'Diagnosis sends violin star Monica Germino in search of softer sounds at PuSh fest'

Challenged by the onset of an ear condition that creates extreme sensitivity to sound, violinist Monica Germino has discovered that playing at very low volume has opened up expressive possibilities. photo ©Anne Reinke

Monica Germino was once, by her own admission, “probably one of the loudest violinists” in classical music, known for her huge tone, but also for playing fire-breathing electric violin. Now she’s likely the quietest musician in the field, and for good reason. Germino was recently diagnosed with hyperacusis, or extreme sensitivity to sound, and advised that if she continued to perform she ran the risk of irreparably damaging her ears.

On the line from her Amsterdam home, the violinist reports that the first physician she consulted told her to stop playing entirely. “And all the rest said, ‘No, no… Keep playing, but just use a lot of ear protection,’” she says with an audible shudder. “And I just couldn’t do that; that wasn’t going to work.…The idea of wearing ear protectors was like sensory deprivation.”

Then, as she says, “the composers saved me.” Having resigned herself to the idea of abandoning her performing career, Germino was in the process of bowing out of prior commitments when her frequent collaborator Michael Gordon, of the Bang On a Can composers’ collective, offered an alternative.

“I said, ‘So this is what’s going on,’ and he didn’t really want to talk about our other project at all,” she recalls. “He said, ‘Okay, I’m going to write you a really soft piece. I don’t care if anyone can hear it; I’m going to write it, and I want to be the first.’

“I just said, ‘I don’t know, Michael.’ But my mind kept circling around that idea, and I went and started looking at mutes, and got lost in this fantastic world of crazy mute-makers who are working in all sorts of innovative ways to change the colour of the instrument but also cut the volume down.”

Much to her surprise, she discovered that playing at extremely low volume opened up expressive possibilities and tonal options she’d previously overlooked. Equally surprising was that Gordon’s Bang On a Can colleagues Julia Wolfe and David Lang wanted to contribute, and soon their mentor, the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, was onboard, too. The result is MUTED, a suite of low-volume works that Germino will bring to Music on Main next week, playing on a variety of quiet instruments—muted violin, frame violin, and a new “whisperviolin” made especially for her—in an intimate space.

She’ll also sing while she plays—and one of the texts that Andriessen has set for her might just offer a few clues to her character. It’s taken from American humorist Don Marquis’s Archy and Mehitabel stories, based on the friendship between a poetic cockroach and a cat.

“I remember saying to Louis that I relate to Mehitabel, because she’s got such a desperate life,” Germino says, laughing. “She’s actually an alley cat, but the whole time she’s pretending she’s this reincarnation of Cleopatra, and she’s had all these past lives of glamorous characters.…And in the meantime she’s homeless, and she’s falling in love with all these horrible cats who betray her all the time. But I like the way she can put on this amazing act, like ‘Life is fabulous, Archy. I may be old and dancing on three feet, but I’m a grand old dame.’

“I like that combination of desperation and faking and… perseverance,” she continues. “I hope I can be that—maybe not so much the faking part, but forging ahead no matter what. I really did not think I was going to forge ahead the way I am right now, but I’m just so curious about what’s going to happen next and where this is going to go.”

Monica Germino and Music on Main present MUTED at the Orpheum Annex from Monday to Wednesday (January 28 to 30), as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

PDF: Georgia Straight.com-Diagnosis sends violin star Monica Germino in search of softer sounds at PuSh fest


NRC: Red Sofa, pop-up artist, & quiet playing

NRC Handelsblad
21 March, 2018.  Excerpts translated from Dutch
Red Sofa celebrates 10 years, opens festival with Monica Germino’s quiet violin (excerpts)
Adventurous violinist Monica Germino enthusiastic about Red Sofa's new music program in Rotterdam's De Doelen                       Read complete article here (in Dutch) 
-by Joep Stapel       

Contemporary music has a reputation for being difficult. The tired cliche of dry, impenetrable music played to empty halls still exists. But De Doelen in Rotterdam is overthrowing the stereotype with a lively and accessible new music series. It's called Red Sofa, and celebrates its tenth anniversary this week with the six-day Spring Loaded festival. A film concert, a bicycle ride to secret concert venues, a 'pop-up artist,' world premieres, and of course the red three-seater sofa as the center for informal talks before and after the concerts. "I put everything into this festival that makes Red Sofa into Red Sofa," says Programme Director Neil Wallace.

The pop-up artist is the adventurous violinist Monica Germino. She will open the festival and perform a number of interventions. Germino is a fervent admirer of the Red Sofa series: "Neil Wallace has achieved something you also see in modern art museums: people aren't apprehensive, they’re curious and open to new discoveries."

The Red Sofa formula revolves around this curiosity, says Wallace (1953). "We have built a community of interested people who are not afraid of new notes. I’m probably the only new music programmer in the Netherlands who has no worries about what I present – people will come anyway.”

As the pop-up artist, Monica Germino will decide what she will actually play in the moment. It will certainly be soft, because a few years ago Germino was diagnosed as 'sensitive to sound,' which means that her ears are more prone to damage [from high decibel levels]. She had to say goodbye to the high-octane soundtracks and louder works for electric violin, giving up many pieces she had often performed.

She is now "more curious than sad," says Germino. Playing quietly opens up a whole new dimension; and apart from a reflection on silence and listening it can also be "an antidote to the relentless noise of our world." She has amassed a huge collection of mutes (sourdines) and plays a rare 'frame violin' from ca. 1870, an instrument without a sound box which therefore plays at a very low volume. Germino: "Neil wants me to play the frame violin in the Main Hall without any amplification; for me that's a thrill, an adventure." Wallace: "You will hear a pin drop.”

Spring Loaded Festival: 10 years of Red Sofa. 21-26 / 3 De Doelen Rotterdam. Inl . www.dedoelen.nl

Photo: Marco Borggreve


CLASSICALITE interviews Monica Germino


News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More

EXCLUSIVE: Monica Germino on New England Conservatory, 'RACHE' Murder Premiere and Why She's Finally Ready to Play Michael Gordon's ‘INDUSTRY'

-May 27, 2015 | Lisa Helfer Elghazi


photo of ELECTRA by Anne Reinke


Interview, NEC Alumni Profiles

NEC Alumni Profile Interview with Monica Germino, February 2015 

New England Conservatory Alumni Profiles: an in-depth look at a few of NEC alumni and their paths beyond NEC.

NEC: "...and what’s next on your schedule?"

MG: "...together with Marcel Wierckx and Frank van der Weij I’m finishing up a music video of my version for adapted violin of Michael Gordon’s ‘Industry’, to be released in April by Cantaloupe Music. AMERICAN WIZARDRY, a new show with my duo with sound engineer Frank van der Weij with new pieces for violin and sound design by American composers/wizards Molly Joyce, David Dramm, Missy Mazzoli, Annie Gosfield, Julia Wolfe. I’m also developing a show with my group ELECTRA called RACHE (‘Revenge’), featuring the stories of four women who murdered for revenge, that will premiere in the Dutch Opera Days in Rotterdam...." Continue reading


Strings Magazine: "5 Minutes With..." Monica Germino


Behind the scenes: Monica talks about her work with sound designer Frank van der Weij, La Girò, and the concerts in the Washington, D.C. area Festival.

"Whether she was playing the violin, electric violin, adapted violin, whispering, talking, or singing, Germino conveyed her passion with tour de force virtuosity and burning vulnerability." 

"Violinist Monica Germino put her stamp on the Andriessen at 75 festival in and around Washington, DC, earlier this year with a violin concerto named after Vivaldi’s muse... and a violin recital in a charged environment of electronics, art installations, and images with punk-rock bassist/ turned-sound-designer Frank van der Weij. Armed with a Joannes Baptista Ceruti (Cremona, 1802), on permanent loan from the Elise Mathilde Foundation, and a custom-made electric “violectra,” the Amsterdam-based American/Dutch musician played a major role...READ MORE

—Laurence Vittes   

Subscribers can click here to read the digital edition.

Russian wikipedia

Жермино,_Моника ...Monica Germino on Russian wikipedia!

Interview: Classical TV

CLASSICAL TV, April 2014

"Germino and La Giro" : interview about La Girò


CTV: Louis Andriessen wrote this marvelous concerto for you. Can you tell us a bit about how you and the composer came to know each other and then how he created this work for you?

MG: "La Girò is a dramatic piece with many elements at play - storytelling, a nightmare, singing and playing, even shrieking and whispering. The piece took certain twists and turns as a direct result of a long and treasured collaboration...." click here to read more about La Girò

Hear La Girò live:
April 12, 8 PM
Armstrong Concert Hall, Shenandoah Conservatory
Winchester, VA (USA)

Monica Germino, violin/voice; EDGE Ensemble; Damon Talley, conductor. Frank van der Weij, sound
music by Louis Andriessen, Derek Bermel, Ruby Fulton, Alexandra Gardner. Series curated by David T. Little. Part of the inaugural season of Shenandoah New Music.

more info / tickets for April 12

SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL: Best Musical Events of 2013

photo: Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Our Reviewers’ Choices for Best Musical Events of 2013

Monica Germino and Frank van der Weij in SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL's top picks for 2013.

"In a program for violin and electronics at the Austrian Cultural Forum, Amsterdam-based Monica Germino showed the power of savvy programming, with Frank van der Weij using technology about as perfectly as it gets (June 13)."
-Bruce Hodges

The show included US premieres by David Dramm, Karlheinz Essl, Annie Gosfied, and Arnoud Noordegraaf, plus works by Louis Andriessen and Donnacha Dennehy. The composers introduced their pieces in short video clips.

Click here to read more about the top 2013 choices!

& check out Bruce Hodge's complete review of the show in the September issue of The Strad magazine

The Strad: Sophistication and showmanship
- by Bruce Hodges

"…Monica Germino gave a veritable masterclass on the use of violin and electronics, packed with sophistication and showmanship."

"a violinist who leaves no elements to chance"

"electronics wizard Frank van der Weij"

click here for the complete review

New York

Monica Germino, violin/electric violin/voice
Frank van der Weij, sound design

US premieres at the ACFNY: David Dramm, Karlheinz Essl, Annie Gosfied, Arnoud Noordegraaf
BANG ON A CAN MARATHON: US premiere Julia Wolfe's With a blue dress on 52dfbbecacec640002000054

June 13, 7:30 PM

DEVIATION, a program for violinist and sound designer, presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum, New York

June 14, 2 PM

Workshop with Julia Wolfe, Austrian Cultural Forum

June 16, 1-10 PM

Bang on a Can Marathon, Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts

"Monica Germino Puts Electronics and Violin Together, and Myriad Sounds Ensue" - by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, 16 June 2013

click for complete review

'...an arresting duality of sound and image...psychologically dark and unsettling...earthy and sharp pizzicati...snapping brain synapses...tapped, stomped, played, hummed and sang...a gloriously free and wild fiddle tantrum…virtuosity and mischief-making...digitally processed harmonics...emotional highlight...sonic mayhem...astonishingly rich...virtuosic violin line...rock ’n’ roll moment...binary fire-engine siren...constantly changing sonic environment...juicy double-stopped glissandi...electronic fireworks...affecting vulnerability…'

The New York Times: click here for entire event listing

Events»Classical & Opera
Monica Germino and Frank van der Weij
The Dutch duo of the violinist Monica Germino and the sound engineer Frank van der Weij present a multimedia program of contemporary works for solo violin and electronics by the composers Karlheinz Essl, Louis Andriessen and more.

TimeOut New York: Critic's pick

"This very enticing free program brings together two trailblazing Holland-based musicians, violinist Monica Germino and punk-rock bassist turned sound designer Frank van der Weij, for electroacoustic innovations composed by Louis Andriessen, Annie Gosfield, Donnacha Dennehy and others. You'll need a reservation, and you can make one at acfny.org." click here for TimeOut listing


Reviewers’ Choices for Best Musical Events of 2013

click for complete article

"In a program for violin and electronics at the Austrian Cultural Forum, Amsterdam-based Monica Germino showed the power of savvy programming, with Frank van der Weij using technology about as perfectly as it gets."

The Strad Magazine

Sophistication and showmanship - by Bruce Hodges

click for complete review:

"…Monica Germino gave a veritable masterclass on the use of violin and electronics, packed with sophistication and showmanship."

"a violinist who leaves no elements to chance"

"electronics wizard Frank van der Weij"

US premiere of Julia Wolfe's With a blue dress on at the 2013 Bang on a Can Marathon

Frank van der Weij and I were thrilled to give the US premiere of Julia Wolfe's relentless and ravishing 'With a blue dress on' - for live violin/voice, 4 prerecorded violins & 4 prerecorded voices, performed by one player & one sound designer.

The piece was described by The New York Times as "...a gloriously free and wild fiddle tantrum in which virtuosity and mischief-making went hand in hand."

Chris McGovern, in his wonderful blog The Glass, honored me with comparisons to some of my favorite violinists out there:

"Performing the US Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s “With a blue dress on”, violinist Monica Germino basically reminded me of something that combines the homegrown primal music of Iva Bittova with the electro-acoustics of Todd Reynolds or Neil Dufallo. An amazing tour de force of progressive fiddling and paraphrasing."

Rob Deemer listed us as a highlight as well in his blow-by-blow BANG ON A CAN MARATHON 2013 LIVE BLOG on newmusicbox.org:

"...the beautiful solo violin performance of Monica Germino. I’ve seen a fair helping of works for solo instrument and electronics, but Julia Wolfe’s With a blue dress on may be my new favorite…a major work for solo violin (expecting the violinist to sing)…" "Germino was awe-inspiring in her performance of the work and the sound design by Frank van der Weij was just right…definitely one of the highlights of the concert so far."

more about the Marathon: broadwayworld.com

Watch a fragment of the Bang on a Can Marathon performance here!

Dutch Performing Arts events: click here to read more

"As part of the New York River to River Festival, violinist Monica Germino, based in Amsterdam, is coming to New York to perform as part of the Bang on a Can Marathon, in the US premiere of Julia Wolfe’s piece, With a blue dress on. The Bang on a Can Marathon is a new music extravaganza, which has become an annual, not - to - be - missed event in New York and beyond since it was first held in 1987. Together with Dutch sound artist / engineer Frank van der Weij she will also perform and present a workshop at the Austria Cultural Forum New York." 5383bc754d0b0700020008a1 photo: Julia Wolfe and Monica Germino