YellowBarnBlog

Extramusical Frameworks

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


 
Returning to Yellow Barn for a residency in February 2018, Yellow Barn alumni Brigid
Coleridge
, violin, and Lee Dionne, piano, introduce their new work Permanent Red:

Many of our projects provide our audiences with extramusical frameworks through which to listen, not to distract from the music-making, but as a reminder to listen closely, to hear a familiar piece differently. We are interested in what happens when the music that we play is brought into conversation with other artistic mediums—when our music is understood as fluid and dynamic, capable of interaction and discussion. 

In the case of Permanent Red, our recital is framed and interwoven with Christopher Logue’s epic poem, War Music, of which Permanent Red is a smaller section. What Logue does so brilliantly in War Music is to take a story with which so many of us are familiar, the Iliad, and to re-tell it with an utterly free and contemporary use of language and verse. Using Homer as his guide, Logue relies both on our familiarity with the events of the Trojan War, as well as our knowledge of certain tropes that Homer returns to again and again in his verse. . .in order to transform the original Greek into singing modern speech, knowing that we will still recognize within it both the form and content of Homer’s masterpiece. Neoclassicism at its best.

Logue, then, is the inspiration both for our relationship with the recital format, and for our choice of repertoire within it. The musical works that we've chosen either share a similarly re-creative relationship with their predecessors, or are pieces that we've brought into the program in a somewhat irreverent fashion (often in single movements), thus allowing for a range of possible attitudes in which any given piece or movement might be performed.

Among the works responding to specific predecessors are Lutoslawski's Partita for Violin and Piano (a reimagining of a classic form), Szymanowski's The Fountain of Arethusa (after a Greek myth), and the first movement of Dmitri Smirnov's Violin Sonata No. 3, which transforms the melody from a Bach chorale "Es ist genug..." ("It is enough...") in a particularly gripping fashion. Among the shorter, more excerpted works on the program include 19th and 20th-century favorites of Kreisler, Strauss, Poulenc, and de Falla. How these smaller works are interwoven may range from simply expressing and amplifying the feeling a given textual moment, to an entirely humorous or ironic relationship with the text.

In all cases, the relationship of music and text is immediate and visceral. Every juxtaposition suggests a certain connection to be made. . .or equally to be rejected by the audience. Some of the neoclassically themed works may also be fun Easter eggs for musicians to recognize and identify, but altogether the program relies much more on connections that any listener can make on first hearing. In general, music and text alternate, but are also sometimes used together (with occasional speaking happening over the music or accompanied by passages of music).

Finally, the physical theater component of our work is less of an element in itself and more what emerges naturally from two musicians who are also delivering lines, inhabiting characters, and toggling between those roles of player and speaker on the turn of a dime. Often we will be speaking from staging configurations that should be familiar to anyone used to seeing musicians perform a recital, but that invite us, in that moment, to re-examine those physical configurations, restoring meaning to actions as simple as entering stage and taking a bow.

Artwork for Musical Offering

Saturday, January 13, 2018

In January 2018, Yellow Barn's residency of J.S. Bach's Musical Offering, with interludes by Lei Liang's Garden Eight, toured from Putney to Symphony Space in New York, and to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Yellow Barn designer John Kramer and Artistic Director Seth Knopp collaborated on graphic interpretation of the program.

John Kramer describes the image:

The central geometric form in the cover art is derived from the shape of a fountain in the gardens at Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great. The superimposed image of a bare oak tree is rotated 12 times, aligning with the radial symmetry of the fountain’s design, and alluding to Bach’s branching polyphonic structures as well as the 12-pitch theme. Paths leading to the fountain from north, south, east, and west were converted to compass points in acknowledgement of the four-point directionality of Garden Eight.

Yellow Barn Listening

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Listen to festival performances from the Big Barn in Putney, Vermont.

Summers at Yellow Barn

Browse videos from Yellow Barn's 2017 Summer Festival

2017 summer season

Johann Sebastian Bach Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major, BWV 1048
James Tenney Maximusic
Franz Joseph Haydn Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Hob. XV:30
Franco Donatoni Alamari
Eric Nathan Quartet for Oboe and Strings
Maurice Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello
Johann Sebastian Bach Selections from Cantatas BWV 197, 88, 47, and 42
Jörg Widmann Zirkustänze
Jörg Widmann String Quartet No.1
Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata in F Major, Op.24 “Spring”
Jörg Widmann Oktett
Giacinto Scelsi Khoom “Seven episodes of a love story and of a non-written death in a faraway land”
Henry Purcell Sonata in A Minor, Z.804
Toshio Hosokawa Landscape II
Pavel Haas String Quartet No.2, Op.7 “From the Monkey Mountains”
Sofia Gubaidulina Galgenlieder à 3
Alban Berg Lyric Suite 
Sergiu Natra Music for Violin and Harp
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Quartet in G Major, K.387 
Alexander Raskatov Five Minutes from the Life of W.A.M. 

2016 summer season

Johannes Brahms Poco Allegretto from Symphony No.3, Op.90 
Michel van der Aa Oog 
George Frideric Handel Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op.6 No.2, HWV320 
Arnold Schoenberg Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs) 
Jörg Widmann 180 beats per minute
Charles Wuorinen Spinoff 
Alexander Raskatov Dolce Far Niente “Sweetness of Doing Nothing”
Oliver Knussen Prayer Bell Sketch
Toshio Hosokawa Drei Engel-Lieder (Three Angel Songs)
Johannes Brahms Sonata in E-flat Major, Op.120 No.2 
Hans Abrahamsen Schnee “Snow”: 10 Canons for 9 Instruments. 
James MacMillan Visions of a November Spring
Sofia Gubaidulina Garden of Joy and Sorrow
Thomas Adès Lieux Retrouvés
Dmitri Shostakovich String Quartet No.9 in E-flat Major, Op.117 
Beat Furrer Aer 
Luciano Berio Naturale
Charles Ives The Things Our Fathers Loved
Charles Ives Tom Sails Away (1917-1921)
Charles Ives Two Little Flowers
Charles Ives General William Booth Enters into Heaven
Charles Ives Charlie Rutlage
Charles Ives The Housatonic at Stockbridge
Charles Ives Down East
Charles Ives The Side Show 
André Caplet Les Prières 
Susan Botti Bird Songs
Franz Schubert Sonata for violin and piano in A Major, D.574 “Duo” 
György Ligeti String Quartet “Metamorphoses nocturnes”
Ted Hearne Vessels
Johannes Brahms String Quartet in A Minor, Op.51 No.2
John Zorn The Aristos, ten metaphysical ambiguities for violin, cello and piano 
Travis Laplante Thank You Is Not Enough
Magnus Lindberg Clarinet Trio
Béla Bartók Sonata No.1, Sz.75 for violin and piano
Stefano Gervasoni Phanes
Stefano Gervasoni An, Quasi una serenata, con la complicitá di Schubert
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Quartet in B-Flat Major, K.589
George Crumb Books I-V from Madrigals
Stefano Gervasoni Adagio ghiacciato, da Mozart, K.356
Arnold Schoenberg String Trio, Op.45
Matthias Pintscher A Twilight’s Song
Franz Schubert String Quartet in A Minor, D.804 “Rosamunde” 
Stefano Gervasoni Luce ignota della sera “Unknown Evening Light”, da Robert Schumann, Zwölf Vierhändige Klavierstücke für kleine und große Kinder, Op.85 No.12 for piano and electronics
Stefano Gervasoni Sonatinexpressive
Felix Mendelssohn Sonata in D Major, Op.58 for cello and piano

 

Yellow Barn videos

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Watch performances from Yellow Barn's 2017 Summer Festival in Putney, Vermont.

Summers at Yellow Barn

Browse audio recordings from Yellow Barn summer festival performances

 
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major, BWV 1048 (1718). Zenas Hsu, Eunae Koh, Erica Tursi, violins; Katherine Murdock, Hyobi Sim, Jesse Morrison, violas; Natasha Brofsky, Rainer Crosett, Julia Yang, cellos; Lizzie Burns, double bass; Emely Phelps, harpsichord—July 8, 2017


 
Sofia Gubaidulina (b.1931) Galgenlieder à 3 (1996). Melanie Henley Heyn, soprano; Lizzie Burns, double bass; Sam Seyong Um, percussion—August 4, 2017 | Program Note
 
 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) String Quartet in G Major, K.387 (1782). Jennifer Liu, Eunae Koh, violins; Hyobi Sim, viola; Michael Kannen, cello—August 5, 2017 (finale)
 
 
 
Alexander Raskatov (b.1953) Five Minutes from the Life of W.A.M. (2000). Anthony Marwood, solo violin; Eva Aronian, Erica Tursi, Mason Yu, violins; Hyobi Sim, Jinsun Hong, Emily Brandenburg, Aiden Kane, violas; Coleman Itzkoff, Alex Cox, cellos; Lizzie Burns, double bass; Eduardo Leandro, percussion—August 5, 2017 (finale) | Composer Bio
 
 
 
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Sonata for Violin and Cello (1922). Brian Hong, violin; Coleman Itzkoff, cello—July 22, 2017
 
 
 
Jörg Widmann (b.1973). Zirkustänze (2012). Christina Dahl, Tomer Gewirtzman, Abigail Sin, pianos—July 26, 2017 | Composer Bio
 

 

Happy Birthday, Yellow Barn Music Haul!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On October 10, 2015, Yellow Barn Music Haul came home to Putney, Vermont. Since then, our precocious traveling concert hall has brought Music No Boundaries to Baltimore, Dallas, Midcoast Maine, Boston, and New York City. Wherever she goes, from Times Square to West Baltimore, she is giving people the shared experience of listening to chamber music on common ground.

In celebration of her second birthday, we brought our "Music Haul Playground" to Downtown Baltimore Child Care, dropping the stage like a second jungle gym, filling recess with music and dancing. When we packed up to go, the music didn't stop. Music Haul continued to play from one neighborhood to the next, for passers-by, construction workers, police officers, bus drivers, and countless others, capturing their attention in an unexpected moment.

For the next two months, Music Haul will continue to live in Baltimore, bringing "Music Haul Playground" to schools, driving and playing music through her external speakers, and generally being a resource for social causes throughout the city, such as collecting goods for Puerto Rico. In addition, she will return to Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School and other OrchKids schools that she visited during previous trips to Baltimore.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out where Yellow Barn Music Haul is traveling!

Dancing to Beethoven and celebrating Yellow Barn Music Haul's 2nd birthday at Downtown Baltimore Child Care

Eric Nathan on "Some Favored Nook"

Monday, October 9, 2017

Some Favored Nook live recording in Putney (In front, left to right: Jessica Rivera, Andrew Garland, Molly Morkoski, Eric Nathan)

Composer Eric Nathan reflects on his September 2017 Artist Residency, Some Favored Nook, at Yellow Barn:

Soprano Jessica Rivera, baritone Andrew Garland, pianist Molly Morkoski and I recently completed an Artist Residency at Yellow Barn to workshop and record my new 45-minute dramatic cycle, “Some Favored Nook,” based on texts by Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, adapted by librettist Mark Campbell.

Yellow Barn afforded us an invaluable opportunity to have an intense period of uninterrupted time over the course of a few days to rehearse and workshop the piece, and then record it in front of a live audience as part of a private recording session at Executive Director Catherine Stephan’s house. While we were in-residence we also had wonderful opportunities to engage with students and faculty at the Greenwood School and with Yellow Barn supporters in the post-recording session Q&A. Both chances to engage with the community were especially valuable to me as a composer, because it allowed me to hear directly from the audiences how the music, performances and subject matter made them think and feel.

“Some Favored Nook” takes place in Civil War-era America and is inspired by the significant correspondence between an unlikely pair: Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Dickinson was practically unknown during her day but is now one of the world’s most widely read poets, and Higginson was a figure who loomed large in literary and political spheres of his time, but who is now relatively forgotten. My work focuses on Dickinson's private struggle as women poet in a patriarchal society and Higginson's public struggles for women’s rights, women poets, and the abolition of slavery. I place Dickinson and Higginson's writings in the context of the Civil War and society of the time, and uses the texts as a lens to view social, political and cultural issues of this early chapter in American history – civil rights, women's rights, the effects of war, as well as many of the themes that fill Dickinson's poetry, such as love and death – all issues that are as relevant today as they were in Dickinson’s time.

Dickinson and Higginson’s correspondence spanned twenty-four years and offers an intimate look into Dickinson’s private world as well as to Higginson’s involvement in major social and political issues of the day, as the commanding officer of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment in the Civil War. Higginson was also a noted supporter of women poets, and published the first collection of Dickinson’s poetry after her death. I set excerpts from Dickinson’s letters and poems she sent to Higginson, but as many of Higginson’s letters to her are lost, Higginson’s texts are set from his own essays as well as diaries from his “Army Life in a Black Regiment.”

This project has been a number of years in the making. It began as a proposal for my Rome Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 2013-14. While I was in Rome, I assembled texts by Dickinson and Higginson. A subsequent visit to Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst sparked the initial measures of my piece, after I experienced the sense of space and light in Dickinson’s room. However, it was not until 2016 when the librettist Mark Campbell molded the texts into a compelling dramatic and thematic arc that ideas for my musical work began to fully take shape. I began composing in earnest in January 2017 during a residency at Copland House in Cortlandt Manor, where I lived and composed for three weeks in composer Aaron Copland’s home. It was incredibly humbling and inspiring to write music in Copland’s house, especially since his settings of Dickinson’s poetry in his “Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson” remain some of the most treasured and iconic musical settings of her poetry. I completed my work in July 2017, back at the American Academy in Rome as part of a Visiting Artist residency.  

For our residency at Yellow Barn, our goals were to workshop, rehearse and record “Some Favored Nook,” so that we could have documentation to entice presenters to sponsor the official world premiere and a subsequent multi-city tour in 2018-19 and/or 2019-20. Yellow Barn has been so supportive of this project and arranged for the work to be professionally video and audio recorded. The Brown Arts Initiative was also very helpful in making this workshop possible through a Research and Development Grant.

Our rehearsal process at Yellow Barn was incredibly collaborative. We experimented with various parameters of the text setting and performance techniques. For instance, during one rehearsal Molly Morkoski suggested we have Jessica Rivera sing a section of the music directly into the piano, to create an otherworldly resonance. I had marked this section “distantly” in the score, but this new technique brought out other aspects in the music that arose from our discussions of the dramatic unfolding of the work, and so we decided to keep this technique in the performance. It is at this moment that Dickinson sings her poem, “A Death blow is a Life blow to some,” to the tune of “America,” after Higginson has recited phrases from his diary recounting attending to wounded soldiers after a battle. Throughout the entire rehearsal process, we watched the characters of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson come to life, and how their conscious and unconscious emotional states could be translated from the score into dramatic performance.

The chances to engage with the Yellow Barn community were for me some of the most meaningful experiences of the week. The recording session took place in the intimate setting of a living room, and this intimacy combined with the inquisitiveness of the Yellow Barn audience fostered a remarkable discussion. Audience members shared how the performance and story affected them personally, and their questions and my colleagues’ responses helped me see our work in new light. Similarly, I was excited to hear the imaginative responses from students as they described the worlds and ideas that the musical motives conjured in their minds.

The entire week residency was a beautiful testament to the communicative power of music. We commune with music to share ideas and emotions and reflect on stories of the past and present. In such a divisive time, it was nourishing to be reminded of the unifying power of music, especially on such a small and personal scale, and how the exchange of ideas helps us see and understand our world.

_____________________

This project has been made possible, in part, by the Brown Arts Initiative.

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