Growth I – Violin Concerto
(2020) 16' / for solo violin, baritone saxophone, accordion, and percussion
written for the Concept Store Quartet
Movement 1: A dehydrated, pulverized, and then reconstituted (with lumps) 1903 recording of Joseph Joachim playing Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 1
Movement 2: Isaac Stern speaking in 1999 about the founding of the National Endowment of Arts seen through a thick layer of nostalgia's sweet molasses
Movement 3: The Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina playing Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 frozen, broken in shards, and randomly reassembled
The premiere performance by the Concept Store Quartet with Alicja Pilarczyk (violin), Pablo González Balaguer (saxophone), Nejc Grm (accordion), and Jeanne Larrouturou (percussion) took place on February 15th, 2022 in BKA-Theater, Berlin. The composition was commissioned with funds from the Fachausschuss Musik BS/BL.
a performance from Basel
Baritone Saxophone in Eb
- 3 surfaces to be rubbed, scraped, and hit with scrubbers and/or brushes
- a floor tom with a tub inserted to change the air presser and therefore shin pressure (pitch)
- drum set: bass drum (small), floor tom, tom, wood block, hi-hat, ride, and splash cymbal
Each of the three movements draws from historical recordings of a violin, a violinist, or an attempt to imitate both mechanically:
1. The first recording of a violin with a performance by Josef Joachim playing Hungarian Dance No. 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKK5iFFPKxM&t=3s, accessed Nov. 2020
2. An excerpt of a Carnegie Hall interview given by Isaac Stern in 1999
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-z2JWaGvg accessed Nov. 2020, ca. minute 9:00 to 12:30, slightly edited
3. The Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, a music cabinet with three self-playing violins and a self-playing piano known as the „8th wonder of the world“ at the 1920 World Fair playing Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBzaSVbCWxM, accessed Nov. 2020
It is said that Oliver Messien and Jean Sibelius were syntesthetes who saw colors while listening to music. I myself see geometric, undulating, wafting forms, and when I look at fine art, I often hear sounds in return. In my Growth series, I compose music imagining that it is seen, smelled, felt, or touched. The basic rule for Growth is that each work consists of three movements, and for each movement a found sound object serves as a point of departure – a kind of sourdough starter – from which the conceptual, rhythmic, harmonic, or structural substructure of a movement can ferment or sprout. The sound object can be a historical music recording, a field recording, or an interview and it may be partially audible in some form or entirely not at all.
The three sources of inspiration for the Violin Concerto are recognizable in the titles of the movements: In the first movement A dehydrated, pulverized, and then reconstituted (with lumps) 1903 recording of Joseph Joachim playing Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 1; in the second, Isaac Stern speaking in 1999 about the founding of the National Endowment of Arts seen through a thick layer of nostalgia's sweet molasses; and in the third The Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina playing Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9, no. 2, frozen, broken in shards, and randomly reassembled.
The weight of the instrument’s tradition was decisive for the selection of objects in the Violin Concerto. But in the case of the Snare Drum Concerto, the non-European origin and the military role of the snare drum were decisive for the selection. The movements are called Wilted recitatives revitalized, a nod to the underdeveloped parlando qualities of the snare drum; A Kotsuzumi and Kagkegoe sandwich dipped in cultural appropriation; and lastly John Lennon thunderclouds with Yoko Ono lighting bolts with Yoko Ono's Ono-Chord message serving as a click track only the soloist can hear: „I love you“.
Mike Svoboda in February 2022