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Finding the Right Note

Composer Caroline Mallonée

The Buffalo Chamber Players push their boundaries

When the Buffalo Chamber Players open their eighth concert season in the Buffalo Seminary on Bidwell Parkway on Wednesday, September 17 at 7:30pm they will explore territory more usually associated with the University at Buffalo and its June in Buffalo new music festival. Then, on Saturday, September 27, the group will perform Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht in a special event at the Albright Knox celebrating the visit of the German artist Anselm Kiefer, creator of the stunningly colossal, mixed-media landscapes now on exhibit at the gallery.

One of the works often associated with the now almost legendary days back in the 1960’s of Lukas Foss and the Creative Associates at the University at Buffalo is Terry Riley’s In C. In This Life of Sounds, her 2010 definitive book about the Creative Associates, Renée Levine Packer, who served as the administrator with Lukas Foss of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at UB, calls In C “Terry Riley’s hypnotic minimalist masterpiece,” and notes that it was the debut recording for the Center in 1967. The entire score of In C consists of 53 notated figures on a single page, played consecutively by each instrumentalist, “at his or her own speed, repeating a figure as many times” as desired. A ‘drumming’ piano part, called the Pulse, serves as an anchor for the ensemble. Levine Packer describes In C as evoking “a humming, singing kaleidoscope of sounds and textures. Although there is no discernible beginning, middle or end, it is constantly moving and changing, saturating the senses.”

Surprisingly, In C seems not to have been performed at UB, a mecca for contemporary music, for at least the last twenty-five years, so Janz Castelo, artistic director of the Buffalo Chamber Players has scored something of a coup by programming it on the fiftieth anniversary of its composition. Coincidentally, David Rosenboom, the violist on the original recording of In C talks about the work in this month’s issue of The Wire, the leading UK independent music magazine.

Another anniversary will be celebrated on the program, the 150th of Brahms’ String Sextet No 2 in G major, Op. 36, which has a richness of string sonority unrivaled in the composer’s chamber music. The work has been aptly described as a spiritual successor to Schubert’s incomparable String Quintet in C major.

Rob Deemer is beginning his fifth year as composer-in-residence for the Buffalo Chamber Players, a symbiotic relationship that has proved successful for both parties as well as for audience members. If having one composer-in-residence is good, having two can even be better, especially if the new composer-in-residence happens to be Caroline Mallonée, a graduate of Duke, Harvard and Yale currently residing in Buffalo, and a composer who has had numerous commissioned works which have been performed nationally.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the Buffalo Chamber Players as a composer-in-residence”, says Mallonée. “Since I moved to Buffalo, I’ve enjoyed the BCP programs and I’ve had the pleasure of having four of my pieces performed by them over the last few years. As composer-in-residence, I am eager to work more closely with the musicians—I’m especially excited to write brand-new music specifically for the talented players that make up the group. I’m thrilled that my music that will be heard here in Buffalo by the dedicated audience that attends the BCP concerts.

My piece Clock It is light-hearted, but a bit of a tour de force for the three string players as it’s fast and energetic, tricky, yet fun. The violin, viola and cello pass the melody around and around, each instrument hardly ever playing at the same time as another. The name is a play on the word ‘hocket,’ which is a musical term from the Renaissance for the sharing of a melody by different voices.”

Rob Deemer will be the narrator for the Buffalo premiere of his Epitaphs for Narrator and String Trio, on a text by Luc Sante, a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and a professor of writing at Bard College.

“I heard it read on ‘This American Life’ when I was in Austin, Texas and felt it was a great piece to set to music,” says Deemer. “Epitaphs is the first work of mine that really delved into minimalistic textures, though the musical material is primarily underpinning for the narration. Sante’s work is a series of micro-vignettes that describe how different people die, what the last thing they saw was, and what happened to their bodies after death, all described from their own perspective. It has been read in radio broadcasts by different people or the same person in a neutral tone but I tend to read it more as a bit of a performance work by giving many of the ‘deceased’ in the work their own accents, vocal quirks, and characterizations.”

Tickets: $15/$5 student. Information:

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