LSM Newswire

Monday, June 16, 2008

Live Vs. Digital | Baltimore Chamber Orch. | Fauxharmonic Orch. | Nov. 2 | Bargemusic

Live versus digital: Can audiences tell the difference? Can a performance created by computer-based sound technology deliver the kind of aesthetic experience that we can expect from a traditional orchestra? These are questions for our time.
On Sunday, November 2, 2008, at 4 p.m., the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Markand Thakar, and The Fauxharmonic Orchestra under the Wii-mote of Paul Henry Smith, will allow audiences to answer the questions for themselves. In the bold experiment of a side-by-side comparison, Mr. Smith's digital orchestra will perform composer Mathew Quayle's Gridley Paige Road first, followed by the live performance by the twenty-one strings of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. This performance will take the digital orchestra out of the studio and into the concert hall.
The program will also offer the world-premiere of the Trombone Concerto by Baltimore Chamber Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Jonathan Leshnoff, performed by soloist Christopher Dudley. A selection of adagios and fugues fill out the program: Mozart's Adagio and Fugue, K. 546; Bruckner's Adagio from the String Quintet in F major; and Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, performed by string orchestra.
The Program:
Matthew Quayle: Gridley Paige Road
Performed sequentially by The Fauxharmonic Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra
Jonathan Leshnoff: Trombone Concerto (World Premiere)
Christopher Dudley, soloist
Mozart: Adagio and Fugue, K. 546
Bruckner: Adagio from the String Quintet in F major
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge (for string orchestra)
Tickets for the November 2 event are available through Bargemusic. For reservations, call 718/624-2083 or 718/624-4061, or email: Tickets: $50; student: $25.
The BCO will present this program also in Baltimore on November 1 at Mintzes Theatre, Beth Tfiloh Synagogue, and on November 5 in Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College.
Markand Thakar, Music Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, commented, "The BCO is committed to providing audiences with moving musical experiences, in highly diverse repertory -- from Mozart to Leshnoff, from violins to pipas to computers. Technology is advancing with extraordinary speed, to the point that digitally produced sound can approximate acoustic sound to a startling degree. We don't expect to ever be replaced by a computer, but we find this musical experiment fascinating."
Paul Henry Smith stated that "this concert poses a John Henry-like challenge for the digital orchestra -- whether it succeeds or fails, what will this mean for classical music performance?" Mr. Smith is bringing his "instruments" -- computers, wireless controllers, and speaker arrays -- into the concert hall to see if it is possible to produce a superb aesthetic experience.
What is a Digital Orchestra?
A digital orchestra, as explained by Paul Henry Smith, is the use of digital technology by musicians to approximate the sound of live orchestral performance. Simply put, digital orchestra music is produced on a computer. Like the production of any recorded music, the computer is involved in the mastering and mixing process. But unlike other recordings, the computer is also the instrument on which the music is played. Sound source material is housed on disks (or generated by the computer) and is organized by performance software. Sequencer software is then used to pull in the right sounds for the particular musical elements called for by the score (or by the musical keyboard or other instrument). Computing power is now great enough that the real-time selection of a single note from among hundreds of gigabytes of data is performed in milliseconds.
Mr. Smith works in advance to get the music to sound as close as possible to what he will want in the performance, but will leave certain details open for the spontaneity of the live event. He will go through the piece bar by bar to determine all the parameters of the work. At the performance, he will gauge how certain sounds resonate in the space, making real time decisions as to what he wants. Using his "controller," he can alter any aspect of the performance, including pitch and rhythm.
Conducting a digital orchestra
Live digital orchestral music is performed by incorporating real-time performance control into the mix. The conductor is on stage with a wireless controller, known as a Wii-mote, modified from the controller used with Nintendo's Wii gaming console, which acts as a baton. With that, the conductor can modify tempo, loudness, balance, timbre, brightness, and darkness -- many things that a conductor might alter in a given performance.
About Paul Henry Smith
Paul Henry Smith began his conducting studies with Gustav Meier and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood and continued with Sergiu Celibidache at the Curtis Institute and in Munich. He studied orchestration and composition with Richard Hoffmann, Lukas Foss, and Steven Scott Smalley. After stints as a conservatory professor and as an Internet entrepreneur he is now devoted to his work with digital instruments to widen the expressive possibilities of orchestral music performance.
In the 1980s, as a visiting researcher at MIT's Media Lab, Mr. Smith worked on early digital orchestra systems. Since then he has been pushing them to approach the facility, simplicity, quality, and responsiveness of acoustic instruments. Recently, these endeavors have begun to flower, due in part to recent advances in computer technology in general, as well as to a surge in the development of software specifically for orchestral music performance.
Mr. Smith is the founder of the Digital Orchestra League, a worldwide non-profit organization that brings together researchers, composers, and theorists, all working on digital orchestral music. He also oversees an annual international composition contest that promotes new orchestral music and encourages composers and performers to explore the artistic possibilities of digital instruments.
An amateur cellist, Mr. Smith lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.
About Markand Thakar
Markand Thakar is Music Director of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, where he has earned a national reputation as a creative programmer and an orchestra builder. He was cited by Symphony Magazine for "creative programming and rising artistic standards [that] fill the house," by New Yorker critic Alex Ross, who said, "On the subject of brilliant programming see this season's programs by the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra," and by The Baltimore Sun, which praised his "novel programming concept" for the BCO's 2005-06 season as "one of the most successful examples of thematic programming heard around here in some time."
Thakar first came to national attention in 1997 when he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, stepping in for Leonard Slatkin on short notice and with no rehearsal. He returned to the podium that summer, opening the Philharmonic's outdoor season with concerts in Central Park and the boroughs. Appearances in recent seasons include additional concerts and a national radio broadcast with the New York Philharmonic, and concerts with the National, San Antonio, Columbus, Alabama, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Charlotte, Knoxville, Richmond, Colorado Springs, Greensboro, Illinois, Kalamazoo, Windsor, Flint, Maryland, Ann Arbor, Waterbury, Annapolis, and Florida West Coast symphony orchestras; the Calgary and Long Island philharmonics; and the Boston Pro Arte and National and Cleveland chamber orchestras. A frequent guest conductor at the Aspen Music Festival, Mr. Thakar has appeared with Yo-Yo Ma and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and with Itzhak Perlman and the Boulder Philharmonic. He is a winner of the Geraldine C. and Emory M. Ford Foundation Award. Familiar to national radio audiences as a frequent commentator for National Public Radio's Performance Today, he has appeared on CBS This Morning and CNN conducting the Colorado Symphony.
Most significant for Markand Thakar was his work with Sergiu Celibidache in Munich. "From Celibidache I came to understand that the 'magic moments' that we all experience from time to time can be extended -- from the very first sound of a movement even possibly through the very last. In such an extended 'magic moment' we experience a remarkable transcendence: we accept the sound, we absorb the sound, we become the sound, and in so doing we transcend everyday consciousness of time and space; we touch our conscious soul in a most remarkable way. My driving interest has been an exploration of the conditions -- from the composer, from the performer, and from the listener -- that allow this most profoundly exquisite, life-affirming experience." Thakar is the author of Counterpoint: Fundamentals of Music Making (published in English by Yale University Press and in Italian by Rugginenti Editore), which uses species counterpoint to promote an understanding of how both composer and performer contribute to the experience of musical beauty.
About the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra
Described by The Baltimore Sun as "a significant player in the local music scene for more than 20 years," the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra is in its 26th season of providing world-class performances of the small-orchestra repertoire. Known for its innovative programming, the BCO has recently presented concerts that included works for pipa, veena, and charango, as well as numerous world and U.S. premieres. The orchestra performs five programs annually at Goucher College, with repeat performances across the county. Upcoming BCO releases on the Naxos label include world premiere recordings of concertos for violin and viola by Ignaz Pleyel, and works by Jonathan Leshnoff.
About Matthew Quayle
Matthew Quayle has composed music in a wide range of styles and genres, from concert orchestral works to musical theater comedy. In recent years, his music has been performed by Alarm Will Sound, the Arditti String Quartet, Avalon String Quartet, eighth blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the Southeastern Trio. He has received commissions from the Almeida Theatre in London, the New London Children's Choir, flutist Claire Chase, saxophonist Gail Levinsky, and cellist Ashley Sandor Sidon. In 2007, his string orchestra piece Gridley Paige Road received both the Grand Prize and the People's Choice Award in the Adagio Composition Contest of the Fauxharmonic Orchestra. He composed the introduction to 'Round Midnight Variations, a collection of variations by prominent contemporary composers on the Thelonius Monk theme. This work was premiered by pianist Emanuele Arciuli at New York's Miller Theater in 2002.
Quayle frequently performs as a piano soloist and chamber musician. Recent collaborations have included recitals with clarinetist Deborah Andrus, cellist Jameson Platte, and flutist Elizabeth Ransom. He was featured as a composer and performer at the 2006 Glens Falls Symphony Musicbridge Festival. In 1998, he performed his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, as winner of the Oberlin Conservatory Concerto Competition. He was a keyboardist and songwriter for the pop-rock sextet If I Told Napoleon in 2005-06.
A native of Waterville, NY, Quayle is a doctoral candidate at New York University (GSAS) and holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Cincinnati. He has served on the faculty at New England Music Camp in Sidney, Maine, since 2002. In August 2007 he moved to North Carolina where he is a Lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
About Gridley Paige Road
Gridley Paige Road is the grand prize winner of the Fauxharmonic's 2007 Adagio Composition Contest, chosen from over 160 worldwide entries.
In the words of the composer: "This piece was inspired in part by memories of my childhood years living on Gridley Paige Road, a rural road set amid farmland, woods and fields in central New York state. Originally composed for string quartet, this movement was premiered by the Avalon Quartet in Merkin Concert Hall, New York, in 2003. In 2005, three more movements were added and Gridley Paige Road became the first movement of my String Quartet No. 1. The full quartet was premiered in Merkin Concert Hall by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) in April of 2005. This movement was then orchestrated for string orchestra in March 2007."
About Jonathan Leshnoff
34-year-old Jonathan Leshnoff, who was named by The Baltimore Sun as a 2006 "Artist to Watch," is Composer-in-Residence of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. His works have been performed and are currently programmed internationally by the Tokyo Philharmonic and the Kyoto and Extremadura (Madrid) symphony orchestras, and, in this country by the orchestras of Buffalo, Kansas City, Columbus, Oakland, Duluth, and Boca Raton; the National Gallery, Curtis Institute, and National Repertory orchestras; the Baltimore and IRIS chamber orchestras, the Da Capo Chamber Ensemble, Smithsonian's Twentieth Century Consort, Opus 3 Trio; and the United States Marine Band.
Three recordings devoted exclusively to Leshnoff's music are scheduled for release on the Naxos "American Classics" label. They include the Violin Concerto, performed by violinist Charles Wetherbee and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra conducted by Markand Thakar; the Symphony No. 1 (subtitled "Forgotten Chants and Refrains"), premiered by Michael Stern and the IRIS Chamber Orchestra; and chamber works. Leshnoff's recent projects include a Double Concerto (performed by the Curtis Symphony at the Kimmel Center), a String Sextet for Concertante (premiered at Merkin Hall in New York City in 2007) and a Quartet for Viola, Harp, Flute and Percussion (premiered in February 2008 as part of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's 2007-2008 season).
Leshnoff's music has been lauded by The Kansas City Star as "a diaphanous orchestral fabric of beautiful transparency," by The Commercial Appeal (Memphis) as "a fluid, thoughtful work, superbly textured and unafraid to be intellectual," and by The Baltimore Sun as "remarkably assured, cohesively constructed and radiantly lyrical." He is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Towson University in Maryland.
About Christopher Dudley
Christopher Dudley is Principal Trombone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and the Aspen Festival Orchestra. He has performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta Symphony orchestras, IRIS Chamber Orchestra, Washington Symphonic Brass, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Mr. Dudley is a member of the trombone faculty at the University of Maryland, and is on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School. He performs on Shires trombones and is an S. E. Shires artist.

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  • Being a fan of sequencing electronica music and also an avid fan of watching live performances of symphonic music, I can say - without a doubt - that they are not the same. There's something about the dynamics and overwhelming combustion of vibrations that come out a full orchestra in a music hall.
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