Unruly Sounds in Princeton

I am excited to be performing my piece What else can I give him? at the Unruly Sounds Festival taking place tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 2) outside of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, NJ. I will be joined by Nick Tolle (cimbalom), Mark Eichenberger (percussion) and Florent Ghys (bass), who premiered the piece with me in December 2015. We are welcoming a new violinist, Andie Springer, for this performance.

The festival is free and will run from 12:30 to 7:00 pm. I will be performing around 2:00 pm. The rain location is inside the public library’s community room. For more info on the festival, visit this Facebook page.

What else can I give him? is part of a growing cycle of pieces I call ‘invented folksongs’ – pieces which draw heavily from the Ukrainian folksong tradition and marry it with a more contemporary compositional approach. Here’s a recording of the premiere performance with super duper violinist Courtney Orlando:

Leading up to the festival, composer-vocalist Annika Socolofsky and I got to visit Community Park Elementary school to chat and play with some kids in grades 4 and 5. Annika showed them some really cool ways to use their voices, and I told them about my upcoming opera Wild Dogs. We did some great howling, yipping, barking, chirping and croaking together. The kids made particularly great frogs hoping up with every “Enid” croak. I’ve never done something like this before and was surprised at how much fun I had with the kids.

Teach your daughters

I can finally share the live recording of Teach your daughters, which I premiered with Katha Zinn and Illya Filshtinskiy from aTonalHits on a Princeton Sound Kitchen Concert on March 1. Because of the difficulty of the subject matter, this piece took a very long time to take shape.

This piece for voice, violin and prepared piano is my reaction to the horrific rape and murder of Ukrainian teenager Oksana Makar, which took place in 2012. More broadly, it explores the issue of victim blaming. The piece weaves Oksana’s story through a folk song I recorded while traveling in northwestern Ukraine in the fall of 2012. The story of the folk song’s heroine, Halya, is eerily similar to Oksana’s, which speaks volumes about the prevalence of such horrific violence against women and its perception throughout history and in the modern times.

I discussed this work in an interview with Nick Storring, which appeared in the fall issue of Musicworks Magazine. Katha, Illya and I workshop the initial sketches for this piece at Avaloch Farm in August of 2015.

 

Weeping for a dead love

Back in May I premiered Weeping for a dead love with So Percussion Quartet as part of the Princeton Sound Kitchen. This performance was my debut as a folk singer of sorts and I’m very grateful to the guys from So for participating in this experiment.



This work draws on the now rare rural Ukrainian tradition of mourning songs, half-chanted, half-cried laments sung by women at funerals and over grave sites. They consist of small melodic cells, which expand and contract to fit varying phrases of text. For the content, the singer seems to borrow commonly used formulas filling in her own specific details to describe her loved one, the manner of his or her death, her own reaction to it, and the realities and fears of life without this person. The overall effect is both devastatingly emotional and meditative at the same time.

I discovered this tradition through archival recordings while doing fieldwork in Ukraine in the fall of 2012. Mesmerized by its sonic qualities and emotional power, I first explored it in Weeping, a work for six instruments commissioned and premiered by New Music Concerts in Toronto. Unable to leave this haunting world, I now draw and expand on its melodic and poetic formulas to mourn the death of a romantic relationship rather than a person. The vocal line is only roughly notated to allow room for ornamentation, and basic rhythmic and melodic freedom.

You can download the text and translation here.