St. Luke's to Premiere Work by Sound Artist Maria Chavez
The most unconventional of the works commissioned by Orchestra of St. Luke's in its 40th Anniversary season will receive its world premiere this May. NYC Sonic Scores, 2015, by Maria Chavez is a work incorporating improvisation, and is based on an electronic sound canvass that captures the energy and spirit of New York City. It will be performed at The Morgan Library & Museum and Brooklyn Museum on St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble's final Chamber Music Series concert of the season, Tale of Five Cities.
Maria's new work is intended to complement a Baroque work by Carlo Farina-the imaginative Capriccio stravagante ("bizarre caprice"), chosen by St. Luke's musicians as one of the ensemble's signature works to be performed in the 40th Anniversary season. Composed in Dresden, Capriccio stravagante calls upon the string instruments to use techniques that were new at the time in order to evoke the sounds of a bustling city. For the world premiere that would share the program, St. Luke's musicians were interested in translating Farina's idea by commissioning a composer who would express the vibrancy of New York City. While she was not an obvious choice-she doesn't identify herself as a composer-Brooklyn-based sound artist Maria Chavez fit the bill as someone with a finger on the pulse of the city's urban life and creative scene. And, just as Farina's Capriccio stravagante challenged musicians of the time with new techniques, taking on an improvisational work presents a creative challenge and expands the artistic boundaries of St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble.
Creating a work for live performance by classical musicians was also new territory for Chavez, who typically works with the turntable and pre-recorded sound; this is her first work for chamber ensemble. "NYC Sonic Scores, 2015 merges my interest in improvisation during performance with composing for others," she says. For this new work for string quintet, Chavez created a 10-minute long sound file for each instrument (two violins, viola, cello, and bass). The musicians received the sound file ahead of rehearsals and were asked to internalize the file, and then extract from and interpret it as they saw fit. They received some instructions, but for the most part, the interpretation is left to their discretion. In performance, they will play with minimal notation, relying mainly on their reactions to each other's performative interpretation. The original electronic sound canvass will not be heard during the performance, either by the musicians or the audience; instead, each player becomes a filter for the recorded material.
St. Luke's harpsichordist Bob Wolinsky, who was especially involved in putting together this program, says that he hopes it will fill the audience with "the gratitude and the wonder of New York." In addition to the Farina piece, Chavez' world premiere will be performed together with other animated and enchanting Baroque and Classical works by Rameau, Telemann, and Boccherini, which are each connected to a particular European city.
While the electronic sound file at the center of Chavez' new work will not be heard in concert, the public will have the opportunity to experience it at a prelude event on Friday, May 8. Chavez will share her sonic canvass, and participants may bring an instrument and try their hand at improvisation. Chavez will reveal her process for creating the electronic soundscape of NYC Sonic Scores, 2015, and will discuss her unique approach to sound and her work as an avant-garde turntablist and artist.
This event, presented as part of Orchestra of St. Luke's OSL@DMC series, will be live-streamed from The DiMenna Center for Classical Music. A limited number of seats are available in the live audience, free by reservation; visit OSLmusic.org/RSVP. The live-stream will be accessible the evening of the event at OSLmusic.org/OSLatDMC. Participants may submit questions for the discussion with Maria Chavez at any time to AskOSL@OSLmusic.org or may post questions via Facebook (Facebook.com/OSLmusic) or Twitter (Twitter.com/OSLmusic) the evening of the event, using the hashtag #OSLatDMC.
Afterward, Chavez will perform her euphoric and colorful sound installation, Lapse: Leave: Linger, in the DiMenna Center's Cary Hall. Using the turntable, Chavez will react to the nuances of the space-and to the audience's movements-by manipulating sounds in real-time using Cary Hall's state-of-the-art 56-speaker sound system. Complimentary drinks will be served. Those attending the OSL@DMC Preview & Chat will receive free admission to the sound installation; tickets for the general public are $10 each and are available at the door or at OSLmusic.org.