The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
Members from the ICE (Levy Lorenzo, Rebekah Heller, Alice Teyssier) worked with Usdan students in the 2017 season to compose and perform a new experimental music piece called “Flower Machine.”
We asked ICE’s performer/composer/engineer, Levy Lorenzo, to give us a little background on the project.
Q: When you were asked to collaborate with the young artists at Usdan, what attracted you to the project?
ICE and Usdan share a commitment to push the boundaries of contemporary art-making. I really enjoy working with children, especially in an environment like Usdan’s where children are free to create and play and enjoy the arts fully. It is fun to see how imaginative kids are when you give them the space - and the agency -- to do so.
Q: The musical composition you and the students created is called “Flower Machine.” Can you describe how you worked together to compose this piece?
LL: With the kids in Junior Chorus and their amazing director Kari Francis, I wanted to explore electronic music, and show them how electronic music can complement acoustic music. I told them that I wanted to build a piece of music called “Flower Machine”. Initially we sat down together and the kids named all the flowers they could think of. They were immediately engaged, in such an open and curious way. Then I asked the kids to give examples of electronic sounds from their everyday lives, which I recorded them imitating. They made sounds like text tones, ring tones, even the sound a washing machine makes when it’s finished its cycle, and many more. We experimented with beep, swishing, and buzzing sounds. Then we created hand gestures to go with each sound – like creating our own vocabulary uniting gestures with sounds. It was thrilling to me how quickly they took over the process, and how they committed so many sounds and gestures to memory. Then we played with the idea of a machine processing and building flowers. We thought of the music we were creating as telling a story about a machine building flowers one by one. First you turn the machine on, and there is a chorus of beeps and then the flowers start coming out. The choir director, Kari Francis, conducted the students through the story of the flower machine weaving in and out of combinations of flower melodies with flute and bassoon accompaniment, and finally a memorized flower poem. I loved how quickly they took to the project and had fun with it. When we performed “Flower Machine,” some of the kids chose to wear flower clothing and hold real flowers.
Q: You are returning to Usdan for the 2018 season. What are you planning for this summer?
During my time at Usdan in 2017, I was extremely impressed by the programming of vividly diverse, creative and engaging opportunities provided to the students. Every day when I went to rehearse with the Junior choir, I walked by the Chess group - I was delightfully surprised to see a chess program among arts, theater, dance and music. Having a background of chess in my life, as I was on the chess teams in both middle school and high school, I have a sense of this small, potent physical strategic universe of relationships between pieces on a grid board. I want to explore the sounds of a chess match both with the micro-movements of the pieces and a musical representation of the form and narrative of a full chess match. I’d like to build a performance piece that works collaboratively with both Usdan percussionists and chess players.
More about Levy Lorenzo:
Dr. Levy Lorenzo works at the intersection of music, art, and technology. On an international scale, his body of work spans custom electronics design, sound engineering, instrument building, installation art, free improvisation, and classical percussion. With a primary focus on inventing new instruments, he prototypes, composes, and performs new electronic music. Levy earned degrees as Master of Electrical & Computer Engineering from Cornell University, and Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion Performance from Stony Brook University. He has given numerous guest workshops and lectures on electronic musical instrument design and teaches at CUNY Hunter College as well as CUNY College of Technology. He recently received commissions from the American Composers Forum and Pringles. More of his work can be found at: www.levylorenzo.com