Partners: Lisa Bielawa
In 2017, Usdan welcomed internationally acclaimed conductor/performer Lisa Bielawa for a short-term special collaboration.
Bielawa was on campus for two weeks during that summer, guest conducting the Senior Orchestras, culminating in a truncated version of her Airfield Broadcast, previously presented in Berlin and San Francisco.
The sonic-musical work was designed to engage more than 200 of Usdan’s student musicians (along with professionals and guest performers) to bring the piece to life, performing without amplification in the bus lot of Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts.
The nature of Lisa Bielawa’s Airfield Broadcast is in keeping with the meaning of the word broadcast, “cast or scattered in all directions.” Musicians began in the center of the lot and dispersed outwards according to instructions given to them in the musical score, coordinated only by synchronized watches and long-distance musical cues. Some players moved in clusters, and others spread out in long chains. Some groups were instructed to stay close to each other for a certain duration, and to then peel away.
Listeners were able to choose how to hear the pieces, deciding where to move as the musicians dispersed, taking in several different points of view from throughout the field over the course of the performances.
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock.” Her music has been described as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” by The New York Times, and “fluid and arresting … at once dramatic and probing,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.