By Tyler Smith
“The more that we uphold the concept of polystylism, or combining jazz with classical elements to create jazz-classical music,” said composer Andrew Dana during a recent interview, “The more we reinforce those genre barriers — This is a disaster.”
In hopes of chipping away the blockades musicologists and the like have put up around musical styles, Dana will present a diverse program of music during his senior composition recital on Thursday March 12th at 7:30, in the Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space.
The recital will feature seven of Dana’s compositions, performed by more than fifteen conservatory musicians including Dana himself on piano. These pieces will include live electronics, string quartets, jazz quartets, and chorales, all beautifully mixed into a musical potpourri you would be unlikely to hear anywhere else.
The program will kick off with Big Vague II, featuring Will Bertrand on live electronics. The piece is a follow-up to Dana’s work for solo piano, Big Vague. When asked to elaborate on the electronic aspects of the piece, he described a semi-intricate setup involving the sound of the piano being run through multiple microphones and speakers. “This creates a delayed effect as well as feedback loops — I’m really looking forward to hearing this overall effect in the Birenbaum”
As well as possessing an impressive compositional portfolio, Dana is also an accomplished jazz pianist. The second half of his recital will feature three original tunes he’ll perform with his bandmates Henry Nelson (guitar), Becca Pasley (bass), and Hugh Kline (drums).
The up-tempo banger on the set Tortuguero, or Turtles Place, was written for the sea turtle conservancy in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. “One of the favorite moments of my entire life was watching a sea turtle crawl back into the ocean after laying her eggs” Dana said, “I’ve almost completely updated the piece from my original draft written a few years ago, and we’ve made this arrangement that goes into a pretty wild, fuzz-based Thundercat groove. Very unexpected, but I’m excited to see how the audience reacts to it”.
During our conversation, the topic of genre segregation became a prominent theme. “I’ve heard older composers and musicologists use the word ‘music’ to mean ‘Western classical music’ even when they acknowledge other types of music,” Dana said. His goal, with this recital and his overall musical career, is to disrupt the preconceived notion of presenting “concert music” in concert halls and jazz at venues such as the Blue Note. Putting music into categories, and more specifically holding Western music as the model of legitimacy, only devalues other musical genres for no reason other than lack of recognition. “When your starting point is European, and everything else is just ‘an addition,’ you start skirting dangerously close to these sorts of problems.”
With all of this at the front of Dana’s mind, he has strived to find ways of incorporating other musical styles into his recital, without falling into the trap of adding “world” elements to a European program. “The culture that goes into creating ‘Western European classical concert music’ — my favorite mouthful — is very different from the culture that goes into creating jazz.”
Dana gives a huge shoutout to his colleagues who’ve helped make his recital possible, including the student performers, composition department classmates, and his teachers, Stephen Hartke and Tom Lopez, who have given him a large amount of support with this program. “It’s great to be able to study with both of them. They have very different outlooks on music, and I don’t think I agree with either of them completely. So I get a bit of both, which has worked out really well.”
After your time in the Birenbaum this Thursday, you might also be interested in tuning in to Dana’s WOBC radio show “In the Lounge.” Hosted by DJ Andy D, this nighttime program explores easy listening, lounge music, Muzak, and beyond, focusing on the 1960s and 70s, every Thursday from 8:00 until 9:00 pm.