Undergraduates showcase moving music
When I walked into the Slosberg Music Center for the Fall 2019 “Undergraduate Composers’ Collective” concert on Friday night, I did not know what to expect. I knew that the concert was a collaboration between students in the MUS 106A class and the Undergraduate Composers’ Collective and would be co-directed by Aaron Newitt ’21 and Leah Samantha Chanen ’20. The purpose of the concert was to showcase Brandeis students’ original compositions written over the course of this semester, as well as a composition written by Jake Sibley ’19, former president of the UCC, who died by suicide in August.
I certainly did not expect to be jolted into pure mesmerization at the outset of the show by the bang of the kettle drums in Ezzie Stone’s ’21 “Sweet Insanity,” or for the concert to retain and even somehow enhance my attention over the course of six more original compositions, concluding with Sibley’s “Argument.” After watching this concert, I can proudly conclude that Brandeis houses some incredibly talented students, and I am eager to hear what these students create in the future.
The first five compositions in the program were written by MUS 106A students, while the next two were written by UCC members and then the finale was Sibley’s “Argument.” The compositions were all unique and well-performed. I am proud of these students, both as musicians and as my peers. I admire the effort that they put into creating this showcase, as well as the result. The concert mesmerized me, and I found myself bobbing my head and humming along to the themes of some of the compositions.
One piece I want to mention in particular is “The Chelonian Waltz,” written by David Girardin ’22. Girardin explained that the composition was a coming of age story for turtles, inspired by the time he spent volunteering at a turtle sanctuary in Costa Rica. The inspiration for the piece was unique, and I felt as I listened to the piece that Girardian succeeded in portraying the story through the music. The pitch and volume of the instruments detailed the life of a turtle, creating the feeling of danger especially within a turtle’s life. I was able to attach myself to the story, rooting for the everyman-turtle.
However, the composition I feel most compelled to discuss is Sibley’s “Argument.” The immediate tone of the performance was the sense of conflict that Sibley likely intended to portray, based on an understanding of the composition’s title. The secondary tone was sorrow. However, this tone was not a result of the music. Instead, it was due to the tragic circumstance of Sibley’s untimely passing. In an interview with the Justice, Chanen said, “We were going to try to perform by string quartet [Sibley’s original composition]. It was a struggle to perform by his best friends emotionally. Next semester we will try to get it performed by the Lydian String Quartet.” The Lydian String Quartet is a professional string quartet at Brandeis.
Sibley’s “Argument” was performed by Andrew Chen ’22 on the clarinet, along with Newitt on the piano. Sibley’s inspiration for writing the piece is unknown. In an interview with the Justice, Newitt pondered that “it must be [about] something significant because it is called ‘Argument,’ so I can tell there is something meaningful there. I just wish I knew it.”
While I did not expect to be startled by drums, or even absolutely enthralled by the concert, what was most unexpected was the realization that the action of simply attending a concert would have the profound effect of preserving someone’s legacy. On that note, I implore you to internalize your importance in this world, not just in your pursuit of changing the world, but in recognizing others who deserve to be remembered for the changes they made.