On January 14, Gramercy Trio will premiere a new trio by Gunther Schuller*. It is a fantastic piece, and we are keenly aware of our good fortune, although in commissioning Gunther we knew we would get a winner.
We were thrilled when Gunther came to a rehearsal. He put us through the wringer for 4 hours.
It is fascinating for me to work closely again with Gunther after intervening years of working with Ben Johnston. The beauty of Ben’s notation is that everything depends on function. Gunther, on the other hand, uses a row. … the same one since 1976. It has produced an amazing body of work.
Working directly with the composer can be crucial. It is a direct path into their thoughts and intentions. For example, at one point the violin has a C# against a E flat chord. Thinking from the angle of ‘spelling denotes function’, it did not occur to me that my C# is intended to function as a dominant seventh. But, lo-and-behold, it does. With Gunther there to clarify, I lowered the pitch to his satisfaction.
*This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
A few years ago my colleagues in Gramercy Trio and I embarked on an interdisciplinary project with dance, called Where Sound and Motion Meet.
Of all the art forms, music and dance in particular have intertwined histories. With the Sound and Motion project our aim is to explore and experience the special relationship between music and dance… the place where sound and motion fuse and create something new.
We look at different ways in which music and dance can interact, from the mirroring of sound through the movement – where dance is a reflection of music – to the more abstract, where dance enters into a conversation with the music.
We try to get the audience to ‘dance’ with us. At the debut concert in 2010, when asked how the first piece made them feel (a really wild merengue by Stephen Dembsi), an elderly gentleman yelled out “Fantastic!”
At the most recent presentation (Nov. 30, 2012), one audience member expressed surprise at finding that, instead of being a distraction as she had expected, she seemed to hear the music better with the dancers.
A full Sound and Motion presentation is a true ‘community engagement’ event, as it includes a tango lesson for the audience before the concert and a dance party after. But the best part is using the performance to examine our implicit feelings and assumptions about music and the movement it evokes, and make them explicit.