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Glass Works: new music inspired by the stained-glass artistry of Judith Schaechter

Commissioning project between fivebyfive and the Memorial Art Gallery, with open rehearsals and a premiere concert among the artworks

The Latest Update

A few weeks out!

Posted on January 24, 2020 by fivebyfive

Dear friends,

We are counting the days until our Premiere Performance on Sunday February 16 at the Memorial Art Gallery and can’t wait to share new works by Jung Sun Kang, Andrea Mazziariello, Edie Hill and Jonathan Russell.

Visit our website at fivebyfivemusic.com or follow us on social media for the latest updates!!

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Some reflections on new work by composer Edie Hill

Posted on January 22, 2019 by fivebyfive

Instrumentation: Flute (double on Alto and Bass), Clarinet (double on bass), Electric guitar, Double Bass, Piano

Duration: approximately 6 minutes 


The Battle of Carnival and Lent is fascinating to me on many levels.  I love glass and the way that light comes through it and from it.  So, the sheer beauty of this piece, from afar, draws the observer closer and closser to take in detail.  How the piece changes as an observer moves from far away to close up reminds me of the photo of earth – a blue jewel from afar.  As one gets closer and closer, both extreme beauty and gritty details emerge.  This changing perspective is a jumping off point for the music.

When considering her ambitious piece, Judith Schaechter said, “Anyone in prison or in a personal prison has an angel and a devil on their shoulder.” This idea presents another level of influence.  Dealing with the angels and the devils is the stuff of life, and in this way, my music is always influenced by “the stuff of life.” 

And yet another level is how time and medium change and influence are – just as Schaechter’s window is loosely based upon 16th-century Bruegel painting “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, how this musical piece is based upon Schaechter’s window – from paint on canvas to stained glass to the elusive, abstract medium of music is interesting to me. 

Keeping the above in mind, I will take larger “washes of color” and contrast them small cells of material that will appear in the foreground.  Amid shifting colors and textures as a kind of scrim, will be motives which outline finer details of the piece.

Some reflections from Jon Russell on the new work

Posted on January 22, 2019 by fivebyfive

[I will be] compos (ing) a new work for the ensemble fivebyfive’s “Glassworks” project inspired by Judith Schaechter’s stained glass artwork “The Battle of Carnival and Lent.” The work will be 8-12 minutes long, and scored for flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, electric bass, and piano.

The piece is still in its early conceptual stages, but as I am currently envisioning it, it will focus on the contrasts and contradictions between the medium and content of Schaecter’s artwork. The medium of stained glass is bright and luminous, and alludes to the spiritual, Christian art that for centuries has been its primary catalyst. The content of Schaecter’s work, however, is dark, disturbing, and grotesque. I find this juxtaposition deeply intriguing, unsettling, and inspiring.

I imagine the medium of stained glass depicted in high piano, flute, and guitar harmonics, with gently interlocking, harmonious patterns that evoke the luminous yet delicate quality of the colored glass. Contrasted with this will be deep gurgles and sinister grooves in the low piano, bass clarinet, and electric bass, evoking the grotesque figures and mayhem depicted in the glasswork. The main content and drama of the piece will be how these contrasting textures interact with one another. I do not yet know what direction it will ultimately take, but I imagine that, after considerable conflict, one or the other of the textures will effectively absorb the other, transmuting its material in the process. Whether the end result is the luminous glass “taming” the grotesque figures or the figures “corrupting” the glass remains to be seen.

-Jon Russell

Commissioning thoughts from Andrea Mazzariello on new work for fivebyfive

Posted on January 7, 2019 by fivebyfive

I want this piece to come out of a daily, consistent practice with the instruments in the ensemble that I am actually able physically to approach. I’ve been committing to a daily improvisation practice at the piano, trying to clarify what the instrument can do but through the filter of what my mixed-up history as a player might suggest. I’m really struck by the notion that working in stained glass as a medium means that one’s materials push back, and that’s the main way I am currently responding to Schaechter’s work: entering into a musical situation in which there is palpable resistance, in which that resistance needs to be negotiated in creative ways and, most importantly for me, in ways that actually feel joyful and exciting as opposed to feeling like one is constantly wiping out. This is especially true of the electric guitar, which I’ve been spending time with as well. I’m exploring some alternate tunings, which may or may not figure into the final form of the piece but which, again, are allowing the medium to “talk back,” so to speak. That particular instrument in my hands is how I began Trust Fall, the NOW ensemble piece that 5×5 plays, so it feels like a nice link back to that process. 

Date Set for Premiere Performance

Posted on January 3, 2019 by fivebyfive

We are excited to announce the date for the premiere performance of the new works!

Sunday February 16, 2020
Memorial Art Gallery’s Auditorium, afternoon performance – time TBC

fivebyfive selected as winner of the 2018 Eastman/ArtistShare New Artist Program

Posted on December 15, 2018 by fivebyfive

Supported by the Eastman/ArtistShare program, fivebyfive will commission, perform, and record music to accompany an exhibition of stained-glass artist Judith Schaechter. The ensemble will perform the work live at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery and the recorded performance will become a part of the installation as it tours museums around the country.

The Eastman/ArtistShare New Artist Program provides a worldwide platform for outstanding students and alumni to connect with fans by sharing their creative process, documenting their work, and allowing fans to participate directly by funding and observing the creation of new artistic works. Eastman alumnus and multiple Grammy Award winner Maria Schneider (MM85) was the first ArtistShare artist and continues to share her work through the platform.

Congratulations to Jung Sun Kang, one of our commissioning composers!

Posted on October 2, 2018 by fivebyfive

Meet Jung Sun Kang, one of four commissioning composers we will work with thanks to funding from New Music USA!

We are so pleased that Jung Sun was selected for a residency fellowship at Willapa Bay AiR to work on the piece. For more information about these fellowships:


Jung Sun visited Rochester recently to see Judith Schaechter’s “Battle of Carnival and Lent” in person, and here she is at MAG with the artwork that will inspire her new piece.




The Path to Paradise Prospectus (from Memorial Art Gallery)

Posted on August 9, 2018 by fivebyfive

See below for the Prospectus about Judith Schaechter’s exhibition “The Path to Paradise”.

Glassworks Update

Posted on August 9, 2018 by fivebyfive

fivebyfive, the four wonderful composers, the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) and Judith Schaechter are thrilled and excited about this project going forward.

We’ve settled on The Battle of Carnival and Lent (shown above) by Schaechter as the work the composers will use as their inspiration for the new works for us.

The works will be premiered on Sunday February 2020 at MAG’s Auditorium, and we’ll be holding open rehearsals with the four composers during Fall 2019 which will be available to those outside of Rochester via our Facebook page.

Here are the dates:

Sunday, September 15 – JON RUSSELL

Sunday, October 27 – EDIE HILL

Sunday, November 10 – JUNG SUN KANG

Sunday, December 8 – ANDREA MAZZARIELLO

More to come!


Rochester-based quintet fivebyfive is excited to commission four works for an exhibition of the renowned stained glass artist, Judith Schaechter, to be held at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) in February 2020. Schaechter has explored and pushed the limits of the stained-glass medium for over 35 years. Her singular, subversive, and masterful approach has altered the landscape of contemporary American art. She embraces the inherent contradictions of her work, gleefully melding the opposing currents of high and low, beauty and gore, sacred and profane, and transcendence and defeat.

The exhibition will explore her magical, ethereal and other-worldly images. Combined with the lush, rich colors and patterns, fivebyfive is eager to bring Schaechter’s works to life musically, and will commission four composers to write pieces inspired by her work.

Composers Edie Hill, Jung Sun Kang, Andrea Mazzariello and Jonathan Russell will write pieces for a premiere concert that will coincide with the exhibition and a visit by the artist in February 2020. These composers were chosen for their unique compositional voices that we believe will effectively capture and reflect upon the emotional, color-filled world of Ms. Schaechter’s work. The commissioned works will be completed in the Fall of 2019. Following the premiere concert, fivebyfive will include these works on its tour and make a documentary and recording of the project.

Concerning process and presentation
Embracing the spirit of accessibility, fivebyfive and MAG propose a large window of time for preparations. Through open rehearsals and preview performances, audiences will be given the opportunity to connect with the artists, ask questions and experience the work as it evolves. Both fivebyfive and MAG believe this to be essential to the ultimate understanding of the art and to the development of an engaged audience.

Fall 2019 – delivery of score and materials to fivebyfive
Fall 2019 – open rehearsals at MAG
February 2020 – premiere performances of commissioned compositions at MAG
Late Spring 2020 – subsequent performances of works, tour and recording of project

Composer Statements
Schaechter’s bold stained glass works illuminate a wide range of human experience from humor and beauty to pain and suffering. fivebyfive’s huge color palette is a fantastic medium to musically illustrate her work.
-Edie Hill

I’ve always found the duality of the things around the world fascinating and her art reflects in a way of juxtaposing sacred and profane, small details and a large scale, old and new.
– Jung Sun Kang

Schaechter describes her medium’s noncompliance: glass is unforgiving, cruel. I want to reconcile the ideal of “speaking music” fluently with a celebration of the ways music pushes back. fivebyfive is committed to advocating for new repertoire and is the ideal ensemble for this exploration.
– Andrea Mazzariello

Her work is uniquely striking, combining luminously gorgeous materials with complex, often disturbing subject matter. fivebyfive’s adventurous and eclectic spirit is a perfect complement to her work, and I would be deeply inspired by the opportunity to respond to her work with a piece for them.
– Jonathan Russell

Project Media

Awake (Patrick Burke)
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Features: fivebyfive

Awake combines the cyclic processes and layers of Javanese gamelan music with harmonies and colors of Western classical and popular music, composed by Patrick Burke. This performance features fivebyfive in a live performance on WXXI Radio’s program “Live from Hochstein” in Rochester, NY on April 26, 2017.

Cue @ 2:25-5:00

Fantasy on Five (Jonathan Russell)
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Features: Jonathan Russell

Fantasy on Five is a double concerto of sorts for solo soprano and baritone saxophones with wind ensemble. It plays with the idea of “five-ness” in several different ways. Fantasy on Five was commissioned and premiered by the Bando/Wintringham saxophone duo with the Eastman Wind Ensemble May 2, 2016.

Cue @ 4:26 until 7:36

Homebody (Andrea Mazzariello)
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Features: Andrea Mazzariello

Home Body was written for Vic Firth Artist David Degge, as part of his initiative to commission new works for hammered dulcimer. The piece asks David to play irregular patterns in the dulcimer in his hands while his feet lay down a basic 4/4 break between kick drum and hi-hat. When his voice enters another level of independence and meaning is added to the piece.

Cue @ 7:50

Start and End Dates



Rochester, New York

9 updates
Last update on January 24, 2020

Associated Events

September 16, 2019 | Rochester, NY
Archived Events

Project Created By

Rochester, New York
fivebyfive is a quintet based in Rochester NY, formed in 2015 with a mission to engage audiences in the collaborative spirit and creativity of modern chamber music by commissioning, arranging and performing a wide range of works for its instrumentation. The group performs works of today’s leading composers, supports emerging composers from around the world,…

In Collaboration With

Northfield, Minnesota
New York, New York
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Minneapolis, Minnesota


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