BY SOFIA ARMANDO//
Hello and welcome back to another entry of DC’s Acoustic Audit, where I explore DC’s most popular venues for live performances and review the local music scene. I’ve been having so much fun taking my Elements of Music Theory course this semester at GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. My favorite part of the course so far has been talking to the New York City-based music chamber group, Loadbang, who presented me and the other students with a deep-dive into their repertoire of music, the compositions of composers they have worked with, and the artistic skill and teamwork required to perform these pieces that are unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
Adrian Sandi (bass clarinet), Andy Kozar (trumpet), Jeffrey Garett (baritone vocals), and William Lang (trombone) gave the class an incredible insightful presentation on their careers and performance score, carefully describing every intricate detail of the unique, and quite bazaar sheet music that takes a different approach to notation. Their masterful reading, performing, and improvisation of songs which utilize random objects, exaggerated body movements, inventive vocalizations and unorthodox instrument techniques is outstanding and might make you question everything you thought you knew about music.
I was itching to get to see Loadbang’s performance the next Friday evening, assigned with the task to specifically write about a piece composed by Marti Epstein called “Alpenglow”. The piece sounded completely different to what I thought it would when looking at the sheet music in class. The most important element of this piece I believe is its use of different levels of volume and pitch, growing slowly out of silence and crescendoing to a sudden climax, just to recede once more into a deep silence. No amount of crescendo/diminuendo symbols or mezzos, fortes and pianos in the sheet music will emulate how powerful that storytelling element of instrumentation was in person.
Section H demonstrates the use of different levels of volume and pitch perfectly: the line “colors wiggle on the bridges” descends to pianissimo, then ascends to piano, and then back down to a pianississimo, all in just three measures. Another aspect of the piece in person that stood out to me was being able to see the unity and connection of the band during the performance. The focus, training, and mastery of group performance from the band was clear as I saw them keep each other in sink using eye contact and breath synchronization.
Watch Loadbang’s rendition of “Alpenglow” here.