Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra
october 03, 2006
when i was a senior in college i took what ended up being one of my favorite classes of my entire college career - it was History of Jazz and it was taught by David Baker (renowned jazz musician, composer, music director for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy). Each Wednesday this enormous storage room/classroom in the basement of the music building would be packed to the gills with students. Only about half were actually approved to sit in on the lecture each week, and each week I had to struggle to find a free desk. I saw people snuggle up to a wall joint, perch on choir steps, kneel between desks, just to hear this man talk. He had the most wonderful voice - soft and gravelly - and he would tell stories, name-dropping legendary musicians while relating bits of history and explaining drink preferences as they all gathered at some smoky club or hole in the wall. Dr. Baker would pace, shoulders hunched, gray suit pants uncreased - I never saw the man sit down. i was in awe...
The reason i bring this up? the man continues to impress...i caught a story on Newswise.com - and followed the trail back to a press release that IU Media relations put out concerning Dr. Baker's newest piece - debuting the 1st and 2nd of this month to kick off the 20th anniversary season of the Chicago Sinfonietta under the direction of Maestro Paul Freeman. The piece, entitled Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra, by all accounts is to be a lively piece designed to not only encourage, but require audience participation. How will this work??? the concertino calls for audience members and members of the orchestra's percussion section to make user of their cell phones at various specified points throughout the piece. They intend to divide the audience into different sections and then cue the sections with red and green lights. Audience members will also be encouraged to experiment with the volume and ring tones, while the orchestra will also be working strains from recognizable ring tones into their work as well.
Sound chaotic? definitely. but i'm intrigued and think that the combination of the orchestra's staid presence and the cell phones normally intrusive sounds will complement each other well.
Baker had some must read quotes within the various articles I found...i'll just toss them in below...classic Dr. Baker.
"There's a wonderful balance between [chaos and organization] because that's how our lives are" he said. "Moving from the known to the unknown is very exciting"
"Cell phones inevitably awaken memories. It's kind of like a sonic perfume" (on how certain sounds around the audience can impact how they hear music and spark the mind)
"It's like a jazz piece. Once you've established the basic form of the piece and the tempo, then you don't know. I do know that very little happens for me when I'm in a passive environment" (on his uncertainty of what to expect with the music starts and the phones start ringing)
Baker, with over 2000 compositions under his belt admitted that this piece took the longest not just to write but to conceptualize.
"It think some people would think it is insane to even think about trying to combine the cacophony of cell phones with the pristine purity, sometimes, of an orchestra".
But what if no one participates?
"Girl, my heart stops just thinking about it," Baker says. "It would be like your soloist didn't show up for your concerto"
If anyone finds a sound bite on this out there - send it to me - i'm dying to hear it.