Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heidegger's Hammer

Hammer patent, H. H. Frey (1915)

I've always loved this passage from Heidegger's 'Sein und Zeit' :
 "The less we just stare at the hammer-thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiledly is it encountered as that which it is—as equipment. The hammering itself uncovers the specific ‘manipulability’ of the hammer. The kind of Being which equipment possesses—in which it manifests itself in its own right—we call ‘readiness-to-hand’." (Being and Time 15: 98)
I am having some of my students wrestling with the passage right now, and it has struck me (in the run up to this concert) as full of insight into the whole notion of 'etude' that we are engaging with here, and with the technical aspects of performance in general.

It is the action of hammering that reveals the potential of the hammer, not the contemplation of the hammer; the action of performing reveals the potential of the instrument, not the contemplation of the instrument. (Sounds a lot like counter)induction, to me at least...)

Out of the Shadows...

My favorite moments of being a member of counter)induction are when I am working alongside a composer to premiere their piece.  Over the years, I have known Ryan Streber more as an amazing audio engineer than a composer - but it has been such a joy having him coach us on his new work.

What happens between getting the music in your mind onto the page and the actual performance is an interesting process.  Some things get cut, ideas are added, passages are rethought after trying them out in different ways.

His "Shadow Etudes" is in three movements.  The first is called "Wheel Variations", where the viola and clarinet cyclically move through passages of alternating textures and rhythms as they shadow each other.  The middle movement utilizes a haunting array of colors that only our specific instruments can make, while the final movement is full of rollicking hocketed rhythms.  

Hope to see you tomorrow at 6pm!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Looking forward to c)i's next concert this Thursday at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts' Bruno Walter Auditorium! I love the library there, I've done much reading and looking for pieces in both the circulating and research collections, and did a recital of Ross Lee Finney's music there when I was doing my dissertation (the NYPL has his papers).

Our program is called "Etudes and Studies" and features works by a diverse assortment of composers, from Debussy and Rachmaninoff to new works by c)i composers Ryan Streber and Douglas Boyce. It seems to me that, rather than focusing on etudes as means of exploring or showcasing instrumental virtuosity, this program looks at "studies" more from a compositional standpoint: the composer's work piece, in which he/she examines a question of craft or expression using a certain medium (say, string quartet, or viola and clarinet duo). So we have the quietly flowing counterpoint and displaced rhythms of Dallapiccola's Two Studies for violin and piano, the concise working-out of ideas in Berio's Study for String Quartet, and George Benjamin's remarkable exploration of the sound of two violas, layering them in waves, each climbing to high singing notes, tossing pizzicatos back and forth, and together keeping a propulsive triplet motion going though the piece. Brilliant piece for the performers but a fascinating study in sound and construction too! I'm looking forward to hear the whole program- hope to see you!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Composers Talking: Wyner, Boyce, Bartlett, Karchin

Yehudi showing us all how it is done!
One of the things that I love about working with counter)induction is opportunity for conversations and interactions with other composers.  Our composer members (Kyle Bartlett, Ryan Streber, and myself) are good talkers, but I love to be surprised and engaged with new things that I haven't thought about.  This certainly happened during the conversation embedded below, a conversation among Yehudi Wyner, Kyle Bartlett, Lou Karchin and myself at counter)induction's last concert.

I think it's great the way we all dance around the issue of variety, and particularly American responses to that diversity.  I've written a bit about this issue before, and here I was particularly struck with the ways that the four of us wrestle with and admit to the fact that we don't really know what it is to be an 'American composer:'  even the general idea of 'openness' doesn't capture the back and forth between faction and community that seems to constantly and eternally renegotiated.

Not surprisingly, the best part is when Yehudi stands up and explains it all...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bartlett's 'Spell' :: a recording

With our next concert coming up in two scant weeks, I thought that it would be nice to repost a performance from our last concert, a joint program with the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society.

I'll post one or two other excerpts from that concert in the next week or so, but I thought I'd start with Kyle's delicately ferocious string trio Spell.  I wrote about this just before the premiere, and listening it two it a few months later I continue to be struck by the work's aggressive vacillations between feeling like the only piece of music you've ever heard and being a piece that has both just begun and just ended.

Unsurprisingly, tremendous performances from Miranda Cuckson (violin)

Max Mendel (viola), and Christopher Gross (cello).

Come here some more tremendous music and performances on 31 January at the Bruno Walter Auditorium in the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.