Looking back on a Yellow Barn Artist Residency

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cellist Jay Campbell offers the following comments about his artist residency with pianist Conor Hanick (video and audio recordings below):

In his 1909 publication Debussy, the French musicologist Louis Laloy writes, "In all groups of society, in all countries, beyond all borders and beyond the seas, the purest music of today recruits unknown friends. In this sense, the only true sense, music may be called universal. And this power is more sure than ever guaranteed to music by its recent progress." Interestingly, by using the word "progress", Laloy makes no distinction between established tradition and the many directions to which it develops over time—rather, they are the branches and sub-branches of a single trajectory. Like all other things, music history is forged walking backwards into its own future while observing at the past. As Arnold Schoenberg writes in his Style and Idea:

"My originality comes from this: I immediately imitated everything I saw that was good...I acquired it in order to possess it; I worked on it and extended it and it led me to something new. I am convinced that eventually people recognize how immediately this 'something new' is linked to the loftiest of models that have been granted us. I venture to credit myself with writing truly new music which, being based on tradition, is destined to become tradition."

It is with that in mind that an array of composers have been assembled, all of whom are also eagerly looking to what is ahead: the meticulously expressive quality of Matthias Pintscher's haunting Figura V / Assonanza, gently hovering against a canvas of silence, Claude Debussy's homage to the French clavecinists Couperin and Rameau, Charles Wuorinen's intensely lyrical use of the 12-tone method, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's emotionally intuitive yet harmonically progressive surface, and so on. While the composers presented are probing retrospectively, the breadth of creativity is staggering—far from derivative, these composers look to the past to achieve unique and innovative design.

Ultimately, the goal of this program is to explore a dialogue between the rich and varied musical language of today contrasted against a framework supplied by pioneering Baroque composers. But rather than contrasting the surface-level disparity between Baroque and modern repertoire, such as tonal systems, perhaps what is more alluring lies in finding the connections, contrasts, and the grey area between two compositional orientations: the structurally rich, disciplined approach of those such as Charles Wuorinen and J.S. Bach, and a more free, improvisatory mode of composition, like that of C.P.E. Bach and Wei-Chieh Lin. These categories are of course by no means strict ones—certainly none of the composers or works belong exclusively to a singular compositional approach, but by making those connections between Baroque and contemporary works, light will hopefully be shed on the ècriture of the composers represented, helping to make the compositional activity itself more visible.

Jay Campbell and Conor Hanick performed their program at Next Stage in Putney on March 1, 2013 and at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas under the auspices of Music From Yellow Barn on March 8, 2013. The following video of the first set from their performance at the Nasher Sculpture Center exemplifies the aims of their project. (video courtesy of Andrew Baldwin)

Additionally, we would like to share their performance of Charles Wuorinen's Iridule and Jay Cambell's performance of David Fulmer's Star of the North, which received its world premiere performance at the March 1st performance in Putney, Vermont.