Days 4 and 5: Revolving Doors

Days 4 and 5: Revolving Doors

Jacob Cooper and Aaron Jay Kernis

It’s refreshing to listen like a kid. Or at least that’s how we felt while attending the Young People’s Concert on Tuesday morning. The Minnesota Orchestra, led by Sarah Hatsuko Hicks, treated us to a lively premiere by Zhou Tian (Composer Institute alumnus); an American Idol-esque competition between Vaughn Williams’s Greensleeves and Holst’s Dargason, Hungarian folk dancing (feathered hats, whistles, and all); and (is this a first?) Miss Minnesota playing a movement of Bartók’s Concerto for Viola. The youngsters seemed to appreciate it is as well: based on their vibrant (if asynchronous) clap-along during Peter Ostroushko’s barn-burning rendition of Orange Blossom Special, it appears the orchestra will have some more youthful subscribers in no time.

Elliot Miles McKinley opened our second composer-to-composer session Tuesday evening by playing us his String Quartet No. 5, commissioned by the Martinu Quartet. The 17-minute piece contains 12 contrasting sections that perpetually slip away from predictability yet are overall characterized by smooth transitions and consistent motives. It had several of us saying we’d never before heard anything like it. Xi Wang followed with her Music for Piano, Percussion, and Wind Ensemble, which contains both boldly raw drum rolls and dazzling, hyperactive figures with innate rhythms. (I’ve noticed Wang’s sense of time transcends the musical world: she has learned to combat the incredibly slow automated revolving door of our hotel lobby by sneaking in at the last possible second so she can walk through most of it between the panes.) Stephen Wilcox took a different approach to presenting his music, beginning with snippets of his works from several years ago and gradually bringing us up to today, all the while narrating his development as a composer and the challenges of his life. It was a touching presentation, even if the title of his last piece, Lego Dominatrix, might have suggested otherwise. I then played my Untitled as a night-cap for the long evening, and Beth Cowart knew what she was doing when she dimmed the lights as it started.

In addition to the undeniably valuable instrumental seminars (which continued on Tuesday with Kathy Kienzle giving us feedback on our harp parts and Brian Mount and Kevin Watkins delineating percussionists’ peeves), the Composer Institute prides itself on covering the many extra-musical aspects of a musician’s life. The past couple days have been packed with information from expert copyist Bill Holab on score and part production and the inestimably knowledgeable attorney James Kendrick on everything from copyright law to commissioning contracts. The seminars concluded Wednesday with a panel on music promotion led by NewMusicBox’s very own Frank Oteri, Cia Toscanini of ASCAP, Jessica Lustig of 21C Media Group, and John Pearson of MPR. This session’s material seemed the most readily relevant to us: while we may not yet be ready to draft a commission contract with a major orchestra or to sue someone for stealing our music, it’s good for musicians at any level to be taught how to better promote their work.

The first rehearsals of our pieces start today, and “The Future Classics!” concert will be streamed live on Minnesota Public Radio at 8 p.m. (CT) Friday night (—click on “classical-listen” at the top). The recording will not be available as an archive, so it’s your only chance…

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2 thoughts on “Days 4 and 5: Revolving Doors

  1. Colin Holter

    Having heard the rehearsal of Jacob’s piece Odradek yesterday, I can assure everyone that it’s the most adventurous piece on tonight’s program–it’s certainly the weirdest–and I liked it tremendously.


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