Vanska takes the final concert of the Composer Institute very seriously
as does the orchestra. Roger Zare received thunderous applause for his
wonderfully visceral piece "Aerodynamics." (Photo: Greg Helgeson) View full slideshow (6 total images)
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It was truly my pleasure and an honor to share the stage with the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vanska and seven emerging composers last week as host of the final concert of the 2009 Composer Institute.
The sonic experience blew me away - and the talent, equally astounded me.
concert was called "Future Classics." I looked up "classic" in the
dictionary and it reads: "serving as a standard of excellence; of
In classical music we might add that it's something that endures.
for yourself by listening to this music that will tantalize and
energize you, give you goose-bumps and beg for a second, third, or even
more listenings - but for one-week only.
Angel Lam - In Search of Seasons
Winter: introspective | Spring: gentle awakening | Summer: pulsating, with the wind | Autumn: remembrance
Hong Kong native Angel Lam is a wisp of a thing - slender, soft-spoken,
gentle - but her seemingly reserved personality belies anything in her
music. It sweeps, sings and fills an entire hall, even when one has to
lean forward to capture the whole sonic effect. This may be why Yo-Yo
Ma has championed her music, premiering Ms. Lam's "Awakening from a
Disappearing Garden" with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra earlier this
fall. Lam's "In Search of Seasons" is built on Eastern poetry that
seems to describe one thing, but is truly about something else
entirely. The performance begins with Ms. Lam reading her original
Spencer Topel - Incendio
Spencer Topel is about the other side of the spectrum from Angle Lam as
you can get. His gregarious style led me to describe him as the
entertainment director of his Fraternity. But he's a serious composer
who has won nearly every competition out there. He's working on a
doctorate at Cornell and commuting to Dartmouth College to teach in the
Digital Musics Program. He says "Incendio" relates to the dynamics of
fire, ecstatic inspiration, manipulation of joy and expectant energy.
"It's about doing something you really love doing and for me, it's
composing, it's teaching, it's researching." The piece sizzles and the
sheer physicality of the performance is thrilling.
Roger Zare is a pianist, though he says he never composes at the piano
rather tries to get the full-spectrum of sound in his mind as he writes
the notes on staff paper. Roger and I studied with the same composition
teacher at USC, albeit he was a real composer and I was just taking
freshman theory. But I do understand the Los Angeles experience and the
need to race over to Disneyland on a day off. Roger did that one day
and took a ride - over-and-over-over. While his "Aerodynamics" sounds
like an experienced pilot was at the controls, or at least someone
having taken a ride in a glider, Zare's work stems from Disney and his
Spanish composer Fernando Buide del Real told me that he has never
spoken English in front of a crowd as large as the one at the Future
Classics concert. He may have been nervous, but so beautifully
described his Gabrieli-esque "Antiphones." Inspired by the magnificent
architecture of his native Santiago de Compostela as well as his dual
background as a Galician-speaker in Spain as well as a student at Yale,
Mr. Buide says that finding his particular voice has been tricky; even
though Composer Institute Director Aaron Jay Kernis is convinced the
"Spanish" flavor comes through.
Anyone who took High School French cracked up when Kathryn Salfelder
explained where "Dessin No. 1" comes from. It is the first drawing in
Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic "The Little Prince." Things are
definitely not as they seem in this spectacular Satie-esque tone poem.
While we don't hear a snake swallowing an elephant, the delicate violin
solo that opens the work sets in motion a flood of warmth from the
orchestra that perfectly accompanies Saint-Exupery's moral, "One only
sees well with the heart."
What is a Clerihew? How about a Carmen Figuratum or Triolet? Carl
Schimmel is fascinated by obscure and possibly obsolete words. He has
used some as musical forms in his "Woolgatherer's Chapbook." The oldest
of the group and an assistant professor of composition at Illinois
State, Mr. Schimmel is quiet, reflective and a little studious while
his music is cantankerous and humorous. He even goes so far as to use
some obscure words as musical directives, though this, he says, maybe
was going a bit too far!
Geoff Knorr was told in composition class at Peabody that orchestral
doubling was cheating, but he went ahead and used the colors in his
"Shadows of the Infinite." While Schumann and Tchaikovsky created a
louder, but fuzzier, sound when doubling, Geoff creates an altogether
new color that gives his piece - as the title suggests - a sense of
majesty, awe and mystery. Mr. Knorr is fascinated by what's beyond our
understanding and quotes philosopher Francis Schaefer, "The
infinite-personal, triune God is there, and...is not silent."
Every night, 200-300 immigrant detainees are behind bars in Minnesota,
many of whom will be deported. The Obama administration is overhauling
immigrant detention, but moving them out of jails will take years.
Using Handel to get out of a tight situation
An 80-year-old ex-chorister put his pipes to good use, singing the
"Halleluiah Chorus" to get the attention of someone who might help him
out while he was in the hospital. Thanks to Jeff Esworthy for sharing
this and making me...