Monday, November 16, 2009

Vassar Premiere and New York City

This past weekend I jetsetted off to Poughkeepsie, NY and New York City, just two weeks after I flew to Colorado. My coworkers chided me for being such a world traveller, but I think I spent the six months prior here in Pittsburgh with maybe only a trip home to the family in there! This trip was a little bit more job-oriented, as I was attending the premiere of a chamber work I wrote for Vassar College's Mahagonny Ensemble.

I arrived in New York and saw Ben, who tells me that he's met designer Christian Siriano several times, and Christian, despite his TV persona, is quite nice, polite, and always shows up 15 minutes early for meetings. A rarity! I also treated myself to somewhat of a fancy meal at Mary's Fish Camp in the Village; if you haven't heard of it, you need to go and eat their fried items! They are crispy and melty and don't taste greasy or fried, though I probably would have enjoyed that too. I also ate cockle shells, which I had never eaten before, and I had a delicious something chocolatey for dessert that seemed like a stripey mix of melted/hardened chocolate and fresh cream/whipped cream. Amazing.

I arrived in Poughkeepsie, and stayed with my friend Kelly, whose life is always in flux but who was willing to host this composer on her sofa. And what a good time we had! Kelly played the drums while I sang and played piano; we visited Dia:Beacon (pictured), my favorite art museum of all time; we ate a bunch of times at our favorite café by the college; she also brought friends and family to my premiere, but did not bring her yelping dogs (one of them shown here, being a sleeping princess). We then walked over the new Bridge over the Hudson (also pictured at top), which is a recently converted railroad bridge turned pedestrian-only bridge, and the views, despite the rain and wind, were breathtaking. Where's Thomas Church when you need him to paint something like this for you? No wonder the Hudson River School was so inspired to paint here.

Vassar looks about the same as usual, with "usual" being stunning and quite impressive (Vassar Lake, pictured below). The Art Library now has Marcel Breuer chairs. The Retreat Cafe now composts and uses biodegradable flatware! And Nilda's cookies are still delicious. These cookies can still be found at the local gas station with the paper tags inside of them advising cookie-eaters to Never Ever Shake a Baby. But you can shake your booty over the deliciousness of Peanut Butter Choco Chip.

The performance of 'Dark Interval' went well. I was actually very surprised to hear how much the ensemble snapped into shape by the final performance- I got to go to the dress rehearsal, and give my suggestions/improvements, and small changes. I'm hoping that with a few further adjustments the balance between 7 instrumentalists and two singers will be better. That hall has such good acoustics! It's a blessing and a curse. There were also a couple small melodies or motives that I thought could be given to other players that didn't get to have much soloistic time. One of the singers complimented me on my attempt to use the voices not only as solo lines and text setting, but also as instrumentalists in the overall texture, sharing melodic material, and I think I could do more of that in future works. I should mike the singers next time, though, so that the horn and trombone don't have to always play so quietly, and the really wordy sections can be heard clearly. And it's a little more rock and roll.

A rare treat about this piece is that it will also be given a second performance on January 30th at Vassar College Skinner Hall of Music, for their ModFest week. I have the opportunity to change things and make the second time 'round even better. You should come hear it!

I also went back to New York to see fabulous Nicole, and together we went to the Cloisters. Neither of us had been there before, though I've wanted to go for, oh, nine years now. It's a converted monastery, full of imported Gothic and Medieval architecture and art, reassembled before our very eyes through magic and spackle. Vøilå! It's also way up north in Manhattan, at 190th Street. I don't know about you, but I'm rarely in New York City, and I've never been north of 130th and some. This felt like the air might be thinner, way up in the frozen north. Luckily it was a beautiful day, the gardens were lovely, the views were clear, the art was amazing, and even the view across the river was untainted by city life, having been preserved as well. Kudos to the forethought of wealthy old philanthropists, you did it. Now future generations like me can enjoy some peace and quiet amidst the unicorn tapestries.

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