Wednesday, April 12, 2006

letter from David Schober

Article for Cornell Orchestra newsletter
It dawned on me as I glanced through a program from a recent concert given by the Cornell Orchestra: Biology, Communications, Pre-Veterinary, Hotel Management. All of these musicians are majoring in something else, I realized. I knew that Cornell has no undergraduate music major, but I was still struck by the contrast to the conservatories and big-university music schools where I studied. I am extremely fond of my students at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York, who truly come from every corner of the globe and every walk of life. However, few of them are pursuing music as a secondary interest on their way to, say, a degree in physics.

The Orchestra’s music director, Chris Kim, programmed a movement of Split Horizon, my concerto for six soloists and orchestra, for the October concert. The piece is a reflection upon nature, boundaries, and oppositions. I came across a 18th-century wallscroll in Cornell’s Johnson Art Museum (Shen Yinghui’s “Landscape in the Style of Wang Meng”) that perfectly illustrates the split-perspective Chinese painting that is one source of the title; a volume of poetry by Thomas Lux entitled Split Horizon is the other. The piece was originally written for eighth blackbird, a young professional sextet, the members of which were classmates of mine at Oberlin. The intrepid Cornell soloists are the only other sextet so far to have performed the concerto. Chris and I have been friends ever since our grad school days at Michigan, and he made a point of bringing me to Ithaca two weeks before the concert to work with the soloists and, in effect, build a new collaborative relationship with them.

For me, as both a performer and a composer, music-making has always been about these relationships. By the weekend of the concert, the soloists’ parts were seasoned and secure, and I felt like I was returning to old colleagues. Chris’s conducting assistant, Sean Shepherd, who is fine composer himself, deftly led the full Cornell Orchestra in rehearsals and performance of the concerto.

I am tremendously grateful to the soloists, to Chris and Sean, and to the entire Cornell Orchestra for bringing this music to life.

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