Conrad Winslow has been working with members of Cadillac Moon Ensemble since his time at NYU hanging out with Patti and Sean in 2008. After having Patti play violin on his master’s recital and a couple productions of the rave-reviewed 2010 off-broadway musical musical named Camp Wanatachi and writing a piece for Sean’s percussion duo Noisebox, we decided it would be awesome to commission a piece from Conrad for our Set in Motion series. Since commissioning Abiding Shapes in 2012, we’ve performed it several times in New York City and also in Portland, Maine!
The really great thing about writing for friends is that you feel less awful when you overshoot. I turned in a percussion part that required Lord Shiva arms, but I told Sean that I was aiming for a multicolored array that I knew would require some tailoring. So Sean worked with me to make it fit his (two) hands and his foot, cutting and adapting bits to suit the passages best. Roberta, Patti, and Meaghan, too, let me mold their parts through rehearsal.
Cadillac Moon Ensemble totally gets the need for revision (thank God) and their resulting commissions are better for it. Most commissioning ensembles expect bespoke work, but fewer understand how much of their effort—and how much revision by the composer—is required to get fitted for their pieces. When it happens it is the best thing. Cadillac is sounding glorious, and it’s been immensely gratifying to watch my piece, Abiding Shapes, develop over several performances into something more polished, more taut, and more beautiful than I thought that I had at the première.
Conrad and Sean at the New Music Bake Sale.
Angélica Negrón started working with Cadillac Moon Ensemble as early as 2010 (for new music, that’s pretty early…) We loved her piece Quimbombó so much that we asked for a companion piece (Tembleque) and then recorded both for our debut album Atlas! Angélica continues to work with members of CME even now; just recently, she wrote a solo flute piece for Roberta with electronics and live video processing (above!)
We’ve had a great time playing Angélica’s music over the years and asked her to speak a little about her experience with us:
When I was asked by my good friends of Cadillac Moon Ensemble to write a piece for them, I knew immediately that I wanted to write something that was very rhythmically driven and different from everything else I’ve written before. The unique instrument combination of the ensemble also inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and not write something including electronics, so I set myself up for exploring the many textural and color possibilities within the ensemble. I rarely incorporate elements from the music I grew up with in Puerto Rico into my pieces, but this felt like the right piece for this at the right moment as I was very much missing being in the island. Somehow music helped me feel closer to those places, people and sounds that were far away from me at the time.
I wanted Quimbombó, and also its short companion dessert-like piece Tembleque, to evoke distant personal memories through a festive and celebratory perspective presenting and deconstructing different rhythms and melodic gestures from the Afro-Caribbean tradition that’s so alive in Puerto Rico as well as the tradition of musica jíbara (Puerto Rican country music). For countless years, I’ve tried to silence these sounds that surrounded me and here I was trying to channel them into my own music. It was not an easy task to write something that was as far away from my comfort zone as possible yet strangely and profoundly close to my heart. I wanted to write something new, fresh and exciting that still sounded like it was coming from an honest place within myself. After throwing out many ideas, I finally found a new almost microscopic space that gradually opened up and proved to be comfortably spacious allowing for a sheltered playground for discovery. In an interesting turn of events, the last two minutes of Quimbombó turned out to reveal and later encapsulate a sound I’ve been exploring more and more in my recent works. CME is a great part of this discovery process and I feel that because I was working with an ensemble that’s so refreshing and stimulating, I was then able to find these new hidden places that I now find myself visiting more often.
Dylan Glatthorn of Circles and Lines composes music for film, music for theatre, and recently, music for us! Dylan’s new piece “Fever Dreams” will be premiered at our concert in late April, and we asked him a few questions about what it was like to write for us and work with us recording the excerpts.
I first heard the Cadillac Moon Ensemble at their concert at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in 2011, though I’d known Patti for many years before that. I was immediately drawn to the unique sounds they were able to create through their unconventional combination of instruments. A quartet comprised of flute, violin, cello, and percussion is pretty much built to play new music, so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to write for them.
“Fever Dreams”, the piece I wrote for the ensemble, is a one-movement work based around two contrasting themes—one slow and introspective, the other fast and relentless. Writing for such an unusual combination of instruments was a welcomed challenge, and I wanted to make sure to feature those contrasting colors. For instance, there’s a section that features the strings and vibraphone in swelling tremolos, and another with the violin and cello in legato double stops for a string quartet like sound; a middle section that serves as a cadenza for the percussion, and another that features a melodic flute over pizzicato strings.
A few weeks ago, we went into the studio to record an excerpt from the piece for our upcoming interviews with WVUM and WRIU. I had only just finished writing it a week before, and this would be the ensemble’s first time playing it together. I must say, while this might seem terrifying, the ensemble pulled it off as if they’d been rehearsing it for months. It’s such a rare pleasure to work with an ensemble of this caliber, and I look forward to hearing them perform the piece in full.
Composer, performer and conductor Noam Faingold of Circles and Lines joins us in our interviews all the way from London, where he is currently pursuing his doctorate at King’s College. Before traveling to London, Noam attended New York University for his masters’ degree and was an active compositional force in the NYU community, where he met the rest of Circles and Lines. Noam was also Patti’s roommate in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn while at NYU, a year hallmarked by long rides on the F train from rehearsals, 3AM work sessions in front of the television, loud neighbors upstairs, retaliatory late-night practice sessions, and very spicy chili. Noam still visits NYC during his school breaks; when he arrives, celebration ensues
Noam began working with Cadillac Moon when we programmed his duet “Knife in the Water” for an April Fools’ Day concert at Vaudeville Park - the duo was performed by Patti and former CME cellist Mike Midlarsky, with most rehearsals held over Skype. Noam describes his experience of rehearsals held while abroad:
I first worked with Cadillac Moon Ensemble when they performed my violin/cello duet “Knife in the Water.” This was when cellist Mike Midlarsky was in the group, and that was especially personally meaningful to me because both he and Patti are also in my rock orchestra and have been playing my concert and orchestral pop chamber music for a few years now.
That piece is pretty tough, mainly because the violinist who commissioned it, Dennis Kim (concertmaster of Tampere Philharmonic in Finland) asked for a showpiece to really get the audience going. I always felt the virtuosic violin repertoire was mostly showy technique-wise and lacked any real sense of development or content interest, so i I chose to interpret the parameters he gave me as an opportunity to write a piece that was maybe overly-heavily connected in its musical ideas. I also decided i should really make him work, so when I wrote it, It never occurred to me being a bit of a jerk might some day come back around to bite into my friends. Then it came time for Patti and Mike to get their hands on it.
I remember having our first rehearsal on the piece by Skype. I was at King’s College London during the school performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” sitting in the cafeteria/common area, right outside the beautiful King’s chapel when we started. During most of our rehearsal I was alone, with my headphones on, rehearsing and exchanging crass inside jokes with the duo across the Atlantic. Meanwhile the opera was going on, echoing not too far away, but not enough to be distracting. During intermission however, everyone came out and Patti, Mike and I were discussing the piece and they were still playing through it a bit. Naturally I adjusted the tone of our conversation to account for all the elderly audience members streaming out of the chapel at intermission. With my headphones on I was a little worried they opera’s audience members, also consisting of some of my schoolmates, might misinterpret the one side of our conversation coming from my end as a bout of Tourette’s, so the tone of the conversation adjusted with it.
I think that might have been the first real Skype rehearsal I had ever had. It was nice that it was happening with players who knew my music so well, and with whose playing style I was also familiar. I was later able to come to NYC and to have some more rehearsals in person, but I’m glad that my first Skype experience was with musicians I trust and with whom I am comfortable enough that misunderstanding could be limited, especially with the chaos of the opera next to me.
Another memorable aspect of working this piece with CME was that, much like in Dennis’ performance of the piece, and a few other performances, the page turning element became quite a spectacle. In both of these performances, huge chunks of the piece had to be taped together, maybe 6 pages at a time, with some extra creative cutting. Dennis glued his to a huge poster board, with 6 pages on each side. The arts and crafts element arose because the violin and cello lines were so interconnected that each player had to see the other’s part to react to it for most of the piece. Patti has pictures. After several revisions of the piece, and careful page turn considerations, I’ve finally turned it into a much more manageable piece, perhaps removing, if not at least greatly reducing any virtuosic elements that arose just from the piece existing on paper. I can’t wait to start working on the newly revised version with Patti and CME’s current cellist Meaghan, to see whether they also feel that the piece’s effect has grown as a result. We’ll pretend this is the work’s Bar Mitzvah, and it has finally come of age.
Circles and Lines is a composer collective that represents a wide range of musical lives, drawing from a equally wide range of cultures and aesthetics - the group’s members have composed music for film and dance, musical theatre numbers, and, of course, music for music’s sake. Cadillac Moon, similarly, aims to build a repertoire that is not only fun for us, but well-rounded; we want a little bit of everything! We have already commissioned pieces from Conrad and Angelica and performed a duo for violin and cello by Noam, so we’re finishing the set with new commissions from Eric and Dylan!
Eric Lemmon, violist, composer and main coordinator for Circles and Lines, has been friends with Patti since their beginnings of youth orchestra and cocktail hour gigs in Miami. After going to NYU together, Eric attended Mannes and University of Miami, then returned to NYC. Occasionally, Eric will come over to Patti and Sean’s apartment a few blocks away to eat dinner and talk percussion with Sean. Eric has been a friend of Cadillac Moon Ensemble for years, and we’re so happy to finally premiere a piece by him!
Canis Major for Cadillac Moon Ensemble
Canis Major is a piece for Flute, Violin, Cello and Percussion that I am writing for the wonderful people in Cadillac Moon Ensemble. The work is based around different astronomical bodies that partly make up the constellation that gives the piece its title. It is made up of five movements, three primary ‘location’ movements which represent the main bulk of the work, and two ‘traveling’ movements, based around slower than light and faster than light travel.
The titles of each movement are:
- I. Wolf-Rayet Star EZ CMa
- a. STL: Wormhole
- II. IC2177
- b. FTL Quantum Tunnel
- III. Sirius
Working with Cadillac Moon has been a great deal of fun. I got a chance to listen in and work on some of my piece while Cadillac Moon recorded excerpts of the work for broadcasts that will be appearing on WVUM and WRIU in the upcoming months and having the feedback of the ensemble as I am writing the piece has been an incredible boon. In the past, I usually tried to write an entire piece before presenting it to players, and then fixing minute details. Here I am able to get direct feedback from the players in real time as I write the music. The honest feedback from my friends in Cadillac moon has helped shape my understanding on how the instruments best work together and has made writing this piece a fantastic experience.
We want to keep the world outside Facebook and Twitter up to date about our activities - so we started this blog! Stop by every once in a while for messages from our composers, ensemble news, audio clips, trivia, goofy pictures of us…
….and pictures of food and text message pastry competitions as they happen, of course.
Check back soon for:
- Appearances by the composers of Circles and Lines
- Preview images and ephemera for our Dark Circus concert on April 12!