Two brand-new musical works – involving cutting-edge technology and offering commentary on subjects as diverse as a brassy night in Vegas and the wild and woolly world of social media – will receive their world premieres in Columbus this weekend, as Capital University’s Conservatory of Music celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Chicago composer and Capital University Conservatory alumnus Mat Morse’s chamber work Eternity Dwells (between the Mirage and Casino Royale) and U.K. composer Dave Maric’s Spiel for solo percussion, electronics and wind ensemble will be performed during the conservatory’s 100 Years of Music Gala Concert Celebration, Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Capital University’s Mees Hall Auditorium.
Columbus percussionist and conservatory alumnus Cameron Leach will perform as percussion soloist with the Capital University Symphonic Winds in Maric’s Spiel, and members of the Symphonic Winds will also perform Morse’s Eternity Dwells.
Students and faculty in the conservatory’s music technology program will deliver pre-recorded musical effects for each work.
The Capital University Conservatory of Music commissioned both works in celebration of its 100th-anniversary gala concerts, which also feature noted composer Eric Whitacre and Capital University director of choral activities Lynda Hasseler leading the Capital University Chapel Choir, Choral Union and Chapel Choir Alumni.
Classical 101's Jennifer Hambrick interviews Eric Whitacre and Lynda Hasseler ahead of the gala. Plus, Whitacre shares what he's working on next.
Morse's Eternity Dwells (between the Mirage and Casino Royale)
Sense impressions from a late-night walk down Las Vegas Boulevard were Morse’s inspiration for Eternity Dwells (between the Mirage and Casino Royale).
“Imagine being jostled and engaged by an endless, surging sea of party people,” Morse writes in his program note for the piece, “while streetwalking drinkers, a pounding eight-lane traffic jam, relentless cacophony, a darting rat and the Propeller Man complete the LED-lighted nighttime scene – with a pending volcano eruption.”
Musicians from the Symphonic Winds will perform live Friday and Saturday night, synchronized with 40 additional audio tracks by Morse – including sounds like electrical generators revving up, licks played on the harp and rhythmic loops performed on the traditional Chinese erhu and the Middle Eastern oud.
“The pre-recorded tracks are rhythmic, textures, classic instrument sounds and parts, and surprise elements,” Morse said via email. “The real challenge here is mixing it in a way that, when you hear a duet between a pre-recorded texture and a live instrument, it comes out correctly balanced in the final performance.”
The structure, or “blueprint,” as Maric calls it, of Spiel comes from Maric’s own observations about how people interact on social media.
“I thought an interesting and perhaps dramatically amusing blueprint could relate to how social media ‘psychodramas’ play out,” Maric wrote via email. “And of course, it’s a topic that invades so many of our lives today, with leading public figures so often embarrassingly directly embroiled in such matters.”
The work’s title – Spiel – is the German word for “game” and the Yiddish word for a story that’s potentially over-the-top or annoying. All of these meanings come into play – pun intended – in Maric’s piece.
“You could look at Spiel as a game,” Maric wrote, “or a gladiatorial battle, or the over-amplified emotions that play out when those who express their ‘passionate’ opinions publicly spiral out of control into emotionally fractured territory.
“The piece has such extremes of emotional and psychological textures,” he continued, “at points aggressive, at points fragile, noble and uncertain, and at points confrontational, using the final chapter to bring an almost chaotic energy to the final movement.”
That chaos can be both seen and heard in Spiel. The concerto calls for Leach to move back and forth among three different percussion stations and to play on a large and eclectic battery of instruments, including marimba, snare drum, vibraphone, glass wind chimes, various sizes of gong, seed pods and temple blocks – to name only a few.
Watch Cameron Leach's 2018 performance in the Classical 101 studio.
The conservatory’s music technology students and faculty will run the pre-recorded audio tracks, which include sounds like those heard in computer games from the 1980s, digital ”glitches” and even a tweeting bird. These sounds, Maric says, reinforce “the game-like and satirical aspects of the piece.”
“We knew we wanted to include electronics because I’ve worked with electronics in so much of my stuff,” Leach said. “It seemed like it would be a great way to involve the music tech part of the program at Capital, and also to do something new because there are not many works like this, written with electronics.”
And in a subtle way, Spiel is even a commentary on the power social media seems to have over us. To find out whether Spiel implodes like most social media spats seem to, you’ve got to enter the fray.
The world premieres of Mat Morse’s Eternity Dwells (between the Mirage and Casino Royale) and Dave Maric’s Spiel will take place during the Capital University’s 100 Years of Music Gala Concert Celebration concerts, Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Capital University’s Mees Hall Auditorium.