Instrumental Identities and Performance Practice

The idyllic Williams College hosts an ICE residency on April 6 and 7, with a concert at Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall on the 7th at 8 PM.  The concert features a piece drawn from ICEcommons, the ensemble's open composer submission database: Ann Cleare's the square of yellow light that is your window.  

Erin Gee: Mouthpiece XXIV for saxophone and percussion
Georges Aperghis: Rasch for viola and soprano saxophone
László Dubrovay: Sei Duetti for violin and percussion
Ann Cleare: the square of yellow light that is your window for alto saxophone, electric guitar, piano and percussion
Ileana Perez Velázquez: Fire of the Heart and Mind for violin and piano

The program we are presenting at WIlliams is a platform for exploring instrumental identities, forged in a complex of historical and cultural evolutions. The works here either look at instrumental tradition as a compositional means, or they recognize instruments as sound-generating vessels without any bias. For instance, one will hear the electric guitar taken out of the rock band, but does this mean that the rock band is also taken out of the electric guitar? Can a composer discover sounds that truly divorce the sound source from one’s customary associations?

To help answer this question, László Dubrovay's six short pieces for violin and percussion, interleaved through the program, are a reference for familiar violin and keyboard percussion playing. A hybrid of Bela Bartók and Second Viennese styles, these six movements recall the folk fiddle and the romantic violin soloist, and they are a stark contrast with the other works. Miranda Cuckson and Ross Karre will rely on the traditions of their practice to guide their interpretation.

For the other composers, George Aperghis, Ann Cleare, and Erin Gee, performance practices are reinvented with each new piece. These composers find the ways that these instruments express the sonic phenomena in the minds’ ear. The piano, saxophone, guitar, and violin are on a level playing field with found objects of percussion, like the tin can and cookie sheet in Ann Cleare’s piece. Is a grand piano the same as a cookie sheet? This is a question that today’s composers have to answer.

When one hears instruments coaxed into anonymity, one is equally attuned to the performers’ unique personalities. Those personalities round out a forum that celebrates compositional innovation, and the attendant questions of traditional, cultural, historical, and personal perspectives. ICE is thrilled to welcome Ileana Perez Velázquez to this dialogue for the premiere of her new work, Fire of the Heart and Mind, and we are grateful to her for the invitation to Williams College.

-- Ross Karre and Jacob Greenberg