Smith’s atmospheric piece, Kisiabaton (2010), for oboe and string quartet, took its inspiration from beat poet Gary Snyder’s poem of the same name. Her composition elegantly evoked the Californian landscape and native people about which Snyder wrote. The piece was nimbly played by a quartet of Contemporaneous members, and Rafael Isaac Monge Zúñiga played oboe with jaw-dropping virtuosity.
Jaeger weighed in with a song cycle, Letters Made with Gold (2010-2011). The piece, for soprano and chamber ensemble, took as its settings poems of Robert Burns, Charles Wesley, and a Cecil Sharp transcription of an old Appalachian folksong. From this he wove an entrancing web of melody, inspired, in particular, by Old Regular Baptist hymnody. Lucy Dhegrae’s heavenly soprano was ably accompanied by members of Contemporaneous and expertly conducted by David Bloom.
From this offbeat beginning, Mattingly has composed a work for chamber orchestra of phenomenal scope. The two-part work, consisting of Radial Liftoff Music for Amelia Earhart and Islanded in a Stream of Stars, is scored for chamber orchestra and includes, along with more traditional instruments, a toy piano and a quarter-tone harp.
Mattingly’s own words describe this sublime composition better than any I might choose, so here is an excerpt from the program notes:
Atlas of Somewhere on the Way to Howland Island is for all those voyagers between horizons; for those—past and present—who have flown into storms, for those floating dreamscapes out beyond the curvature of the sunrise, for those that reach escape velocity, for when even your endless arms can’t rearrange the constellations.David Bloom, in a virtuosic turn as conductor, drew an electrifying performance from the Contemporaneous ensemble, which played the whole evening at the top of their already fine form. Here is a small excerpt from the beginning of the work:
By my lights, Dylan Mattingly, young as he is, has, with Atlas, earned his place in the pantheon of contemporary American composers.
waltzing out the door with Bear McCreary’s Passacaglia. With Bloom again conducting, Contemporaneous filled the hall with luscious sound.
This barnstormer of a program was repeated Sunday at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, New York. Early reports indicate that it was another spectacular night for Contemporaneous.
Musical Barnstormers David Bloom & Dylan Mattingly
Credits and Postscript: The quotations about Atlas are from the program notes for The Roots Run Deep. The opinions expressed are my own. I'm not a professional, nor am I engaged by anybody to do this. I'm an ordinary listener, happy to be able to bear witness to extraordinary music that is being composed right now.
More music by Contemporaneous, including a performance of Mattingly's Lighthouse, can be found on the Contemporaneous youtube channel.