Half Notes: Aurison

Half Notes: Aurison

Go on line and try to find a satisfactory definition of music. I dare you. Or for a more interesting challenge, ask five musicians what music is; I guarantee you’ll get at least twelve answers.

My favorite definition of music is: Time defined by sound. It’s short. To the point. Non-judgmental. Almost zen-like. There is no reference to genres, no deference to taste. It doesn’t even posit the need for voice or for musical instruments.

When I talked with Janice Misurell-Mitchell about her composition “Aurisons,” commissioned by CCO for the January 25, 2020, concert, I did not ask for her definition of music. Nor did I ask her to define her music. But as she explained her approach to creating “Aurisons,” I gradually gained an understanding of what music means to her.

For Janice, music is all around us. We are bathed in sound—all the time, everywhere. But most of it goes in one ear and out the other, unnoted, unmeasured, unexperienced. In fact, as we go about our daily activities, far from listening to all the sounds around us, we spend much of our time trying to drown them out. Ironically, it’s often music that we use to muffle the natural music around us. Sitting behind the wheel, we turn on a favorite music station. Walking to school, in go the ear buds with our personal playlist.

Janice believes that “no matter how painful, how confusing, it is important to listen to the sounds around us,” and she writes music that jolts us out of the bubble we create around ourselves. She challenges us to pull the ear buds out—think, react, absorb the different types of sound.

“Aurisons” will be played on traditional orchestral instruments, with an underlying theme that is reprised by the various parts of the orchestra. Much the way a jazz tune progresses, each section will have its say: winds, strings, brass, percussion. But beyond the base framework that holds the piece together, the musicians will not always be given precise instructions on exactly what to play. They will be encouraged—indeed forced—to improvise, in some surprising ways. Their seemingly unnatural improvisations will mimic the unpredictability of the natural music that surrounds us.

It is a fine line that separates music from noise. In “Aurison,” Janice Misurell-Mitchell uses traditional musical instruments to show us that the noise around us becomes music when we listen.

– Dan Lory


Hear Aurison at CCO’s Jan 25 concert at Ganz Hall: MORE INFO AND TICKETS


About Half-Notes:

By popular demand, once again we are offering our series called Half-Notes. Half-Notes are reflections by Dan Lory, CCO’s non-expert in residence, on each of the compositions performed in our concert.

Dan Lory calls himself a music lover who is unencumbered by knowledge of music theory. Enjoy Dan’s take on each piece that will be performed at CCO’s January 25 concert. We think these reflections will help all listeners—from music experts to the theory-unencumbered among us—enjoy the concert more fully.