The first Wail concert last season was entirely comprised of music by Penn faculty, present and past, but we decided to open up the agenda this time by including music from a Penn alumnus. There is certainly a strong roster from which to select – a few random names from the not-so-recent past include Higdon, Golijov, Jalbert, M. Wagner, Jaffe, Carl, Leef – I could name many other superb composer-alums – but for this time we wanted someone who had been at Penn more recently and settled on Matthew Schreibeis. I had the privilege of working with Matt during his time at Penn and I quickly saw how he sets tough challenges for himself compositionally – and saw as well that he has what it takes to meet those challenges. I also enjoyed the fact that his high seriousness as an artist is leavened with a goodly dollop of humor. Matt is a fine violinist so his composing is grounded in the physical realities of music-making. Lately he has done some very interesting research work on early recordings of Korean music dating back to the wax cylinder era, and a recent piece of his for drummer and electronics makes use of sounds from those recordings.
Here is a program note for the work by Matt that will be heard on the January 11 concert at Penn.
In Search of Planet X
for clarinet, violin, and piano (2009)
My trio’s title takes its name from Percival Lowell’s 1906 search for a planet beyond Neptune. Lowell used the term “Planet X” to represent this unknown force, a massive celestial body hidden deep in space and believed to counterbalance the sun’s gravitational pull. While such a planet was never discovered, Lowell’s work did lead to the discovery of Pluto in 1930, fourteen years after his death. While composing I was inspired not only by the remarkable quest upon which Lowell hinged his reputation, but also by the sense of possibility and discovery and wonder and mystery that such a search represented. I tried to capture these feelings in the music, as well as the sense of searching for something which turns out not to be or, put another way, discovering something you least expected. I composed In Search of Planet X for musicians at the Music09 Festival at the Hindemith Foundation in Switzerland: violinist Aida Boiesan, pianist Johanna Ballou, and eighth blackbird’s amazing clarinetist, Michael Maccaferri.