Thursday, February 11, 2016

From A Garbage Dump, A Sweet Ensemble

What has nine musicians and flies?

From A Garbage Dump, A Sweet Ensemble


What has nine musicians and flies?

You'd have just cause to be skeptical of Nathaniel Stookey's Junkestra, a three-movement, eleven-minute work performed on objects made from garbage found at a San Francisco waste transfer facility. But instruments don't make music, people do, and Stookey's short work for instruments created by him and his mother - from "pipes, pans, mixing bowls, bottles, serving trays, deck railings, dresser drawers, oil drums, bike wheels, saws, garbage cans, bathroom fixtures, bird-cages and shopping carts" - is a concise, rhythm-heavy work of considerable emotional scope. The second movement is especially lovely - a moody post-industrial gamelan.

Stookey obviously has a sense of humor. He, you may remember, is composer of The Composer Is Dead, a work for orchestra and narrator with text written and performed by Lemony Snicket. The Philadelphia Orchestra scheduled it three seasons ago, and I wish they'd bring it back. The Junkestra - seven percussionists, plus David Weiss on saw - is led by Benjamin Shwartz, who attended the Curtis Institute of Music, where, presumably, he did not major in sanitation arts.

Oddly, the Junkestra isn't that far in overall ensemble sound from the Vienna-based Vegetable Orchestra - though the Junkestra clearly has the advantage when it comes to hard attacks and non-perishable instrumentation.

Downloads are available in individual movements (99 cents), or as an entire piece ($3.96). See/hear a sample here.

Inquirer Classical Music Critic
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About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

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