Saturday, May 12, 2012

Update, part two

Here follows an update to what I started yesterday. Perhaps this sort of diary doesn't make for such an interesting read (I find it a little boring myself), so I'll try to finish quickly.

After the concert at the AGO, I participated in the school's next New Music Ensemble concert. This one took place at school in Mazzoleni Hall, one of the two concert halls on the property aside from Koerner. In addition to reprising the Saariaho work from the COC Amphitheatre concert I premiered a piece by composer So Jeong Ahn called COOL!. It was scored for voice, flute, horn, viola, bass, percussion, and electronics and was a setting of Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool."

Here's a photo of her from Encyclopedia Britannica.

If you go to this website you can hear her talk about and then read the poem. It's pretty delightful.

We worked with Ms. Ahn individually over the course of the semester. The first meeting consisted of a lot of improvisation on my part, experimenting with sounds and textures that were often tangentially related to the text, and each time we met we continued to work to get the material exactly as she wanted it. While I've performed works with electronic components before, especially Anna Lindemann's compositions, I'd never done anything that was as dependent on the live interaction of the performer and the electronics system. In this situation, all of us had a small microphone attached to some part of our instrument (mine was by my mouth, as you might expect). The microphone picked up my sound and fed it to an interface, which was attached to my computer and to an amplifier. Then, when I depressed a pedal, it passed through a filter controlled by program called Live-Elektronik Patch (I think it's a German program) and then out of the amplifier. At different points in our scores we had indications to depress (and release) the pedals and to press a space bar changing the filter that would modify the sound. The one downside to performing with electronics, at least in our setup in a broad semi-circle across the stage, was that it was hard to hear what the ensemble sounded like as a whole because of the position of the amplifiers. However, I think that the piece had a good reception! The experience was quite interesting and it was a delight to work with Ms. Ahn, who is very creative and kind.

At the beginning of finals week the school set up mock auditions for those of us in the Artist Diploma program. For our half-hour auditions we prepared five arias and brought in the typical audition package of headshot, CV, and so forth. After we sang the panel, composed of people representing different facets of the musical scene, gave us verbal feedback about the audition. Though I never find auditions to be the highlight of my musical experience, it was so helpful to have the chance to go into this sort of situation with the same sort of nerves and worries that one might in any other audition and then to have immediate input about both successes and shortcomings. I'm so glad that we had this opportunity.

The following days were filled with final "exams" (actually concerts) and preparations for my recital, plus staving off whatever chest cold was getting me down with some oil of oregano. That stuff works, let me tell you! My recital was the following Sunday. I learned a lot from preparing this program, particularly about the amount of time and effort it takes to organize a large ensemble, which I needed for the Handel motet Silete Venti that I performed as the second half of the concert. Now that it is over, I wish I could do it again! It is always hard to put so much work into something and only have one chance to do it--but I guess that's what the future is for. I'm already cooking up ideas for the next one...

And now I'm getting ready for the summer. I leave on Tuesday to go down to New York and I'll be returning to Toronto in early June for the Tafelmusik summer program.

But, I leave you with this photo as a parting memento:
Paulie (who is by now freed from his cone) and I posing as the Virgin of Guadeloupe and the infant Christ. I hope that I shall flesh out (heh) this into a series over the summer! Stay tuned...

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