When the right creative forces collide, projects like the Hyperbolic Chamber Music concert series arise. The inaugural presentation, Works for Cello, launches at Venture Compound this Saturday evening, its conception made reality by way of three talented and enterprising young minds: Grace Juliano, a USF Master’s-holding cellist, music educator and freelance player who subs for The Florida Orchestra; Venture’s steadfast leader Jesse Thelonious Vance, renowned for his relentless efforts to bring avant garde art forms to a broader local audience and for using his nonprofit mixed-used warehouse space as a platform to do so; and Sean Hamilton, percussionist, degree-seeking student in the innovative electronic music program at USF’s School of Music and vice president of its student-run New Music Consortium.
Hamilton said he was volunteering at Venture Compound when he and Vance struck up a conversation about Hamilton’s interests and capabilities. When Vance asked him what he wanted to do most at Venture, “I was like, ‘I want to play music,’” Hamilton said. “Then we started talking about the chamber music series, and it’s all gone from there.”
“The way my organization works is, I try to play to people's strengths,” Vance explained. “I find people who have interests and I throw responsibility in their lap. I give them almost unbridled creative freedom. It’s a lot of, the art of allowing, the whole Field of Dreams thing — if you build it, they will come. That’s what happened here.”
The goal in starting the series was to attract audiences who might be turned off by the stuffiness of a typical classical music concert. “I think that’s where the disconnect lies. What we’re trying to do is break down that formality by reaching out in a new setting. People can hang out, people can drink beer if they want, they can talk, they can leave,” Hamilton said. “We just want to introduce this new music to people who don’t know it exists or wouldn’t know they’d even be interested in it. To people who’d be hanging at the Venture Compound but not necessarily the Straz Center.”
Vance had a musician in mind for the first presentation, someone he’d already talked to about bringing chamber music to Venture — Juliano, who had a program of 20th-century music for solo cello at the ready that fit perfectly within the parameters of the original idea to create “a new forum for a new audience for new music in Tampa Bay.”
“It’s all music from the 20th century and it’s all for solo cello, which is not technically chamber music, but it’s kind of in that vein,” Juliano said about the program. “I think it’s music that people will be able to relate to.” Among the highlights are “Suite per Violoncello,” a “really passionate, very Spanish-sounding work” written by Gaspar Cassadó in 1926, and her personal favorite, “Unlocked,” a series of five pieces created in 1999 by composer Judith Weir and inspired by a selection of American and Caribbean folk songs originally collected by two brothers during their travels in the 1930s, a significant portion of them taken from black prisoners in Southern jails. “They’ve got this kind of Southern African-American sonic backdrop. but Weir’s also made them fantastical in a way.”
Juliano invited cellist Robert-Christian Sanchez to perform as well, and his 2014 piece “Vowel Song” — created specifically for him by composer Daniel Lemer — finds him singing and playing at once. “He has an amazing voice,” she said.
The program aligns with the work that Hamilton and NMC president Tyler Kline do in the consortium — namely, producing concerts of new contemporary music. “I like to say that it’s not ‘new music,’ like recent, chronological music,” Kline explained, though the NMC does focus on music by composers from the past century. “It’s avant garde, experimental, forward-thinking, on the fringes of what people most listen to. We want to program stuff that isn’t being programmed.”
NMC was behind an international call for new works by living composers — the winning selections were presented over three days at USF’s inaugural New Music Festival this past February. Hamilton and Kline are leading NMC’s current charge to bring new music out into the local community, and while the consortium isn’t technically involved with the first Hyperbolic Chamber Music concert — just Hamilton — NMC is the official host for the second installment in November, held at Venture and again the following night at USF-Tampa. “It’s all music from the 21st century, which seems like a pretty simple idea but we’d never thought to do that before,” Kline said. Roughly 10 performers in a variety of chamber configurations perform pieces by composers stretching from New York to California, and representing a broad spectrum of styles, aesthetics and techniques that range from accessible to downright weird, including a piece that utilizes a hair dryer and compressed air.
The pair also plans to conduct pre-concert talks so everyone in attendance knows exactly what they’re getting into before anything starts — and has something to latch onto while listening to some pretty far-out-there sounds. Hamilton summed it up best: “If you can reach out to people and tell them, ‘This is what is happening in this piece,’ if there’s a process in it and you can help them understand it, they can listen for it or hear what the artist is trying to achieve.”
DETAILS: Hyperbolic Chamber Music 1: Works for Cello, Sat., Sept., 27, 8 p.m., and Hyperbolic Chamber Music 2: 21+, An Exploration of Sound and Music from the 21st Century, Fri., Nov. 14, 8 p.m.; both at The Venture Compound, 2621 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg, $5$10 suggested donation. theventurecompound.com.