by Mike Telin
Committed to championing works by composers based in the Rust Belt, The Syndicate for the New Arts will celebrate the region’s creativity on Friday, November 20 at 9:00 pm at Survival Kit as part of 78th St. Studios’ Third Fridays events. “In keeping with the theme of Third Fridays, our performance will resemble an art gallery,” Syndicate founder Joshua Rosner said in an email. “Each piece will be performed in a different space of the room, allowing the audience to move around the room and experience the work from different perspectives.”
The evening of Rust Belt compositions will include John Sokol’s 3 thin-slices for solo cello, Jeffrey Mumford’s Echoes from within Brightening Fabric for harp and vibraphone, Jessie Downs’ Noticing and Truth-Telling: a musical sermon after Mary Hammond for scordatura harp, Sivan Silver-Swartz’s Untitled V for 4-20 pitched, sustaining instruments (world premiere), and two pieces by Judy Jackson — Strip Tease, a graphic score for solo bass, and Mental Games, a video score for harp, percussion, violin, guitar, and electronics. The evening will also include John Burnett’s Isospin for electronics and video and Joshua Rosner’s and yet another for solo, amplified, prepared piano (world premiere). The concert is free and open to the public.
The concert will feature Theo Chandler’s Caeneus, a new interdisciplinary work commissioned as part of flutist Zoe Sorrell’s Syrinx Project. “The idea for the project came about when I started working on Debussy’s Syrinx about two and a half years ago,” said Sorrell. “In addition to flute, I also did an English degree when I was at Oberlin, so I’ve always been interested in the stories that inspired the music I was playing, and I began to think about how I could better bring those stories out.”
Sorrell said that she began by experimenting with adding text and choreography to the Debussy in order to highlight the story for listeners who simply know it as beautiful music. Syrinx was originally written to accompany a play, so it was always intended to be combined with storytelling.
“Theo Chandler’s Caeneus is part of the Syrinx Project and it’s the first of what I hope will be many commissions that will comprise the project. It’s based on the mythological character Caeneus, one of the earliest instances of a transgender character in Western literature. After she was raped by Zeus, the gods offered her one wish in recompense, and her wish was to never be vulnerable and taken advantage of again. The gods took her wish under consideration and decided that the best response they could give her was to turn her into a man. It’s quite a punch line for a feminist story. The piece is not choreographed but it does include a quasi-Sprechstimme line along with the flute line.”
Sorrell pointed out that at first she was not certain how the two stories were connected, but she soon realized that they are both about women who turn to others for help. “They turn to the powers that be, which in the stories are the gods, and ask them to provide protection and strength, and in both instances the responsibility is put on them to change in some way. Syrinx is turned into a water reed, and Caeneus is turned into a man. I feel these stories are relevant today, when women are being told to protect themselves from the culture of rape, and are told that the responsibility lies with them rather than with the oppressors.”
What does Sorrell hope to achieve with her Syrinx Project? “My goal is to provide visibility for the stories that are not being told about women. With each commission I hope to bring out the inherent strengths and vulnerability of women of the 21st century.”
Sorrell said it does take patience to figure out how to combine dancing with flute playing. “I do a lot of practicing while improvising movement just to see what I can do without compromising the flute’s sound quality too much. I’ve worked with The Fourth Wall Ensemble, and their trombonist Neil Parsons is the one who suggested that I practice in a dance studio. Breath control is also an issue, and this is one of the more exhausting things I’ve ever worked on.”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com November 17, 2015.
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