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World Premiere of RETRO POP with Present Music

Super excited about this upcoming collaboration !

Present Music Bridges North and South
BY DAVID LUHRSSEN MAR. 28, 2023 11:26 A.M.

Present Music ‘Northern Lights/Southern Nights
IMAGE: PRESENT MUSIC
Present Music ‘Northern Lights/Southern Nights
Present Music’s next concert, “Northern Lights/Southern Nights,” complements the Milwaukee Art Museum’s current exhibit, “Scandinavian Design in the United States, 1890-1980.” The concert is focused, often from unexpected angles, at recent compositions from or relating to the Nordic countries.

“There has been an axis between Latin and Nordic countries, with especially Finland long becoming a center for the tango movement,” says PM’s Co-Artistic Director Eric Segnitz. “I know one of our composers on this concert, the Brazilian Clarice Assad, finds a sympathetic home for many of her original projects with musicians in Copenhagen, Denmark. We also concentrate on specific national instruments from Norway and Sweden—the Hardanger fiddle and the nyckelharpa.”

Fiddle soloist Caoimhin O Raghallaigh will travel to Milwaukee from Dublin to perform on a version of one of those instruments, the 10-string hardanger d’amore. “Five strings to be bowed, and an additional five sympathetic strings, whose function is to add a unique resonance to the sound,” O Raghallaigh explains. The first hardanger d’amore was made in 2010, but “the design philosophy hearkens back to some instruments of the Baroque period before string instruments had quite homogenized into their modern forms of violin, viola, cello.”

The name hardanger d’amore reveals its inspiration in both the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and the baroque viola d’amore. “Keen-eyed observers may also note that I use non-standard bows with these instruments,” O Raghallaigh continues. “Lightweight baroque and transitional bows that allow the instrument to ring in a way that delights me. I consider them to be like paintbrushes for sound.”

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O Raghallaigh will perform a world premiere, Midden Find, coauthored with Princeton University’s Dan Trueman. O Raghallaigh will tune his unusual instrument “such that all the harmonics of all the strings speak to and excite each other, so we tune them in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways,” he says.

“Northern Lights/Southern Nights” features another world premiere, Retro Pop, by Brazilian American Clarice Assad. The three-movement Retro Pop is a magical music history tour, opening with À Primeira Vista, a mixture of a re-imagined 6/8 pop ballad inspired by John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood” “with the signature progressive rock band meter-changing techniques,” Assad says. “The second song is a nostalgic, melancholy homage to the French composer Michel Legrand, who passed away in early 2019. Legrand was famous for many popular movie scores, including hits like Summer of ’42 and ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ (from The Thomas Crowne Affair).

“Legrand was a master at taking a tiny melodic theme and transposing it ad infinitum into sequences and cadences while making the most apparent II-V-I progressions sound rewarding,” she continues. “The set finishes with Samba-Funk, an energetic blend of pop, funk, samba, and some Latin riffs inspired by Herbie Hancock’s textures from his album Mr. Hands, along with the fabulous sounds of Brazilian singer-pianist Tania Maria.

Also on tap for “Northern Lights/Southern Nights” is a tour through contemporary Scandinavia with compositions by Norway’s Kjell Habbestad, Iceland’s Johann Johannsson and Sweden’s Emilia Amper’s Spelpuma.

The concert takes place 7:30 p.m. April 6 at Milwaukee Art Museum and the Present Music Digital Stage. For tickets and information, visit presentmusic.org.

World Premiere of RETRO POP with Present Music

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