Huge congratulations to Ariana for accomplishing something pretty incredible today: completing the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon in three hours, forty minutes, and twenty seconds. That's an 8:24 mile pace, folks! In an email last week, she described her experience training for today:
This is my seventh marathon, and my fourth time running Boston. This was a challenging year for training–the extraordinarily snowy winter blanketed us all. I had some memorable long runs–a freezing, sunny 18-miler on packed snow down by the Blackstone river, a couple of 20s on beautiful country roads in Seekonk and Rehoboth, a snow-blown trek next to the Connecticut River in Vermont, watching the sun come up over the killer hills of East Providence, and countless trips in snow and worse up and down the Woonasquatucket River greenway in the West End. A marathon is an incredible emotional journey, and the training no less.
In the fall of 2009, CMW received funding from The Champlin Foundations and The Rhode Island Foundation to launch a new initiative called Media Lab. Born out of the organization's desire to document student work, support the creation of new work, and the recognition that a media environment could be a space for students to gain valuable professional technical skills, Media Lab classes began in February 2010.
The first classes, in electronic music composition and video making, were taught by volunteers from Brown University (Betsey Biggs and Henry Kerins) and RISD (Anne Reinhardt) with support from Media Lab Director Jori Ketten. Last fall, Jori and former CMW Fellow Laura Cetilia co-taught a class that focused on Steve Reich's Different Trains. The PSQ performed Different Trains at the end of the semester at The RISD Museum, and Media Lab students' final projects were also shared at this event. This spring, Jori and Laura are co-teaching classes about Documentary Production and Audio/Visual Composition. Support from a team of very generous volunteers, including Micah Salkind, David Lee, Emma Cunningham, Justin Rosengarten, and Stephan Moore, has been crucial.
The Media Lab website is a key part of the Media Lab program. The site is still new to CMW, and it has yet to be fully integrated into the lives of all of CMW's teachers and students. If you want to see a good example of the future potential of the website, check out how Sara has successfully incorporated Media Lab into her teaching toolbox, corresponding with students and posting information for them regularly.
click on the image to visit the Media Lab website
Built on a blogging and publishing platform called WordPress, the site is able to accomplish many things:
1. It is a storage facility for student work. Performance Party recordings
2. It is a way to log classroom activities. Electronic Music 1 (09-10) Video making 1 (09-10) Audio/visual composition (10-11) Different Trains (10-11) Documentary production (10-11)
3. It is a way for teachers and students to communicate. Chloe's studio Sara's studio Aaron's studio
4. Alumni can stay connected to CMW. Josh R.
5. The site is expandable, meaning that classes, students, teachers, projects, and content can be added each year. Over time, the catalog will grow and students can see how their work has matured and changed over the years.
Media Lab has the potential to play an important role in increasing students' agency and participation in the wider world, two areas that were addressed in CMW's 2009 program evaluation. As CMW continues to explore the vast potential of its Media Lab programming, I hope that you will enjoy visiting the Media Lab website and searching its contents.
Osvaldo Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994)
The final work that the Providence Quartet will explore as part of the NEA's American Masterpieces grant comes from the unique voice of the Argentinean born, Osvaldo Golijov. Born in La Plata in 1960, his style was created by the convergence of several different genres. Born to a piano teacher mother and a physician father, themselves émigrés from Russia, he grew up engulfed in liturgical Jewish and secular Klezmer styles of music, traditional Western chamber music, and of course being an Argentine, the passion of the Tango and its master, Astor Piazolla. It is at the cross-section of these styles that Golijov‟s voice was born.
Inspired by the Argentinean-Jewish clarinetist Giora Feidman, a great exponent of both classical and klezmer styles of playing, of The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind Golijov himself writes, “I have attempted here to integrate two strong musical traditions into a single world.” The title of the work, written for clarinet and string quartet, refers to a rabbi who lived in France from 1160-1235 A.D.
Here are thoughts from the Boston-based composer himself about this work (presented here with permission from Boosey & Hawkes):
Eight centuries ago Isaac The Blind, the great kabbalist rabbi of Provence, dictated a manuscript in which he asserted that all things and events in the universe are product of combinations of the Hebrew alphabet's letters: 'Their root is in a name, for the letters are like branches, which appear in the manner of flickering flames, mobile, and nevertheless linked to the coal'. His conviction still resonates today: don't we have scientists who believe that the clue to our life and fate is hidden in other codes?
Isaac's lifelong devotion to his art is as striking as that of string quartets and klezmer musicians. In their search for something that arises from tangible elements but transcends them, they are all reaching a state of communion. Gershom Scholem, the preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, says that 'Isaac and his disciples do not speak of ecstasy, of a unique act of stepping outside oneself in which human consciousness abolishes itself. Debhequth (communion) is a constant state, nurtured and renewed through meditation'. If communion is not the reason, how else would one explain the strange life that Isaac led, or the decades during which groups of four souls dissolve their individuality into single, higher organisms, called string quartets? How would one explain the chain of klezmer generations that, while blessing births, weddings, and burials, were trying to discover the melody that could be set free from itself and become only air, spirit, ruakh?
The movements of this work sound to me as if written in three of the different languages spoken by the Jewish people throughout our history. This somehow reflects the composition's epic nature. I hear the prelude and the first movement, the most ancient, in Arameic; the second movement is in Yiddish, the rich and fragile language of a long exile; the third movement and postlude are in sacred Hebrew.
The prelude and the first movement simultaneously explore two prayers in different ways: The quartet plays the first part of the central prayer of the High Holidays, 'We will observe the mighty holiness of this day…', while the clarinet dreams the motifs from 'Our Father, Our King'. The second movement is based on 'The Old Klezmer Band', a traditional dance tune, which is surrounded here by contrasting manifestations of its own halo. The third movement was written before all the others. It is an instrumental version of K'Vakarat, a work that I wrote a few years ago for Kronos and Cantor Misha Alexandrovich. The meaning of the word klezmer: instrument of song, becomes clear when one hears David Krakauer's interpretation of the cantor's line. This movement, together with the postlude, bring to conclusion the prayer left open in the first movement: '…Thou pass and record, count and visit, every living soul, appointing the measure of every creature's life and decreeing its destiny.'
But blindness is as important in this work as dreaming and praying. I had always the intuition that, in order to achieve the highest possible intensity in a performance, musicians should play, metaphorically speaking, 'blind'. That is why, I think, all legendary bards in cultures around the world, starting with Homer, are said to be blind. 'Blindness' is probably the secret of great string quartets, those who don't need their eyes to communicate among them, with the music, or the audience. My homage to all of them and Isaac of Provence is this work for blind musicians, so they can play it by heart. Blindness, then, reminded me of how to compose music as it was in the beginning: An art that springs from and relies on our ability to sing and hear, with the power to build castles of sound in our memories.
Download Jesse's complete program notes for the season-long series here.
Pianist Jonathan Biss, a founding member of CMW's advisory council, has agreed to perform an all-Beethoven recital to raise money for CMW. And not just one recital, but possibly a series of Beethoven recitals over the next several years while he is engaged in recording all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas for EMI Classics.
You may recall that Jonathan's performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the PSQ at the West End gym in 2004 was detailed in Alex Ross' article featuring CMW in The New Yorker. Here's a New York Times article by Allan Kozinn previewing Jonathan's Carnegie Hall solo recital debut in January 2011.
Jonathan's first fundraising recital is scheduled for Monday evening, May 9 in Avery Piano's Recital Room in downtown Providence. He will perform four sonatas, including Opus 10, No. 1, Opus 26, Opus 81a, and Opus 22. Seating is limited, and there is a suggested minimum donation of $50 per person. Please contact Liz Cox to reserve your seat for what promises to be a memorable evening.
A podcast is available from last week's Who Made Us Creative? conversation at New Urban Arts. The conversation was between founders and current leaders from CMW, AS220, New Urban Arts, and The Steel Yard about what it means to start and sustain organizations which support creative practice in Providence. Representing CMW, Chloe and Heath filled in for Sebastian (who was on his was to DC to participate in a Congressional briefing on arts education… more on that at a later date.)
Listen to the pocast
and learn more about NUA's series of conversations on creative practice here.
On April 3, Carole and Heath represented CMW in Washington, DC for Arts Advocacy Day. This is an annual event sponsored by Americans for the Arts where people from all over the nation join each other in DC to advocate for the importance of Arts and Culture and the need to develop strong public policies and appropriate public funding for the arts.
Also on the team representing Rhode Island were friends from RI Citizens for the Arts, Alliance of Artists Communities, VSA Arts of RI, and the Providence Department of Arts, Culture + Tourism. We arrived on Monday in order to hear the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. The keynote speaker this year was Kevin Spacey, and he delivered a lively speech addressing the question, "Why Do the Arts Matter?" Over and over again, he answered this question with quotes from important historical figures and personal anecdotes. He may have plugged a new documentary that he directed, but we won’t judge. He was a great speaker and delivered a well thought out and concise speech.
After the lecture, we were invited by Ken Cole, Associate Director of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, to attend a dinner party for arts educators and administrators. It was great to meet with so many passionate people! The night was filled with good conversations and equally as good food.
The next day, we attended a press conference in the Hart Senate Building. Many, many people gave speeches about the importance of this event. Out of all the speeches, the one that stood out the most for me was delivered by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. He spoke about how drama is a part of our every day lives, and how important it is to recognize how the arts affect all areas of learning and life. He delivered an amazing speech that was worthy of the standing ovation it received.
After the press conference, the Rhode Island team assembled to review the strategy in order to efficiently lobby for the arts. We had meetings scheduled with both our Senators and our Congressmen. Most importantly, we wanted to say "Thank You!" Our Senators and Congressmen have always been very supportive of the arts. We also had chosen a few pertinent issues to discuss, mainly Arts Education funding and continued support for the National Endowment for the Arts.
We participated in four meetings–with Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and with staff members from the offices of Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline. All were very supportive and listened to what we had to say. We had prepared some concise information–true success stories from small businesses and nonprofits in Rhode Island about how arts-related business is growing and thriving in our state despite the economic difficulties.
We left Washington feeling successful. Advocacy is becoming more and more important to the staff and students of CMW. Just this past October, as many may remember, we loaded up a bus of staff, students and friends and headed to DC to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. On that trip, we were able to meet with Senator Reed. It is great to see CMW students learning how to advocate on a local and national level.
All in all, the trip was very informative. We arrived back in Providence on Tuesday evening after a very, very full two days. It was really great to be part of a mass of 500+ people, all who were there for the same reason: to stand up and speak out about the importance of arts funding. There are so many success stories, so many reasons why organizations like CMW should exist and thrive. It was a really great experience to be part of Arts Advocacy Day and to see people from all over the country fired up about the important issues effecting our field.
During May and June this year, CMW will be presenting a series of concerts around the theme of Experimental and Contemporary Music.
In part, this mini-festival represents a continuation of a commitment to new music (think back to the Listen Local theme from a recent season, where we featured works by living local composers on each concert). But with this mini-festival, we’re also hoping to feature the idea that as a performing body, the CMW Players are exploring and defining a 21st century Providence style—commissioning and performing music that captures and contributes to the sound of Providence. What does it sound like when we create 21st century music as a group of professionals and students across this city? Listen and find out!
Look out for performances by the PSQ of Osvaldo Golijov's The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind; another installment in Mark and Laura Cetilia’s successful Ctrl+Alt+Repeat series; an evening of solo music by contemporary composers including Forrest Larson; and an evening of experimental music curated by pianist Sakiko Mori that will include CMW students improvising.
Check our website calendar for details. We hope to see you!
The Fellows Quartet of CMW had an exciting month of March. We (Aaron, Ariana, Carole and Robin) had prepared string quartet music by Brahms and Shostakovich, and were ready for the concerts planned through out the month.
During the first weekend in March, there were two concerts planned. The first was a house concert in Amherst, MA, at the home of a former board member and long-time supporter CMW. After a hilarious carpool adventure full of wrong turns and twisting roads, we arrived in Amherst and were greeted by our friendly hosts. The first concert was a huge success–the audience was full and very receptive to us and to the music. Thanks again to Rick and Janet for hosting such a marvelous event!
The next day, we made our way to Cambridge, MA. Ariana is a past Fulbright Scholar, and she arranged for us to perform on the program of the yearly concert that is organized by the Fulbright Scholar Program. It was a great opportunity for the four of us to meet international musicians and have conversations about the work that CMW does.
The next set of concerts was even more unique. We had concocted a special series of concerts in the city of Providence to take our music to unexpected locations around the city and share it with new audiences. We played Brahms in the Knight Memorial Library, where a lot of ears perked up at the surprising sounds of live music. We trekked out to T.F. Green airport and performed for the passengers of incoming flights.
We also brought snippets of a Haydn string quartet to The Carriage House’s weekly Friday Night Live event. The students and families who were attending the stand up comedy show weren’t expecting a string quartet to come rushing in with stands, stools, and instruments at the end of the standard routine to play a tango and some Haydn. When we finished playing, the audience erupted into thunderous applause and exuberant cheering.
All of these short concerts happened right before another weekend of full length performances. On a sunny Saturday morning, Ariana and I joined other CMW staff and friends to run the St. Pat’s 5K, an annual event that CMW participates in to raise money for the CMW summer camp. When the race was finished, we rushed to transform from 5K Champions to Quartet Musicians for a house concert later in the afternoon.
The house concert took place in the loft of a CMW board member, a beautiful space that is perfect for concerts. The audience was full of friends and new faces, and at the end of the day, we were happy with our great performance and with the great conversations we had been part of during the reception. Thanks, Ron and Heather, for making this possible! I hope that there will be many more memorable concerts that take place in your home!
The last concert we had organized for the month of March took place at The Carriage House, also known as Everett Dance Theatre. We were delighted to see new faces in our audience–people we had met at the airport and at Friday Night Live a few days earlier had come to hear our full length concert!
These concerts around town were all strategically planned to spark an interest in people who you may not find at a Classical music concert. We wanted to bring the music we love in a way that is accessible to people everywhere, whether they were in an airport, a library, or a comedy show. We planned our repertoire carefully for each performance opportunity, mixing Brahms and Shostakovich with tango-inspired pieces. When we had the chance to introduce the music, Aaron wittily used food and cooking metaphors to relate the different courses of a fancy dinner to the different pieces in a concert. Audiences chuckled, and when the concerts were over, someone inevitably came up to us to compliment us on our creativity in presentation because the metaphor had actually helped them understand the concert structure and the music better.
When the month of March came to a close, we were happy with the work we had accomplished. We had put together a great series of concerts and attracted audience new audience members. We had tackled difficult repertoire and successfully thought about different ways to think and talk about music. Next time we plan something like this, all we need is a CMW tour bus to take us around town!
Thanks to all who came out and supported us with cheering and smiles!
I was really pleased with the outcome of our Phase II student-led Youth Salon this year. On the afternoon of March 26, students led interactive presentations and audience members rotated between presentations. This was followed by unique, creative, student performances that have formed the basis of our typical Youth Salon.
Here are some observations by Phase II students about what made this year different: -It was run more by students this year. The presentations and MC-ing of the performances were all led by students this time. -In past years, the Youth Salon was a performance, with a point; this year, it felt more like a point, with a performance. -There was more involvement with the audience–discussions and real conversation with younger students and parents.
This spring, three all-Schubert concerts performed by Jesse, Heath, and pianist Jeff Louie collectively raised more than $3,500 to help CMW students attend summer music camps. Thank you to all who attended and donated!
Community MusicWorks is a revolutionary organization.
- Alex Ross The New Yorker