The combined forces of the COVID-19 pandemic and many social justice movements have forced us to rethink how we perceive human life, connection and disconnection. We connect to words, people, passions and action. Room to Breathe brings out the different types of connections that have been missed.
This project highlights a diverse group of 5 composers of multiple backgrounds and professional experiences, creating works for bassoon and piano ignited by the influence of the COVID-19
pandemic, social justice, connection, breath and a hopeful post-pandemic musical renaissance.
I've challenged the composers to push the technical and expressive palette of the instrument through my own performative approaches, while connecting the musical content within the essence of our lived experiences through 2020-2021. This approach allows for a deeper connection between performer, musical content, and audience.
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Composers (listed in program order)
Chris Evan Hass // Dueling Realities
Dueling Realities is a story about the conflicting, yet omnipresent, states of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, depicting the juxtaposition of the severe and unexpected changes the world had to take to adjust to the pandemic with the seclusion, simplicity, and oftentimes monotony of being stuck indoors for months on end. The piece explores these incompatible frameworks through an interplay of two unique styles.
The first style conveys a feeling of chaos and uncertainty through its primary focuses on rhythm, fragmenting and repeating short motifs to create disorienting meter changes. The second style is more restrained and characterized by slow moving and lyrical melodies and a larger focus on harmony to illustrate the isolation and reflection experienced during quarantine. This section also features a constant 7-note ostinato that is manipulated through mixed meter and polyrhythmic material to create a warped sense of time (just like we all experienced during this year).
Gala Flagello // Mother Time, Father Nature
This work was inspired by a sentence I found in my journal from June 2020: "I feel like I'm mourning the loss of a season that hasn't happened yet." I found that I no longer experienced the passage of time in the same way that I had pre-pandemic; everything moved so slowly and yet also so quickly around me.
Societally, we think of Father Time as steady, rigid, ticking on reliably, while Mother Nature is supposedly caring, nurturing, and abundant. Although the gender binary is a myth, intentionally re-gendering time and nature helped me discover two figures whose cosmic work actually resonated with my new relationship to my surroundings. Mother Time is shifting, flexible, and gentle—an ever-changing season of learning and growth. Father Nature is relentless flowering, a continual force that progresses with or without humans out and about. Mother Time, Father Nature translates these personas to music, exploring proportions and development as the two might, but in the form of meter, rhythm, register, and phrasing.
Karalyn Schubring // i.C.u.
At the heart of every outcry for justice, safety, and peace are the questions, “Do you see me? Do I matter to you?” Every person has the need and therefore the right to be seen, valued, and loved. Unfortunately, our imperfect societies were built on a founding belief that some people’s needs and rights matter more than others’. While times of unrest and crisis bring about immense suffering, they also underline the gravity of the systemic injustice that would otherwise go on ignored, encouraging change to finally take place.
But where can we begin to enact change? None of us individually can give the “intensive care” that one person or one world needs. Still, there is immense power in choosing to stop, listen, and acknowledge those who are hurting without trying to fix the problem, assuage our guilt, deflect the blame, or turn the focus onto ourselves.
In "i. C. u.”, the bassoon sings a song from the heart, expressing internal grief that grows into an outcry. The piano part represents an individual that gradually turns their face to hear, acknowledge, support, and amplify the song of the afflicted.
I encourage anyone listening to this piece to consider the people in your life who you can make an effort to see more clearly
Brad Balliett // Indigo Bunting
Lancaster, Massachusetts, June, 7:50 AM: surrounded on both sides by low-rise seasonal forest, a long and naked stretch of scrubby grasslands is bisected by dusty walking path. Miniature mesas dot the horizon. It’s getting very bright, and in the hazy air hang songs of Indigo Buntings, Prairie Warblers, Field Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Towhees. And by the road — a House Wren, inflamed, bursting with love or anger
Brian Nabors // Swift
The piece begins with a charging up of sorts between the bassoon and piano. The bassoon then bursts on to the scene with intense dialogue with the piano throughout the first section of music, with quick rhythmic shifts and motives setting the sonic character for the rest of the piece. The second section highlights the enchanting lyrical quality of the bassoon while the piano gently pulses and the texture builds to reignite the action. Finally, both instruments fight and race to end with a swift fashion.
The piece is a workout for both bassoon and piano, working the ranges of both instruments. As I do often, I seek to paint a colorful story for the listener, and do my best to create an exhilarating ride for the performer.
Hass Consortium Members
Joseph Swift (Director)
Dr. Jeffrey McCray
GoFundMe Campaign Backers
Dr. Conor Bell
Anne Marie Kurzynicc
Ron & Donna Lloyd
Thomas & Olga Million
Dan & Robin Million
Doreen & Matt Swift
Flagello Consortium Members
Joseph Swift (Director)
Aislinn G. Bailie
Project Rehearsal Locations
Skillman Studios, Brooklyn, NY
NV Factory, Englewood NJ
Open Jar Studios, New York, NY
Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ
Trevco Music Publishing
Key Leaves Inc
Charles Double Reed Company
Calvin Hu, Piano
Rod Shepard, Xanthi Music, Lead Audio Technician, Mastering
Wei Wang, Skillman Music, Lead Video Technician, Editing
Dillon Meacham, Producer, Assistant
Brittney Eyerly, Graphic Design
Lauren Heiba, Livestream Card Design