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Strata and “New American Music”

The three musical talents Audrey Andrist (piano), Nathan Williams (clarinet) and James Stern (violin), who have been playing together for 25 years under the name Strata, performed selected pieces of “New American Music” at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Earl & Darielle Linehan Concert Hall on Thursday night.

Strata performed five selections of music, one of them specifically written for the ensemble by Jonathan Leshnoff in 2003 titled, “Seven Glances at a Mirage.” The movements flowed through each other without pauses, creating impressionist harmonies and tone colors.

Before each piece, one ensemble member would describe what to look for in the music as well as some history on the composer and his/her inspirations for writing the piece. The opening piece titled, “A Thousand Whirling Dreams,” written by Dana Wilson in 2014, employs various jazz techniques and changes in tempo.

The piece was inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “As I Grew Older,” focusing on the expressive and poetic lines “to smash the night / to break this shadow / into a thousand lights of sun.” As Strata performed each movement with emotive dynamics and sliding notes, or glissandos, the concert hall was left with a bittersweet feeling, described as something close to melancholy.

Strata also performed a piece titled “Slang,” by Libby Larsen. The music was highly rhythmic due to the big band, boogie and blues influence of Larsen’s background. She explores the correlation between slang in language and slang in music by incorporating new and old styles of music.

In addition to the unique works of music performed throughout the night, Strata used some unconventional techniques in the Leshnoff piece as well as in “Trio,” written by Margaret Brouwer in 2005.

In Brouwer’s piece, divided into three movements, Andrist used a squeegee to play muted strings on the piano by reaching in and physically pressing the squeegee onto the strings. It created a totally different sound that helped convey the different emotions of the movements.

Alongside this unconventional technique, Williams played his clarinet into the open hood of the piano in Leshnoff’s “Seven Glances at a Mirage,” creating an echoing and deeper sound to his playing.

The closing piece of the night was another Trio, this time composed by Paul Schoenfield. Based on traditional Eastern European Hasidic melodies, the four movements were what Stern called an “exuberant expression of joy as a religious duty.” A dance, a march, a slow introspection and a Kazakh dance created a truly unique performance.

After a round of applause, Strata gave the audience “some dessert” and played a well known piece titled “Easy Winners” by Scott Joplin. Thursday night’s performance was met with smiling faces and tapping toes, but Friday night’s performance was another special night dedicated to the music of UMBC.

Strata performed all original pieces of music written by UMBC music students Friday night, staying true to their dedication to “New American Music.” Keep up to date with more upcoming music performances at UMBC at