Behind the Music — #wink Edition

Folks, I am PUMPED about the music we’re performing in this week for #wink! To paraphrase Animal Farm, all pieces are loved, but some pieces are more loved than others – and I really love these pieces! And that has nothing to do with the fact that the viola and bass are used more throughout this show than any other instrument, which I believe has no precedent here at Fifth House. (Ok, well maybe just a little of my excitement stems from this point…)

While the music for #wink is new-ish – the oldest work was written in 1925 and the youngest just last year – we are presenting an amazing variety of styles, sounds, moods, and techniques, and none of them should have classical music lovers running for the doors. We’ll be kicking things off with a bluegrass-y tune called American Rounds by Martin Butler. I had so much fun expanding my overall playing technique so that I could create the sound needed for this piece, a sound that is quite different from what I usually want in concert halls. We’ll then move to a Concertino by Erwin Schulhoff, and this piece features perhaps the most bizarre instrumentation Fifth House can put out there – flute (and piccolo), viola, and bass. I mean, where did he get the idea that these instruments go well together? Who knows, but they do go together fantastically! Each instrument very much has a solo role which is rarely seen and heard, especially when the bass is concerned.

Our third piece is a nice trip down memory lane for me – it is titled Knocked, and it was written two years ago by a now senior at Yale University named Ellis Ludwig-Leone. We first played Knocked two Novembers ago when we spent a week at Yale working with undergrad composition students including, of course, Ellis. That was such a fun week for all of us, and now as we rehearse and perform Knocked again I find myself getting completely nostalgic about that trip out east.

Up next is the baby of the bunch, Perpetual Spark by Alex Shapiro which she first wrote for solo piano last year and then quickly arranged for us. Alex has previously written for Fifth House (Archipelago) and so it was a delight to work with her again. We would record our rehearsals and then email the recordings to Alex for comments and critiques, and it still strikes me as pretty cool that musicians today can have such efficient interaction with composers anywhere with such ease. Even twenty years ago one would have to ship physical recordings to a composer for commentary, a process that could easily days and weeks. And back in the 1700s, forget it – you’d have to travel weeks and weeks to ask Mr. Bach if you’re playing a violin partita correctly. So our working with Alex has been a really fun part of this concert’s preparation. Plus it’s a cool piece!

And finally, George Crumb’s Vox Balanae, aka Voice of the Whale. This piece has such a variety of soundscapes and techniques that when Eric and I first heard Melissa, Herine, and Adam run through the piece, we were simply entranced at what they were doing. And then as soon as Carole tried to photograph our enchanted faces we promptly ruined the moment by turning away from their musical display to stare dumbly at her camera (squirrel!). (Carole edits to add: This is a true story!  They ruined TWO pictures!  But it was so cool to see them so entranced!)

So yeah, we’ve had a simply fantastic time putting this baby together, and I just can’t wait to start performing all these pieces for you!

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