When the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas performs "New Canons" March 11, it will be unique in the truest sense of the word. The selections for the concert preview works on SoNA's first-ever album release, due out in May.
Featured will be "Cohere 1," created and played on the Walton Arts Center stage by Brooklyn-based electro-acoustic viola musician Trevor New, who has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia as a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist and has worked as a sound designer, engineer/producer and performer across a variety of media. He answered five questions for What's Up! prior to his appearance in Fayetteville.
Q. I'm assuming that viola came first before electronic music -- but I might be wrong! Can you explain the evolution for you?
A. It's funny, I did study viola first, but only after learning to play the guitar a little as a very young kid and becoming a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix. The things he did with his sound pushed one to the edge of their ears. Coincidentally, he was also a violist at one point, from what I understand, though not for long. So while I started more focused study on the viola first, I did have this other sound in my ears that had a strong pull over me.
I first got into using electronics as a utility, at first to simply record my own music and then to be able to create a bigger sound as a solo performer. In doing that and playing with all sorts of echoes, reverbs, and experimenting with custom FX, I feel as though I found a way to accompany myself while also taking the lead part at moments. Much of that practice was inspired by playing the unaccompanied Violin Sonatas and Partitas by Bach on my viola. More specifically the Bach Chaconne has so much of what anyone would need in order to understand a way to do this.
Q. Was "Cohere" written as a response to the isolation of covid? What inspired it? Was it written for any particular group to play?
A. Prior to covid, I was working out a concept around making people feel more connected at concerts. When we went into quarantine, I was forced to accelerate what I was doing and take it in the additional direction of network-based performance. After experimenting with techniques and exploring different methods for collaborating with individuals -- and more specifically some big successes playing with the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra in different live, virtual, and hybrid configurations -- the American Composers Orchestra commissioned me to write "Cohere 1."
I was trying to explore this concept and medium prior to covid, but I believe the isolation we all experienced made it even more important to me to make this something special for everyone.
Q. How would you describe the style of "Cohere"?
A. I would say it's similar to what you might hear in a film in some ways except that the context and shifting spaces in this piece become the visual components, and we hear where everyone is beaming in from mixing into the space.
Q. What will audiences see and hear when this piece is performed by SoNA?
A. They'll see the orchestra and, on a large projector screen, a virtual ensemble of three string quartets and six individuals all beaming in from nine other time zones.
Q. Does this evolution of performance mark major changes for the future for orchestras?
A. I think this could be an exciting part of the future of orchestras. When you're able to network musicians from anywhere in the world and create as a group, it bypassess so much of what we would think makes us separate from each other. This approach is about finding a way to viscerally experience how connected we are to everyone, wherever they are, as we make some good music -- that's really special. For musicians, it's all about time and space again, so while some things look different from the usual playing experience, the musical skills required are nearly identical because it's not just a technical solution, but musical solution that uses some technology. I'm really grateful to SoNA for taking that on and exploring these possibilities.
Symphony of Northwest Arkansas:
WHEN -- 7:30 p.m. March 11
WHERE -- Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST -- $36-$60
INFO -- sonamusic.org or 443-5600
FYI -- Audiences will also hear Music Director Paul Haas' "In saecula saeculorum," commissioned in 2016 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas and the opening of its new building, and Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883).