Dear Classical Goddess,
A friend invited me to one of the Symphony on the Edge concerts last year at the Big Easy and I loved it! I don't like a lot of contemporary music but the music on this concert was fun and quirky and not very orchestrey. I'm looking forward to the next SOE concert. What can you tell me about it?
-- SOE Fan in Spokane
Dear SOE Fan,
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & Y & lt;/span & ou are obviously someone of lively and discriminating character to be interested in the Symphony on the Edge series. It's easy to put down Spokane for its reactionary ways, but in this instance, Spokane puts on its most hip glasses to look down its nose at Seattle, because the Seattle Symphony has no new music series. So when you walk into the Big Easy next Friday night, you should feel just a bit superior to be living on this side of the mountains, just a wee bit smug as you slink towards the bar, pick up a drink and head to your table.
You and your hot Symphony on the Edge date will hear SSO principal cellist John Marshall open the concert with his electric cello in a work for winds and solo cello. Listen for a Latin flavor in several works on the program including, for all you radical literary types, "Homage to Frederico Garc & iacute;a Lorca" by Mexican composer Sylvestre Revueltas (just as C.G. requested in a recent column!). SOE conductor Morihiko Nakahara describes this piece as "mariachi meets Stravinsky."
Rock 'n' roll of the '50s permeates American composer Michael Daugherty's "Dead Elvis." Daugherty appropriates an ancient Latin chant for the Day of Judgment in this rockin'work to pose this question: Is Elvis dead or alive beyond the grave of Graceland? Look for a possible Elvis sighting on Friday night. Like Daugherty, most of the other composers on the program gleefully spike their classical tendencies with several shots of pop and jazz sounds, including "Black Bend" by the very young American composer Dan Visconti, "These Worlds in Us" by Missy Mazzoli and works by Charles Ives and Igor Stravinsky. The fact that Stravinsky and Ives were seduced by popular songs and music remind us that this phenomenon is nothing new.
Be prepared for a very different sound for each piece. The works Nakahara has chosen all use different combinations of instruments, from the 13 players in Stravinsky's Ragtime to the six players in "Dead Elvis" to the full orchestra of Arvo P & auml;rt's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten" (music featured in the film Fahrenheit 9/11). In addition to all this, two world premieres will be unleashed on Friday night. (See below.)
Leave the Big Easy that night with sounds you've never heard before running around in your head. Marvel at the vast array of sonic possibilities inherent in an "orchestra" tuned to the 21st century. The Goddess will see you there.
Dear Classical Goddess,
Do composers really care at all about the audience these days? I feel if they don't care at all about who's listening, then why should I listen?
-- Sour in Spokane
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & took your question to Jonathan Middleton and Don Goodwin, the two regional composers who will enjoy world premieres of their works at Symphony on the Edge. Both composers are on the music faculty at Eastern Washington University.
Here's what they said:
Middleton: "I care about the audience and hope that everyone will draw meaning from my music, but I must confess, I often think about making my music compelling for me and the players. I don't often think about the audience because, for one, it is a heavy burden to please everyone, and two, I really don't know who the audience is. I think about meeting my artistic expectation and making the music interesting to play."
(Middleton's "Reciprocal Refractions" is written for solo alto saxophone, brass, timpani, percussion, piano and strings. See if you can hear the Fibonacci series of numbers that Middleton used to write the piece. Prizes for winners!)
Goodwin: "I definitely think of the audience when I compose. I have a lot of experience touring with rock and funk groups and through that I learned a little bit about what moves people, meaning what gets people to dance. I'm not saying that my chamber music is designed to do this, but it does carry in it some of the same grooves and syncopations that I know influence people rhythmically. My hope is that the audience goes away with the feeling that they have experienced the music, and that the moment was fun, but that they want to hear it again and then upon hearing it again, they hear different elements than they did the first time."
(Goodwin's "Parallels" uses the full array of the orchestra plus electric guitar, drum set, celesta and marimba. Jazz and funk in the orchestra? You'll hear it in this work.)
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & o come to the Big Easy for the next Symphony on the Edge concert and hear world premieres by two regional composers and conduct an experiment. Does it matter if the composer is actually thinking of the audience when he writes music? Is there a downside to thinking of the audience too much? Not enough? Let me know what you think. But whatever your conclusion, the fact that the SSO has given this gift of brand-new music to all of us is huge. Don't miss your chance to be part of it.
Symphony on the Edge on Friday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 pm at the Big Easy, with Morihiko Nakahara conducting. Tickets: $19. Visit www.spokanesymphony.org or call 624-1200 or 325-SEAT.