Section: archive

From classical to pop, seniors fill weekend with music

By Patrick Joyal and Claire Matlak

Michelle Birsky

Michelle Birsky ’13 kicked off the weekend with a presentation of her original composition, “Existence Anonymous,” which blurred the lines between classical and pop. Birsky said that she was fascinated with the “person on the other side of the radio,” as a child. She wanted “Existence Anonymous” to be about musical storytelling, a goal she accomplished by layering pre-recorded speech over the performers onstage. To further the narrative aspect of her work, Birsky drew her lyrics anonymously from the Kenyon community, collecting snippets of text written on posters across campus.

The work’s three movements were dazzlingly performed, and also featured vocalists Sarah White ’16, Rioghnach Robinson ’16 and Emma Lo ’15, drummer Edek Sher ’13, guitarist Noah Weinman ’16, violinist Eliza Blum ’15 and pianist Jaime Cohen ’15. The first movement, “Roll,” resembled a folksy pop song featuring an ethereal vocal blend, and piano. The overlaid dub-step drumbeat was a particularly brilliant touch.

Ben Pfister

Ben Pfister ’13 took the stage later that day, performing a stunning piano recital.

Beginning with a Scarlatti piano sonata, Pfister displayed formidable technical ability. The work was light and airy, with the bass voice in fine balance to the delightful melody above. A marked transition between major and minor sections highlighted Pfister’s ability to distinguish between structural sections of the work, while not “lecturing” the audience in terms of theoretical organization, as some solo performers tend to do.

Elizabeth Ziering

For many, the phrase “modern classical music” has negative associations, from abrasive tone clusters to dreadfully long works with no sense of timing or rhythm. Elizabeth Ziering ’13 challenged perceptions of this genre on Sunday with the presentation of her piece “Shattered Glass.” After she spoke about the compositional process, cellists Jeremy Fuller ’14 and Daniel Harrison ’13, pianist Benjamin Pfister ’13 and violinist Maria Sorkin ’16 sensitively brought this beautiful work to life.

Ziering masterfully crafted her piece to be just dissonant enough to create tension, without going so far as to break the auditory connection with the audience. Through such techniques as phasing and suspensions, Ziering successfully evoked her intended image of cracked glass becoming whole.

Myra Eckenhoff

Sunday afternoon featured pianist Myra Eckenhoff ’13 accompanied, initially, by her brother Matt, a professional French horn player. The two played Eugene Bozza’s semi-Impressionist piece “En Foret,” which delighted with its varied sections, sudden differences in tempo and melodic content and the horn part’s technical range. The last work on the program was Beethoven’s tempestuous sonata, the “Appassionata.” Each movement crackled with unsettling energy, with melodies established and then immediately elaborated upon in a frenetic state of perpetual motion.

Eckenhoff employed dynamics somewhat generously, with well-demarcated transitions between each movement’s structural components. The dark final movement was accentuated by Eckenhoff’s fast tempo, and her thunderous articulation of the octave melody and the folk dance-related final coda, not to mention the absolutely jarring final cadence (the classical equivalent of “dropping the mic”) brought the audience to its feet with the pianist receiving a second call-back from the enthusiastic crowd.

Alex Martin

Alex Martin ’13 followed with a presentation of his own original composition, “Suite 459,” a work composed for string quartet, piano, acoustic guitar,and tiny electromagnets called ebows. When set on the strings of a guitar or piano, their magnetic pull set the string in motion without the performer plucking.

Martin discussed his exploration of the distinction between art music and pop and entered the vague space between electro-acoustic and traditionally acoustic music. The work performed this weekend was the second iteration of Martin’s efforts, as the first was stolen along with his laptop and many other personal items in February. The title, “459,” references the national police code for home invasion.

Rachel Max

The weekend ended on a high note with the energetic voice recital of soprano Rachel Max ’13. Singing an array of songs from Baroque to contemporary, Max dazzled the audience with her accuracy of pitch and animated facial expressions. While she sang beautifully in the Italian and German art songs of the first half of the program, Max’s airy voice was best-suited to the contemporary pieces that followed intermission. She successfully navigated the challenging intervals presented by Sondheim’s musicals in the numbers “Everybody Loves Louis,” “Loving You,” and “Not a Day Goes By,” and charmed the audience as an indecisive Cinderella in “On the Steps of the Palace.” The recital reached its finest in the penultimate number, the duet “Kiss Me” from Sweeney Todd, sung with baritone Max Kalifut ’14.

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