6.30.20 Art Amid Adversity
Updated: 3 days ago
World Premiere Virtual Performance: "Still Wing On: 3 Transcriptions for Saxophone Quartet"
Recent Performance by Katie Procell at An Die Musik
For the Vanderbilt Alums in my network...
I hope you are all keeping safe and well and continuing to wear masks. This June has been a month of more protest than any in my memory and it is clear in the violent behavior of police forces across this country (not to mention the heinous words and actions of the President) that what is at stake is no less than an entire system designed to uphold white supremacy. I hope you are also doing what you can to aid the transformative movement to dismantle these deadly institutions. Art continues to be an important part of this time, both in work that directly responds to these experiences as well as work that just engages our creativity, gives a physical and emotional outlet, and reminds us of the beauty we want to spread around us. I'm honored that other highly gifted artists have been turning to my work during this time, and I'm proud to share some evidence of that with you.
World Premiere Virtual Performance: "Still Wing On - 3 Transcriptions for Saxophone Quartet"
I received an incredible gift a few days ago when my friend the multi-instrumentalist Ronnal Ford sent me a video he had made of my saxophone quartet: Still Wing On - 3 Transcriptions. Yes, as you can see in the video thumbnail below, that is Ronnal playing all 4 saxophone parts, compositing together different video recordings filmed against a green screen. I can't imagine how long it took to practice the parts (as well as making a click track for each movement) and then record and edit! I am so grateful to Ronnal for these amazing performances. The piece transcribes three works I had originally composed for chorus - the second and third movements still exist as choral works, but the first movement (a setting of Wallace Stevens's Large Red Man Reading) languished because Random House refused to grant me permission to use the text. In the same way that this piece was born out of adaptation and adjusting to an unfortunate result, Ronnal's virtual quartet performance perfectly echoes this attitude, making the best out of our continued social distancing. Thank you, Ronnal!
I. "Those that Returned" (Large Red Man Reading, by Wallace Stevens)
II. "Rock me, toss me" (Untitled ["I will be earth"], by May Swenson)
III. "Still wing on" (A Name for All, by Hart Crane)
Recent Performances by Katie Procell at An Die Musik
Katie Procell took a different approach in adapting to our current crisis, delivering a truly transporting live performance of many of her greatest hits (ending with a hair-raising and roof-raising Glitter & Be Gay) with pianist Valerie Hsu at An Die Musik through a live, streaming feed. It was so good to hear her run through her best and favorite rep and I was humbled to have my own settings of Gertrude Stein's poetry (fitting for Pride month) to be included in the program. During the course of the program, my boyfriend Doug Johnson got out his inks and brushes and started painting Katie's and Valerie's performance, which I captured on video and sped up into a video, using one of the movements of the piece Katie performed on June 20th as a soundtrack. It's fascinating to see how (sped up by 17.5x) the inkbrush painting unfolds... a version that tracked a composition being created would not be nearly as beautiful! Enjoy, both the music, and the painting!
In addition to relying on such wonderful performers to bring my music to life, I am continuing to work on a number of projects, including the completion of an SATB choral setting of Edgar Allan Poe's The Valley of Unrest, making some headway (at long last) with the saxophone sonata I have been working on since the fall (!), and picking away at two different song cycles for two different, wonderfully patient sopranos! Hopefully more announcements of new works, coming soon!
For the Vanderbilt Alums in my network...
I was made aware of this by one of my Blair School of Music colleagues so I am putting out the signal to any that might be in my own network. On June 13th, the outgoing and new incoming Deans of the Blair School of Music put out a toothless, vague, and ultimately meaningless statement in response to George's murder at the hands police officers (all of which was unmentioned). Several of my colleagues wrote to the music school in protest of this woefully insufficient statement and, in response, the incoming Dean of the Music School will be hosting 3 virtual "Town Halls" on "Inclusive Communities at Blair," open to all Blair students and alumni. These will take place on:
Tuesday, July 14, 11am-12pm
Tuesday, August 11, 1pm-2pm
Friday, September 11, 11am-12pm
Please reach out to me for information about the zoom calls, and please share with your other Blair colleagues!
Keep trying, keep moving forward. We are living through very dark times, but together (all wearing our masks like we need to be), we will make it through. I hope some of this music helps.