The Sound of Stones (and other things)

Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, Capitol Records Studio, New York City, ca. 1962

Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, New York City, ca. 1962

On January 31 or February 1 you’ll have the chance to hear music you may have never heard before and may never hear again: CMW presents the third installment of Ars Subtilior, a series on subtlety in experimental music curated by yours truly.

This concert will feature music by three icons of twentieth century experimental classical music: John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff. My guess is that you’ve definitely heard of one of these guys (Cage), might have heard of the other guy (Feldman), and probably never heard of the other (Wolff). Funny thing is, both Cage and Feldman were greatly influenced by Wolff and no wonder, he is quite the Renaissance man: a mostly self-taught composer, an organic farmer, a philosopher, and an expert on Euripedes (among other things). Also, I drank beer with him in Montreal just last year!

According to Wikipedia, Wolff recently said of his work that it is motivated by his desire “to turn the making of music into a collaborative and transforming activity (performer into composer into listener into composer into performer, etc.), the cooperative character of the activity to the exact source of the music. To stir up, through the production of the music, a sense of social conditions in which we live and of how these might be changed.”

In Wolff’s work Stones, performers are instructed to make various sounds with stones for an indefinite amount of time. There is some humor there (he asks the performers to not break anything) but all jokes aside, Wolff is asking all of us to just listen, to open our ears, and hopefully, our minds. It’s more than just the sound of stones you’ll be taking away from this experience.

Feldman is really one of my most favorite composers, gorgeous ethereal stuff. It’s a total honor to perform his music. I originally wanted to program his final chamber work,
Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello (1987), an 80+ minute tour de force, but I had a baby in the meantime and was advised to not take on any more endurance challenges by a much wiser co-worker (Chloe). I’m glad I listened to her because I then came across his much shorter, but equally beautiful work, Four Instruments.

The other composition of Feldman’s on this program, Durations 2 for cello and piano, is an all time favorite and was actually my first introduction to his work. I took part in a modern music cello seminar one summer and each of the participants played through the piece, one person each day, and it never sounded the same. It’s not that we each made the piece our own, it’s not about the personality of the performer coming out, it’s about the aural memory of the listener. He directs the performers to choose the duration of each sound and this in turn confuses the listener’s musical awareness of what had come before. A sort of musical drunkeness, but no hangover.

And who doesn’t like Cage? Ok…lots of people, but I think everyone will enjoy Six Melodies because there are actual melodies and they will be tenderly played by Jesse and Sakiko. Music for Amplified Toy Pianos will be fun.

And yes, it’s okay to have fun at these events. Hope to see you there!

–Laura Cetilia, CMW resident musician and curator, Ars Subtilior

Check our calendar for event details

Come Sing With Us!

15571764803_241989f285_z 16165748726_63c87b1dda_z

Kill-joy January wants you to stay home and sulk as you shiver. Resist. Instead, join our circle of fun, friendly people, draw in a deep breath and sing your winter blues away. That’s exactly what a handful of CMW parents, board members and friends have been doing for the past two months. We are led by CMW alum Alexis, an experienced chorister and excellent musician (no surprise there, she was trained by the best). Our goal is to learn a little bit about music and singing, enjoy each other’s company and make a joyful noise.

So far, we have sung Dona Nobis Pacem, an ancient tune in the original Latin; two intriguing rounds by Moondog, the NYC street musician famed for his Viking helmet and self-built instruments; the CMW theme song; and This Is My Song (A Song Of Peace), a favorite of Board President David Bourns. Next up: A Spanish folk tune. Somehow, no matter what we sing or how tentatively we begin, joining voices together lights an inner fire that warms us through and through and keeps us coming back for more.

Don’t let January win. Come sing with us. You are welcome to drop in and out as your schedule allows. We meet during CMW’s regular All-Play Days most Tuesdays 5:30-6:30 at CMW’s home away from home, the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts on Messer Street in Providence. For more information and a listing of upcoming meeting dates, contact

–Linda Daniels

Hannah: The Right Place at the Right Time


Hello world wide web!
I am Hannah, the not-so-new viola fellow at CMW! For better or worse, I have been charged with writing for the CMW blog, bringing me closer into the fold of the Millennial generation than ever before. Having not even had a xanga in 8th grade on which to post angsty song lyrics, I’m not entirely sure how this whole blogging thing works. Most blogs I read involve food, which means they involve pictures, which means I actually don’t have to read at all.

In any event, it is today, on a bright and cold Wednesday afternoon, that I make my first entry on the inter webs. It was 377 days ago that I first heard about CMW. Before then, Rhode Island was not exactly at the forefront of my mind. It blended in nicely with the other states in New England that are on the Bolt Bus route to Boston from NYC. I may have even been slightly surprised to discover Rhode Island is in fact connected to the mainland USA. Basically, I knew nothing. But I applied for CMW because hey, I was graduating from my masters degree and I did NOT want to stay in the cesspool of misery and despair that is NYC on a student budget. I was also drawn to the idea of teaching, performing, and being within a community of people who believe in the power of music as a vehicle of change in the world. Despite a case of nasty food poisoning (a story for another post, I think), I auditioned, interviewed, and ended up being offered the position.

My realization of the week is that we’re always in the right place at the right time. A year ago, Rhode Island didn’t exist in my world. Now I live here. I still don’t know much about it. But I’ll keep learning. The right time and the right place are now and I’m excited to see where the next year and a half takes me on the Road to Rhode Island (Family Guy? Anyone?)! My next post may be about banana bread…or knitting. Thrilling stuff, really. Until then!

–Hannah Ross, Viola Fellow ’14-’16

Learn more about Hannah and her fellow Fellows on our staff page.

Daily Orchestra Program Starts the New Year!


Happy New Year!
Last week the Daily Orchestra Program resumed its activities after a refreshing winter break. Students seemed happy to see their friends and their instruments again, and they remembered well the musical concepts we introduced before the break, including singing different intervals and recognizing the difference between major and minor.


This winter we’ve also been learning about the composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky through the Classical Kids audio story, Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Every Thursday at the beginning of orchestra time, students sit together and listen to the tale describing Tchaikovsky’s adventures during his visit to the U.S. for a performance at the grand opening of the newly constructed Carnegie Hall.


In our orchestra rehearsals we are learning to play a piece based on a theme from Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony, which we’ll be playing at the Performance Party at Cavalry Baptist Church on Friday, January 30th. Hope to see you there!

-Adrienne Taylor, Director
Daily Orchestra Program