Christopher DeLaurenti – Favorite Intermissions


from DeLaurtenti’s website:

Released on compact disc in 2007 by GD Stereo, Favorite Intermissions collects surreptitiously recorded improvisations by symphony musicians before and between orchestra concerts.

The album’s liner notes, “Intermissions with the Orchestra,” has more:

Then, I grant you, the composer-conductor lives on a plane of existence unknown to the virtuoso. With what ecstasy he abandons himself to the delight of “playing” the orchestra!
How he hugs and clasps and sways this immense and fiery instrument!
Once more he is all vigilance.
His eyes are everywhere.
– Hector Berlioz
The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz
edited and translated by David Cairns, W.W. Norton, p. 285

I have spent the last several years at orchestra concerts and ballet performances on my own singular plane of existence. Furtive, vigilant, with my eyes everywhere (for I might get caught!) and my ears carefully attuned to “playing” the orchestra, I’m on a secret mission: to surreptitiously record intermissions.

At concert halls across the country, symphony musicians often return to the stage during intermission, sometimes mere moments after the entire orchestra has officially exited. Individually or collectively, clarinetists, trumpeters, timpanists, and others warm up and work through difficult passages that await on the remainder of the program. This soundscape is not limited to American orchestras, though in my experience, visiting European orchestras, after the program’s first half, usually remain backstage until the second half of the concert begins.

Why record intermissions? One duty of the composer is to expose the unexpected, overlooked, and hidden skeins of music woven in the world around us. Culling sounds from the world as a composition subverts long-standing, essentialist notions of music as comprised of notes, melody, traditional instruments (violin, guitar, drums, piano, etc.) and so forth as well as flouts contemporary expectations of abstractly agglomerated, musique concrète-ized sound.

Throughout history, the definition of music has remained a moving target. I hope recording and presenting these intermissions in some small way abets and accelerates the ongoing re-definition of music in our culture towards moving, meaningful, coherent listening.

Making such recordings is illegal, a result of rules negotiated by the Musicians Union and various venues, yet I believe the importance of documenting these intermissions trumps antiquated copyright laws and misguided prohibitions.

There’s little money to be made – I doubt Deutsche Grammophon has plans to release a compilation such as Favorite Intermissions any time soon – and these recordings seem unlikely to damage anyone’s reputation, though it might tweak a conductor’s ego to find out that the best “new” music is heard between two halves of his or her meticulously planned concert program.

Recording these intermissions preserves a soundscape that could be blithely abolished by the arrival of a new music director – who might forbid on-stage warm-ups during intermission – or rendered extinct by the eventual implementation of noise cancellation technology that silences a room and hermetically seals conversations, confining any chatter to the person next to us.

I hope this album offers a new entryway to orchestral music; stagehands dragging chairs, instrumentalists leafing through music and trilling a few notes, close by conversations, and the distracted ambiance of the crowd combine to flatten and inscribe the aural surface. As a phonographer, I too am present, improvising corporeally as I angle my body-mounted microphones to capture the right mix of everything I hear. My voice, the flaws of my surreptitious recording system, and faults (and in “Awaiting AGON,” the incipient failure) of my equipment are all part of the music. Today’s glitch is tomorrow’s melody.

I adore listening. At the last possible moment – or when the ushers begin to eye me suspiciously – I rush back to my seat to hear even more music.

Published in Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, Fall/Winter 2004 in mid-2005, p. 22 and revised September 2006 for the Favorite Intermissions CD.

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