Classical Music This Week: Stops in Detroit, New Jersey and Berlin

18 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Classical Music This Week: Stops in Detroit, New Jersey and Berlin.

Good morning, music lovers! Tod Machover, composer and professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, right, works with Matthew Calvert, 12, of Detroit at the Youthville beat-making lab in Detroit to create music for the upcoming “Symphony in D” performance.(Photo: Kimberly P.That made him the perfect composer for “Symphony in D,” an ambitious new mixed-media piece being premiered this weekend with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. “Symphony in D” is actually the fifth city symphony by Machover — the New York state-born son of a pianist and a computer scientist — following previous works with Canadian orchestras.

It weaves together an orchestral score with sampled sounds Machover selected from more than 15,000 submitted to him during the past couple of years, from factories to Michigan farms and points in between. “Detroit has an incredibly powerful story to tell right now, and it’s an important moment to be thinking about Detroit,” Machover, 61, says from his office in the Experimental Media Facility at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., where he’s designed interactive systems for Prince, Peter Gabriel and others. “And for a project like this, one of the cool things about music is you can convene people around a feeling or an idea, and they can share things that are really important to them. “So it becomes a fantastic context for people to share things they care about, and in Detroit people really care about what’s happening and where the city is going. Those clips included the sounds of opening day at Comerica Park, Henry Ford’s Kitchen Sink Engine, youth jazz musicians performing at Bert’s in Eastern Market and the lapping of the Detroit River recorded from the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle. As key collaborators in the collection and creation of some 15,000 sound files, these special guests will perform original compositions, read poetry and share visions of Detroit’s past and future.

It was in Detroit that Henry Ford’s engine first sputtered to life, the genesis of a journey that would culminate in the city becoming the capital of the automobile industry and the fourth largest municipality in the United States. I’d especially recommend the avant-garde harpist Zeena Parkins’s residency at the Stone and the latest installment in the Attacca Quartet’s traversal of all 68 of Haydn’s string quartets. A Thursday afternoon found Machover working with half a dozen students between the ages of 11 and 15 at YouthVille Detroit, a home for after-school programs on Woodward Avenue in the New Center area. For the past year, Machover and his Opera of the Future team at MIT have used technology they developed to collect and combine audio recordings submitted by Detroiters. A cramped basement lab was jammed with computers, keyboards, mixing boards and speakers.The kids were experimenting with digitally sampled sounds of automobiles and crashing percussion and the roar was deafening at times.

During the fifth movement, meanwhile, musicians — DJs, an African drummer, a Chaldean choir and a middle-school ensemble — will join the DSO. “It’s a pretty wide sonic palette,” Machover notes. “It’s great to have these people from different parts of the community who will be on stage representing what they do. And yet, for all the highs and lows, one thing Detroit has always been is a place with a multifaceted populace, home to people from numerous different walks of life. Detroit’s recent struggles and rich history make it fertile ground for creative collaboration. “It’s a noble, rich, fantastic, industrial city with a lot of great musical history,” Machover said. “And every difficult thing about American society hit in Detroit all at once, starting in the ’60s … and now everything is being rethought. Haydn wrote the London Symphony, the Paris Symphony. … “It’s not quite the same idea, but now that I’ve done five of these (city symphonies), there’s a body of work that I think people can really tap into, and hopefully there will be more we’ll do in other places around the world.”

The Saturday performance will be broadcast on the south wall of Orchestra Hall for free viewing, with a warming tent, s’mores station and more available to attendees. Muhly still working through the material that filled his opera “Two Boys.” Good news for those of us still concerned about the gender balance among high-level conductors: Xian Zhang, a fast-rising Chinese-American star, has been named the next music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

One is pushing the art form forward, and the other is trying to involve the public.” Throughout the piece, Machover engages with the community of Detroit, collaborating with many different artists, musicians and community members from the city. Each of the symphony’s five movements reflects a different aspect of Detroit, from its automotive history to a vanished African-American neighborhood to a vision for the city’s future. “By the time we got to Detroit I realized that what I really wanted to do was meet people personally. Machover and the DSO invited the public to record and submit sounds, and the composer and his colleagues at the MIT Media Lab created a mobile app to facilitate the process. ADULT. has performed worldwide from Moscow to Bogotá, in traditional venues such as The Echo (Los Angeles) to unexpected venues like The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh).

The Times’s Anthony Tommasini starts off the marathon with a note of doubt: “coming from an institution that has shown us, as much as any, what a major modern orchestra can really be, making a big statement with this most well-worn of cycles is a missed opportunity.” American House was founded in 1979 with the vision of providing high-quality housing for seniors at a price affordable for retirees and their families. The overwhelming response gave Machover a taste of just how much affection Detroiters have for their city and how connected they are to its musical pulse.

The more Machover visited Detroit and the more people he met, the more he was seduced by their spirit of resiliency and the sense of possibility of a city in the midst of post-industrial reinvention. To better reflect the complexities of Detroit’s narrative, he ended up inviting Detroiters (and not just their sounds) to share the stage with the DSO. Joseph Chaldean Choir, music producers Morris Porter and Bryan Pope, various writers and more. “In retrospect, I was not too surprised there was a huge amount of interest here because things are changing so much in Detroit and people care about the city,” said Machover, speaking over drinks and dinner at Northern Lights Lounge, not far from YouthVille. “The last of these projects I did was Lucerne, Switzerland, which is a beautiful place that’s been the same for 500 years.

She’ll be reading a poem during the symphony’s fourth movement, “Memories and Dreams.” “Right off the bat, he wanted to include voices that had historically not been heard, particularly in a classical milieu. Muir-Cotton is a young double bassist/bassist trained in both the jazz and classical traditions; playing many genres including jazz, funk, gospel, blues, R&B and neosoul.

Under the mentorship of Detroit bassists Marion Hayden, Robert Hurst, Rodney Whitaker and Ralphe Armstrong, Muir-Cotton is working toward making his own mark in the music world. Marsha Music, daughter of a legendary pre-Motown Detroit record producer, Joe Von Battle, is a self-proclaimed “Primordial Detroiter,” and a “Detroitist.” She writes about the city’s musical legacy—and its past, present and future—in anthologies and on her blog, Marsha Music—a Grown Woman’s Tales of Detroit. Machover’s later teachers and mentors included a trio of high-modernist priests, Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at the Juilliard School and Pierre Boulez in Paris.

While they left marks of structural rigor and craft on Machover’s music, there is also a friendly openness to vernacular influences and big-tune accessibility. Many (but certainly not all) of Machover’s compositions fold electronics into the mix, including pieces like “Sparkler” for orchestra and live electronics and the “Brain Opera,” an audience-interactive installation. YouthVille has provided Morris with the opportunity to teach his passion to kids and teens, and he is proud and honored to serve the community in this capacity. Scholl met Machover in Boston and became so intrigued by the composer’s marriage of technology and art that he traveled to Edinburgh to see and hear the project for himself. Scholl brought the idea to the DSO because of music director Leonard Slatkin’s passion for new works and the orchestra’s reputation for leveraging technology to broaden its audiences through initiatives like its weekly webcasts and now its DSO Replay archives. “I cannot remember a time when I did a piece that was knowingly intended as something ephemeral,” he said. “Unless the DSO performs the work in the future, it is difficult to see how it can be played again.

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