Last night a great Pittsburgh chamber music ensemble premiered a piece I wrote for them. Alia Musica Pittsburgh is a group of University of Pittsburgh composer-performers who write music for one another. This summer guest composers were invited to write pieces, and I was honored to be . The concert was in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, which has surprisingly great acoustics in its Fabergé egg shape and intimate seating. The building itself is also beautiful; its Medieval cloister design seemed appropriate to my work for the evening, Cathedral Disturbances.
The work is scored for a chamber group of piccolo, two saxes, two strings, and piano, and is really two separate parts: the first part ("quiet in the church!") leads up to the second ("dance party!"). The performance went well, and I was delighted to have my first real Pittsburgh premier, with an audience that I haven't personally all invited. I think the dress rehearsal went a little better, but as Mark pointed out, there weren't people in the auditorium to muffle the sound, so it seemed a bit more...cathedral-y then. And the saxophones sounded especially great in performance. Yet again, I must repeat how much I love the saxophone family! Everyone played very well, and hopefully I'll get a recording for posterity.
My piece was the most chord-based on the program, which ended in a long fade-out in texture around a B scale (with raised 4). It's funny that several people told me the piece was "pretty". I don't really know how to take that. Well, of course I'll take it as a compliment. But sometimes it feels like a brush-aside for more ear-straining, challenging works. It might be a case of semantics, but I think in this case "pretty" is not the same as "beautiful", to which I often aspire. "Beautiful" works are more difficult to pull off effectively, and could easily turn into cutesy or cheesy. Why not say something like spacious, religious, glamorous, twinkling, harmless, revelatory, fresh, fun, childlike, had a certain joie de vivre et cetera? Hooray for adjectives!
It will be interesting to see how my music progresses into the professional world. I want to challenge myself compositionally, and branching out into different stylistic areas (or processes) can only be a good thing for me. But I don't think I'll lose that desire to create something beautiful, personal...this is getting a little too schmaltzy, a little too Midnight Shoveler School of Musical Morality, and You Too Can Sign Up for $19.99 a Month. I digress.
Finally, I have to give a few words to the fantastic design work for Alia's printed materials, done by Jen Gallagher. Her subtle variations for postcards, posters, and programs were perfect, and all based around the layout seen above. The poster is clean and effective, and even looked good in greyscale if one wanted to print out a poster from home but didn't have a color printer. I think she also used the golden section, perhaps? Her typesetting in the programs is also really sharp. A delightful evening, all around! And when we left the concert hall, the sky outside was just so...pretty.