The Orchestra Reborn

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Maria Finkelmeier on her Daft & Gritty

Hello fellow Friends of Phoenix! We continue our preview of Phoenix's bombastic upcoming show, "The Art of Rhythm," with an in-depth look at featured soloist Maria Finkelmeier! She is pulling double-duty as performer AND composer this time around, having arranged her own Daft & Gritty for Chamber Orchestra for the occasion. This technically makes it a premiere, which we're super pumped about (it's not every day you get to bring a new piece into the world, after all).  

Maria Finkelmeier, Composer and Percussionist

For those who don't already know, Finkelmeier is a Boston workhorse who wears all kinds of different artistic hats in the local scene. She is founder of Kadence Arts, a multifaceted organization which brings music/outreach to communities all over Boston. A subdivision of Kadence is the amazing Times Two Series (co-directed by another composer featured in our show, Robert Honstein!), which presents local musicians alongside out-of-town acts in adventurous programs. That's where I first met Maria, and also served as my personal introduction to the contemporary music scene in Boston! It ROCKS. Lately, you can also find her performing her installation, Gridlock, surrounded by crazy glowing cubes in various corners of the city. That's a project from her other team, Masary Studios, which specializes in fusing sound with awesome lighting/visual effects. Obviously, when we say she makes a lot happen, we're not joking. 

I sent Finkelmeier some questions about what we can expect to hear from her in "The Art of Rhythm," and about the state of the orchestra scene in general. Below I've listed her responses, which I hope will give you even MORE reason to come check out the show! As if that were possible... 

As always, thanks for reading, and for listening -

1. From my understanding Daft & Gritty was already a piece of yours (which you've arranged for our forces), and that it's at least partially inspired by Boston's architecture. Is there any other general/descriptive info I can give our audience? 

This piece is from a suite of works entitled Brutal Rhythm, a multi-disciplinary work by Masary Studios. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to arrange this movement, Daft & Gritty, for chamber orchestra! The project is inspired by Boston's infamous mid-century 'Brutalist' movement - both by its controversial identity, and the impact made on the cityscape of Boston. 

Boston Government Services Building

2. Can you tell us any more about the musical connection to Brutalist architecture? 

Brutalist buildings are made of cement, angular, draped with pattern, and large in size and presence. The most well known representation of this movement is Boston's City Hall. The architects intended the building to feel "inside out," in which the government is accessible to the people, without barriers. In the early drawings and renderings of the building, the grey tones of the cement and layered angles look graceful and sleek. However, many feel that the building actually depicts a government looming over the city in an inaccessible way, and that the shape of the building is in one word - ugly. Hence the controversy! 

In my opinion, this building and others from this era represent creatives taking chances in a big way. Intellectually, I believe these architects were dreaming deeply and personally, and what they created made a lasting impact on the city. They embody the grit that contemporary artists in a very traditional city must have. I also find inspiration in the mysterious angles and nooks of City Hall, and its sharp edges and repetition of shapes mirror the rhythmic intricacies that fascinate me as a percussionist and composer. 

City Hall, Boston

In this piece you will hear sharp rhythmic passages that repeat - a lot. Sometimes, I try to play with the listener's sense of where the phrase begins, while everything else fits in a very neat box. The drum set plays an important role in the texture, acting as the 'heavy cement' that binds the repeating bass patterns and flourishing melodic lines. Then, suddenly you hear a weightless descending line from the vibraphone and piano, and at this moment the hardness of the sounds - and of the Brutalist movement - is forgotten. It's in this passage that I lament the controversy, and remember that along with grit, intensity, and drive needs to come a little humor and perspective. 

3. Does Daft & Gritty feature any instruments that are particularly special to you? 

I've had a blast arranging this piece especially for Phoenix! My repertoire is primarily for percussion, so the opportunity to dive into the many timbres that strings, woodwinds, and brass can produce has been a playground of discovery and experimentation! I've written a short oboe and trombone duo, and cannot wait to hear the "lamenting" solo played on French Horn. 

In this piece, you will also notice that Matt is listening to a click track. This will enable the orchestra to stay in time with the back track that will be played through the PA system. And the final added instruments to the orchestra are the electronic sounds which add deeper and darker presence. I'm passionate about blending acoustic and electronic instruments in my work. For me this exemplifies utilizing traditional and contemporary tools - similar to those used by the visionary Brutalist architects!

4. We at Phoenix enjoy reshaping the classic orchestra-going experience for modern audiences. Do you have any personal 'pet' ideas for keeping the evening at the orchestra fun/relevant? 

I'm all about the programming! I'm honored to be a part of this program, and let's give props to Phoenix for representing a diverse pool of composers. Relevance = representation, and assuring that programs are reflective of many genders and races is essential to creating an artistically multidimensional and FUN environment! 

5. Robert Honstein's Conduit is on the program as well! Mind if I plug the Times Two series? anything in particular I should mention about it (upcoming shows, etc)?

I'm so excited that Robert's piece is an this program. An inspirational friend and kick-ass colleague, we co-curate the Times Two Series, run by Kadence Arts (my non-profit). Our next show is on February 17 (link) with local favorite Ben Levin, with Brooklyn based trio, Bearthoven. Our goal with the series is to present forward-thinking artists in an accessible setting, so we host our events at The Record Co., a non-profit recording studio. 

That's all folks! See you next time with a feature of the aforementioned composer, Robert Honstein. 🔥

Matt SzymanskiComment