March 7, 2018 at the Texas Tech University New Music Festival
Movement concepts and direction: Anne Wharton
Conductor: Skye Brown
Videographer: Sarah Wingfield
Choreographers and dancers:
Almendra Melodía González Berríos, Sarah Midgley,
Kris Olson, Sydney Petitt, Anne Wharton
Musicians: Patrick Alarcon (horn),
Raquel Bruening (clarinet), Briana Dunn (flute),
Mikhail Johnson (piano), Haley Kirychuk (violin),
Rachel Mazzucco (harp), Neemias Santos (cello)
flute, clarinet, horn, harp, violin, cello, piano
Echoing the sensations of watching silent sunsets on the horizon or the flow of water beneath your feet on a bridge, this piece explores relationships with temporal landscape through sound and body.
Inspired by the Rio Grande River and Lubbock landscapes, the
performance weaves dance through a chamber ensemble blurring lines between concert music and concert dance.
Elyse: Back in 2016, I attended a music composition festival that had an option to collaborate with choreographers. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity then, but when I started thinking about my doctoral project I decided to find my way to that experience. When I met you in our Music and Gender class and found out your background was in dance, I decided to approach you about collaborating.
Anne: Yeah, I had just finised a research project on the absence of female composers in modern dance and was really excited to create work to fill that gender gap. We met at the Starbucks in the SUB in April of 2017 and started making a list of subjects that interested us. I think we had everything from Palo Duro Canyon to Star Trek, but we ended up running with this sensation I had from visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos, New Mexico. I remember staring off into the calm of the canyon on the horizon and also getting pulled back into the present with the rush of the river directly beneath me; there was a softening and sharpening of perspective and a curve in time.
Elyse: I latched onto that idea and started developing harmonic material. In the summer of 2017, I wrote the four movements to overall form an arc shape in terms of style and form. The first and fourth are high-energy and I used ostinatos and rhythmic motives. On the other hand, I created more of a atmospheric soundscape with the second and third movements. We had talked a lot about improvisation when we met for coffee so I made the second movement aleatoric and planned to have both the musicians and dancers improvise that movement. I wrote the third movement to sound improvised but strictly dicatated the whole composition. Throughout Perspectives, I featured all twelve chromatic pitches just organized in different ways and in different amounts.
Anne: We met up in J&B, huddling over your laptop and sharing earbuds for me to hear your score for the first time. I don’t think I really knew what to expect and definitely had to listen to the third a couple of times before I started getting movement ideas. The more I listened, and especially as I started choreographing and rehearsing with my dancers, each movement started to represent a landscape aspect. The first movement was always water for me; both the timeless strength of the Rio Grande River but also the playful splashes of droplets and the chaos of the cascades. The third movement was about trees for me. As the dancers worked through improvised movement scores, we started developing these ideas of weaving, tangling roots.
Elyse: The second aleatoric movement was interesting. Because Sibelius won’t render it, we had no audio except what I heard in my head, until the first time the ensemble rehearsed the piece and I was able to make a recording. So instead of the music providing a rhythm for the dancers, the dancers came up with the rhythm.
Anne: Yeah, we started with a footwork pattern from a traditional dance in Southern France, bourrée à trois temps. The whole movement score came out of that very specific rhythm. It had playful qualities but also developed some gravity. I started thinking of it as the rocks or the dirt piece; little rocks happily tumbling down the canyon but also the smooth stones shaped by the endless rush of the river.
Elyse: And then we decided to continue with this idea of perspectives and use a film at the end of the evening to provide yet another different visual angle.
Anne: I somehow managed to convince my friend Sarah from Austin to drive up for a weekend of filming. I started thinking about the Lubbock horizon, the beautiful sunsets and sunrises we have here, and how our narratives interweave with our environment. The idea of body as landscape.
Photo Credit: Heather Beltz