The New York-based experimental string quartet ETHEL (@ETHELCentral) are one of the most exciting chamber music groups performing today. Founded in 1998 by graduates of Juilliard and Eastman / SUNY Stony Brook, the group has built a reputation both as champions of contemporary and new music, but also music education through its Foundation for the Arts. ETHEL’s third studio album, Heavy, hits shelves and digital retailers tomorrow, 24 April, and I got in touch with founder member Ralph Farris, who is both the viola player and Artistic Director of the group, to find out how Sibelius was used in the production of the album.
One work in particular, a commission by New York-based composer Raz Mesinai (@RazMesinai) called La Citadelle, needed work in Sibelius to take it into the studio. Ralph picks up the tale:
“Raz Mesinai and I are dear old friends, and I was thrilled when ETHEL was able to commission him, with the generous support of the Jerome Foundation, to write La Citadelle. This extraordinary piece was inspired by the life of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, pilot and author of The Little Prince, a sonic meditation on Saint Exupéry’s mysterious last flight.”
Raz and ETHEL worked together closely in a number of sessions as they shaped the work together. “Raz sent me a MIDI file of his finished piece,” Ralph told me. “That’s where Sibelius came in. The world’s greatest notation program made short work of organizing the piece into a score – Keep track order? Yep! Adjust rhythms? Nope! Tenuto? Sure! – and, of course, part extraction was a piece of cake. Sibelius truly gave us access to Raz’s voice.”
Ralph says he couldn’t be happier with how the work turned out. “The finished piece is magnificent,” he says, “infusing cinematic soundscapes with the rolling rhythms and sung poetry of the bedouins of Algeria. We could not be more grateful to the good folks at Sibelius for making it possible to bring Raz’s vision to life!”
You can hear La Citadelle and other works by Don Byron, John Halle, Julia Wolfe, John King, David Lang, Kenzi Bunch and Marcelo Davos performed by ETHEL on Heavy, available on April 24 through Innova.