Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Listening List: 5. Connor Elias Way

Connor Elias Way's website:

Connor recently finished his BM at Georgia State. We've worked together a few times on projects with Terminus Ensemble and Chamber Cartel. I decided to listen to a new-to-me piece and a piece I've heard a few times.

Panoramic - Chamber Orchestra

According to Connor's program note, the idea behind this piece is to musically portray a vista at varying distances. I really like that concept, and feel it works pretty well for the piece. The first three movements (first half) are beautiful, particularly this recurring harmonic crescendo effect. I wanted a little more timbral contrast from the melody (instead of just oboe, maybe some occasional doubling and highlighting with the other winds). The last two movements were less convincing to me. I liked the asynchronous texture created in the woodwinds but felt the brass rips were too jarring for the context. I would have liked a little more foreshadowing of the wind texture. While I liked the piece quite a bit, I feel it could be reconfigured, not necessarily in five separate movements, but in shorter instances where the viewer/listener focuses in on a faint texture, zooms out, then focuses on something else...

Harlequin - Pierrot ensemble

Harlequin was written for my ensemble Terminus, so I have heard it before. I'm glad I took the time to engage with it again, with score. This piece is one that definitely benefits from program notes. Connor was inspired by a 1923 Picasso painting [], which features color only on the Harlequin's head, and a pencil sketch of his body. The concept for the work is to exploit the noisier timbres of each instrument until the B section, in which they finally play sustained tones (the B section is the "color" section...though many might find the A section more colorful!). I like both sections, and the contrast works very well. The pointillism of the main section gets a little long in the tooth; it's nicely off-kilter so it doesn't get monotonous, just a little too much of a good thing, I guess.

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