Tomorrow night (March 28), alumnus performer and composer Alex Wand (Music MFA 12) presents Just Folk, a night of original pieces and re-imagined classic folk music with a microtonal flavor. The concert is being held at ArtShareLA in Los Angeles as part of MicroFest 2014, a series devoted to music created with non-standard tunings.
On the program:
- Larry Polanksy’s guitar duet ii-v-i, a flute solo Daughter of Piker, based on a traditional Shaker song, and Will You Miss Me?, a Carter Family arrangement that hasn’t been performed since the 1980s.
- Late faculty member James Tenney’s rarely-performed Harmonium #2.
- Three premieres for string quartet by Kraig Grady, Terumi Narushima and Melinda Rice (Music MFA 06), inspired by Japanese lullabies and Native American melodies.
- Garry Eister’s Three Songs about Folk People: Pretty Little Horses, The Prisoner and The Hearty Bounty.
- Laura Steenberge’s (Music MFA 08) folk arrangements for voice and refretted viola da gamba, including Hello Stranger, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, Wild Mountain Thyme.
- Woody Guthrie’s Pastures of Plenty, Buffalo Skinner and original songs Dreams of Fishes and The Five.
Performers include guitarists Eister, Giacomo Fiore and Polansky, flutist Christine Tavolacci (Music BFA 06), viola da gamba player Steenberge, guitarist Wand, violist Heather Lockie (Music MFA 11), oboist/English Hornist Claire Chenette (Music MFA 12), bassist Jake Rosenzweig (Music MFA 11) and a string quartet including Rice, Mona Tian (Music BFA 13), Andrew McIntosh (Music MFA 08) and Ashley Walters (Music MFA 07).
We asked Wand via email about what inspired him to curate the concert:
24700: Would you talk about why you selected these songs?
Last month, Three Thirds [Wand’s band] released our ﬁrst EP: Buffalo Skinner: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, a collection of Woody Guthrie arrangements that combines folk music with just intonation (a tuning system whose notes are derived from the harmonic series). We chose to arrange songs we loved that worked well on my 11-limit Lou Harrison National guitar. We found that the slightly different scale of just intonation really changes how these songs come across. The title track, “Buffalo Skinner,” which tells a devastating story, becomes all the more creepy and lonely with a slightly different third and a radically flat seventh [note in the scale]. Making this record led us to the idea of curating a MicroFest concert on this theme of retuned folk music, and we asked like-minded friends and composers if they’d perform.
24700: What fascinates you about the intersection of just intonation and folk?
Elements of what could be called microtonality and/or just intonation are inherent in many folk music traditions: the quarter tones in Persian music, the ‘shrutis’ of Indian music, the ornamentations of Vietnamese music. In American Folk and Blues, players often use notes that do not exist in 12-Tone Equal Temperament. It’s these ‘notes between the notes’ that make the music of, for instance, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Woody Guthrie, so expressive. This is why combining just intonation with folk works so well—because it is a development of what already happens in a lot of folk music.