This week, on the final intermediate concert of the 2016 season, the Intermediate Concert Orchestra at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp will be presenting the world premiere of Blindsighted for String Orchestra by Dr Peter Terry (Carl Fisher Publishing). This has been a great summer of world premieres at Interlochen and I really think that we have saved the best for last. Peter Terry wrote this work with the Interlochen Intermediate Concert Orchestra in mind and he has really hit the mark with this piece.
It has been a great experience for the students to participate in the process of learning a new piece of music. There is so much that goes into this process that is unique in the ensemble music world. In that it is a new work, I have actually been formulating my opinions and approach to the work as part of the rehearsal process, rather than prior to rehearsals per usual. It has been great for the students to participate in those moments of discovery and decision-making. Some of these moments are very concrete. They might include bowing concepts, tempo decisions, style, articulation, and other clear technical decisions. Additionally, however, there are the more abstract realizations that come as part of living with a work for a period of time. For this piece, this has been the really fun and enlightening part of the process.
As I began to dig into this work, one of my first impressions was that the A section is very angular and geometric in nature. There are clear angular rhythms and ostinati throughout this section which create a somewhat aggressive, almost hard rock, driving impression. The angles and geometric figures are somewhat "black and white" in their presentation. I explained to the orchestra that one of our jobs as an ensemble is to take those black and white figures and begin to make them three dimensional and colorful through the use of dynamics, style, movement, and contrasts in the work.
The slower, more lyrical B section of the work features a small, initial battle between the anglarity of the A section and the softer more muted ideas of the slow middle section. I told the students that the the transition almost reminds me of the process of coming out of a dream state; that moment when you feel yourself waking up but still are pulled back into a dream. I feel like the students really responded well to this concept and will perform it very well with this idea in mind.
As the piece transitions back to the A' section, that battle between dream state and lucidity reoccurs. Finally, the geometric, angular, dream re-emerges and the piece drives to the exiting end.
Within these changes, it is certainly the orchestra's responsibility to generate dynamics, direction, approaches and arrivals, and interest through articulation, accuracy, and drive.
Yesterday, for rehearsal, Dr. Terry came and listen to some of the work that we have been doing on the piece. In my preparation, I had somehow neglected to look up the definition of blindsighted. As I told Dr. Terry my impressions of the piece, that I have already written about above, a pleasant smile came over his face. He told me that the word blindsighted is actually a reference to the dreams of people that are blind. You can look up this concept at the following link. In the end the impressions that I had of geometric figures, dream states, and 3 dimensional images in the mind, all relate to this title. What an amazing coincidence! I think that Peter and I both felt a real satisfaction in this realization that we had connected on the meaning behind the work based entirely on the music that he had written.
We had a wonderful rehearsal yesterday and the students really gained a significantly deeper perspective through the opportunity to talk with the composer and hear his impressions. He will come to another rehearsal on Friday, too. I loved the fact that he was willing to articulate to the kids that a world premiere only happens once in a piece's life. He really charged them with the excitement and immediate sense of the situation and performance that is in front of them. The students are totally excited to have this opportunity.
He will come to another rehearsal on Friday to conduct the work for the students as well. I will be conducting the world premiere on Saturday, August 6th, 2016, at 4 o'clock in Kresge Auditorium on the Interlochen Center for the Arts campus.