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  • February 2012
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Imani Winds are mindblowing

Happy Leap Day! In honor of this day, my post will be a little scattered: I’m going to start in one place and leap to whatever subjects it brings to my mind.

Last night I went to see a concert put on by the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society. How fitting that during Black History Month they had the formidable Imani Winds come to perform!  Even better, this Grammy-nominated wind quintet boasts a Pittsburgher as their bassoonist: Monica Ellis, who told us that she went to Schenley High School.

Seeing this performance was inspiring not just for its range of repertoire and the talent it represented – it brought to mind so many things to recommend that you can find right here in the library and for free online.

Watching the quintet perform piece after piece with distinctive personality and terrifying precision, I could only hope that this was the kind of fun career one of my favorite fictional clarinetists had in store: Jal from Skins (Seasons 1 & 2) (click to request from the catalog!).  Here’s a clip of her auditioning for a spot at University — fair warning, she’s just learned something that has her unsettled about her life and, being cranky, flings a swear word at one of the admissions officers.  This is not generally the type of behavior recommended for such occasions (something to note if you’re trying out for CAPA).

Imani Winds   performed a wide range of pieces, from the flautist Valerie Coleman’s own composition inspired by the Romani culture (“Tzigane”) to two traditional Klezmer tunes, to a Wind Quintet by a Czech composer who ultimately died in a concentration camp, to an amazing adaptation of “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky – a piece that originally caused a riot when it was first performed – and not just because it is a piece of music about a ritual sacrifice.

There’s a crazily-fascinating exploration of this story on this episode of Radiolab – Musical Language.  It discusses how too much dopamine may have caused the extreme reaction to Stravinsky’s music, and how a year later when the piece was performed again, changes in the brain’s perception of music made it the hit of the town! It’s available free to download.

If you are someone who hears “chamber music” and thinks “boring”, I challenge you to check out Imani Winds from the library, or on YouTube.  Go to a chamber music concert – student tickets are only $15!  There’s really nothing like seeing music being made in person.


And here are some other Eastern-tinged musical selections that could be of interest:

Kronos Quartet, Caravan

Arrangements of classical pieces based on Turkish, Yugoslav, and Spanish composers and musical traditions

Shakira – Ojos Así, from ¿Dónde están los ladrones?

My favorite Shakira album – sadly not available in the library, but the song is on her Greatest Hits cd, which is.  And there’s an english version on Laundry Service.

If you hear the words “chamber music” and “composer” think that’s my future! Check out the scholarship options for the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival – you can apply if you’re 16 and older.

Happy leaping!

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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