UnRest: The Environment
This concert was the second in our UnRest Musical Resistance and Benefit Concert Series, a concert highlighting the impacts of human activity on climate and the environment on Friday, November 17th, 2017. All the music on this program encompassed works inspired by nature or the environment. Our hope was to convey the inherent beauty of our world, while also addressing the effects that humankind is having on our environment.
Big thanks to all the musicians who performed, for generously donating their time and talents. And thanks to all who attended; we raised $300 in ticket sales which we’ve donated directly to the Natural Resources Defense Council! Stay tuned for more concerts in our UnRest Series.
Enjoy the live performance here:
Sure On This Shining Night 0:00
Composed By: Samuel Barber
Claire Plumb, Voice
Matthew Rupert, Piano
Farewell to Stromness 2:14
Composed By: Peter Maxwell Davies
Performed By: Katie Gavelin, Guitar
The Storm 6:13
Composed By: Phillip J. Mikula
Performed By: Christian F. Howes, Percussion
Composed & Performed By: Christian F. Howes, Percussion
man, and i don’t wanna swim (for voice and electronics) 16:36
Composed By: Christopher Whitley
Kumiko Sakamoto, Voice
Christopher Whitley, Electronics
Toward The Sea 23:14
1. The Night
2. Moby Dick
Composed By: Toru Takemitsu
Jessie Nucho, Alto Flute
David Gonzales, Guitar
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) 31:21
Vocalise (. . . for the beginning of time)
Variations on Sea-Time Sea Theme Archeozoic (Var. I)
Proterozoic (Var. II)
Paleozoic (Var. III)
Mesozoic (Var. IV)
Cenozoic (Var. V)
Sea-Nocturne (. . . for the end of time)
Composed By: George Crumb
Jessie Nucho, Flute
Lewis Patzner, Cello
Matthew Rupert, Piano
Sure On This Shining Night:
Written in 1938, “Sure on this shining night” went on to become Samuel Barber’s most famous and frequently performed art songs before he arranged it for choir thirty years later. Using a text by American poet James Agee (1909-1955), Barber writes music that is sublime and reverent as it reflects the poetry.
Farewell to Stromness:
Originally performed as a part of Peter Maxwell Davies larger work “The Yellow Cake Revue”, “Farewell to Stromness” served as a piano interlude amongst the set of cabaret songs. The work was written for a performance at the Stromness Hotel in 1980 as a part of the St. Magnus Festival (a summer arts festival Davies co-founded in 1977). Stromness is a large Island in Scotland that was found to possess yellow cake, a type of uranium used as fuel for a nearby nuclear plant. The citizens of the island greatly opposed the construction of the uranium mine and protested the South of Scotland Electricity Board. As a result of the attention garnered by both the festival and the people of Stromness their protest was successful and the mine was never built.
As a native of south Texas, I have experienced the tumultuous sounds and fury of many thunderstorms, tornadoes and even a hurricane! In the aftermath of a serious storm, I began to consider all the different sounds that are produced during the course of a storm. As I wrote words describing all of the characteristics of a storm, I began to ponder how I, as a percussionist, could convey those words and the feelings they evoked, and the sounds they described, to a group of people – an audience. The result of these musing was a two-movement piece, scored for a solo percussionist, utilizing a large multi-percussion set-up, and entitled – appropriately – The Storm. Notes from Philip John Mikula.
man, and i don’t wanna swim:
man, and i don’t wanna swim was inspired primarily by an alarming fact I stumbled upon about erosion in Louisiana. Coastal erosion caused Louisiana to lose approximately a football field of wetlands per hour from 1985 to 2010 and it’s still going. I was immediately reminded of the song “New Orleans is Sinking” by the Canadian rock band, the Tragically Hip (they’re really famous in Canada…like really famous) . The song turned out to be freakishly prescient, considering it was released in 1989, and I used a line from the song as the title of this work. From the Tragically Hip I ended up at the alternative rock band Tool (I went through a bit of an angsty phase as a teenager) and a line where the singer urges the listener to “learn to swim”. This inspired the text, which is derived from the motions of different swimming strokes. While somewhat dark in subject matter, the piece ends on a hopeful note. The final text is spoken over a sample of old Dixieland music, stressing hope and the potential for recovery. Thank you to Georgia Weber for providing the video footage that was edited together to create the accompanying visuals.
Toward the Sea
Toward the Sea was commissioned in 1981 by Greenpeace for the “Save the Whales” campaign. Takemitsu was inspired by Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick, wishing to emphasize the spiritual dimension of the work. He cites the passage “Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries … and he will infallibly lead you to water … Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded together.” Toward the Sea was written at a time when Takemitsu was increasingly returning to tonality after a period of experimental composition.
Vox Balanaene (Voice of the Whale)
Vox Balaenae (“Voice of the Whale”) for amplified flute, cello and piano tells the story of time from beginning to end, through the song of this most majestic of earth’s creatures. It is at once a celebration of and a lament for the planet we live on – its natural wonders, its inherent beauty, and its many rich cultures. The work opens with a wild flute cadenza entitled “Vocalise”, in which the flautist simultaneously sings and plays an exotic melody, as well as singing into the instrument while altering the tone using the keys to evoke sounds made by the humpback whale. A parodic quotation of Also Sprach Zarathustra heralds the dawn of time, along with dramatic brushes along the piano strings and cascading flute triplets. The middle section takes the form of a set of variations on the haunting “Sea-Theme”, with each variation named after a geologic period (“Archeozoic-Proterozoic-Paleozoic-Mesozoic-Cenozoic”). The intensity builds with each one, climaxing with the arrival of man in the Cenozoic period, which is announced by a partial restatement of the Zarathustra theme. Many interesting instrumental techniques are employed to unparalleled dramatic effect – from harmonics in cello and flute, to various methods of preparation in the piano. Of the concluding “Sea-Nocturne” (an elaboration on the “Sea-Theme”) George Crumb says: “I wanted to suggest ‘a larger rhythm of nature’ and a sense of suspension in time”. The shimmering quality that he captures along with the beauty of this simple melody certainly give an air of great majesty but also fragility, and a creeping sense of teetering on the edge. – Notes by Hannah Reardon-Smith