Christopher Cerrone presents World Premiere with Third Coast Percussion at Miller Theatre, 3/29
Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone - winner of a 2015 Rome Prize and a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his opera Invisible Cities - greets 2018 with a pair of important premieres.
A Natural History of Vacant Lots, written for Grammy-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion, receives its world premiere on Thursday, March 29 (8 pm) in a Cerrone Portrait Concert played by Third Coast at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. Taking its title from a book on urban ecology, A Natural History of Vacant lots incorporates electronic sound and spatial/environmental elements: the four players are situated widely throughout the hall, and perform in near-darkness.
Rounding out the Portrait program are Goldbeater's Skin with mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway, setting texts by poet G. C. Waldrep, and the evocative suite Memory Palace, recently recorded by the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet on Sono Luminus. Third Coast and Calloway will also perform Goldbeater's Skin at the University of Chicago's Logan Center on February 16 at 7:30 pm.
Cerrone's Violin Concerto will be premiered by acclaimed soloist Jennifer Koh with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin on May 25 - 27 at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. The 20-minute, seven-movement work is Cerrone's most expansive orchestral score to date. Ticket details for the New York, Chicago, and Detroit concerts appear below.
In a season already marked by the success of his Can't and Won't, premiered last month by the Calder Quartet at Disney Hall, Cerrone is increasingly recognized as one of the leading American composers of his generation. His work is characterized by a keen ear for resonance and timbre, with particular skill in melding electronic and acoustic sounds. His literary fluency, combined with a deep intellectual curiosity, has led to adventurous collaborations such as Invisible Cities. Balancing lushness and austerity, immersive textures and telling details, dramatic impact and interiority, Cerrone's music is utterly compelling and uniquely his own.
The coming months bring performances by Eighth Blackbird, Vicky Chow, Ashley Bathgate, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and the Britt Festival Orchestra conducted by Teddy Abrams. On the horizon is an all-Cerrone album titled The Branch Will Not Break, with LA-based ensemble wild Up and soprano Lindsay Kesselman under Christopher Rountree. For further information, visit christophercerrone.com.
As noted, A Natural History of Vacant Lots takes its title from a 1989 book by Matthew Vessel and Herbert Wong that describes the secondary florae and faunae that grow in abandoned lots. Cerrone draws an analogy to the way his nine-minute piece slowly transforms from a stark, single pitch - played by two vibraphones plus an electronic soundtrack - into a chorale, eventually becoming "a dense forest of figuration." Writes Cerrone, "Though the growth of the material is extremely gradual, the things that emerge from the cycle of chords are sometimes surprising and veer quite far from the original material."
A different influence inspired the work's presentation: "Around the time I was composing this piece, I had the pleasure of viewing photographs from Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's Intimate Portraits, a beautiful series of black-and-white self-portraits of the artist, nude, and in near darkness. Deeply inspired by the emotional vulnerability of these photographs, I began to imagine a connection to the way my work could be performed." Since the precise alignment of live and electronic components of Natural History required the use of click tracks, Cerrone realized he could use them to maintain perfect rhythmic ensemble while spatially separating his players, who perform as far apart as possible in the hall. Combined with dim lighting, the aim is to create "a physical analog to Moutoussamy-Ashe's barren photographic compositions." A Natural History of Vacant Lots was co-commissioned by Miller Theatre at Columbia University and Third Coast Percussion's New Works Fund.
Jennifer Koh is a dedicated advocate for Cerrone's music, touring with his solo work Shall I Project a World to Los Angeles, Northwestern University, and Duke University this season. Characteristically for Cerrone, his concerto for Koh and the DSO draws inspiration from a literary source, in this case Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge's poem Fog. Says Cerrone, "Reading the poem, and later listening to the poet read her words, I began to imagine Jenny's violin as the protagonist in Berssenbrugge's text:
It dissolves now at the top of her head, now five lights into her heart. Now, it dissolves into her body. Her friends dissolve into light. They dissolve into her family, which seems to dissolve into clouds that were already full of light.
It is not so much the quality or brightness of light, or her understanding of this light, as the number of times she dissolves. The faster she can dissolve into the space, the better.
It is almost as if the complete dark would be ideal.
"The language of light, fog, and a protagonist dissolving seemed like the perfect analog to the soundworld of the music that I was creating. In my concerto, the violin initially floats above the orchestra; slowly her line becomes one among many in a field of strings, bowed crotales, and vibraphones. Throughout the piece, resonance takes the role of the fog and light against Jenny's solo line, which is alternately lyrical and rhythmically vigorous, and emerges and submerges throughout the seven movement form." The Violin Concerto was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,
Winner of a 2015 Rome Prize and a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, the Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone is internationally acclaimed for compositions characterized by a subtle handling of timbre and resonance, a deep literary fluency, and a flair for multimedia collaborations.
In the current season, Cerrone has world premieres of his new string quartet with the Calder Quartet for the LA Phil; a new percussion quartet for Miller Theatre as part of a Cerrone Composer Portrait performed by Third Coast Percussion; and a violin concerto for Jennifer Koh and the Detroit Symphony, led by Leonard Slatkin. Recent highlights include world premieres with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (for Jeffrey Kahane's final concert as LACO Music Director); Third Coast Percussion and Rachel Calloway for the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center; and an electroacoustic work for Tim Munro at Miller Theatre.
Cerrone has had recent commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Eighth Blackbird, Vicky Chow, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center with Third Coast Percussion and Rachel Calloway, Present Music, and Theo Bleckmann with the Albany Symphony Orchestra's Dogs of Desire. His works have been featured on new releases from New Amsterdam Records, and VIA Records; an all-Cerrone album is forthcoming from Christopher Rountree and wild Up.
Cerrone's opera Invisible Cities, based on Italo Calvino's landmark novel, received its fully-staged world premiere in a wildly popular production (and accompanying album and DVD) by The Industry, directed by Yuval Sharon in Los Angeles' Union Station. His upcoming opera In a Grove with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann had its first workshop with Mahogany Opera Group at the 2017 Various Stages Festival.
Christopher Cerrone is one-sixth of the Sleeping Giant composer collective. He holds degrees from the Yale School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, and is published by Schott NY and Project Schott New York.