Monday, April 9, 2012

The News from Minnesota

On March 30 and 31, 2012, the Minnesota Orchestra performed the world premiere of a brand new orchestral composition.  The composition came about as the result of the Orchestra’s first MicroCommission.  Approximately 400 people contributed with donations ranging from 1 to 1,500 dollars.  I'm proud to have been one of them:  the composer chosen for the MicroCommission was Judd Greenstein, whose work I much admire.

As Dylan Mattingly said, when it comes to world premieres, “. . . you have no idea what it’s going to be.  Nothing has proved it not the best thing in the world.”  Well, the results are in.  Sam Bergman, on the Minnesota Orchestra's Inside the Classics blog, described the experience this way:
World premieres are always risky, since you really don’t know what you’re going to get until the performance.  I honestly would have been happy with a pretty good half-hour symphony that didn’t make any of our MicroCommission donors want their money back.
Instead, as anyone who was at either performance of Acadia now knows, Judd hit this thing out of the park.
Here's an excerpt from the Star Tribune’s description of Greenstein's Acadia:
"Acadia" derives its name from Acadia National Park in Maine, where Greenstein spent a camping and hiking weekend at a pivotal time in his life.  It is not strictly programmatic but creates a wealth of moods, from gently idyllic to intensely emotional, that reflect the complexity of his experience.
The music is thoroughly eclectic.  There were passages rooted in minimalism with its pulsing repetitions, overlaid with nature sounds, familiar from many Romantic tone poems.  A theme of rising chords was played in concert with long-lined, sensuous melodies. And moments echoed the openheartedness of Aaron Copland.
One of my favorite comments comes from Matt Weber, a composer and a reviewer for I Care If You Listen:

Best of all, a recording of the March 31 performance of Greenstein’s Acadia is available for free.  For the download, click here and scroll down a bit.

Grateful thanks to the Minnesota Orchestra, which sponsored this commission and recorded a stunning performance of Acadia, conducted by Sarah Hicks.  I wish I'd been there to hear it live . . . but we do have the news from Minnesota:

The day of the first performance:

About the concert, from the Minnesota Orchestra's Inside the Classics blog:
The audiences both nights were on their feet seconds after the applause began, and the ovation Judd received when he reached the stage for his bow on Friday was louder than anything I’ve heard at Orchestra Hall in a long, long time.  
The day after the last performance:

To Judd Greenstein, congratulations and a thousand thanks for the musical gift of Acadia.  I join with Matt Weber in saying, “Wow.”


As a special bonus, George Wallace's comment at the head of the post engendered the following exchange.  Greenstein thanked Wallace (I'm unable to locate that tweet), but then realized . . .


George Wallace writes: "Acadia deserves . . . to become a permanent addition to whatever equivalent we have to a contemporary canon.  It is, in the true and original sense, sublime."  The complete review can be found here.

Selected Works by Judd Greenstein

Acadia (I: Moving) Composer Judd Greenstein; performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Conductor Sarah Hicks, March 31, 2012.  For a free download of the entire performance, click here and scroll down.

The first movement reproduced here by kind permission of the Minnesota Orchestra.

A young violinist, Emily Hogstad, has alerted me that Judd Greenstein has made Acadia available for listening on his website.  Emily has written a wonderful eyewitness view of the performance, which you can find here.

Change (also known, in Suze's house, as "The Long Song") (performed by the NOW Ensemble)

Four on the Floor (performed by the Minnesota Orchestra String Quartet)

Le Tombeau de Ravel (performed by the New Century Trio)

The Night Gatherers (performed by Nadia Sirota, viola, and the Chiara String Quartet)

These are the Sons of Israel, from The Yehudim

What They Don't Like (for Chuck D) (performed by The Newspeak Ensemble)


Credits:  The quotation and screen shot of Matt Weber is from Google+ (4/4/12).  The other screen shots are from Twitter on the dates noted.  The quotations from the Star Tribune and Inside the Classics are as noted in the links provided in the text.  Sarah Kirkland Snider is the fine composer of Penelope and other beautiful works.  The inimitable George Wallace is a West Coast connoisseur of new music and a Twitter grand master if ever there was.  He writes about music here


Andrew said...

It's not something I do Susan but I think I would really enjoy a night out in your company...

Matt W said...

Hah! Best quotation of me ever! I was rendered inarticulate by how much I like Acadia!

klahanie said...

Wow Susan!
Just a brief comment from me and an observation from someone whose musical tastes are eclectic.
Upon listening to that excerpt from Acadia, performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the fusion, the intertwining of classical music and 'electro pop' is there for me to note. This music is somewhat reminiscent of an electro pop or 'dance' style music by a band named "Orbital". A very enjoyable listen and per usual, a most informative posting by your good self.
With respect, Gary

Suze said...

I immediately sensed the similarities between 'Acadia' and our so-called long song. These compositions have bright, aggressive peaks, like whipped egg whites in a hazy shaft of sun.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Thanks for the download link. Noticed the Minnesota Orchestra makes a lot of recordings available - whole concerts for about a buck. That's really smart. I wish our orchestra would do that. They record all the major concerts, and I've seen some exceptional ones, but they hold on tight to those archives. It doesn't make sense. Making the recordings available will only promote the orchestra.

Scott said...

Hi-I Had trouble downloading the whole work so I listened to Moving a few times. There is a special light quality in downeast Maine. I sensed it.
As I got more into the post, I began to feel the "Wow" . The Plan of the city video was amazing. Required viewing/listening for all urban planners.Jammin'.It was cool that the classic instruments were going for it,then the guitar and jazz- type piano sound rocked it.
I run sometimes with a Shuffle, What they don't like, could easily be on there. Then when I read Greenstein's discussion and tribute to hip-hop artists I was psyched.
Clicking on Sarah Kirkland Snider's link led me down an wild path of Prufrockia. Penolope and all the great things going on at New Amersterdam! I heard some amazing music. I had no idea these sounds were out there. It was like fusion on a lot of different levels.
Your enthusiasm and energy is vibrant, your support of creativity and innovation inspiring. Thanks so much Susan!

David said...

Damn, I can't get the extract to play and downloading is a bit de trop, so I can't yet glean the gist. But I DO reckon that if a wide range of willing listeners chips in, you're more likely to get a new work everyone wants to hear than if it just gets down by the usual organisations commissioning the usual suspects. Thanks for your eloquence and enthusiasm as ever.

Scott said...

Susan- I got it! I'll give it a solid listen when time permits.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. I think I echo Andrew's idea .. but I'd need it so often - just so much to enjoy with the background information .. that make it easier to 'see' the piece .. Gary's comment helps too ..

I enjoyed the piece .. and how amazing that they're so open about sharing and getting the music out to as many souls as possible ..

Wonderful post - thank you .. Hilary

Scott said...

Susan- We got to listen together and it's cool from the standpoint of whenever I've been it's been with her.
The short story, Suze is right on.I need to elaborate. Acadia is an old and new place. Mountains of pointed evergreens meeting rock and sea. Incredible works of landscape architecture. Philanthropy.
Your introduction of Greenstein leaves me kind of surprised. Ambidextrous. Artistically versatile. Not a jack of all trades. But someone dealing from experience. We liked it. Honesty. On a lot of different fronts.
So, some thoughts.
Light, mystery,constant, journey,unpredictable,rhythm,unifying light,renewal.

Britta said...

Dear Sue,
thank you for making us acquainted with another work of contemporary music! I am glad with you that you were right and they had success - so I think Judd Greenstein should allow himself a big smile instead of trying to supress it. A good performance should be indulged in - by listeners and players.

Friko said...

We finally got round to listening. Only the Night Gatherers, I'm afraid, couldn't get the other to work.

I listened with two musicians; they stopped talking and paid attention. Didn't say much, but certainly listened throughout. Which means a lot. They had been very busy talking.

Rubye Jack said...

Susan, I never know what to say regarding your posts on music because it is all so far above my head. All I can say is I always enjoy the music and here and there I learn a bit more. Thank you.

Susan Scheid said...

Andrew: I suspect that the whole crowd of us here in the comments could have a fun night out—or, better yet, a ramble with our cameras, with you leading the way!

Matt: A pleasure to meet you at the concert Wednesday—it is tremendous fun to finally link a photo icon with an actual person, isn’t it? As we agreed, sometimes “Wow” just says it all.

Gary: Interesting connections you’ve drawn to Orbital (which of course I knew nothing about)—and about what you hear in the music. As you can see from the listening list, I think, Greenstein’s musical interests are wide-ranging, too.

Suze: Beautiful description! I sort of don’t want to put my words next to your beauties, so I’ll fall back on Wow!

Mark: Yes, it is great that they do that, isn’t it? I agree with you that other orchestras could benefit from following suit. The Minnesota Orchestra did such a beautiful performance of this piece, I’m now on the look-out, too, for when it comes back to New York, so I might be able to hear the orchestra live. Per our exchange on Acadia elsewhere, I delighted I’m not the only one who can’t seem to resist repeated listenings. May you continue to enjoy—along with Arvo Pärt, not to mention King Crimson (speaking of wide-ranging musical interests)!

Scott: Your connections with music as you listen to it just cannot be beat. I really love the way you think about music—not to mention the way you evoke in words the beautiful part of the world in which you live. I know what you mean about the light quality in downeast Maine (I’ve visited a few times over the years, including to Acadia). Of course, anyone who visits your blog will soon learn what a beautiful place is Maine. So glad you spotted “What You Don’t Like!” and Greenstein’s hip-hop history! As for Prufrockia (love that coinage, too), New Amsterdam is definitely a great stopover and place to stay a while. Last, not least, I love best of all that you and your wife took a listen together. Your riff off Suze’s great words is perfect, perfect, and best of all, the words you chose as you listened—all lovely bits of music in themselves: “Light, mystery, constant, journey, unpredictable, rhythm, unifying light, renewal.”

David: Sorry that extract didn’t behave. Can’t seem to locate the problem at this end, or I’d fix it, you can be sure—though I do notice that blogger sometimes seizes up at the thought of Soundcloud embeds. I have to use the ones with the least “load” for them to work. Well, enough of the tech talk . . . Really interesting what you say about the types of commissioning. That does make sense, and makes me curious to go back and see how the commissioning selection process worked here. (One more thing on the “to do” list.)

Susan Scheid said...

Hilary: Well, that’s awfully nice of you to say, and the feeling is mutual. (I’m also trying to figure out how to get to all those great castles you’re telling us about over your way!) I like a lot what you’re noting about the comments, like Gary’s and those I posted, aiding in “seeing” the piece.

Britta: Right you are! I somehow suspect that Greenstein was being a bit playful there and have no doubt but he that he was grinning ear-to-ear.

Friko: I have to say, if you were only able to play one piece (and that you hazarded it in the company of others, no less—what a risk!), The Night Gatherers is quite representative of what I like so much about his work. (It’s actually the piece that introduced me to his music, and still one of my favorites.) That two musicians stopped talking and paid attention is VERY big, indeed!

Rubye Jack: Anyone who picks Lou Harrison to like has got my vote. And I seem to remember, on the “Where the Wild Things Really Are” post, you picked out Hashimoto (which was new to me, too) and the Hattatts followed suit. In fact, that set of comments (from 1/27/12) bears repeating:

RJ: Susan, I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this music, particularly Qunihico Hashimoto. I find it so lovely and consoling to my troubled soul and then, the idea of a chance at renewal. This, to my so very uneducated musical ear. All of your selections here have me in awe, and in spite of not having completed my day I think I will take to the sofa, turn down the lights, light candles, and light up a big doobie while listening to these fantastic selections. Okay, I don't have any MJ but the rest is true. :)

Jane and Lance Hattatt: Whilst typing this comment, we have been regally entertained by Qunihico Hashimoto. The ceremonious nature of the work is so perfect to complement the majestic artworks.

shoreacres said...

As I'm sure you've surmised by now, much of this music world is like impenetrable jungle to me - but I do enjoy exploring.

The Soundcloud players on the post aren't functioning for me, so I'll go download the entire piece. I checked some other pages, where the player did work. It looks different on those pages, too. I know Soundcloud's made a change from flash to html5, so that might be part of the problem. Or not.

In any event, I'm anxious to hear Acadia. I have this impulse to think of it as "Acadia: The Prequel". Too much Evangeline skulking around in my head these days. I'll let you know what I think of the music once I get my hands on it.

I'm very pleased for your friends, and for all their supporters. And I agree with Mark, about making recordings available. The Houston Chamber Choir has posted a few youtube videos, and from what I've heard, there are increased numbers of views around concert times. That may help to explain the number of sold-out concerts they've had.

Jayne said...

Susan- Have I said before that your posts are such a feast? Well, if I have, I must say it again: a feast. I have to bookmark everything within.

Acadia- breathtaking. I could see and here it clearly (and I've been up close and personal w/ANP--our camp is about 90 minutes away) in every note and between them all. Crisp, clean air, clear ocean, glinting sun, the great rise and cut of a fjord, the view at the top. The green, green smell of perfection. Breathtaking!

Loved it all here, once again. I can't wait to hear about your impending travels... now to catch up w/more. :)

Jayne said...

Oops- I meant "hear" not here, in the 2nd paragraph. Well, this is the sort of thing that happens at 11:00 at night after a glass of red. :/ (But it's the only time I have to catch up these days!!)

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