Risk and Reward — Whaling and World Premieres

There are two kinds of projects that excite all of us at Contemporaneous more than any others: premiering new music and performing epic, large-scale projects. As you can imagine, we relish the opportunity to do both at the same time, which is one reason why we are all incredibly excited to premiere the West Fourth New Music Collective’s collaborative creation Moby Dick: Extracts on Death and Other Curiosities.

Many of us with Contemporaneous have known and worked with Matt Frey, Tim Hansen, Molly Herron and Ruben Naeff of W4 for a long time and we finally started a conversation about a W4/Contemporaneous collaboration a little more than a year ago. We quickly settled on the idea of the four of them writing an evening-length work for us and eventually decided that Moby Dick was full of the ingredients for the kind of grand work we were all interested in. There are so many sources of inspiration — the boldness and audacity of the crew, the daunting and perilous task they take on, the immensity and literary nuance of Melville’s work, etc. — that it was a perfect fit.

In a real way, the content of this classic novel matches the form of the adventure that we undertook at this embryonic stage. We were launching into vast and uncharted waters, wherein no precedent existed to measure the level of danger. It is always a significant risk to devote time and energy into brand new works, especially works of this proportion, but this risk taking is part of the excitement of programming and performing new music. As it turns out, the piece that has W4 created is surely going to offer an incredible reward for our venture! The work zooms in alike on intricate details and overarching themes of the novel to great effect, really drawing out a unique and original drama that the music elevates to a thrilling experience.

Since we received the completed score about a month ago and especially now that we have started rehearsing, I have been thinking a lot about how well this project exemplifies what we do with Contemporaneous. We make it our mission not only to present the most exciting music of our time, but also to provide composers with an outlet for unbridled creativity, in which we encourage possibility, risk and challenge with a desire for the best music possible. We feel so fortunate to be able work with W4 and MATA to bring this vision to life next weekend!