Who: Tucker Fuller
Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: His garden-level apartment where his roommate’s large, orange cat paced back and forth looking at us
Q: What most often triggers memories for you?
A: Scent is very strong, but I think recently it’s been about place. I love repetition, so I have these routines—like when I used to live in Philadelphia. I’d always walk up Chestnut Street back to my apartment. Recently, I went back there to visit, and I was walking on Chestnut Street. It hadn’t changed much in the past eight years, so my instinct was to go into my apartment again, like I could just pull out my keys and walk right in.
It’s almost as if I go back in time, as if nothing has happened. Everything comes back into your brain—you remember the sunroom where you did work—and then this sadness and nostalgia where you realize that you don’t do that anymore. That’s off limits.
It can be very sad. And it brings you right to that memory.
Q: What’s something you’re sure of?
A: What am I sure of? [Laughs]. What am I sure of?
I have a lot of work to do. I’m sure that I have a lot of work to do. I’m writing the music for The Bakkhai, and I’m just finishing the last part. Then I’m doing the ballet for the Marigny Opera House. I’m the music director for The Cradle Will Rock with Cripple Creek Theater Company, so I need to learn all that music for August. And then I’m working on the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s presentation of Louie the Buoy for February. Even though it’s next February, I have to start thinking about the music now.
It’s interesting because all of the projects are so different from one another, and I’ve never written any theater music. I’ve also never written a ballet, so I spent a lot of time watching ballets and checking out ballet scores. And while I was doing that I learned that Benjamin Britten had an early ballet that I’d never heard of. I’ve been watching a lot of videos. A lot of videos.
So when I wake up in the mornings I think, ‘I have a lot of work to do.’ That’s something I’m sure of.
Q: Give me a personality for each of the following:
A: The note B flat: Fat. I just think fat.
E major 7: Sleazy.
A minor: Maybe someone with a lot of melancholy. Sort of a sad person, but really into the dramatic side—because there are no sharps. And, A minor always sounds like the color blue to me.
C 6: It depends if we’re talking jazz or a first inversion. Actually, I don’t know. [Laughs]. I don’t have anything for that one.
Q: What’s a fantasy about life that keeps you motivated?
A: I worry about dying, but I’m not sure that’s a fantasy. I hope that I don’t have a disease. I worry about that a lot, and that motivates me. If I wake up and I can walk, it motivates me. Actually, it really cripples me when I think about those things, but the way that I get out of those feelings—’cause I think about death a lot, and that can lead to nihilistic places—is by making a cup of tea. Some Earl Grey. Then I’m thankful that I can walk.
I’m always terrified that I’ll just be walking one day, and then have a tumor or something and suddenly my legs stop working. I have that fear a lot. Because when things are going right for me, I think more about death. When things aren’t going well, you can’t really focus on that because you’re focusing more on how to get out of your situation and keep going. In a very practical way. You could even be in your perfect job and at the pinnacle of your career, and in a way I fear that because if you get to that point and say, ‘Wow, I’m still going to die. It’s inevitable,’ what do you do then? You make a cup of tea, I guess. Have some Earl Grey.
These are not fantasies in life, but tea keeps coming to my mind.
I drank a lot of tea in college. In my first semester of college I spent around $1,500 just on Earl Grey tea. It has such a distinctive taste with the bergamot, and every Earl Grey is different. Some of the teas have to put more bergamot in them to cover up for the fact that the tea isn’t very good, and I always put milk and sugar in my Earl Grey.
The problem is that I have three tea pots of all varying sizes—the smallest only making one cup, and the biggest making around five cups—so I have a constant flow. Then with every cup of tea there is the milk and sugar, and that adds up over time. If you’re having all those pots of tea everyday, well… that’s going to lead to diabetes. So I had to stop.
When I moved to New Orleans I was off tea and started drinking coffee. Really strong coffee. I had three cups today, and I’m shaking. But I’m not totally off of Earl Grey. It’s more of my afternoon calming drink.
But I like loose tea. Tea bags are problematic on all levels. They’re like cigarettes—you don’t know what they’re throwing in those things.
Tucker Fuller was awarded “Best New Classical Music Presentation” in 2015 from The Big Easy Foundation for his composition, Salve Regina. You can visit his website to learn more about his work, and you can hear his upcoming compositions by attending The Bakkhai (June 12th and 13th), The Marigny Opera House Ballet (October 2015), Cripple Creek’s The Cradle Will Rock (August 2015), and LPO’s presentation of Louie the Buoy (February 2016).