Convolutions, Collage – The Boston Musical Intelligencer
I missed the bus, missed the concert, internet down; caught Collage New Music late, as longtime music executive David Hoose opened his 49and season via livestream. Founded by Frank Epstein in 1972, Collage has long been drawn to Schoenbergian-serial principles and, unsurprisingly, half of its latest program featured more loyalist works from different generations and polarities, Andrew Imbrie (1921-2007) and Talia Amar (born in 1989). The other half of Collage featured renegade-leaning works by regular Marjorie Merryman (b. 1951) and newcomer Eric Nathan (b. 1983).
On Monday evening, internet viewers for the concert at Bard College’s Pickman Concert Hall Longy School of Music topped 90. After losing my connection early and logging on Tuesday, views had reached 300. week and more safe viewing future listeners might be encouraged to engage in this new, virus-forced medium.
Were the multiple interviews meant to enlighten and refresh?
Interviewer Amy Lieberman helped her – truly comforted her – introduce Imbrie’s 1983 Pilgrimage like a “hot potato game”, where things can get tricky in the first round if you get a bit lost. When Collage Composer-in-Residence Brian Sears asked young Israeli Talia Amar what processes were involved in her 2021 When a dream becomes reality… the two soon engaged in an in-store conversation about how electronic composition can be transcribed for acoustic instruments. Marjorie Merryman has talked about Duke Ellington’s music in her work but not for you to detect. Eric Nathan’s interview ended with his own program notes – his thoughts on situational stimuli.
The simple three-camera videography mostly allowed the music to take its rightful place.
Internet chat opened with “Great to see you” and “beautiful” directed us to Marjorie Merryman for her first performance in Boston four picturess for solo cello (2018). The metrically and tonally amiable Fantasy, Prelude, Invitation, Restlessness and In Memory found fluidity with cellist Jan Müller-Szeraws, while covering familiar ground instrumentally. Moving on to harmonics in the second frame, Merryman describing this as “fleeting” dodged my ken. Other images used various string techniques, including the “ricochet” bow. The seven-minute job consisted of jumping from sentence to sentence.
22 minutes by Andrew Imbrie Pilgrimage can also be heard [HERE] on YouTube with a 1989 Collage recording, give it five stars. The movements Allegro con moto and Andante maestoso could be understood as convolution in mathematics or more generally as control and whim. Imbrie: “Pilgrimage, commissioned by Ensemble Collage, is composed for flute (alternating with piccolo and alto flute), clarinet (alternating with E flat and bass clarinets), violin, cello, percussion and piano. The title… expresses my vision of this composition in particular, and of my others in general: that it was a journey in search of an answer.
With alarming ease, conductor Hoose held the ensemble on tiptoe as each performer’s solo journeys, often lyrical and teasing, progressed down daunting, denser pathways. A play of perplexing wonder comes from Collage in this extremely intricate bedroom piece.
According to composer Talia Amar, “When a dream comes true…describes an awakening from a dreamlike state to the chaotic intensity of the real world. The title of the piece refers to the beginning of the second movement, in which a long crescendo takes the music from a barely audible airy note to louder material that gains in intensity. Sharp, sharp cuts, soft sounds and slow underpinnings in the old philosophy of angst prompted thoughts of other dream music.
Eric Nathan’s Short stories finally received its delayed world premiere. The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition Brigham Young University commissioned it on behalf of Collage. Nathan’s notes begin, “Short stories is structured in four musically interconnected vignettes. Some listeners may disagree with the characterization of the composer; the play was over half an hour long and the final “vignette” was 13 minutes long…every story ran unexpectedly.
Although Collage boosted the work as much as he could, it couldn’t have been mistaken for one of the composer’s best. “IV. Piccolo and Percussion: The Birds Sing Outside My Window – Always. For this story, Sarah Brady pulled out a veritable aviary from Longy’s balcony. Had Eric Nathan channeled the Japanese mouth organ, the sho, used in the Gagaku (Imperial Court Music) with the many harmonicas sounding like they did?This “long story” served as the finale – a budding blockbuster.
Tribute to David Hoose, Catherine French, violin; Sarah Brady, flute; Christopher Oldfather, piano; Jan Müller-Szeraws, cello; Gary Gorczycka, clarinet; and Craig McNutt, percussion—all doubled on harmonicas.
Available HERE for free for a while.