#SaturdaySounds: Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte op. 19 no. 1

Misuse the word song in conversation, and you’re sure to rankle even the most gracious classical musician. It may be a subtle error, but go ahead! Try it. See if they don’t correct your language–or wince a little, at least. To those interested the rationale for this reaction, a song, according to the Harvard Dictionary of Music, is “a form of musical expression in which the human voice has the principal role and is the carrier of text…” Note the key elements: human voice (singer) and text (lyrics). By that definition, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony CAN’T be a groovy song, dude. We call that a piece, or “a composition, especially but not necessarily an instrumental one” (Ibid). So, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is also a piece–because yes, it has singers and lyrics, but only in its final movement.

Okay, enough with the definitions and on to some music. Today, I’m listening to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte), op. 19, no. 1. Notice the use of the word song? “But it’s a piano piece. There are no words! No singer,” I hear you grumble. Yes. I could wax musicologist now and write about characteristics of the Romantic Era, with its shift away from strict Classic Era structures, its lyricism and “emphasis on the indefinable and the infinite” (Ibid). But there are already plenty of sources that describe the music of the Romantics. (Check out links here and here, or go to good music history book, like Norton’s History of Western Music.)

I’d rather write about this one little wordless song: Andante con moto (Walking, with motion). It crystalizes the things I love most about Mendelssohn’s music: its innate sense of hope, purity, and energy. It’s as though his compositions, even in their stormy moments, were bathed in glimmering yellow sunshine. Perhaps that has something to do with upward melodic gestures (Schenker friends, I’m not talking about the Ursatz, don’t get mad). Personally, though, I think Mendelssohn’s music was somehow impacted by his faith. Even now, he is often criticized for his sentimentality and lack of tortured Romantic emotion (à la Schumann or Mahler); but I feel as though I hear the song of his soul when I listen to him–a song too deep for words, evoking inner hope, peace, joy. Perhaps that’s what he meant by Lieder ohne Worte. 

Listen to this recording by Daniel Gortler and see if you’re not feeling more hopeful.

 

2017 RAFA Artist Competition

It was so wonderful to be at the Raleigh Area Flute Association Flute Fair this year to play at the Artist Competition again–and to make new flute friends. What an encouraging surprise and honor, to win this time around! The RAFA board members were all so kind and the jury’s feedback was helpful. I so look forward to coming back to perform at the 2018 RAFA Flute Fair!

myUMBC, “Krisztina Dér Wins 1st Prize in RAFA Artist Competition!”

2017 Artist Competition Finalists (L to R): Krisztina Der, Megan Makeever, Jeiran Hasan. Photo Credit: Daryl Kessler, Riverview Photography.

Reformation 500

October 31, 2017 was a special day, for many reasons. An orchestra flashmob project I’ve been working on came to fruition: five performances of the finale of Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony no. 5 at five locations in Greensboro, NC, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (That’s a lot of fives!) David Holley, Artistic Director of Greensboro Opera and UNCG professor, graciously agreed to conduct. I am deeply indebted to him and to the musicians who volunteered to play with us!

Our itinerary:
8:55 AM, Coffeeology
9:30 AM, Whole Foods Market
10:30 AM, Four Seasons Town Centre
11:20 AM, Piedmont Triad International Airport
12:20 AM, Center City Park

A video is forthcoming!
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Flute/light project: Afterword

 

flute/light recital, September 17, 2016. PC: Emma Der

Yeah, I know. It’s only been about a week since my last Flute/light project post. This is an afterword full of acknowledgements: a brief post thanking all of my wonderful colleagues who made that project (and subsequent videos!) possible.

Wayne Reich and Ben Singer, thank you for the amazing recordings, videos, and photos! You’ve been kind,  down-to-earth, patient, and generous. I’ve learned so much from the both of you.

To the composers: I love your work, and I keep pinching myself because I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to work with you. It’s been such an honor! My deep thanks.
Anna MeadorsKyle RowanMichael S. RothkopfStuart Saunders SmithJacob Thiede

To my fellow performers: thank you for your enthusiastic participation and support!
Alicia BachorikSarah BusmanAsher Carlson, Noah Cline, Lowell Fuchs, Sharneisha Joyner, Amy Karnes, Amanda Mitchell, Janine Naprud, Stephany Saunders, Erik SchmidtAbigail SimoneauBethany Uhler, Hyunsu Yoon

To all who assisted with lighting: thank you for your patience and generous help!
Aaron Bobeck, Drake Calo, Norman Coats, Jason Czaja, Manuel Da Silva, Noah Davis, Alyssa Eibott, Clara Freeze, Chip Haas, Jonas Hess, Evan Higgins, Katie Martin, Lisa Renkel, Joshua Selander, Katherine Ward, Ken White, UNCG School of Theater, UNCSA School of Design and Production Lighting Department

Finally, a HUGE thank you to my dissertation committee for their encouragement and guidance!
Mark Engebretson, Erika Boysen, James Douglass, Randy McMullen

Flute/light Project? Not sure what I’m talking about? Below are links to each video.

Flute/light Project Info Video
Anna Meadors
, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle Rowan, Komorebi
Michael S. Rothkopf, I Dream of Coloured Inks
Jacob Thiede, And everything in-between

Flute/light Project Video 5: Jacob Thiede’s And everything in-between

PC: Ash Stemke. Used with permission.

I’m a doctor! Which means the end of my dissertation project adventure. Yes. This is my last flute/light video release—at least for now!

Flute/light video? What does that mean? Let me get you up to speed.

Here’s a video I made explaining my flute/light intermedia art project!
And below are links to four more flute/light videos:

Anna Meadors, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle RowanKomorebi
Michael S. Rothkopf, I Dream of Coloured Inks

Does all music have a narrative? Jacob Thiede’s piece And everything in-between investigates this question—and also the concept of unlistable infinity. The result: a palpable sense of excitement, mystery, and adventure. Does And everything in-between ever foil your expectations? Can you identify some of the many moods, sounds, and colors it explores? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below!

And everything in-between was recorded on December 3, 2016 in Brown Theatre at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Wayne Reich and Ben Singer created the cinematic video. Lowell Fuchs helped me with sound; and Asher Carlson and Abigail Simoneau served as grips. I will never be able to fully express my thanks to all who contributed to this video—and to all who helped make my flute/light project possible!

This has been an incredible journey. My thanks also to all who have taken the time to watch these videos and join me in their celebration!

For more about And everything in-between (and some beautiful photos), check out Wayne’s blog, here.

Flute/light Project Video 4: Michael Rothkopf’s I Dream of Coloured Inks

New experiences can be something of a revelation, can’t they? The first time I ever tried zhajiangmian, it became a comfort food—and I crave it on and off ever since.

What does food from northern China have to do with music? The analogy’s a bit of a stretch, but Dr. Michael S. Rothkopf’s I Dream of Coloured Inks for Two Flutes and Computer (flute/light video 4) was the primary catalyst for my flute/light project. The enveloping, dynamic light in the piece whet my appetite for more!

Flute and light? Video 4? What am I talking about? Here: I’ll catch you up in a jiffy.

Check out the video I made about my flute/light intermedia art project!
And below are links to the first three flute/light videos:

Anna Meadors, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle Rowan, Komorebi

Three years ago, in 2014, I published a blog post about I Dream of Coloured Inks’ world premiere. Way back then, I promised an I Dream of Coloured Inks video—and here it is!

Dr. Rothkopf’s piece is an improvisation for two flutes, lights, and computer. The computer listens to various aspects of the flutists’ sound—things like pitch, articulation, timbre, and dynamic—and responds both visually and sonically based on a series of probability tables in the Coloured Inks’ Max program. It’s an exciting exploration in sonic and visual color!

The piece was recorded on January 22, 2017, in Crawford Hall at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I was assisted by the lovely flutist Sarah Busman, as well as the audio and visual dynamic duo Ben Singer and Wayne Rich. I am deeply thankful for the generous help of all who contributed to this video—including the UNCSA Design and Production lighting department.

See Wayne’s lovely I Dream of Coloured Inks blog post for his thoughts and pictures!

Flute/light Project Video 3: Kyle Rowan’s Komorebi

Dissertation Recording Session No. 1, PC: Wayne Reich.

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike” (John Muir, from The Yosemite).

Often, I find myself yearning for mountains and trees somewhere, anywhere. There’s something wonderfully restorative about out-of-the-way places—and the time it takes to enjoy them. Imagine you’re in a forest. Maybe you’re sitting on its pine-needle floor or blazing a trail. Either way, picture afternoon sunlight being filtered by trees around you. There’s a warm glow that shimmers through leaves and needles, vibrant like a live wire.

Dr. Kyle Rowan uses sound and light intermedia to capture this forest-light phenomenon in his composition Komorebi for solo flute and lighting, the third video in my flute and light project! The Japanese word Komorebiroughly translated, means: sunlight filtering through leaves.

Okay—but wait. Flute and light project? Intermedia? Third video? What am I yakking about? Let me get you up to speed!

Here’s an info video I made about my flute/light intermedia art project!
And here are links to the first two cinematic videos:

Anna Meadors’ At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith’s The Circle of Light.

Komorebi’s lighting concept features shifting shadows and colors that fade in and out puckishly. I’d say the music complements the lighting—but it more than complements it. Together, they are sprightly, caressing, shimmering, enveloping. Together.

Lighting technicians Katherine Ward and Abigail Simoneau manually controlled the lighting board faders in this video production. Wayne Reich and Ben Singer created the cinematic video. All recording was done on December 3, 2016 in UNCG’s Brown Building Theatre. My heartfelt thanks to all who helped me make this video—including those who took the time to teach me a thing or two about lighting boards!

Wayne published a post about Komorebi on his blog. Check it out for a glimpse into his perspective as videographer and some great pictures of the editing process!