On Wednesday, October 20th and Thursday, October 21st, current Steven Stucky Memorial Residency Ensemble the Israeli Chamber Project will finally be performing new works live by Cornell’s very own D.M.A composition students, including Joshua Biggs and John Eagle, as well as chamber music repertoire by Debussy, Milhaud, and Messiaen.
Both Biggs and Eagle composed pieces before March of 2020; however, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, rehearsing and recording online became an integral part of the process.
“I'm excited to actually be able to realize the piece in person now and I'm actually able to expand some of the aspects in physical space that had been flattened spatially,” said Eagle. “It's an interesting experience working up both pieces now with Israeli Chamber Project as I can really see how my strategies have changed as a consequence of COVID. There are elements that become much more focused. But it's really great to have the freedom to stretch things out in a more flexible situation of live performance again.”
Eagle’s pieces come from more environmental interests, quite literally, as they are both created with field recordings taken from the Fall Creek Gorge and at Ithaca Falls. “Water is the sound source in both pieces which literally and metaphorically structures the pieces. We often think of pitch and harmony as something fixed and I love seeing those concepts break down in pieces like this as the environment continually changes,” said Eagle.
Eagle describes his work as a blend of noise and harmony. “It's a grey area that expands and contracts based on perception and environmental factors. Both pieces are like games in that they give performers new scenarios that they must navigate and respond to. They have controls in their instruments and electronic extensions. But everything they do is a real-time response to the environmental parameters.”
Biggs’ composition for the Israeli Chamber Project, almost (2019) is a piece for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, “constructed around the simple idea of sonic representations of different kinds of falling motions.” According to Biggs, listeners should be able to recognize the sounds of objects thrown, dropped, and bounced in several ways throughout.
“The most important - and the most difficult - aspect of [almost (2019)] is coordinating the extremely quick responses between players who must activate isolated notes and sounds within complex shared melodies and phrases. I am looking forward to working with the ensemble this week to hone these before the concert!”
Biggs is inspired by how distinct sounds and gestures collide, cohere, and coalesce to form evocative shapes from which meanings and emotions can emerge in an audience's perception. “All of my work aims to incorporate a sense of organicity, corporeality, and interactivity into the sonic landscapes I compose, and to achieve these characteristics I often work with improvising musicians.” While maintaining this “improvisatory sense of spontaneity and vitality,” Biggs was inspired to have the whole ensemble act as a single organism, “whose behavior is rendered audible by the interplay of the different performers' actions.”
Biggs is incredibly excited to work with the Israeli Chamber Project to perform the compositions. “What makes the Israeli Chamber Project so special is that I can trust completely in their ability to perform my work as a kind of single, compound performer.”
Make sure to check out Joshua Biggs, John Eagle, and the Israeli Chamber Project ensemble this Wednesday and Thursday at 8:00pm! They will be taking the stage at Barnes Hall.