Ensemble in Residence Program
Westmoreland opens its doors to the DC-area music community in many ways, but most intimately through its ensemble in residence program. The chosen musician or ensemble rehearses and performs at Westmoreland, and joins the Festival Chorus for two of their concerts during the year. This year, we are pleased to support Great Noise Ensemble, directed by Armando Bayolo.
Great Noise Ensemble
“Among the most exciting and ambitious new music ensembles in Washington, D.C.” (Kyle Gullings, A Composer’s Notebook), and “perhaps the DC region’s most exciting professional group dedicated to performing new classical music” (Jason McCool, The Pinkline Project), Great Noise Ensemble is a working embodiment of its mission to fight for the performance of new works and promote emerging talent in contemporary music.
Born in 2005 when composer and conductor Armando Bayolo placed an ad on Craigslist.org seeking like-minded musicians passionate about contemporary music, Great Noise Ensemble has presented the world premieres of some 23 new compositions as well as regional premieres and rare performances of some of the major works of the last 45 years by composers like Steve Reich, John Luther Adams, Marc Mellits, Poul Ruders and Louis Andriessen. They have presented concerts in venues ranging from intimate community concert spaces like the Patricia M. Sitar Center and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring to prestigious locales such as the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Gallery and Sculpture Garden and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2017 they partnered with the Westmoreland Festival Chorus for an all new music concert featuring Golijov's Ayre (with Lena Seikaly), Cerrone's The Branch Will Not Break, and the world premiere of Alec Davis' Ruminations on words by Charles Bernstein. The concert raised funds for local homeless services organization Bethesda Cares.
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone.—FDR
In January, 1941, as the world was increasingly consumed by world war, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finished his State of the Union address to Congress by stating that “(i)n the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” The first two of these freedoms, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom “of every person to worship God in (their) own way, everywhere in the world,” are enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The third and fourth freedoms, freedom from want (“which translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants”) and freedom from fear (“a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor”) expand on these freedoms, and set the United States’ mission in the world for generations.
It is a vision of which we have lost sight.
As Great Noise Ensemble embarks on its fourteenth season, we do so in a country and a city that is rapidly changing, but not always for the better. We believe that art can have the power to change the world, and that we have a platform, however modest, to serve as a voice speaking truth to power through art. Embodying this belief, our 2018-19 season is centered around The Four Freedoms Project, a series of four concerts of works embodying the ideals conveyed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 6, 1941.
Freedom of Expression, the first of our Four Freedoms concerts, focuses on two large works. Josh Armenta’s Sonetos del amor oscuro, for tenor and ensemble, speaks to the need to be true to oneself, even in the face of persecution. In this world premiere, Josh Armenta has set texts by Federico García Lorca, who, due to the mores of his day, was not only forced to live life as a closeted homosexual, but eventually lost his life to a government that sought to violently suppress such voices. Armenta’s setting is a brave and honest reaction to facing those same choices in a culture that is changing, but within which acceptance is less than total.
The second work of the evening, Frederic Rzweski’s Coming Together /Attica , is a classic of political expression through music. A setting of letters from Sam Melville, who was a prisoner at Attica prison in upstate New York, Coming Together/Attica is a testament to the failures of a state to keep control of its population by force. Melville was killed on September 13, 1971, when New York state police stormed Attica prison at the orders of Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
Freedom to Worship is perhaps the most meditative program of our season. In this program, we present various reactions to the meaning of “worship.” From Sofia Gubaidulina’s haunting reflection of silence in Silenzio to David Lang’s How to Pray, a more frantic work indicative of its contemporary American milieu, each work in this program seeks to explore a sense of what contemplation and worship might mean for a contemporary culture. These also find expression in Armando Bayolo’s triptych, Hymnodies for the Contemplation of Terrifying Mysteries, which seeks to create a meditative space in sound that envelops the audience, within the context of the challenging times in which it was written.
Freedom from Want addresses matters of compassion, poverty and need. Martin Bresnick’s The Bucket Rider is a classic portrayal of abject poverty in its treatment of Franz Kafka’s eponymous story about a man so poor, he is forced to slide through the ice in his coal bucket to beg for a single piece of coal in order to live through another night. Songs for Joe Hill, by Michael Lanci, sets texts from five protest songs and poets by late 19th century authors who inspired the turn of the 20th century labor activist Joe Hill. A martyr to his cause, Hill’s work only came to wider attention upon his execution for murder (after a highly controversial trial) in 1914, after failed appeals from Helen Keller and other luminaries. In Songs for Joe Hill, Michael Lanci weaves a simple requiem for the fallen Hill, and seeks to inspire us towards further fairness and compassion in our labor. A classic example of early European minimalism, Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union is an uncompromising work depicting group conformity gone awry and the fight for individuality within a larger collective. Finally, Caroline Shaw’s beautiful To the Hands, a response to Dietrich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, is a plea to remember the traveler, the asylum seeker, the persecuted and the displaced in our midst. “Let us open our hands to those of others. (What are these wounds, in my hands, and in yours?) Walls are not the answer. We are all creatures.”
Freedom from Fear is possibly the most basic desire we have as humans. Each of the works in this program addresses fear from various perspectives. In Be Just!, Martin Bresnick speaks to the fear of injustice and the realization that perhaps we have not been the good people we always thought we were. Dana Kaufman’s Peaporutus (“Concussion”) is a more personal story of fear: fear of violence, as experienced by the composer when she was randomly attacked one summer evening, left concussed, and had to get herself to a hospital. Nebal Maysaud’s Electronic Battleship and Armando Bayolo’s Last Breaths deal with institutionalized state violence, either through warfare, or the institutional racism inherent in police brutality.
In Alex Temple’s Switch, we have perhaps the most unique piece in our entire season. In 2013, Temple and engineer Sylvia Wald invented a device that could “capture audio signals from parallel universes.” Before the machine overheated and was destroyed, along with its schematics, Temple and Wald managed to listen to audio from a culture in a universe where people are forced into strict social roles according to whether they’re right- or left-handed. This audio told the story of a dissident group, The Free Zone, which saw its Utopian dream destroyed by a violent, right-wing dictatorship. We are lucky to have Alex Temple’s transcription —from memory!— of this historic broadcast as a cautionary tale of arbitrary injustice.
The program and the season wraps up with Julius Eastman’s Stay on It. Stay on It is as joyful a work as Eastman (who faced incredible hardship and poverty due to his unwillingness to conform to societal expectations) ever wrote. Like the best of Eastman’s music, however, it is still uncompromising in challenging us to do better, to be better.
The Four Freedoms Project is framed by two other programs, somewhat thematically related but not directly influenced by specific social or political thought.
In Travelogues: Real and Imagined, we take a musicological trip to locations in our world…and others. Alexandra Gardner takes us to Yellowstone National Park in her Vixen, a musical realization of the erupting geyser. Meanwhile, in Codex Seraphinianus, composer Marcos Balter gives us a companion aural examination to Luigi Serafini’s extensive cataloguing of the bizarre flora, fauna, fashion, and food of his wild imagination. This musicology of non-existent places is perhaps best exemplified in Armando Bayolo’s The Books of Bokonon, a series of musical fantasies in the manner of 19th century potpourris transcribing music from the Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, as described in Kurt Vonnegut’s documentary travelogue, Cat’s Cradle.
Finally, in April we present Los Caprichos, an evening-length work comprised of 80 miniatures for chamber ensemble by our Artistic Director, Armando Bayolo. It is the culmination of five years of work beginning with Caprichos, which we featured in 2013 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center and in 2014 at the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York. Taking Francisco de Goya’s 1799 etchings collection, Los Caprichos, as inspiration, Bayolo’s oeuvre addresses questions of social mores, superstition, power imbalances, and other injustices, as relevant today as they were in the 18th century Spanish court, through the use of ironic juxtapositions, humor and grotesquerie.
In addition to our concert performance of Los Caprichos, we are collaborating with Margeaux Martine and the rest of the Arcturus Theater Company to present a staged production of this work. Two productions of Goya’s Los Caprichos will be taking place in April, 2019. Stay tuned for dates and locations!
Last but not least, Great Noise Ensemble is excited to join the family at Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ and its music director, Alec Davis. With the support of Westmoreland, we are able to present a series of seven concerts in this beautiful space. We are excited for the things we can do together in the coming year and beyond!