The Buffalo Chamber Players record Caroline Mallonee’s String Tunes
Caroline Mallonee and the Buffalo Chamber Players have had a fruitful partnership since she moved to Buffalo in 2010. She serves as composer-in-residence for the group and they have premiered four new works of hers. They have featured her music on eleven concerts in concert venues around Buffalo: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (where they are in residence), Pausa Art House, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, and Buffalo Seminary. Her music has been used in their collaborations with Lehrer Dance, and BPC presented a portrait concert of her work in 2017.
String Tunes is an immense set of pieces for violins, viola and cello. The title is descriptive: some of the pieces are in just intonation; some of the movements are played scordatura (retuned); and some of the music is inspired by American and Scandinavian fiddle tunes. The pieces are new both in language and technique, yet remain idiomatic for the instruments. The collection represents an important contribution to string literature.
Many of the pieces fall into the category of “Finger Music,” a term Mallonee uses for music that is about the left hand: one finger pattern is repeated on different strings. While Bach’s unaccompanied works often have finger patterns heard at different pitch levels, this left-hand music capitalizing on scordatura tunings is unusual. Because the “Finger Music” pieces are left-hand conceptions, many of these pieces can be played on violin, viola, or cello. Some can be performed in more than one scordatura tuning. These pieces are unusually visceral — they are about the feel of the instrument and the motion of the fingers on the fingerboard — and are rewarding for the player and the audience alike.
The quartet, The Butterfly Effect, was written for Spektral Quartet. The title comes from chaos theory: the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil may cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. The piece begins with a musical illustration of the beating of a butterfly’s wings. Soft and fluttery, the music is delicate and intoxicating. After a journey (inspired by American and Scandinavian folk music), the piece ends with the sound of rain. In addition to the sound of the quartet playing pizzicato, previously recorded, processed music representing rain is heard. Rainsticks join in and the effect of a far-off rainstorm is achieved.
String Tunes consists of twelve solos, a duo, two trios and one quartet. Some are performed with electronic processing. The Buffalo Chamber Players have featured all of these works on previous concerts and will now record the complete String Tunes catalogue in a single studio album.
Clock It is a fast and energetic trio that features the medieval technique of hocket, in which a melody is shared by several different voices. Here, the instruments pass the melody around, one note at a time, rarely playing at the same time as each other. The piece was commissioned by the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, where Mallonee was in residence in 2013.
The Buffalo Chamber Players have performed this piece several times. In this video, Lehrer Dance is performing with the live musicians.
The Butterfly Effect was written for Spektral Quartet. The title comes from chaos theory: the beating of a butterfly’s wings may cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. The piece begins with a musical illustration of the beating of a butterfly’s wings. After a journey (inspired by American and Scandinavian fiddling), the piece ends with the sound of rain.
Violist Janz Castelo performs Caroline Mallonee’s “Lehmann” from String Tunes in front of artwork by Shantell Martin at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY on May 18, 2017.
“Lehmann” is one of the solo movements from String Tunes. This piece is performed on a viola tuned to CGCG. The piece falls into the category of “Finger Music” and also features additive processes.
Start and End Dates
03/15/2020 — 04/30/2020
Buffalo, New York