This Syrinx completes the yearlong cycle of Syrinx Journey, performed on August 22, Debussy’s birthday. On the shore of Lake George, New York, where I performed at Lake George Music Festival, I played Syrinx in the afternoon sun, gazing at the lake. I felt very emotional as I played Debussy’s masterpiece for the 366th time in as many days, bringing my project full circle. It has been the most profound and fulfilling journey of musical and personal discovery. As I steeped myself in the music of Debussy, I imbibed the arts and ideas of his time, luxuriating in the unique and beautiful aesthetic world that was his.
Afterwards my friends joined me to wish Claude Debussy a joyeux anniversaire.
Left to right: Kevin Kunkel, Catherine Chen, Ronni Gordon, Mimi, Samuel Nemec, Daniel Lelchuk
This is a double version of Syrinx, featuring one performance with violin improvisations by Nigel Armstrong, and double bass improvisations by Matthew Weber. They are two of the wonderful musicians I am having fun playing with at Lake George Music Festival in New York. Nigel is a fellow Curtis alumnus who also plays jazz, and Matt is a New York-based and plays in several orchestras. These are my first forays into Syrinx with the timbre of string instruments, and I think the contrast of the high and low strings provides an interesting range of sonorities.
I have been curious about what Syrinx would sound like on oboe, and am delighted my friend Samuel Nemec joined me to experiment with it. Sam graduated from Curtis and is second oboe in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. A couple seasons ago we played together in my Dolce Suono Ensemble’s performance of Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, and I am glad we are playing together again at Lake George Music Festival this week.
In this Syrinx, we play sometimes in unison and sometimes alternating phrases. We preceded it with a famous excerpt from Debussy’s La Mer highlighting the timbre of the flute and oboe blend.
It is great to playing music with a lot of my friends from Curtis at Lake George Music Festival. Percussionist Mari Yoshinaga graduated from Curtis and is currently at Yale. She joined me for Syrinx after rehearsal one day, and improvised fascinating sounds on crotales, cymbal, and woodblocks.
I played this Syrinx on the shore of Lake George, in a stand of tall trees near the dock of the Wiawaka house where I am staying. I was inspired by the movement in nature around me, the trees swaying in the breeze, and the waters lapping behind me.
The setting brought to mind Debussy’s song Rondel chinois, with an anonymous text describing a scene on the shore of a lake. The first lines:
Sur le lac bordé d’azalée
De nénuphar et de bamboo
I featured Debussy’s manuscript score of this song on Syrinx Journey Day 344.
I am in Lake George, New York, performing at the Lake George Music Festival. On my agenda are chamber and orchestral concerts and a pre-concert talk on Debussy. I played Syrinx on the grounds of Wiawaka Holiday House, a historic hotel where I am staying, which is situated right on the lake. Opening night is tonight, at which I am excited to perform Schulhoff’s Concertino for flute, viola, and double bass with Philip Ying, viola and Matthew Weber, double bass. Those of you in the area: please join us!
I played Syrinx this evening just after arriving in Lake George, NY, where I will be performing at Lake George Music Festival through next week. Rehearsals begin tomorrow and I am delighted to be making music with wonderful colleagues and friends at chamber and orchestral concerts, and giving a talk on Debussy. Here is the lovely view through my window of the sun setting on the Adirondacks.