After years of work, a collaboration between the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the University of Washington culminates in an experimental, late-night performance in the SSO lobby.
“Collaborations teach us so much,” Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot said last week, after a rehearsal for the experimental, late-night series “[untitled]” at Benaroya Hall. “If we do this daily, and it becomes our diet, there’s no question that we can push the envelope further every single time.”
Since Morlot first got to town in 2011, he’s been working on an unusual collaboration of his own with the University of Washington’s School of Music — a project that is the focus of this Friday’s “[untitled]” concert.
The program will feature symphony-commissioned world premieres by three composers from the School of Music faculty: Joël-François Durand, Huck Hodge and Richard Karpen. As usual with this series, the performance will take place in Benaroya’s grand lobby, where listeners can recline on pillows or stroll around while listening to the soundscapes from different angles. (Chairs, for those who like them, are provided as well.)
Seattle Symphony Orchestra: ‘[untitled]’
10 p.m., Oct. 23, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $15 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
In last week’s rehearsal, Hodge’s “pulse — cut — seethe — blur” sounded as onomatopoeic as its title suggests. The snap of a bass string triggered it into sliding tones of building intensity, until the piece eventually broke through into an ethereal and fragmentary sonic dreamland.
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Karpen’s “Program Music” was more of a strolling affair, opening on a lush sonorous note, with discords seeping in, only to vanish again. The piece was a bit like a crystal orb held at contrasting angles, eliciting different tonal moods according to your compositional perspective.
In Durand’s “Mundus Imaginalis,” two separate planes of rhythm and texture gradually incorporated microtones, creating an otherworldly effect. Durand, in his composer’s notes, calls the piece “a journey from the outside world toward an inside one.”
Morlot may have pushed for this collaboration, but it was Elena Dubinets, the symphony’s vice president of artistic planning, who followed through and engineered it. She is clearly, if quietly, proud of the connections forged with the UW and other local music institutions. Morlot now conducts at the UW regularly, she notes, and is a School of Music professor.
“It’s not just an honorary title, as it used to be,” she explains. “He actually teaches there, and he brings his conducting students here to our rehearsals.”
Hodge, in turn, has been hired by the symphony to direct its Young Composers Workshop, a program for teenagers who may be headed to the UW School of Music after high school.
“He’s a fantastic teacher,” Dubinets says. “Via his students, we figured that his style is quite unique. He uses instrumentation very creatively.”
The students’ work, in fact, tipped off Dubinets and Morlot that they might want to commission pieces from these three UW teachers. And “[untitled]” seemed like the ideal venue to showcase them.
“When this series was created,” Dubinets says, “we felt that we should definitely represent composers from all over the world — which includes Seattle. … Normally, orchestras work with people from the other side of the world, not with homegrown talent.”
No specific musical agenda, she adds, is being pushed in the program: “We’re trying to show a partnership — not necessarily individual styles based on our stylistic preferences or tastes.”
For listeners wanting to delve more deeply into the UW composers’ sonic world, the School of Music is bringing contemporary music collective Ensemble Dal Niente to town next week to perform works by Durand, Hodge and UW doctoral student Marcin Paczkowsi, as well as Xenakis’ “Dmaathen” for oboe and percussion. (7:30 p.m., Oct. 30, Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle; $10-$15; 206-543-4880 or music.washington.edu.)