10/25/13 By Jon Muchin
New England Conservatory’s Annual Multi-Media Film Noir Extravaganza Features Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool & Laura
Tuesday, November 5 at NEC’s Jordan Hall Curated by Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley
Part of NEC’s Music: Truth to Power series of over 30 concerts
Pianist/composer/improviser Ran Blake and co-producer/trombonist Aaron Hartley bring an extra dimension to Hallowe'en with specimens of that most haunting genre, film noir. Now an annual tradition in its 9th year, this year's concert is based on one of the best-known specimens of the genre: Otto Preminger's Whirlpool (1949) and, the evening’s feature presentation, Laura (1944).
One of Hollywood's most notorious rebels, Preminger constantly defied censorship by treating such themes as drug addiction and rape. He worked with predominantly black casts, jazz scores, and blacklisted screenwriters at times when all of these went against the unwritten rules of Hollywood.
What does Whirlpool have in common with Laura? Both are haunted by Gene Tierney in a starring role, and were made in the prime noir era of the mid-to-late 1940s. Tierney's often tragic life and battles with mental illness cast a retrospective shadow over the nuanced performances from the prime of her career that will be seen tonight when students and faculty of NEC's Contemporary Improvisation department perform along with scenes from these films.
NEC's students, alum, and faculty — Anthony Coleman, Eden MacAdam-Somer, Bert Seager, and CI teaching fellow Nima Janmohammadi — and special guest, Eleni Odoni, will create a real-time original score as they respond to the drama of David Korvo’s hypnotism and Waldo Lydecker’s obsession through improvisations, original compositions, recompositions, and reinterpretations of David Raksin's original music, and Edward Powell and Aurthur Morton’s orchestrations.
Members of Aaron Hartley’s Storyboard Noir Ensemble play a key role in this annual Film Noir concert. Each fall, ensemble members engage in a rich exploration of creating music for film, through aural study of original scores, development of student compositions in tandem with traditional repertoire, and collective improvisation.
This event is part of Music: Truth to Power, 30+ NEC concerts demonstrating just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. http://necmusic.edu/truth-to-power
In a career that’s spanned nearly six decades, pianist Ran Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator. With a characteristic mix of spontaneous solos, modern classical tonalities, the great American blues and gospel traditions, and themes from classic Film Noir, Blake’s singular sound has earned a dedicated following all over the world. His dual musical legacy includes more than 40 albums on some of the world’s finest jazz labels, as well 40 years as a groundbreaking educator at Boston’s New England Conservatory.
Blake’s teaching approach emphasizes what he calls “the primacy of the ear,” as he believes music is traditionally taught by the wrong sense. His innovative ear and style development process elevates the listening process to the same status as the written score. This approach compliments the stylistic synthesis of the original Third Stream concept, while also providing an open, broad based learning environment that promotes the development of innovation and individuality. Musicians of note who studied with Blake at NEC include Don Byron, Matthew Shipp, and John Medeski.
Film Noir co-producer Aaron Hartley is a freelance trombonist whose playing is defined by Third Stream methodology. Hartley regularly appears with noir pianist Ran Blake, performing diverse repertoire including Greek compositions by Mikis Theodorakis, the gospels songs of Mahalia Jackson, the film music of Bernard Hermann, and the jazz masterpieces of the late George Russell. Hartley also appears on Blake's most recent album, Autumn in New York, which is a tribute to George Russell on HatHut Records. In addition, Hartley's musical collaborations over the past several years have included performing "storyboards" in small group settings with NEC alums including Dave “Knife” Fabris, Sara Serpa, Joel Yennior, Dov Manski, Eleni Odoni, Jerry Sabatini, Emily Wolf, Ken Schaphorst, Pandelis Karageorgis, and Hankus Netsky. Hartley has also performed with Buster Cooper, Marcus Hampton, George Garzone, Andre Hayward, John Lamb, and Sam Rivers, in addition to freelancing with local big bands such as George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra, The Either/Orchestra, The Beantown Swing Orchestra, Nick Urie’s Large Ensemble, and Ayn Inserto’s Big Band.
Founded in 1972 by musical visionaries Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake, New England Conservatory's Contemporary Improvisation program is “one of the most versatile in all of music education” (JazzEd). Now in its 41st year, the program trains composer/performer/ improvisers to broaden their musical palettes and develop unique voices. It is unparalleled in its structured approach to ear training and its emphasis on singing, memorization, harmonic sophistication, aesthetic integrity, and stylistic openness. Under Blake's guidance for its first twenty-six years, the program expanded its offerings under subsequent chair Allan Chase and current chair Hankus Netsky. Alumni include Don Byron, John Medeski, Jacqueline Schwab, Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz; faculty include Carla Kihlstedt, Blake, Dominique Eade, and Anthony Coleman. “A thriving hub of musical exploration,” (Jeremy Goodwin, Boston Globe), the program currently has 43 undergrad and graduate students from 14 countries.
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