Aliisa Neige Barriere: the reality of connecting with people through music is very powerful
Aliisa Neige Barrière (b. 1995) grew up in a French-Finnish family in Paris where her music studies have included violin, piano, chamber music and choral as well as orchestral conducting. A passionate chamber musician, Barrière has participated in a great variety of projects and masterclasses throughout Europe and the United States, and is interested in performing all music from baroque to contemporary. She studied with Peter Herresthal at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, where she appeared as a soloist in Vivaldi’s Spring and Winter under the direction of Øyvind Bjorå, and where she obtained a Bachelor in violin performance in 2017 and a Master’s Degree in 2019. In 2018, she also resumed her conducting studies and attended a masterclass with Prof. Atso Almila (Sibelius Academy) and Luke Dollman (Univ. of Adelaide) in Zlín, Czech Republic. She then joined the Panula Academy in the year 2018-2019, where she could get regular guidance from Jorma Panula. In 2019, her first record, Ekstasis, was released by the label Cyprès, around the solo works of Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière, in collaboration with flutist Camilla Hoitenga and soprano Raphaële Kennedy.
In the Spring of 2019, Barrière graduated with a Master’s degree from the Norwegian Academy of Music. As of the Fall 2019, Barrière studies in the Master’s program of the orchestral conducting department of the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki) as a student of Sakari Oramo. From August 2021 Aliisa Neige Barrière will hold the position of Young Conductor in Residence with the Århus Sinfonietta, a two year residency. We talked to Aliisa over Zoom.
Aliisa, can you describe your memories of growing in your family, were there any special moments, maybe some epiphanies in your upbringing that led you towards music?
That’s a difficult question to answer because, of course, having grown in that family, I don’t really in a way know anything else. I’ve been able to compare later on with my colleagues, how different their experiences were, but, um, for me it was very normal to grow up in a musical family. And I don’t remember exactly what it is that led me to start… I mean, I remember I chose the violin, I liked the instrument, of course I was exposed to music, to playing quite… from very early on, it was always a part of my life, and according to my family, it was always very obvious to them from a very young age that I was interested in music, and that I was musical, and fascinated by music. When it came out, whenever I heard music, I would react, and get very excited, so… but of course I cannot remember myself…
What does music gives you as a way of expressing yourself? Is it a substitute for something else or is it another language?
For me music has always been very clearly a language of its own, so it’s the best way I have to express myself and my feelings. I think it’s maybe a bit difficult to put it into words because there are a lot of things I have in mind. As a young child I surely developed verbal skills after a while, and I enjoy writing quite a bit now, but sometimes I had a hard time putting things into words, especially in some arguments with my brother who had been very skilled with word expression from a young age, because for me the first language was always through music. And it was the way I expressed myself.
How in the musical world do people – musicians, singers, conductors, listeners – come to an agreement on what is happening, what brain messages are transferred from a person to person? Say, if you and I have read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, we know that we have read a piece about 19th century Russia, but in music how is this agreement achieved as everybody has a subjective perception of it?
Well, I think it’s something at its core. We all feel it when we listen to it and then the communication happens from a performer to a performer, or from a performer to the audience. Surely, you can never be absolutely sure that you will touch everyone or that you will convince everyone because that’s just something that doesn’t happen in any aspect or in any field in the world. But just the reality of seeing how, when you play with other people or play for people, others around you can be touched and can feel connection and just live in the moment with you – it is something to treasure. It is very powerful and maybe it doesn’t need to be explained more than that, just that it’s an extremely powerful outlet for our emotions. And I strongly believe, I may be a bit of a utopian in that sense, that if everyone was given an opportunity to play an instrument or sing or even given an emotional outlet through, I don’t know, painting or drawing or writing, our world would be a better place.
Is it the same for an audience of a few thousand, when nobody speaks to each other but also has this shared experience?
Yeah, I think the communication is the same, whether it’s the people that you play with or just the people you are playing for, it could be that the connection is there or isn’t, but if you have given your everything, if you have touched one person, or communicated with one person, then that is something quite authentic and precious.
Do you remember any moments when you knew you passed certain stages in your development or was it incremental growth and you never know where exactly on your music path you are? Were there some defining stages for you? Like the recognition in your career or maybe you walked in the park and you understood your profession in music better than before?
Recognition is always very encouraging and it’s very nice to receive it, but I think when you do music for genuine purposes, you don’t really do it for the recognition or the accolades or the money. I think it’s a physical need, at least in my case it’s a very physical need, and of course there had been a lot of important milestones, but I think that need was always a part of me, so it was never a question for me if I should consider anything else because it was just very obvious that I should do it for as long as I can remember.
Do you now or did you have earlier to study all the musical repertoire say, from Palestrina to modern composers? How do you know that your current music knowledge is enough?
I think knowledge that we have is never enough, sadly or maybe thankfully. I personally love discovering more, as the more we discover the more our mind gets curious, the more we can stay on top and think in new ways. Because I think that’s something the classical industry is missing quite a lot, out of the box thinking and trying to renew our codes and routines when it comes to performance but also programming and constructing programs…
Do you mean that some composers are performed more often that others or is it something else?
A mixture of things, but this point, too. Let’s say that there’s quite standard repertoire, which is great, and I love that music as well, but I just would wish to see a bit more adventurous programming overall.
Do you tend to have favourites among composers or music styles or genres, or are you accepting of every style and knowing something about every major composer? Are you guided by your preferences, certain people in composition, or are you just trying to see bits and parts of the process in general?
I think it’s hard to generalize because it is rare to find a composer you like every work of. But I like to explore, to see if there are works of these composers that are not played much, if there are works that we don’t know. I also like searching for possible forgotten treasures or things that might have been swept under the rug. I think it is healthy to just look for what is out there, and of course there are some things that may have deserved to be forgotten. It is important to remember that good and bad music has existed throughout history and it is somehow subjective and people can have very different opinions. However, I also believe that as a performer I have a better chance to convince an audience and to communicate something to them if I am myself convinced about what I am offering.
Can you name your discoveries, what are these pieces and people?
Well, there’s one piece, for example, which is not exactly a discovery, but I was quite shocked about how few people knew it when I talked about it. It’s this dance suite by a French baroque composer Jean-Fery Rebel called Les Elements. There are several versions of the piece. There are ballet suites and and the overture that has been performed separately already in the time of the composer, and it’s a quite shocking piece in a way, because Rebel was one of Louis the XIV’s court composers. And so this ballet starts with what we would call cluster technique today, where every note from a scale is played at once. Even today it’s quite surprising to hear that to classically trained ears, or probably for anyone. But to imagine that someone would do something like that at the time – it feels quite shocking. And I’ve been trying to program that piece for so many years and I found several opportunities. And I was surprised that the composer, Rebel, who is a brilliant composer, is very largely unknown, that piece is his best known piece, but all the rest of his music has been forgotten, and he has very nice music. And actually it goes for a good deal of French baroque composers, because we have basically Rameau and Couperin, these are the names that most people know, but their music is also not performed so much because the French baroque aesthetic is so demanding stylistically and is quite difficult technically to play as well.
Do you think that such pieces could be repositioned using some technology of modern PR? The crux of modernity is novelty – we always watch new series, receive new information, while in the classical music field novelty is not needed so much, which is quite a paradox. So the audiences are used and prepared to the repetition of the same repertoire, while they wouldn’t be watching the same series on Netflix for years. So my question is, why do you think it is so, is it psychological, maybe going from childhood, that we like to hear the things that are ingrained in our brains already? Could it be changed by repositioning unknown music and composers as something cool?
There are always pieces that come and go out of trend. It’s just funny when you look at the programming of big orchestras and see that very often you have some pieces which are suddenly played all over the world for some reason, so that’s quite an interesting phenomenon, how sometimes these things can spread very quickly, so maybe it’s just a matter of timing and some fashion. I think there’s a number of parameters that can come into play and it’s hard to predict these things. But, of course, probably a very good PR person can sell anything.
If we move into another sphere of your life – you training as an instrumentalist – could you describe your relationship with the violin, how does a violinist treat a violin, what do you feel when you practice? Could you describe your routine of practicing? I know that violin is one of those highly individualized, personal instruments. Do you perceive the instrument as a sort of extension of yourself?
Right now I have a complicated relationship with the violin because ever since I started studying conducting, the studies have been taking so much time that it’s been leaving quite little time for playing, and I think it’s been partly me finding a new identity through doing something very new for me, where I felt maybe unconsciously that I needed to put the violin aside for a bit. We’re finding each other again now, but it’s a bit difficult, because, even though it’s a very loving relationship… Let’s say, violin is a tricky instrument, because it takes the effort to do something very unnatural in concert. But I have always been attracted by the violin because there are certain aspects, like the fact that you can combine the dark register and the light register, and for me, that one instrument can do. I think it also has something to do with the human voice, and I used to sing quite a bit, so I think there was something very natural for me to start playing the violin, and it felt like my instrument.
Do you know character of your practice? Do you need time to get into full flow, how do you know you are at the top of your game when playing it? There is this conception about musicians that they play these beautiful violin concertos on stage through sheer inspiration, and I wanted to ask you how it happens in practice.
Surely there is the technical aspect, which is a routine because you just have to build the habit, the muscles to play a certain piece, so that no matter what you’re doing it’s always a part of it, because in a virtuosic concerto there will always be that aspect that you need to learn it and to ingrain it into your body, so there’s a lot of repetition going into it, but of course ideally the piece will bring the inspiration. Depending on the music, for me it can be more spontaneous, in the moment, or something that is more rigorously planned – I think that depends a lot on the nature of the piece. I’m a firm believer, for instance, in classical repertoire, of more spontaneous way of playing. That brings the music alive in a different way. Musically speaking, if I am facing a piece like Mozart’s concerto, and the same as a conductor, a Mozart or Haydn or whatever symphony, then I will most likely map out the different ways it can pan out and then in the performance get inspired by other people or just do it the way I feel. For that type of music I will never plan ahead that this is how I want to do it, because I think some things need to be left to the moment to be more genuine.
When did you first realize that conducting might also be your thing? You said that you were trying to build a new identity, is being a conductor this new one, or do you have these two parts (conducting and playing violin) competing with each other? How have you been accommodating these two parts of yourself as a musician?
In my personality and throughout my life the conducting aspect has always been there. Actually, the first time I was guided towards conducting was when I was 15 years old. I was singing in a choir in the conservatory, because I used to sing quite a lot, and my choir conductor came to me at the end and as we were talking he asked me ‘Have you ever considered conducting? Have you ever thought of it as an option?’ And I had never thought about it, but that made a lot of sense actually. He knew me as a violinist, I also sang solos in the choir, so he knew me musically a bit better than others, and probably identified that it was something that could suit my personality, I guess.
When you say it suits your personality, do you mean that all conductors share a bit of something that is inherent for the this profession and can be identified in a person before he/she gets involved in it?
In a sense yes. I think it manifests itself in different ways with different people, thank god not everyone is the same, it would be very boring. But I think that among a lot of people there’s a sense of initiative in organizing projects, or a sense of duty, a sense of leadership in different ways. I mean, leadership can be a lot of things and I think especially today this definition may be broadening, which is a great thing, so maybe the profile of leaders will be more and more different, which would be really interesting to see.
Can we talk about what conductors do in everyday practice? The first part is study and preparation, I assume? If we leave out the organizational details, could you describe the actual collaborations at rehearsals and concerts that follow the preparation period?
Well, the first part takes most of the time, as it is the time we spend at the desk reading the score, and getting to know what is in the score. It involves reading and taking thousands of decisions also, like interpretation, or finding something that is vague or unclear, and you need to have an answer in case someone asks you. It involves getting familiar with the material, seeing how the voices work individually and interact with each other. And of course it happens to come across pieces that you don’t necessarily like, if you don’t have the chance to choose the program yourself, so that’s always a challenge. I always try to find something that I can relate to or something that I can love, there has to be something that I can defend in the piece. I try to connect with it to be able to conduct it. And then, when you come in front of the orchestra, the atmosphere is very different depending on the ensemble you find yourself in front of. Some ensembles are ready to experiment, if you have some experiments in mind, or are open to what I was saying earlier, the fact of not deciding in advance. A classical symphony typically repeats itself a lot, and so that’s why it is interesting to keep it spontaneous. Orchestras are typically used to making decisions and writing them down and then just looking at their music and knowing ahead of time what they are going to do. And, so, typically, if I arrive and they ask me, ‘In the repetition here, should we play louder or softer?’, and I answer that they will have to see in concert, look up and listen to each other, it can be very disorienting for some people. It is interesting to see how people react to these kinds of shocks and to expose them to a different way of working.
Do you know in advance which places of the score are in your control, do you circle the elements for which you leave some room for improvisation during the actual performance, do you put apart the spaces of your control and of the potential openness?
Usually if there is a place to leave some freedom, in terms of timing or even in dynamics or whatever, it is quite clear in the score. In the concert, if suddenly you feel like doing something different, or the musicians offer something that makes you want to try something, I think that depends on the ensemble. Sometimes it can be a big risk to do something very different that you have not rehearsed before, sometimes it might go really well. It is very hard to generalize because every ensemble has its different identity and you always work with what you get, and then it becomes a dialogue.
I’m always fascinated by this feeling of form the conductor has, how in temporal perspective they treat a piece of 5 minutes, a piece of 45 minutes. How do you spread you attention and your energy through time and keep us, the audiences, aware of the form of the piece?
As long as it is clear in your own head, then you can communicate it, that’s the first step. It doesn’t need to be verbal, verbalized to the musicians at any stage, but just as long as it’s clear in your own head, then, I think there always has to be some kind of arch throughout a piece.
Could you compare music schools of New York, Oslo, Paris and Helsinki from your vantage point of having studied in many places?
These institutions have different cultures, and I’ve learned to appreciate what I find in all of them. In France there’s a bit of a culture of pushing people down to try and make them work harder. When I arrived to New York, that was a bit of a culture shock because people and the general atmosphere are very enthusiastic, and that was quite surprising for me coming from France. At the same time in New York, people were sometimes over-encouraged when it was not necessarily deserved. All these young people couldn’t face confrontation at all, and you could not give them objective feedback. So, in a way I feel very lucky that France made me build resistance to critique.
Аfter having spent years in different countries, have you become a global citizen? Could you have easily started work in one of the US orchestras or maybe in a European orchestra, do you feel open to new countries after studying in different places?
The nature of my work requires me to be open. I am in my mid-20s and I’ve lived in 4 countries, that feels like quite a lot, given that I have personal relationships with all of these places and people who have become family in all of these places, so it’s a lot to keep up with, emotionally as well, because you’re always far from some people and far from home. But then, at the same time you always leave home to go home which is kind of a nice feeling as well. But unless it were for work, I think it feels a bit difficult to imagine a new country I could move to, at least right now. But, of course, I probably won’t get to choose where I end up. So I have to be open.
You have been studying conducting in Helsinki during several of the last years. You studied with Jorma Panula, the famous maestro and teacher of conductors. Could you venture a guess why the school of Jorma Panula has become almost a world phenomenon, what is so special about him?
When you look at his pupils and all these fantastic Finnish conductors, and also the non-Finnish conductors who have studied with Jorma, I think it’s quite amazing to see how individual all of these people are, in the sense that he has not tried to mold Panula clones from them. All of these people have really developed their own style of conducting, their own body language and so on. He has helped people find their own paths and he has created one of the principles of the Finnish conducting school which is that you already have to be a professional, have a background as a professional instrumentalist or a musician. So all of the people in the class, I mean, our professor Sakari (Sakari Oramo) was a world-class violinist, he was the concertmaster in the Radio Orchestra before he was the principal conductor there. Esa-Pekka Salonen was apparently a great horn player, I didn’t hear him ever play myself but I heard he was pretty good. Yukka-Pekka Saraste was a violinist, John Storgards was a violinist, Susanna Mälkki was a fantastic chellist, Dalia Stasevska a fantastic violist. All these people played an instrument on a professional level, so they understand what it is to pursue that profession and to give that level of attention on a daily basis. Most of them play an orchestral instrument, so they understand what it is like to play in an orchestra, what it is that an orchestral player needs from the conductor, and I think those are different sets of elements that Jorma has looked for in his students and which has been continued as a tradition at the academy as well.
Can you name the highlights of your experience, what did you take from him that will stay with you for life?
One of the main things Jorma is teaching now is the search for efficiency and not adding too much if it is not necessary. And even though we are very different musicians, I think it’s always good to come back to those basics and look for what is just necessary, and so whatever you add then carries a deeper, more powerful meaning afterwards.
Could you also describe your Master program in conducting and the way that your professor Sakari Oramo works with you?
Typically the way it works and also one of the reasons why the Finnish school has been so successful, is that we typically have an orchestra to work with every week, which is a conducting class band, and so it’s a small orchestra and this is a system that was started by Jorma as well. And so we work with an orchestra, we have a different program every week, and depending on the week we get to choose, we divide the intended program with each other, so that we cover the whole program. We have always some preparatory sessions, either just alone with a teacher and the class, or sometimes a teacher wants to do one-on-one sessions, sometimes we have pianists there, sometimes we play our own instruments for each other, sometimes a mix of that – it depends a lot on the teacher, they get to decide how they want to do the sessions. And then we have two sessions with the orchestra, so depending on how many of us are there, So if we typically have a symphony, we divide up the movements, we divide the time and then we get to run our own rehearsal, and it’s really up to the teacher as well if they want to interrupt us or just to see us work, or if they have decided there’s a special particular skill they want to see us work on, technically, or in rehearsal technique, so that’s very individual.
How do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Our field makes it so that it’s totally unpredictable for me to know where I’m going to be 1 year from now, because I’ve seen it happen more than once in my life how just one week or one experience can just turn my life around. Ideally speaking, concerts would keep on coming and I would keep on doing what I love.
I see that you’ve also recorded a disc, you’ve organised a festival Nordlyd, you already begin to champion new music, also as part of your family – like your recent performance Ekstasis at the Helsinki Festival-2021 combining works of Saariaho and Barriere. Do you think that these activities would be enhanced and continued in future?
I hope that these activities will continue because they are a part of who I am, and I think this fact of doing different things and having interest for different aspects is a very important part of my identity. I certainly hope it can flourish and continue to develop. The festival Nordlyd especially is something that I really want to develop because its main purpose is to create and explore and experiment with concert forms and concert programming and concert setting, and also maybe sharing music with different audiences, so in that sense I would certainly hope that’s something I can continue to do and develop.
What’s your perception of the influence of the pandemic on music? What has been changing through this very unusual, maybe unprecedented time in the music history? Are we getting into a ‘new normal’ or returning to ‘old normal’ perhaps?
I think the concept of normal is both something we’re really longing for and also a slightly dangerous concept, because this whole crisis has also brought up the many flaws of how we are living and the flaws of our world. So maybe instead of looking for going back to normal we need to develop a new normal, a more sustainable and a more healthy way of living, both in our interactions in the world and also in the artistic community. I think it’s a wakeup call for all of us.
Can you give examples? If everybody took their lessons seriously, what could change?
One thing to seriously think about on a practical level is the amount of travelling we used to do, and whether it’s really necessary to cross the ocean for 5 days of rehearsals and concerts. It is wonderful to travel, but maybe there is a way to try and develop, on a larger scale, one circle of influence we have around us and be a bit more occasional about other opportunities. I mean, of course, that’s for everyone to figure out, but I think that’s one major aspect we probably all should be thinking about.
One disadvantage of locality is that only the local people will see and hear certain great musicians. I don’t think I would like to be given, like, a zero option for the next 5 years of seeing concerts in Helsinki.
I’m not saying that travel has to be obliterated completely. But this is something I think about, because our generation needs to think about these things because otherwise, I mean, there is a very real possibility there is no future for us, so of course we try to think about long and short term solutions, and I don’t have a real, clear answer, but may be the future will show new ways we don’t yet know.
Do you think that we will all tired of the digital resources at some point, or we’ll be used to it being part of the musical world from now on?
I sincerely hope we get back to the live format to the fullest extent possible. Of course, some people have been trying to experiment a bit more, I wish more people would try to think outside the box, but streamed concerts are just not the same as being in the hall. It is just not the same, there’s just something about being in the same room with the musicians and feeling the vibrations in the air and in the ground. It doesn’t feel for the public that they’re playing for an audience in the same way. I know it’s very difficult for the musicians as well to put the same amount of effort, and at the same time it’s also unbelievably stressful to play for a stream because you have this kind of pressure that this is going to be recorded for eternity. So it is also a bit scary in that way, and I think the collages we had of, you know, people playing in their own homes and recording their own parts, it felt very cute at the start but I think we’ve reached our quota, now that everyone has done it.
Digital streams also reduce you to your own devices, because some people have binaural systems, while others just have their phones. So then the streamed concert is a different experience depending on how equipped your home is, while in a real hall we all share our resources.
Exactly, and there’s also something about the space: it not being separated and being specifically devoted to music. Whatever that place is, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the best, like Carnegie Hall or whatever, but just going, stepping into a place which is dedicated for a performance, and just stepping into that moment with other people, there is something so special about that.
How do you see the music world in 50 or 100 years?
I really believe that the way we construct programs is a very important part of the message and of the performance we try to offer to an audience, and I believe quite strongly in the idea that through the programming and the space you choose for a performance that you try to shape an arch between the pieces, tell a story, whether it’s outspoken or just in your mind, that it makes sense in a way to have a clear message you want to convey and communicate to the audience. I would love to see a bit more variety in the program, the individual pieces as well, but the way they are combined sometimes makes no sense whatsoever, and I really believe that a lot of people would actually enjoy being challenged a bit more. And I think that kind of global thinking and thinking of a message is something that is missing in programming. What we do has become so mystical to a lot of people that, I think, if we try to have a bit clearer intentions in a way and try to communicate something genuine, that would be great in future.
I think one thing that might be a problem in a lot of places is how divided the audience and the performers are, and that’s something, for instance, well, in my festival I had those moments in between performances which I also saw the audience, and the performance can share, you know, and just discuss what just happened and exchange. What we do is so mystical to other people, so I think that it’s important to demystify some of the aspects of our work because it’s very abstract for a lot of people. The fact that you dedicate your whole life and your whole days to playing an instrument (which for many people is only a hobby) is very mind-boggling in a way.I think it is important to have these discussions, and everyone needs to be open. At least I always enjoy understanding more about the things that I don’t know so much about and trying to get a better grasp, and I think it can make us better citizens of the world, but also, you know, as artists, every experience brings a new layer to our work.
What do you think would happen if classical music (that presumably lasts for some periods of time) wouldn’t be fitting attention spans (that are said to be constantly declining) of any inhabitants of Earth in 50 years’ time?
Hopefully people are starting to be a bit more mindful about those things and trying to reconnect with the mental faculties and concentration faculties. But even for a musician or someone who is used to go to concerts and operas, sometime even a full standard classical concert, like, 2-hour concert with an intermission can feel long, if it doesn’t have a clear construction. I think a 40-minute performance, if it’s a good performance, can be very satisfying. I actually often find myself enjoying shorter performances because they tend to be better constructed. And sometimes even if you go to an installation or a performance which is repeated several times in a day, then you have even shorter, maybe half an hour performances. It can be incredibly effective if it’s done the right way. At the same time a long performance, if it is constructed in a right way, if there is a dramatic arch to your program, then I think it can grasp people’s attention all the same, it just has to be very well done.
So the key is not to take public’s attention for granted but fight for it during the whole time that you are on stage.
Indeed, I think that a big part of the work of the performer is to create these stimuli to grasp people’s attention and to keep people with us in a way, and of course you cannot succeed to do that with every person in the audience, but if you have done it with one or few people then that is already something.
Can you describe the joy you experience when performing, or conducting, or listening to a concert? What is the point of being involved in these activities from a subjective vantage point?
It is this feeling of having connected… I really love playing with other people and I think that’s also what drew me to conducting: working with other people. The fact of having successfully connected with the others and that we have found a dialogue, and at the same time the conscious feeling that I have managed to fulfil my emotions. For me, conducting probably feels a bit like a tangible physical fulfilment.
What kind of physical sensation can you compare it to? Climbing the mountain, swimming in the pool, eating, meeting your loved one, what can musical sensations be compared with?
It can be anything from terrible pain to ecstatic joy of… There are so many spectrums, it can be seeing a person you love, realising that you’re in love, or, I don’t know, sitting in front of a fire on a winter day. The joy and the fulfilment of the music consists not only of the happy things but to be able to convey or to feel all the spectrum of human emotions, it’s also the pain and the heartbreaks. I reach all of these spectrums of emotions, they’re experienced very strongly through music.
We finish by what you were saying at the beginning, that music is the field that is hard to verbalize. It always needs some comparisons or silences, presumptions of the things you don’t speak about, and thank you for trying to feel these muted gaps through this conversation.