Monday, July 26, 2010

Performer Postlude from Alisa

Here is a picture of the author. Photo credit: Liz R's Amazing Camera
[Editor's Note: Even though this festival has officially ended, we were never able to hear from the performers - they were busy practicing or they were in rehearsal! As a composer, I am eternally grateful for their hard work, and I hope they were able to occasionally surface and enjoy Blonay. Anyway, here is violist Alisa Seavey's take on the festival. Enjoy!]

Before Jennifer and Kyle close the door on the MusicX blog- I wanted to represent my story as being one of the twenty-some young performers who came to MusicX for this crazy adventure! Led and inspired by eighth blackbird as our loving yet firm coaches we “doubled” the instrumentation of their ensemble with an added on bass and a singer! We were one of each- violin, viola, cello, bass, then two flutes, clarinets and the crew of powerful women (plus Paul) of pianists; and guys plus Yu-Chun of percussionists! I also wanted to acknowledge an awesome array of the composer-performers: “walk the walk, talk the talk”. I was impressed with this for two of the composers I was paired to work with- (Sarah and Ben) who were as great performers, as they were composers. Therefore no matter how “difficult” I thought parts of their works were- I knew they were putting in the same kind of work for someone else’s work. That was a really cool thing for me to experience.

Performers had 1.5 hour chunks of rehearsals for their composers works. Personally I had four works- Sarah Gibson’s “Breathe out, Sleep in”; Jordan Kuspa’s “Metronome”; Ben Irwin’s “Nascence”; and Martin Bresnick’s “*** Trio”. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into preparing for this festival. You email your composer exchanging pleasantries, tell them the type of music you like to play… and then eventually you get a priority mail, express mail or huge PDF attachment, or in some cases a 19 page fax and it’s up to you to figure out how to prepare. I admit I didn’t do a good job preparing. I think I freaked out about the wrong things: lots of double stops, and the abundance of triplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, and alternating between three of those. (viola joke? Anyone?). Arriving in Blonay and within 12 hours having the first jetlagged rehearsal where it’s just not what you prepared for- I’d say it was safe to say I was intimidated and knocked on my butt.

The positive is that- I learned more than I imagined possible at this festival and I was floored by the positive vibes, the loving, compassionate and enthusiastic composers, and just everyone’s willingness to help clear the hurdles! I learned that Lisa Kaplan is not only really fun to watch perform, in her brain she’s like grooving always to a “one-e-and-a-two-e-and-a” but can yell out the appropriate syllable while playing her part, wearing six inch heels and totally not getting a hair out of place. I kid, but I love that sure- there were days that I could not carry on a conversation because I was so busy subdividing at all times, (tri-pu-let, 1234, 12345); started subdividing while walking, while eating, while brushing my teeth at someone else’s suggestion. I also appreciate how many friends were willing to meet up with me- and just “check” my rhythm, or try to come up with the crazy inspiring ideas of how to figure out a crazy rhythm (sixteenth note back poundings, game show theme songs, dirty sayings or chopping and compartmentalizing… it was so helpful!) I had a lot of fun/love/respect performing with Matt Albert who always has that smile on his face , and with his impeccable technique would talk to me about sliding back and forth between killer double stops, and show downbeats with an arm, a shoulder, his hair, or an exhale. I also owe some vitamin tablets to Tim Munro, who is always the consummate professional, whose sound I love trying to emulate. I hope to jam with the rest of them someday too.

Anyway, the point is- MusicX was a lot of work, a lot of extra practice time to try to coordinate the Bartok pizzicatos, to bow, over and over again. Composers sat in on all our rehearsals, and it was great that they were always positive about what they heard. Sometimes we could get them to sing along- and it was neat to always be able to talk about sound, interpretation, “the gestures” and they were open to what musicality we brought to their pieces! Also beyond words- which others have already talked about is watching eighth blackbird perform- and perform works that were of the faculty composers who were there with us at the festival learn from their performances, their cueing- their groove, and also get to talk to them about life- and how they embody the excitement and thrill of new music.

I was honored to take a shot at Professor Bresnick’s work *** Trio, which was a particularly interesting challenge to have for MusicX. Our group was three of the performers (and thank you to all the eighth blackbird who would come and referee, or be another ear, or a metronome to bring us out of quintuplet hell!) What was neat about this work was that- I was completely drawn in and moved by this romantic and heartfelt music that had a quintuplet middle that was (to be polite) a monster to figure out. It became a daily and a lot of brain work (thank you Liz and Rebecca!)- to figure out how to handle the fives- then, just Dr.Beat™-ing it to death. There was a lot of two steps forward, two steps back- and I feel like in the 10 days or so that we battled it- I came to a real understanding of the piece, and honestly can’t wait for my next opportunity to perform it.

The food was amazing- the view was breath-taking- and my only wish is that I could have gone out a little more to breathe and take it all in. I liked that there was a full sense of accomplishment in this program. Each performer floored me--for obviously taking a new work and bringing such ease to the performance. The performances and the obvious heart that went into the interpretation captivated me. Honestly, I loved being able to sit and chat with composers and other performers on our breaks- and no, not always about music. People had great stories, talks about their decisions- and how they got where they are- and what they are hoping to achieve. It was also great to ask those compositional nerdy questions about the aspects of composition I will never understand ie: “what were you thinking!?!” It doesn’t get much better than this- for people who are united by their love of new music! I still sing little moments of each of my composer’s pieces… wondering what is that… then, “Ohhhh.” I look forward to running into each and every one of you again!

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