When Genius Collaborates

Houston Ballet’s exciting mixed spring performance, Made in America, is almost upon us. The program will include George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Houston Ballet’s premiere of Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes and the world premiere of Nicolo Fonte’s See(k).

See(k) is particularly exciting since Mr. Fonte created the ballet specifically for Houston Ballet and enlisted in some outside help in doing so. The ballet is set to an original score that was commissioned from Anna Clyne. London-born Anna Clyne is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, combining resonant soundscapes with propelling textures that weave, morph, and collide in dramatic explosions. Her work, described as “dazzlingly inventive” by Time Out New York, often includes collaborations with cutting edge choreographers, visual artists, film-makers, and musicians worldwide. She is currently the Chicago Symphony’s Mead Composer-in-Residence through the 2011-12 season.

Anna Clyne, photo by Rodd Rosenberg

In 2010 Mr. Fonte created Made Man for Royal Ballet of Flanders using the music of Anna Clyne, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. Following Made Man’s success, Mr. Fonte decided to contact Ms. Clyne about a possible meeting. In a coincidental twist, she was living in a Brooklyn neighborhood adjacent to Mr. Fonte’s. They met for coffee, and the rest, as they say, was history. Mr. Fonte mentioned he had a world premiere in the works with Houston Ballet and asked if she would be interested in writing a new score for it. Ms. Clyne readily agreed, making See(k) her first original score for ballet.

Niccolo Fonte; Photo by Mark Goleviowski

Mr. Fonte admits he was nervous at first about commissioning an original score for See(k). “I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t like it and it turned out to be a disaster. But that wasn’t the case. Anna is fantastic and she created something really wonderful.” That’s not to say that the piece was perfect right off the bat. Ms. Clyne would send Mr. Fonte sections of music and adjustments would be made as needed. Some adjustments included removing instruments to make the beat the driving force or asking for more space in the music for the dancers to slow and pause.

Ms. Clyne did not work on the score from beginning to end, but would compose different sections at a time. The process for composing a score varies but according to Mr. Fonte, Ms. Clyne managed to put together the majority of the score in about three days in her studio in New York.

Right now the company is rehearsing to the recording Ms. Clyne created in the studio which is completely synthesized and while it gives a good approximation of what the music sounds like, it is not exact. Walking by rehearsal one day, a staff member stopped and stuck his head in. “What is that? Is that an organ? We don’t have one of those!”

He’s right, but an organ is not in the score. Audiences will get to hear a live, full orchestra performing the original score. Ms. Clyne is scheduled to arrive in Houston opening week to work with Houston Ballet Orchestra.

To see the world premiere of See(k) May 24- June 7, get tickets here!


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