Music of Difference: How it all began...
As a flutist with diplegic cerebral palsy, I’ve been given a unique perspective on music’s versatility, especially regarding its ability to act as a catalyst for conversations and an instigator of positive change. During the last several years I've been exploring the classical concert as a vehicle to encourage re-evaluation of generalizations, thereby promoting inclusion and equality for people with disabilities. Much of that exploration has been via a concert project called "Music of Difference," which arose during my travels during 2008-2009 on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.
The Watson fellowship gave me a precious opportunity: to dive freely into the wider world, spending a year reflecting on the experience of disability and what it means to me, connecting with an international community of disabled people, and finding ways to contribute to the disability rights movement with respect and creativity. It was during those first several months abroad that I began connecting with great numbers of other disabled people. (What a refreshing, joyous feeling it was to find other people who walk in shoes similar to my own!) I began learning about the colorful and relatively hidden world of disability arts, and reflected over many a cup of tea about my experiences and perspectives on disability. I met extraordinary people and heard their stories and struggles, observed drama and music classes being taught to young people with a massive range of body types, and had the chance to teach several classes of disabled children about the world of classical music. And I traveled to disability arts conventions and symposiums, finding myself overwhelmed by incredibly powerful and creative expressions of life and disability through music, dance and art.
But as I traveled, I was struck by the pervading negativity associated with disability worldwide. I found myself searching for ways to express the gratitude and appreciation I feel toward my unarguably unusual body. I remained convinced that having a disability was not a "defect," but an experience, that just as each of our experiences shape who we are and who we become, the experience of disability can add a unique and positive perspective to one’s life.
I began writing to composer colleagues and posting to online composition listservs, hoping to gather together a program of music aimed specifically at reflecting positively about disability. I was so touched by the series of emails that showed up in my inbox, full of scores, stories, gestures of support and encouragement, and even offers to compose pieces especially for the "Music of Difference" project. Several months later, a program made of brand new works had come together, all reflecting on disability from a wide range of perspectives. An Australian pianist, violinist and I joined together to present the first two "Music of Difference" concerts in Sydney and Melbourne.
Robert Bradshaw's Concerto No. 2 "for Catherine"
One of the pieces on the program was composed by Robert Bradshaw. Mr. Bradshaw and I had never met when he so generously responded to the call for scores I posted online. We began a conversation about disability, brainstorming together about ways to express the experience musically. One email in particular acted as a catalyst for the piece he composed. I wrote:
"Just before leaving London I was chatting about [the project] with my host, Jo Paul, who happens to be a scenographer and designer with spina bifida. Jo came up with a really inspiring suggestion. She and I both have been told that, due to our unconventional walking styles, we seem to move about in "our own kind of dance." Once, a friend of Jo's said that the rhythm of her walk was quite similar to the rhythm of his mother's walk (who had MS.) The idea of a disability resulting in unique rhythms of movement rather than awkward gaits, wobbles, or limps seems appealing to me… Exploring the rhythm of disability and creating something beautiful based on that rhythm seems like it'd be pretty powerful! What do you think?”
He responded, bursting with ideas, and soon afterward I sent him video footage of myself and several friends I'd met abroad who also walked unusually. Using a number of audio and video applications, Mr. Bradshaw carefully mapped out the movements of the people on those videos. Finding each person's motions to be unique and complex rhythmically, those rhythmic motives became the foundation for a piece of music. Mr. Bradshaw has accomplished an incredible thing with his Concerto No. 2 "for Catherine". He has turned the motions of unconventional bodies into absolutely extraordinary music.
Even for myself, as I strive to encourage positivity about diversity, the physical impact of a disability is a challenge. In all the conversations I've had about disability and in all the heartfelt positive words I've spoken about my own physicality, it's rare to hear a truly positive statement about ambulatory challenges. But Mr. Bradshaw has taken the body motions of physical disability and transformed them directly into extraordinary music. He has turned something that all of us with physical disabilities find difficult into something that any ear would find beautiful.
Presenting Concerto No. 2 "for Catherine" to Pulitzer
I can say with the utmost conviction that I have never been more honored to perform a piece of music than Mr. Bradshaw's Concerto No. 2. This piece celebrates uniqueness in a truly unprecedented way, and I feel strongly that it deserves consideration for a Pulitzer Prize. In order to present a submission to the Pulitzer foundation, a professional recording of the work is required. As such, we’re combining the submission of Robert Bradshaw’s Concerto No. 2 “for Catherine” with a CD release of works composed for and performed as part of the “Music of Difference” project. All of the works on the CD hold great personal meaning and have great potential to shift perceptions about disability and difference. My colleagues and I have had the honor of sharing Mr. Bradshaw’s work on stages from Sydney and Melbourne to Rochester, NY and Washington, DC. At these performances,Concerto No. 2 “for Catherine” has proven itself as a work of art that changes minds, that sheds new light on the beauty in difference.
The first "Music of Difference" CD
Our CD will present three works: a piece for solo flute which acted as a catalyst for the "Music of Difference" project, and two trios for flute, violin and piano which were written especially for "Music of Difference."
Hibakusha for solo flute (2005)
by Aaron Alon
Composer Aaron Alon has written a piece for flute alone called Hibakusha, which I had the chance to premiere while Aaron and I were both students at Rice University. Hibakusha is an incredibly striking and communicative piece, and is the first piece of music I ever came across that encouraged listeners to reflect on an experience of disability. In the work, the boundaries of conventional flute playing are stretched, as the performer is asked to make vocalizations, gritty and unstable sounds and charged, aggressive gestures through the use of extended techniques. The piece's historical context gives these unusual sounds a powerful context. Aaron's program note is as follows:
"Following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many survivors were plagued with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These survivors are known as Hibakusha . This piece seeks to capture their numb state of shock, sometimes described as a 'frozen dream,' as they were ever-haunted by their devastating past and in icy disbelief of their present. While this was first envisioned as a larger ensemble piece, there is something profoundly isolating about their condition, which suggested the solo instrumental treatment adopted here."
Read more about Aaron Alon here: http://www.aaronalon.com/
A Perspective for flute, violin and piano (2009)
by Angelique Poteat
I. Tabula Rosa
Angelique Poteat is a dear friend and talented composer who has written a colorful work exploring her relationship with her sister, who, like me, has cerebral palsy. "A Perspective" is almost a theatrical piece without words: the flute and violin take on the roles of Angelique and her sister, respectively. The piano serves to create a series of environments in which the two siblings interact, from early childhood to adulthood.
Angelique's program note is as follows:
"A Perspective" attempts to portray the emotions experienced over several stages in development by a child with an only older sibling that has a profound disability. The piece does not seek to dwell on the disability itself, but to show the interaction between the siblings. Over the several stages of development, their roles fluctuate until they are finally reversed.
The first movement, "Tabula Rosa," approaches the earliest stage of development. The overall tone of the movement is playful, as the older sibling assumes a proud teaching role. To the younger sibling, who is new to the world, the relationship seems as perfectly normal as any relationship. The disability is simply not an issue.
In some situations, the disability requires that the afflicted spend some amount of time in the hospital. "Numb" attempts to capture a wide array of emotions, from confusion to despair and helplessness, felt by the younger sibling when confronted with the reality of being unable to ease the burdens of the older sibling. The natural reaction by some is to act out, while in others it is to close up and assume a numb façade.
"Symbiosis" looks at the mature adult stage of development between the siblings. There is some give and take in the relationship, as the younger sibling assumes more of the elderly role because of the severity of the disability. At this point, each of the siblings has developed their own preferences and passions, but they have the added benefit of complete support from their other sibling.
Read more about Angelique Poteat here: http://angeliquepoteat.wordpress.com/
Concerto No. 2 "for Catherine" for flute, violin and piano (2009)
by Robert J. Bradshaw
I. "really starting to feel a difference"
II. "today I feel altogether unbuttoned"
III. "life is a mishmash of really lovely happenings and utterly frustrating things"
Robert Bradshaw's piece has already been explored in the writings above, but you can read more about this talented composer here: http://www.robertjbradshaw.com/
I'm honored to be making the first "Music of Difference" recording in collaboration with two of the most talented, generous and creative people I know. Below is a bit more about my two extraordinary colleagues:
Albert Kim, piano
Pianist Albert Kim is currently pursuing a Doctorate in piano performance at the Eastman School of Music, where he studies with Natalya Antonova. As a soloist and chamber musician he has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe, including performances at Weill Recital Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bargemusic, Caramoor, Ravinia, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the LaJolla Chamber Music Festival, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vienna Konzerthaus, Koln Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, and Kodak Hall. In his free time, he pursues a life on the side as a composer and a private pilot.
Katelyn Westergard, violin
Katelyn Westegard competed her bachelor's degree in violin performance last year from the Eastman School of Music, where she was a student of Charles Castleman and a Howard Hanson Scholarship recipient. While at Eastman, Katelyn played frequently as concertmaster of Musica Nova, directed by Brad Lubman. Katelyn has spent two summers studying and performing in Plzen, Czech Republic as a participant in the International Music Academy. She attended The Quartet Program, directed by Charles Castleman for four years, and has also attended the National Orchestral Institute and the Las Vegas Music Festival. She is a two time winner of both the IMEA and MTNA state solo competitions. Katelyn had her solo debut with the Treasure Valley Symphony in 2006 playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto. In January 2006, Katelyn made her first Carnegie Hall appearance as part of the National Festival Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Zander. She has played in masterclasses and coachings for artists such as Charles Castleman, Jacqueline Ross, Walter Verdehr, Janet Sung, Diane Monroe, Solomia Soroka, the Ying Quartet, the Cavani Quartet and the Maia Quartet. Last summer, Katelyn attended the contemporary music festival, Bang on a Can, in residence at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Katelyn is currently a graduate student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the studio of Jacqueline Ross.
- 10 hours recording and editing time at Linden Oaks Studios in Rochester, NY: $1250
- 3 hours for extra editing/finalizing at the studio: $450
- Photography/Artwork for CD: $500
- CD Production and Release: $1000
- Total costs: $3200
Your support of this project means so much. Thank you for any gift you can offer; even one dollar will help us get closer to our goal, and will be received with much gratitude! Any funds earned an excess of our recording project goal will be used exclusively for the "Music of Difference" concert project to commission new works and present concerts.
- (60 days)