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Modern Music for Strings: Pacific Symphony and wild Up join artistic forces for first warehouse concert together with Santa Ana Sites and Logan Creative
Orange County, Calif. — January 26, 2015
The next Santa Ana Sites event is the result of what happens when a classical orchestra, Pacific Symphony, teams up with an experimental music ensemble, wild Up, and explores an eclectic mix of contemporary music at a converted warehouse turned art space in Santa Ana, called Logan Creative. Together, a dozen musicians from each ensemble form a string orchestra under the baton of Christopher Rountree, artistic director and conductor of wild Up. The concert takes place on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. and features music by two popular, classically trained musicians of the contemporary rock scene: “Popcorn Superhet Receiver” by Jonny Greenwood, the lead guitar player in Radiohead, and “Lachrimae” by Bryce Dessner, guitar player in the indie band The National. Other pieces on the program include Andrew Norman’s “Gran Turismo,” Arvo Pärt’s “Summa,” John Dowland’s “Flow My Tears” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a. Before the concert, Logan Creative is opening its doors at 6 p.m. to allow guests to visit the artist studios and galleries housed in the complex.
“To perform with an ensemble of the caliber of Pacific Symphony is a dream of ours,” says Rountree. “We’ve all grown up playing classical music, it’s our first love, and creating something new, from the ground up, with a group like Pacific Symphony—we’re thrilled about the potential here.”
“Pacific Symphony has always had very close and personal ties to the city of Santa Ana throughout our history,” says Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair. “Having this opportunity to perform in the exciting and rejuvenated downtown Santa Ana Arts District is certainly an important step for Pacific Symphony in continuing to forge our lasting partnership. As we move further into the 21st century, we are constantly looking for constructive ways to expand our reach into Orange County’s cultural scene. Bolstering our presence throughout Orange County is an important initiative as we strive to be our county’s orchestra, one committed to creating an atmosphere, thriving and alive with music’s beauty.”
Santa Ana Sites presents work in public and private spaces around Santa Ana, and thanks to the vision of Sites Artistic Director Allen Moon, the Symphony and wild Up perform together at Logan Creative, a former staircase factory and warehouse that has been converted into a compound for working artists and an art space for live performance developed by Jack Jakosky. The location is 800 E. Washington Ave. in Santa Ana. Tickets are $10; to purchase, call the Symphony’s box office at (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. More information can be found at www.SantaAnaSites.com.
“I wanted to see what would happen when you bring two very different organizations together, one whose aesthetic is primarily focused on the greats of the classical canon, and another organization whose primary focus is music that is being created at this very moment,” says Moon. “I see no reason why the two shouldn’t mix things up and intermingle. It’s those collaborations that make things interesting.”
“Pacific Symphony wishes to innovate and experiment with new programmatic offerings that might lead to discoveries that broaden the impact and artistic excellence of the Symphony,” says Symphony President John Forsyte. “Through a collaboration with wild Up in a nontraditional setting, we hope to test a notion that an eclectic, largely contemporary music program can reach a different audience than is typically seen at the concert hall. We also hope that the combination of intimate acoustics, raw aesthetics of the building and casual environment will support a great listening experience.
“Santa Ana Sites has established a wonderful following of art and music lovers that are looking for new experiences and seem to be open to risk-taking. We have been excited to watch their tremendous progress to bring the performing arts to downtown Santa Ana and activate physical spaces that might not have been imagined. Wild Up pushes the boundaries of instrumental/orchestral music. They are a new breed of instrumental group, and I am quite certain our musicians and theirs will engage with each other in exciting and unanticipated ways.”
About the Music
“As a conductor, what I love about this collaboration is that our ‘chops’ are all in different areas,” says Rountree. “Wild Up: they’re explorers, they all love making sounds, tearing their instruments apart (sometimes literally) and doing things that no one else can, because they are totally fearless. To combine that energy with the immense precision, clarity, intention and brilliance of the Pacific Symphony players—what a collaboration. I can’t wait.”
The concert opens with an individual performance by each ensemble. Wild Up begins with “Gran Turismo,” a violin octet by local composer Andrew Norman, who is composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. He teaches composition at the USC Thornton School of Music. Norman created this piece through a combination of watching his roommates play a racing video game called “Gran Turismo,” researching the art of Italian Futurist Giacomo Balla and thinking about the legacy of Baroque string virtuosity.
“Many of wild Up’s players are composers, so when we play the music of living composers we are connected to the source in a personal way—we know exactly how and why composers write music for an orchestra in 2015,” says Rountree. “It is so transparently energizing to play music by your contemporaries, or your elders, pieces that relate to things happening now in the world. We love that this program is a dialog between past and present, one that includes us, the composers, the scores and the audience right now, being together in the same moment.”
Next, Pacific Symphony performs a work by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who holds an envious position in the contemporary classical world having a handful of pieces which are frequently performed and recorded. Among these is “Summa,” a tapestry of intertwining lines creating haunting harmonies. Initially composed as a sacred choral work set to the Credo text “I believe in one God,” it was later transcribed for strings. Pärt’s introspective and contemplative music is so powerful that it has attracted an audience that transcends the classical genre, with musicians as diverse as Björk, Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke, PJ Harvey, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave and Keith Jarrett citing him as a major influence.
Both ensembles perform Jonny Greenwood’s “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” which won the Radio 3 Listeners’ Award at the 2006 BBC British Composer Award, and also inspired Paul Thomas Anderson to hire Greenwood to compose the score to his Oscar-winning film, “There Will Be Blood” (2007). A classically trained viola player, Greenwood was inspired by radio static and the experimental music of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki when writing this piece.
“Jonny Greenwood, Arvo Pärt and Shostakovich—these pieces belong together,” continues Rountree. “It’s my belief that they each become more relevant by being placed alongside one another. Shostakovich is, no question, a precursor to punk rock and Greenwood, a consequence of punk rock. Arvo Pärt’s music is glorious and simple—it sounds like the outer movements of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, slowed down and sent into space. Although this program is made of an incredibly diverse range of music—from film and 20th-century to more brutal, serene or virtuosic—they belong together on the same program.”
As a prelude to Bryce Dessner’s “Lachrimae,” the ensembles perform “Flow My Tears,” by John Dowland, a “greatest hit” from the Renaissance, with the lyrics sung by wild Up singer and percussionist Jodie Landau. Growing up as a guitarist, one of Dessner’s favorite things to play were transcriptions of Dowland’s lute music, and he used the melody from this one as the basis for a new work for strings.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a serves as a musical communion for both groups as it is revered repertoire championed by both ensembles. Shostakovich composed during the Soviet era in Russia and his music is alleged to contain veiled criticism of the political system in which he lived. He dedicated this piece to “The memory of the victims of Fascism and war.” The arrangement performed for this concert was approved by Shostakovich himself, and was made by the Russian conductor and violist Rudolf Barhsai.
The concert takes place in a venue that encourages artistic exploration. “Logan Creative is immense, theatrical, raw and inspiring,” says Moon, Santa Ana Sites artistic director. “It’s a creative hothouse with some fantastic artists from so many different mediums who are creating work there. The place calls out for live performance. And, it allows for some bold experimentation. When you liberate the audience from their typical role as a viewer within a more standard presentation style (i.e. a concert hall or another venue where one typically attends a concert), all of a sudden the audience can experience work with a new eye and ear. And, let’s face it, contemporary music can be challenging for some audiences. A new environment provides a new window into the music.”
About the Partners
Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, is the largest orchestra formed in the United States in the last 50 years, and is recognized as an outstanding ensemble making strides on both the national and international scene as well as in its own community of Orange County. Pacific Symphony offers moving musical experiences with repertoire ranging from the great orchestral masterworks to music from today’s most prominent composers, highlighted by the annual American Composers Festival and a series of multimedia concerts called “Music Unwound.” Pacific Symphony is dedicated to developing and promoting today’s composers and expanding the orchestral repertoire—illustrated through its many commissions and recordings, in-depth explorations of American artists and themes. The Symphony’s innovative approaches to new works received the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2005 and 2010.
wild Up is an experimental classical ensemble, a flexible band of Los Angeles musicians committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings. The group, led by artistic director and conductor Christopher Rountree, unites around the belief that no music is off limits and that a concert space should be as moving as the music heard in it: small, powerful and unlike anything else. The ensemble’s projects are meant to bring people together, defy convention and address the need for heart-wrenching, mind-bending experiences.
Santa Ana Sites is a community partnership presenting contemporary performance in public and private spaces throughout Downtown Santa Ana. The traveling forum is designed to provide the community shared artistic experiences, encouraging the discovery of diverse environments and architectural space. Santa Ana Sites is led by Artistic Director Allen Moon.
Logan Creative is a former metal staircase factory that has recently been transformed into a compound for working artists where individual and collaborative exploration can flourish. Mediums as diverse as metal, glass, wood, printmaking, paint, ceramic, photography, floral and graphic design are presently represented. In late spring of this year, Blinking Owl, a craft distillery, will open its doors. The Logan Creative vision includes hosting open studios, art exhibitions, lectures, workshops, tastings as well as music and dance performances.
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