Inevitable progress

Upon my arrival to CalArts i’ve realized that there were 6 lectures (3hrs each) reserved for me during the Interim period. Good news – this means that there was a chance to gather the ensemble before the semester starts, so that students would plan their schedules before they enroll to classes and other activities.

Among those people who were enrolled to my class there were vocalists and composers. I hoped that the former would get interested in the piece, while the latter would help me cleaning out the scores from inconsistencies and generally to make them more accessible for the performers.

In fact I gave only one lecture – the other five turned into rehearsals, as the ensemble was formed right after the first lecture. Besides I was happy enough to get exactly the types of the voices for which the piece was written: 2 sopranos (Kirsten Wiest, Linnea Sablosky), tenor (Paul Matthis), baritone (Ian Walker), bass (Matthew Clough-Hunter).

At first we had to decide if we need a conductor or not. Everybody agreed that they didn’t, but still in some way they had to follow the tempo. Ok, I spent a day writing a visual metronome in SuperCollider – with all kinds of fancy stuff like display of current bar number, flashing first beat in the beginning of each bar, warning about tempo change, clicks and playback of synthesized sound (through MIDI). Quite a useful thing for ensembles, I must say… Contact me if you need one ))

First few rehearsals with that tool proved its both efficiency and disservice. On the one hand I was delighted to hear the music exactly the way it was written, but on the other hand… well, there was no life in it… Guided by a soulless video (however “sexy” it might have appeared) the voices have been simply repeating notes in the same way that computer playing them back from a MIDI file.

Well, I started to learn conducting. It took me a week-end to understand basic principles, and a week to actually start doing it. But! At the end of the Interim I was introduced to Andrea Young, a composer and vocalist completing her Doctorate in CalArts. She also appeared to be a great conductor, and she agreed to work with us. Besides, she’s got my idea completely, and so she started to make emphasis on “hairpins” – nuances of singing that bring air and heterogeneity into the sound-stream, but also smooth out sharp angles and generally underliner counter-point. Andrea was actually the one, who started to bring music out. I must admit like those “hairpins” a lot!

Well, my time here is work work work. The piece is quite complicated, with enormous amount of details, so we had to stick a lot of hairpins in it…

I didn’t really noticed how 4 weeks passed… The date of the premiere is set, the posters are all around CalArts, and we’ve got a great venue for such a piece – Wild Beast http://calarts.edu/wild-beast. See the details of the event here: http://www.facebook.com/events/210321669065363/

So if you are around CalArts on Thu, Feb 16th – welcome to Wild Beast, we start at 8pm!

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