On Saturday, May 9 at the Chism Recital Hall, the Whitman College Department of Music will present the Whitman Orchestra Spring Concert under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Paul Luongo.
The Spring Concert will be divided into two sections. The first section will exhibit the winner of the annual concerto competition. The winner of this year’s competition was senior Ryan Jacobsen, who will perform Brahm’s Violin Concerto in D Major. The latter half of the concert will feature a new, modern take on French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals.”
“Normally orchestras would just play the piece as is, which includes some 12 different animals. But we wanted to do a slightly take on it,” said Luongo. “The idea for this project was brought to us by [Assistant Professor of Piano and Theory] David Kim, [and] the idea is to involve as many different creative departments at Whitman as possible.”
The new take on Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals” will strip some of the animal compositions featured in the original work and be replaced by compositions written by student composers. The Music Department in association with the Arts and Theatre Departments have been working together to create an interdisciplinary experience for its audience
“[This take was] something that I saw done in other places, and I thought it was a terrific way of reaching out and involving lots of folks in a collaborative project,” said Kim in an email. “The way we’ve imagined it has included the writers, print-makers, pianists, a speaker, as well as the orchestra, so this ended up being even bigger than I had originally imagined.”
Many of the musical compositions featured in the concert were composed by student composers. One composer, senior Will Hunt, used his imagination to simulate bug sounds.
“I thought bugs would be kind of cool because it is a little easier to imagine how to make those different bug-like sounds,” said Hunt. “At some point, I listened to the ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ from Manuel De Falla’s ‘El Amor Brujo,’ which has a lot of very insect-y, buzzy sort of sounds that helped me create my composition.”
Along with Hunt’s piece, the new “The Carnival of the Animals” will include the sounds of an orca, zookeeper, impala, a hungry cougar and some furry woodland creatures in addition to some of Saint-Saëns’s original works.
“I feel a little nervous inviting a comparison between my music and Saint-Saëns’s music by having them be part of the same piece,” said Hunt. “[I]t would be almost kind of disrespectful to deviate from the overall tone that Saint-Saëns is going for in ‘The Carnival.’ I think ‘Bugs’ is definitely more dissonant and atonal than something that would have been written at that time, but I’m hoping that it still has a quirky, playful enough feel to fit in with the original.”
Along with the addition of the students’ compositions, student artists will provide a visual rendition, in the form of a wood-carving, of the same compositions. The artists created artworks that expressed their feelings about and inspirations from the concert compositions.
“We listened to a song to get a feel for the music, and then read the poems for more inspiration. I wanted to capture the essence of both while also making it my own,” said senior artist Franny Gardner.
The student poets provided new introductions, in which the students wrote poems that expressed their reactions or feelings towards the newly added compositions.
Putting on a concert of this magnitude allows for a more creative and free process, but it requires organization. Yet, different obstacles arose for different people in the preparation for the concert. Trying to install these three interdependent, supportive features (the musical, poetic and artistic features) produced different challenges for the associated people.
“For me, its finding the composer’s intent … I think that’s the challenge when you’re listening to new music, but it’s a really fun challenge because a lot of classical music is such a well-worn path that, for me, to reach some intent, I’m either going with or against hundreds of years of interpretations, and so the path has kind of been laid out,” Luongo said.
The Spring Concert is sure to bring an interdisciplinary approach with it, allowing for more creativity and freedom of expression and emotion.
“We’re always looking for ways to get involved with dance, with theater, with creative writing and with the visual arts, and this is, at least, a first step in that direction,” Luongo said.