Schwartz graces Harvard with talent
Twenty minutes before the bus left for Boston,
I caught Prof. Elliott Schwartz to talk with him about his visit to Harvard.
We discussed the pieces that will be performed this Saturday at Lowell
Hall, Harvard with the Harvard Wind Ensemble and some of Bowdoin's own
musicians. As part of Harvard's Office for the Arts' Learning from Performers
program, Prof. Swchartz will be conducting seminars on music composition
Schwartz will also perform this Saturday,
though he claimed, "I am not a performer, but I will be performing!"
He will make use of the Harvard's Wind Ensemble and of Bowdoin students
that have been carefully selected to fit the instrumentation of the piece.
Stacy Barron '03, John Thorndike '02, Matt Oliff '02, Hojoon "David"
Sohn '04, and Anna Wall '05 were all chosen to play clarinet, Allison
Robbins '02 and Rachel Berman '02 were selected for percussion, and Michael
Brennana '04 was picked for bass clarinet.The performance will include
the second movement of Tribute, a complex piece that some describe
as having "trickling sounds," which was performed for the inauguration
of President Barry Mills. "It felt like I was in the Science Museum,"
one source said. Notably, the piece was written using English, German,
and French (solfége) music alphabets that spell B-A-R-R-Y-M-I-L-L-S.
The program also includes Aerie, which
was written for Bowdoin students and premiered in the chapel in 1993.
Aerie is a special piece for Schwartz. It was composed for 6 flute players,
though most of the piece does not involve what is known as "playing
flute." Musicians made "sounds other than playing a flute -
whispers, singing, humming - and some whistling." When asked why
compose such a thing, Schwartz was certain, "this kind of music extends
the resources of what's possible."
Playing in the line between theater and dance,
orchestrated chants and silence are key for Schwartz. "You become
conscious of the players as humans, rather than faces playing an instrument."
Percussionist Allison Robbins agreed on its achievement. "When you
perform Eliott's music, it's not just notes. You compose as you perform,
you compose with him."
Word has it that he recently composed a "Mini
Concerto" played in the dark while flashlights cue the performers.
Quite notably, he discussed a piece he composed called Hall Of Mirrors,
as in a "fun house," he explained. It includes a sax quartet
and Schwartz on the piano. Impressively, the piece involves quiet sounds
produced by radios playing "exactly what is on air at the time."
The careful maneuvering of these sounds demands that they play softly.
About three radios will be shifted in strict tempos and timing, producing
an effect that was first pioneered by composer John Cage.
Specifically, Schwartz mentioned Cage's Imaginary
Landscape (1950s), the first piece ever performed using only radios. "Like
a visual collage," Schwartz expressed, "the piece was like a
random collage of sounds, producing random sounds from a live broadcasting."
Unfortunately, this will be the last semester
of full-time teaching for Prof. Swchartz. Since 1964 he has maintained
a tradition of walking into the music library and walking off with "stuff."
Upon the return of the missing items, librarians were continually baffled
at the expiration dates of the material; sometimes, as it happened recently,
as late as a decade. "He will be missed," Robbins said emphatically,
though librarians will probably throw their own concerto.
With his brown, single-laced bag, Schwartz
looked confident and pleased with his involvement this coming Saturday.
"I need to get down there and practice with the students; I haven't
even met them yet."
The concert will take place tomorrow at Lowell Hall, Harvard College at 8:00 p.m.