Music ensemble opens lines of communication

Jaclyn Moses

Many of my experiences with musical performances involve frustration to follow its storyline. Meanwhile, the woman sitting to your right – the one who gets front row seats to a musical performance every weekend and knows the ensemble’s entire production history – is able to completely understand the essence of the show.

How refreshing to hear, then, that the goal of the American Modern Ensemble (AME) is to inform the audience on what their musical performance is trying to achieve. The contemporary classical music group strives to educate the average concert goer and create “dialogue between the artists and the audience.” AME’s hope is to keep Lafayette audience captivated during tonight’s performance at 8:00 PM in the Williams Center for the Arts.

“AME puts on a very energetic show, without taking themselves too seriously,” said Dr. Kirk O’Riordan, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Lafayette. “They do, however, take the music extremely seriously, and give very detailed and enthusiastic performances of every piece they play.”

The group was founded by Robert and Victoria Paterson in 2005. Since then, AME has performed at extremely prestigious venues including the Lincoln Center and Merkin Concert Hall in Manhattan. Over the course of their career, more than 150 pieces of current American composers have been played. Robert Paterson himself has garnered respect in the music community, and in 2011 won Composer of The Year at Carnegie Hall through the Classical Recording Foundation.

In addition to their performance on Friday, the ensemble is presenting a master class that features four of Lafayette’s student performers – Madeline Friese ‘14 (oboe), Julia Campbell ‘15 (flute), Michael Ryan ‘15 (timpani), and Dana Lapides ‘16 (piano) – with the help of Robert Paterson (Composer and Artistic Director). Paterson has previously worked with the Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble to create some of his own pieces.

Tonight, Paterson will be sharing his piece entitled “The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind.” An excerpt of “The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind” reveals the motivation behind its title. Its music invokes imagery of tiptoeing across a frozen lake, building suspension with the orchestra bells as it progresses. The composition jumps from the soothing nature of the violin and flute to a more abrasive sound of the cello.

The piece was first performed in Arcosanti, a town in the Arizona desert. Paterson explains the irony of the cold sounds of the metal percussion instruments, as he was limited to bringing instruments that wouldn’t be harmed by the heat of the desert to the performance. Dr. O’Riordan applauds this flexibility.

“[AME] makes even the most esoteric new music accessible to a large audience,” Dr. O’Riordan said.

The group promises a meaningful interaction between audience and musicians. Tonight will test AME’s ability to communicate their musical pieces.