On March 7 at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, Contemporaneous presented Self Portrait, a performance of five works commissioned by Contemporaneous, including four world premieres and works by artists in the ensemble. This same program was performed a second time on March 8 at Bard College. The diverse pieces explored the rich, often complex, relationship between music and self-expression. Taken together, they offer a picture in sound of the ensemble at the present moment, informed by its history and imagining its future.
Tamzin Elliott, whose work The New York Times has described as “effervescent” and “fresh,” set her poetry to music in a new cycle of songs that featured soprano Lucy Dhegrae. Drawing on disparate traditions, of songs for singer and large ensemble from Mahler to Frank Sinatra, Elliott’s music is intimate, vulnerable, and deeply affecting. Dylan Mattingly’s Lighthouse (Refugee Music by a Pacific Expatriate) is inspired by the composer’s hometown San Francisco Bay, while Finnegan Shanahan’s Water Cycle (Music for a Hudson River Railroad Dream-Map) reflects on the river that stretches from New York City up through Shanahan’s native Hudson Valley. Impulses, by Brazilian composer and Contemporaneous clarinetist Vicente Alexim, is marked by high-energy bursts to propel and shape its dramatic transformations. Contrasting with this is the serene beauty of Still Life for Ensemble by Contemporaneous percussionist Matt Evans.
On March 9, 2015, Contemporaneous performed at P.S. 142, a public elementary school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as a benefit for the school’s music program. Presented by the Neighborhood Classics Series, this concert featured Contemporaneous performing alongside Kaufman Music Center’s teenage new music ensemble, Face the Music.
Contemporaneous concluded this project with two additional educational events. On May 19th at Bard Early College Academy, four Contemporaneous core members presented two hour-long presentations to a total of 30 middle school-age students. They introduced students to the compositional experience through talking about and experimenting with form, graphic scores, and improvisation. By the end of the workshop, students were created small-scale modular compositions and Contemporaneous members performed them. Bard Early College Academy is a free after-school enrichment program for middle school students on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
On May 29th, at Bard High School Early College Queens, four Contemporaneous core members presented at the school’s Symposium Day. Contemporaneous was a guest of the music program, led by composer Stefan Weisman. Students had prepared compositions for our core members to workshop with them; we workshopped four student composers’ pieces, and also presented solo pieces. Students and Contemporaneous members discussed compositional techniques, instrument ranges and capabilities, and score notation, among other things. BHSECQ is a NYC public school. Plans are in place to expand this kind of workshop relationship with BHSECQ and Contemporaneous. Approximately 30 students total were present for the two class presentations.
Self Portrait was funded by donations from 218 funders from an online fundraising campaign. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to these donors.
Self Portrait was supported by New Music USA.
Self Portrait was made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.