Friday, November 21, 2008

Concert Plans

Things are steadily improving at the College. For some time now I've wanted to start a chamber group to do mostly (but not exclusively) new and unusual music, both for the conducting experience and just for the sheer enjoyment of it (too often it's easy to lose sight of the emotion in music when you're only writing it), and it looks like it's going to happen. I had thought about starting it a year ago at ASU, but between grad school applications, graduation, the wedding, and the move, I decided to hold off on it until London.

Our first concert will be in mid-late February (the date won't be set for another few weeks) and we'll be playing Schoenberg's chamber arrangement (for eight players) of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together as the second half of a College concert. Ideally, if it works out, we'll do full concerts and more ambitious repertoire later in the year, but just to test the water, we're taking on a half-concert and two slam-dunk pieces.

In fact, these two pieces represent everything that I want to be important for this new ensemble. The Debussy suggests that the repertoire won't be entirely brand new (I think it's usually a mistake to program entire evenings of new music, as you won't draw in the casual listener), but the Rzewski is more or less (in London, anyway) unknown, and is just the kind of visceral, dramatic piece that I really think will connect with people. There's nothing dry or academic about it. For those of you who have access to the Naxos online music library, there's a phenomenal recording of the piece by Eighth Blackbird.

One thing this new ensemble does not yet have, however, is a name. For this first concert, there will be eight of us (plus me conducting and, for the Rzewski piece, speaking), but ideally the instrumentation will be flexible, ranging from 6 all the way up to 15 or 16 players. This suggests something like a consort to me, but the name 'Contemporary Consort' is already taken (in fact, I went to their concert last week).

Any ideas?

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