Daily Bytes | Music

Our Readiness For Contemporary Music

Swiss composer Michael Jarrell

In the March 2012 edition of 15 Bytes, Utah Symphony violinist Frances Darger remarked on the contributions of the Symphony’s various conductors over the years. She noted that Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer, who replaced Keith Lockhardt in 2009, has rearranged the instrumentalists. He’s done more than that of course. This past month he was responsible for bringing in Michael Jarrell’s Emergences (Nachlese VI), a work dedicated to Thierry that saw its world premiere here in Utah. In today’s post Camille Pack shares her experience at the concert.

Our Readiness For Contemporary Music

Next to me, the old man’s exhales rushed softly at the World Premiere of Emergences (Nachlese VI) for Cello and Orchestra by Swiss composer Michael Jarrell. The cello’s almost silent plucking couldn’t hide them, nor the whispers of the young couple with active fingers. The program had drawn us with the promise of Beethoven V after the intermission, and I was unprepared for Jarrell’s contemporary piece, alone between strangers.

The old man swallowed. I marked his swallow, and my personal boundaries melted at the same rate an awesome fear poured from the stage, drummed up pain and beauty in a configuration that made my stomach seize and my lungs slow. I didn’t mind his elbow on my arm in the dissonance. It was rather a comfort to witness the shattering together, feel the lift and fall of his body in breath.

The grand lay open, and the pianist stood to manually sweep and beat the strings within. On the other side of the old man, his wife snorted and looked over sharply. Ridiculous, the look seemed to say, and the old man shrugged, but I was paralyzed.

My grandmother died last September. Her breathing was hard at the end; it was clear what was happening, and I held her shoulder and hand and told her it was okay. I told her, on repeat, that it was okay while her third husband pounded her chest and begged her not to go.

Reality was jagged, punctuated, absolving. Bits of rosin-covered horsehair broke away from Jean-Guihen Queyras’ bow: repelled by friction toward the gooseflesh on our arms, mine and the old man’s.

Queyras finished, exhaled heavily, and an understanding laughter rippled ahead of the applause. His strings hung from the feat, half the bow shred, and a woman in red with a fat gray bun popped to her feet, performing an ovation of one while the old man’s wife sneered, “That was a pretty musical description of 9/11. . . . at least we get Beethoven next.”

The feeling is still here. I’m ashamed I didn’t stand with the woman in red. But then again, I don’t know if I could have, the way the piece careened through me, left me stunned with its intimacy, its reverence for all things: rhythm and instrumentation and life.

Camille Pack teaches Language Arts at a private boarding school in Utah. She received her MA in Literature and Writing from Utah State University in 2009.

Categories: Daily Bytes | Music

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