Music has been an element of human nature since the beginning of the first audible whistle. It is a factor in the oldest religions, poetry, and even paintings on ancient ruins. The Keene State College Seventh Biennial Symposium, “What Sustains Us? Envisioning Our Future,” was a week-long event with one particular discussion targeting the question of the past, present, and future state of music.
Titled “Images in Sound: Preserving The Concert Tradition,” this specific panel consisted of KSC professors and faculty whose professions lay in the realm of music addressed the issue of music as a continuous element in the human condition.
Around 7 p.m. a lone flutist played a single harmonizing note for the entire ensemble of the KSC Concert Band to play and tune toward. After the tune check, conductor Dr. James Chesebrough lifted his conducting baton and a chilling blast from the brass section swept into the listeners’ ears and prepared them for an epic. The song continued to produce intense blasts of music until it came to a sudden halt, for it was only a preview of what was to come.
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The excerpt was to prepare the audience for the discussion of the central topic for the symposium. “What sustains music?” KSC Assistant Professor Heather Gilligan asked.
“The composers, conductors, and performers who see to it that music is created and performed sustain music.” The panel consisted of speeches from Gilligan, Chesebrough, and KSC Professor Joseph Darby.
A fourth member was to join the panel but fell victim to “a serious health issue,” as stated by Gilligan. Stephen Danyew was to be the fourth member; he was the winner of the 2011 KSC Call for Open Scores Competition and his piece titled “Flash Black” was the first score of the night.
Speaker Darby spoke of music as “a human fact and it always has been a human fact. Evidence suggests that from the 40,000 years plus that we’ve been here on planet Earth, music has played a role in humanity in expressing our thoughts, our feelings, and ideas and doing so in a very unique way.” Darby went on to say, “One can look at every region of the world, you can look at every culture, every group, every nation, every religious persuasion, and that life is celebrated through music.” He also explained his view on the belief of music as another language as false.
“The whole cliché of music as a universal language really doesn’t fit. Music is universal but music is not language. Music operates in very different ways than language does; music has a unique capacity to move us emotionally, it has a unique capacity to stimulate us intellectually, it has a capacity to deepen us spiritually, and music has a capacity to heal us in ways that I think we are just tapping into and coming to some understanding to one of the benefits of music.”
After Darby ended his speech Chesebrough began to explain the different musical properties that comprised the piece made by Danyew. He explained the combination of chords, notes, and basic minor and major parts of the piece that went into Danyew’s award-winning piece “Flash Black.”
When the panel closed and the panelists left the stage the band prepared to entertain the audience with the newly composed work that was played before but not in it’s entirety. With a booming beginning the brass section, coupled with a well-organized percussion, carried the audience through the chilling audible journey created by Danyew.
The second work in the set was a piece titled “Jump Start” by Eric Nathan. The piece was a more peaceful tune and switched from a classic jazz groove to a classical band sound. The piece focused on the energy of each note and chord played by the various band members.
Chesebrough took a break after “Jump Start” and left the conductor’s area to Sean Meagher, a KSC senior. Meagher then conducted ”’Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral’ from ‘Lohengrin.’” Meagher conducted the piece because he was this year’s assistant conductor. “Every semester Dr. Chesebrough picks a student who could conduct the ensemble after they have completed the Conducting 1 course. I completed that course successfully and he thought I have done well enough in that course that I would be able to conduct the band. It was a great pleasure and honor that he selected me.”
Dr. Chesebrough later came back on stage to conduct the next piece titled “Bermuda Triangle.” The piece’s cooperation of the powerful percussion team with the various flute players created a web of music that seemed to belong to a spy movie.
The upward sounds of the music kept people on the edge of their seats waiting for some undefined phenomena to take place. The various saxophone parts to the song brought with them a very modern take on classical music.
A white screen descended above the conductor’s podium and Chesebrough introduced the next work titled “Twilight of the Gods” as a combination of sound and sight.
The screen then displayed images of Vikings and Nordsmen alike fighting against the ranks of the evil, fabled and undead. It was accompanied by the KSC band with the blasts of epic brass, oboe, and bass.
The sounds of battle were well executed all to the final scene of the two fighting armies swallowed down into the Earth. The sweet ending sounds coupled with the image of two people exiting a lone tree after all the fighting was a great ending combination to bring the audience to a peaceful reality.
“Twilight of the Gods” was composed by a band director at UNH. It was a piece that he was commissioned to write for a number of schools and was performed last year at the NAFME (National Association for Music Education) conference in Baltimore.
After the Ragnorak saga on screen ended, the concert took a break to arrange the stage so another act could perform alongside the band. The curtains opened up after a few moments to reveal the KSC chorus behind the KSC band.
The band started to play a melody titled “’Gloria’ in Mass E Minor” and, in the ancient language of Latin, the chorus began to sing. The trumpets playing were like those of the angels and the chorus behind them added a heavenly effect on the religious song.
In all, the concert along with the panel gave the audience an answer to the question of the future of music, brighter. After the concert ended the audience gave a loud and thankful ovation to the KSC performers for they are the next generation to create unforgettable melodies.
Ryan Loredo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org