Interview with Kenji Bunch

We're excited to be playing the music of American composer Kenji Bunch this month. We got his CD Boiling Point and fell in love with the piece Drift and decided it fit perfectly on our DREAM program  Much to our surprise, when we got the music, it was not written out in traditional notation! We thought you might like to know more about how this works, so we've put together two blog posts about AUGENMUSIK (Eye Music).

Bob Chamberlin from Webster University is going to share a short history of Augenmusik, including links to recordings in our second post, but first, we're going to hear from Kenji Bunch himself. We contacted Kenji on Facebook and asked him a few questions about his creative process with Drift.       

Drift by Kenji Bunch. All images used with permission.  

What inspired you to write a graphic score?       As a performer, I've worked with a lot of graphic notation, from my years as violist in the Flux Quartet to my time as part of the performing composer collective Ne(x)tworks, a group that specialized in music of the New York School, the avant garde movement of John Cage and his contemporaries.  Writing graphic scores seemed a natural extension of this work.

What came first, the musical ideas or the desire to use this type of notation? What's the story behind this composition? 
I was commissioned by the Spoleto USA Festival to write a trio for clarinet, viola, and piano.  For whatever reason, at the time I was working on the project, my schedule only allowed me to sit down at my desk and get to work rather late at night.  After taking the necessary time to settle down and focus, so that I was actually ready to get good work done, I would be so tired that I'd literally be falling asleep while composing the piece.  I realized that some quality musical ideas were drifting away into my subconscious mind, and if I was able to recall any of them later that night or the next day, they wouldn't be exactly the same.  

Then it occurred to me that there was potential for some interesting exploration about this notion of memory and transformation.  In essence, the material in this piece develops not through the traditional compositional tools, but through the performer's ability to recall what he or she heard earlier in the work.  Any "mistakes" in this recollection would be embraced as development of the material.  And ultimately, the piece serves as a metaphor for the process of grief, which is really a confrontation and reconciliation with the idea that memories are inherently ephemeral, and can't be preserved without some kind of inevitable alteration.

The music literally Drifts away sometimes. 

 Did you experiment with and discard different ways of writing the same material? Did you rearrange the order of the material or movements?    I actually tried valiantly to write this piece using traditional notation.  This was a commission for very accomplished performers, but not necessarily for people who would be accustomed to performing off of drawings.  I was concerned the graphic score would be a distraction that could keep the piece from being taken seriously.  Ultimately, though, I realized it was really restricting me to write the necessary bar lines and rhythms, and it ended up looking way more complicated than it sounded.

Do you use this type of notation often?      I think my first graphic scores were back in 2002, when I was writing for a band called Nurse Kaya that I had with some friends.  I've used non traditional notations a number of times since then, but probably about 85% of my music is written the normal way.

What challenges does this type of notation present to you as the composer? What rewards does it offer you as the creator of this music that traditional notation doesn't offer?      First of all, we need to recognize that every form of notation, including the standard one in use for hundreds of years, is a graphic score.  Music written down in any fashion is a graph, depicting sound frequencies (pitch) over time.  There are other variables (dynamics, articulation, etc.), but all scores are expressions of a graph.  

With this in mind, it becomes possible to see that for certain techniques, traditional notation may not always be the best choice.  What I've found with pieces like "Drift" is that the notation, while at first kind of bewildering, actually makes it a lot easier for the performers to make music.  It enables listening rather than counting, and connecting and responding with each other, rather than trying to anticipate someone else's rhythms or assert your own.  It can be very freeing.  Especially in the case of this piece, which makes room for some gently guided improvisation for the three musicians. 

Check out Kenji's website >     (and buy some of his music!)

Isn't it interesting to learn about the process behind creating music? Which of the images are you most excited to hear? Do you think you'll be able to tell what we're playing in the concert? 


We discussed how long this passage should last in rehearsal a few times. In the end, it just happens the way it happens! 

Initially this page probably scared us the most. The first time we played it it was a disaster, but it's amazing how it always works out.

We'll be performing Drift three times in November: 

We've been selling out at The Chapel Series - don't wait to get your tickets! Advance pricing and online sales end at noon on day of concert.  buy tickets now > 

You asked for a matinee concert, and you got it! Join us in this beautiful sanctuary. Free will donation suggested.  view details >

A cozy venue for a great concert.  view details >


Chamber Project ON TAP

Artistic Director and flutist Jennifer Gartley introduces our new series:


Before I moved to Saint Louis, I am going to have to admit I did not like beer. I just didn't. I mean, I was over my horrible amaretto sour stage, but beer was not at the top of my list.  But when you move to Saint Louis, you better saddle up because beer is KING.  STL is the home of Budweiser, you can walk out of your house in the city in the morning and smell the hops/seeds/barley, or whatever it is they are brewing, and know you are in the Lou.



There is a craft beer revolution going on in Saint Louis too, and it is exciting, and good for the city, and really really tasty.   Personally, I've been able to explore my tastes with my local brew masters over at the Civil Life, Urban Chestnut, Six Row, 4Hands, Schlafly... and I know I don't like the beers that taste like perfumed flowers, but I do like the stouts, and a good black ale.  And it can be a little less intimidating than wine (which is also pretty darn good, but if I'm being honest, I can't tell the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Merlot, but I pretend to).  You can learn a little but  more about the viewpoint of some of these craft breweries in the trailer for their movie here:  - but if you don't have time, it really comes down to community, and making people happy, and locally supported businesses.  What can that do for a city? A community?


Well, obviously, this sounds SO up the Chamber Project alley - all about people, connecting with our community, making St. Louis a better place to live...  But beer and classical music in a bar? Does that work?

It's happening all over the country, and our experiments with it have show a demand for it! Check out this piece on the Cleveland Orchestra in a local Cleveland bar, breaking down barriers and finding new audiences. Pretty cool, huh?

We want to bring together all that St. Louis has to offer - great music, great beer and great people, all ON TAP just for you. We are proud to partner with Schlafly Beer and 4 Hands Brewing Co. along with the Tavern of the Fine Arts to try this out this season - come and raise a glass with us,  it's going to be fun. Cheers!

Tavern of Fine Arts - OCT 23, 7:30pm
Schlafly Tap Room - JAN 29, 7:00pm
4 Hands Brewing Co. - MAY 6, 7:00pm   


This series is partly funded by The Missouri Arts Council and the Regional Arts Commission.

Meet Eliana

Our upcoming concert is titled "VOYAGE" because all of the pieces start somewhere and end up somewhere different. We thought it would be fun to learn about Voyages our musicians have taken so we asked them to share. Eliana Haig (viola) will be making her debut with Chamber Project next week. She's new to Saint Louis so take a moment and get to know her and her story! We'll have a few more stories coming soon.  Hi! My name is Eliana and I am very excited to be playing viola on the Voyage concerts for Chamber Project! I am a Saint Louis newbie, having just moved here with my fiance, Alex, in August. I currently teach about 22 private students (and growing) and freelance throughout the region.

Eliana and her beloved viola!

I decided on the viola in 3rd grade string orchestra through a process of elimination. I decided that 1) the violin was too high-pitched and annoying (upon working with many great violinists I have since changed my view) and 2) the cello was going to be a pain to carry around. The viola and I have been inseparable ever since. I love playing the middle voice and being in the center of the action.

I’ve been lucky that my viola playing has allowed me to enjoy many different parts of the world as well as many different musical experiences. I just moved to Saint Louis from Rochester, New York: I got my Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, then lived “downstate” (NYC area) for two years, then went back to Rochester, and now here. I grew up in Kentucky, but did my Bachelor’s degree in Wisconsin, so I’ve sort of lived a little bit of everywhere! My most interesting musical voyage, however, was the year I spent studying abroad in Austria.

Beethoven Monument in Vienna

Like many American students, I did a study abroad program for a semester, and chose Vienna as my destination. To non-musicians this may seem a bit random. Why not London or Paris or Berlin? But Vienna is actually a musician’s dream destination. Most of the composers we know best lived there, including Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, and Schumann. Arnold Schoenberg, the composer of Verklärte Nacht [which is on the upcoming concert], was born in Vienna and lived and worked there before being forced to emigrate when the Nazi party rose to power. {click here to watch a short video about Schoenberg in Vienna} I got to visit Beethoven’s apartment, explore an entire museum devoted to Mahler, and see a Bruckner Symphony with the same orchestra and the same hall where it was premiered. During my semester in Vienna, I also took lessons with a fantastic viola teacher, from whom I learned so much that I decided to stay the rest of the year.

This teacher actually taught full-time at a school in Graz, a small city in the southern part of Austria, so I enrolled there. I learned conversational German, though much of it I have forgotten. I played a lot of concerts, and met many people from all over the world. Being far away from home with only a passable command of the language was exciting, fascinating, confusing, and lonely, often all in the same day! Since I often think in musical terms, the best way I can think to describing my experience is that it was like learning a completely new piece of music for the first time.

Beginning to rehearse a new piece, while fun and exciting, is often disorienting. Even if I have listened to the piece with the score, hearing my part combined with the others for the first time feels like information overload. Especially when I’m preparing to perform piece of contemporary music, it takes a while to try to understand the “musical language” of the composer. Why do they want it to get louder there? What emotional or coloristic effect is he or she going for? Sometimes a new piece seems so “foreign” that I’m not even sure if certain markings in the score are clerical errors or intentional musical instructions. But much like the thrill of travelling, I love playing new music because it stretches me intellectually and forces me to try new ways of doing things - all in real time and while responding to the other musicians. That’s why live music is so much fun!

Much like a composer’s notes in the score, symbolic instructions can get lost in translation. This ambiguous sign, which I saw outside of public transit station in Graz, Austria, says “uneven surfaces”.

What does this mean?!

Be sure to say hi to Eliana at one of our upcoming concerts!

FEB 22, 7:00pm at The Saint Louis Art Museum Art After 5 series.Call 314-721-0072 to reserve your free tickets.

MARCH 1, 8:00pm at The Chapel Venue. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Includes 2 drinks. Click here for advance ticket purchase.

Full Program PIAZZOLLA            L’histoire du Tango BERMEL                Soul Garden SCHOENBERG     Transfigured Night

Creating a MOSAIC

Our concert this week is called "MOSAIC". Every piece on the program is by an American, and each piece truly unique.  We're really excited about the blend of old and new on this program and the breathtaking variety of style. From traditional classical, modernist mastery, jazz, blues and folk - it's all in here! Learn a little more about the music from the musicians themselves in this post. October 19, 8:00 pm The Chapel Venue - tickets include 2 drinks. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Online ticket purchase click here.

October 24, 7:30pm Chamber Music Series Danforth University Center, Washington University - in the Goldberg Formal Lounge free

MUSICIANS Jennifer Gartley, flute Dana Hotle, clarinet Adrianne Honnold, saxophone Elizabeth Ramos, violin Laura Reycraft, viola Stephanie Hunt, cello Christopher Haughey, bass

JOAN TOWER Petroushskates (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano)


Dana "I about fell out of my chair the first time I heard Petroushskates I loved it so much. It is so colorful and vibrant. Joan achieves these bright, shimmering, brilliant colors with just these 5 instruments, almost exactly the same colors the composer Stravinsky gets with a full orchestra. Stravinsky's famous ballet, Petroushka, is one of her sources of inspiration for this unique piece. The other source, figure skating, seems completely at odds with her first source: an iconic ballet by a Russian master, but somehow, she makes it work! I love the tension that these two seemingly unrelated ideas create in this short piece. I'm excited to finally play music by Joan Tower, one of the great American composers of the 20th Century, and one of the first female composers to really "make it". She was the Conductor in Residence at the St. Louis Symphony in the '80s, so she has this great St. Louis connection as well."

Jennifer "The Tower never lets up, I can never stop counting even for a second. In practicing this work, the rhythmic element is just so challenging, but the effect should be a mix of the ultra complicated coupled with a feeling of effortlessness... which doesn't completely make sense until you hear it."

AARON COPLAND Piano Variations (solo piano)


This is not your everyday piece of music. This is not your everyday composer. One of the most popular American composers of all time, you get to hear a side of Copland you may not have heard before in his Piano Variations (1930). This piece put him on the map as a very serious artist. This music is "ART" in the highest sense of the word. It falls into the category of "Modernism", which basically means a style of music in which a composer is trying to break out of the traditional ways of using melody, harmony and rhythm, often times failing to create anything lasting. But not Aaron, he succeeds brilliantly. This music is bracing and angular, representing the incredible changes in society in the early to mid 20th century. Think machines, technology, urbanism - expressed in a very elegant and concise vocabulary. We've rented a brand spanking new Yamaha Concert Grand piano for this concert, and Nina is going to show you everything it can do with the Copland!

MASON BATES Life of Birds (flute, clarinet, violin, cello)

Jennifer "I have been intrigued by Mason Bates for a few years and I first heard about him in his role with the New World Symphony in creating these really cool electronica/classical crossover concerts that were held in clubs late night. After a little bit of research, I found that he also composed acoustic works and this work just seemed to fit perfectly with our programming. I like his approach to narrative within a work, and even though flute players sometimes get a little tired of being compared to birds, this new approach by Bates really caught my interest. I can't wait to play this, it has been on my wish list for a couple of years."

Dana "Life of Birds is amazing. It's playful, jazzy, modern and soulful all at the same time. we had a blast rehearsing it at a Very Open Rehearsal at STLCC last week!"

Mason is on Facebook and Twitter (follow links to connect with him)


EVAN CHAMBERS  Come Down Heavy (violin, saxophone, piano)

Adrianne "Evan Chambers, the composer of Come Down Heavy, is a contemporary American composer and a traditional Irish fiddler. As you might imagine, he often unites the contemporary and the traditional in his music, and Come Down Heavy is no exception. The piece starts out with a blues-styled line in the saxophone part but quickly evolves into a more avant-garde imagining of the melody utilizing the extended range of the saxophone and rhythmic complexity in the ensemble as a whole. At one point the instruction to the performers in the score says "Cataclysmic", which I've never seen in a piece of music!

Throughout the first movement, the piece goes back and forth between these bluesy folk tune melodies and a more modern representation of those melodies. The second and third movements of the piece are more traditional, with the second movement featuring a beautiful melody performed by the fiddle and the third movement featuring the saxophone. Finally, the fourth movement, "Drill Ye Tarriers" employs different types of dance forms and ends with a frenzied flourish in the form of a tarantella. [a tarantella is an old Italian dance form that has to do with spiders, you can read about it here] Throughout the piece Chambers uses traditional Irish, Scottish and even Italian folk ideas, a nod to both his own heritage and to the varied heritage of America.  This piece can get pretty wild, but just keep listening! You're never far from another folk tune. "

GEORGE GERSHWIN "Someone to Watch Over Me" (saxophone, string quintet) An American Classic, sweetly arranged for sax and strings. Check out this beautiful rendition by the incredible Ella Fitzgerald. [youtube=]

This program is presented in partnership with The American Arts Experience, and partially funded by The Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Intimate Songs

As you might know, we don't print detailed program notes for our concerts, preferring to converse with our audience during the concert. We know our audience to be a curious bunch, so once again we want to bring you a little more perspective about the music here in our blog. On Thursday February 23rd, we will present the program we call "Intimate Songs". This concert features an unusual assortment of instruments; voice, viola, saxophone and piano. This program was such a huge hit with our audience last year, we wanted to do it again. The musical selections span over 120 years, from the height of the Romantic Era in 1884, to modern living composers in the last decade. The program contains a rich, deep spectrum of styles and emotions; from a lullaby written for dear friends expecting their first child, to a powerful work that reflects on the events of 9/11.  If you want your music experience to be more than toe tapping computer generated beats (which are great from time to time - no offense to the dub-step lovers!) this is the program for you!

I asked the performers to answer a few questions about the music in this program and compiled it.  First, the necessary info: Who's performing and what will they play? Then the musicians' thoughts and feelings about the music.   At the end is a glossary of musical terms that come up in the musicians' answers the average music lover might not be familiar with.


Debra Hillabrand, mezzo-soprano Adrianne Honnold, saxophones Larua Reycraft, viola Peter Henderson, piano

JOHANNES BRAHMS l Two Songs op.91 (1884) mezzo-soprano, viola, & piano I. Gestillte Sehnsucht        II. Geistliches Wiegenlied

LORI LAITMAN l Living in the Body (2001) based on poetry by Joyce Sutphen - female voice & alto saxophone I.    Burning the Woods of My Childhood     II. Living in the Body      III.  Not For Burning IV.  Lost at Table     V.   Bring on the Rain      VI. Crossroads

LIBBY LARSEN l Sifting Through the Ruins (2005) mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano I.   A Listing II.  To the Towers Themselves III. Don’t look for me anymore (from the wailing wall at Grand Central Station) IV. Untitled V.  Someone Passes

PAUL HINDEMITH b Trio op.47 (1928) viola, tenor saxophone, piano I. Erster Teil           II. Zweiter Teil: Potpourri

Tell us a little about this program. 

Peter (piano): It's a great pleasure to collaborate again with friends from the Chamber Project and with the talented singer Debra Hillabrand. I'm grateful to be revisiting three beautiful pieces with them this month on the "Intimate Songs" program.

Libby Larsen's powerful song cycle Sifting Through the Ruins skillfully balances musical contrast and repetition in setting texts drawn from personal responses to 9/11. Reflective and visceral by turns, Larsen's music makes a tremendous emotional impact.

I'm also fascinated by Hindemith's Trio op. 47. Hindemith's trademark counterpoint is on display throughout the work, but what amazes me the most is the tremendous rhythmic energy sustained. Aside from the Arioso, a duet for saxophone and piano near its beginning, the entire piece is electric. The second part ("Potpourri") begins in a high energy state, ratchets up the tension in a whirling fugato, and ends with a truly manic, Prestissimo coda. Apart the extreme concentration in its style, Hindemith's Trio features an attractive touch of whimsy. We hope that you enjoy this unusual and vibrant program!

Do you have a favorite piece or musical moment on this program? 

Laura (viola): I really love the lyricism and expressiveness of the Brahms songs.  The second Brahms song is a cradle song and I can imagine rocking a child to sleep, especially at the close of the song.

brahms maunu

Sifting Through the Ruins [Larsen] is very effective in the way it draws the audience in emotionally. Susanne Mentzer, the mezzo-soprano who premiered the Larsen, privately collected the texts used in Sifting Through the Ruins from memorials around New York City as part of her quest to understand the events of 9/11. The third movement of the Larsen is the pinnacle of the work.  It really gets to the heart of what the piece is all about - searching for a lost loved one and the process of grieving and moving on.  The voice of the missing gives permission for the living to do so.

Debra (voice): Really, Sophie's Choice?  You're going to make me choose between my children?  Well, if I must, would have to say the Larsen.  Simply because during the performance, the audience becomes so involved and inspiring.  Their reactions and silence add to the intensity.

In the "Sifting Through the Ruins", the transition from the second to the third movement is bone chilling.  The end of "To the Towers Themselves" has grown into the loudest wail

libbylarsen headshot

we've heard yet, and then "Don't look for me anymore" begins with a solemn, lone sounding of the viola.  It almost takes my breath away before singing the weary text [that follows].

I'm always inspired by extremes and intense growth in a musical phrase. In "Geisliches Wiegenlied," [Brahms] the lullaby grows in intensity as the mother becomes worried about the wind.  She asks the roaring wind how it can so angrily bluster today, then exclaims "O rauscht nicht also" (oh roar not so).  At this moment, voice, viola, and piano all reach the climax of dynamic and intensity.  I get chills every time.

Adrianne (saxophones): I came across Laitman's "Living in the Body" because I knew of one of her more well-known works for alto saxophone and soprano voice entitled "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" which was performed at a saxophone conference at Northwestern University back in 1998.  The piece turned into somewhat of a "hit" amongst saxophonists, but we weren't able to program it for Chamber Project with Debra because the range was too high for a mezzo soprano.  I'm so glad we came across this work of Laitman's instead.

I think it's cool that both the poet and composer of the work are women who are living and working in the arts today.  As a saxophonist, I've only had a handful of opportunities to

Lori Laitman

perform with vocalists over the years so this is a fun and unique experience for me.  Also, Debra and I have enjoyed bringing to life the subtle nuances, the humor, and sometimes even the sadness that is expressed through the text and so adeptly through the music that Lori Laitman has composed.  Kathryn Mary Drake, DMA voice student at LSU had this to say about the piece in her doctoral dissertation:  "The saxophone adds to the rather bleak texture, creating a distinct atmosphere of nostalgia and often creating musical imagery to further describe the meaning of the text."

This is not the kind of piece you hear everyday...glad to be presenting it here in St. Louis again!

Is there anything you disliked or were challenged by on this program?

Debra: Anything that I didn't like initially, I tried to figure out how the composer was using the music to convey the goals and/or emotions of the character.  Once I figured how the composer was using the seemingly disagreeable music and I had character-driven motivation, I didn't find any parts that I really disliked.

Because the Laitman is for voice and saxophone only, the harmonies are not as obvious as a piece with piano or multiple instruments would be.  As a singer learning a piece, I listen for the harmonic progression to help me find my pitches and lead me where I'm going.  I had to dig a little deeper when learning "Living in the Body."

Adrianne: The Hindemith definitely ranks up there as one of the hardest pieces I've ever performed because of the rhythmic complexities inherent in his writing.  Totally worth it though!

hindemith and benny

Laura: The last page of the Hindemith is the most technically difficult for me, but the whole piece challenges the trio to play faster, louder and more brilliantly.

The opportunity to play the program again is fantastic.  I think that letting the Hindemith sit and age for almost a year is exactly what we needed to play it even better this time, even though it is still difficult after all of this time!

Does any of this music create a story line for you?

Debra: Since I almost always have text to work with, the story's framework is usually apparent.  The biggest joy I have in preparing songs is discovering the characters' journeys and emotions within the framework.  I love discovering how I think the composer feels about the character by analyzing the text treatment and text painting. The discoveries are endless!  These discoveries reveal a very specific story for each piece which I love conveying to the audience.




To learn more about the Two Songs by Brahms, and their touching and tragic origins, click here

IN CONCERT:  Thursday February 21st, 7:30 pm Washington University Danforth University Center Goldberg Formal Loung free


coda: the ending section of a large piece of music. Is usually set apart from the rest of the work somehow. In this case, the Hindemith, it's by the tempo - the music speeds up in the coda (this is a common coda thing to do).

counterpoint: A type of musical texture. A musical texture is the way the various 'lines' of music are layered. Counterpoint is one of the more complicated textures in which two more more melodies compete for the attention of the listener. The music tends to sound very 'busy' and intellectually stimulating.

fugato: a more specific type of counterpoint loosely modeled on the formal structure of a Fugue. This will contain "imitative counterpoint". A simple example of imitative counterpoint is the Round. (Think:  "Row Row Row Your Boat".) Basically, one instrument 'states' the melody, and others jump in with the same melody while the first is still making it's statement.

harmony: two or more notes sounding at the same time. Some combinations are common, others are not.

harmonic progressions: Also known as chord progressions. The order in which harmonies are played. There are very standard progressions that you have heard thousands of times. In classical music, creating unusual and effective chord progressions is a huge part of the music.

musical phrase: a section of music that has a distinct beginning, middle and end. Much like sentence structure.

pitches: notes

Prestissimo: very, very, very fast

text painting: Loosely refers to the way that the meaning of the words being sung is reflected in the way they are put to the music. If the word is "high" - the note sung might be a very high pitch. (also called 'word painting')

A What? A VOR?

post by Dana


What is a VOR? It is a Very Open Rehearsal. Well, what is that? It's an interactive music experience, where the audience works with the musicians during a real rehearsal.

Musicians practice for hours and hours individually, locked in a room, alone with our instruments and the music in front of us. Coming up for air to look up a term or check in with a recording, then back to work. Then we rehearse with other musicians, behind locked doors, and then finally, we go public in performance. But what exactly are we doing behind those locked doors? Why does it need to be such a secret? I think most musicians would agree that one of the most interesting aspects of being a musician is the transformation that takes place between the rehearsals and the performance. For me, this is the single most interesting thing about music, the transformation from start to finish. And now you get the chance to be a part of the transformation.

Next week, Chamber Project will be having our first ever VOR. To our knowledge, this is the first VOR that is open to the public in St. Louis. Pioneered in New York by Thomas Cabaniss and the New York Philharmonic's education initiatives,  the VOR invites the audience to engage with music in a new and active way. The musicians rehearse but the audience can interrupt at any point and ask any questions that they have about what is going on in the rehearsal. Yes, that's right. The audience interrupts and asks questions.

Our musicians; Jen, Dana and Melissa, will be rehearsing music that we are performing on our January 21st concert. This will be the first time we rehearse this particular music. We will play through the selected music (about 5 minutes long), and then begin rehearsing, at which point the audience is invited to question anything we say or play. We might just ask a few questions back. After we've rehearsed, with your help, we will  finish by performing the musical selection.  You don't just hear the transformation, you get to be a part of it!

Piston sheet music

One of the things we have learned from getting to know our audience, and from being educators, is that musicians hear differently than everyone else. But we also know that it's because we are trained to hear. All those lessons our parents paid for? All those years and years of college?  It's not to learn to play, it's to learn to listen. If you cant' hear it, you can't do it on your instrument.  The act of listening is something that is learned. The more you know, the deeper your potential for enjoyment is. Having personally meaningful and fully engaging listening experiences is a joyful and even empowering event. We want to open the door to everyone to a deeper listening experience. We think that the VOR is the perfect way to do this.

VOR will be held on Thursday January 12, 7:00 at The Tavern of Fine Arts. It will last about an hour. Come anytime during that hour, and enjoy the great wine list and food at The Tavern!

313 Belt Avenue, St. Louis MO 63112

Inside Scoop on Strings Attached

posted by CPSTL. 

This week we perform our program we're calling Strings Attached. If you've been to our concerts, you know that we don't print stuffy academic program notes for you to read while listening to the concert. We don't want you to feel like you need to multi task - we want you to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.  We get up and talk to our audience about the music, giving them information that enhances their listening experience, then we play the music. We started this blog because we know our audience is curious to know more about us and about music. So we thought we'd start a new approach to program notes that will give you some insight into the musicians mind!

We asked our musicians some questions about the music in this program, and compiled their answers to give you insight into how we feel about the music, and why we're so excited to play it for you this week.

Occasionally, we musicians use musical words to describe music that no one but musicians understand, but we forget this and use them anyway.  As the words come up, they've been underlined and there is a little tiny dictionary at the bottom you can reference if you wish. We also use the last name of the composer to identify the piece we're talking about.

musicians Hannah Frey, Violin Laura Reycraft, viola Valentina Takova, cello Jennifer Gartley, flute Dana Hotle, clarinet Nina Ferrigno, piano

program Trio for Flute, Viola & Cello by Albert Roussel Sonate for Flute, Clarinet & Piano by Maurice Emmanuel Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (violin, viola, cello, piano)

Musicians warming up

NINA    "As I head into this exciting week of concerts with Chamber Project, I've been thinking a lot about the Mozart E-flat Quartet that ends the program.  It is a piece I have played before although not for a number of years.  Actually, not since the summer after I graduated from high school when I was seventeen!  My music is a kind of time capsule of fingerings, phrase marks, dynamics and instructions which compel me to remember my past experiences with this great piece.  At one point in my music the cryptic mark of simply 'Donna' appears encouraging me to remember a friend who was such a part of that experience and, apparently someone I needed to watch for a cue!!  It has been really fun revisiting that time, but also great to discover just how differently I perceive this piece now.  Even before Chamber Project rehearsed for the first time, I was busy erasing most of the markings from long ago.  I just don't move my hands in the same way or hear these Mozartian phrases in the same way.  This piece seems so much more joyfully personality driven than it did years ago to an earnest 17 -year old about to start a career in music.  I hope you enjoy these performances as much we will enjoy playing them!"

What is your favorite piece on the program to play?

LAURA    “Mozart is fun to play and has a sunny and not too serious character. I like the Roussel more and more as we rehearse it, the tunefulness is becoming more apparent to me.”
VALENTINA  “I perform on two pieces on the program. Both are very different and interesting in their own way. The Roussel Trio is getting more and more interesting as we untangle all the strange and unusual voice leading and harmonic progressions. I am starting to realize that everything on the page makes a lot of sense, even though for a first time listener it might be a bit abstract. The Mozart Quartet on the other hand is purely enjoyable for the players and listeners alike. The music is light, beautiful and accessible. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at our concerts this week.”
DANA    “I only play on one piece in this program, but I am really excited to hear the Mozart. I caught a little of the rehearsal yesterday and it sounded great. I love the way Mozart writes for piano in chamber music, and I love hearing Nina play Mozart -so this is going to be good!”
HANNAH   "Mozart:  Of course I love Mozart.  I always love playing Mozart.  He is a genius, and one of my favorite composers to play.  When you play with piano, intonation is easier, because the piano is always right.  No arguments."
Is there a ‘magical moment’ for you in this music?

LAURA  “I really love my part in the coda of the 3rd movement of Mozart.  It is so joyful and carefree at that moment.”

DANA   “The second movement of the Emmanuel is so interesting, the way there is this ominous "boom boom" in the low piano, and these slow melodies weave around, talking to each other, with the 'boom boom' randomly pulsing underneath. It's erie and strange and really cool. Nina thinks it's just way too weird, but I like it.”

Does any of this music tell a specific story for you?

DANA    “All music can tell a story, but one that came to me right away when I listened to it was in the first movement of the Emmanuel. It sounds like a beautiful dream, cheerful, everything is going fine, and then, out of nowhere these weird harmonies surface to remind you that this is really a dream, surreal like a dream.  Some of the stories I've learned about how the pieces were written are very interesting. Mozart was commissioned to write three piano quartets by a famous music publisher (we are playing the second one). After the publisher got the first one, rumor has it that he hated it so much that he paid Mozart to NOT write the second one! Perhaps Mozart had already written the second one, we don't really know, but we have it, and it's fantastic. It's too bad he never wrote the third. I have to say the the second one is a bit nicer than the first. It's also really interesting that Roussel wrote his Trio in 15 days. I'm pretty sure the collective practice time of the three people playing it this week greatly exceeds that. It's hard!”

JEN  "The third movement of the Roussel could be described as a "rondo," which means the same theme keeps returning over and over again.  But in this case, it seems like the rondo theme keeps getting lost and then all of a sudden it will appear out of nowhere, and you will know where you are musically."
What is the most challenging aspect of this program for you?
LAURA   “The Roussel. He writes in a difficult register for the viola in several passages, and their are many dissonances which are hard to tune.  I began preparing the Roussel about a month ago.”
VALENTINA    “The Roussel Trio has some tough passages for cello. I have a couple of really high solos and it has been fun trying to figure out the intervals and the harmony. I do like the challenge very much.”

JEN   "I am honestly more attracted to super passionate music and people and subtlety is sometimes not my strong point.  But I HATE movies like "The Notebook" that are emotionally manipulative intentionally.... so the restraint of this program is a nice challenge to both sides of my personality. The Roussel is a tough piece, the harmonies take awhile to fit into your ear and it is a surprisingly complicated piece of music, all of the parts are very intricate and are woven together meticulously.  If you miss even the slightest tie, it throws off the entire rhythmic continuity."

We hope you enjoyed hearing a little of what we think and feel about this music! Is there something else you want to know? Just ask! We'll share more insight to the music and the composers in our concerts, We hope to see you there! for more info!
MiniMusicDictionary harmony: two or more notes sounding at the same time. Some combinations are common, others are not. dissonance: a type of harmony where the notes sounding together produce a ‘crunchy’ or ‘disagreeable’ sound. Usually defined as ‘unstable’ harmonies in music lingo. Traditionally followed by consonant, or pleasant and stable harmonies. harmonic progressions: Also known as chord progressions. The order in which harmonies are played (e.i. dissonance followed by consonance). There are very standard progressions that you have heard thousands of times. In classical music, creating unusual and effective chord progressions is a huge part of the music. voice leading: describes the way in which individual parts or 'voices' interact, creating and embellishing the progression from one chord to another. interval: The distance between two notes.
intonation: playing in tune
tie: an aspect of rhythm, when two notes are 'added' together. coda: A musical epilogue of sorts. The ending section of a movement.
Did we leave something out? Just ask! There are no stupid questions!

Musicians tuning