Leonard Slatkin conducts music by Cindy McTee and Hector Berlioz in the opening orchestral concert of the Fall 2010 Semester.
Musical Arts Center
Wednesday, September 15, 8:00pm
Cindy McTee recently retired from the University of North Texas partially to focus her energies on composing. She’s off to a good start already. Her piece “Double Play” won the Elaine Lebenbom Competition for Female Composers and was premiered by the Detroit Symphony in June 2010.
McTee explains that she had the music for “Double Play,” but she didn’t have a title. So, she collaborated with Music Director of the Detroit Symphony and baseball fan Leonard Slatkin to brainstorm ideas. Searching for something baseball-related that also reflected the two separate movements of the piece, they came up with the idea of double play almost simultaneously.
Slatkin comments that this sort of collaboration between performers and composers is a new development as of the 20th century. Before then, he says, composers and performers were one in the same. “When we got to the 20th century,” he continues,” performers became more interested in resurrecting the music of the past and leaving the writing to others.”
Along with his work with Detroit Symphony, Leonard Slatkin is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and he will begin a new position as Music Director of The National Orchestra of Lyon next season. He also visits Indiana University a couple times each year to conduct orchestras at the Jacobs School of Music.
“Double Play” was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony and dedicated to Slatkin, but his commitment to new pieces of music does not stop with the commission process. “I try to perform them often and in different places,” he says. They will often make appearances on the concerts in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Lyon, and Indiana University.
The first movement was inspired by music of Charles Ives, “The Unanswered Question.” McTee was fascinated by his use of counterpoint on a larger scale, “not just melody against melody,” she says, “but musical idea again musical idea.” She also plays with the notion that dissonance will evolve out of consonance. She introduces a major triad, layers clouds of sound over top, and then as the sound dissipates, another major triad emerges. “There’s a kind of dreamlike quality to it with moments of great tension and release.
The second movement, by contrast, is full of rhythmic energy. She jokingly refers to it as a concerto for percussion, but she consciously writes the parts so that each player can stay put during the performance. Too much movement from the percussion players, she comments, is distracting.
Mary McCauley is one of the three percussionists performing in “Double Play” with the Philharmonic Orchestra. Her part requires her to play ten instruments, something she says could easily require two to three additional players. “You literally have to choreograph your music so that in your one beat of rest you can put down an instrument and pick up another.”
Making The Connection
McTee says winning competitions is one way for composer’s to get their foot in the door, and it was certainly helpful in getting “Double Play” performed, “but even more important than competitions is to connect to a player/a conductor/a performer,” she says. Slatkin agrees, saying music survives by its proponents: the people who believe in it and enjoy playing it.
“It’s really important for our musical culture to create this kind of teamwork where conductors and performers and composers all work together,” McTee adds. “We need each other very much.”