The perform three pieces: Trio, Nutturno, and Marxville
The New York New Music Ensemble began with a bang, literally. This ensemble has been around for twenty-three years and it is considered to be the raising standard in contemporary chamber music. On Thursday afternoon, I saw the ensemble perform three pieces: Trio, Nutturno, and Marxville Songbook.
These three possess very similar tone color and composition. The ensembles first piece, Trio, was composed by Donald Martino. This musician pursued his interest in music at a very young age. By age fifteen, he did not only know how to play various instruments, but he also started composing. Martino excelled as a member of American Academy of Arts and Letters and was rewarded scholarships.
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In 1974, Martinos classic sextet, Notturno, won him the Pulitzer Prize in music. In Notturno there are three large parts, which could be described as movements that maintain the musics continuity. Within these three movements, there are nineteen smaller parts. The first and last movements have nine parts that make up the contrasting sounds in the music. The final movement concentrates more on the pitch transformation. Structurally, this format would be a recapitulation, but the use of pitch transforms it into something new. To emphasize the pitch fluctuation, three different kinds of flutes were played.
Because of the pitch variation in this piece, there were many melodies to follow. In a way, the music sounded like sound effects to a horror flick. For example, the tone color of the piece would be nice and calm then all of a sudden the percussion would contribute a crashing sound and disturb the quiet. Towards the end of the piece, the musicians tapped their instruments to add to the eerie atmosphere. In comparison to Notturno, Martinos Trio (the first piece played) still produced the same psychotic and dramatic sound.
This instrumental consisted of small packets of sound played softly then fiercely. The ensemble began the piece slowly and worked its way to climactic units of music throughout the set. The violins sound danced along the pianos ground.
The piano set the rhythm, while the clarinet and violin built on top of it. This piece was a good example of non-imitative polyphony because the clarinet and violin were playing melodies of their own. To complete the piece, the clarinet trailed off leaving the audience uneasy. The second piece the ensemble performed was the Marxville Songbook, which was composed by Jeffrey Stadelman. Stadelman , an educated musician, studied composition at University of Wisconsin at Madison and received a Ph.
D. in music from Harvard. He too, like Donald Martino, was recognized for his musical accomplishments with various awards . Today, Stadelman works as an assistant professor of music at the State University of New York, Buffalo where he teaches composition and twentieth century music. He has also written many books on musical subjects since 1986.
Stadelmans, Marxville Songbook, has two songs that are about the same length. This piece did not seem to have a set beat, but after getting used to the harsh sounds, a rhythm can be found. In this case, the percussion had some fill-ins and served as an accompaniment to the whole ensemble. In this piece, it sounds as if the musicians were given different sheets of music and were asked to play together. The texture of this piece was very loose.
The musicians played their own melodies simultaneously making their set a little coherent. Dissonance was a major element that the composer included. There were few moments of consonance, which were quickly masked by the dissonance. The music did not give a sense of obvious return to a single theme. The three pieces I heard were very similar to each other. If I did not take notes on the pieces, I would be completely lost.
The music I heard barely had any structure because it seemed as if the musicians were improvising and hitting harsh notes at their own whim. This music is different than anything that I have ever heard because I am not used to it. The music I listen to has many reoccurring themes. The themes that the New York New Music Ensemble played were hard for my ears to pick up. The tunes were not catchy at all because the melodies kept changing. To me, Notturno and Marxville Songbook sounded alike because they included the same instruments.
I found it interesting that the xylophone was included because it made the music creepier. I always associated the xylophones sound with something happier and orderly. The ensemble did a good job in showing me that any instruments can be used to produce an effect. To me, the closest musician to keeping a ground bass was the pianist because all the other instruments played as an accompaniment. This music was new to me because I am accustomed to hearing drums as the basis and foundation for any group of musicians.
The combination of a piano, flute, xylophone, percussion, clarinet, cello, and violin contributed to the musics atmosphere of confusion. Overall, I thought the concert was a new experience because it opened me up to another world of music.