In the summer of 2020, the Ciompi Quartet commissioned a unique project from four composers in Duke Music’s graduate program. The parameters of the commission were unorthodox: to find a solution to the compositional and performing challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic by creating short works that could be practiced and recorded remotely by each member of the quartet. Although the members were ultimately able to record together in Baldwin Auditorium in November/December 2020, the pieces submitted by James Budinich, Ryan Harrison, James Chu, and Maximiliano Amici demonstrate creative solutions to the challenge of creating works for musicians who are not present in the same space.
As we each sit in front of our music stand with instrument in our hand, alone at home, all the memories from our concerts on the stage around the world flash back. Memories of how our music brought smiles to our audience who did not even speak the same language, or made someone cry who attended a concert for the first time, all are held dear to our hearts. More than ever, our heartbeats are pumped with rhythmic drives, ou…See More
Everyone in the music world, musicians of all types, are going through the same process: figuring out how to function during this indefinite shut-down of our normal musical life. Many of us feel there is no replacing the act of offering live music for a live audience in a setting intimate enough for everyone in the room to sense each other’s physical presence. Nevertheless it is interesting to try and reach each other through alternate means. I have paid scant attention to the various platforms available to collaborate and perform via the web, other than giving the occasional Skype lesson and watching the occasional live-stream. Suddenly, it is the only way we can communicate. There is a whole array of techniques and equipment to be mastered.
And so we begin: the Ciompi members are engaging in our first ever remote recording, each of us attempting record a separate track that is synced to produce a final result. It’s for a Duke senior whose senior project has been waylaid by the virus. We are trying to make it whole by this new method. All of us will benefit by the experience and we will have taken our first steps into the unknown. To be continued.
Soprano Eliza Bagg will be joining us for our November concert dates (November 14 (12PM), 17 (8pm) and 18 (4pm)), so we took a moment to chat with her about some of the repertoire – in particular the Monteverdi and the new Daniel Wohl work. Eliza, a “sought-after vocalist” (WNYC), is a Brooklyn and Los Angeles-based musician. Along with creating her own work, she has worked closely with a number of prominent and emerging composers including John Zorn, Michael Gordon, and Caroline Shaw, among others.
Did you pick the 3 Monteverdi Madrigals? How did you narrow it down to those ones? Who arranged them? Yes, I picked the 3 madrigals. I was looking for ones that would work well with the top line being isolated as a solo line, which is not necessarily how most madrigals are written. In this way, Lamento della nina made perfect sense as it is originally for one female vocalist and a kind of male choir backing her up. But really, all three are just pieces I’ve known and loved for a long time. My long-time creative collaborator and bandmate from Pavo Pavo, Oliver Hill, arranged them for voice and string quartet — he works quite frequently creating string arrangements for indie-rock bands such as The Dirty Projectors, Wet, Helado Negro, Vagabon, and more.
When did you learn about the Daniel Wohl commission? Daniel and I had been looking for a way to work on a project together for a long time — when this idea came up with the Ciompi, it seemed like a natural opportunity to create a work together and to bring in the Ciompi as collaborators.
What has it been like collaborating with Daniel? Daniel and I worked together very closely over the summer developing the core ideas for the piece: we would get together in his studio where he would record me improvising, singing melodies and playing off of specific ideas that came up in the session. He then used pieces of those recordings to create the electronic tracks for each movement, which are essentially built out of one or two looping vocal phrases. Once the baseline idea for each movement was in place, we would get together and improvise fragments that then became the lead melodic lines — and as the piece has progressed, we have sent tracks back and forth while I’ve been traveling to solidify the lead vocal melody. We actually played around a lot with Renaissance style ornamentation, some of which has worked its way into the lead vocal lines. Meanwhile, Daniel has been completing the movements with the string quartet parts and other electronic sounds.
The piece is in 3 distinct movements with some a capella vocal interludes. We have been thinking about it as a kind of triptych, and it is in some ways about the concept of transformation — there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and the dominant sound of the piece is the manipulation — or transformation — of my voice. So much of the piece involves recordings of my voice that have been digitally processed — Daniel can speak in more detail about how he did this to create the electronic tracks using my voice. I will also be using a pedal in the performance to live process my own voice while performing, manipulating delay, autotune, pitch shifting, as well as adding harmonies and looping.
What’s next on the calendar for you? Coming up this year for me is performing Meredith Monk’s Atlas with the LA Philharmonic, releasing an album in January with my band Pavo Pavo and an art-pop album as my solo project Lisel, performing new works by Ben Frost, Julianna Barwick, and Angelica Negron with my vocal trio on the Liquid Music Series. and touring with John Zorn and Roomful of Teeth. Visit ElizaBagg.com for more information.
Canadian-born cellist Caroline Stinson has been appointed the new cellist in Duke University’s Ciompi Quartet upon the retirement of Frederic Raimi from the group at the end of this season. A member of the Lark Quartet since 2008 and previously a member of the Cassatt Quartet, she taught cello and chamber music at Syracuse University from 2004-2013 and in the Juilliard Pre-College and Music Advancement Programs in New York from 2012-2018.
Ms. Stinson performs widely as a chamber musician, soloist, and recitalist, appearing at Carnegie’s Zankel and Weill Halls, Boston’s Gardner Museum and Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian; the Kölner Philharmonie, Lucerne Festival Switzerland, Cité de la Musique (Paris) in Europe; and the Centennial Centre in Canada. Recently she appeared in a recital sponsored by the Finnish Consulate; in Brussels, Belgium, and with Accroche Note in Strasbourg, France. She has premiered and commissioned works for solo cello to concerti, including works from William Bolcom, Steven Bryant, John Harbison, and Steven Stucky, many through her work with the Lark Quartet, the Cassatt Quartet (2000-2003), and other ensembles. She has also collaborated with composers Pierre Boulez, John Corigliano, Peter Eötvös, Aaron Kernis, Paul Moravec, Shulamit Ran, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Joan Tower, and Andrew Waggoner.
Ms. Stinson studied with Alan Harris at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Maria Kliegel at the Hoschule für Musik Köln, and Joel Krosnick at Juilliard, where she received a Master’s degree and Artist Diploma, and was his assistant for eight years.
Philip Rupprecht, Chair of the Department of Music, comments: “We’re thrilled to welcome Caroline Stinson to Duke’s Music faculty. Her broad artistic outlook—encompassing European Baroque, contemporary American, and many traditions in between—matches the eclectic energies of our Department. With her deep roots in the chamber-music scene and her inspired pedagogy, Carrie will soon be making waves among Duke students, starting with the incoming Class of 2022!”
The Ciompi Quartet, founded in 1965 by the renowned Italian violinist Giorgio Ciompi, is Duke’s resident string quartet. All its members are professors at Duke and play a leading role in the University’s cultural life, in addition to traveling widely throughout the year for performances.
I have to say that, although it gives me joy to have performed and toured with the Quartet in many countries around the world, living among my students as a Faculty-in-Residence for the past ten years has been a most extraordinary experience that I would not have had anywhere else. During my time, Pegram dorm has fostered an arts community within the freshman class, where I have lived among 125 first-year students since 2005, all of them with an interest in one (or more) of the arts. Yesterday was the first day of classes at Duke for my new residents, Duke Class of 2019. As is our tradition, the Ciompi Quartet performed for Pegram Residents at the Common Room at 10:00pm. Yes, 10:00pm- past bedtime for most people! I could tell the students were exhilarated, and everyone had fun. I hope these evenings will become treasured memories for years of Pegramites. Not only do the students meet and hear performances from Duke faculty members, they are also able to engage in meaningful discussions after the performance, as they did last night.
—Hsiao-mei Ku, January 1, 2014