Something Old, Something New

Dirty Jeans Performance

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going back to Bloomington for a performance of Dirty Jeans by faculty members Professor Stephen Wyrczynski (viola) and Alexei Ulitin (piano).

From the Dress Rehearsal for Dirty Jeans, just performed
by Stephen Wyrczynski and Alexei Ulitin this past Sunday.
Steve had heard the piece at its premiere in the winter 2015, working with violist Audrey Alessi who had originally commissioned the work. I knew Steve enjoyed the piece, but months later I was shocked when he sent me an e-mail to say that he wanted to play it on his faculty recital. While I sent him the version Audrey played, both Steve and I ended up at the Aspen Music Festival this past summer (I as a fellow and he as faculty) and decided to collaborate on a few revisions. Based on input from him and my Aspen teachers, Christopher Theofanidis and Stephen Hartke, we were able to address a few of the less convincing transitions, as well as clean up a few things in the accompaniment. 

The Bloomington performance went well - it is always interesting to hear how much a piece can change in different hands. Alexi was able to balance even the most thorny sections in the piano part to keep the viola line in the limelight - though catapulting out of the background at appropriate moments to slam thick clusters into the hall - and Steve's great sound (sweet, lyrical, and lilting), granted a rich maturity to the piece with big changes in mood. While previous interpretations highlighted the gritty, rough-and-tough rambunctious nature of the piece, Steve and Alexi's performance really captured a more soaring and transcendent feeling. What made the performance all-the-more impressive was that one of Steve's strings had snapped clean off during the first piece of the recital, and ended up playing the rest of the concert on a brand new string!

It was great to hear the piece again and to work with both Stephen and Alexei, who were both enthusiastic collaborators. Equally as grand was the fact that several of my colleagues showed up to the performance - even though most of them had heard it before at my MM recital last December.

Returning to Bloomington

From one of the more memorable experiences 
at Aspen - the premiere of a new Ex-Files movement
with percussionist and collaborator, Parker James.

Even though I just moved out of Bloomington at the beginning of June, going back was a strange experience. Spending the summer in the high-intensity (and high altitude!) atmosphere of Aspen truly obscured any sense I had of time passing in the outside world - my weeks there interacting with the other students, faculty, and visiting artists saw a huge change in me personally, professionally, and compositionally; I left with more direction, more vision, more resources, more connections, and more perspective than what I arrived with, and it's been taking some time to let the experience truly sink in. On top of these more internal growing-pains, I've also moved to Dallas, Texas - a rather different change of pace from the small-town Midwest I've lived in my whole life - and taken on some projects outside of strictly composing - including the continuation of the LCA Consortium and organizing some concerts in this new city, so there are a lot of changes happening all at once! 

This weekend I went to a rather familiar place as a rather unfamiliar person. People I had rarely spoken with as a student were so excited to catch up and hear about both me and the world-at-large, old friends inundated me with new stories and updates (and I them!), old professors treated me more like a friend than a student, and even some of the physical locations I had frequented just months ago had undergone changes. The weekend was packed, and it was a bit overwhelming. 

Not from this past weekend, but none-the-less a picture
of one my favorite places near Bloomington.
One afternoon, however, I took it on myself to go to a few places at which I had frequently spent time alone - a small pull-out along a back road that overlooked an old damn, a grassy hill that dipped down into a lake, a tired bridge near a creek bed. I remembered other times I  had traveled to these places, but I also found that their old magic was still working as I was able to get lost in the moment: a few birds flitting across branches, leaves swirling along the dirt in mini-tornado battles, the feeling of the wind sliding through my hair. With all of the different projects I have going on, it was nice to escape from everything and everyone. While I was truly overjoyed to see friends and colleagues all weekend - laughs and hugs were in limitless supply all three-and-a-half days I was there! - being back in these places felt more familiar than anything else; it was great to see these old friends again, too.

Next Steps

The whole weekend was a much-needed experience, and served as the proper healing and motivation I needed to get back in gear for my new adventures in Dallas. There are a lot of projects in the works right now, and I will be updating much more regularly now that I'm settled in The Texas. I cannot wait to share with you all of the exciting projects, collaborations, and upcoming performances this year promises to bring. Next time I will be writing about a new commission I'm working on for mixed quintet and cymbals - so check back soon! 

Happy fall, everyone!