Thursday, February 23, 2012

Uzu & Muzu Becoming Reality—the Peter and the Wolf of the 21st Century?

When does a dream project turn into reality? It’s hard to define a precise moment—different aspects occur at different times. I visited world-renowned composer Avner Dorman for the first time over a year and a half ago—hoping he’d write the Stockton Symphony a premiere, and hearing him express his long wish to set Ephraim’s marvelous children’s story, Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu, to music. After the big team effort of getting a Music Alive residency to assist in the funding, it seemed to get more real.

We engaged Webster Williams to be our narrator, remembering how wonderful he is as an actor and what a fabulous job he did in Chris Brubeck’s Mark Twain’s World. And Avner said it would be great if the two percussion soloists could come from within the orchestra, demonstrating that eventually many orchestras could perform the piece after our world premiere—it only took a heartbeat to engage the talents of our own Mike Downing and Graham Thompson. The key components were lined up, and we strategized to use Uzu & Muzu for our Steppin’ Out youth programs as well as our Classics IV performances. Projects were planned for kids to write prose based on the theme of conflict and resolution for the Stockton Record newspaper and art works to be exhibited at the Haggin Museum—now the pieces had really starting falling in place.

But it was still all based on music that didn’t exist yet—or did it, just in Avner’s mind but not yet codified? During the next months I could tell, from our many great conversations, that Avner had immersed himself into that type of super-intense—perhaps even frenzied—work that is the hallmark of genius composers. Then, when he was nearing the end of the initial composition process this past fall, a small group of Symphony supporters were treated to something that couldn’t have occurred in Beethoven’s day. Avner played us sketches of his music from his computer software, using a MIDI system that very closely approximates the sounds of orchestral instruments. Back in the 19th century the great composers would sometimes try their symphonies out in piano transcriptions—they would have killed to have toys like this! For those of us at that intimate gathering, all of a sudden the piece became a lot more real. Avner made similar presentations in several school visits, and hundreds of kids were equally mesmerized.

Then, just a while ago, after an involved process of editing and proofing, the actual sheet music showed up on the Stockton Symphony’s doorstep. Now this thing is actually in print, and even the printing is gorgeous—Avner is one of few composers who is exclusively represented by G. Schirmer, one of today’s leading music publishers.

But even though it’s in print, it still has yet to exist in live performance. I’ve gotten together with Webster and we’ve planned someof our strategy for the narration. The percussionists have been getting together, and I’m going to join them soon. Then we go into orchestra rehearsals next week. I can hear the piece in my head and it’s fabulous—it may even become the Peter and the Wolf of the 21st Century. When will it reach the final phase of becoming real? At the performances—when you come to experience the launch!

No comments:

Post a Comment