Brenda  Brown

Insect Voices
 by Richard Festinger

 World premiere 28 February, 2008
 Ringling College of Art and Design


 Music, Etcetera Chamber Arts Collaborative

 Patricia Green

 Carolyn Stuart

 Ian Kerr

 Jay Tilton

 Yana Nikolova Yordanova

 William W. Wiedrich
 artistic director
Music, Etcetera, 2-28-08, from video by Darryl Saffer
Music Etcetera and composer, fr video by Darryl Saffer
percussionist Ian Kerr, from video by Darryl Saffer
flutist Y N Yordanova, violinist C Stuart, image D Saffer
director WW Wiedrich, soprano Patricia Green (Saffer)
Since 2003, I have been concerned with reciprocal revelations of landscapes and sounds, a concern necessarily implicating human perception, engagement, use and understanding, as well as the artifacts of interacting nature and culture any landscape presents.  My exhibit at Selby Gallery -- encompassing installations on the Ringling College campus as well as a listening trail at Crowley Nature Center -- presented past and present evidence of my grappling with these matters.  I met Richard Festinger in autumn of 2004 when we were artists-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.  I was there figuring out and building one of my first landscape and sound projects -- two complimentary listening trails. Conversations with Richard on sound, hearing, listening and music were important in clarifying and shaping my thinking in this then new realm of endeavor.  He also found time to lend his refined ear and sensibilities to listen with me in the landscape -- especially to the various changing insect choruses.  It must be then that the idea for Insect Voices began to form.  A couple years later, when I began discussions with Kevin Dean about an exhibit at Selby Gallery, I encouraged a concurrent commission and performance of a related composition by Richard, one in which insect voices would act as one or more of the instruments.  Richard and I worked together to find and refine texts and select instruments; most of the original recordings of insect sounds came from Dr. Thomas J. Walker at the University of Florida, a pioneer in such work; otherwise the music is all Richard's.
                                                                                                                                         Brenda Brown
Always, in composing vocal music, the greatest challenge is in capturing the emotional tone and climate of the text. There is, in the first song, the singer's adult, and somewhat philosophical reminiscence of a sound familiar to her from childhood; in the second, her wistful and poignant meditation on the latter stages of life's journey; while in the final song she is somewhat amusingly driven to distraction by the endless and maddening droning song of cicadas in the summer heat.  But in these poems there is the additional challenge of insect sounds as a central, sonic image.  It was inevitable that the instruments should, here and there, evoke, and even adopt outright the personae of insects.   It was perhaps equally inevitable that the insects' actual songs should find their way into this work.  Here insect choruses provide a frame for the human performers, and participate significantly in the work's dramatic shape as well.  These insect choruses are not what one would expect to hear sitting outside on a summer evening, though: their sounds are arranged and organized in ways to make them suit my very human musical purposes.  

                                                                                                                                         Richard Festinger
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