seaborne | Garth Neustadter & Kjell van Sice

This commission of a thirty minute work for six percussionists and video projection is at the nexus of the percussive art soundscape and the visual celebration of our endangered oceans. Just as rhythm and the percussive voice are the heartbeat of music, our precious oceans are the lifeblood of the planet and thus our very existence. Seaborne will attempt to awaken sensibilities in the listener / viewer to both the importance and beauty that our oceans possess. For this project, the Collective’s Artistic Director Robert van Sice brings together two extraordinary young talents. Emmy Award-Winning composer Garth Neustadter and water lensman Kjell van Sice. Neustadter’s mastery of cinematic composition and Kjell van Sice’s poetic aquatic images promise a powerful collaboration. The piece is designed to be the sister piece to one of the seminal pieces in the percussion repertoire, Steve Reich’s iconic Sextet.

This work explores our perception and perspectives of water from aerial, surface, and underwater vantage points. Water possesses an inherent motion and rhythm, and I am interested in reflecting the tension between the potential and kinetic energies we observe, as well as our perception of time. Musically, my language attempts to find a balance between gestures that feel almost primal or ancient juxtaposed against more modern and familiar textures. Often, motifs are introduced in simple ensemble unisons, gradually developing and evolving in ways that might emulate a communal improvisatory experience. Overall, I attempt to create a strong synergy and synesthesia with the photography, in that our perception of color and light is strongly reflected in the music throughout.
— Garth Neustadter, composer
The conceptual core for the visual element of this piece is to give the audience, in thirty minutes, a redefining experience of a subject normally typified by the uni-dimensional horizon as an environment that cohabits the spaces of three distinct perspectives: aerial, surface and underwater. It is an invitation not only to see the ocean’s incredible beauty and raw potency, but also an opportunity to consider how the place from which we look determines what it is we see. Although the surface layer of water is thinner than a hair, the way in which it interacts with light and the forces of wind and currents make it the most dynamic and ever-changing natural phenomenon. I have always been fascinated with this singular simplicity of substance acting under constant redefinition. Sound, like a wave through water, is a burst of energy traveling in a medium. The only difference is that one is in the ocean and the other a concert hall, destined for our interpretation. This piece draws parallels between what the audience hears and sees, combining to become an emotional experience that goes far beyond the music or visuals on their own.
— Kjell van Sice, filmmaker

sextet | Steve Reich

Steve Reich's Sextet is in five movements played without pause. The relationship of the five movements is that of an arch form, A-B-C-B-A. The first and last movements are fast, the second and fourth moderate and the third, slow. Changes of tempo are made abruptly at the beginning of new movements by metric modulation to either get slower or faster. Movements are also organized harmonically with the chord cycle for the first and fifth, another for the second and fourth, and yet another for the third. The harmonies used are largely dominant chords with added tones creating a somewhat darker, chromatic and more varied harmonic language were suggested by The Desert Music (1984). 

Percussion instruments mostly produce sounds of relatively short duration. In this piece I was interested in overcoming that limitation. The use of the bowed vibraphone, not merely as a passing effect, but as a basic instrumental voice in the second movement, was one means of getting long continuous sounds not possible with piano. The mallet instruments (marimba, vibraphone, etc) are basically instruments of high and middle register without a low range. To overcome this limit the bass drum was used doubling the piano or synthesizer played in their lower register, particularly in the second, third and fourth movements. In music which uses a great deal of repetition, I believe it is precisely these kinds of ambiguities that give vitality and life.
— steve reich