I met Christopher Cerrone in 2005 at the Manhattan School of Music, but I first played his music in 2009. We did the overture to his opera Invisible Cities, a spellbinding piece that would go on to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Fast-forward to 2012 – I heard that Owen Weaver was putting together a consortium of percussionists to commission Chris to write a solo piece, and I jumped at the opportunity to join them. The result was Memory Palace - a 20-minute autobiographical piece about the people, places, and things that came together to turn Chris into the person and artist that he is today.
I first played the piece in 2013, and since then have given more than 35 performances of it. I keep coming back to it, because I have never connected this personally and this emotionally to any other solo percussion piece. In going through the different periods of Chris’ past, his music inspires me to reflect on my own life in the same way.
I’ve programmed Memory Palace in many different ways, but an opportunity with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble in 2016 allowed me to begin to construct a program built entirely around Memory Palace. Each piece that I paired it with was chosen to help create this atmosphere of self-reflection that I found so moving.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted this program to flow seamlessly from piece to piece – applause or other breaks in the music would disrupt the mood of the evening – but I had to figure out how to move myself from instrument to instrument without a pause in the music. I decided to use the Counting Duets, a set of quirky spoken rhythmic études by Tom Johnson, as interludes that connected the larger pieces on the program. As the name suggests, they are duets, so I recorded myself performing one of the parts, and then I will perform the other part live.
The other pieces on the program are Scott Wollschleger’s i is not me, David Crowell’s Celestial Sphere, and Mark Applebaum’s Aphasia. Each is a wonderful and interesting piece in its own right, but in this context, they serve to complement each other and grow together to Memory Palace.
On November 20th, 2017, I’m going to present this new program at Caveat, a venue on the lower east side that just opened a few months ago. The performance is presented by the Metropolis Ensemble – a wonderful group of artists headed up by Andrew Cyr that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with many times in the past. Andrew and I have been dreaming up a collaboration like this for several years now, and it means so much to me that it will finally happen.
I hope you can join us. There’s more information about the show right here.