Music Mutes Photos Trombone



Last weekend, Erin Lesser, Matt Marks and I played for Art Trek Plus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our participation was part of Alarm Will Sound’s residency at the museum. For Art Trek we performed works for children, ages 5-12, and spoke about their relationship with visual art. The presentation also included an interactive activity: the participants improvised sounds with Matt, drew landscapes with Erin and created their own abstract works with me.

I performed Scelsi’s Tre Pezzi, not something someone would traditionally perform for that age group. I ran it by my daughter beforehand, figuring if a three year-old could handle it this group should be OK. It went over well at home and at the museum. I performed in Gallery 911 in front of two works by Burgoyne Diller, one in gray, the other in black and white and punctuated with primary colors; both using, primarily, rectangles to create form on the square canvas.

I related the simplicity in the gray scale piece to the first part of the Scelsi: the music gains its shape from the repetition of an A flat (and eventual explosion to an E flat), the painting’s form comes from repeated rectangles. I related the second part of the Scelsi to the other work by Diller. There’s still repetition in the music (this time centered around an A) but in a more dramatic fashion and with the added “color” of the mute. The relation to the Diller is not one-to-one but there are still some similarities. For the final part of the Scelsi we had the participants create their own image. Most everyone took theirs with them, though I did find this one left behind:

Music Trombone

Alarm Will Sound at Carnegie

Last Saturday AWS played a concert of works written for us in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. On the program were brand new pieces by John Orfe, Alarm Will Sound pianist, and Tyondai Braxton, in addition to recent works by Donnacha Dennehy and Charles Wuorinen and, at nearly eight years old, a downright ancient piece by David Lang.

John Orfe never disappoints with difficult writing (Parable of the Sower, the trombone quartet he wrote for Novus is no walk in the park, and his Chamber Symphony is quite a blow) and Journeyman is no exception. The piece is purely John. It is densely layered and uses extended harmony that will keep you guessing as to where it’s going but somehow sounds appropriate. Journeyman has great moments for the brass, including a fantastic trombone solo. Here’s a bit from the score:

Orfe, Journeyman

Increase by David Lang is intense. The opening lulls you into a sense that the piece is going to be a walk in the park with a good four minutes of long tones. Then, suddenly, the mixed meter counting nightmare begins. Three minutes of 5/8, changing from 2+3 to 3+2 every other measure or so, doubled with a percussionist.

Increase Excerpt

The ending is about another three minutes of nonstop rhythms, this time with little opportunity to breathe. I end up sneaking breaths in the repeated dotted eighths.

Increase Excerpt 2

Tyondai’s new piece, Fly by Wire, is in the vein of math rock. The trombone part, however, requires little calculation. Mostly fat notes below the staff, Tyondai asked for as much sound as he could get from the brass turning the piece into “long, low and loud.” I got the opportunity to talk to him about the piece and recorded it for the AWS YouTube channel:

Big Spinoff, by Charles Wuorinen, is what it’s title implies, a spinoff for large ensemble of an earlier work, Spinoff written for violin, bass and percussion. The trombone part covers a large range, quickly. Leaps of greater than an octave happen frequently. I found that it was effective to play pretty lightly. It balanced the ensemble better and made those fast licks just a little easier to play in time.

Big Spinoff Excerpt

The second half of the program was dedicated completely to Donnacha Dennehy’s work, “The Hunger.” Donnacha is creating an opera using The Great Famine as the subject. His depiction of it is incredible. Rather than a solely heartbreaking setting (which moments of the work definitely are), he uses the accounts of Asenath Nicholson, an American in Ireland at the time, as his source material. Her diaries are at times distinctly poignant and emotional and at other times distant and disconnected. Donnacha’s music reflects this. It sometimes sounds too “happy” to be a depiction of such sad events but somehow works wonderfully to create a vivid, effective image. Some of the movements use prerecorded music, all fantastic in their own right.

The trombone part is not wildly difficult but requires constant attention as the meter and it’s subdivision shift nearly every measure. Nearly always “in one” or “in two,” the music goes from 3/4 with four divisions per measure to 4/4 with four divisions per measure frequently. Tuning is the other challenge. Donnacha writes in a spectral style using the natural tuning of the harmonic series. The way he harmonizes these incredible pre-recorded sean-nós songs with spectral tuning is absolutely gorgeous.


Gigs Music Trombone

Children’s Concert/Steve Reich/St Louis

As I mentioned a little while ago it’s been a busy time recently. Just this last week I was in Palo Alto for the US premiere of Radio Rewrite by Steve Reich and St. Louis for an Alarm Will Sound performance. More on those in a second. I haven’t had the opportunity to post much on the Messiah College recording sessions from February and unfortunately I don’t have any media from them (not even a cell phone pic or two). Brass Cross, the college faculty/student brass ensemble, recorded two more Gabrieli sonatas (adding to the seven or eight we already have from previous years), David Diamond’s Ceremonial Fanfare, a new work by Anthony DiLorenzo and the Fanfare to La Peri by Paul Dukas. The college wind ensemble recorded Joseph Turrin’s Concertino for 11 Instruments and Wind Ensemble. I believe the recordings should be released sometime in the fall on the Klavier Records label.

On March 3 I had the joy of playing on a children’s concert for the College Music Society at Dickinson College. It was loads of fun to be able to play Prince Ali for little ones, my daughter and stepson included. Afterward I broke out the pBone and gave the kids a chance to try it out. photo (6) photo (5) On the opposite end of the spectrum I was in Palo Alto a week ago for Alarm Will Sound, the music of Steve Reich and the US premiere of Radio Rewrite, Steve’s new work that draws from Radiohead. I performed Clapping Music with Alarm Will Sound and Steve Reich and a sampler part to City Life. Performing on keyboard was a first for me and I’m happy to say I came through the experience for the better. I’m working on getting a recording of our performance. For now here’s a couple seconds of phone video of Matt Marks and I rehearsing the third movement.

Working with Steve Reich was fantastic. His attention to detail was inspiring. You can tell he takes every performance seriously. IS6A8140

Alarm Will Sound’s performance of Radio Rewrite, a joint commission between AWS/Stanford Lively Arts and the London Sinfonietta, was fantastic. My respect for my colleagues is always high but never higher than hearing them perform this difficult new piece. I had the honor of turning pages.

After that AWS was off to St. Louis for our second performance there this season. The concert, at the Sheldon Concert Hall, is part of our ongoing relationship with new music and St. Louis in particular and Missouri/the Mid-West in general. For this show we premiered Journeyman, a new work by AWS pianist/composer John Orfe, and new sections to The Hunger, a work that is to be an evening long opera by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy.Donnacha’s piece is absolutely gorgeous. Take a listen here: