It tends to surprise me, though at this point it shouldn’t, just how quickly a catastrophe gets swallowed by the news cycle. In the day prior to Miguel Zenón’s arrival in Chicago for our recording sessions, the front pages and top-of-the-hour newscasts were strewn with images of a submerged Puerto Rico – of razed homes and trees at improbable angles.
It’s always an interesting exercise to look back at the previous season in the summer months. Like revisiting New Year’s resolutions, it’s a good way to do a personal barometer check and hunker down for a think about questions like “In what elements were we most successful?”, “Did we accomplish what we set out to?”, “How did our goals change along the way?”, “What were our biggest learning experiences?”, “Did we make something meaningful?” Even the busiest summer feels a little like coming up for air, and it’s easy in hindsight for a reflection on the season to resemble a string of highlights and failures. This year has certainly seen it’s fair share of both of those, but I’m ending the season feeling differently about Spektral’s work than I ever have...
After some inspiring travels earlier in the summer, we went our separate ways for some much-deserved time off in August: Maeve to Maine, Clara to Pennsylvania/Virginia/Kansas, Doyle to South Dakota/Ohio, and Russ to Washington State.
We're pleased to report that none of us went blind while staring at the solar eclipse.
We thought we'd share some SFW photo highlights with you as we dig into our rep for the current season, which we'll be announcing later this month. It's a DOOZY, y'all...
One of the more fascinating elements of Feldman’s second quartet is that of memory. Yes, it’s an absurdly long, absurdly quiet piece, but as untethered as that might sound, it’s the recurrence of material that keeps us mindful of something passing, rather than just existing. And just like memory, it is wholly unreliable. The material sounds familiar, but one tiny detail of it has been renovated.
It reminds me of one of my most indelible memories from childhood. As a family that didn’t really do vacations, visiting my grandparents in Indianapolis was borderline exotic. I can’t remember what I was performing last month, or what I’m supposed to pick up from Whole Foods on my way home today, but I can feel my 10-year-old self sitting atop scratchy astroturf on their back porch, underneath a garden table, eating my Nana’s liverwurst sandwiches and icebox cookies. This fort was killer. I had ultimate agency–no one bothered me under there and I could read until dusk–and when I was lucky, it would rain. I can still see the way the sunlight filtered through the undulating, emerald fiberglass canopy above. I can smell the funk of the liverwurst. I start salivating at the thought of the crunch of perfectly-browned cookies.
"The sense of time distortion and suspension present in Feldman 2 for me recalls the timelessness of many sleepless nights spent in love with nighttime rambles, and the hidden things only those who stay awake will see and hear. There is a certain way in which a non-linear, conceptual piece like Feldman 2 requires a listener to accept, absorb, and re-assemble kaleidoscopic patterns in a way that is similar to the music you can hear if you listen closely to a forest at nighttime–something I did a lot of growing up and, as the chance has presented itself, over the years. Once your eyes and ears and brain quiet down and adjust to the soft darkness of a forest it’s music is rarely quiet, often loud, seldom stagnant, and moves in a shape-shifting activity all it’s own: to find music in this place is to create a structure out of the tones and rhythms of unpredictable winds and birds and stars and raindrops and insects and who knows what other manner of creatures.
"For me, this piece evokes a vivid childhood memory I have of being on a sailboat with my older brother. At one point during our sail, almost without warning, the wind dropped and a thick fog began to roll in. The sensation of watching this opaque wall of vapor approach and then completely engulf us gave me a strong feeling of inexorability and then almost total sensory deprivation. I found that in the total white-out my sense of hearing felt heightened, and yet, as we sat waiting for the fog to lift, without any concept of where we were or how fast we were moving, if at all, my sense of time became completely skewed. When the wall of fog began to dissipate and we were finally able to make out the distant outline of the coast, we found ourselves in a completely different place that we had expected and it felt that minutes or even hours could have passed.
Allow us introduce our brilliant new violinist, Maeve Espy Feinberg! With a spirited fervor for new music and a nuanced vision for the traditional repertoire, Maeve locked into the Spektral vibe as though she'd been playing with us for years. That she shares our absurd sense of humor means that you can expect our concerts to retain and even embolden their weird wonderfulness.
Maeve hails from New York City, and studied at the New England Conservatory (with Lucy Chapman) and the Universität Mozarteum (with Paul Roczek). Her chamber music credits include the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Program, the Sandor Vegh Institut für Kammermusik, Kneisel Hall Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, and most recently, she was a Composers Conference Contemporary Performance Institute Fellow.
Maeve's love of contemporary music can be traced back in part to the New York apartment in which she grew up. Her father, concert soloist Alan Feinberg, has over 200 premieres to his credit, including the world premieres of Charles Ives's "Emerson" Piano Concerto and John Cage's Piano Concerto. We can make an educated guess that there was 1000% more Feldman being played in her childhood home than in any of ours...
The newest Spektral has a few words about all of this for you:
I am thrilled to be moving to Chicago as the newest member of the Spektral Quartet! As someone who grew up in a household where it was considered fairly normal to be humming 12-tone rows to oneself, it is a dream come true to meet and play with musicians whose artistic interests and goals align so closely with my own, and who share a deep love for and commitment to music both old and new. Clara, Doyle and Russ are incredible musicians with serious chops and not-so-serious senses of humor; I can’t wait to create some beautiful (and weird) sounds with them, and to experience the strange and bewildering phenomenon of "deep-dish pizza."
Maeve will be on stage with us for the entirety of the rest of our season, including our Morton Feldman Quartet No. 2 performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Toledo Art Museum, our Chamber Music America showcase, and our tour to Rome this summer. Make sure to come up and say hello (or offer her a post-concert bourbon) the next time you come to a show!
Humans of Earth,
What a week. What a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week. I prefer The Onion's take on the conclusion to the Boston manhunt:
It's times like this when I feel fortunate to be a musician; to have an artistic outlet for confusion and rage and despair and hope. I watched this tragedy unfold from a distance here in Chicago, and I don't mean to make any part of it about me (because it sure as hell isn't). I can't pretend to know what it must be like to have one's life indelibly transformed by the loss of mobility, or the death of a loved one to such an unfathomable disaster. A magnified sense of vulnerability is something we all share, though, and today I'd like to express how much I value all of you.
To my wife and my family: I love you and thank you for fostering this crazy dream of playing music for a living.
To the Spektral fans: chatting, laughing and nerding-out with you at our shows is really what makes every performance inspiring for me.
To my musician friends: thank you for making Chicago the unstoppable sonic engine that it is.
To my composer friends: thank you for making each day of rehearsal hair-pulling-ly challenging and artistically exhilarating.
We're headed back into the recording studio (two down, four to go) these next couple months, but we hope to hear from you soon. Just don't be alarmed if I hug you a little tighter when I see you next.
Stay safe everybody,