Our master classes are aimed at college-level music students, from cross-campus non-majors, to dedicated conservatory students who plan on making their lives and livings in the arts. We synthesize the two major traditions being taught in colleges today and show a way for them to come together in a meaningful and constructive way that brings the best out of both traditions. Yo Yo Ma’s talk on the “Edge Effect” and its applications in music really speak to what we do — the intersections of two habitats in nature are where the greatest abundance and diversity of wildlife is found. This “edge” is where we live, and it’s a great place to be.
We represent a small but growing group of ensembles that are building a hybrid composition and performance style that incorporates elements of the jazz and classical traditions. The most exciting future of the arts is in collaboration, and the root of this ensemble is there — where jazz and classical musicians with open minds come together to build a common language that is unlike any other. We find that when music students learn more about who we are and how we work, they are inspired to see themselves working in non-traditional musical situations just as much as the more traditional practices taught in universities.
Student Composition Workshops
We’re proud to offer the opportunity for young composers at the college level to write new music for AnyWhen Ensemble. We offer the special challenge of a group that can “move effortlessly between the worlds of traditional, through-composed, chamber music and creative improvisation,” as Kent Deveraux, head of the music department at Cornish College for the Arts in Seattle, WA put it. Our work with young composers includes guidance on notation techniques for improvisation in the context of through-composed chamber music, balancing dynamics in a mixed instrumental ensemble, jazz and standard drumset notation, as well as the particular difficulties of writing for a ensemble comprised mostly of wind instruments.
As we design composition workshops with college composition and jazz composition programs, we place an emphasis on early feedback. As students prepare their pieces for the workshop, we build time to offer feedback on the student scores and parts in draft and finished form so that the workshop experience is as successful as possible. During the workshop, we offer feedback from our perspectives as performers—what is difficult or easy about playing this piece, what could have been done differently to get a different outcome, and other questions are the focus of our time with the student composers. And finally, we are more than happy to perform these works at our public residency concert to complete the educational experience.
Story Concerts — “Galloping Gertie”
Our “story concerts” are presentations that intertwine music and storytelling, aimed at middle and high school-age students. This program is built around the story of “Galloping Gertie,” the famous bridge built over the Tacoma Narrows in 1940 that collapsed in high winds due to faulty design. We begin by telling the students about the bridge, but not about its collapse. Then, AnyWhen Ensemble improvises music along with the video of the bridge’s collapse, making wild sounds that capture the sounds of breaking steel and concrete. Many students have never heard extended techniques in music of any kind, but the added visual of the bridge collapse helps to give context to the sounds that most students find helpful.
After this, we tell the rest of the story: who designed the bridge, why it fell down, how long it had been standing when it fell. Finally, we reveal a few details about the bridge that are intentionally not visible in the video to demonstrate the value of research in storytelling, and also that knowing more about a certain even will effect the type of music you might use to contribute to the storytelling. After this, we play the video again, this time improvising in a more melodic fashion, as if we were playing a sombre, musical goodbye to Tubby the dog, the sole victim of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse. To end the presentation, we perform a piece that Douglas Detrick wrote in 2008, “Galloping Gertie” from our first album Walking Across, which I wrote about the bridge and in which I fuse together the two methods of storytelling I talk about in the presentation, literal and figurative.