A.I. sure ain’t Baroque

Most of the world woke up to a cute Google doodle this morning, featuring the incredible Johann Sebastian Bach of organ-shredding and music-dynasty-begetting notoriety. The doodle’s claim to harmonize any two-measure melody in the style of Herr Meister Johann was intriguing. I quickly plugged in the first thing I could think of: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” (I’ve been teaching a lot of beginner piano lately.) What resulted sounded like a mistake, a four part chorale written by Charles Ives or someone who might be failing Music Theory I. What’s the tonal center? Why are some of the chords missing thirds? And what’s with that minor second between the soprano and bass voices? Can the A.I. even counterpoint?

 

In short, my first try at using the Google doodle made me suspicious that it was a far shot from generating Bach-like music. But I decided giving the program W.A. Mozart’s “Ah vois dirai-ja, Maman” wasn’t quite fair; so, next, I tried giving it the first two measures of a melody Johann set a quite a few times: “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.” Below is what I got, with my quick analysis. To other music theory nerds, I’m sure I’ve missed stuff–let me know in the comments!

[CORRECTIONS: The third chord (on beat 4 of measure 1) should be labeled a V4/3. The suspension in the tenor (or escape tone) on beat 3 of measure 2 is foiled because of the E in the alto. March 23, 2019.]

 

Now, compare that to my favorite of Johann’s own settings: BWV 303 (from bach-chorales.com).

 

To be fair, I generated thirteen “A.I. Bach” harmonies; and the above was the most humorous. But in my mind, this very happily confirms that, as great as technology is getting, J.S. Bach’s genius–his mastery of melodic/harmonic tension, fugue, and incredible voice leading–CANNOT be replicated by a computer program. Try again another time, Google. In the meantime, Bach’s ghost is killing kittens for that parallel fifth.

 

Winterbirds

 

I am so excited to announce the release of Shaker Songs, Winterbirds’ debut album!

A little back story. Last year, I was fortunate to collaborate with composer Nick Rich in my commission, performance, and recording of his flute/light composition This is a picture of…”  (Read about that collaboration in a former blog post.) Shortly after our world premiere performance, Nick asked me to join his progressive folk band, Winterbirds. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Have you ever heard of a bluegrass flutist, before? Maybe there’s a reason for that?
Nick: Nope. You’ll be the first!

Folk music has always had a special place in my heart. There’s something about it that feels like home, in all its rich simplicity. Mix that with the opportunity to work with an incredible lineup of musicians: I was sold. Bluegrass-flute precursor (or lack thereof) be hanged, I couldn’t say no. And since joining last summer, I’ve been blown away by the musicianship and creativity of my Winterbirds colleagues.

Take a moment to listen to Shaker Songs (I play on tracks 6-8)! I hope you’ll find it as refreshing as I have. If you like what you hear, follow our Facebook page for upcoming performances and news.

Flute/light Video 6: Nick Rich’s “This is a picture of”

It’s been awhile, but I’m excited to announce the release of a new flute/light video!

Flute/light video? What am I talking about? Here’s a video that explains my flute/light project.

We live in a world saturated with information and virtual communication, thanks to technology. But does technology always illuminate, or is it more likely to obfuscate? How can we better use technology to help us in our interactions with other people and the truth? These are questions that strike me as I listen to Nick Rich‘s flute/light composition “This is a picture of.” Nick thoughtfully contrasts the human with the technological, and then integrates them in a manner that is both surprising and beautiful. For more information about the piece, read my interview with the composer from earlier this year.

Many thanks to fiddler Rich Hartness, multimedia artist Jonathan Wall, bassist Emily Damrel, and video artist Wayne Reich!

Check out the rest of my flute/light videos:

Anna Meadors, At Daybreak
Kyle RowanKomorebi
Michael S. Rothkopf, I Dream of Coloured Inks
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Jacob Thiede, And everything in-between

NFA and Liberty

Phew! It’s been a busy beginning of the school year, but I’m finally getting a moment to sit down and write about some fun performance news from the last two months: my debut performance at the National Flute Association Convention and a guest artist recital at Liberty University.

The NFA Convention was in sunny Orlando this year; it was a blast, getting to perform Jacob Thiede‘s And everything in-between on “The Future Is Now” concert with other electroacoustic-loving flutists, making new flute friends, and running into old flute friends. Taiki Azuma was such a big help, listening to my soundcheck the night before!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was such an honor to perform at Liberty University. The Liberty faculty and students were tremendously encouraging, the lighting and audio tech staff was tremendously helpful (thanks SO much, Amy and Kevin!), and the Concert Hall in the Center for Music and Worship Arts is beautiful. What’s more? Robin McLaughlin kindly accepted my commission to compose a piece for the occasion: In the Beginning for spoken word, flute, percussion, piano, and lamps. I’m so excited she was able to join me for the premiere, with the wonderful Erik Alexander Schmidt (percussion) and Elizabeth Church (spoken word). I’ll be posting a video of the premiere soon; and I hope to recording a video of the piece in the next few months, too, pending funding!

This fall, I’m looking forward to solo performances at Carroll Community College and the Raleigh Area Flute Association Flute Festival. Until then, a new school year has started; and I’m back, teaching flute at Guilford College and at Ms Georgia’s Creative Arts Academy.

(left to right) Elizabeth Church, myself, Robin McLaughlin, and Erik Schmidt

#SaturdaySounds: Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte op. 19 no. 1

Misuse the word song in conversation, and you’re sure to rankle even the most gracious classical musician. It may be a subtle error, but go ahead! Try it. See if they don’t correct your language–or wince a little, at least. To those interested the rationale for this reaction, a song, according to the Harvard Dictionary of Music, is “a form of musical expression in which the human voice has the principal role and is the carrier of text…” Note the key elements: human voice (singer) and text (lyrics). By that definition, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony CAN’T be a groovy song, dude. We call that a piece, or “a composition, especially but not necessarily an instrumental one” (Ibid). So, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is also a piece–because yes, it has singers and lyrics, but only in its final movement.

Okay, enough with the definitions and on to some music. Today, I’m listening to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte), op. 19, no. 1. Notice the use of the word song? “But it’s a piano piece. There are no words! No singer,” I hear you grumble. Yes. I could wax musicologist now and write about characteristics of the Romantic Era, with its shift away from strict Classic Era structures, its lyricism and “emphasis on the indefinable and the infinite” (Ibid). But there are already plenty of sources that describe the music of the Romantics. (Check out links here and here, or go to good music history book, like Norton’s History of Western Music.)

I’d rather write about this one little wordless song: Andante con moto (Walking, with motion). It crystalizes the things I love most about Mendelssohn’s music: its innate sense of hope, purity, and energy. It’s as though his compositions, even in their stormy moments, were bathed in glimmering yellow sunshine. Perhaps that has something to do with upward melodic gestures (Schenker friends, I’m not talking about the Ursatz, don’t get mad). Personally, though, I think Mendelssohn’s music was somehow impacted by his faith. Even now, he is often criticized for his sentimentality and lack of tortured Romantic emotion (à la Schumann or Mahler); but I feel as though I hear the song of his soul when I listen to him–a song too deep for words, evoking inner hope, peace, joy. Perhaps that’s what he meant by Lieder ohne Worte. 

Listen to this recording by Daniel Gortler and see if you’re not feeling more hopeful.

 

Published: Perspectives of New Music Article

I’m so excited to announce that my interview with Stuart Saunders Smith has been published by Perspectives of New Music. In our conversation, Dr. Smith explains his compositional process while we discuss his flute/light piece, The Circle of LightMy deep thanks to everyone at PNM, to Dr. and Sylvia Smith, and to Mark Engebretson and Erika Boysen.

Check out the article in PNM volume 55, no. 2!

Yeah, this is old school: UMBC guest artist adventures

For me, a trip to UMBC is always like a trip home. Sure, the music department has relocated to a new building, my friends have moved onwards and upwards, and some of my favorite faculty members have retired; but there’s something special about remembering your own undergraduate bildungsroman. Whenever I visit campus, I catch ghostly glimpses of things I learned while there: about myself, music, the world. There are apparitions of past joys, heartaches, victories, defeats, and friendships. My heart always fills with thanks when I reflect on any of this.

Imagine my excitement when I was invited to come play a UMBC guest artist recital, as well as stop by classes that I once took myself: Careers in music (MUSC 323), Flute repertoire class (MUSC 193, 194, 390, 391, 392, 393), and Linehan Artist Scholar freshman seminar (LAS 121H). It was déjà vu all over again. My heartfelt thanks to Lisa Cella and Doug Hamby, as well as the rest of the UMBC Department of Music for these opportunities!

This flute/light recital was a beautiful collision of some of my Maryland and North Carolina friends, all incredible musicians and wonderful people: lighting technician (and flutist!) Willie Santiago, sound engineer Sarah Baugher, composers Nick Rich and Jonathan Wall, percussionist Michelle Purdy, and double bassist Emily Damrel. (And I can’t forget Yoshi Horiguchi, who lent us a bass!) The craziest part of the story? Somehow, the performance managed to sell out! There’s no way I can fully express just how exciting this week has been, or just how deeply honored and thankful I am to have been back.

Go Retrievers!

Recital pics and videos will be coming soon.

Interview with Nicholas Rich–and “This is a picture of” PROMO!


Nick Rich is a North Carolina-based guitarist, composer, and songwriter. While we were both in the middle of our Master’s studies at UNCSA, he composed his Lennon Variations for the UNCSA flute ensemble: my introduction to his compositional voice. Influenced by his upbringing in a family that played Country-Western, Bluegrass, and Rock, Nick’s music explores the intersections of popular and experimental music. In Lennon Variations, he quoted John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” fragmenting, overlapping, and percolating the melody through the ensemble as it is slowly transformed into its recognizable, unified self. More recently, he composed a folk-flavored song cycle, Little Simple Song, funded by the Kenan Institute of the Arts.

I am so honored Nick has contributed to my flute/light project with “This is a picture of.” Its lighting concept (developed by Jonathan Wall) is unexpected and compelling, and its coy references to bluegrass (featuring pre-recorded samples by Rich Hartness) are downright fun. I can’t wait to premiere it at UMBC later this month! Until then, Nick generously answered some questions about the piece for me to share with you!

KD: What was your compositional process in writing “This is a picture of”?
NR: On the conceptual side of things, I spent a lot of time talking with Jonathan and Rich. Jonathan and I have done about half a dozen pieces together at this point, and we have a pretty productive working process that involves trying out and throwing out lots of ideas. His perspective is very important to me, even on pieces that we don’t work on together. Rich and I had several conversations that were much less about the art and more about the concepts: technology, communication, social media, accessibility, etc.
On the technical side of things, our piece centers around a photograph of Rich playing fiddle and his partner Tolly playing guitar. That photo generated the music both symbolically and literally. I spent an evening playing music with Rich and recorded it, later developing the electronic backing track from the sound of his fiddle. The music I wrote for the live instrumentalists starts out rather experimental but moves closer to folk as the piece progresses. The text was generated by feeding that photo, and small excerpts from it, into various kinds of AI photo-captioning software. The singers sing about the photo from the software’s perspective. Finally, Jonathan subjected the photo to neural network software, as well as more traditional kinds of image processing, to create his projection.

KD: Did any particular ideas, concepts, or stories inspire your piece?
NR: Rich and I met at a Bluegrass/Old Time convention about a year and a half ago. We bonded over some vintage guitars that I had with me, and shortly after that found that we also share a fascination with electronic music and technology. He’s great with technology in general, has lots of programming experience, and messed around with early synthesizers and voltage control devices a while back. So the idea of doing some sort of piece combining digital media and folk music makes sense in the context of our friendship and shared interests. As we talked more over the months, I learned about his journey with visual impairment and accessibility, and my mind and perspective really opened. Coincidentally, around the time you asked me about doing a piece, I saw some conversations on Twitter about photo captions and accessibility, and the ideas for the piece started falling into place. I asked Rich if he’d be open to doing a piece that incorporated these themes, and he was.

KD: Do you have any previous experience with lighting art? Or, had you thought about the integration of music and light before my commission?
NR: Jonathan and I have done a few video pieces, but we haven’t used abstract lighting art as a medium. But, the idea wasn’t completely foreign. I worked a little bit in lighting design for a concert venue, which I enjoyed. In the live pop and rock world, lighting is a given–although, of course, it most often “accompanies” the music rather than occupying a central place in the art-making. Over the years I had seen lots of contemporary and experimental pieces that use light as a component in one way or another. Jonathan’s language with video is already fairly abstract and non-narrative, so I knew he would be willing and able to deliver a true “flute+light” piece in which all the components work together. I love that we were able to come up with a process in which the text, backing track, live music, and lighting all emerged from the same source.

KD: To what degree can the work be adapted for alternative performance spaces?
NR: In principle I’m in favor of adaptability. With this particular piece, I’ve thought about the possibility of a slimmer version–for example, solo flute+electronics. But I would have to think through it carefully; I generally don’t like “canned” sounds in the electronics, or pre-recorded versions of instruments that could be represented live. With the backing track as it is, there’s a special reason that the fiddle is represented electronically: it goes through a symbolic transformation from being heavily obscured and processed, to being fragmented and looped, to being fully revealed. If I were to somehow include the other instruments and voices in the backing track, I would want to mess them up quite a bit, so that they’re part of that process also.

KD: Would you consider composing for music and light intermedia again?
NR: I would definitely do this kind of intermedia project again. The combination of human performers and some technological component excites me more than either realm individually.

2018 Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention

It’s been a fun, snowy weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention–meeting new people, getting to play some flute/light pieces, and catching up with old friends and teachers (go UMBC Department of Music flute studio alums!). Looking forward to more performances, coming soon: most notably, my guest artist recital at UMBC on March 29, 2018, featuring pieces from my flute/light commission project–including a world premiere of “This is a picture of” by Nicholas Rich.

2017 RAFA Artist Competition

It was so wonderful to be at the Raleigh Area Flute Association Flute Fair this year to play at the Artist Competition again–and to make new flute friends. What an encouraging surprise and honor, to win this time around! The RAFA board members were all so kind and the jury’s feedback was helpful. I so look forward to coming back to perform at the 2018 RAFA Flute Fair!

myUMBC, “Krisztina Dér Wins 1st Prize in RAFA Artist Competition!”

2017 Artist Competition Finalists (L to R): Krisztina Der, Megan Makeever, Jeiran Hasan. Photo Credit: Daryl Kessler, Riverview Photography.

Reformation 500

October 31, 2017 was a special day, for many reasons. An orchestra flashmob project I’ve been working on came to fruition: five performances of the finale of Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony no. 5 at five locations in Greensboro, NC, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (That’s a lot of fives!) David Holley, Artistic Director of Greensboro Opera and UNCG professor, graciously agreed to conduct. I am deeply indebted to him and to the musicians who volunteered to play with us!

Our itinerary:
8:55 AM, Coffeeology
9:30 AM, Whole Foods Market
10:30 AM, Four Seasons Town Centre
11:20 AM, Piedmont Triad International Airport
12:20 AM, Center City Park

A video is forthcoming!
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Flute/light project: Afterword

 

flute/light recital, September 17, 2016. PC: Emma Der

Yeah, I know. It’s only been about a week since my last Flute/light project post. This is an afterword full of acknowledgements: a brief post thanking all of my wonderful colleagues who made that project (and subsequent videos!) possible.

Wayne Reich and Ben Singer, thank you for the amazing recordings, videos, and photos! You’ve been kind,  down-to-earth, patient, and generous. I’ve learned so much from the both of you.

To the composers: I love your work, and I keep pinching myself because I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to work with you. It’s been such an honor! My deep thanks.
Anna MeadorsKyle RowanMichael S. RothkopfStuart Saunders SmithJacob Thiede

To my fellow performers: thank you for your enthusiastic participation and support!
Alicia BachorikSarah BusmanAsher Carlson, Noah Cline, Lowell Fuchs, Sharneisha Joyner, Amy Karnes, Amanda Mitchell, Janine Naprud, Stephany Saunders, Erik SchmidtAbigail SimoneauBethany Uhler, Hyunsu Yoon

To all who assisted with lighting: thank you for your patience and generous help!
Aaron Bobeck, Drake Calo, Norman Coats, Jason Czaja, Manuel Da Silva, Noah Davis, Alyssa Eibott, Clara Freeze, Chip Haas, Jonas Hess, Evan Higgins, Katie Martin, Lisa Renkel, Joshua Selander, Katherine Ward, Ken White, UNCG School of Theater, UNCSA School of Design and Production Lighting Department

Finally, a HUGE thank you to my dissertation committee for their encouragement and guidance!
Mark Engebretson, Erika Boysen, James Douglass, Randy McMullen

Flute/light Project? Not sure what I’m talking about? Below are links to each video.

Flute/light Project Info Video
Anna Meadors
, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle Rowan, Komorebi
Michael S. Rothkopf, I Dream of Coloured Inks
Jacob Thiede, And everything in-between

Flute/light Project Video 5: Jacob Thiede’s And everything in-between

PC: Ash Stemke. Used with permission.

I’m a doctor! Which means the end of my dissertation project adventure. Yes. This is my last flute/light video release—at least for now!

Flute/light video? What does that mean? Let me get you up to speed.

Here’s a video I made explaining my flute/light intermedia art project!
And below are links to four more flute/light videos:

Anna Meadors, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle RowanKomorebi
Michael S. Rothkopf, I Dream of Coloured Inks

Does all music have a narrative? Jacob Thiede’s piece And everything in-between investigates this question—and also the concept of unlistable infinity. The result: a palpable sense of excitement, mystery, and adventure. Does And everything in-between ever foil your expectations? Can you identify some of the many moods, sounds, and colors it explores? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below!

And everything in-between was recorded on December 3, 2016 in Brown Theatre at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Wayne Reich and Ben Singer created the cinematic video. Lowell Fuchs helped me with sound; and Asher Carlson and Abigail Simoneau served as grips. I will never be able to fully express my thanks to all who contributed to this video—and to all who helped make my flute/light project possible!

This has been an incredible journey. My thanks also to all who have taken the time to watch these videos and join me in their celebration!

For more about And everything in-between (and some beautiful photos), check out Wayne’s blog, here.

Flute/light Project Video 4: Michael Rothkopf’s I Dream of Coloured Inks

New experiences can be something of a revelation, can’t they? The first time I ever tried zhajiangmian, it became a comfort food—and I crave it on and off ever since.

What does food from northern China have to do with music? The analogy’s a bit of a stretch, but Dr. Michael S. Rothkopf’s I Dream of Coloured Inks for Two Flutes and Computer (flute/light video 4) was the primary catalyst for my flute/light project. The enveloping, dynamic light in the piece whet my appetite for more!

Flute and light? Video 4? What am I talking about? Here: I’ll catch you up in a jiffy.

Check out the video I made about my flute/light intermedia art project!
And below are links to the first three flute/light videos:

Anna Meadors, At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith, The Circle of Light
Kyle Rowan, Komorebi

Three years ago, in 2014, I published a blog post about I Dream of Coloured Inks’ world premiere. Way back then, I promised an I Dream of Coloured Inks video—and here it is!

Dr. Rothkopf’s piece is an improvisation for two flutes, lights, and computer. The computer listens to various aspects of the flutists’ sound—things like pitch, articulation, timbre, and dynamic—and responds both visually and sonically based on a series of probability tables in the Coloured Inks’ Max program. It’s an exciting exploration in sonic and visual color!

The piece was recorded on January 22, 2017, in Crawford Hall at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I was assisted by the lovely flutist Sarah Busman, as well as the audio and visual dynamic duo Ben Singer and Wayne Rich. I am deeply thankful for the generous help of all who contributed to this video—including the UNCSA Design and Production lighting department.

See Wayne’s lovely I Dream of Coloured Inks blog post for his thoughts and pictures!

Flute/light Project Video 3: Kyle Rowan’s Komorebi

Dissertation Recording Session No. 1, PC: Wayne Reich.

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike” (John Muir, from The Yosemite).

Often, I find myself yearning for mountains and trees somewhere, anywhere. There’s something wonderfully restorative about out-of-the-way places—and the time it takes to enjoy them. Imagine you’re in a forest. Maybe you’re sitting on its pine-needle floor or blazing a trail. Either way, picture afternoon sunlight being filtered by trees around you. There’s a warm glow that shimmers through leaves and needles, vibrant like a live wire.

Dr. Kyle Rowan uses sound and light intermedia to capture this forest-light phenomenon in his composition Komorebi for solo flute and lighting, the third video in my flute and light project! The Japanese word Komorebiroughly translated, means: sunlight filtering through leaves.

Okay—but wait. Flute and light project? Intermedia? Third video? What am I yakking about? Let me get you up to speed!

Here’s an info video I made about my flute/light intermedia art project!
And here are links to the first two cinematic videos:

Anna Meadors’ At Daybreak
Stuart Saunders Smith’s The Circle of Light.

Komorebi’s lighting concept features shifting shadows and colors that fade in and out puckishly. I’d say the music complements the lighting—but it more than complements it. Together, they are sprightly, caressing, shimmering, enveloping. Together.

Lighting technicians Katherine Ward and Abigail Simoneau manually controlled the lighting board faders in this video production. Wayne Reich and Ben Singer created the cinematic video. All recording was done on December 3, 2016 in UNCG’s Brown Building Theatre. My heartfelt thanks to all who helped me make this video—including those who took the time to teach me a thing or two about lighting boards!

Wayne published a post about Komorebi on his blog. Check it out for a glimpse into his perspective as videographer and some great pictures of the editing process!

Flute/light Project Video 2: Stuart Saunders Smith’s The Circle of Light

PC: Sarah Busman. Used with permission.

Video numero II id est. I decided to release my flute/light cinematic videos in the order of my premiere concert in September 2016. That brings us to Stuart Saunders Smith’s The Circle of Light: A Ceremony for solo flute and eight lumanists.

Flute and light? Video No. 2? Not sure what I’m talking about? No worries! I’ll catch you up in a jiffy.

Check out the info video I made about my flute/light intermedia art project!

And here’s the link to the first cinematic video (Anna Meadors’ At Daybreak), along with some more background information.

The Circle of Light is a 17 minute piece performed in almost complete darkness, with slowly changing lighting and repetitive musical material. The result is a lyrical, meditative atmosphere. And people—the flutist, lumanists (flashlightists), audience, and composer—are united through the experience of this atmosphere.

Still with me? For a second, forget that you have photos to post to Instagram, calls to return, or a Tumblr feed to update. Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings. Is there a clock ticking in the distance? Maybe you can smell coffee or feel the warmth of the sun. That’s what I mean by atmosphere. Perhaps you tell someone, “Wow, that coffee smells nice!” And then, that someone takes notice of it. You are united in your mutual awareness of the aroma. It’s possible you are even united in your mutual enjoyment of it!

Because this unifying awareness of atmosphere is essential to The Circle of Light, I think it’s best to experience the piece live. That being said, the audio and visual team Ben Singer and Wayne Reich, along with my lumanist performers (Bethany Uhler, Noah Cline, Janine Neprud, Stephany Saunders, Erik Schmidt, Amy Karnes, Asher Carlson, and Abigail Simoneau), all did an incredible job helping me create this cinematic video and contemplative atmosphere! The Circle of Light was recorded in Brown Building Theatre at the University of North Carolina Greensboro on December 3, 2016. I was assisted by lighting technician Katherine Ward.

Since darkness is so important to Dr. Smith’s piece, try watching with your lights off!

Wayne has published a thoughtful blog post about this transcendental work on his website. Check it out here.

Flute/Light Project Video 1: Anna Meadors’ At Daybreak

Dissertation Recording Session No. 1, PC: Ben Singer.

Graduation. It’s coming, and time is flying as relentlessly as ever! In less than a month, I’ll be “commencing” post-degree life for a third time. And then, I’ll officially be able to put two letters in front of my name: D-R.

I’m feeling a bit sentimental, so I’m going to share what I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. Well, okay. Really, I’m just plain excited about what I’ve been doing, and I’m going to burst soon if I don’t share it.

Way back in middle school, tiny Krisztina was given her first taste of intermedia art. I’ve been addicted ever since. When the time came to ponder my dissertation topic, it was only natural for me to think: intermedia.

What’s intermedia art, you ask? A fine question! Very simply, it’s the integration of diverse artistic mediums. See my flute/light project intro video for a more thorough explanation, here!

Fast-forward through some life experience, performance opportunities, and research; and I had narrowed my field of study to two specific mediums: sound and light. Then, back in February 2016, I began my flute/light commission project.

Sound and light—both are manifestations of kinetic energy. A great deal can be observed about them: their frequencies, amplitudes, velocities. Their union is found in thunder and lighting, electricity, and even black holes. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without them! But Aristotelian questions remain: What is the essence of energy, sound, and light? This mystery fills me with tremulous wonder when I listen to a Brahms symphony or observe the stars; and I am compelled that it is this very mystery that lends sound and light their dramatic power in the arts.

This blog post is No. 1 in a series of five video releases that mark the culmination of my flute/light project! The first? Anna MeadorsAt Daybreak for flute, percussion, and lighting.

Anna’s piece is the origin story of light, as told by Italo Calvino in “At Daybreak” from Cosmicomics. The music and light work in synergy to portray a nebulous opening, followed by a condensing of the nebulous matter, the sudden creation of light, and its disappearance at nightfall. Because there is lighting throughout the piece, I always find myself anticipating the dramatic moment when THE light will burst into the story.

We were all burning in the fire. Or rather: we weren’t burning, we were immersed in it as in a dazzling forest; the flames shot high over the whole surface of the planet, a fiery air in which we could run and float and fly, and we were gripped with a new joy (Italo Calvino, from “At Daybreak”).

All video footage for At Daybreak was recorded in Brown Building Theatre at the University of North Carolina Greensboro on December 3, 2016. I was assisted by percussionist Erik Schmidt and lighting technician Katherine Ward. The cinematic video was created by audio and visual team Wayne Reich and Ben Singer. I can’t begin to say how thankful I am to each of them for their contributions to the project!

Wayne has published a blog post on his website about the video production of At Daybreak with cool pictures of the editing process! Check it out here.

Stay tuned for more videos, and thanks for reading!

Zoltán Kodály, “Song” from the Háry János Suite.

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With the Kodaly statue in Pecs, Hungary, during my studies at the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Fifty years after his death, the name “Zoltán Kodály” has spread worldwide, conjuring up thoughts of music pedagogy and solfege. Many don’t realize that he was also a linguist, a philosopher, an ethnomusicologist—and a brilliant composer. One of the first CDs I ever owned included a piece that is still very dear to me: Kodály’s Dances from Marosszék (Marosszéki Táncok). Even then, I was captivated by the deeply lyrical quality of Kodály’s music, his colorful orchestrations, and the magical way his music evokes both longing and hope.

Back in 2010, I received a grant to arrange music for a small chamber ensemble with unconventional instrumentation. Hoping to familiarize more Westerners with Kodály’s music, I chose to arrange a movement from his Háry János Suite: “Song” (or, “Dal,” in Hungarian). Originally from Kodály’s Háry János, a singspiel about the tall-tales of a hussar, the lyrics of “Song” express Háry János’ tender longing to be home with those he loves.

The recording below features Asher Carlson (clarinet), Leonardo Ottoni do Rosario (violin), Emily Damrel (double bass), and Rachel AuBuchon (prepared piano). It was recorded on April 30, 2016, and edited by Dr. Michael S. Rothkopf, with additional help from Ben Singer.

 

 

Motivating Student Practice.

As important as Aristotle’s laws of motion are to the development of modern physics, somehow, they are humorous.  Newton’s first law of motion is merely a more precise restatement of Aristotle’s ideas: an object in a particular state of motion will continue in that state of motion unless an outside force influences it.  However, Aristotle called this altered status of motion “forced” or “violent;” moreover, he believed that all objects had inherent, measurable resistance to such forced motion.  Some of what Aristotle observed is now understood to be what is indeed called resistance, friction, and drag; but Aristotle’s language creates an amusing picture of inanimate objects with wills to remain inert, resisting motion until coerced.

We could say that this picture is a rather uncanny illustration of a type of student—the type that never seems to practice, despite their teacher’s best efforts.  These are unmotivated students who come to their lessons week after week, only prepared with excuses.  If we’re honest, however, we might admit that this metaphor could be used to describe anyone (including ourselves!) in a wide variety of situations.

Over the last year, I have spent some time seeking to better understand both the stimulation of self-motivation and the teacher-student relationship as it pertains to responsibility.  For now, I have concluded:

TEACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY: To guide the student into a cycle of work and achievement (related to attribution theory in psychology).
STUDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY: To implement the short-term goals assigned by the teacher.

My studies resulted in a “How to Practice” Workshop at the Community Music School of UNC School of the Arts (see the video below), as well as in a list of potential motivational methods that can be directly applied to practicing.

© 2016 Krisztina Dér.  All rights reserved.

The Absent-Minded Professor

It has happened.  In September, one IMG_6611of my professors passed my name along to the Chair of the Music Department at Guilford College.  The result: I have been working as a “Part-time Lecturer of Music, Flute” this semester.  My family’s prophesies destining me as a lovable (albeit soporific) Prof. have been fulfilled!  And that’s not even counting the times I have inadvertently mismatched my socks!

Other news includes competing at the semifinals of the inaugural Raleigh Area Flute Association’s (RAFA’s) Artist Competition.  They selected six semifinalists total; I was honored to be there, learned a thing or two about my repertoire choices, and look forward to applying again next year.  Recordings from the preliminary round are forthcoming!

In the upcoming months, I’ll be competing in the final round of UNCG’s Student Artist Competition, preparing for the second of my three doctoral recitals, teaching (UNCG secondaries, UNCSA CMS, and Guilford), playing in Fayetteville, studying for comprehensive exams, researching for the dissertation (more info on my research topic coming soon!), finishing up the majority of my classwork, and (I hope) breathing.  For now at least, in the interim between semesters, there’s a bit of time to catch my breath– so stay tuned for more updates, recordings, and musings!