Artist Interview: Xavier Foley, double bass

By Erik Petersons on October 15, 2018

Xavier Foley is a musician “who hears borders between styles as limitation best ignored” (Peter Dobrin). This double bassist is already steeped in the classical music tradition, having graduated from Curtis in 2016, but he strives to be a world artist, taking anything he hears and making something new. His debut recital with the Society on January 25th offers a wide-ranging program of well-known works alongside his own arrangements and compositions.

Erik Petersons: Your program with PCMS on January 25th will feature one of your own compositions. Tell us about this work and what the audience can listen for.

Xavier Foley: I chose to write The Star Sonata because I wanted a piece in my repertoire that is inspired by sounds of space. When I was growing up, I was fascinated by the fact that there were a vast number of unknown anomalies in outer space that have yet to be discovered. In popular culture, some may call what I describe as the "final frontier" (a phrase used in the opening of the Star Trek series).

EP: You arranged the Mozart Violin Sonata in E Minor that you will be performing. What are the challenges of playing a work originally written for violin?

XF: The challenge in arranging the violin sonata for the double bass is in the arranging activity itself. I chose to perform the Mozart Violin Sonata in E Minor not because it was for violin, but because the writing itself is good. My job is to make the violin part accessible for the double bass, with the end goal being to have the least amount of complications for the technical (fingering) side of things when playing Mozart’s music on my instrument.

EP: How has your time as an Astral Artist expanded your experience as a professional artist? What are your goals for the future?

XF: Astral has expanded my experience by providing opportunities to perform for a diverse range of audiences and venues. I think it is safe to say that while being with Astral, I feel more and more prepared to perform in all situations. For example, I have learned how to prepare programs for classrooms, retirement homes, festivals, and formal recitals. Also, an important fact to mention is that most of my compositions were created to fill in programs presented by Astral; these composition opportunities have made a huge impact on my artistic career.

EP: What genres of music do you tend towards when you compose and where do you go for inspiration?

XF: I tend to think of musical genres as a branding function; certain sound bites are assigned a specific name. When I write something, my goal is to create diverse feelings that in the end create a musical story line. So I don't necessarily lean towards a specific genre, but rather, I use musically branded material created in the past to help me create new combinations of sound.

EP: What things about Philadelphia did you love most while you were studying at Curtis? Any favorite restaurants or places to retreat to?

XF: While I was studying at the Curtis Institute of Music, I enjoyed being in a location where everything was in walking distance. Before I was in Philadelphia, I lived in Marietta, GA, where driving was mandatory to get to most establishments. As far as favorite places to be in Philadelphia, I enjoy eating at The Goats Beard in Manayunk, located in the greater region of Philadelphia; they have the best fish tacos in my humble opinion!

Xavier Foley will perform with pianist Sejoon Park on Friday, January 25 at 7:30 pm at the American Philosophical Society. For tickets and information, visit the concert page. For more information about Mr. Foley, visit his website.