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Friday, October 10, 2014

A Week with the LA Phil

This past week was a kind of waking dream for the four of us in So Percussion.  We were invited by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to open their 14/15 subscription season at Disney Concert Hall by snapping twigs...

The Phil co-commissioned David Lang to write a new concerto for percussion quartet and orchestra.  Titled "man made," the pieces uses our skills and curiosity as instrument builders and foragers to place homemade instruments in a very classical context.

Below is some footage of each part of the piece during the dress rehearsal for the premiere:

video by Vanishing Angle
footage of Disney Hall and the LA Phil used by kind permission 
of the LA Phil

"man made" is in four parts.  The soloists perform mostly on found and homemade instruments: twigs, wine bottles, steel pipes, and trash cans.  The orchestra engages in a dialogue with the found instruments, sometimes complementing and sometimes overwhelming them.

Lang's piece was paired with Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and to top off all of the excitement, NPR covered the event via live webcast from Disney Hall.

The four performances to the packed hall were a success, and to us it all seemed unreal.  That the experiments in found sounds and amplified plants that John Cage pioneered had come to this point was hard to believe.

Every single person we met at the LA Phil was warm, encouraging, and ultra-professional, from Maestro Dudamel himself to every member of the stage crew.  Players from the orchestra approached us backstage during the breaks, asking about the sounds we were making and the compositional processes involved.

The LA Times' chief classical critic Mark Swed seemed to really get what we were after.  Find his insightful review here.  

After the weekend orchestra concerts, we switched gears to prepare for our own concert on the Green Umbrella series, the LA Phil's signature new music programming.  We performed David Lang's quartet "the so-called laws of nature," as well as Michael Gordon's massive "Timber." Again, Mark Swed attended, and his review was very apt.

This is just a quick digest.  I've only started to absorb what made this particular gig so special.  There was something wonderful and surprising about being included in the orchestra's core series, not shunted off into the "new music" corridor of orchestral programming.  That may be another post of its own.

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