Back in the saddle with Brian Baxter's "Roots Run Deep"

Our autumn was an awesome, crazy whirlwind push that included two world premieres, two self-produced concerts, a week of recording sessions, a video shoot, and Seth’s birthday concert on November 14. (Coincidentally, that was the two-year anniversary of our ensemble’s founding!) We also played gongs, bass drums, and amplified paper in composition workshop sessions with Kyle Vegter. And we participated in two Kickstarter fundraising campaigns, successfully raising a total of $7,000 forFJORDS and the Wurtz recording project. This is the thing about growing a career in chamber music: the more work you have (yes!), the more work you have (aah!).

Somehow, our beloved new cellist Sara survived this baptism-by-fire with flying colors. Over Thanksgiving, we enjoyed two glorious weeks of quartet break, rediscovering long-forgotten relics such as “the gym,” “cooking,” and “husbands.”

As we dive back into rehearsals for our upcoming performance at the Green Mill, I’m really excited about ‘Roots Run Deep,’ Brian Baxter’s very cool new piece. I’m new to Brian’s music, and I’m really intrigued by what he’s doing here.

1. The piece is compact and focused, with a small set of pitch material used to make a wide variety of sounds. A lot of times as a performer, I don’t necessarily focus on, or enjoy, the compositional techniques that make up the piece. But in Brian’s piece, the pitch material emerges immediately as being really important. Those are some deep musical roots!

2. Maybe I’m biased by knowing that Brian’s band performed at SXSW last year — or the fact that he’s a drummer himself — but I really want us to sound like we’ve got a drum set playing with us on this piece.

3. There’s a cool (and challenging) balance between rhythmic intensity (rocking out) and long, graceful lines and phrases (think Mozart). This makes me think of Stravinsky. Which is a plus.

4. You know how techno songs stay loud, and really awesome, for a long time? And people on the dance floor love it, and hope it will never end? The techno song doesn’t complain. The techno song doesn’t go, “Wow, this is a lot of fortissimo, maybe we need to add some dynamic nuance here!” Nope. It just rocks out for ten minutes. The end of Brian’s piece is kind of like that. Good job Brian. Here he is, in small size:

The ink’s still fresh on this one, people. Look forward to seeing you Sunday!