LSO will premiere music with 6,000-year historical past

Michael Udow’s Historic Echoes on Saturday’s program with Stravinsky and Brahms

By Peter Alexander April 21 at 7:10 p.m.

It’s not usually that an orchestra premieres a chunk with roots that return 6,000 years.

Saturday (April 23) the Longmont Symphony and conductor Elliot Moore will do exactly that once they give the primary efficiency of Historic Echoes, a rating by percussionist/composer and Longmont resident Michael Udow (see live performance particulars beneath; tickets can be found right here). 

Udow’s concerto for a number of percussion devices will characteristic soloist Anthony Di Sanza enjoying devices together with one designed by Udow, based mostly on historic artifacts from Colorado that date again hundreds of years. As a part of the identical piece, Di Sanza will play quite a lot of devices from cultures all over the world, together with Indonesia, Japan and Korea. The live performance program additionally contains Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1.

Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park and Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the place historic lithophones have been discovered. Photograph by Peter Alexander.

Udow’s piece has a protracted backstory—though not fairly 6,000 years. In reality it began round 2000, when archaeologist Marilyn Mortorano was doing consulting work at Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park. The museum on the park has numerous floor stone artifacts, formed roughly like baguettes, as much as a two toes lengthy, of their assortment. 

That they had been discovered at archaeological websites all through the park, together with one which was standing up within the sand, and different websites within the San Luis Valley. In reality, Mortorano says, “Virtually all of the collectors (within the space) had them they usually didn’t know what they had been, and we didn’t both.”

Archaeologist Marilyn Mortorano with historic lithophones present in Colorado. Photograph by Peter Alexander.

They had been fastidiously labored, however method too heavy for use as grinding instruments just like the mano and metate units discovered all through the Southwest. However “any individual spent loads of time making them,” Mortorano says. “It bothered me as a result of I believed, why can we not know what these are?”

Then in 2013 she ran throughout a YouTube video from the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of man) in Paris, which had related artifacts that French troopers had introduced again from Africa. On the time she had a number of of the Colorado stones for analysis functions, so she was shocked when she realized that the stones in Paris produced a musical sound when tapped. (You possibly can see and listen to them right here; narration in French.)

In reality a set of them was used for Paleomusique, written by French composer Philippe Fenelon. These stones had been used for a single collection of performances in 2014, after which packed away for storage, by no means to be performed once more.

“I believed that is loopy,” Mortorano says, “however I’ll see if (the stones from Colorado) could possibly be musical. My youthful daughter is a percussionist, so she had a basket of mallets. I couldn’t imagine it—they rang like bells!”

When Mortorano returned the stones to the museum at Nice Sand Dunes the following day, she confirmed her discovery to Fred Bunch, the chief of assets. He was startled, and promised to help any additional analysis that Mortorano may pursue with the stones. 

“We don’t understand how these had been used, as a result of we don’t know the entire context,” Mortorano says. “However we all know now from learning lithophones (musical devices made from rocks), they’re all around the world. They’re in Africa, they’re in Asia, they’re in South America, they’re even in Hawaii.”

Within the meantime, Mortorano had talked to Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner a number of years earlier, earlier than she realized that the stones could possibly be lithophones, who instructed her to let him know if she discovered what they had been used for. She contacted him once more after discovering their musical qualities and he did a brand new interview that was picked up by Nationwide Public Radio and famous on different nationwide media.

Percussionist/composer Michael Udow

And that is the place Udow enters the story. When he heard about Mortorano’s analysis and the Colorado stones, he wished to see and listen to them. When he contacted Mortorano, he found that she solely lived about two blocks from his residence in Longmont. He went over for a go to.

“Marilyn and (her husband) Sal had them arrange superbly on a protracted desk with a hemp chord set on the nodes so that they get most vibration,” Udow says. “I performed them and I went residence and thought, that is actually essential. It exhibits the musical facet of the inventive human spirit from 6,000 years in the past, and wouldn’t or not it’s attention-grabbing to compose a piece!”

The Longmont Symphony had beforehand performed two items by Udow, so his subsequent step was to contact LSO director Elliot Moore and suggest a brand new piece for orchestra utilizing the stones. When he met Mortorano and heard the stones, Moore took an interest within the challenge, and finally acquired a dedication from the LSO board to help a brand new piece from Udow.

“What I actually have the privilege of attending to do is placing this all collectively,” Moore says. “You possibly can have the concept to jot down a chunk of music and you could find these historic stones, however till there’s an orchestra prepared to premiere this, it’s theoretical. I really feel fortunate that once I offered it to the Longmont Symphony, all people stated, ‘Let’s do it!’”

Udow realized that the roughly random assortment of stones that had been discovered was not likely appropriate for a chunk all by themselves. He determined he wanted to create a new instrument that in addition to potential duplicated the character and sound of the traditional floor stones: a contemporary lithophone that was tuned to play with a contemporary orchestra.

Michael Udow’s absolute black granite lithophone

This turned out to be a prolonged course of, however one which paid off ultimately. He visited granite quarries in Colorado, however none of them had stone that resonated nicely sufficient for use in a musical instrument. He found that the very best stone was absolute black granite from India, which thankfully he may get from Colorado producers of granite counter tops. 

He ended up buying two slabs of black granite, solely one in every of which had good acoustical qualities. He was capable of have that one minimize into bars of various size, which could possibly be tuned by delicately slicing and grinding the stone, utilizing a round noticed with a diamond blade.

Ultimately Udow estimates he spent about $5000 of his personal cash for the granite, the store time to provide the bars, the body that holds them and particular instances to guard the bars. However he ended up with a playable instrtrument.

The finished rating is nearly a concerto for multi percussion with orchestra. Udow’s lithophone shall be featured, together with numerous different devices: a marimba, a vibraphone, gongs from Korea, drums from Japan, a bamboo rattle from Java and German cowbells. For the one efficiency Saturday, the soloist may even briefly play 4 of the unique historic stones earlier than they’re returned to their museum assortment.

Udow determined to make use of devices from different cultures as a result of in his travels as a percussionist, he had performed devices all around the world and he wished to seize not solely the timelessness of the unique stones, however the common high quality of music. 

Percussion soloist Anthony Di Sanza

That additionally impressed Moore. “One of many most important issues which have stored me going is remembering that we’re bringing this stuff to life,” he says. “A elementary human attribute that all of us share is, we love music. That’s been one of many nice issues about this entire course of.”

The soloist for the efficiency, Anthony Di Sanza, is a former scholar of Udow who at present teaches on the College of Wisconsin-Madison. In reality, he’ll carry devices that was Udow’s with him to fill out the solo percussion array. 

One difficulty that Di Sanza must take care of is the width of the bars on Udow’s new lithophone. It seems that the bars have by no means been standardized by percussion makers. “Michael despatched me the entire dimensions of the instrument, together with the general size and top, and in addition the bar width,” Di Sanza says. “The bar width (of different devices) can fluctuate to small increments or nice increments, so we get used to creating that adjustment.”

Di Sanza has had at the least among the music since final summer time. Speaking by cellphone from his residence final week, he reported “I’m on the stage now the place I’m enjoying by way of the piece, listening to the midi (digital recording). That’s actually enjoyable as a result of there are three-and-a half completely different bodily setups on the stage. I begin at one place, transfer to a unique place for one more half, come again for a unique half, transfer to a 3rd setup.

“A very difficult factor is as you progress from one place to the following, realizing right here’s the place I’m going subsequent! In order that’s actually enjoyable, and pretty widespread with a number of percussion within the western classical custom. And we thought so much about how the devices are grouped, to ensure the viewers may see into the setups, and see what’s taking place.”

LSO conductor Elliot Moore

Moore chosen the remainder of this system to go along with Udow’s piece, with some very particular causes for each the Stravinsky and the Brahms. “I believed that Stravinsky’s Firebird, with the concept of the rising phoenix, was one thing that might work nicely with this concerto,” he says. “It was the concept of matching Michael’s piece with the Stravinsky the place I believed we had a successful program.

“And the opposite factor (is), I haven’t achieved a Brahms symphony (in Longmont). Now we have an exquisite cellist that retired pre-pandemic, Carmen Olguin, and as she was strolling offstage with me for the retirement, she stated, ‘Elliot, in the event you ever program a Brahms symphony, would you let me come again and play it?’ And I stated ‘Positive.’

“I’ve all the time had in my thoughts this girl who wished to play a Brahms symphony so dangerous, and I by no means programmed one, and I believed this was time to do it. So she joined us once more, for her first rehearsal in most likely three years.”

Brahms’s First Symphony could be very customary orchestral repertoire, however Moore says the viewers will hear some new issues Saturday. “We’re taking a look at this with contemporary eyes and contemporary ears, and I believe it’s going to really feel contemporary. We’re taking a route that’s little bit leaner and a bit bit nearer to what the rating signifies, not über Romantic.”

“Individuals are going to have an interest to listen to it if for no different cause, that cause.”

In case you surprise concerning the new instrument, Di Sanza will take it again to Wisconsin, and finally take it to a percussion museum in Indianapolis the place he and others can use it for performances. Udow additionally hopes that some day, another person may need to write music for it.

“That may be a hope of mine, to share it,” he says.

# # # # #

“Soundings: Previous and Current”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Anthony Di Sanza, percussion

  • Michael Udow: Historic Echoes (World Premiere)
  • Stravinsky: Firebird Suite (1919 model)
  • Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C main

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23
Vance Model Civic Auditorium, Longmont


NOTE: Efficient instantly and till additional discover, the Longmont Symphony not requires patrons to indicate proof of COVID vaccination, and masks will stay elective. This choice has been made with steerage from native, state, and federal officers.

Leave a Reply

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings