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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Gillian Smith at 8:04PM   |  1 comment

6:50 p.m. 

Tonight we are at the Music School on Ithaca College's campus for a presentation on how live music and concerts fit into FLEFF. 

Dr. Zimmermann says the goal is that the FLEFF concert should feel like a spectacle. It should "complicate, interogate and twist our idea for the events theme of the year." This year, they are producing a concert called  "The Concert for Microtopias," which opposes concerts for suffering and needs. Its goal is to bring people together over something enjoyable. 

Keep checking in for more updates on the presentation! 


7:05 p.m.

Dr. Zimmermann introduces Dr. Debbie Martin and Dr. Brad Hougham, discussing their many talents: Dr. Martin is an incredible pianist and Dr. Hougham is a baritone singer. 

7:07 p.m. Dr. Hougham says "This is my absolute favorite event of every year. Partly because no one is telling me what I have to say and I get to work with awesome people to make it all make sense." Dr. Hougham talks about how last years performance was entirely unheard of but was incredible, which is why he loves FLEFF. Dr. Martin says "We work with dead people all the time. We play dead people's music!"

7:09 p.m. Dr. Martin talks about Dr. Gironamo and the back story about his obsession with fabric. 

7:10 p.m. Dr. Hougham talks about the music choices. "We really want the idea of this is a little bit of this, this is a little bit of that, something you've never sang before." Dr. Martin explains that when looking for music for two pianists, the amount of available songs gets quite narrow. So they decided to choose their favorite songs they've loved playing in the past. " If you think of different things that would make you happy or inspired or feeling feelings at the most extreme levels, that's what you'll find here. Everything form different countries, to different takes on spiritual things, different ethnic things." 

7:13 p.m. Dr. Martin has the whole class stand up and stand clapping a rhythm to exemplify what one of the songs will feel like. 123, 12, 123, 12. She plays impossibly fast and upbeat, happy music. 

7:15 p.m. Dr. Hougham explained a Bach piece. There are two types of musical types in an opera. There's places of sing songy melodies, and other sections where characters talk to each other, he explains. That is the first thing he is singing, which falls on the heels of Dr. Martin's previous carnival-style piece. After a technological difficulty we got the Bach piece working. 

7:19  p.m. Dr. Hougham says he picked this piece because it is from a piece he has always loved and wanted to sing. He says its one of the most heart wrenching pieces we will ever hear. Meaning "Its enough" in German, the song is about how its enough that you had life when you are going to die. 

7:21 p.m. Dr. Hougham explains that he will be singing this piece, Cantata 82 in April along with one piano. Dr. Martin starts replaying the phrase from the Bach piece from memory. She picks up some music books and begins to play. She plays a slow piece that is from the same composer, that they will be playing. She then jumps right into a high paced, very happy piece that she explains will be put in between the two Bach piece. Its called "Vife!" a Brazilian carnival tune. 

7:23 p.m. Dr. Martin plays a lullaby with one hand. Its very simple and elegant and relaxing, as a lullaby should be. "Isn't that beautiful?" She says. There's a background piece to the lullaby with the left hand and it fills the whole room with a peaceful melody. She explains how Dr. Hougham gave her the music, and when she checked it out it was so much different than the lullaby she had heard on YouTube. Its in a minor key and she makes a funny face the whole time she is playing it. "As I'm playing this song, I'm just like.." and she makes a grimacing face. 

7:29 p.m. Dr. Hougham plays Cinco Canciones Negras: Lullaby, for us on the computer so that we can fully experience it. He talks about the composer who moved to Cuba and found his microtopia in Cuba. It was there that this composer produced these songs. 

7:30 p.m. They play a piece for us to see if we know it: "Pavane pour une infante defunte," which is in French. "The challenge here will be for us to sound like orchestral instruments," Dr. Martin says. "There are some really nice places for the harp here." Phil tells the room how this song is often played on September 1st in honor of Princess Diana's death. "He was known for his colors, which means how he used the instruments to create new and beautiful sounds," Dr. Martin says. 

7:34 p.m. Dr. Hougham says he will be singing Wade in the Water. He plays Big Momma Thornton's version for us on YouTube. 

7:36 p.m. "So that's the melody," Dr. Hougham says. "But it can sound any number of ways." He then plays a gospel version for us.

7:39 p.m. "I grew up on a cattle ranch so this type of suffering is not something familiar with so my challenge is how can I sing this music? What right do I have to sing this? Microtopias exist all over campus when teachers teach students and student teach teachers."  He talks about collaborating with Cynthia Henderson in the theater school. 

7:41 p.m. "A lot of these things have a dance thing going on, which I hadn't really thought about it," Dr. Martin says. "We've got Russians on the bookends." The last piece, Tarantella, comes from tarantula, and the dance comes from keeping your feet up and away from the tarantulas. 

7:42 p.m. We listen to a piece by William Finn, called "Anytime." He has produced for Broadway. 

7:44 p.m. Dr. Hougham talks about the challenge now of making it all fit together. "It has to have some sort of overarching theme, activity, event, that ties this music together."

7:47 p.m. Dr. Martin explains how when she goes to visit the other pianist in Berlin, they will be going over tempo, breathing, etc. "We don't feel constrained to feel things exactly as they were notated, so it is very freeing in that way. Two things will pull it together. One is the visual- I think it is a wonderful thing when you go to a movie, when I go, i listen to the music. I notice if its bad, but I'm not totally tuned into it. Maybe if you are a film person you notice bad editing. But I have a composer friend who goes and he barely knows what the movie was about. This will be one of those times when you can use the different sensory things to tie it all together for yourself. Also just the idea that has been created of the microtopias. If you really sit and think about how that's been described- the small moments of every aspect of who we are and what we are and its fragmented and you can take things that aren't normally together and put them together. That's what we are aiming for."

7:51 p.m. Dr Hougham: "This is Ithaca. Its a wonderful, small, safe place for people to expand and explore and take risks." 

7:52 p.m. Dr Hougham: "I love pushing the ticket and helping others experience old music in a new way." 

7:53 p.m. Dr. Martin: "I never go through a day where I'm not relating music to art, dance, literature. This just allows me to still go further and be freer in how we relates things and how it can all be a part of music. It doesn't stand apart, music is a part of life."

7:57 p.m. Dr. Zimmermann talks about Art Jones, the VJ who will be working with this concert. "He is someone really pushing the envelope on new technology," she says. 

8:00 p.m. "I think its interesting to wonder what brings people to concerts. What are they looking for? I think its great because people are there for the music and they have a love and an appreciation for music. Having a response is really great- not the applause at the end but having the sense of something being giving and received both by performers or audience. Laughter or gasps at the right moment. Always a sort of give and take," Dr. Hougham says. Dr. Martins says the first thing that comes to mind is "if I were to speak the words I Love You to no one, it means nothing. Its like a dress rehearsal. You could do a good job but its just not happening. Somehow, when people come into the room, you have a receptacle to what you are saying. Something snaps and it makes all the difference in the world. You may not be saying I Love You, but you're saying something. Its not that removed from a home crowd at a sporting event." 

8:02 p.m. Dr. Martin says she wonders what she can bring as a listener to a concert. Its easy to figure out what to bring as a performer but as a listener she wants to be entertained. "The very cool thing is you might come away with something entirely different than the person next to you." 


1 Comment

Gillian: You blog takes "live" to the next level...minute by minute dissection and immersion in every idea and note share by Dr. Hougham and Dr. Martin. The quotes you write generate a sense of excitement around concepts and practices. As the musicians were explaining this diverse selection of music for The Concert for Microtopias, you have captured their sense of exploration and joy at finding intricacies and harmonies with each other, with concepts, with music, with the audience. BRAVA to you...what a feat to blog like this! Which piece was your favorite?

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