Synchromy and the critically-acclaimed Argus Quartet present a program of music from composers inspired by their surroundings.
With Chelsea Fryer host and reader
Andrew Norman: “Sabina” from A Companion Guide to Rome for solo violin
Kaija Saariaho: Cloud Trio
Zaq Kenefick: funeral song of the people of the ruined cities (world premiere)
John Frantzen: “Skronk” from String Quartet (world premiere)
Andrew Norman: Excerpts from A Companion Guide to Rome for string trio
Nick Norton: String Quartet No. 1: London (world premiere)
Zaq Kenefick: harvesting tunes of the people of the rope-tree towers (world premiere)
Gabriela Frank: Excerpts from Leyendas: an Andean Walkabout
Himno de Zamponas
Eve Beglarian: Testy Pony for solo cello and narrator
Video by Jason Barabba
Special Thank you to Bertrand’s Old Town Music for providing an extra violin for tonight’s performance.
Andrew Norman - Companion Guide to Rome
Like many of the buildings in Rome, this piece is the product of a long gestation marked by numerous renovations, accretions, and ground-up reconstructions. What has emerged is a collection of portraits—nine in all—of my favorite Roman churches. The music is, at different times and in different ways, informed by the proportions of the churches, the qualities of their surfaces, the patterns in their floors, the artwork on their walls, and the lives and legends of the saints whose names they bear. The more I worked on these miniatures, the less they had to do with actual buildings and the more they became character studies of imaginary people, my companions for a year of living in the Eternal City.
Kaija Saariaho – Cloud Trio
A string trio is a fascinating ensemble. Even if its instruments come from the same family it magnifies the individual characters of each. When writing the trio, I was surprised how different it was to writing for a string quartet.
In this piece, the three instruments all have different tasks and functions, they represent very different aspects of string playing. These tasks are sometimes very concrete: the violin tends to behave as an echo or reverberation, the viola creates new clouds next to the existing ones and the cello often has a function of a shadow to the upper instrumental lines.
My ideas for this piece are about common textures; how to create one coherent texture - still complex and detailed - with individual lines.
The four sections of the piece have their own colours and characters, and I leave it to the listener to imagine what kinds of clouds were their sources of inspiration.
Why Cloud Trio? When composing this piece in the French Alps (Les Arcs), watching the big sky above mountains I realized once again how rich a metaphor a natural element can be: its state or shape is so recognizable, and yet it is always varied and rich in detail.
Cloud Trio is written for and dedicated to the Zebra Trio. Paris, May 14th, 2010
funeral Song of the people of the ruined cities
harvesting tunes of the people of the rope-tree towers
These pieces are part of a series of pieces that are supposed to be hypothetical folk music. As if something happened and people have had to rebuild. And a hundred years after this something and after the rebuilding’s, traditional pedagogical training was lost. People still wanted to play music, but don’t quite remember the “correct” way to do it. And they’ve just got all these old instruments sitting around. What would a string quartet do, unburdened by the knowledge of what a string quartet is?
“funeral songs…” was originally scored for and premiered by Ensemble Fret.
John Frantzen – “Skronk” from String Quartet
When composing, I often take walks to clear the mind, recharge the batteries, and leave previously worked ideas to the subconscious. Early on, I spent a lot of time in rural settings, so these walks through forests, pastures, and fields, led to works that had more linear, flowing, and expansive qualities. Upon moving to New York City these walks became a whole different adventure leading to compositions reflecting this bustling urban environment. Skronk, the third movement from Flash for string quartet, is one such work that in its development reflects a groove one might need to traverse the colorful and cacophonous streets of New York.
Nick Norton: String Quartet No. 1: London
I wrote this piece at the end of my time in London. I like to think of it as a reflection of both my impression of the city and my experience of living there. It is dedicated to the close friends I made and those back home who I missed.
Gabriela Frank - Excerpts from Leyendas: an Andean Walkabout
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for string quartet draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. As such, this piece mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions.
"Tarqueada" is a forceful and fast number featuring the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. Tarka ensembles typically also play in fourths and fifths.
"Himno de Zampoñas" features a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown flatly so that overtones ring out on top, hence the unusual scoring of double stops in this movement.
"Chasqui" depicts a legendary figure from the Inca period, the chasqui runner, who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light. Hence, I take artistic license to imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which are featured in this movement.
Eve Beglarian – Testy Pony
Testy Pony is a setting of the poem of the same name by Zachary Schomburg. I read the poem shortly before the first concert of my River Project and felt it embodied something about my trip down the Mississippi River.