The Listening Room: Greenstein’s Acadia
16 Apr 2012
Inside the Classics

Two weeks ago, as we wrapped up the MicroCommission Project with two electric performances of Judd Greenstein’s Acadia, I promised that we’d have Judd back on the blog this week to put a bow on the whole affair. Throughout the week, I’ll be back to post Judd’s thoughts on his experience with the orchestra, his reflections on the piece and our performance of it, and whatever else you care to ask. If you have a question or just a comment on Acadia (you did get your free download, right?) leave it in the comments and I’ll pass it along for Judd to respond.

First, though, I excerpted from the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press reviews a couple of weeks back, and now it’s the blogosphere’s turn. More than 1200 people have downloaded Acadia, including several proprietors of music blogs, and they’ve had a lot of very interesting and intelligent things to say about it. Here’s a sampling:

“Judd Greenstein has a compositional voice that is his own, and those familiar with his compositions for smaller groups such [as] NOW Ensemble will hear it plainly in Acadia. It scales up exceedingly well from chamber size to full orchestra. The composer has often acknowledged Ravel as a major interest and influence, and that strand can be spotted running through Acadia. I also hear echoes of Leonard Bernstein—the rhythmic and modal approach to the dance-motif I mention, for example, would not be out of place in Mass—and the unexpected presence of Carl Nielsen, particularly when the hurly-burly suddenly falls away at a critical central moment of the third movement.

“Acadia is always serious but never ponderous. Its forward momentum is constant but never frenetic. Its rhythmic and tonal palette is shifty and mercurial but never flippant or confused. It asks for, and never fails to reward, the listener’s attention.” - George M. Wallace, A Fool in the Forest


“Intense and expansive, the piece was appropriately awesome and overwhelming, filling the concert hall with endless rhythms and textures that one simply cannot completely comprehend during the first listen. Greenstein mentioned this saturation in the first half as one of the piece’s defining features, explaining that providing more music than one could take in was a conscious aesthetic choice. Furthermore, he explained that his intention was creating a piece of music that could be appreciated almost like a painting: you can’t take it all in at once, but you have enough time to look at/listen to all the bits and pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole, one which brought the crowd at Orchestral Hall to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation.” - Aleksandr Brusentsev, Arguably Unfocused


“At first listen, Acadia was astonishing. I’ve never heard anything like it. I got dizzy attempting to put various passages in context – oh, look, Pärt! Glass! minimalism! Copland? hip-hop! Romantic sweep and color! jazz! Ravel! Boulanger? movie music! … Bon Iver? These genres aren’t supposed to mix, but the mix not only worked; it felt inevitable. The themes came and went, bubbled to the surface then melted back into it, sometimes yearning, sometimes insistent, always full of character and rhythmic drive. Like a good lover, they were both attractive and interesting: attractive enough to catch your attention at first glance, interesting enough to spend time getting to know. The pace was unnervingly masterful – almost frighteningly so for a composer who has never attempted a work of this scale before. The narrative struck me as being one of journey, reflection, then finally acceptance, maybe even celebration. Change. Evolution. Growth. Happily, Greenstein was smart enough never to detail what exact events had inspired him, so instead of feeling as if we were merely listening to his experiences, we felt as if he were giving voice to ours. There’s a power in ambiguity.” - Emily E. Hogstad, Song of the Lark

<January 2020>

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