Let's Hear It for a Crowd

Eric Jacobsen and the Orlando Philharmonic will play a world premiere work of Lisa Bielawa, who finds artistry amid the noise.



Lisa Bielawa's "Drama/Self Pity'' has its roots in a composition by an ensemble headed by the Orlando Philharmonic's Eric Jacobsen.

Photo by Liz Linder

Some artists find inspiration in solitude.

Lisa Bielawa discovers it in crowds.

One of the specialties of the cutting-edge composer and vocalist is creating pieces for and about public places. Their vigor and excitement inspire her work, which is often then performed, in turn, in public places such as lower Manhattan’s Seward Park.

“I have nothing against concert halls,” she says. “I’m just a very urban person. I’ve been healed by city life. When I have been through difficult things in my life one of the things I can do to fall in love with humanity again is to take a walk through the city.”

Spoken like a true New Yorker.

A world premiere of one of Bielawa’s compositions, Drama/Self Pity, will be performed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at Bob Carr Theatre Dec. 3 and 4. The concert will also feature pianist Emanuel Ax, a seven-time Grammy winner who will perform Beethoven’s Concerto No. 2. The orchestra will also perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.

Bielawa, a longtime friend and collaborator of OPO music director Eric Jacobsen, crafted Drama/Self Pity by revamping part of a longer, earlier composition that was first performed in 2004 by The Knights, an ensemble Jacobsen formed with his brother, Jacob. Part of its theme was how people behave, and what they tend to say, while traveling.

Bielawa first tried to find inspiration for the piece by reading sociological commentary about behaviors in transient public places while she was a traveler herself, on tour as a performer.

“I was schlepping books around, trying to read in airports. It was uncomfortable, hauling all that reading material around, and I was distracted and couldn’t concentrate. Then I thought: ‘This is so ridiculous. I’m in a transient public place trying to find material in books about transient public places.’”

So she decided to cut out the middleman and research public places herself. She began haunting airports and subways, listening to fragments of conversations, trying to discover a theme. And she enrolled a few friends to do the same and report back to her.

Turns out people do a lot of complaining when they travel.

“There’s a lot of overdramatizing,” she says. “ ‘The bus never comes on time.’ ‘I’m late.’ ‘This always happens to me.’ ”

As it turns out, according to Bielawa, the Phil’s music director is not only an excellent cellist and conductor; he also makes a good spy. Some of the best material culled by her network of eavesdroppers came from him.

“He wound up texting me my favorite quote,” she says of Jacobsen. The quote, from a commuter who was trying to get a tearful companion to buck up: “Do you solve everything by crying?”

It’s that slightly recast section of Bielawa’s original 2004 composition that will be performed this weekend. The original work featured songs and arias. In the orchestral version, the instruments will do the kvetching.

 “I have cast the orchestra as a disgruntled urban populace, led by two trumpeters with escalating, competing complaints,” she says.

It sounds funny. But you probably wouldn’t think so if you take the bus to work.

For information visit orlandophil.org.

 

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