For background on this adventure, please take a look at this post and this post.
This Friday I embarked on a trip to Chicago to see UnTwelve premiere, among other submissions to their call for works, a bassoon solo that I wrote! It's been almost a year in the working.
So at a little before 3:00pm, my parents, my brother (who had already driven down from the twin city area) and I hopped in a car and made our way down to Chicago.
A few toll ways, wrong turns, and hours later, we made it there.
We also had the joy of meeting up with my long time friend Angela Yu, who is being an icon and doing a Masters in Chicago.
We ate some food, re parked the car, and got to Slate Music and Performance about fifteen minutes prior to start. I got to meet the bassoon player, Annie Lyle Mason, and some of the other UnTwelve members that I have been lightly stalking on Facebook since my piece was accepted (Ralph Lewis, Robin Meiksins).
Okay, now on to the actual concert.
1. 'Micro-Etude' by Jean Ahn
The concert opened with Connor Thummel on trombone.
Of the instruments present at the concert (bassoon, clarinet, flute, trombone) I would consider myself least competent in trombone, so I don't have many words for this piece. It was loud and bombastic, and prior to the concert it was even used to equalize the recording volume.
Interestingly, it was also the only piece to not include multiple voices. All the other pieces included two sounds, whether it be instrument and instrument, instrument and drone, or instrument and voice. This piece was a true solo, which definitely set it apart in color.
2 'One' by Yvonne Freckmann
This next piece was performed by Robin Meiksins on flute and Emily Mehigh on clarinet.
Okay, so this piece was named favorite by a couple of people in my group during our post-concert discussion, and I think it was a great experiment on micro-tonality. At its core, the piece was an exploration of beat frequency. The flue and clarinet would play notes in almost-unison, bending in different directions to bring out different clashing sounds.
It was offensive to start, but after a bit I definitely sank into the piece, and it was fascinating to hear the different kinds of beat frequency that they could produce.
3. 'home feels...different' by Colin Kohrs
This classic, iconic, soon to be platinum piece was performed by Annie Lyle Mason.
Hearing my own piece be performed was a little surreal. It was a first time experience for me outside of some terrible co-written duets from high school. For most of the piece I was on a giddy astral plane (which I slightly regret because post concert Mason asked if I had any notes or criticism which I couldn't think of since I had essentially blacked out the whole experience).
My piece is for bassoon and electronic drone, and the drone was pretty cool. They had the whole room souped up with speakers, so the drone enveloped the space. Mason's timbre blended very nicely with the drone and it was just a fantastic performance.
10/10 would recommend. A+
4. 'Deflection' by Paolo Griffin
This piece was performed by Emily Mehigh on clarinet.
This piece shared some similarities with my own. My piece was solo bassoon with electronic drone; this piece was solo clarinet with electronic recording. I play the bassoon and really liked my own piece; my brother plays clarinet and really liked this piece.
I will admit that I've never been too big a fan of the clarinet's sound. For some reason it just feels sticky to me, but combined with the electronics there was a happy medium.
The electronic part and the clarinet part were both much more complicated than what I had written, and I think it got to that level of "it's doing something smart and mathematical that I don't understand, so I'm just gonna sit and smile." My piece and the piece prior both used simple methods to taste microtonality, so I would compare this to the trombone piece, where it felt a lot more involved.
Oh, and it was in A = 432, leave your beef in the comments and don't @ me.
Props to Mehigh, the piece did not seem easy to perform.
5. 'Spiritus' by Jessie Cox
This next piece was performed by Robin Meiksins on flute
Favorite piece alert!
So in my time studying language in college, participating in choirs, and studying French I have dipped my fair share into the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used in this piece.
Introducing the piece, Meiksins explained a bit about some of the hallmarks of contemporary flute writing (using singing, difference tones, ect.), but this was the first time she had seen IPA used to shape the singing.
Basically, instead of just saying 'hey, sing this note into the flute to blow air' it was saying 'use this very specific vowel shape'
And I dig it.
I would say this was most similar to the unison piece, but it was definitely it's own beast. Do check this one out in the live stream.
6. 'placing ceremony' by Inti Logan Figgis-Vizueta
This piece featured everyone.
This piece made me mad because it had choreography, and I didn't even think to include choreography in my piece.
Most fascinating about this piece to me was that it was written for any four instruments and has some aleatoric notes instructing the performers to figure out what works best and sounds best with their instrument.
You could literally play this on four kazoos.
This piece also featured a surprise solo from a passing ambulance that provided both vocals and a light show. It somehow worked with the piece.
I had the time of my life this weekend. I've been dicking around with writing music for quite some time, and it's incredibly validating to hear it be played by people with such talent.
Big thanks to everyone involved, especially Annie for playing my piece and Ralph for putting together the concert and giving me regular updates.
It was quite the experience.