If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it

There’s something about music—not the formulaic, cookie-cutter Top-40 pop songs (although, let’s be honest, there’s something about a Beyonce power ballad that speaks to our soul), but the real, honest, complex creations—that can fill a room with sound and lull the audience into a meditative kind of stupor, completely submersed in the emotions of the piece.

That’s exactly what Ohio University composition students achieved at their recital on November 3, where 10 pieces, written and performed by music students, were showcased in the Glidden Recital Hall. These pieces ranged from a violin duet to percussion quartets to an audio soundtrack accompanied by a video.

One composition, titled “100 mouths full of steel and take,” written by senior Turner Matthews, was a percussion ensemble that used household items tuned into chromatic scales, including pieces of wood and pipes cut to different lengths.

“All these instruments are a labor of love. All of these rigs… [I spent] 30 hours total just making them, and I don’t even know how long I took to write the piece. It’s the longest thing that I’ve ever written,” Matthews said.

He found inspiration from a book called “The Virgin Suicides,” in which a character experiences incredibly strong emotions, although there is actually only one emotion. For example, Matthews uses the analogy of being with his mother and feeling like he has the love of 100 people.

“There are 3 or 4 distinct sections and each section is inspired by someone who is important to me, so somebody who I’m with alone, one on one, yet feel emotional like 100 people,” Matthews said.

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Eli Chambers uses headphones during his performance in order to hear the delay and help him make sure he is playing in time. Photo by Olivia Miltner

In his piece, Matthews used aggregate rhythms and was able to layer different patterns on top of one another to explore and develop his sound.

“I’m really interested in the spread of sound,” Matthews said.” Combinations of all six players together make really interesting back and forth complex textures with rhythms that aren’t really that complex, but because they are split up between so many people and different instruments, it makes it sound really rich.”

Senior Eli Chambers was another student who demonstrated his works in the showcase. One of his pieces, aptly titled “To Narcissus,” was modeled after the Greek mythological story of Echo, a wood nymph who falls in love with Narcissus, a man obsessed with himself.

In his piano solo, “there’s an echo on the piano representative of the character,” which is achieved through a computer-enabled delay.

“I had a microphone running through a program called ‘Digital Performer’ on a laptop, and it goes straight from the laptop to the speakers,” Chambers said. “I programmed both delays to very specific times so that they created the exact rhythm. One of them was at .5 seconds and the other one was at .72 seconds, so it’s very specific. If I’m playing in time, it builds up this really pulsing kind of thing and if I’m playing out of time, whether on purpose or otherwise, it creates this really washy kind of effect.”

He also made a last minute change a day before the performance to add an innovative ending incorporating the inside of the piano.

“I started off with the sustain pedal down [and] I was just kind of rubbing the pads with my fingers across the low end…and then running my fingers over the pegs and eventually…I found out that if it’s really quiet, it almost sounds like wind chimes.”

And as the audience listened to the resonance of the fading music until it disappeared, all 10 pieces created a medley of music, some sharp and jagged while others smooth and graceful, like drops of water in a puddle, morphing together to create a whole.

 

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