String Theatrics and Violin Semantics
On Friday, May 20, the Vilcek Foundation hosted a performance of violinist and composer Mari Kimura. The program featured a variety of works stemming from Kimura’s interest in new violin techniques and technology. Kimura started the evening off with Bach’s Preludio from Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 (1720). The piece exploited Kimura’s Juilliard training in a flawless and clean performance showing her mastery of classical violin technique.
The second piece on the program was Kimura’s original composition Subharmonic Partita (2004), which introduced her discovery of subharmonics on the violin. Kimura explains subharmonics as “an extended bowing technique, for playing the violin in a very special way. By controlling the speed and pressure of the bow very, very precisely a violinist can play notes below the open G, normally the lowest note on the violin, without changing the tuning. Through the use of subharmonics, it’s possible to play cello notes on the violin!” In the composition Kimura included fast five octave arpeggios that created glasslike textures juxtaposed against low register growls of subharmonic mastery.
The piece was followed by two more original Kimura compositions, Six Caprices for Subharmonics (1997-1998) and a world premiere called Janmaricana for Subharmonics (2011). Both compositions served to illustrate Kimura’s use of subharmonics in composition extending the range of the violin. In Kimura’s compositions she used the subharmonic technique fused with pizzicatos, double stops and a wide range of technique to produce a unique language of her own on the violin.
The technology portion of the program started with a piece that incorporated animation by Ken Perlin followed by another world premiere, Duet X2 for violin, cello and augmented bows (2011). The piece featured cellist Dave Eggar in a duet with Kimura. At the start of the piece Kimura displayed her custom Max Msp patch on the projector allowing the audience to take an inside look at Kimura’s interactive dashboard in action. The piece utilized two bowing motion sensors called “min-MO” developed at IRCAM. The sensors acquired 3 dimensional acceleration and bow pressure from the performers during the composition. The relationship between the gesture and sound was second in comparison to the intense communication between both Kimura and Eggar. During the performance real-time processing created various timbres and layers using delay, a computer harmonizer and other effects.
The Old Rose Reader was commissioned by Kimura and composed by Francis White. The composition incorporated text visuals and prerecorded sound of Kimura’s husband. The visuals followed the text at times displaying what was being stated by the speech with white text over a black background. The text also used roses as a motive projecting various types of text relationships against the speech.
Conlon Nancarrow composed the final piece of the program, Toccata for Violin and Player Piano. This piece ended the night with speed and intensity as Kimura received a wonderful ovation for her versatility as a composer, performer and programmer. The hall soon emptied as the night transitioned down one floor to the reception hall where Kimura and friends made themselves available to the audience while having champagne and hors d’oeuvres.