Photo credit: Andrea Mohin, The New York Times
Visuals—be it film or computer-generated projections—have become something of a mainstay in contemporary concert music, and with good reason: More than ever, we live in an image-oriented society, where we expect not only our ears to be stimulated, but our eyes as well. But, most of these visuals are created apart from the actual music
Enter Dutch composer Michel van der Aa, whose 2010 multimedia cello concerto, Up-close, won this year's Grawemeyer Award and was given it's first U.S. performance Monday night at the Manhattan Center Ballroom as part of this year's White Light Festival. Displaying a rare jack-of-all-trades ability, van der Aa not only composed the music, but also wrote, directed, and edited the accompanying non-linear film, which depicted an elderly woman struggling against an unseen villain—possibly of her own imagining.
Even more impressive, van der Aa has written instructions for the soloist (here the energetic and intense Kaori Yamagami) so that her movements mirrored those of the old woman in the film. At one point, Yamagami left her seat in the center of the chamber ensemble (the impressive Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, playing without a conductor) and moved a lamp from one side of the stage to the other at the same time as the woman in the film; Yamagami then used the lamp to continue performing the score. As Grawemeyer director Marc Satterwhite said in his citation: "It defies simple classification. It really creates its own genre."