By Daniel Guberman, Ph.D. | Purdue University Instructional Developer | Center for Instructional Excellence
What is folk music? This should be an easy question for me, a music scholar, but in reality, the answer continues to elude me and become more mysterious. To many classical music aficionados, folk music, means something lesser that the “masterworks” that appeared in grand concert halls. We rarely know the origins of folk music, and interpretations may vary so widely that a known piece may seem unfamiliar when performed by different musicians. Yet, folk traditions form the basis for many of our most beloved concert works, such as the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, or Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.
Today, folk music seems to be changing rapidly. While Alan Lomax spent years traveling the country to identify and record sounds from around the country, which may have otherwise been lost to history, today we can distribute anything around the world in just a few seconds, and almost anything is just a few clicks away. What was once an oral tradition living in memories and constantly recreated to fit the current moment is now captured and made permanent. Does this mean that we need to rethink the whole concept of folk music? And, even if we can rethink it for today’s world, what does this mean for the future?
I am excited for this program, because the musicians of wild Up seek to bridge a gap in the modern world, by collecting, creating, and performing works that take a different approach toward their listeners. Many of the pieces they will perform are obscure, at best, and generally not associated with traditional notions of folk music. Instead of viewing folk music as common or simply constructed, this ensemble and these pieces (at least the ones I know) present folk music as an ever-changing social phenomenon. The sound of these pieces are constantly in flux– a part played on a bassoon in one performance may be played by a viola or trumpet the next. These are not pieces that will be immortalized through a great recording, they will change with every performance, sometimes in unpredictable ways.
wild Up’s emphasis on the social element of a concert and performance goes beyond the musicians on a stage. When we think of folk music, we often think of a scene in which everyone participates, rather than sitting still in reverent silence. Part of the appeal of folk music is the communal joy of creating music together. In folk music, we are not bound by the restrictive limitations of the concert stage, sitting in motionless silence, ideally hoping to be transported to a new mindset through a mystical or spiritual experience (or, sometimes hoping that the tickle in our throat does not turn into a loud disruptive cough). The wild Up musicians through their interpretations of this music, invite us to be active participants in a musical journey.
I rarely get to attend a concert for the joy of discovering something new and unexpected anymore, nor do I write program notes for pieces whose sounds I cannot predict, much less describe. Because of this, I hope that you will join me and the wild Up musicians after the concert so that we can discuss what we are about to experience.
Thursday, February 8 / 8PM / Loeb Playhouse
[subject to change]
ART JARVINEN: Endless Bummer
MOONDOG: My Tiny Butterfly
JARVINEN: Egyptian Two Step
JULIUS EASTMAN: Stay On It arr. Rountree & Kallmyer / Landau
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: All Tomorrow’s Parties
MEREDITH MONK: Panda Chant II
FREDERIC RZEWSKI: Attica
ROUNTREE/KALLMYER/CAREY: for La Monte Young
TOM JOHNSON: Naryana’s Cows
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN: Mysterium
Erin McKibben, flute
Archie Carey, bassoon / amplified bassoon
Allen Fogle, horn
Richard Valitutto, keyboard / melodica
Andrew Tholl, violin / guitar
Linnea Powell, viola
Derek Stein, cello
Stephen Pfeifer, bass
Jodie Landau, percussion / voice
Matt Cook, percussion
Chris Kallmyer, guitar
Chris Rountree, artistic director / conductor
We make music.
New music. Old music.
We’ll play it, as long as we love it.
With future folk wild Up creates a communal concert of sound/noise/experience that celebrates old-world ways of living in the modern era. Together we will explore the music from Ancient India, modern California, post-war New York, and from American composers that envision a future form of music rooted in folk ethos. As moderns, we stand on the shoulders of the ancients. Their music changes us. Compels us to make and unites us in being. In future folk, we become one.
future folk is:
you, us, dogs, richard serra, all of us, consciousness, fruit baskets, wicker, sexless Shakers, utopianists, pianists, free art, green grass, julius eastman, fruit pie, kisses, james tenney, old maple, banjos, nico, sycamore, hermann nitsch, red brick streets, live oak, blood rituals, moondog, dew, baseball, hot dogs, sundays with dad, john waters, cats, fred sandback, japanese design, vlogging, yoko ono, fluxus, sleeping in, americana. . . .