In December, the PSQ performed Samuel Barber's String Quartet, Opus 11 at Brown University's Cogut Center for the Humanities. The performance included the Quartet's final movement (featured in video below) that Barber retracted shortly after the premiere in 1936. For this performance, the PSQ used copies of the composer's original score with special permission of G. Schirmer, Inc. and the Curtis Institute of Music. Our thanks go to Jesse for creating this opportunity through his connection to Samuel Barber scholar Barbara Heyman. Learn more here and here.
“Valse a Vielle” composed by Robert Thebaut, performed by Angie D, Aiden S, August P, Alexandra R, Liam H, Kirby V, Malachy H, Karl O, Linda D, Jen C
“May Song” a folk song, performed by David D, Levi G, Genesis P, Liam R, Angelica Y, violins
On January 24, nine of this year's Abreu Fellows (including CMW Fellowship Program graduate Adrienne Taylor) took the train down from Boston to spend the day at CMW. The reason for their visit was an abbreviated version of our ongoing series of Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. Sebastian and Chloe had already been up to Boston to meet with the Abreu Fellows at NEC during the fall semester, and it was wonderful to have a chance to host them in Providence, including showing them around our neighborhood.
Please visit Abreu Fellow Marie Montilla's blog for more detail about the day.
-Heath Marlow, CMW staff
I had a few projects on my plate for my practice retreat week, but the most interesting by far turned out to be a musical transcription project. Over the course of the month of January, I participated in Fun-a-day where people in cities all over the US choose something creative (and fun) to do every day for the month. I chose to write a "fiddle-tune-a-day." Some days I had to do a little make-up work for days that I missed, but by January 31, I had a tune for every day.
The only problem was that they were recorded, but not transcribed. Through the process of transcribing them via a computer program this week, I've listened and played through these tunes a lot more and have gotten to know which ones I like and which I don't. I noticed some patterns I follow in my writing and improvising as well as some interesting experimental deviations from the patterns of the traditional fiddle tunes that I aim to emulate. I've had fun coming up with names for the tunes, too (such as "Crazy Burger").
In the end, I have a compilation of waltzes, jigs, reels, marches, hornpipes, and hambos that I never would have created otherwise. I'll be performing a few of these tunes at the "Fun-a-day Providence" opening which is on February 11 at the WBNA building. Tunes will be happening between 8:00 and 8:30 pm. More details are here.
-Rachel Panitch, CMW staff
On Sunday, February 13, The RISD Museum and CMW will co-present a performance by the Providence String Quartet featuring Different Trains, a landmark and Grammy Award winning piece by American composer Steve Reich. Find all the event details here, and for tickets, call the Museum at (401) 709-8402.
Steve Reich: Different Trains
Another path for 20th century composers was developed in the artsy undergrounds of San Francisco and New York in the 1960s before being accepted, albeit with mixed reactions, into the world‟s concert halls. With its short kernels of music, repeated over and over with gradual transformation and development, the genre of Minimalism became popular with the public because of its immediacy of expression and Zen like clarity. One can just chill out, listen, and be drawn in by the trance-like repetition. One of the pioneers of the movement is Steve Reich, whose powerful Different Trains for string quartet and tape instantly became a modern masterpiece after its premiere by the Kronos Quartet in 1988.
Born in New York City in 1936, Steve Reich spent his childhood split between Los Angeles and New York as his parents divorced when he was one. He would travel back and forth by train accompanied by a governess. Years later, Reich had the realization that had he been born in Europe, as a Jew he would have been forced to ride on very different kinds of trains. This was the catalyst for Different Trains, and for source material Reich used interviews with his childhood governess, a train porter that worked the trans-American routes at the time of the War, and three Holocaust survivors. The survivors' reminiscences about the War also included recollections about their own journeys on trains to concentration camps.
Like the Bohemian composer Leoš Janáček had done almost a hundred years earlier in his works, Reich used the melodic inflection of his subject's voices as the principle themes of Different Trains. Throughout the work, men's voices are represented by themes in the cello, and women's voices by themes in the viola. The sounds of trains features prominently as well; not only in the pre-recorded tape with the click-clack of the locomotive, the piercing whistle and the clang of the bell, but in the string quartet itself, with repetitive sixteenth note motives that recreate the forward propulsion of the train.
The first movement of the historically programmatic quartet takes place before the War and Reich uses the recollections of the governess and train porter as the narrative. The music drives forward at a busy clip, recreating Reich's cross-country journeys. There is a palpable shift in emotion at the transition to the second movement. The somberly paced Holocaust train replaces the bustle and optimism of the American train, and the strident American train whistles are taken over by the sound of air-raid sirens. The source material for the second movement is the chilling recollections of the Holocaust survivors.
There is another startling shift from the second to the third movement as the noise of the trains, whistles and air-raid sirens finally stop, and there is a brief but incredibly loud silence. Out of this silence comes a concentrated sixteenth note cell that is developed fugally before we hear the derivation of the melodic kernel: the reminiscence of a Hungarian named Paul saying, “And the war was over.” In the work's final movement, we hear the governess and the porter, as well as the survivors trying to move on with their lives and make sense of the horrors that had transpired.
Download Jesse's complete program notes for the season-long series here.