Judd, More Judd, & Introducing The Listening Room
11 Nov 2011
Inside the Classics

It’s that time of the fall again – our first Inside the Classics concert of the season goes up this Friday and Saturday night (which you could probably have predicted by the fact that this blog went utterly silent more than a week ago as Sarah and I went into our usual pre-season scramble,) and there are a number of cool new elements to our ’11-’12 season that we’ll be rolling out for you if you attend. But we always like to give our blog readers an advance heads-up on new stuff, so here’s what we’re planning for the next several months.

First off, Judd arrived in the Cities last night, and he’ll be a major part of all of our ItC shows this season – we’ll be making use of his compositional expertise during the first half of this weekend’s concerts, he’ll be hanging out with MicroCommission donors at intermission (if you’re a donor and didn’t get an invite to that, by the way, drop me a line and I’ll fill you in on the details,) and he’ll also be front and center for our post-concert activities, which will be much different than what we’ve done over the past four years.

We’re still planning to do our usual post-concert Q&A session next March, when Judd’s Still-Officially-Untitled-But-Apparently-Not-A-Symphony will be premiered, since we know you’ll all want a chance to talk to him after you hear it. But for our November and January shows, we wanted to give you a chance to get to know not just Judd the gregarious and eloquent composer, but his actual music. So we’ve selected two works of chamber music – one for this weekend’s concerts, and one for January’s – and we’ll be inviting anyone who wants to stick around after the main performance to stay and listen to members of the orchestra perform them on the big stage. These post-concert concerts will be very informal, and pretty quick – 12-15 minutes – but judging by how exhausted our string quartet was at the end of this afternoon’s rehearsal, they should be pretty high-energy affairs as well!

We also wanted to do something here on the blog that could include everyone who’s taken an interest in Judd and the MicroCommission Project, even if you won’t be able to attend the concerts. We’re calling this side project The Listening Room, and essentially, you can think of it as something of an online book club, only with music instead of books. We want it to be as broadly participatory as possible, and it starts now.

Here’s how The Listening Room will work: four times between now and March, we’ll announce here on the blog a specific recording that Judd has chosen to feature, and we’ll provide a link to where you can go to download it or buy the CD. (Yes, we are asking you to buy the music if you want to participate, but honestly, downloads are pretty much a steal, and we think these composers and performers will be well worth your pennies.) We’ll also give you a date a couple of weeks out when we plan to open up discussion of the music we’ve picked, and encourage you, prior to that date, to send us your initial impressions of the music, questions you have about it, and opinions as to what makes it engaging (or not!) to you.

Then, on the discussion date, I’ll post an e-mail conversation between Judd and myself which will incorporate as many of your submissions as possible, as well as Judd’s own thoughts on what makes this music important or engaging or just fun to listen to. With any luck, this post can spark a much broader discussion in the comments, and Judd and I will make a point of checking in regularly to respond to everything you all have to say.

(I know some of you may be wondering why we don’t just make this whole exercise a live chat. The answer is that we just couldn’t figure out a way to do it live without excluding a whole lot of people who might want to chime in but aren’t available at whatever time we’ve picked. This way might be a little clunkier, but should allow for the conversation to unfold more organically over time.)

So that’s the plan, and here, without further ado, is Judd’s first CD of the Month:

Click for a link to Amazon's download page.

This is a great Cantaloupe Records recording by Alarm Will Sound and the Ossia ensemble of Steve Reich’s Tehillim & The Desert Music. Tehillim is Reich’s 1981 setting of four Psalms. It couldn’t be more distinct from a lot of Reich’s other work, and there are more than a few elements to it that remind me of Judd’s own work. (We’ll definitely get into that in our discussion.) The Desert Music is a choral setting from 1983 of several texts from the great American poet William Carlos Williams, who has inspired more than a few composers of my acquaintance.

You can read more about Tehillim at the Boosey & Hawkes website, and if you’re the type who likes a lot of context to go with your music, you can find some great background on Steve Reich here and here.

By the way, it’s probably worth mentioning that, in selecting the music for this project, Judd restricted himself to a) music that at least some people would label as being in the “classical” realm, and b) music that he doesn’t have a personal stake in. (In other words, while he might know some of the composers or performers, there won’t be any recordings from Judd’s own New Amsterdam Records label.)

Like I said, the idea here is for you all to get the music, listen to it, and shoot us your first impressions and points of interest that you think we should hit in our discussion. You’ve got three weeks or so to do this – I’ll post our kickoff transcript on Monday, November 28, and then we can continue the conversation for as long as you all stay interested!

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