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Luna y Mar

Blakemore Trio Strikes a Universal Chord

Apparently we really do live in a musical universe. In the 1970s, scientists discovered that background radiation emanating from the Big Bang vibrated at a frequency that was roughly equivalent to the tone B-flat. Astronomers at NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory confirmed this tonality in 2003, when they detected a similar frequency of sound waves coming from a supermassive black hole located 250 million light years from earth. Pythagoras, it turns out, was right after all: There really is a music of the spheres, and it’s written in the key of B-flat.

Composer Adam Schoenberg made reference to this cosmological curiosity on Friday night, just moments before the Blakemore Trio launched into the world-premiere performance of his new trio Luna y Mar. Schoenberg wrote the piece for his wife and described it as a kind of sonic love story between the moon and the sea. B-flat figures prominently throughout this trio. Apparently, it’s also the universal key of love.

Lasting about 10 minutes, Luna y Mar is arranged in two sections that are played without pause. It opens with sustained, atmospheric string notes – a sort of cosmological hum – played over consonant piano chords. The violin and cello eventually take up a more sensuous melody played against a counterpoint of chord clusters in the piano. The lively second section, in contrast, resembles electronic groove music and is full of vigorously repeated rhythmic motifs. It ends with the violin and piano playing juxtaposing ostinatos beneath a gently soaring cello melody.

The Blakemore Trio – pianist Amy Dorfman, violinist Carolyn Huebl and cellist Felix Wang – commissioned Luna y Mar for Friday’s concert. The players gave it a memorable reading. Their interpretation emphasized the opening section’s sweet simplicity and ardent lyricism. They played the final groove section with rhythmic vitality and a precise ensemble.

John Pitcher, Art Now Nashville
Published: January 21, 2012


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First on the program was composer Adam Schoenberg’s Luna y Mar, which the Blakemore Trio premiered in January at Ingram Hall. Lasting about 10 minutes, the piece consists of two distinct sections that are played as one continuous movement.

It opens atmospherically, with lots of bright, consonant chords and appealing melodies. A groove-oriented dance section follows, ending with the piano and violin playing an off-kilter ostinato coda beneath a gently soaring cello tune. Schoenberg, a 31-year-old Los Angeles-based composer, wrote Luna y Mar, which means the “Moon and the Sea,” as a wedding present for his wife. He has described the ostinato ending in unapologetically romantic terms, as the happy couple walking off into the sunset.

Members of the Blakemore Trio – pianist Amy Dorfman, violinist Carolyn Huebl and cellist Felix Wang – seemed to relish the immediacy of Schoenberg’s music. They played the opening section with sensitivity and taste, making the music sound ardent but never sentimental. The rhythmically difficult groove music was played with vitality and joy.

Valentine noted that the sweet simplicity and appealing lyricism of Schoenberg’s music seemed to fly in the face of contemporary classical music’s reputation for thorniness. Admittedly, many composers during the mid-20th century had followed the lead of that other Schoenberg (namely, Arnold) and wrote music that seemed to prize dissonance and complexity above all things. That’s no longer true, Valentine said. Many of today’s classical composers have re-embraced tonality with a vengeance, and they’ve begun writing highly personal styles of music that can perhaps best be described as romantic.

What’s behind the stylistic shift? One audience member, composer Kyle J. Baker, heard a clue in Luna y Mar. Among other things, he noted that a few passages sounded a lot like Radiohead. “Composers in their early thirties are probably going to have that music in their heads,” Baker said. Today’s classical composers have grown up in the age of rock ’n’ roll. And rock, for the most part, is scrupulously tonal. It stands to reason that rock’s penchant for tonal harmonies, driving rhythms and minimalistic ostinato patterns would be reflected in contemporary classical music. After all, classical music has always been a kind of sponge, soaking in the best of the pop, folk and dance music of any given period.

John Pitcher, Art Now Nashville
Published: March 2, 2012