The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: Concerto contest winners perform at the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras winter concerts this Saturday

March 16, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

WYSO will hold its second concert series of the year with the Diane Ballweg Winterfest Concerts on this Saturday, March 18.

Nearly 500 young musicians will display their great talents to the community during the concerts, which are dedicated to music teachers. (See below for times and programs. And listen to WYSO members talk about WYSO in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The concert series will feature all five orchestras including the debut performance of WYSO’s newest string orchestra, Opus One.

Under the direction of Geri Hamilton, Opus One consists of string players ages 8 to 12. This ensemble focuses more on technique than on performance, incorporating instruction on fundamentals of scales, shifting and bowing, in addition to formative ensemble skills experience.

The Youth Orchestra concert will also feature two of the winners from the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition: Violinist, Mary Deck and Percussionist, Adam Goren.

Mary Deck (below), age 16, is a junior at Madison West High School, and has been a part of WYSO since 2011. She will be performing the first movement of the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31, by Henri Vieuxtemps.

Adam Goren (below), age 18, is a senior at Middleton High School and has been a part of WYSO since 2013. He will be performing the third movement of Concertino for Marimba by Paul Creston.

The Diane Ballweg Winterfest Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW-Madison George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street.

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

For more information about WYSO, go to: https://www.wysomusic.org

This project is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Endres Manufacturing Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., a charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Generous funding was also provided from the American Girl’s Fund for Children. This project is also funded in part by a grant from the Madison Arts Commission with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board.

SCHEDULE AND PROGRAMS

Opus One and Sinfonietta – 11:30 a.m.

Sinfonietta (below)

Longfield (b.1947), Black Diamond

Smetana (1824-1884), Themes from The Moldau, arr. Frost

Mosier, Kirt N., American Reel

Traditional Irish, The Salley Gardens

Richard Stephan (b. 1929), Variations On A Well-Know Sea Chantey,

Grundman  (1934-1996), Kentucky 1800

Leyden (1917-2014), Serenade for String Orchestra: Prelude, Fugue, Nocturne, Cakewalk

Dvorak (1841-1904), Themes From The New World Symphony arr. Gruselle

Opus One

Richard Meyer (b.1957), Night Shift

Follow the Drinking Gourd – African-American Folk Song arr. Carrie Lane Gruselle

Ewazen (b.1951), Four Royal Dances: The Lord

Brian Balmages (b.1975), A Beethoven Lullaby

For the Star of County Down –

Richard Meyer (b.1957) Dragonhunter

Concert Orchestra and Harp Ensemble (below top)  – 1:30 p.m.

Concert Orchestra (below bottom)

Gounod (1818-1893), Funeral March of a Marionette ed. Rosenhaus

Holst (1874-1934) Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from The Planets arr. Leidig

M.L. Daniels (b. 1931) Contending

Tres Danzas de Mexico setting by Rhoads (b. 1918): El Pitayero (from Jalisco); El Café (Province unknown); El Curripiti (from Veracruz)

Montgomery (1771-1854), Angels, From the Realms of Glory, setting Robert W. Smith

Philharmonia Orchestra (below) – 4 p.m.

Wagner (1813-1883), Procession to the Cathedral, from the Opera “Lohengrin” arr. Kennedy

Grieg (1843-1907), Peer Gynt: Suite No. 1, Op. 46: Morning; Ase’s Death; Anitra’s Dance; In the Hall of the Mountain King

Weber (1786-1826), Tourandot, J.75: Overture and March

Hindemith (1895-1963), Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber: Fourth movement – March

Youth Orchestra (below) – 7 p.m.

Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) Concerto for Violin No 4 D minor, Op.31, first movement. Mary Deck, violin soloist

Creston (1906-1985) Concertino for Marimba, third movement. Adam Goren, marimba soloist

Prokofiev (1891-1953) Symphony No 7, op.131, C-sharp minor: Moderato, Allegretto, Andante espressivo, Vivace

Glinka (1804-1857) “Russlan and Ludmilla” Overture


Classical music education: Alumna violist Vicki Powell returns this weekend to perform with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and kick off WYSO’s 50th anniversary season. Plus, Madison Music Makers gives a free concert at noon on Saturday

November 10, 2015
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ALERT: This Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, downtown on the Capitol Square, Madison Music Makers will give a FREE concert in the monthly Grace Presents series of music that includes works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Pachelbel, Antonio Vivaldi and Ludwig van Beethoven  as well as popular music, country music and American, Bolivian, French, German, Jewish, English folksongs. Founded in 2007 by Bonnie Green and sponsored by many individuals and groups, including the Madison public schools, Madison Music Makers is dedicated to giving low-income students in the Madison area high-quality music lessons.

For more information about how to support or participate in the organization, visit: www.MadisonMusicMakers.org

Madison Music Makers

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present its first concert series of its 50th anniversary season, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts, on Saturday, Nov. 14, and Sunday, Nov. 15.

WYSO Logo blue

Nearly 400 young musicians will display their talents to the community during the three concerts, which are dedicated to private and school music teachers.

The Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble (below), led by director Vicki Jenks will kick off the concert series at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

Immediately following the Percussion Ensemble, the Philharmonia Orchestra (below) and its conductor Michelle Kaebisch will take the stage and perform the Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian; Reigger’s Rhythmic Dances; the Light Calvary Overture by Franz Von Suppe; and the Berceuse (Lullaby) and Finale from the “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky.

WYSO violins of Philharmonia Orchestra

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Concert Orchestra (below) under the direction of conductor Christine Eckel will perform The Quest by Kerr, Romany Dances by DelBorgo and Slane by Douglas Wagner. The Concert Orchestra will also perform two works by John Williams in Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which Williams co-composed with Alexandre Desplat.

wyso concert orchestra brass

Following the Concert Orchestra, WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will take the stage. Conductor Mark Leiser will lead the orchestra in seven works including the Adagio movement from the Symphony No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff; Silva’s The Evil Eye and the Hideous Heart; Edward MacDowell’s Alla Tarantella; Shenandoah arranged by Erik Morales, Forever Joyful and Lullaby to the Moon by Balmages; and the Entrance of the Queen of Sheba by George Frideric Handel.

WYSO Sinfonietta

On Sunday, Nov. 15, WYSO’s Harp Ensemble (below), under the direction of Karen Atz, will open the 1:30 p.m. concert.

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

Following the Harp Ensemble, the Youth Orchestra (below), under the baton of WYSO music director Maestro James Smith, will perform three pieces.

WYSO Youth Orchestra

In honor of WYSO’s 50th Anniversary, WYSO welcomes back one of their illustrious alumni, violist Vicki Powell (below). Powell began her vibrant musical career studying with UW-Madison faculty members Eugene Purdue and Sally Chisholm, who plays with the Pro Arte Quartet.

From there, she graduated from the Julliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She has performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. For her full bio, please visit our website at http://www.wysomusic.org/evelyn-steenbock-fall-concerts/vicki-powell.

Vicki Powell 2

Vicki Powell, along with the Youth Orchestra will perform the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra by Bela Bartok. (You can hear the rhapsodic slow first movement played by Yuri Bashmet and the Berlin Philharmonic in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Following that performance, the Youth Orchestra will continue the concert with Rainbow Body by Theofanidis and the Symphony No. 9 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

This project is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, Inc. charitable arm of The Capital Times. This project is also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about WYSO, visit:

https://www.wysomusic.org


Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras showcase both soloists and ensembles on this Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Plus, a FREE collaborative concert-arts event takes place tonight at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

May 13, 2014
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ALERT: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music viola student Sharon Tenhundfeld (below) is the director of the Artist Collective Concert Series. She writes: “You are invited to the FREE DEBUT concert tonight, Tuesday, May 13, at 8 p.m. in DeLuca Forum at  the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, located at 330 North Orchard Street. This concert series is an opportunity for UW-Madison musicians, dancers, visual artists, and actors to freely explore collaboration across art disciplines and present their collaborative works of art to the public. The concert includes three performance pieces as well as an audience art piece. The three works involve a total of 15 collaborating artists. The concert is free of charge and should be a ton of fun! The program includes: Distance – video art and musicians; Tomato Magic – actress, comics, and musicians; and Mobile – dancers and a string quartet. We look forward to seeing you.”

Sharon Tenhundfeld

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, 2014, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present the annual Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts, the last major event of the current regular concert season. (There are summer events.)

The Bolz Family Spring Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

There is not much The Ear can add except that he is almost sure you will be impressed by the skills of these many young people – hundreds of middle school and high school student from dozens of communities around south-central Wisconsin –- especially if you have never heard them before. Just listen to them tackle the massive and iconic Fifth Symphony by modern Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich in the YouTube video at the bottom.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

I suspect you, like me, will also be impressed with the size, young age and enthusiasm of the audiences, who cheer when the musicians first come on the stage and never stop. It is as if you are at some kind of sporting event – an atmosphere that the performing arts and various academic events could use a lot more of.

WYSO young audience

I say: Try it, you’ll like it! And you will be supporting a great cause. Music skills last a lifetime and translate into other careers and endless appreciation and ageless enjoyment.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. The family-friendly concerts, informal in atmosphere, generally last about 90 minutes.

Here are programs and performers:

On Saturday, May 17 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will kick off the concerts with Sinfonietta (below) performing “Oblivion” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla; a traditional Chinese tune entitled “The Brilliant Red Shandadan Flowers: and American composer Aaron Copland’s “Grovers Corners.”

Sinfonietta strings

The Concert Orchestra (below) will perform “Song of Jupiter” by Baroque master George Frideric Handel; the “Triumphant March from Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; “Vignettes”by Kirk; “Song without Words” by Gustav Holst; and Gavotte in D minor by the Baroque French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

wyso concert orchestra brass

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra will feature its two concerto competition winners. Davis Wu will play Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor by the American composer Edward MacDowell; and violinist Isabelle Krier will perform Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20, for solo violin and orchestra by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate. The Philharmonia Orchestra will then play the fourth movement of the Symphony No. 6, Op. 74, B Minor and the Danse Bacchanale by French composer Camille Saint Saens, and the Caucasian Sketches No. 2, fourth movement by the Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.

Davis Wu

Isabelle Krier

On Sunday, May 18, at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will display three of their smaller ensembles: Percussion Ensemble (below top) under the direction of Vicki Jenks; the Brass Choirs under the direction of Dan Brice; and the Harp Ensemble (below bottom) under the direction of Karen Beth Atz.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

At 4 p.m., WYSO will welcome its Youth Orchestra, which will feature the four winners of the concerto competition. Violinist Savannah Albrecht (below top) will perform Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens; marimbist Ephraim Sutherland will perform Concerto for Marimba and Strings by Sejourne.

Savannah Albrecht

Ephraim Sutherland mallets

Pianist Isabella Wu will perform the Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and pianist Charlie Collar will perform the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Isabella Wu2

Charlie Collar

The Youth Orchestra will also perform two additional works it will play on its concert tour to Argentina this summer: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein and the Danza final (Malombo) from “Estancia” by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera.

For more information about those concerts and about WYSO, including its history, how to support it and how to audition to join it, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

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Classical music education: Trust The Ear — you will be pleased and perhaps even astonished by the annual Winterfest concerts of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras on this Saturday and Sunday on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

March 11, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings the annual Winterfest concerts given by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

WYSO Winterfest logo 2014

Once again, The Ear predicts, audiences will see and hear some of the city’s biggest, most enthusiastic and youngest audiences (below) greet equally young, enthusiastic and talented young players who turn in performances of astounding and often unexpected high quality.

The Ear knows that from personal experience. I will never ever forget a remarkable performance of the Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak that I heard at a spring WYSO performance several years ago. It was serious music-making, not just student music-making.

WYSO young audience

In retrospect, all that should be no surprise. Young people from all around southcentral Wisconsin become members of WYSO only through a rigorous audition process, and the training is hard and long. But WYSO’s young performers end up making great music greatly, so that when they are invited to go on tour to Europe (two summers ago) and South America (this coming summer) it seems a natural outcome.

wyso violas

The concerts on this Saturday and Sunday are the primary concert fundraisers for the group that holds the most promise of insuring the future of classical music and music education among young people, especially at a  time when arts funding is being taken away from many public schools.

The concerts also serve as the run-up to the all-important Art of Note gala fundraiser on Saturday, March 29, from 6 to 10 p.m. at CUNA Mutual. The concerts are guaranteed to whet your appetite for the Art of Note, which will feature fine food, wine, live music by student groups, auctions of items from sports matches and restaurants to vacations and entertainment, and old violins (below bottom) recycled as art.

Art of Note 2014 logo

Art of Note violins 2014

(In the interest of full disclosure, The Ear has to say that he is a member of the Board of Directors of WYSO — precisely because he considers it such a vital investment in the future of the performing arts and arts education. You should attend the concerts if you can, and also donate what you can to WYSO because I can’t think of a better or more deserving investment you can make.)

On this Saturday and Sunday, March 15 and March 16, more than 350 talented young musicians will perform both classical and contemporary works.

The Winterfest Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison George L. Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park Street, in Madison.

WYSO concerts generally last about 1-1/2 hours, and provide a great orchestral concert opportunity for families. Dress is casual and the atmosphere is respectful, but informal. These concerts are, in a word, fun. 

Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age.

WYSO was founded in 1966 and has served nearly 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.

The concert series kicks off on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with Sinfonietta (below) performing works by Aaron Copland, Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, Bedrich Smetana, Gazda, and Leyden.

WYSO Sinfonietta

Then on Saturday at 4 p.m. the Concert Orchestra (below) will perform numerous works, including “Three Songs of Chopin” by Frederic Chopin, “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Gustav Holst, “Band of Brothers” by Michael Kamen, and “The Great Gate of Kiev” from “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste Mussorgsky.

wyso concert orchestra brass

On Sunday at 1:30, the Philharmonia Orchestra (below, rehearsing) will perform the irresistible final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 5 in C minor, the fourth movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s searing Symphony No. 5, “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1” by Edvard Grieg, “March and Procession to Bacchus” by Leo Delibes, and finally “Procession to the Cathedral” by Richard Wagner.

WYSO rehesrsal Philharmonia Violins

Then also on Sunday at 4 p.m., the Youth Orchestra (below, in performance under WYSO’s music director and UW-Madison conducting professor James Smith) will close the concert series with Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat by the 19th-century Romantic Russian composer Peter Illich Tchaikovsky (it is The Ear’s favorite of Tchaikovsky’s six wonderful  symphonies); “Liturgical Scenes” by the 20th-century American composer Ellsworth Milburn; and “El sombrero de tres picos” (The Three-Cornered Hat) by the 20th-century Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the finale to Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 as performed at last year’s WYSO Winterfest.)

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

For more information about the Winterfest concerts and the Art of Note gala fundraiser on Saturday, March 29, as well as for information about auditioning to join WYSO and ways to support WYSO, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

WYSO extends special thanks to Diane Endres Ballweg for her generous multi-year support of the Winterfest Concerts. The concerts are also generously supported by Dane Arts, with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Classical music: Third Coast Percussion offers a FREE concert of new music tonight and a FREE master class on Thursday at the University of Wisconsin. Also, settings by American composers of poems by American poet Emily Dickinson songs will be featured at the FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society.

October 9, 2013
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ALERT: On this Friday from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the FREE Friday Noon Musicale in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, soprano Julia Foster and pianist Susan Gaeddert will perform songs by Francesco Santoliquido and Francis Poulenc, plus settings of poems by the great American poet Emily Dickinson (below, in a photograph) by various American composers (Ernst Bacon, Daniel Crozier, John Duke, Henry Mollicone and Andre Previn).

emily dickinson photo

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the acclaimed group Third Coast Percussion (below, in a photo of Saveria Truglia) will perform a program of modern and contemporary percussion music.

Third Coast Percussion by Saverio Truglia

The program includes: “Fractalia” by Owen Clayton Condon (at bottom in a YouTube video); “Mallet Quartet by Steve Reich; “Third Construction” by John Cage; and “Resounding Earth” (commissioned work) by Augusta Read Thomas (below), former composer-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

augusta read thomas

Then on Thursday, from 12:15 to 2:15 p.m. in Room 1321 of the George Mosse Humanities Building, the percussion ensemble will give a public master class.

Hailed by The New Yorker magazine as “vibrant” and “superb,” Third Coast Percussion explores and expands the extraordinary sonic possibilities of the percussion repertoire, delivering exciting performances for audiences of all kinds.

Since its formation in 2005, Third Coast Percussion has gained national attention with concerts and recordings that meld the energy of rock music with the precision and nuance of classical chamber works. Third Coast Percussion is the Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame.

For more information about Third Coast Percussion, visit the group’s website:

http://www.thirdcoastpercussion.com

You can also read the preview blog post by Kathy Esposito on the UW School of Music’s terrific new blog “Fanfare:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/third_coast/


Classical music: Ringing cell phones and coughing made Saturday’s concert by the UW-Madison’s Clocks in Motion enthralling and unforgettable.

September 23, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School,, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform its fourth season next summer. He has also been named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra, effective two weeks ago. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a guest review of an unusual percussion concert this past weekend by Clocks in Motion. I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour two summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

By Mikko Utevsky

When we go to a concert, we go to listen and to watch. Perhaps with the very best performers we hope to be touched by the music, for the musicians on stage to speak to us through their playing.

But the role of the audience in classical music is generally passive: we expect to sit quietly, clap when a piece ends, cough politely between movements. We certainly do not walk in the doors expecting to be part of the performance.

At Saturday afternoon’s free performance in Mills Hall of “Percussion is Revolution” by UW-Madison resident ensemble Clocks in Motion (below, in concert), however, all this was turned on its head, and the result was an experience unlike anything I have ever witnessed. (For more information, visit: http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com)

clocks in motion in concert

The ideas of John Cage (below) and his colleagues have not penetrated the conscious of the concert-going public, by and large, and we are comfortable with our music on its pedestal, secure in the rituals surrounding a symphony concert or string quartet recital. The opportunity to see it toppled, however briefly, is notwithstanding an event not to be missed.

John Cage and cat

I, like many audience members, was slightly skeptical about the idea of a participatory concert. I went unsure of what to expect, but I had thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble’s other concerts I had attended, and thought it best to approach with an open mind.

After an exciting opener of “Pulse” by Henry Cowell (below), th group’s music director Sean Kleve explained the structure of the remainder of the program to the audience.

henry cowell

The next four works, all by John Cage , would be played without break and without applause. However, they would be separated by interludes of audience sound. We were asked to make sure our cell phones were turned ON – unthinkable in any other context – and permitted to make one call to another audience member during the course of the performance of Cage’s notorious 4’33” that would follow the next piece.

cell phone ringing

At another juncture, we were asked to read from the program notes in a whisper. Elsewhere we were invited to make noise using whatever we had in our pockets, and later to cough and clear our throats, as inevitably occurs between movements during a conventional classical music concert.

coughing

A video would be projected on the back wall during the performance – a potpourri of more or less random short clips (rain dripping from a rooftop, a turtle, a can rolling off a table, quotes on the nature of music, screensaver-like digital images) – which Kleve (below  top) informed us had not been timed to match the music, nor had it been viewed by any members of the ensemble other than Dave Alcorn (below bottom), who assembled it.

Sean Kleeve

Dave Alcorn Clocks in Motion

Our role as audience, then, was to experience. We had music to listen to, video to watch, spaces to participate (as well as permission to accept accidents – a phone ringing, dropping a program – as part of the concert), and an ensemble of visually engaging performers to observe.

The effect was totally immersive, hypnotic, and utterly enthralling. I have never experienced such a powerful performance, or been so completely engaged by the performers on stage.

Clocks in Motion (below, playing outside the UW-Madison’s George Mosse Humanities Building, and at bottom in  YouTube video where the group discusses its mission and goals) ) is a virtuosic ensemble, made up of incredibly talented and dedicated musicians (including multiple Collins Fellows). Their performances are unfailingly engaging, energetic, and executed with a precision befitting their excellent training and intense rehearsals.

(Clocks in Motion is running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign for a new studio album, featuring two premieres; a link is below:)

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/clocks-in-motion-s-first-album

Not a piece on the program was dull, though there were highlights: Cage’s “Imaginary Landscape 1″ and “First Construction in Metal” were personal favorites, along with the Cowell opener.

Clocks in Motion outside

During “Imaginary Landscape 1,” I could not tell at one point whether the synthesized pitches were coming from in the room or inside my own head. Elsewhere, this would have been disconcerting; here, it simply allowed me to immerse myself in the landscape the performers were inviting me to imagine with them. I think John Cage would approve, both of the effect and of the superb performances of so much of his music.

I realize it is difficult to write authentically about music such as this without sounding trite or ridiculous, and that I may come across as such here. Discarding the accumulated pomp and circumstance with which we dress our music in the classical world does not come easily, at least when reading about it, and if indeed my assessment seems laughable, so be it. The risk of being laughed at is one worth taking for music like this.

For a young musician such as myself, performances like “Percussion is Revolution” are formative experiences – albeit few and far between.

For the veteran concertgoer, perhaps they are powerful enough to challenge the rituals of concert music, at least for an afternoon. If (when?) the program is offered again, it is not to be missed. Attend with an open mind, and be prepared to take part and to accept your experience as a kind of music not played at a symphony concert.

And if you laugh a little, you’re among friends.


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