Jennifer Grim: Through Broken Time

About

Flutist Jennifer Grim releases Through Broken Time, a collection of works at the intersection of Afro-Modernism and post-minimalism, by composers Tania León, Alvin Singleton, David Sanford, Valerie Coleman, Allison Loggins-Hull, and Julia Wolfe. Together with pianist Michael Sheppard, Grim performs these multi-dimensional works with characteristic precision, virtuosity, and expressive power.

Audio

On Through Broken Time, flutist Jennifer Grim and pianist Michael Sheppard present a program that focuses on Afro-Modernist aesthetics. Composers Alvin Singleton, Tania León, and David Sanford represent an eminent generation of artists who merged influences from various corners of concert music, foregrounding arenas of African-American and Afro-Latin musical cultures, while Valerie Coleman and Allison Loggins-Hull exemplify an interest in more explicitly programmatic sources of inspiration. Julia Wolfe’s post-minimalist Oxygen ties the collection together through its inventive approach to layered composition for one homogenous instrumental timbre.

Tania León’s Alma, which means “soul” in Spanish, opens with freely impressionistic, exploratory material. Improvisational flourishes in both instruments are punctuated by lush seventh and ninth chords that function as phrase exhalations. Leon intensifies the character, introducing more angularity into the flute part, alongside flutter tongue gestures and other embellishing figurations. Eventually, the texture coagulates into a syncopated groove characteristic of Cuban music, with a joyful, energetic melody emerging from the pointillistic tutti accents between the two instruments. A return to the opening pensive material closes the piece.

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Alvin Singleton’s Argoru series shares an affinity for comprehensive instrumental exploration with other iconic sets of works for solo performers, such as Berio’s Sequenzas. Written in 1971 while Singleton was a student at Yale, Argoru III unfolds in a rhythmically free context, developing two primary ideas — a mysterious, descending augmented triad, and fleet, ascending scale gestures. Singleton mines both for their rich character potential, and when we hear the opening descending motive return towards the end of the work, it is transposed and in a higher register, an emphatic statement of closure to this soliloquy.

Julia Wolfe’s work for twelve overdubbed flutes, Oxygen, echoes Steve Reich’s well known Counterpoint series in texture, but very much excavates its own territory structurally and developmentally. Unlike Reich’s primarily modular presentation of interlocking Central African inspired rhythmic cells cycling through expansive harmonies, Wolfe’s material evolves dynamically. Syncopations in the internal voices change the rhythmic profile of a passage, while long limbed melodies float over the top of the pulsating texture. Tongue rams and breath sounds articulate percussive timbres, while trill figures and imitative rapid ascending arpeggios create sudden flashes of brilliance. Intervening choral textures create contrast with the insistent rhythmic sections. The result is a work that strongly suggests the regularity and external profile of core minimalist masterworks, but pushes beyond those limits to achieve a more variegated expressive and structural through line.

Grim presents two works by David Sanford on this collection: Klatka Still, written in 2006-07, and Offertory, written for and commissioned by her in 2021. In the two movements of Klatka Still, a central pitch is circled like an idée fixe in an accumulating fantasy in the first movement, and then in a swirling, kaleidoscopic texture in the second, careening towards a forceful finish. Offertory is inspired by long form improvisations by two iconic jazz saxophonists — John Coltrane and Dave Liebman. The opening movement begins with a mysterious unison melody featuring intervallic leaps, poignant pauses between phrases, and an enveloping resonance created by the piano’s sustain pedal. The flute plays evocative, improvisatory phrases over an ominous rumbling in the piano’s low register. The second movement is marked by an immediate turn towards increased intensity, starting with a virtuosic, energetic flute solo of fragmented modular motives. The piano enters with punctuated, angular chords, dancing along with and in between the flute’s kinesthetic phrases. Sanford’s adept ability to capture the spontaneity of improvisation in his rhythmic writing is infectious. The keyboard is given a solo turn, darting this way and that, as if to reconsider each harmonic nuance and metric inflection. The controlled energy of the movement eventually unleashes into unbridled fury with raucous repeated bass notes and cascading descending arpeggios before dispersing into disjointed utterances, breath sounds, and three short closing flourishes.

Allison Loggins-Hull’s Homeland and Valerie Coleman’s Wish Sonatine both engage with historical and social events as sources of inspiration and response. Loggins-Hull’s solo work references recent turmoil from both natural disasters (Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico) and manmade crisis (the Syrian civil war). The musical material remains focused on tonal elements throughout, symbolizing an anchored sonic “home” as a respite from external trials. Coleman’s Wish Sonatine is a setting of British-Guyanese poet Fred D’Aguiar’s “Wish” from The Rose of Toulouse, which depicts the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade. Coleman’s evocative music is narrative and cinematic, capturing tumultuous waves, the fragility of a sea battered ship, and the violence of an inhuman industry. The piece rushes forwards, dramatically propelled by vibrant rhythms as well as the force of its powerful subject.

– Dan Lippel

All tracks were recorded at Gusman Concert Hall, Frost School of Music, University of Miami, January 6–12, 2022

Produced by Svet Stoyanov, Elemental Culture, LLC

Recorded and Edited by Svet Stoyanov, Elemental Culture, LLC

Recording consulted by Robert Friedrich, Five/Four Productions, LLC

Mixed and Mastered by Robert Friedrich, Five/Four Productions, LLC

Program Notes: Anthony Barone

Photographer: Tracey Hagen

Design & Layout: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com

This recording was funded in part from a Provost Research Award from the University of Miami

Jennifer Grim

Hailed as “a deft, smooth flute soloist” by the New York Times, flutist Jennifer Grim has given solo and chamber performances throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. For over twenty years, she was the flutist of the award-winning Zéphyros Winds and the New York Chamber Soloists. She is a frequent guest artist with the Boston Chamber Music Society, Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival, Ensemble Flageolet, and has performed with such renowned ensembles such as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, American String Quartet, and with members of the Takacs Quartet and St. Lawrence Quartet.

Jennifer has performed as a soloist with the Frost Symphony Orchestra, Frost Wind Ensemble, Lviv Philharmonic, Boca Raton Symphonia, UNLV Symphony Orchestra, Henderson Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Summer Music Festival, among others. As a guest artist, she has performed with the Zéphyros Winds. Jennifer has been in residence at universities across the country, including the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Stanford University, Yale School of Music, and many others. She also has performed as Principal Flute of the Mozart Orchestra of New York, Santo Domingo Festival Orchestra, Boca Symphonia, and the Festival Orchestra Napa.

She is a passionate advocate of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the field of classical music. She has also worked with the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) National Festival, which invites students from El Sistema inspired programs across the United States to perform in a national youth orchestra performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California.

Jennifer is currently Associate Professor at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. She previously served on the faculty of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for twelve years and in 2017 was honored with the Teacher of the Year Award from the UNLV College of Fine Arts. A native of Berkeley, California, Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from Yale University. Recently appointed Artistic Administrator of the Frost School at Festival Napa Valley, she is cur- rently President of the Board of Directors of Chamber Music America and was the 2021 Program Chair for the National Flute Association Annual Convention.

https://www.jennifergrim.com/

Michael Sheppard

Known as “a virtuosic soloist possessed of power, sensitivity, earthiness, and humor” (Whitney Smith, Indianapolis Star) with the “power to make an audience sit up and pay attention...thought-provoking for performers and listeners alike” (James Manheim, All Music Guide), Michael Sheppard studied with the legendary Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory. He was selected by the American Pianists Association as a Classical Fellow, which designation led to the recording of his Harmonia Mundi CD of 2007. In 2019, another recording will be released by Azica, a Cleveland-based label distributed worldwide by Naxos Records, as well as an experimental album of all improvisations.

He has performed solo recitals and concertos around the world, as well as across the USA, including several solo Weill (Carnegie) Hall recitals and a solo Kennedy Center debut. As a funny little matter of fact, he happens to have given solo recitals in the hometowns of both Mahler (Jihlava, Czech Republic) and Elvis (Tupelo, Mississippi), and enjoys taking in the local culture wherever in the world he finds himself. Michael gives master classes, teaches regularly and plays with some of the top singers and instrumentalists around; he also coaches singers, instrumentalists, and conductors, and also conducts occasionally himself.

An improviser and composer since the single digits of age, he has worked closely with fellow composers John Corigliano, Christopher Theofanidis, Michael Hersch, Robert Sirota and the late Nicholas Maw, demonstrating a deep love of new music; his eclectic tastes also led him recently to musical-direct performances of Jason Robert Brown’s Broadway show “The Last Five Years” as well as “Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens” at the Brighton (U.K.) Fringe Fest, in which show he also made his stage acting debut. He is a native of Philadelphia and resides in Baltimore, where he works at both the Peabody Conservatory and the Baltimore School for the Arts, sharing his love and understanding of music and the artistic process with future generations. His hobbies include avoiding political discussions on Facebook, clumsily attempting to master certain bodyweight exercises so as to be able to eat and drink whatever he wants relatively without consequence, and reading.

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