The Fine Art Music Company pays tribute to Planet Earth
Donald Hunt discovers some cosmic music just blocks from his home. -- Artblog editor

sponsored

If you were asked to put together a group of musical pieces as a tribute to the planet Earth, what would you choose and why? This overwhelming challenge was the focus of the Fine Art Music Company’s “A Musical Ode to Earth: A Tribute in Classical Music” concert in West Philadelphia’s Ivy Hall on Saturday, March 11.

Discovering an unknown gem

Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, Musical Ode to Earth concert, Rollin Wilber playing Henry Cowell’s “Tides of Manaunaun." Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester
Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, Musical Ode to Earth concert, Rollin Wilber playing Henry Cowell’s “Tides of Manaunaun.” Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester

The Fine Art Music Company’s mission is “ to intensify a tradition of creating the most intimate and meaningful experience possible of shared music-making”. The Company believes that classical music is best heard in intimate settings for closer dialogue between musician and listener.

Ivy Hall is pretty much an unknown gem that happens to be right in my neighborhood in Overbrook (and only a block away from my home church, The African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas). The hall is a beautiful Philadelphia home that uses one of its rooms for recitals.

As the concert began, the room went to dark and eventually only blue lights were visible. From there, pianist Rollin Wilber went into “Tides of Manaunaum” by Henry Cowell. This sort of piece is also known as a tone cluster, chock-full of accidentals and harsh low bass chords.

Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, daytime concert with Rollin Wilber and Katarzyna Marzec-Salwinski, pianists. Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester
Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, daytime concert with Rollin Wilber and Katarzyna Marzec-Salwinski, pianists. Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester.

One of the most interesting pieces was George Crumb’s “Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)” for flute, cello and piano. This particular grouping is a power trio of ladies – Elivi Varga (flute), Julia Morelli (cello), and Katarzyna Marsec-Salwinski (piano), with each woman wearing a black mask. The first measures of the piece sound somewhat like a spy theme featuring a menacing flute solo by Varga. The solo was quite peculiar in that Varga played the flute as well as making her own sounds without directly blowing into the instrument.

Salwinski soon rose from the bench and reached inside the piano to pluck hammers while she played half-steps with her other hand. Morelli then played sliding harmonics which sounded somewhere in between a shooting firework and perhaps a laughing circus performer. At one point, Varga and Morelli even traded whistles back and forth. Vox Balaenae threw quite a bit at us – some parts musically rewarding, others not so much.

Our place in the universe

Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, Musical Ode to Earth concert, String Quartet playing David Ludwig’s “Pale Blue Dot.” Musicians left to right are Azer Damirov, violin; James Wilson Lawrence, violin; Julia Morelli, cello; Lorenzo Raval, viola. Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester
Fine Art Music Company, Ivy Hall, Musical Ode to Earth concert, String Quartet playing David Ludwig’s “Pale Blue Dot.” Musicians left to right are Azer Damirov, violin; James Wilson Lawrence, violin; Julia Morelli, cello; Lorenzo Raval, viola. Image courtesy of Celeste Hardester.

The overarching concept of the evening was “The Pale Blue Dot of Earth” by composer David Ludwig. The title of the piece comes from Carl Sagan’s 1994 book, Pale Blue Dot. Ludwig was in attendance and introduced his piece, letting the audience know what inspired him to tackle this idea for string quartet: he has always been interested in the stars and their place in the universe. Before Ludwig’s composition was performed, there was a video sequence going further into Sagan’s claims, stating that the Earth is only the fraction of a mere dot – a crescent of 0.12 pixel in size.

“Pale Blue Dot,” written for string quartet had the feel of a hollow space score that reminded me of Dmitri Shostakovich’s writing (Shostakovich had a skill of instilling fear in listeners, and Ludwig delivers a similar effect here).

Aside from this recital serving as a great discovery of the Fine Art Music Company’s offerings, it also made me think of where our place stands in the grand scheme of reality. Our planet is a very small part of a huge solar system and we all contribute to the success or failure of its existence.

Tags

classical music, Elivi Varga, fine art music company, Henry Cowell, Julia Morelli, Katarzyna Marsec-Salwinski, philadelphia, planet earth, Rollin Wilber, the fine art music company

sponsored
sponsored

Hello!

Sign up to receive Artblog’s weekly updates and monthly Our Picks sent directly to your inbox.

Subscribe Today!

Send this to a friend