Robert Schumann’s compositions inhabit a musical world rife with literary associations and extra-musical meaning. An avid writer, reader, and critic, Schumann left us a vivid record of his thoughts on music. His reading of Jean Paul Richter lead him to create his own unique pairing of invented characters: the extrovert Florestan and the introvert Eusebius. In letters to Clara Wieck before they married, Schumann sometimes referred to himself as a person split between these competing personalities, and Florestan and Eusebius would later appear in his criticism and his music.
The dialogue between the two extremes found in Florestan and Eusebius is essential to understanding the drama of Schumann’s music, so much so that he annotated some of his works by ascribing movements or passages to one of these imagined characters with an “F.” or “E.” These figures developed a certain amount of complexity in Schumann’s thought over time, but their basic personalities remained a source of inspiration throughout his career as a juxtaposition of vying musical and intellectual perspectives. These relationships are evident in the Märchenbilder (Fairytale Pictures), heard on the first half of this afternoon’s program: the thoughtful outer movements could be credited to Eusebius, while the boisterous music of movements II and III belongs to Florestan.
This discourse, inherent in the very fabric of Schumann’s music, is the inspiration behind today’s NOVA program. The alternation of music by Schumann and Christian Asplund is designed to expand upon and exaggerate the doppelgänger psychology of Schumann’s work. And what better composer to pair with Schumann- Mr. Asplund possesses a wildly creative and imaginative approach to composition and performing.
As a graduate student in Seattle at the end of the grunge era, Asplund found success as an improviser and composer of avant garde music in unexpected venues like record stores and clubs.
Now a professor at BYU, Mr. Asplund has enriched the underground scene in Provo and Salt Lake City with his energetic presence. You’re just as likely to catch him playing a set at Diabolical Records or Velour as in Libby Gardner or Madsen Recital Halls. But perhaps most important to his own creative growth and the larger experimental music scene in Utah, Asplund began a series of concerts held in his garage. Frequent collaborators have included poets, jazz musicians, rock musicians, fellow BYU composers and performance faculty. These events frequently include a healthy dose of improvisation and works completed hours before the show and rehearsed in the moments leading up to the event itself. The rawness found in the musical material and style in which it is delivered led Asplund to the name “Avant GaRAWge.”
The centerpiece of Avant GaRAWge became a house band of sorts, named after a nickname Asplund had come up with for an old car of his, FunCoffin. A group of students that have since graduated from the BYU jazz program began participating in the sessions: Jesse Quebbeman-Turley on drums, Aaron McMurray on bass, and Logan Hone playing alto saxophone. They formed a quartet with Asplund himself performing on a variety of instruments, including viola, piano, harmonium, singing, spoken word, and electronics, to name a few. With a style ranging from Asplund’s very personal take on Thelonius Monk to extremes of sonic and rhythmic experimentation, FunCoffin has performed widely in Utah and released a number of albums.
Nova Chamber Music Series
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