Intersection is a recipient of a 2015 Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research Grant. In the post below, Intersection board members Robin Morgan and Craig Havighurst reflect on their innovative performance.
Founded in 2014, Intersection is a flexible contemporary music ensemble dedicated to challenging the traditional concert experience, exploring music of the 20th and 21st centuries, supporting living composers, presenting programs for younger audiences, embracing collaboration, technology and the avant-garde, while expanding, respecting and embracing the musical and cultural diversity of Nashville. With the generous support of the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research, on Thursday, April 28, 2019, Intersection fulfilled this mission by offering a rare program featuring the unique early 20th century electronic instrument the Ondes Martenot with the world’s premier specialists Estelle Lemire and Marie Bernard from Montreal. This unique concert took place within the transformed blank canvas of the Platform warehouse space, which is located at the crossroads of several neighborhoods on the fringes of Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston area for an audience of 200 comfortably filling the space. Audience members included a vibrant mix of older symphony patrons, a large high school student group, music technology/industry professionals, young professionals, educators and variety of cultures and socio-economic groups. They were welcomed by a flexible venue where they were free to mingle and enjoy refreshments between selections.
Audiences were both fascinated and curious about the novel Ondes Martenot that Kelly Corcoran was determined to bring to Nashville from Montreal. This modest-appearing but wild sounding keyboard is a hyper-articulate cousin of the spooky-sounding Theremin. Maurice Martenot introduced his invention a few years after that more famous instrument, in 1928. Its French inventor was a cellist and a radio telegraph operator. His creation could be considered a love child of those two pursuits. Intersection’s concert entitled Key of Intensity reflects the timbre of this instrument, which was truly cutting edge in its time.
The concert opened with Darius Milaud’s Suite for Ondes Martenot (1933), arranged for string quartet by Takashi Harada, originally for piano and Ondes Martenot. The program continued with Tristan Murail’s Mach 2, 5 for 2 Ondes Martenot (1971), which pulsed and rocketed forward, reminiscent of Steve Reich’s minimalism, reflecting its title featuring just the Ondes Martenot soloists on stage. The two soloists presented this electric, zappy swarm of sound in a reserved, understated manner, providing an appealing juxtaposition.
It felt relevant and vital to include a piece by Radiohead art rocker and in-demand composer Jonny Greenwood. His incorporation of the Ondes Martenot into his famous band’s music renewed recent interest in this early electronic instrument. Intersection chose to include Smear (2005), which features two Ondes Martenot and chamber ensemble. Its close harmonies meander in and out of dissonance and leave a sort of wavy feeling in the air. It’s quite beautiful work with a touch of angst.
The most ambitious work on the program featured the music of composer Alain Lalonde with locally-based dancers with choreography by Rebecca Allen, from New Dialect, an ongoing artistic partner for Intersection. His Glissements, tourments, et ravissements (1988) was rapturous, challenging, and overwhelming leaving everyone a bit gobsmacked. Its off kilter music was made more comprehensible by the visceral movement at the front of the stage. Lalonde commented on what an impact the incorporation of choreography made as it offered a new visual interpretation of his work. Intersection concluded the program with Claude Vivier’s Pulau Dewata (1977), which featured energy and more than enough groove for audiences to remain oriented in the colorful soundscape. It’s challenging to encapsulate an evening of complex and novel sound, but the overwhelming impression noted by Craig Havighurst, Intersection Board member, was a feeling of Tesla’s coils, humming and throwing off lightning bolts.
The diverse audience was keenly engaged in this concert, swarming to the performance area following the concert to take a closer look at the Ondes Martenot instrument, and converse with Lemire and Bernard, ensemble musicians, and composer Lalonde. Through this performance, Corcoran brought together an incredible team of like-minded, forward-thinking artists and musicians from Nashville, Chicago, New York, Memphis, California, as well as Montreal. This was a true coming together of musicians from across the country to celebrate this unique, once in a lifetime music. By bringing them together for this performance – new partnerships and relationships have been forged that will not only benefit the community at large as a movement to support contemporary art continues to grow, thrive and flourish in this expanding city. Intersection is the only organization in Nashville offering programs such as this with dedication exemplified by this concert as it seeks new concert formats and crafting environments that are welcoming and accessible so this contemporary classical music is for everyone. Intersection looks to a bright future as it plans its third season of continuing to fulfill this objective.