Tuple Bassoon Duo


Thursday, October 22nd, 7:00


The bassoon may not be the first instrument that comes to mind when most people think about experimental music, but for Rachael Elliott and Lynn Hileman, the usually low-profile instrument is the perfect vehicle. The two bassoonists make up the chamber ensemble Tuple, and will present a concert of avant-garde music for two bassoons at East Lansing's (SCENE) Metrospace on Thursday, October 22 as part of their fall tour, which also includes appearances at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University.

Tuple's virtuosic repertoire—which includes music by Dutch composers Louis Andriessen and Chiel Meijering, Russian Sofia Gubaidulina, and Americans Michael Daugherty and Marc Mellits—spans a melodic, timbral and stylistic range of surprising breadth. The music is by turns edgy, humorous and transcendent, and makes extraordinary demands on the players in terms of technique, stamina and breath control.

The duo is used to the fact that most of their audience members have never heard two bassoons playing together outside of the symphony orchestra. Tuple is working to change that by performing in clubs, concert and art venues. They also challenge the notion that contemporary classical music is difficult for audiences to relate to.

“We may perform modern music, but that doesn't mean that an indie rock fan, a classical music lover or a die-hard metal-head won't each find something to connect with in our music,” said Hileman, who is Professor of Bassoon at West Virginia University in Morgantown and Principal Bassoonist of the Binghamton Philharmonic. “Two bassoons together have such a wide degree of flexibility and sonorities available. It’s a unique and unexpected sound.”

The North Carolina-based Elliott, who has toured widely throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia with her group, Clogs, has also appeared in rock/pop and improvised settings over the past decade as a guest with The National, My Brightest Diamond and Sufjan Stevens, among others.

“We’ve nearly exhausted the catalog of new music for two bassoons,” said Elliott. “Now we are working with composers to write for Tuple. We premiered new music by the Australian composer Padma Newsome last spring, and we are looking forward to presenting even more new pieces in the coming season.”

That’s not to say that they have tired of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Duo Sonata from 1977, the oldest piece on their program. In fact, the work has a special place in Tuple’s repertoire: it is the first piece that Hileman and Elliott performed as a duo, and one with deep spirituality behind the music. Gubaidulina, one of the "Great Three" of contemporary Russian composers and a devout Orthodox Christian, has described her approach to composition as one that juxtaposes the earthly realm (expressed by guttural trills, micro-chromatic pitches and grinding dissonance) with the heavenly realm (represented by pure intervals, simple melodies and meditative stillness). By setting up such audible oppositions, she offers the audience and performers a clear window into the piece and its emotional content.


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