"Phelps is young and feisty... a riot" - LATimes
Mahler, Symphony no. 5, by Ben Phelps is one of a series of large chamber works I've undertaken as a composer, with no one asking me to do so, or any knowledge of where I was going with it.
It's been a years long journey. I began the work in January of 2014 during a residency at the Macdowell Colony in New Hampshire. While there, I had the absurdist idea of performing a complete Mahler symphony in a small chamber-music setting (one early idea had me performing it on solo Xylophone- I quickly dismissed the idea as really annoying). I settled on it as a vehicle for my classical band, The B Band. Next I had to found The B Band.
At first the piece was only 15 or so minutes long, but I had always envisioned it to be an album length project. This proved much easier to envision than to actually create. Additions and expansions were several more years in the making. I abandoned any hope of getting to the final three movements of the symphony, but after several years of composition and performances, we were ready to record. My version of Mahler's 5th Symphony more or less gets stuck after the opening 20 bars.
Why? I'm not sure. For me, the piece gets to the metaphysical questions I ponder about what it even means to be a "classical" composer today. For instance: can a composer today write Mahler's 5th Symphony? (Pretty sure the answer is no, but it's hard to prove a negative).
Mahler- the real one- was writing at the absolute expressionist height of Germanic high-cultural influence. He wanted to be a Genius ever so badly, Genius being the assumed production model of Western Classical Music. Everybody important was one. He enforced silent, worshipful listening of the performances of his music and those of the "masters," inventing modern concert culture. He worried that if a work was too popular, it couldn't possibly be artistically important. He wanted to be popular.
I live and work in Los Angeles, and have been a Californian all my life. I am fairly far removed from fin du siecle Vienna (though I do live a few miles from Alma Mahler's house). Today many of Mahler's excesses, both musical and personality-wise, can feel patently absurd. There is no presumed cultural superiority. Mahler, Symphony no. 5, by Ben Phelps, is not a romantic composition at all. Though there is plenty of Mahler in it, it is a piece that is about the attempt. It's a rearrangement, a deconstruction- a decomposition. From that grows something new.
The Plan and Budget
The album was recorded at the UCLA Herb Albert School of Music but there are significant costs remaining for a successful commercial release. With this album I am launching my own record label, Cereal Music. I will be paying for professional mixing and mastering, as well as publicity help for the launch of the album and record label. There are also the costs of graphic design and pressing of a limited number of physical CDs. Remaining funds will go towards an album launch party and concert. The album will be released in 2020.
Risks and challenges
The album has already been recorded. The more money raised, the greater the reach and more polished the finished project. The greatest risk is that nobody hears it. Hopefully this kickstarter will help rectify that.
As for the Solo Melodica commission, there is a very high risk that, should it be realized, it won't be very good.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)