February 19, 2:00 p.m.
Orpheum Theatre (601 Smithe Street)
I’ve always loved performing; you get a chance to discover new music and learn more about the intricacies and language of a composer’s style, not to mention the fads and fashions of composition during his or her lifetime. But there’s something magical with premiering a newly composed piece of music by a living composer, and I had the wonderful opportunity to interview composer Benton Roark on VAMSO’s upcoming performance of his work A Stitch in Time.
Here’s what I learned.
A Stitch in Time is a one-movement composition written for orchestra. Described as a tone poem by Roark himself, the piece spans 8 minutes in length and is based off of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a book that catalogues a fictional conversation between Marco Polo and emperor Kublai Khan. <SPOILER ALERT> The majority of the book is in brief prose poems describing 55 fictitious cities that are narrated by Polo to Khan stating the expansiveness of Khan’s empire. In truth, all 55 poems are describing just one city, Venice. Structure-wise, the poems are grouped into eleven central themes and each poem is coined a female name.
But why VAMSO? There’s this wonderful thing musicians do called collaboration, and the world premiere of A Stitch in Time is the result of discussions between Roark and Vancouver Academy of Music’s Executive Director Joseph Elworthy. And I’m taking a little bit of time in this article to highlight this, because I really appreciate educators and instructors who provide opportunities like this to their students! It’s not every day you get to perform a world premiere of a composition written by a well-known composer and I really hope the students at VAM understand just how lucky they are.
A Stitch in Time will not catalogue all 55 poems of Invisible Cities but will focus on one theme and one poem in particular. Roark described his fascination with creating space and architecture with sound in his compositions, influenced by his father who was an architect. Invisible Cities complimented his fascination with space and architecture completely, and with the need to create this in sound, it is no surprise that Roark chose the theme City and the Sky as his central basis for A Stitch in Time.
There will be use of aleatoric (portions of composition left to chance) and metered elements in the piece. Many of the themes in A Stitch in Time revolves around the idea of the loom and a tapestry; the 7/4 meter of the piece feeling as if the loom is about to break down. Though not entirely structured beginnings and ends of sections, the piece itself is loosely similar to sonata form and will explore motive and theme permutations.
This is a premiere you do not want to miss! Roark’s A Stitch in Time will accompany VAM’s performance of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique in the Orpheum Theatre. What a Fantastic way to spend your Time on a Sunday.
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