Wednesday, October 17, 2007

download the orchestra newsletter as a pdf file

Here is a link to the pdf file of the Orchestra newsletter. It is about 13 mb.
If you would like to receive a copy in the mail, please send your mailing address to cyk8(at)cornell.

Orchestra Newsletter article part 5 - Orchestra Board efforts

It’s a new year. This means new repertoire, new members of the orchestra, a fresh start. It also means that we have a new executive board, an excited and motivated group of individuals with big dreams for the orchestra. We have revamped the structure of the board this year and are excited about the new opportunities that this year provides.

We have kept a few standard positions: co-presidents, treasurer, and secretary. However, beyond this – with a few exceptions of positions that had already been in place – we have expanded the board by creating several new positions. Our hope is that by delegating smaller tasks to a greater number of people, we will be better equipped to achieve the large goals that have set for ourselves. In addition to the aforementioned four officers, the board consists of four committee chairs: social chair, fundraising chair, outreach chair, and publicity chair. These individuals will oversee and delegate in their respective efforts. Furthermore, we have added a number of other positions with specific goals in mind.

CCO representative – This year, we are trying to bridge the gap between CSO and CCO. The CCO representative will represent the ideas and interests of the CCO in orchestra board meetings and will report back to the CCO.

Webmaster – Our website is our primary method of contact with prospective students, alumni, and the rest of the world. We are working on a new design and a more user friendly interface.

Alumni Liaison – We are aware that many alumni cherish the experience they had in the Cornell orchestra and would like to stay in touch with us. Thus, this liaison will work to establish a current database of orchestra alumni and communicate with directly.

Orchestra Historian – This individual will be maintaining the orchestra’s records. We would like to focus these efforts on both the present (documenting our activities, taking pictures, etc) and the past (researching and digitizing information about the orchestra’s history).

Newsletter Editor – The editor will assign and manage revision of articles, as well as working on the layout of the newsletter and maintaining the mailing list.

The orchestra board is now meeting independently each week. After each week’s meeting, the minutes from the meeting are sent out via email to the orchestra members and posted on the website. In addition, important matters are discussed with Chris Kim. So far, through these weekly meetings, we have planned social events (including orchestra ice skating and an upcoming board game night), brainstormed publicity ideas and website plans, worked out ideas for our Halloween concert, and – most exciting of all – begun planning for our tour to Spain in January of 2009.

I could not be more excited about the dynamic group of people on the board this year. Despite the fact that every board position has yet to be filled, each current board member is happy to temporarily fill in for missing positions. As we work throughout the year to write bylaws for this governing body of the orchestra, we hope to set a precedent of efficiency and innovative ideas that will serve as a strong foundation for years to come.

We always welcome new members of the board and would love for as many members of both CCO and CSO to join us at our weekly meetings. We also would love to hear suggestions that can make this board even better! (Send ideas to co-presidents Melanie Adamsky [] or Sam Birmaher [].)

-Melanie Adamsky, Biological Sciences ’09

Orchestra Newsletter article part 4 - Old and New

This semester the Cornell music department welcomes to its family two new ensembles that take the stage in early November. Interestingly, each of these groups stretches the department’s horizons in a different direction. First, a small chamber opera orchestra assembled for the endeavor will perform Carlisle Floyd’s one-act music-drama Slow Dusk in the Schwartz Center’s Black Box Theatre. Conductors Chris Kim, John Rowehl and Dorian Bandy will lead the ensemble, with a stage cast drawn from members of Judith Kellock’s voice studio. Although various attempts have been made over the years to stage operas at Cornell, several practical problems have persisted, one of which is finding performance space that accommodates an orchestra while still leaving room for the actors. The production staff of Slow Dusk have avoided this logistical problem by reducing the opera’s score from a full orchestra to an 8 piece chamber ensemble consisting of Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Cello and Piano, all of which will remain on stage for the duration of the performance. Because instrumental rehearsals for Slow Dusk don’t begin until 15 October, my own involvement in the project has been limited to orchestration, but with the caliber ensemble that we’ve drawn from the Cornell Orchestras, and the level of singers that are participating, I have no doubt that this production will be an excellent step in terms of collaborations between the Music and Theater Departments.
Les Petits Violons de Cornell, on the other hand (unlike the Slow Dusk project) has had multiple incarnations over the last decade. The student baroque orchestra, consisting of 3 or 4 violins (and in search of more), 2 violas, 2 cellos, a violone and a harpsichord, and playing on baroque and classical instruments, is named with a playful nod to Louis XIV’s own orchestra, plain old Les Petits Violons. Convened and coached by Neal Zaslaw, the group consists of a mix of faculty, grad students and undergrads, each with varying levels of exposure to baroque repertoire and period instruments. Les Violons are currently preparing Händel’s excellent D major concerto grosso, op. 6 no. 5 and a Telemann Burlesque Dance Suite, ultimately intended for performance on November 18th in Bailey, as part of a collaboration with the NYS Baroque Orchestra and the NY Baroque Dance Troupe. The event—entitled “Harlequin’s Capers”—will feature dance and music from the 18th century comic theater, including a staged version of Mouret’s Pygmalion. With improvised commedia dell’ arte scenes, plenty of buffoonery, and great music, this concert is not one to be missed! Stay tuned…
- Dorian Bandy, Music,’10

Orchestra Newsletter article part 3 - Freshmen Perspective

Starting a new life in a new place can be nerve-wrecking for many 17 and 18-year-olds. College freshmen often have their hands completely full just dealing with the various changes in their lives associated with beginning college life. Imagine then being a freshman standing in the back of the symphony orchestra in Bailey Hall, playing the first notes in a piece all alone: the fourth beat of every measure on the bass drum in Christopher Rouse’s “Bump.”

I entered the music world as a violinist 13 years ago, playing in orchestras since 5th grade. However, after also playing percussion in the high school marching band for 4 years, I decided to become a concert percussionist in the Cornell Symphony Orchestra.

Playing in the orchestra as a percussionist has been a whole new experience, and I love it. The director, the TA, and fellow members are – for a lack of better word – amazing. Whether it is the picnic at Stewart Park or the rehearsals in Lincoln Hall, orchestra director Chris Kim always gives his all, driving the orchestra to its fullest potential. Orchestra TA Spencer Topel is always there to assist both the director and the ensemble. Every member of the orchestra is unique, possessing various backgrounds, interests, majors, and life goals. Despite such differences, however, we all share the love of music which brings us together every Monday and Wednesday nights to the basement of Lincoln Hall, where we strive to play our very best.

While there have been big changes in life – high school to college, California to New York, and violin to percussion – I am glad and honored to be a member of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra. Thank you to Chris Kim and fellow members for an amazing start to my new life here at Cornell University!
- Risa Naka, Animal Science ’11

Orchestra Newsletter article part 2 - Senior Perspective

Late Night Reminiscences on Playing in the Cornell Symphony Orchestra

Sometimes, it feels as if we had just finished rehearsing Beethoven's Coriolan Overture. The c minor chord that opens the piece and represents our tragic hero's resolve still plays itself in my memory. I arrived at Cornell the same year Chris began his tenure as conductor of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra. Bailey Hall was still in renovation at the time, and so I played my first concerts with the orchestra in Ford Hall at Ithaca College. I remember the other concerts we performed too: one in the stifling heat of Helen Newman Hall for the First Year Family Weekend concert, a stint at the Johnson Museum, where a group of us played Riley's In C (my first experience with aleatoric music), and Sierra's Concerto for Saxophones at Ithaca High School.

I was then sorely disappointed during spring pre-enrollment when I realized that there was no way I could play in orchestra during the coming year because of scheduling conflicts. It was a difficult year. Without the motivation of orchestra, I found it increasingly difficult to find time to practice the violin. But the year ended, and I spent the summer bringing my violin playing back up to par in anticipation of the next orchestra season. My second season with the orchestra coincided with my third year at Cornell, and, writing now as a senior, I can say it was my best year at Cornell ever.

Besides another year of great repertoire, the orchestra had the chance to go on tour to perform in Berlin. More important than the allure of traveling to Europe, the tour was a great bonding opportunity for the orchestra. I'll never forget waking up at 8 AM to explore the city until night, staying up obscenely late to play card games with friends until sheer exhaustion set in, then repeating the cycle again the next day. Berlin remains one of my fondest memories of orchestra, and it was the place where many of my lasting orchestra friendships were made.

Although it has been an extremely busy semester for me so far (then again, does the opposite even exist here at Cornell?), I am always uplifted by the fact that every Monday and Wednesday night, I have a chance to forget my work, take out my violin, and sit down and simply play music for two hours. It has always been an oasis in my day-to-day work schedule. But with one great regret do I graduate from Cornell and depart from orchestra: I will not be staying for one more year, so that I can end my Cornell Symphony Orchestra career playing under Chris's baton and tour Spain with my friends in orchestra.
-Adrian So '08

Orchestra Newsletter article part 1 - Horn Call

Although I am a first-year graduate student, this is my fifth year as a student at Cornell University. I have endured four Ithaca winters, witnessed four Slope Days, and taken more prelims than I care to remember. I am, however, only in my first year as member of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra. There is no record of my affiliation with the ensemble for any of the past four years, and likewise, there shouldn’t be: in August of 2003, I left home for my first year of college, and my horn didn’t follow. It would remain untouched in the corner of my bedroom, collecting dust as I pursued a life of supposedly more important things. Nearly four years later, in early June of this year, I opened the case for the first time since that day.

The sudden desire to play my horn again was motivated by several reasons. The first is simply that it is a shame when there is something you once did relatively well but no longer do because you essentially quit without good reason. In this sense, I was motivated by guilt.

Perhaps more importantly, though, my last two years as an undergraduate coincided with a revival of classical music in my life, which began naively during my junior year when, in hopes of balancing my mostly technical curriculum with something from the liberal arts, I enrolled in a music history class. I rediscovered pieces I performed years ago in my youth orchestra, and after further exploration into the greater landscape of classical music, I learned that the works that appealed to me most were of a late Romantic and Russian origin.

By the middle of my senior year, my renewed appreciation for the classical tradition made my return to the horn seem like a likely undertaking. However, I was not convinced that I would be able to make time for another extracurricular activity. I equivocated on the matter as one would expect from someone sporting genuine ambition but lacking self-confidence, until this past June. My curiosity led me to the orchestra’s blog, where Chris Kim posted a tentative concert program for the 2007-2008 season. There, listed for the December 2nd concert, was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Although a lesser known work in the orchestral repertoire, it holds – for me at least – a certain programmatic significance. It is Rachmaninoff’s last opus, and although conceived in an era of rampant serialism and deviation from tonality, the first movement features an unexpected and brief yet distinctly Romantic interlude that betrays even the composer’s late style—a befitting anachronism for one of the last Romantics.

Having this opportunity waved in front of my face was exactly the enticement I needed; I could not miss this chance. So, I practiced. A lot. I logged more hours on my horn this summer than my former, teenage self would have ever considered (though I admit that does not speak for much). I found a private teacher in Boston where I spent the summer to help me regain my playing ability, for I had to be audition-ready in two months.

It has been four months since I made that resolution, and I can’t help but acknowledge the effectiveness of a little, honest-to-goodness dedication and hard work. It’s a maxim that is so often proclaimed in the form of nice-sounding, rhetorical proverbs and parables, but its underlying truth is so frequently obscured by cliché. And yet here I am. I made it. I found myself a seat in a row of brass, with percussion behind me, woodwinds before me, and strings beyond them. There is a localization of sound specific to my very spot in the orchestra, and it is a sensory experience I have been too long without. Truth be told, the Symphonic Dances has been replaced on the concert program by Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, but this modification, in the end, is not in the least disappointing.

If I seem at all boastful in describing what I have accomplished, let that simply be on account of the small, personal triumph I have earned for myself. Ultimately, my experience can be seen, I hope, as just one instance of a more general phenomenon in which we as humans arrive at some of our greatest achievements in life through our own, deeply personal incentives. In these cases, we are driven not by the wishes of our peers or the prospects of tangible reward, but rather by privately held notions of duty, ambition, and passion.

My horn was a part of my life I never should have abandoned in the first place, and though I may never make a living out of making music, I will always turn to music as a source of inspiration and emotional consolation. And even as making up for four years of lost playing proves to be a daunting task, I wouldn’t want to be using my time in any other way. This is what I set out to do, and I managed to pull it off in a quirky, spontaneous kind of way. It’s nice to be back. -Alex Chao, Horn

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Masterclass with Francois Rabbath

The french double bassist and composer Francois Rabbath was in residence at Ithaca College and gave a masterclass on September 20th. Thirteen bassists from Ithaca College and Eastman's School of Music performed a solo work or etude written by Mr. Rabbath. This provided a rare opportunity to gain insights not only from a superb musician but also from the composer.

Mr. Rabbath was born and Syria and taught himself to play the double bass using a book written by the French bassist Edouard Nanny. He moved to Paris in hopes of meeting Edouard Nanny, but the Parisian teacher had already died. He ended up staying in Paris to study music and became one of the most influential bassists of our time. In particular he formulated a whole new method of playing the double bass based on extension fingerings rather than the traditional method of smaller, more rigid fingering positions.

Most impressive to me was his intuitive understanding of all aspects of creating music. Composition, musicianship, technique, performance. As a both composer and player he puts a strong emphasis on visualizing the music. Each of his own pieces were written with a specific mental image in mind. "Iberique Peninsulaire" was inspired while he was walking through the desert and came upon a rose-colored lake. Another piece he wrote around the birth of his first son. He and his second son performed a piece at the masterclass which depicts a huge whale being hunted.

What sets Mr. Rabbath apart is his physical awareness of playing. His bass is truly an extension of himself. Nicholas Walker, professor of double bass at Ithaca College, told an anecdote about the dress rehearsal before Mr. Rabbath's recital the previous evening. He described how Mr. Rabbath complained that the floor of the stage sloped down toward the audience. They first attempted to test this by rolling a quarter down the stage with no success. Finally they found a level, and sure enough, the stage floor sloped down a millimeter over half a meter. Mr. Rabbath could tell because the instrument didn't quite feel right.

Finally the insight which blew me away the most was his belief that wood has memory. A bow keeps its curve because the wood has memory. He told us that as string players we teach the wood of our instruments to vibrate, and it remembers the vibrations. We can either teach it well so that its sound improves with time, or we can kill it. Mr. Rabbath's genius is understanding how to show a bass how to best to vibrate.

For two and a half hours on a Thursday evening, about forty people saw a musical genius at work. His love for playing, teaching and composing was contagious. He was an inspiration, and many years from now I will still remember that wood has memory.