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Kampela on the Beach

Posted by Adda Kridler

Last fall, when I officially joined the Momenta Quartet, a particular theme during rehearsals (besides Fatfest – I’ll get to that in a bit) was a running, ominous joke/threat: “Just wait until we get to Kampela.” I had Asmira’s old Kampela part, and I’d briefly perused it, with its fastidiously maniacal notation and its 5:6 under 7:4 rhythms, but hey, I’m a smart kid, and I’ve done this stuff before. Fast-forward to January and our first week of Kampela rehearsals, and I felt like I had during my lesson with Mrs. Vamos when she made me play the first four bars of Tzigane for the entire hour while my accompanist sat useless at the piano. Fortunately I managed not to cry during Momenta rehearsal (that came afterward, in the middle of yoga class), but suffice it to say that I have learned lessons in humility, patience, and faking.

The brilliance and difficulty in Arthur Kampela’s quartet, “Uma Faca Só Lâmina (A Knife All Blade),” lie in the contrast between its improvisatory character and its extremely complicated and precise notation. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I like to be right. To approach a piece like Arthur’s, with extremely exacting notation, but to allow it an improvisatory freedom (all the while trying to be together with three other people), has been a particular challenge for me.

This past weekend the quartet escaped to my grandmother’s beautiful and peaceful house on Martha’s Vineyard and proceeded to infect the quiet ocean breezes with the scratchy, squeaky percussive sounds of Kampela. Much like Pavlov, we generally use food as a reward for working through the insanely difficult music we play (the aforementioned Fatfest), and we planned our eight-plus hours of rehearsal each day around pastries, chowdah, and futile trips up-island in search of the best lobster rolls.

Finally, on the last day of our visit, we woke up early to run the entire piece for the very first time before catching the 9:30am boat back to the mainland. Despite our groggy state and several near Kampelavalanches (our large score parts teeter precariously on folding music stands, and sometimes threaten to fall into other parts during page turns) we MADE IT THROUGH WITHOUT STOPPING. In fact, it might be kind of amazing.

So, tomorrow, please come see us play this incredible and insane piece – it’s unbelievably exciting, with energy and lightness and sounds that you’ve never imagined. (Also on the concert: world premieres by Ileana Perez-Velazquez and Manena Contreras, with the fantastic Adrian Morejon on bassoon).

An Evening of World Premieres
Americas Society, 680 Park Ave.
May 30th, 2012
7:00 PM
Click here for more information