• Sarah Kwok

Erato Ensemble: Future - June 15

The future is now! It's also June 15th, when the Erato Ensemble presents their final show of the season. Read on as Michael Park, artistic director and pianist of the ensemble, discusses how the music on this program addresses the unknown of the future, sometimes with fear and trepidation, other times with sincerity and inclusivity, and always with the ability to help us move through issues with openness and understanding.

So, tell me about the show

June 15th will be the third and final instalment of Erato's PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE themed 2018/19 season. Both music and text can reveal a lot about our relation to time; how we move through it, and our sense of where/when we are. In my inaugural season as Erato's artistic director, I wanted the programming to explore those themes from a variety of angles. For PAST, we had everything from a 15th century text on death, to contemporary pieces with a nostalgic tone. For PRESENT, we took a snapshot of today's perspectives with new arrangements of songs from the past five years. As much as I wish I could just travel to the future and bring back a stack of scores, I think the resulting concert would lack the element of future-facing music: uncertainty. In the same way that our relationship with the past involves reflecting on the certainty of what has happened, I think music that truly looks forward has to deal with the fact that no one knows what will come next. Each of the pieces on this program deal with that uncertainty in a unique and fascinating way.

You mention that Luciano Berio and Harry Somers wrote groundbreaking works - in what way were they groundbreaking?

The mid-twentieth century was a hotbed of broken ground, and there were countless ways that composers managed that upheaval. To me Luciano Berio's Sequenza III represents an approach of bravado. Running headfirst into the unknown, this masterwork for unaccompanied voice leaves no room for hesitation. Harry Somers's Twelve Miniatures gives us a slightly tentative step forward into the abyss. Even with his harmonically inventive style, Somers' music wraps us with an embrace of warmth and comfort. With that said, this piece gives a gorgeous example of how the future is often faced, with fear and trepidation. "The old year goes away: and the things it takes with it, what are they?" -Japanese Haiku, translated by Harold G. Henderson

Similarly, how are composers like Kaija Saariaho and Leslie Uyeda thinking/looking forward with their compositions?

I hope we're all looking forward to a future where the concerts we attend are representative of the world we live in. There is a growing movement towards increased diversity and representation, and it's really exciting to be experiencing that awakening. But it's important to acknowledge that both of these composers have been earning that space long before the memes of female composers in the concert hall began circulating. While I can't speak personally to how powerful it must be for young female composers to see themselves represented on stage, I can vouch for how empowering it was to be a queer person in the audience at the premiere of Leslie Uyeda's When the Sun Comes Out, the world's first lesbian opera. I find Leslie's music to be incredibly and unapologetically sincere. The aria we'll be performing, If We Left, Who Would I Be?, gives us a perfect example of how the future and the past are inextricably linked. When faced with uncertainty, we often have nowhere else to look but our own experiences.

What about the rest of the program? In classic Erato style, we'll have some arrangements of charming old art songs: Past and Future by Reginald de Koven and Be Watchful and Beware by Charles W. Glover. We also have some really interesting text-based scores that give incredibly detailed instructions to the performers on how to listen and respond to the other musicians. Udo Kasemets' Future is past... is... is... now represents an established composer writing in his later years, while Thomas Nicholson's ROUND connects us to an emerging composer just beginning. It's also really interesting to consider how a composer might think of the future at two very different points of their careers. As a composer, where do you think the future of music is headed?  I can really only speak for myself, with the hopes that other composers (and audiences) will be sympathetic. I tend to look at what we (as a society) need from art, and try to move in that direction. I think music has an incredible ability to help us engage with complicated topics and subject matter. There is a lot of inflammatory discourse happening these days, and I think music can help us move through these issues with a bit more openness and understanding.

Which composer(s) from the past do you think would be revolutionizing music if he/she were alive now?


I tend to get a bit combative when presented with the idea of 'the good ol' days'. So, in short, none of them! 

There is laundry list of dead white guys who have resided in our concert halls for long enough. While I certainly respect their work, they've already had their say. Revolution is for the living!

Viva la revolucion! Do your part by going to see Erato Ensemble presents: Future on June 15th at the Annex at 8pm.

For more information: https://www.eratoensemble.com/future/

Tickets: eventbrite

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