Featuring Bionic Symphony at Manhattan’s Angel Orensanz Foundation on June 6, 2012 at 8 PM, and TOWER, at 4 PM on June 16 and 17 at the Oliver Ranch Foundation’s Tower in Geyserville, CA.
Sympho is a 6-year-old classical ensemble and concert presenter that according to the New York Times “refits the concert experience for a new century.” This June, Sympho will present “Coast to Coast,” a festival of two brand-new programs, one on either side of the country. The two programs will take place nearly 3000 miles apart—one in a former 19th-century synagogue in New York and one inside a 21st-century sculpture and performance space in California—and will encompass a range of repertoire from Rameau to newly commissioned works by Christopher Bono, Bora Yoon, and Artistic Director Paul Haas, including music by Mozart, Haydn, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bizet, and Erkki-Sven Tüür.
Haas has honed an approach to programming that uses techniques such as juxtaposing music of different periods in close proximity and changing the spatial relationship between performers and audience, with a goal that goes beyond merely holding the audience’s attention through variety. Says Haas, “My goal is for audiences to come to a listening experience in a new way, to have something happen that is just different enough from everyday life to open you up to new thoughts.”
For Bionic Symphony, Haas has constructed an evening-length concert comprising four sections, each section being a “bionic symphony” made up of movements from works of the 18th-century Classical and 20th-century Neo-classical periods. These four “bionic” symphonies themselves form a larger-scale four-movement work, knit together with sections of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s haunting Passion. Says Haas about this way of constructing a concert, “Music exists on a historical continuum. Musical styles have changed, but human beings have always asked the same questions, and great art is in part a response to those questions.” He continues, “By listening to pieces of music from different periods of history in close proximity through a modern lens, we can experience this continuum, giving us greater perspective and insight into human nature.”
TOWER, by contrast, consists entirely of new work, though the score incorporates and is heavily influenced by world and ancient musics. The program, which will be performed in collaboration with Bay Area alt-classical pioneers Classical Revolution, was commissioned by the Oliver Ranch Foundation, whose past commissionees include Meredith Monk and the Kronos Quartet. The composers, working closely with each other and multi-disciplinary theater artist Ruth Pongstaphone, have crafted an evening of music written especially for the unique interior of artist Ann Hamilton’s 80-foot tall concrete structure, on whose double-helix staircases both audience and performers will sit and stand. While Haas prefers to avoid saying “this is what this music means” in a concrete and dogmatic way, the dozen-or-so individual segments of the TOWER program—which will be performed as a continuous 70-minute work—were inspired by the idea of portraying an entire human life in music. The works will utilize the space in various ways, responding to both the literal physical configurations of the space and the symbolism of the structure.
While Sympho has its home base in New York, Haas grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and maintains strong roots there. TOWER, which will be presented in collaboration with San Francisco’s Classical Revolution, will be the second concert Sympho has performed in Northern California (following 2008’s REWIND with the New Century Chamber Orchestra at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts).