by Mike Telin
In his composer notes for his new work titled Siklòn, the Haitian Creole word for hurricane, Avner Dorman writes, “As I had the opportunity to tour different neighborhoods in Miami and meet artists, musicians, and other members of the community, I was struck by the energy of the people. The mingling of different cultures, foods, politics, and arts concocts a whirlwind of energy that is unique to the city of Miami.”
This weekend the Cleveland Orchestra’s 10th Anniversary Miami season will conclude with performances on March 17, 18, and 19 in Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center led by Cleveland Orchestra Miami principal guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. The concerts will feature the world premiere of Dorman’s new work, commissioned for The Cleveland Orchestra by the Arsht Center to celebrate the organizations’ ten-year partnership.
The commission provided Dorman with the opportunity to visit Miami for the first time. “From the moment I arrived I was captivated,” Dorman said during a telephone interview. “So many aspects of the city spoke to me — like the warm nights, the hot sun, the culture, and the diverse population. It reminded of my home city of Tel Aviv.”
During that visit Dorman was given an extensive, personalized tour of Miami — one you would not get if you were a tourist. “The urban area is very large,” he noted, “but we visited many different neighborhoods and my hosts told me about the history of each one. Some of them were originally immigrant neighborhoods but are now hipster. I also got to meet local artists, which was perhaps the most significant part. I met an Haitian photographer whose work was phenomenal. He talked about being from Haiti and what it’s like to deal with social matters in Miami.”
Dorman also visited a museum-community center. “There was an exhibition that juxtaposed the social issues relating to minorities in 2014 — like the police shootings — with what was going on in the ‘60s with Malcolm X. It was very interesting.”
What struck Dorman most about Miami is that the city is never calm. “It seems like there’s energy all of the time. It’s hot and people have strong feelings. There’s always motion — sunny skies turning into a hurricane, and then back to sunny skies. People will tell you ‘this area is beautiful now, but you should have seen what it was like during the hurricane.’ I feel like I come from a similar place and that’s what grabbed me.”
Dorman also met with a number of working artists whose work reflected their thoughts on society. “I was able to get a look into how people feel, and how they want to see things change. There is a lot of positive energy, and to see the types of art that people are creating was really interesting.”
Although the time Dorman spent in Miami served as inspiration for Siklòn, when it came to writing the work he avoided quoting Haitian or Cuban tunes. “I didn’t feel like that would be authentic for me,” he said. “I listened to a lot of recordings that ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax had made from that area, but I felt that incorporating actual musical quotations would be like pasting something on top of what I do. So I avoided using them in favor of metaphor for what is going on in the city.”
Regarding the work itself, the composer described Siklòn as short, seven minute cyclones of notes. “It starts like the waves of the sea during a big storm that ebbs and flows with a lot of energy. The musical materials all clash with each other for a pretty long time, but toward the end, they blend together in a positive way. It feels like the piece is in one continuous tempo, but near the end the momentum is held back, and then held back again, but not in a way that you would call it a new tempo. It simply calms down in a harmonious way.”
In addition to attending Thursday’s premiere, Avner Dorman will also spend time doing outreach work. At the time of the interview he was leaving for Miami to spend a couple of days working with elementary, high school, and college students. “I have to say that the Arsht Center is doing a lot educational outreach. I’ll be doing even more outreach during the week of the concerts. Their commitment to education is quite incredible.”
Composer Avner Dorman also serves as artistic director of CityMusic Cleveland.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com March 16, 2016.
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