It certainly feels like an incredible honor to be invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC as a member of the Smithsonian Chamber Players with Kenneth Slowik and several other very esteemed colleagues. As I got off the plane after a short flight from Toronto, about an hour and eight minutes to be exact, I was in a cab and actually fiddling away on an AMATI violin within an hour from the Smithsonian collection. In what world is that even possible??? During the course of the first day my colleagues filtered into Ken Slowik's office one by one. His office is in the corner of the National Museum of American History, on the third floor, down a private hallway with very thick double wooden doors - always locked. It felt like a reunion, I first worked with Ken Slowik when I was a teenager at the Domaine Forget summer music festival playing quintet by the name of Onslow. Next Loren Ludwig walked into the room, an extremely talented and learned viola da gamba player, and also a member of Acronym, a band which we are both founding members of and have since released three recordings of previously unrecorded baroque music. Then Zoe Wiess, a friend and collaborator who I went to school with at Oberlin, then Lucas Harris, a very familiar friend and colleague from Toronto, where I am currently residing. Then in comes Cat, the daughter of the director, followed by a couple of people from New York, Francis Liu and Arnie Tanimoto two musicians who I have undoubtedly crossed paths with but not able to sit down and make incredible music with until this past week. What a treat.
We were exploring the music of Dowland and Lawes this time around, two incredible English Renaissance composers. Also great musicians, they have composed incredible music for viol consort. I feel very lucky to have been asked to be part of this week of music making also because the parts Francis and I were playing were treble viol parts, but could also be played on violin, and as they were relatively high parts, they fit perfectly on the violin. I haven't even begun to mention the gorgeous instruments we both got to play on for the week... O.M.G.
I was walking around the "Mall" in Washington, DC which is a 146 acre park in the middle of the Capitol of the United states with several incredible museums - all of which are free to the public. Anyways, I was walking around the Mall with Lucas Harris, and he was saying the William Lawes is one of the composers that were at the top of his list of people he wished hadn't died so young. "A couple more decades of William Lawes would have made for so much more glorious music" says Lucas Harris. And I completely agree, sadly he was shot by a stray bullet while on duty in the Kings Guard.
The forty two gut strings I mentioned in the headline refer to the fact that Kenneth Slowik wanted to experiment with stringing every single viola da gamba with pure gut strings - for ALL the strings for this concert. It was an incredible sound. Now for those of you who are less aware of the finer details of playing and performing renaissance and baroque music, we do not often play our instruments with %100 pure gut strings, often the lower strings are covered with some kind of steel, or silver, to make them easier to play, or simply easier to handle. Loren Ludwig was stuck with this incredibly thick massive lower string that vibrated about half a centimeter in either direction when pulled by the baroque bow. Again , a totally incredible sound. So, six viols times six strings equals 36, and then 6 more gut strings because the two violinists, Francis and myself, were using three pure gut strings on top, and then one covered g string each on the bottom because the music we were playing is considered late enough for us violinists to have one covered gut string, and thank goodness for that because otherwise some of those really low notes might have gotten just a wee bit too "clungy".
I would like to highly recommend this incredible english music, Lawes and Dowland being two incredible composers that play with dissonance in ways that no composer has really done since, at least in that way. We often found each other working on bars after bars of music without a single cadence, and then all of a sudden being completely surprised by all kinds of chord changes. It is the kind of music that allows for constant discovery, and questioning of where it goes, and how, and for what reason, and with what color, and what quality... the list goes on. There are simply endless opportunities for ways to hear, understand, perform, and listen to this music.
I am so grateful for this incredible opportunity. Thank you Kenneth Slowik for the invite!
on tour. kickin it. playin.