First-time composers showcase talent

Students displayed a wide range of talents at last Wednesday’s concert at Carnegie Music Hall.  (credit: Thomas Hofman | Photo Staff) Students displayed a wide range of talents at last Wednesday’s concert at Carnegie Music Hall. (credit: Thomas Hofman | Photo Staff)

This past Wednesday, listeners gathered at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland to celebrate the work of Carnegie Mellon’s most talented composers. Senior undergraduates and second-year master’s students studying composition unveiled, through music performed by the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, their original full-orchestra pieces.

The show opened with a piece written by senior composition major Michael Claypool titled “So It Goes.” The piece appropriately alluded to the late Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 classic Slaughterhouse-Five, in which the novel’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, uses the axiom “So it goes” in several distinctive circumstances. The phrase, which appears 116 times within Vonnegut’s book, is one of the author’s most popular lines.

In the concert’s printed program, Claypool wrote, “The piece is meant to be a celebration of life, beginning, appropriately, at death.” He explained how his music not only explores Pilgrim’s understanding of death, but also the different aspects of life that all of us have come to both enjoy and endure.

The piece itself was fast-paced, full of syncopated rhythms and relentless beats. Listeners were able to identify Claypool’s wit within the music, but still distinguish the various imperative messages it contained.

“I enjoyed Claypool’s piece the most,” first-year biology major Shruti Valjee said. “I myself am a huge fan of Vonnegut, and I found the overall eccentricity of the piece to be the most compelling.”

Next, sophomore music major Emma Steele took the stage to perform Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s masterpiece Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63. Although not a composer, Steele, who won the concerto competition as a first-year last year, easily wowed the audience with her performance.

“I especially liked the third movement because it was exciting and had a lot of rhythm changes,” first-year violin major Clara Treadway said. “I’m sure Emma could have performed ‘Old McDonald’ and I would have loved it. She is such an incredible performer.”

The concert continued with a composition, left unnamed in the concert’s program, put together by second-year graduate student Chad Robinson. Robinson, who received his undergraduate degree in music composition from the University of Houston, created a relatively contemporary piece for his audience that contrasted well with the otherwise more conventional performances of the night.

Senior music major Scott Wasserman’s piece Aoede was the last to be performed. The piece, named after the Greek Muse of song, was inspired by Greek mythology and Wasserman’s own understanding of what it feels like to dream. These influences were most certainly apparent as Wasserman’s music was both whimsical and dreamlike, and the reverie that Wasserman created proved to be the perfect tranquil ending to an otherwise brisk evening.

“This concert was a great opportunity for the composers to have the pieces premiered,” Treadway said. “This was the first time that some of these students got to showcase their self-written pieces.”

Those members of the Carnegie Mellon community who attended this concert were given the opportunity to see the efforts of their fellow students recognized. All in all, the pieces written and performed by these students were not only beautiful, but also extremely inspiring. Surely, when a student body may be motivated by the success of their colleagues, a campus can be expected to feel a sense of triumph.

Meela Dudley | Pillbox Editor