A few weeks ago I attended the Worlds of Discovery and Loss: The Art of Migration, a festival hosted at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis. This festival was more than a new music festival, it was a collaboration between several artistic disciplines including visual arts and theater. The festival was also infused with scholarly discourse through the inclusion of fascinating scholars like Isabel Wilkerson, Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University and Peter Kulchyski, Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. This diversity created an interesting environment of dialogue and cross-pollination between disciplines with space to reflect on the overall theme of the festival, which was to examine “the creative worlds generated by different kinds of migration” and to explore “the ways in which artists cross various boundaries, both real and imagined.”
Within the larger theme of the festival, the musical offerings were diverse and quite strong. Participating ensembles included The Empyrean Ensemble, Rootstock Percussion, the Calder Quartet, and the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra performing five concerts over the course of three days. The concerts included a variety of recent works, some classics, and works by composer fellows and the composer-in-residence, Lei Liang. As a composer fellow, I was fortunate to get the know the other composer fellows during seminars, concerts, meals and walks. Our guides were Lei Liang, the composer-in-residence along with UC Davis composition professors Laurie San Martin, Sam Nichols, and Kurt Rodhe.
The Empyrean Ensemble premiered Black Grey Red Orange Grey Blue Grey for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, written last November specifically for the festival. When I was composing this piece, I was feeling an intense connection between emotional states, colors, and sounds almost in a synaesthetic way. Here is the recording from the world premiere performance:
“From glowing prismatic intensity to the blackest black, this piece explores specific colors and associated psychological states such as anger, despair, passion and contemplative sublimity. The emotional states came first, and when immersed in these states, one cannot help but see vivid colors and hear prismatic sounds. The colors refract and collide, ebb and flow, bleed into one another, intensify, are erased, then dissipate.”