Derek Piotr’s Avia: Chamber Edition
September 29th at 3:00 pm
Marian Anderson Recital Hall at the Danbury Music Centre
256 Main Street , Danbury, CT 06810
A fundraiser for the Danbury Music Centre, donations will be gratefully accepted at the door
Derek Piotr’s Avia was originally conceived as a collection of pieces comprising an album of the same name. The pieces were a poignant response to the loss of the artist’s grandmother, Dorothy Augusta Crofut, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 99. The works therefore are heartfelt and meditative, and feature voice recordings taken by Piotr of Dorothy, in the last decade of her life. The resulting album is electro-acoustic in nature, voice recordings melding and contrasting in turn with an array of chamber instruments: Organ, Violin, Viol da Gamba, Harp and Piano.
Piotr sought to bring these works to the Marian Anderson space after he was awarded a grant by the Danbury Cultural Commission to finish the album as a studio endeavor. The goal of Avia: Chamber Edition is to let these pieces breathe in a new way, aided by a small ensemble of two flutes, two violins, celesta, and organ.
Derek Piotr (b. 1991) is a Poland-born producer and composer based in New England, whose work focuses primarily on the voice. His work covers genres as diverse as glitch, leftfield pop, chamber, dance, and drone; and he has collaborated with artists including Richard Chartier, Don’t DJ, and Thomas Brinkmann across various disciplines. He has been intern to Meredith Monk, had his work nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica (2012), and featured on Resonance FM and BBC.
A little about Dorothy
Born in Great Neck, New York on January 16, 1919 to William and Elizabeth (Clark) Niemeyer, Dorothy was known for her kindness and generosity of spirit as well as her quick wit and humor, and vivid imagination.
She was an active and devoted member of many groups: The Redding Grange, of which she was a member for 40 years, welcomed her faithful and vibrant presence; she was a consistent volunteer for bake sales and pancake suppers. Her tomatoes often won her Grange blue ribbons, and her jokes at meetings were beloved by all members. She was also a faithful devotee of the Ridgebury Congregational Church, and participated in The United Methodist Church of Danbury’s outreach program Helping Hands, stuffing pillows and sewing blankets for the needy and various charity groups. A member of The Audubon Society, many neighbors in Danbury recall her fondness for flora and fauna: an active gardener and always feeding birds and stray pets that wandered to her yard.
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety is a work for a small, unusual ensemble of two flutes, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, celesta, bells, two cellos and two double basses. The titular dedicatee, Vera Maurina-Press, was in fact Feldman’s childhood piano teacher (from the age of 12), about whom he spoke very affectionately: “It was because of her – only, I think, because she was not a disciplinarian – that I was instilled with a sort of vibrant musicality rather than musicianship”.
Feldman’s memorial to Madame Press comprises a mere fifty-five bars of music. Her age is represented in a recurring falling major third motif that for the most part is passed back and forth antiphonally between the flutes, not unlike the chiming of an elegant cuckoo clock; the motif occurs exactly 90 times, marking the duration of Madame Press’ life.
A drastically re-arranged version of this piece appears in this programme, scored for organ, celeste, two flutes, and two violins.
Forest Floor is a piece Piotr had originally written for solo harp in 2014. The piece ended up being recorded with three woodwind players for inclusion on 2015’s Bahar. Forest Floor is the artist’s response to the landscape of his hometown of Redding, Connecticut, and specifically the long hours spent hiking alone.
The version presented for this programme is scored for organ and two violins.
Roadwork is a minimal piece of music based around a short snippet of conversation between the Piotr and Dorothy. The celesta pattern loosely follows the lines of dialogue, and features a funereal coda for violin.
The Bird Room
At eight-and-a-half minutes long, The Bird Room is the longest piece presented here. For this programme, two violinists improvise chord cluster and drones over a version of the studio recording. This piece features a story from Dorothy about the care of Barbara Fallass’ birds.
This piece evokes something akin to Steve Reich; predominantly built from minimalist blocks of organ that rise and fall, this piece is one of the few instrumental tracks presented here.
When Dorothy passed away, Piotr very quickly composed a piece for violin, ‘Five Voicemails From My Grandmother’, placing five of the many voicemails she had left him within the piece. This was the beginning of trying to make sense of the hours of audio Piotr had collected. “Three Voicemails,” a heavily overhauled version of this piece, appears on Avia. Inspired by Salvador Dalí’s ‘The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory’, Piotr sought to create a ghost, a skeleton of the original. For this programme, the piece is scored for two violins, and electronics