Jewel Box Series

Friday @ 7:30 pm

Chicago, IL

Gig Details

Admission:
$10-$25

Venue Details

Address
Steinberg Fine Arts Center
3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL

Program

Rob Deemer, Gallimaufry (2015)
Nico Muhly, Look for Me (2015)
Stacy Garrop, Rites for the Afterlife (2018) world premiere

~Intermission~

David Biedenbender, Refraction (2015)
George Gershwin, An American in Paris (1928) arr. Hekkema

Program notes

Gallimaufry
In GallimaufryDeemer uses each instrument as a different, unique material, considering its sound, volume envelope, and articulations. He combines them to allow the listener to hear both each instruments’ singular colors as well as the reed quintet’s combined palette. When conceiving this work and beginning to compose it, Deemerannounced to Akropolis his vision of the piece and of the reed quintet as an object: a giant Dr. Seuss-inspired instrument that could break apart into smaller pieces, morph and evolve, then return to its original form. “Gallimaufry” is a word which means “hodgepodge” or a gumbo or stew.

Look for Me
Nico Muhly’s Look for Me buries the melody of “Mother in the Graveyard,” a folk song created in the Vermont Appalachia, inside destabilizing, modernized textures and interjections. The resulting sound is as if we are hearing an original field recording, but the wax has been distorted, and we are listening to the original singer as he or she jumps through and is warped by the time travel to today. Through the well-planted organization of these textures and interjections, Muhly re-establishes the beauty of the original, simple field song in a modern context. The composer of the folk song, “Mother in the Graveyard,” is Margaret MacArthur, a renowned performer and archivist of American folk melodies. Originally a city-goer, she and her husband moved to a 200 year-old farmhouse in Marlboro, VT in 1951, where she preserved instruments and field recordings, living without electricity or running water for the first 6 years in the home. Here are two verses of “Mother in the Graveyard”:

Mother in the graveyard and I’m on the land
Look for me
Mother in the graveyard and I’m on the land
And I want God’s bosom to be my pillow
Hide me over in the rocks of ages
Look for me

Drive the chariot to my door
Look for me
Drive the chariot to my door
And I want God’s bosom to be my pillow
Hide me over in the rocks of ages
Look for me

 
Rites for the Afterlife
After Akropolis and two other reed quintets chose Stacy Garrop as winner of the 2018 Barlow Prize for music composition, she was granted the Barlow Endowment’s prestigious prize to compose her first reed quintet. It was the first time the Endowment chose the reed quintet to award this prize for a new composition. Tonight’s concert marks the world premiere of this new work, Rites for the Afterlife. 
 
Stacy chose for her subject matter the Egyptian’s beliefs about the afterlife. The piece follows the soul into and through the afterlife, including the spells and enchantments contained in The Book of the Dead, the funery barque which tows the soul through the Netherworld, its arrival in the Hall of Judgement to be weighed against a feather from Maat–the goddess of truth–and its final resting place at the field of reeds where it is united with family members, harvesting plentiful crops along the Nile under a brilliant blue sky forever.
 
Rites for the Afterlife was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment on behalf of the Akropolis Reed Quintet, Calefax Reed Quintet, and Brigham Young University reed quintet.
 

Refraction
The second set pairs two compositions which despite being composed nearly a century apart, share the timeless quality of responding to the cultural changes taking place around the composer. “Refraction” refers to the absorption and then splitting of music influences, as well as to the type of assembly the composer uses in this piece. Sounds are almost taped and glued together, and at times they seem to pour out from the central texture of the piece. The composition melds several genres, including death metal and Gregorian chant, but never fully boxes them in. “Death Metal Chicken” is inspired by a popular YouTube video of a howling rooster with death metal music being played in the background. The “Kyrie” shimmers with ancient qualities. The final movement, “Goat Rodeo,” refers directly to a chaotic situation that might come to a resolution, but not willingly so. Biedenbender not only re-purposes various genres and topical ideas and combines them with brilliant colorations; he creates a fully-formed, new object which could never be as brilliant without the tatters and shreds which seem to be falling from it.

An American in Paris In conclusion, Akropolis presents a work inspired not only by the popular music of the early 20th century, but marked by a special moment in music composition in which the concept of “acceptable” art music was beginning to rapidly evolve, as was the world itself. In An American in Paris, Gershwin aimed to create one of his more serious works despite his natural affinity for frivolity. He consulted Ravel about this conundrum, who wisely instructed that if Gershwin was making more money than Ravel (which he was), he shouldn’t change how he writes his music. He sought advice from Nadia Boulanger, the great teacher of Aaron Copland and others. She also wisely suggested to Gershwin try to be no one but Gershwin. And so, using complex motivic development which is constantly modulating and changing form, Gershwin manages to create his most accessible, but simultaneously most complex piece of music. Among the challenges Dutch saxophonist Raaf Hekkema faced in arranging the work were how to convey these ideas with only 5 instruments. The listener might find Gershwin’s ideas even easier to deduce in the chamber music format, and Hekkema brilliantly manages to maintain Gershwin’s lush orchestrations by having all 5 members performing for nearly all of the arrangement. The continually repeating and evolving motives make for a challenging but thrilling performance which Akropolis is delighted to bring to the stage.