A couple of posts back, I mentioned a “brain child” that related to my postponed unaccompanied recital. At the time, my “brain child” was just developing and all of the details still needed to be worked out. Even now, I still have a lot of details to work out, but the project has evolved into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. To explain, though, a short story time and a bit of time traveling are necessary.
Back in 2010, when I was a freshman in college, I was admittedly very naïve (musically and otherwise, but focusing on the musical). My first foray into the study of 20th century music came to me via my school’s required music theory program. Most “new” or “20th century” music was just too weird for me. I didn’t enjoy listening to it, analyzing it was a chore (but the math did look pretty), and I felt like I couldn’t relate to it. My notes were filled with tools for analyzing this music and sarcastic comments/complaints about being bored to keep myself amused during class. While I clearly did not particularly enjoy this class, the TA for my aural skills section started me on the path toward relating to this type of music. One day, this TA played a piece for us, wouldn’t tell us who wrote it (which drove me crazy because I LIKED IT!), and encouraged us to “just listen.” So we did. Then, he said something that stuck with me: composers just write, they don’t write to fit a theory or be analyzed. That concept hadn’t occurred to me yet, but it opened my mind a bit. My mind further opened in 2011 as I went through my school’s music history sequence. Through studying 20th century music in this light, I began to see how it was an expression of society as a whole, a reaction to events that happened, and an attempt to organize utter chaos. Suddenly, I had an appreciation for 20th century music that I’d never had before, even if it wasn’t my favorite or go-to music to play.
So, after much ado, I’m excited to announce that I’m undertaking a rather unlikely project that 2010 Catie would never have believed it, 2011 Catie might have seen some merit in, but 2015 Catie looks upon it as a grand adventure. This project explores the solo violin through the minds of different composers and the ears of whoever will listen. In the past year, I have commissioned a series of unaccompanied violin pieces from various composer friends of mine. My goal has been to keep the project has been very open-ended for the composer. I have two requests of the composers: 1) that the piece be their concept of what a solo violin can sound like, and 2) that it be idiomatic for the violin.
Thus far, I have seen either entire pieces or parts of two pieces. I’m thrilled to be able to study these pieces and bring them to life. It’s an honor for me to be able to convey how these composers hear both my instrument and me. Each piece is VERY different from the other and I celebrate that they’re highlighting different technical capabilities of the violin and soundscapes we can create. I am expecting five pieces at this time and have set a goal of premiering them all together on one recital in January 2016 (hopefully…if not, February!) in Norman, OK. These composers are fantastic musicians and great friends and I consider it an absolute privilege to collaborate with them!
Additionally, I’m pleased to share that I have been chosen to represent the state of Oklahoma in Stephanie Ann Boyd’s 50 State Sonata Project. Stephanie is composing a sonata for violin and piano that will be premiered by one person from each of the 50 states during the 2015-2016 season. For more details, performer bios, and more about her other work, please check out her website here. Currently, I plan on including her piece on my January 2016 recital with all of the other unaccompanied pieces being written for me. While her piece isn’t for solo violin, it will be a lovely complement to the other pieces I’ll be premiering on this recital.
As the recital date draws closer, I’ll be sure to share more performance details and observations about these musical collaborations. These projects are something I never would have guessed that I’d be interested in pursuing, but they “just sort of happened” (for lack of a more eloquent phrase) and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to make music with these fabulous musicians.