Author Archives: John Lambert

Krisztina Dér and Wayne Reich: Flutist and Video Artist Meet at the Cutting Edge

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By Nicholas Rich

April 28, 2017, Greensboro, NC: In Central North Carolina, an unlikely duo is exploring the boundaries of multimedia art. Flutist Krisztina Dér and videographer Wayne Reich have joined forces for And Then There Was Light, an intermedia project combining contemporary flute music with lighting concepts.

Dér’s interest in combining sound and light began when she performed George Crumb’s 20th-century masterpiece Vox Balaenae. In his score, Crumb asks the performers wear masks and perform under blue lighting. “I’m fascinated by the idea of utilizing light and sound — both forms of kinetic energy — in a single, synergistic work of art” says Dér.

While pursuing her M.M. degree at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Dér delved deeper into the intersection of flute and light by commissioning Michael Rothkopf‘s “I Dream of Coloured Inks.” Now completing her doctoral studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dér has devoted her dissertation research and performance energy to this project, commissioning a further four pieces.

Dér found a like mind in Reich, a photographer, videographer, and musician interested in the potential of merging the aural and visual. “Krisztina and I met over coffee” says Reich, “and our ideas about music and light seemed to line up so well.”

In addition to the original Rothkopf composition, the project includes works by Anna Meadors, Jacob Thiede, Kyle Rowan, and Stuart Saunders Smith. Dér asked each of the composers to include a lighting concept as part of the piece. The results encompassed a huge variety of aesthetic and technical realms.

“In Dr. Rothkopf’s piece, the lighting is controlled by a computer program that is connected to three lighting units” explains Dér. “In the Meadors, a lighting technician executes the lighting design by controlling a lighting board. And in the Smith, the lighting element is performed by eight ‘lumanists,’ or individuals holding flashlights.”

Reich brought the project to life with compelling and carefully-staged video productions. His role was more than to document; Reich brought his artistry to bear on the complex task of rendering spatial art in video.

“My goal was to serve the music and each composer’s intention by creating a cinematic video of Krisztina’s performances while working around the constraints of the lighting design already in place” says Reich. “Most of my creative expression came in the form of camera position and operation, lens selection, editing, and color-grading. In a few places, I employed supplementary lighting where necessary.”

Three of the five pieces are by composers with ties to North Carolina. Rothkopf is on the composition faculty at UNCSA, while Thiede and Meadors both completed Master’s degrees at UNCG.

Rothkopf is known for designing sophisticated audio software that interacts with live performers. “I Dream of Coloured Inks” expands this concept by using interactive software to create both an electronic sound accompaniment and visual responses to two flutists. This is a crafty, angular piece characterized by shimmering metallic sounds from the computer and wonderfully jagged melodies in the flutes. The lighting is warm, soft, and immersive, enveloping both stage and musicians.

Jacob Thiede, currently a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, also used software to create his piece, “And Everything In-Between.” Thiede crafts a rich aural tapestry by not simply pairing digital and acoustic, but actually mixing them: the electronic accompaniment uses recorded and processed flute samples to spread out the performer’s sounds both spatially and temporally. As the sounds fragment, so do the projections. Mysterious blues and greens blink on and off rapidly in simulated malfunction and decay.

Anna Meadors, a PhD student at Princeton, chose an entirely acoustic landscape with “At Daybreak.” Don’t let the lack of computer fool you: by specifying timbral effects in the flute and adding a live percussionist, Meadors builds a powerful sonic fabric. Mirroring her approach to the music, Meadors asks a live lighting engineer to accompany the musicians. With every artistic element controlled in real time by human hands, “At Daybreak” has a wonderful elastic quality.

And Then There Was Light is a bold and compelling project. Asked to summarize her goals, a humble Krisztina Dér looks outward to her community.

“I hope to stimulate further adventures in music and light intermedia as a holistic art form — both for performers and composers.”

Note: See installments of the project as they are released at Krisztina Der’s blog: https://krisztinader.com/blog/.

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And Now, A Message from One of Our Sponsors

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United Arts Supports HB 13 to Preserve Funding for Arts Education Teachers

Eleanor Oakley, President and CEO of United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, released the following statement:

On behalf of the children of Wake County Public Schools and across the state, we stand in support of HB 13 to preserve funding for arts education teachers. Arts education is critically important for children’s development. Visual art, music, theatre, and dance – already constrained under extremely tight budgets – are known to have lasting, positive impacts on the lives of students. The arts build confidence and the ability to work collaboratively, helping students become strong leaders. The arts help students learn math equations and learn about weather systems. The arts keep students interested in school – and the arts keep students in school. The arts are versatile – and they are essential.

When cutting arts classes and laying off teachers is an option, the legislature needs to respond with a solution. Cutting arts classes and laying off teachers should never be an option. Our children’s education should not, and need not, suffer because of an unintended consequence to limiting class size – a reasonable objective. We look to state leaders to make sound judgments in the best interest of the children in our state and to seek counsel from the school systems that serve those children. We appreciate that the House unanimously passed this bill, and urge the Senate to do the same.

As the designated arts council in Wake County, we work closely with schools across the county, including a formal partnership with Wake County Public School System. On a daily basis, we are in contact with the PTA volunteers, teachers, and staff who work tirelessly to bring visiting artists to their schools through our Artists in Schools program, a unique opportunity for students to engage with professional artists. We know the arts teachers in Wake County are vital to the success of Artists in Schools; we know they are vital to our children’s success. We have the same goals for students in Wake County. These students need teachers of the arts in our schools next year. And the next year. And the next.

For more information, contact Karla Heinen at kheinen@unitedarts.org or 919-839-1498, ext. 211.

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Barbara Rowan Whang, R.I.P.

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The distinguished pianist and Milhaud scholar Barbara Rowan has died, her son Paul announced on Facebook, late on March 25. She was well known for her work with her husband, Fritz Whang, and as a long-time teacher in the UNC Music Department. She and Charlottesville-based Content Sablinsky also gave numerous duo and two-piano recitals over the years. We join her many friends, admirers, and students around the world in extending sympathies to her family. The obit appears immediately below, followed by tributes including her son’s farewell note.

Barbara Rowan Whang

Born in San Francisco on September 7, 1932, to James Arthur Harris and Roma Pool Harris, she died peacefully in her sleep on March 25, 2017. She is survived by her husband, Francis; daughter, Sheila Rowan Hill; son, Paul Rowan; stepdaughter, Maia Whang Arteel; and eight grandchildren.

Barbara attended public schools in Oakland, California, and won a scholarship to Mills College to study composition with Darius Milhaud and piano with Egon Petri. She received both the BA and MM degrees from Mills.

Following a year in Paris as a Fulbright scholar for advanced study with Milhaud, she returned to her alma mater where she taught piano until 1964. She then moved to Chapel Hill and was a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill piano faculty for nearly four decades. A brilliant soloist, she also enjoyed chamber music, teaming up for a period with four-hand piano partner Content Sablinsky, a fellow Mills College graduate. In 1992, she and colleague (and later, husband) Francis Whang formed the Janus Duo dedicated to solo and duo piano music. In 2010, they moved to Croasdaile Village in Durham where they presented their last public concert there in 2011.

In the course of her musical life, Barbara performed, lectured, conducted master classes, and adjudicated in Belgium, England, Wales, Asia, and many parts of the United States.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 3 p.m. on June 25, 2017, at Croasdaile Village in Durham. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the UNC Barbara Rowan Whang Music scholarship fund being set up in her honor. Tax deductible donations can be made by visiting http://music.unc.edu/support/donate/ and selecting the MUSIC AWARDS and HONORS FUND, memo designation in the honor/memory section for the Barbara Rowan Whang scholarship.

***

From her son Paul: “Dear Mom, It’s really hard to say goodbye. The last few years, as your ability to speak faded, I’ve struggled to remember your voice. I’ve sat with you while trying to guess your responses to my one-sided conversation. I’ve reflexively asked you how you are doing, forgetting that you couldn’t tell me. I’ve discovered I’m terrible at monologues.

“Now, though, I hope you can rest. I hope, in your passing, you knew how much we love you, how much you have given us, and how grateful we are to still hear your voice in what you’ve left behind.

“Rest in Peace, Barbara Rowan Whang

“Love,Your son, Paul”

***

From J. Don Coleman, founding conductor and long-time leader of the Hickory Choral Society:

“Although it has been 45+ years since she was my teacher I have often thought of her. She was one of the brightest individuals I have ever met. Always encouraging yet thought you could always do more.

“I remember one funny experience she had with Dr. [William S.] Newman which infuriated her.  As you know she studied with Darius Milhaud and actually lived in his Paris apartment one summer. Newman questioned the pronunciation of his name with her. She sent back a note which simply said:  Mi-O.

“Her memory loss for so long is sad.

“Take care, Don”

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Critic Alex Ross on Criticism

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The New Yorker‘s distinguished music critic, Alex Ross, writes a column about criticism that echoes many we have penned here as we’ve watched commercial papers reduce again and again the coverage of the arts in their pages – and as their veteran writers fall by the wayside or accept “buy-outs” (and of course when these are offered they have no viable option to taking the cash and departing…). These columns we are talking about are not blogs – they are professionally done, edited, documented, fact-checked, often illustrated, sometimes even foot-noted…. Please remember to support the providers of serious reviews created near you with subscriptions or donations and other forms of encouragement. Here’s Alex’s latest: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-fate-of-the-critic-in-the-clickbait-age?mc_cid=c0b7e51e4e&mc_eid=c9681a22ac

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Proposed Trump Budget Would Cut NEA, NEH, and CPB (PBS and NPR)

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It’s official: Proposed Trump budget would cut NEA, NEH, and CPB (PBS and NPR) (and never mind Meals on Wheels…).

Here are the first three paragraphs from the NY Times‘ report of 3/15:

“A deep fear came to pass for many artists, museums, and cultural organizations nationwide early Thursday morning when President Trump, in his first federal budget plan, proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a key revenue source for PBS and National Public Radio stations, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“It was the first time a president has called for ending the endowments. They were created in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation declaring that any “advanced civilization” must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.”

For the whole story, click here https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/arts/nea-neh-endowments-trump.html?mc_cid=26340975a3&mc_eid=c9681a22ac&_r=0

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As a Friend Says, “So There, North Carolina!”

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The NYT put it this way: “San Francisco Symphony Replaces Canceled N.Carolina Concerts with Pride Benefit.”

Meanwhile, out in SanFran, the article on NC’s endless embarrassment looks like this. The meat of this matter is here:

“The concert is scheduled for April 4 in Davies Symphony Hall, just before Thomas and the orchestra leave for their tour of the East Coast. That tour had originally included two concert dates in Chapel Hill, N.C., but the Symphony canceled those appearances in December in response to the passage of HB2, the North Carolina law that overturned transgender protections.

“‘This special evening honors the essential contributions that LGBTQ composers have made in shaping the American musical sound,’ Thomas said in a statement.”

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Tributes Aplenty for Duke’s Paul Bryan

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Among the many tributes to Paul Bryan as his 97th birthday draws near was the following, articulated during the Duke Wind Symphony’s February 23 celebratory concert in Baldwin Auditorium. We are indebted to Anthony M. Kelley for permission to reprint it here.

“Thanks to Paul Bryan, Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant, John Yarbrough, friends, family, and the current/past Duke Wind Symphonians for this exciting opportunity to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite people on the planet.

“I’ve enjoyed a regular weekly ritual of spending some hours in conversation and musical listening with P.B. over the past year, and quite frequently, he would inject a crucial observation. He’d say, essentially, that he owed much of his longevity partially to his impulse to “keep moving,” but even more importantly, he would remind himself regularly to fully engage in an act whose gratifying benefits we too often take for granted: “We have to remember to breathe,” he always implored me.

“Thinking about this more broadly, it’s dawned on me that PB has charged me and many others with that exact same, life-sustaining advice since we got our first glance at him on the conductor’s podium in Duke Wind Symphony. In that capacity, his advice has led us to aspire to more robust and longer-sustaining tones, which resulted in more virtuous musicality in a wind ensemble.

“But more and more, I also realize that the act of breathing is akin to the practice of human love, in that both depend on the inexorable pairing of forces — the inhale and the exhale; the regular chemical choreography of the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide; the unwavering, shared partnered investment in the sustaining existence of even itself.

“It’s therefore poignant to realize that my piece for Duke Wind Symphony, Caprice, would cease to even exist but for the human breath. Similarly, I am happy to report, the work’s life and energy are forever recharged not only by the new breaths and efforts of our talented young colleagues, but also by love itself.

‘While we are able to, may we all be fortunate enough to draw regularly upon PB’s sagacious, multi-coded, and persistent advice:

     Remember to coexist with others as          
          naturally as the symbiotic components of  
          our lungs’ normal exercise; 

     Remember the power of positive 
           communication and dialogue among cooperative forces;

     Remember the power of love and its    
             symbiotic potentiality; 

      Or, as PB succinctly puts it:    
            ‘Remember to Breathe.'”

— Anthony M. Kelley, Feb. 23, 2017
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