Libertango (1974) arr. Christopher Rueda
Rob Deemer (1970)
David Biedenbender (1984)
1.Death Metal Chicken
2. Kyrie for Machaut and Pӓrt
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
An American in Paris (1928) arr. Raaf Hekkema
Notes About the Program
Closing the first set is Astor Piazzolla’s famous Libertango, first released in 1974. “Liber,” meaning “liberty,” was one of Piazzolla’s compositions in the “tango nuevo” form he would continue exploring for the rest of his career. Piazzolla’s tangos have become popular with classical musicians because Piazzolla was classically trained and his compositions often contain intricate counterpoint. Nuevo tango includes elements of jazz, modern classical dissonance, and a variety of instrumentations for which Piazzolla composed. This makes his music malleable, and Akropolis is delighted to have discovered this arrangement of Libertango while conducting a master class at Northwestern University in February, 2018.
In Gallimaufry, composer Rob Deemer 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, Deemer announced 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 “hodge–podge” or a gumbo or stew.
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.