November 13, 1997, 8 p.m. A night to remember? Probably not. Although a person would remember that night had he attended Simultaneities, the inaugural performance of the Independent Music Project.
Last fall, Simultaneities attracted only a small crowd. However, at 8 p.m. Saturday night, few seats in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall remained empty. Since the November concert, word had obviously spread that the Independent Music Project or IMP was worth a listen. Working in Progression, the second performance sponsored by the Project did not disappoint.
In April 1997, Kenric Taylor ’99 declared his music major. Since his junior year of high school, Taylor had been composing music, but only his latest compositions, he felt, were polished enough for a public performance. It was at this point last spring when Taylor realized the need for a student-run group that would give composers at Williams the opportunity to showcase their musical creations.
Taylor envisioned forming an organization that would “promote the performance of new works by fellow student composers.” Without the constraints of the music department or the restrictions of class assignments, students would be free to perform their most creative and inspired compositions. When Taylor shared his idea for such an organization with Michael Veloso ’98 and Greg Bloch ’99, the Independent Music Project was born. However, no action was taken on IMP until the fall semester began.
By September, Taylor had nearly forgotten about his own idea. He had not realized how much interest the Independent Music Project had sparked until the Purple Key Fair. There, he was approached by Freshman Judd Greenstein. “I was really surprised when Judd came up to me and asked how he could get involved with IMP. I didn’t think anyone really knew about it. We didn’t even have a booth,” Taylor stated.
Knowing that there was now enough support for the Project, Taylor began making arrangements for the IMP’s first concert.
According to Greenstein, IMP does more than promote the work of student composers. It teaches the skills a composer will need to know after he graduates. “You get to know other composers. You make contacts. You learn how to set up a performance and get your work played. These are things a composer has to learn,” Greenstein said of his experience with IMP.
Saturday’s performance by the Independent Music Project promised to be a success the moment Greg Bloch walked onto the stage and apologized to the audience. “We’re very sorry. We’ve run out of programs. We only printed a hundred because we never thought so many people would show up,” Bloch admitted. This minor glitch did nothing to weaken the strength of the night’s concert.
Compositions ranged from a traditional piano solo to conceptual pieces that pushed the bounds of music. The first composition of the evening was “Solo,” which was composed by Michael Veloso. Performed by Steven Wollkind ’01 on the trumpet, it filled the recital hall with what Veloso deemed a “particularly lonely sound.” Kenric Taylor impressed the audience with two a cappella compositions, which featured poetry by fellow Ephs Geoff Hutchison ’99 and Kara Roggenkamp ’99.
Andrea Mazzariello ’00 and Allegra Martin ’99 each composed vocal selections with piano accompaniment. Taylor sang each of these pieces. After Martin’s piece Bloch returned to the stage to make another announcement. This time, he thanked Taylor for his efforts to organize the performance and to create IMP. The audience cheered and hooted loudly in appreciation.
Judd Greenstein contributed three short piano pieces to the concert. His traditional work provided a distinct contrast to Greg Bloch’s compositions.
Bloch was especially pleased with Working in Progression. “I thought the program was really strong. It had real substance,” Bloch commented after the performance. He explained “I like to create intellectual music, music that makes you think.” The Independent Music Project gives him a vehicle for his “intellectual music.”
In his first piece, “Polytext I” Bloch had four speakers each read a selection on homosexuality. The voices, one reading a medical text and one a love letter, blended until the words were indiscernible from each other. The piece ended in the final plea of the love letter, in which the writer gently appealed for fidelity and love over the course of the next 30 years. By ending with such a plea, Bloch seemed to emphasize that little difference exists between a homosexual and heterosexual relationship. In Bloch’s second piece, Flute Trio (Murmuring House), after each of the first three movements, the flutists would change their locations on the stage. This change in position reflected the change in the mood of the piece. In the fourth movement, flutist Jessica Robbins ’01 left the stage altogether and played from the back of the auditorium. Through this use of movement, Bloch once again experimented with music that made his audience think.
Jeremy Faust ’01 composed “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass (The Snake)” for the performance. Using the clarinet and piano accompanied by the spoken word, Faust’s piece borrowed both traditional and more conceptual elements.
Enthusiastically received by the audience, IMP’s second offering of the year showcased not only the compositions but also the talents of 23 Williams’ vocalists and instrumentalists. The strong performances given during Working in Progression proved that the Independent Music Project will continue to provide an opportunity for Williams’ composers to have their works played. The Project will also continue to encourage creativity in the fine arts at Williams, even if Kenric Taylor, its founder, will not be here to do so. Taylor leaves Williams next week and plans to spend the following year studying music at the University of California, Berkley.
“I have three goals for IMP. I want IMP to encourage collaboration between music, the visual arts, theater and dance here at Williams. I’d like to see it also encourage some intercollegiate communication about composing music, possibly with a performance of works by composers from various schools, and I really want IMP to get involved in publishing student compositions,” Taylor stated about the Project’s future.
The members of the Independent Music Project are already planning for at least one spring concert. An outdoor performance composed of all vocal compositions has been discussed. Michael Veloso, one of IMP’s founding members, hopes that one spring concert will include collaboration between music and dance or some form of performance art. With reliance on the sheer creativity of its members, each performance of the Independent Music Project promises to be more memorable than the last. IMP is a work in progress that is only getting better with time.
The members of IMP encourage any interested musicians or artists to get involved. For information about joining the Independent Music Project or about upcoming performances check out IMP’s web page at http://wso.williams.edu/orgs/imp.