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A place built of sound: my junior recital

In presenting a recital, musicians often choose a theme to tie all the pieces together for their audience. For my junior recital (in April 2019), I decided that each piece revolved around an idea of place:

J.S. Bach, Sonata in C Major, BWV 1033

César Franck, Sonata in A Major for Flute and Piano

Alberto Ginastera, Impresiones de la puna

Robert Aitken, Icicle

Béla Bartók, Suite Paysanne Hongroise

The video above contains excerpts from the Ginastera, featuring the stunning musicians I worked with: violinists Erin David and Jasper Rogal, violist Angela Rubin, and cellist Sameer Apte. (While my playing wasn't perfect in this recording, I've shared it here because I still believe people can enjoy it.)

Here is a description of the program that I wrote for fun, leading up to my recital:

What often sets apart folk-inspired classical music from “regular” classical music is that it is associated with a specific place. For instance, Béla Bartók’s Suite Paysanne Hongroise is associated with the Hungarian countryside. On the other hand, classical music not inspired by folk music tends to be considered more abstract, disconnected from geographical origin. 


In this program, various ideas of place are represented: first is a sonata by Johann Sebastian Bach (though many suspect it was actually written by his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach), whose music is generally unassociated with place (as in geographical location). Yet for me, the music of Bach feels connected to place in the sense that it feels like home to me, because Bach’s music is some of the music that I love playing most. 


Likewise, the sonata by César Franck is not directly tied to place, but the entire sonata feels displaced or unstable — as if it is grasping for a sense of place, as in security and belonging, over the course of four turbulent movements. 


The next three pieces have direct ties to location: Alberto Ginastera wrote Impresiones de la Puna inspired by music from la puna, a region of the Andes in South America; Robert Aitken’s Icicle uses extended technique to evoke a cold and wintry atmosphere; and Béla Bartók’s Suite Paysanne Hongroise is based on folk songs from the Hungarian countryside. 


In spite of all these differences, one of the paradoxes of music is that it depends upon physical location for its creation and performance, yet calls the listener into a place (as in a soundscape) that exists outside of time and space. 

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