Genre-Bender Peter Xifaras
Special Interview/Ravi V. Chhabra
Ravi V. Chhabra: Can you tell us about your academic and musical background?
Peter Xifaras: I studied at the University of Rhode Island (USA) and majored in classical guitar/performance. Courses included music theory, harmony, composition, orchestration, music history and tablature transcription (lute music).
Ravi: Earlier musical interests and musical experiences?
Peter Xifaras: I started guitar lessons at age nine, and gravitated towards rock and fusion music in my teenage years. At 16 I switched over to classical-guitar as was required for college. Besides rock music, I was also influenced by jazz as my older brother was a student at Berklee College of Music at the time and would expose me to the music of many famous jazz artists.
Ravi: What work have you done for giving musical scores in cinema?
Peter Xifaras:I’ve done a couple of short scores as a ‘ghost writer’ and an audio book, however, I am slated to be working on a feature film project for JawDoc Productions.
Ravi: Do you write musical notations?
Peter Xifaras:Yes. When not manually jotting down notes with a pencil in hand, I use the notation software Sibelius.
Ravi: Do you play any musical instruments?
Peter Xifaras: Guitar and bass.
Ravi: How do you thematically relate your compositions. Your crossover work is stellar. What led you to finetune this genre?
Peter Xifaras:Thank you! I’ve always liked themed compositions that extend beyond one song. It gives the composer a chance to stretch out and tell a story where the music can have several chapters akin to a book.
Ravi: How did your project with trumpet maestro Shunzo Ohno come about?
Peter Xifaras:I did a spoken word project with a writer where I wrote the underlying musical score. Shunzo had heard it and messaged me on social media. Wanting to learn more about the artist, I watched the documentary, ‘Never Defeated’ based on Shunzo’s life and was blown away. His is an extreme story of overcoming adversity. I invite many to watch this on Youtube: https://youtu.be/356vjoaGbrg . I hadn’t played electric guitar in many years and wanted to record an album on electric. So I asked Shunzo if he would be willing to play on the album if I sent him the tunes and he agreed to it!
Ravi: Who financially supports your orchestral/symphonic arrangements. Is there ample money in it?
Peter Xifaras: All my projects are self-financed. I have a recording studio in my home and I own the record label, Music With No Expiration®. Musicians need to be better compensated – the streaming model is tilted toward pop and rap genres where millions of streams can give a good royalty return, however, classical and jazz genres would never hit hundreds of millions of streams.
Ravi: Favorite five western classical composers across all the eras, especially Historical, Baroque and Modern reasons?
Peter Xifaras: Bach – I’ve performed his lute suites on the guitar and love the counterpoint. Beethoven- he was a rebel! Ravel/Debussy – impressionism, Vaughn-Williams – Lush & romantic! Rodrigo – Spanish beauty.
Ravi: From a wide range of musical instruments in the wind and strings categories which are your few favorites?
Peter Xifaras:I love the warmth of the woodwinds and the sublime beauty of all the string sections.
Ravi: What is your composition methodology?
Peter Xifaras: When I get an idea, I usually turn to the guitar to develop the idea. Once a theme is developed, I go into the studio and start working on different variations by using a midi keyboard that triggers virtual instrument packages (Strings, piano, percussion, etc.).
Ravi: Do you listen to Asian and Indian Music. Plans to visit India?
Peter Xifaras:Yes – actually a previous crossover release, ‘Music That Tells A Story’ incorporates Asian & and Indian elements. The physical album is still for sale however I pulled the digital version back as I want to remix and re-distribute for streaming purposes. There are many music video examples of the album to view: check it out here: https://musicwithnoexpiration.com/transcendental.
No plans for a visit as of yet.
Ravi: Do you ascribe to avant-garde and/ or abstract music. If yes, what is the appeal factor for you?
Peter Xifaras:Not really. I’ve written some modern classical guitar pieces but the genre doesn’t appeal to me much anymore.
Ravi: Any plans for composing musicals?
Peter Xifaras: No.
Ravi: Frank Zappa’s last concert was in Czechoslovakia with a great following and your latest orchestral work features the Czech Symphony Orchestra. Is it a coincidence or a connection?
Peter Xifaras:A coincidence. The European Orchestras are some of the best so that is why I ended up with them.
Ravi: In your free time what hobbies do you pursue?
Peter Xifaras:Watching movies, probably because I listen to the scores.
Ravi: Your music-videos are a lot to do with man-made human misery. Thus, how do you view life and death?
Peter Xifaras:I think we all ponder the riddle that is life – why are we here, what is our purpose, and then we go about with our daily routines. Periodically you take a step back and look at World events on the aggregate and take a deep breath. What is it that causes us to do the things we do to each other as a species ? Why is it the luck of the draw that being born in a specific place in the world can guarantee a better outcome for your life than other places ? Obvious answers are economic conditions and government policies. The question above actually contained the reason why I gravitate towards the subject matter – ‘man-made’. Because it is, it doesn’t have to be and we can change it.
Ravi: A few lines about your travel travails?
Peter Xifaras:I haven’t Traveled in quite a while. Being able to record and communicate via the Internet has changed the dynamic immensely. The Czech orchestra sessions in Prague were done over Zoom. The same with other recordings I have done – the musicians are never in the studio with me. It really cuts down on travel & recording costs.
Ravi: Have you undertaken any visits to conflict zones?
Ravi: Any message for leaders of the major world powers. How can there be peace on our planet?
Peter Xifaras: I hope someday the human condition will be focused on providing equal economic access to all humans so that we can enjoy and revel in our achievements as a race in science, engineering, the arts and music, where poverty & destruction were only memories of a past world. Hopefully a dream to aspire to.
Ravi: Do you write music and do transcriptions?
Ravi: As an educated musician, how would you sum up “Organized Sound” in context to aesthetics?
Peter Xifaras:I view ‘organized sound’ as the definition of music. Music is an art, a craft, and based on acoustic principles subject to various aesthetic interpretations.
Ravi: Is there a mass audience for your work. Which names come to mind?
Peter Xifaras:I don’t think the genre’s I gravitate towards will gain a mass audience – although that certainly would be nice! For as long as I can reach people on an emotional level, I will consider my job a success.
Ravi: Scope and future of Musique Concrete?
Peter Xifaras:I think any tool for expanding a composers sound resources is always a good thing. Art shouldn’t be limited to a defined set of rules. I’m open to all kinds of works that experiment with pre-recorded sounds and electronics and encourage that type of experimentation.
Ravi: Who takes the photos in your video montage?
Peter Xifaras:I search the Internet on the subject at hand, and contact the photographers or sites representing their work and license the images when feasible.