Violin, Viola & Video Virtuosity 2016

Violin, Viola & Video Virtuosity 2016

Music by Ole Saxe, Žibuoklė MartinaitytėLoreta Narvilaitė, 

Gediminas Gelgotas, David A. Jaffe, Dominique de Williencourt

Daniel Felsenfeld, Randall Woolf, Ayal Adler, Neil Rolnick & Brian C. Moon

Videos by Ole Saxe, Philip Van Keuren, Donatas Bielkauskas, Evaldas Arlauskas,  

 Fred Kolouch, Mary Harron & John C. Walsh, Stuart Diamond, 

John J.A. Jannone with The Night Bears, and Aistė Ptakauskė


Užupis Constitution Song for solo violin (2015) by Ole Saxe

         Video by Ole Saxe

Serenity Diptychs for violin, tape and still images (2015) by Žibuoklė Martinaitytė 

         Photographic Imagery & Video by Philip Van Keuren 

         Visual & Digital Production by Melissa Tran

Banga Palydi Paukščio Skrydį for solo violin (2012) by Loreta Narvilaitė

The Wave Follows the Bird’s Flight                                                                                                  

         Video by Donatas Bielkauskas

To The Skies  for solo violin (2011) by Gediminas Gelgotas

         Video by Evaldas Arlauskas

Cluck Old Hen Variations for solo violin (2004) by David A. Jaffe

         Video by Fred Kolouch (2014)

Mont Ararat for viola solo (2011) by Dominique de Williencourt

Hooked to the Silver Screen for solo viola (2011) by Daniel Felsenfeld

          Life on Mars Video by Stuart Diamond (2016)

Beirut Is A House Of Many Rooms (2015) by Randall Woolf

          Video by Mary Harron & John C. Walsh                                                                                    

Contrasts in Time for solo violin (2016) by Ayal Adler

          Video by Stuart Diamond

Fiddle Faddle for solo violin and computer (2003) by Neil Rolnick

          Video by John J.A. Jannone and The Night Bears

          EL Wire footage filmed at LRT Studio in Vilnius on June 11, 2014

          Algirdas Mateika & Valdas Ruksenas:  Audio Engineers

          Aliaksei Siadura: Cameras; Rita Miliute: Producer; Yana Priabiola:  Assistant

Duetto con Bobik for solo violin and electronics (2010) by Brian C. Moon

          Video by Aistė Ptakauskė (2015)    

Ciaccona from Partita #2 in D minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1720)

          Video by Stuart Diamond (2017)


More info:  •  • •  •  • •  •  •  • •

Užupis Constitution Song is the artists version of Human Rights, inspired by the self-proclaimed republic of Užupis in the center of the Lithuanian capital city Vilnius. The constitution expands to grant citizens the right to be both happy or unhappy, to be idle and take care of cats and dogs, sometimes to be unaware of duties but never with a right to violence. ”Do not fight back! Do not surrender!” The Baroque introduction and postlude depict the river Vilnelė flowing by with its own right in the constitution, echoing the grand epoch of old Vilnius.

Serenity Diptychs for violin, tape and still images (2015)

When I first encountered photographic diptychs of Philip Van Keuren, I was struck by the “endless pairs of things” and the unexpected dialogues appearing between the images. According to the artist “often the more “distance” between the shear physicality of the paired images, light-dark, near-far, etc. results in a stronger emotive resonance, creating the “conversation” between images. The diptychs pair seemingly ordinary but disparate visual, cultural, and historical entities in order to illuminate and amplify their equivalent fictive, numinous, poetic, and emotional qualities. Two realities are placed side by side that would never be adjacent in the real world”.

The idea of pairing became a focal point in “Serenity Diptychs”. The piece itself takes a form of an enlarged diptych consisting of two distinctly different adjacent musical worlds – one of a dynamic nature and another of transcendence, stillness and reflection. The first part with its continuous forward motion resembles a hike up a high mountain. Endless and tireless repetitive patterns are swirling ceaselessly and accumulating energy until the very top of the mountain is reached. There… everything suddenly becomes still. One just stands in awe, mesmerized by the breathtakingly spacious vistas and mountain ranges overlapping each other in a far distance. Thus, the second part reflects this state of heightened sensitivity where stasis bears a somewhat ecstatic quality.

The relationship between music and images can be perceived as a diptych as well. Each of them is governed by unique shaping principles – sounds are following a linear logic of time, whereas images display multidimensional nature of space in a non-linear fashion. Images are changing as flashbacks of memories, randomly appearing in the mind without any emotional involvement or attachment with no particular narrative. Music is independently creating a coherent flow and revealing its own story line.

Another pairing is formed between solo violin and tape part where real acoustic sound is merged with imaginary voices.

The Wave Follows the Bird‘s Flight for violin solo was commissioned by the festival Iš arti  and dedicated to the violinist Rusne Mataityte. The virtuoso character of the piece, anxiously undulating flow of the music, its unexpected twists and accents reflect the pulse of the time. The author remains faithful to the post-minimalistic stylistics that is somewhat associated with the neo-romantic tradition, and to metaphorical titles of her works. Video artist Donatas Bielkauskas is well known as a multi-instrumentalist and composer from Klaipėda.

To the Skies (2008) is a small, finely crafted, intimate chamber music piece or song with a duration of approximately 3 minutes originally composed for female solo voice with piano accompaniment and is performed today in various concert halls by flutists, strings, oboists, choirs and even string orchestras. To date, it is the Gelgotas composition with the largest number of “reading variants”.  The version with song is a setting of one of his own poems.

What I give you

gives birth to silence.

And the tear of that silence

is quiet.

And I…

Release to the skies,

Release that silence

and the tear

as gladness.

The video for “To the Skies” was a collaboration between Evaldas Arlauskas, Gediminas Gelgotas’ chamber orchestra NICO, and the municipality of Anykščiai city in Lithuania. It was a part of a project revealing the beautiful nature of Anykščiai city in the flow of G. Gelgotas music through the different seasons and depicts wintry landscapes.

Cluck Old Hen Variations for solo violin (2004) is based on the traditional Appalachian banjo tune “Cluck Old Hen”. The composition resembles a fantasy more than a traditional variation form, with the theme threading throughout the piece in the manner of a leitmotiv. Numerous techniques and idioms from bluegrass music merge with classical material to form a music that occupies the space between violin and fiddle repertoire.

The animation accompaniment for Cluck Old Hen Variations is made up of ink and charcoal drawings, photos from a chicken coop and a video of boiling water. Some of the marks in the film were created by dipping chickens’ feet in mud and letting them walk across rolls of paper. A variety of traditional animation techniques including rotoscope, drawn-on-film, and stop motion were used throughout the process.

Mont Ararat evokes a voyage and recalls the sound of the duduk and ancestral chants of Armenian monks.  It pays tribute to the suffering Armenian people throughout history, based on melodies heard in the Christian monastery of Echmiadzin, at the foot of the famous Mount Ararat where the Ark of Noah is said to have landed. Williencourt was inspired to create this shorter and slightly modified version of his original cello work, Opus 2,  after listening to the violist Michel Michalakakos, to whom he dedicated this work.  The bass string is lowered by two pitches to reproduce the double sound of the duduk.Commissioned by Festival “Forbidden Music 2012” in Marseille, the world premiere took place on Thursday May 17, 2012 at the Abbey of La Prée under the 19th Rencontres around La Prée.

Dominique de Williencourt’s work for solo viola is strikingly original in its sound design. By using the scordatura effect of detuning the lowest string, the viola is transformed into an other worldly instrument – haunting, yet powerful. Stuart Diamond’s video searches out the mysteries of this music surrounding Mont Ararat – a mythic mountain that holds ancient secrets – from its monasteries, and its Christian and nationalistic symbolism, to the lost remnants of Noah’s Ark.

Hooked to the Silver Screen I wrote a short solo viola piece for Nadia Sirota called “Hooked to the Silver Screen” (2011), which is a kind of free-flowing fantasia on the most astonishing song that Bowie (or, frankly, anyone) ever wrote: “Life on Mars.” I love taking a tune like this, somewhere lurking in another genre, and doing just terrible musical violence to it. I’ve likewise assaulted Leonard Cohen and Wild Cherry, as well as done terrible things to works of Debussy and Bach. Because in a certain way all music (if you buy into the whole Agon theory of Harold Bloom) does violence to the music that has come before it, and from this wrestle a new set of ideas takes root. I just wanted to be obvious and extremely brutal about it.

Daniel Felsenfeld

Missions to Mars have always been close to me, ever since I created a nationally syndicated television production called “Mission to Mars” that documented the original 1996 Pathfinder mission to the red planet. This video uses NASA animations from the 2011 Curiosity Mission to Mars. It tells the story of the just how lonely life on another planet can be until one finds a true mirrored mate.

Stuart Diamond

Beirut Is A House Of Many Rooms follows Hadi Eldebek, an oud virtuoso from Beirut now living in Brooklyn back to his first home. Beirut, as a port city, has for centuries been both a meeting place and a battleground of traditions.  It is a land, like Istanbul, where the confluence of East and West have met and mixed in almost equal measure.  Ancient and battle scarred, Beirut is a symbol not just of conflict and tragedy – but also of exuberance and hedonism and cultural sophistication.  It is famous both for civil war and for its fabulous night clubs, its wonderful singers. The filmmakers, Mary Harron and John C. Walsh,  were guided by Hadi around his hometown. They came back to America with hours of video and sounds recorded in Beirut, including live music, some performed by Hadi and his brother Mohamad. They then gave this material to composer Randall Woolf, who created a piece for violin, with a soundtrack made from the sounds recorded in Beirut, processed digitally. Woolf then gave the piece to Harron and Walsh, who edited their film to fit Woolf’s music.

Beirut Is A House Of Many Rooms was commissioned by Composers Concordance and The Block / West Michigan Symphony, with grants from New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Anonymous. Beirut Is A House Of Many Rooms was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit the project page:

Contrasts in Time  comprises one large movement, divided into smaller sections and played without a pause. Throughout the course of the piece, the main materials are subjected to constant transformations within harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tempi, tone- colors, and others.  The overall form of the piece is organically created as result of these ever-changing transfigurations.

Throughout the work, various contrasts are displayed, such as extremes of register; contrasts between opposing dynamics, tempi and mood, etc.  A contrast between intense, forward-moving sections and subtle, somewhat abstract, events helps shape the overall formal structure of the work.  In order to enhance the changing colors, shades and textures within the work, various coloristic techniques are engaged, such as microtonal vibrati and trills; playing on the bridge of the violin, et alia. These techniques create a rich listening experience of shifting colors and shades, at times merging and melting into one another.

The work is dedicated to Karen Bentley Pollick, with friendship and gratitude.

The video by Stuart Diamond correlates the sonic experiences using visual themes (interlocking lattice-works, questing and connecting lines, seeking and finding circles/hoops) not by analogy or any kind of equivalence, but simply parallel play that allows the music its own unimpeded aural dance.

fiddle faddle in my cookbook is described as “butter toffee with almonds over popcorn … a variation on the commercial cracker jacks recipe.”  My dictionary describes it as “trivial nonsense.”  In either case, it’s sweet and enjoyable.  Not necessarily nourishing or profound, but not too bad for you.  What more could you ask of a piece which allows you to show off your violin chops while engaging in some pretty intimate interaction with a computer?

Creation of the Fiddle Faddle video was a transnational collaboration.  The motion of Pollick’s bow was captured at the Lithuanian Radio & TV Studio in Vilnius and sent to Japan, where John J.A. Jannone, working at Osaka University, developed software to create a “long exposure video,” integrating the bow’s motion and spectral analysis of the audio into a single evolving image. In preparation for the premiere, the software was further developed by Jannone and The Night Bears in Brooklyn, New York, adding several layers of motion and recursion to the process, resulting in the final imagery.

Duetto con Bobik, a piece for solo violin and electronics, was written for violinist Karen Bentley Pollick in 2010. The electronics for this piece are comprised entirely of manipulated recordings of Bobik—a stray hound dog that has taken up residence at the President’s home on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College. These recordings influenced the rhythmic, textural, and melodic composition of the work, resulting in a quirky, fun, and surprisingly tonal experience. Though most of the melodic material in the tape part did not need to be auto-tuned, some material was tweaked using the “I Am T-Pain” application on an iPhone.

The video by Aiste Ptakauske stars Fella, a beagle/dachsund mix who frequents the streets of Vilnius joyfully daily.  The voice of Bobik fused with Fella’s energetic meanderings on the cobblestones achieve an artistic union via reincarnation, rejuvenation and regeneration.

Ciaccona from Partita #2 in D minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach is a masterpiece that demands the pinnacle of virtuosity. Yet, at the same time, it offers a blank canvas upon which the greatest of violinists can paint a vision of their own universe. As artists mature and play lesser works, they generally refine their performances. But with a timeless work like this, performances deepen as the artist delves into a lifetime of musical and life insights.

And for centuries, scholars have puzzled over what appear to be mathematical structures embedded in the Ciaconna (and for that matter in many other works of Bach). Do the proportions between the Minor and Major modes, the number and nature of variations, and how they interchange, reflect some deeper mathematical or even cosmic meaning? Some suggest that the almost perfect proportions of the 64 variations presented in three contrasting sections mirror The Golden Ratio – a set of satisfying proportions that underlie masterpieces of architecture, paintings, and even in nature itself. That in some way, Bach’s genius allowed him to intuit the very nature of reality, and that his creative mind was so attuned to his own essence that the music he wrote exemplified these structural truths. Or such conjecture could simply be the arbitrary musings of academics – philosophical meditations that have little to do with the art of a workaday composer, who wrote the work in grief, and perhaps tribute, after returning from a trip to discover that his wife (and the mother of seven of his children) had died.

Stuart Diamond’s own journey into this soundscape begins with his recent video, searching for the intersections where sound, proportion, and mathematics encompass their own visual dance. An initial foray of a lifetime endeavor into recreating, revisualizing, and rethinking the work by creating new drafts of the Ciaconna, unfolding anew in an infinite set of variations and iterations.