Here’s a little longer video excerpt from the third movement of Separate Self. It will give you an idea of just how elegant Garth Zeglin’s kinetic fabric sculptures are in action.
I like to think of the essence of counterpoint as multiple parts having their own interest and yet never banging into each other. In the third movement of Separate Self, I took very clearly defined materials and worked on having the lines constantly shift in their relationships to each other. The end result is a soundscape that has a high degree of both stability and fluidity. I’m really happy about how the musical and visual gestures work together for this movement.
A good friend once asked me why I write the kind of alt-classical music I write. It wasn’t a snarky question in any sense and I was touched that he had bothered to listen to my music at all. My answer was simply that there were things that I could do from within the classical tradition that I couldn’t imagine doing in any other genre. The slow movement—the adagio—is one of those things.
One of the pieces of music that probably helped me realize I was a composer at heart is Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. As a high school trombonist whose primary aspiration was to play in the Chicago Symphony, I was obsessed with Mahler and Bruckner. One day I had driven to the record story to add Mahler 4 to my collection. I expected it to have the same massive brass gestures that Symphonies 1–3 had. I listened to the whole thing, waiting for the inevitable explosion, but it never came. No trombones at all. That’s where something funny happened. Instead of being disappointed, I fell in love with the Adagio, which I still consider one of the best moments in all of Mahler’s symphonic output.
The slow movement in Separate Self embodies a lot of what fascinates me about the classical (in the broadest sense) slow movement: using sound to create quietness, stillness through motion, stretching time, the feeling that words would be inadequate to the task of what you are trying to express… But not only inadequate; it’s the feeling that words would actually do violence the idea. Or course, we wouldn’t want that to happen, so here’s the music, performed here by IonSound Project.
Finally posting some audio excerpts from IonSound’s premiere of Separate Self back in March. What can I say? I lead a full life! Find out all about Separate Self and listen to excerpts from all three movements. The clip below features brilliant playing by violinist Laura Motchalov, pianist Jack Kurutz, and drummer Dan Zawodniak.
I was at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Pittsburgh recording the dress rehearsal for the Oakland Girls Chamber Choir performance on Saturday night. The choir, ensemble, and magnificent soprano Laura Very sounded terrific. Back when I was freelancing as a trombonist I performed at First Pres, but it had been a long time, and I’d forgotten how unique the acoustic is there. You expect a large stone church to be very washy, but as music director Anne Smith explained to me, this church was designed around the minster being heard easily from the pulpit at every point in the sanctuary. The result is that text projects with absolute clarity so it’s a wonderful place to sing!
The mics on the stand are a pair of Rode NT2-As in a Blumlein array. I don’t see many people using a Blumlein pair, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. You get the stable stereo image of a coincident pair and some of the roominess of a spaced omni pair, but with just the two mics. The NT2-A is extremely flat in figure eight mode, so it’s very nice for capturing acoustic music. I experimented with using various spot mics over the course of the rehearsal, but by far the best sound in this venue and with these musicians was just the simple stereo pair, so that’s what we’ll do on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts, parent organization for Oakland Girls Choir, just published their new Web site, including some tracks from a live recording I made of OGCs’ 2012 Christmas concert. The whole concert will be on a CD to be released next fall, but in the meantime, you can hear some excerpts here.
There are many fine musical moments from this performance, but one of my favorites is Rise up Shepherd by Mark Hayes.It features all three choirs together, from the youngest first graders to the seniors in high school. You really hear the progression and maturation of the girls’ voices, where they started and where they are headed, and yet it’s wonderful and energizing at every level.
L-R: Linda Fisher, bassoon; Robin Driscoll, oboe; Rob Frankenberry, piano
I’m delighted that Pittsburgh trio Animé BOP! will screen Will Zavala’s film Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public while performing my score for said film live. Will and I have been working closely with Animé BOP! bassoonist Linda Fisher to make some minor revisions to the film and the music so that it’s more suitable to a concert setting. It will run abut 8 1/2 minutes total and include many familiar scenes around the city, clips from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, and some wonderful glimpses into Cantini’s studio. In short, it’s a film that is truly steeped in Pittsburgh’s cultural life.
Will and I first collaborated in 2009 on the film about Cantini, the founder of Pitt’s Studio Arts program whose sculptures occupy prominent places around the Pittsburgh cityscape. The impetus for the film was the ongoing Artists on Film project cosponsored by Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and we’re delighted that it continues to hold appeal and find new audiences.
Animé BOP! is calling the concert The Pittsburgh Composers and along with Will’s film and my score, it will include Nancy Galbraith’s Incantation & Allegro, James Ogburn’s Complements and Collisions, the premieres of eX (e to the x) by Mark S. Fromm and Semplicemente by Noah Rectenwald, and Robert Frankenberry’s arrangement of Daron Aric Hagen’s Tryst.
Detail from one of Garth Zeglin’s robotic fabric sculptures for Separate Self.
My newest project, a collaboration with IonSound Project and roboticist/sculptor Garth Zeglin, will premiere on Saturday, March 9, at Bellefield Hall in Oakland. This is Part II of IonSound’s CreatION Sound series with the first installment featuring music by Patrick Burke and Jeremy Boyle’s robotic drum. The project Garth and I created is called Separate Self and features three of Garth’s robotic sculptures basically dancing to the music I wrote. I think you’re going to like it a lot.
My first and lasting impression of Garth Zeglin’s robotic fabric sculptures is that they are elegant and graceful creatures who move beautifully and expressively. I created the music for Separate Self with a clear idea of how the robots would move (thanks to computer simulations Garth shared with me early in the design stage), but also with the thought that many different kinds of entities—including humans—could move to this music and enjoy doing so.
IonSound commissioned Separate Self with the support of a Spark Award from the Sprout Fund. This concert is also the culmination of a series of educational workshops with the Falk and Waldorf schools, and will involve student performers and their created instruments and compositions.
I’m always grateful for the opportunity to work with the marvelous musicians of IonSound Project and for the chance to collaborate with Garth. And I’m particularly grateful to the Sprout Fund for supporting the entire CreatION Sound project.
Tickets in advance: General admission is $12; students and seniors, are $8. Call 412-422-8042 for advance tickets. At the door: general admission is $15; students and seniors are $10. Children 12 and under are free.