c)i emerged from a very practical need – finding performers for works when Kyle and I were students at Penn. What emerged was a collective of composers and players interested in pushing the limits of performance, but also engaging with music’s deep questions of historicality and ontology. I was studying with Anna Weesner through this, and c)i ended up playing some of her music a few times, specifically Light and Stone. As is much of Anna’s music, it’s quite coloristic and mimetic in the best sense; diverse musical patterns mirroring the branching paths of nature. This performance is from a 2008 concert exploring these ideas called root, branch, crystal, at our second home, Tenri Cultural Institute.
I love this painting by Seurat, in we see the worker, as he comes between the light and the stone, making shadows between the light and the stone. Just work that happens to lead to beauty.
This week we’re sharing a piece from c)i’s first CD, Group Theory, a disc that featured two long-time members Steve Beck and Sumi Kudo. That’s actually the crew that played my first Piano Quartet on my ‘Some Consequences…’ CD for 2018. I just saw King Crimson at Radio City last month, so I’m very temped to call that c)i III (which would mean we’re at c)i V now (welcome, once again Dan and Caleb!).
But c)i’s relationship to the piece is much older than that. We were playing it within a few years of our formation, and it was one of the pieces that made us commit to the instrumentation of string trio, clarinet, and piano, and some echoes of the piece are definitely present in my Quintet l’homme armé, my first piece for that power quintet. The instrumental colors are, as always with Sciarrino, perfect in all ways;- intricate but also quite simple in many ways, and the feu d’artifice, as showy as they might seem in the moment, are impeccably balanced to amplify the impact of the form. This is always a piece that is a tight 9, but always feels to me to be 20 minutes or more, like I’ve been pulled out of the timeline and put back in not quite in the right place. Quintet l’homme armé plays a similar game of balance, and has a similar utilization of pianissimo- Centauro Marino punctuates its own zero-point matrix with sharp, inelastic collisions, while my quintet finds crosses the skein of pulse and density into a quietistic isorhythm, a reflection on the surpassing enthalpy of certain strategies of music making.
Quietism is the right word for the Sciarrino, despite the (irregular) interruptions. We performed that as the last piece on one of my favorite show from that classic c)i III period. We were in the vast cavernous space of the old Washington Square Church, all dust and must and holy resonance. I remember walking out into the night, some autumn evening in Manhattan, in the subtle brûit of a less tidy, constructed by less rebuilt Manhattan, and thought about how that churn had sanctified our little show, puzzled people, spiders listening at least as much to the vibrations of their was as to the who, and church-mice living their church-mice lives. We walked out into the evening and as we walked down the steps to the sidewalk, Kyle turned to me and said “Quiet. It’s the new loud.”
c)i will be performing the trio version of the suite from Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale on Sunday, and so I’ve been thinking a bit about the piece (and his music more generally). Music is always an abstraction, due to its temporality– it is through memory that form and rhythm and harmony are experience, as associations between present and past (and future) events. And (some of) Stravinsky’s music (some of it) gets tagged as being cold or bloodless. But always at the same time it is about the body, it is in the body, savagely and unavoidably.
c)i is excited to be performing a work by Alan Theisen for the first time – he’s on faculty at Mars Hill College near Asheville, North Carolina. Some of you may know that I am on a long sabbatical, and I’m living down in NC; I got to know his music as started getting to know musicians in this corner of the world. (Ah, soundcloud, my late night friend.) When I heard Ondes et Ombres it struck me as a good fit for the 3x2x2x3 show that we were developing, both immanently as a piece and as a trio that would stand as one of the bookends of the program, contrasting Stravinsky’s masterful The Soldier’s Tale. (Apologies for the linkage, Alan; I went through a few years with c)i where I kept ending up on programs immediately after Crumb or Bartok, and so I was officially the hack-composer on the show…)
As I hinted at in the previous post, our programs this year have a factorial element: 3×2, 2×3; 2×2, 2×4, 1×5; and 1×1, 3×4, 1×5. The repertoire, the staging, the all sorts are organized around these refracting relations and in doing so makes us notice the other, subtler elements of this calculus of performance, the performers. What it is to be Ning playing with Miranda, or Miranda with Ning? What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba? Quite a bit, I think.
We could say that playing-together is a special category of being-together. Ben performs. But in performing Ben is also Benjamin-clarinetist. And in that being, he participates in the community that is clarinet-being. Add to other players and a bunch of composers (living or passed) and things get rather more complicated– clarinet being has a relationship to Stravinsky, as does Benjamin-the-clarinetist, as does Ben. There are always a lot of ways to be together, manners of enmeshment made kaleidoscopically beautiful through the ritual of performance.Continue reading “Playing together”→