonic composer. Now, most of his work combines performance, dance, and electronic music. As a composer, a main source of his inspiration is poetry. Here, he reads the third poem in Samuel Beckett’s “Quartre Poèmes.”
– Maggie Koons, Alaina Noronha, & Hannah Spector
What connection do you think there is between music and poetry, the biggest connection?
The biggest connection is the sound. The sort of poetry I’m interested in is the sort of poetry that has to be read aloud. I think you can read it and you can hear that voice in your head, but reading it aloud brings it to life—same with music. In another way, music is on a score, it’s a set of directions for musicians, and the poem is on a piece of paper, but the expression of both of these, I believe, is the actual performance of the poem or the music. I think music and poetry are meant to be ephemeral, meant to be out, delivered, and swept by you and how you perceive them is associated with where you are, what is going, whether you hear all the words, whether you hear all the score—it’s all a big part of what music and poetry magical.
Do you write poetry?
I’ve written very bad poems, that I’ve never deemed to submit them to anybody except for my diary. So, not really.
How often does poetry factor into your music making process?
For the first ten years of my compositional life, I didn’t do a single piece that wasn’t either inspired by a poem or used a poem—usually in a singing voice, a soprano or mezzo-soprano, really a woman actually. I wrote one piece for a baritone on an Emily Dickinson poem.