Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sound Off: Orchestra Underground Season Opener

From jazz saxophonist Fred Ho to up-and-comer Clint Needham; you've heard what the composers have to say for themselves, now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the concert!

Below are a few questions to get the ball rolling...

-What surprised you most about the concert?
-Which piece would you most like to hear again? Why?

-This concert used many nontraditional instruments. What do you think about how these worked with the orchestra? Why?

Word On The Street

Here are a few reactions to our recent season-opener concerts this past weekend in NYC and Philadelphia. The view from Philly is posted on Phawker.com and the New York Times weighed in on our performance at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Friday, November 14, 2008

To Speak the Truth

Excerpt from Fred Ho's Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior: Fighting Cancer and Capitalism at the Cellular Level.
My sax playing is very strong, even stronger than before I entered surgery. After surgery, my diaphragm had to heal before I could play again. But now I play with a lot more power and control. This stems from the breathing exercises I've been doing, but also from the development of my CHI energy. I basically have out grown everything made for the bari sax. There isn't a big enough mouthpiece commercially made for me. I need reeds harder/stronger than the #5, the hardest commercially made. I play the horn now like a double-reed instrument, barely touching the reed with my embouchure. From the power of my breath alone, I can make it vibrate without touching it. My fingers have molded the ivory and brass to fit my hands. I have actually altered metal from years of my touch. It is truly man over metal. I have also discovered some very Daoist revelations:

The point of developing technique is to have NO technique;

The point of practicing and mastery is to develop CHI so that music can change the world (both social and natural);

I want my sound to bring down the walls of Jericho, to be a biblical-like force to crush the walls of poverty, exploitation and oppression;

I want to be as a soloist more powerfully expressive and convicted than a 70-piece professional orchestra; and to improvise as great as a sophisticated, complex notated score;

I want to have a band that is telepathic, taking what is notated on the written page to a higher level of expression beyond what even I as the composer-leader could ever imagine.

The war against cancer has brought about this transformation, revelation and application on my part. I have been tremendously humbled by this war and at the same time learned to fight on a cellular level and to apply a cellular approach to the technical, emotional, creative and spiritual challenges of making music. The cells of one’s sound is what is supreme, infusing one’s breath or CHI-energy to that cellular vibration of making one’s sound a life-force.”

Probably the MOST important transformation for me is to never harbor envy, jealously, competitiveness, to speak the truth (even if it is very critical of friends and loved ones, but to do so without comparison and always with compassion), to know that should I die soon, I will be happy and satisfied with what I’ve done, and to spend not an iota of energy of mine worrying or despondent about my condition (tho to take it seriously and fight with all of my being to win the war against cancer), but to devote my energy both in my personal war against cancer, but as a friend to all of you, to make us all better in our journeys as emotional, creative and intellectual beings on this planet.

1 Fred Ho during rehearsal

2 Fred Ho with Jeff Milarsky and the orchestra

Beautifully Paralyzed

Keeril Makan on his work Dream Lightly:

In Dream Lightly, we are placed in a word that is beautifully paralyzed, or perhaps paralyzed by beauty. The music does not move; it has fallen asleep but is not aware of it. It is stuck in a continual repetition of similar thoughts, slightly changing and rearranging them, cast in subtlety changing environments.

The guitarist almost always plays harmonics. These are notes produced by lightly touching the string at certain points to create sounds that sound higher and more fragile than ordinary pitches. The world of harmonics hovers above the guitar, oftentimes slightly, but purposefully, out of tune with instruments played in a conventional manner. All of the music is derived from or in response to the guitar. It is not a concerto in the traditional sense, as the soloist and the orchestra are not antagonists. Rather it is as if the orchestra exists inside of the guitarist's head, helping, supporting, and coloring.

1 Keeril Makan with ACO Principal Cellist Gene Moye
2 Soloist Seth Josel with Jeff Milarsky and Eva Gruesser, ACO Concertmaster

Familiar Faces

We asked Clint Needham (Chamber Symphony) tell us what he was feeling in anticipation of his second engagement with ACO. This is what he had to say!

I first worked with ACO as a participant in the Underwood New Music Readings. Coming to New York to work with the group again is exciting. Flying here, I couldn’t wait to get into the room for the first rehearsal! I’m looking forward to spending time in New York as well. Seeing old friends again and checking out other concerts around town.

This experience with ACO has been very different than the last time because I was commissioned to write a new work for the group. Last time I worked with the ACO, they read a piece I had already completed, but this time around I was writing a new work for a lot of familiar faces. The rehearsal process has been so much fun. These musicians are great and it has been wonderful working with them to bring this piece to life. As the concert draws near I just keep telling myself that my work is done and now it's up to the orchestra!

1 Clint Needham studying his score as the orchestra rehearses

2 Clint Needham and Jeff Milarsky during an early rehearsal


Welcome to the new SoundAdvice blog, the latest version of ACO’s outspoken corner of the web! Here we post commentary from our audiences about the new and unusual music heard at recent ACO performances, as well as commentary from the artists and composers featured at ACO events. SoundAdvice was created as a way for listeners to provide feedback to composers and the orchestra, to allow you to be heard and to learn how your opinions compare to others, and most importantly, to promote discussion amongst musicians and audiences alike about new orchestral music. We firmly believe that engendering dialogue is one of the most important ingredients in the process of building new musical works into the repertoire, and that—like sports, politics, and cinema—everyone has an opinion!