An offering in solidarity

Monday, November 28, 2016

Last summer we welcomed audiences to the Big Barn with the following message in our season program book. We offer it today in solidarity and as an invitation to listen, thankful that music can speak effortlessly to unassailable truths, both personal and collective.

These are good walls. They are walls that embrace our humanity and resonate with devotion. Within them, worlds of sound are expressed, each one unique as a snowflake, and universal as snowfall. Each of these worlds will be more or less understood, or perhaps not at all, but listening, and wanting to understand, is what we will find here always.
This is the essence of the musician’s relationship with those who purposefully walk into a room for music and have the doors close behind them. With that act, a commitment to listen is made, to voices of unknown origin, religion, political leaning, gender, or sexual orientation. It is understating the case to say that this act is one of acceptance. After all, it is not who the voice belongs to that brings us together; it is what it might express, and what might be deepened in each of us by listening.
In welcoming you to Yellow Barn this season, it does not seem appropriate to comment here on the current wave of political sentiment that aspires to separation and nationalistic power, but that movement has made me acutely aware of how differently we live the evenings we share in this room. I am grateful that Yellow Barn is one of a constellation of places where another ideal is lived; where walls are not an escape or separation, but an invitation to listen far beneath the surface.
—Seth Knopp, Artistic Director

Music No Boundaries: Boston

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Photo by Iaritza Menjivar

Read the Boston Globe's profile on Yellow Barn Music Haul: Music on Wheels Rolls into Boston

From September 18th to September 20th Music Haul toured Boston, Dorchester, and Arlington. Our trip began with a grant to visit three schools: Lesley-Ellis School in Arlington and its nearby sibling school, the disadvantaged Dearborn Academy, as well as the Epiphany School in Dorchester. Other stops included Christopher Columbus Park, and spontaneous street performances throughout the city.

Sunday, September 18

Public Performance
9:00-10:00am | Corner of Rutland St. and Washington St. (near Flour Bakery in the South End)

Neighborhood Performance
12:00-1:00pm | St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Dorchester

Public Performance
3:30-5:00pm | Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park

Monday, September 19

School Performance
8:00-11:20am | Lesley Ellis School in Arlington

School Performance
1:00-2:25pm | Dearborn Academy in Arlington

Public Performance
5:00-6:30pm | Club Passim (47 Palmer St, Cambridge)

Tuesday, September 20

Public Performance
9:00-10:00am | Corner of Gainsborough St and Huntington Ave (near Pavement Coffeehouse)

Public Performance
12:30-1:30pm | Club Passim

School Performance
3:00-3:40pm | Epiphany School in Dorchester

Public Performance
5:30-7:30pm | Corner of Shawmut Ave. and W. Concord St. (near El Centro and Orinoco restaurants)


Sarah Brady, flute
Ari Isaacman-Beck, violin
Michael Bukhman, piano
Sarah Darling, viola
Caroline Goulding, violin
Jinsun Hong, viola
Zenas Hsu, violin
Harriet Langley, violin
The Parker Quartet
Chase Morrin, piano
Jesse Morrison, viola
Sasha Scolnik-Brower, cello 
Cordelia Tapping, voice
Sam Um, percussion

Sound engineer: Dev Ray

Music on wheels rolls into Boston

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Malcolm Gay, staff writer for The Boston Globe, introduces Yellow Barn Music Haul in advance of the 2016 Boston tour:

On a stage that unspooled from a converted U-Haul, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet rehearsed in Cambridge Friday.

The 17-foot U-Haul truck sat parked in an empty field, ringed by trees. With the touch of a button, a roof-mounted winch whirred into action, unspooling cable as a fan-shaped stage lowered like a drawbridge from the rear. The U-Haul’s modified rear doors acted as a band shell, flanking the stage to project sound, and a custom-made sail, supported by deep-sea fishing rods, projected as a visor from above.

Fifteen minutes later and the vehicle, dubbed the Music Haul, was a fully functioning stage — a 21st-century gypsy caravan that will bring live performances to the streets and schools of Greater Boston, Sunday through Tuesday.

“It really is more boat than truck,” said Catherine Stephan, executive director of the Yellow Barn music center. “We got to know RV dealerships really well.”

The musical equivalent of a food truck, Music Haul is the brainchild of Yellow Barn, an acclaimed center for chamber music tucked away in the hills of southeastern Vermont.

“It’s supposed to be as close to magic as possible,” said architect John Rossi, one of the traveling venue’s principal designers. “As much as we could take a U-Haul truck and make its transformation seem effortless and smooth, and actually even beautiful, that’s what we wanted to do.”

“We exist in the world as musicians that is in a way so finely controlled and tuned,” said Yellow Barn’s artistic director, Seth Knopp. “Music Haul removes some of the ceremony, which can be a barrier for people who are not often exposed to that world. There’s an element of taking something out of its accustomed place and allowing it to take people by surprise.”

After a pit stop in New Hampshire, the Music Haul spent Friday in Cambridge, where the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet used its stage to rehearse Schubert’s devilish Quartet in G Major before the Boston tour kicks off Sunday with concerts scheduled in the South End, Dorchester, and Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. Later stops include performances at Harvard Square and the State House.

The tour is built around performances at three area schools, where Yellow Barn alumni musicians will perform from the six-person stage as students arrive in the morning, and they will give presentations during recess.

“They’re on their playground,” said Stephan, who added that the kids can decide whether they participate. “They can go play if they want to...and because they all choose to be there you’ve got their attention.”

Yellow Barn alumni will also take the stage at other venues around town, providing open-mic-style performances that include a range of classical music and jazz, with pieces by Claude Debussy, Felix Mendelssohn, György Ligeti, and Iannis Xenakis.

“It’s almost like a microcosm of Yellow Barn,” said Daniel Chong, first violinist in the Parker Quartet. “It’s the care and love for great music and performers, and delivering them to people in a way that’s both surprising and engaging.”

Founded in 1969 by cellist David Wells and his wife, pianist Janet Wells, Yellow Barn hosts scores of musicians each summer at its Vermont campus, where they practice, share ideas, and perform about 20 concerts over a five-week season at their primary music hall, Big Barn, in Putney. The music center, which shares a campus with the Greenwood School, also offers artist residencies and a young artists program.

Stephan said the Music Haul was an extension of Yellow Barn’s founding ethos.

“The mission is the same,” she said, adding that the $90,000 project was paid for in part by a Fresh Sound Foundation grant. “Either you know something about the music walking in, or you don’t. Either way, we want to give people a different type of experience.”

In designing the Music Haul, Rossi and his team divided the truck’s storage area into two parts, transforming the fore section into a greenroom with windows, seating for six, and a table, while the aft portion stores instruments and lighting, converting to a curtained area during performances.

“The truck becomes the backstage,” said Rossi, who worked on the project with boat designer Bill Lincoln. “The drive has always been to simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Rossi, whose business, Visible Good, designs crates that unfold to become emergency relief structures for disaster areas, said Music Haul shares certain design elements with his boxed buildings, which are known as Rapid Deployment Modules.

“The crazy little disaster-relief military medical shelter is the thing that probably had the most influence on this, versus any architecture with a capital ‘A,’ ” Rossi said.

Knopp said when it comes to Music Haul, which is also equipped with marine speakers to blast Yellow Barn recordings en route, a key element is in the wonderment afforded by surprise.

“Because it’s unexpected, people will not have preconceptions, and they won’t feel the fear of ignorance in the face of an experience they’ve never had before,” he said. “Without that expectation, you have a kind of vulnerability, an openness, that one needs to listen in the best possible way.”

Yellow Barn mounts illuminating residency

Thursday, July 28, 2016

David Weininger writes for The Boston Globe:

To a degree unusual among high-caliber gatherings, Vermont’s Yellow Barn festival insists on the centrality of the contemporary in the summer music landscape. Of crucial significance is its annual composer residency, a part of the Yellow Barn tradition that has, in recent years, included Philippe Hersant, Brett Dean, and, most recently, Jörg Widmann.

The idea extends beyond simply programming a large fraction of one composer’s oeuvre. As important is the opportunity created to put more familiar repertoire in dialogue with something seemingly alien, thus throwing new light on both.

This year’s festival has upped the ante by bringing to Yellow Barn’s idyllic environs a composer both distinguished and largely unknown in this country. Stefano Gervasoni, 54, studied with several masters of European modernism, among them Luigi Nono, Helmut Lachenmann, and György Ligeti. Yet though he holds academic positions at the prestigious Paris Conservatory and in his native Bergamo, Italy, his music is largely a cipher in the US. Yellow Barn’s Composer Portrait concert (Aug. 2) offers a rare opportunity to hear a full evening of his works. Further compositions will be distributed through the concerts that follow, in the company of pieces by Mozart, Schubert, Schoenberg, and Fauré, among others.

Knopp, speaking from the festival’s home in Putney, said that he’d heard about Gervasoni’s music from percussionist Eduardo Leandro, a Yellow Barn faculty member since 2010. Listening to a selection of his works piqued Knopp’s curiosity, though he wondered if it was just personal interest rather than something on which to base an entire residency. Then he discovered that while Gervasoni may not have established a huge profile in America, “many of the young participants revere him.”

How to begin talking about such unfamiliar fare? One could start with Gervasoni’s relationship to the traditions that he sees himself standing both within and outside of. Two works to be performed at Yellow Barn give some indication of this complex interaction: “descdesesasf,” a 1995 string trio, and “Luce ignota della sera,” a short piece for piano and electronics composed in 2015.

Both are homages to Schumann, bringing his music into a creative counterpoint with other artists. Material for the trio is derived from a motif in one of Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke.” At one point the music stops so that the three musicians can quietly recite “Aschenglorie,” a grimly un-nerving late poem by Paul Celan. “Luce ignota” integrates a four-hand piece by Schumann with an excerpt from Gervasoni’s “Prédicatif,” itself a homage to Nono. The electronics confer on this strange meeting a halo both enticing and unsettling, as if the encounter were recalibrating the internal vibrations of Gervasoni’s musical sources, producing what note the composer in a program note calls “scraps of sound that unite and become confused, in a world heard microscopically, ideally beyond reality.”

Those words, though intended to describe “Luce ignota,” could also describe the artistic permeation that occurs in “descdesesasf.” They also point, albeit in an indirect way, to an important characteristic of Gervasoni’s work more generally. The sounds he uses bear at least a family resemblance to those of other composers, especially Lachenmann. Yet his works also have an airiness, a sense of breath and even light, that sets them apart from his mentors’ more frictional creations.

“There’s a kind of density to Gervasoni’s music,” Knopp put it. “Not so much texturally, but it gives me the feeling of very dense music that has experienced the big bang. You have things that are floating away from each other that once belonged together. And he has a way about writing where you feel there’s a cohesion, always, in spite of that.

“There is a lyricism that’s there, even in a single sound,” he said elsewhere. “The difficulty in realizing what he wants is the separation, the space between things, and you have to be able to hear from very high up. It’s like looking at the earth from outer space.”

At one point during the conversation Knopp mentioned that he had been “talking around” Gervasoni’s music, and that he looked forward to his residency in large part because that, and that alone, would be his chance to truly know it.

“I wish I could tell you more about it,” he said. “But I kind of feel like to know him, you have to hear more of it in person. There are other composers where you can tell about the piece through a performance that may or may not be doing it justice. But his music is very much performance dependent. It’s so refined and difficult enough that it really depends on us to do well by it.”

An artist at Yellow Barn

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yellow Barn welcomes Peter Bruun, artist, educator, curator, and community activist, as a resident artist on Yellow Barn's campus at the Greenwood School. Since 2014 Peter has devoted his life to creating and launching New Day Campaign. This summer his four weeks on campus provide a framework for new pathways, both revisiting and creating pieces, linked by the shared, palpable urgency to create that permeates Yellow Barn.

A full-time member of the community, Peter has been visiting rehearsals and attending performances, sketching and recording his thoughts at his blog Below is his entry "Introduction". We invite you to share in his process, leave a comment, and come to the Big Barn to hear the works that he is exploring in his blog.

I do not know the name of the piece I was listening to in an instructional class with pianists when I began this sketch — a composition with pianos, bells, and whistling. But I want to share something of my artistic and thematic interest in this post:

Most of the images in this blog (if not all) are from a sketchbook I have brought with me to Yellow Barn — a sketchbook to initiate whatever my next project is to be. While ostensibly inspired by the music and musicians here at Yellow Barn, it is perhaps more accurate to say my time here is an excuse and milieu to get me started. A fine setting, for musical relationship is key to Yellow Barn, and for months I’ve been wanting to explore relationship in my work.

For many years, my abiding fascination has been singular identity — my own and others. The work I’ve made has derived from self-portraiture — the key words here being “derived from,” for my self is largely absent from any end product; self-portraiture has been a way in to the more universal subject of “self” overall.

But that focus on identity has changed, and I am now intent in relationships, as my own personal relationships become less definable and more… confusing. I more and more experience pain and love as flip-sides of the same coin, and in my work am trying to come to terms not only with this, but also with the ambiguity of relationship period. I’m not sure how exactly my drawings are doing that, but it feels as thought that’s the terrain I’m just beginning to mine.

Significant is the figurative basis of these new sketches (no longer am I looking at my head in the mirror as the jumping point) — figures I sketch while sitting in rehearsals here at Yellow Barn. What more intense a relationship to have as a spring board than that between musicians, jointly sharing in interpretation of beautiful and melancholic and mysterious music?

So this sketch — in ways I’ve yet to fathom — drives into this space of relationship. The work has both a private and public life, of course, and meaning for me may not be meaning for you, and that’s fine. So — please accept the above sketch and all others in these posts as an offering for consideration, and my words an invitation to connecting.

—Peter Bruun

Yellow Barn Video Library

Monday, May 30, 2016

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