Nature | Human
Saturday June 4, 2022 - 7:30pm
St James Cathedral
65 E Huron St | Chicago
Nature | Human is partially supported by the Saints.
Brian Baxter | Katherine Lampert
The Eyes of All Future Generations | Echo
Working on a collaboration is a creativity-expanding dialogue, and one that often inspires new explorations, while simultaneously building upon each participating artist’s existing projects and experience. Through this collaboration, we discovered common ground in our mutual reverence and concern for the natural environment, how the effects of climate change will reverberate through time impacting future generations, and our shared intent of studying and commenting on these important issues through creative expression.
The Eyes of All Future Generations is a concerto for two percussionists and string orchestra. The work takes inspiration from issues of climate change and how that is manifesting over time as a result of human action and inaction. The percussion soloists employ cymbals played upside down, a Chinese drum, bamboo wind chimes, pitched metal pipes, variously sized wooden boxes, and kitchen timers throughout the piece. In each section of the work they draw unusual (for the concert hall at least) sounds out of their instruments creating a juxtaposition of connected and disconnected sound worlds that are nearly always accompanied by constant rhythmic motion in the strings (the inexorable march of time). There is theatricality in each motion and action of the percussionists in creating these varying sounds. Embedded between each of the sections is a phrase spoken by climate activist, Greta Thunberg, "the eyes of all future generations" voiced by the Chinese drum and accompanied by a percussive pumpjack motive. The work was commissioned by the Chicago Composers Orchestra (CCO) and written for beyond this point with the CCO.
The baculites fossil that my silkscreen piece is based on is all that remains of a sea creature that went extinct around the same time as the dinosaurs, about 65 million years ago. The fossil has a lace-like pattern that is formed by the sutures that were in this animal's exoskeleton. Baculites started out very tiny and had to grow quickly to protect themselves from predators, building new chambers on their shell as they grew. The contour patterns, which mark the different chambers, are not only beautiful but remind me of both the physicality and fragility of life.
The destruction of the environment and urbanization have made nature feel compartmentalized to me – somewhere to go on an outing -- and for many, difficult to access at all. Add to that: Real human interaction is now often mediated by technology – a digital screen inserted between us and the physical world. In my work, I sort through these ideas, while in my life, I am constantly in search of a more authentic analog experience.
Luis Fernando Amaya | Rodrigo Lara Zendejas
cosa verde para descansar los ojos
"Both of us grew up in the semi-arid region of El Bajío in central México. In the past decades, cities in this region have experienced exponential growth, eating up the landscape that was once part of them. In late Spring, when the land is at its driest and the scape is all yellow, ochre, and brown, the only “speck of greenness to relax the eyes” tends to be the wonderful mesquite and huisache trees. The passage quoted above belongs to Juan Rulfo’s short story Luvina. It admirably expresses what it means to see some greenness in such harsh environments; green means shade, food, and water. The piece cosa verde para descansar los ojos revolves around Rodrigo Lara Zendejas' sound sculptures—which resemble pieces of mesquites and huisaches—from which derives every sound present in the composition. This work is an homage to the trees we grew up with. They are now gone, victims to mindless development practices indifferent to the fundamental roles these beings play in the semi-desert's complex fabric."
Drip Cycles is a piece about water and its many states and transformations. It’s incredible how many phase changes one molecule can make: from snow to ice to melted droplets to a massive body of water like an ocean or lake.
In writing this piece I was particularly inspired by the glacial lake Jökulsárlón. A lagoon at the root of the largest glacier in Iceland, called Vatnajökull, the lake formed over many years when pieces of the glacier would break off and melt into water. It’s an acoustically fascinating place: the individual drips from the different pieces of melting ice overlap with each other creating rhythms that echo off the surface of the lake as well as the surrounding glacier. Gradually these innumerable tiny droplets created a lagoon where you can watch them pull the many chunks of ice, varying in size from tiny palm-sized pieces to huge mammoth icebergs, into the ocean.
I have tremendous respect for renewable energy initiatives and the commitment to creating a new, better reality for us all. Re(new)al is a percussion quartet concerto that is similarly devoted to finding unexpected ways to breathe new life into traditional ideas, and the solo quartet therefore performs on several “found” instruments, including crystal glasses and compressed air cans. And while the piece also features more traditional instruments, such as snare drum and vibraphone, I looked for ways to either alter their sounds or find new ways to play them. For instance, a single snare drum is played by all four members of the quartet, and certain notes of the vibraphone are prepared with aluminum foil to recreate sounds found in electronic music. The entire piece was conceived in this way, and it was a blast to discover all of these unique sounds with the members of Sandbox Percussion.
Cooperation and synergy are also core themes of the piece, as I believe we all have to work together to move forward. All of the music played by the solo quartet is comprised of single musical ideas that are evenly distributed between the four soloists (for those interested, the fancy musical term for this is a hocket). The music would therefore be dysfunctional without the presence and dedication of all four members. For example, the quartet divvies up lighting- fast drum set beats in the second movement and later shares one glockenspiel in the last movement. But perhaps my favorite example of synergy in the piece is in the very opening, where the four soloists toast crystal glasses. We always toast glasses in the presence of others, and oftentimes to celebrate new beginnings. This is my simple way of celebrating everyone who is working together to create a cleaner, more efficient world.
Re(new)al is constructed of three continuous movements, each inspired by the power of hydro, wind, and solar energies. The hydro movement transforms tuned crystal glasses into ringing handbells as the wind ensemble slowly submerges the soloists in their sound. The second movement turns each member of the quartet into a blade of a dizzying wind turbine, playing seemingly-impossible 90’s-inspired drum and bass patterns over a bass line that quotes and expands upon a few bars from one of my favorite drum and bass tracks by DJ Hype. The closing movement simulates a sunrise and evokes the brilliance of sunlight with metallic percussion instruments. This piece was commissioned for the 2017 American Music Festival by David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony in partnership with GE Renewable Energy, and it is dedicated to Sandbox Percussion.
About BEYOND THIS POINT
Beyond This Point percussion collective is an exploratory collaboration seeking to investigate resonances and intersections across several practices including theater, movement, media/film, non-traditional musical forms, sculpture, text, and installations both static and performative.
The Chicago Composers Orchestra presents music by living composers, extending the orchestral tradition to be open and vibrant, to speak to contemporary live and bring diverse people together.
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CHICAGO COMPOSERS ORCHESTRA
The Violin section is generously sponsored by Rachel Manigault.
Announcing the 2022-2023 Season:
Saturday, August 6, 2022 at 7:30pm
St James Cathedral
Sunday, October 23, 2022 from 2-5pm
Martinis That Matter | Marty's | 1511 W Balmoral Ave
Saturday, January 28, 2023
St James Cathedral
Saturday, April 29, 2023
St James Cathedral
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