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First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: Interarts Ensemble

Interarts Ensemble

A Visit with Chucho Valdés

The morning after their big concert and the Afro-Cuban celebration of Chango, the Berklee students enjoyed perhaps the highlight of their Cuban experience—a visit to the home of Chucho Valdés. Just back from a tour, Valdés treated the students to the story of how he first met Berklee founders Lawrence and Alma Berk at the Havana nightclub Tropicana and was offered a scholarship to the school (which he unfortunately wasn’t able to accept).

Enrico de Trizio Playing Chucho's Piano

Photo by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

Finding out that Enrico de Trizio played piano, Valdés offered him the use of the piano in his studio. Enrico took him up on it, first playing an instrumental and then, with Julia Easterlin, “Silencio.” Then Enrico yielded the bench to Valdés, who played a song off his new CD, Chucho’s Steps. Discussing the structure of the song afterwards, Valdés even offered to email Enrico the changes.

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Redefining Fine Arts in Cuba

The big concert at the Museo de Bellas Artes felt a little like the ending of The Wizard of Oz. (“And you and you and you…and you were there!”) Familiar faces from the Instituto Superior de Arte, Laboratorio de Música Electroacústica, Ministry of Culture, and more had all shown up to support the students in their final presentation.

Eugenio, John, and Neil

Eugenio Arango joins John Hull and Neil Leonard for a song combining batá drums, laptop, and saxophone.

The concert pulled together not only music from different people and different backgrounds, but disciplines other than music, as well, with dance and visual art giving the performance even more depth. Offering multiple ways for the audience to access the performance seems especially important in electronic music, which has been strongly linked to interdisciplinary art in Cuba since Juan Blanco premiered Cuba’s first work in the genre “Musica para Danza.” The mixture certainly went over well with the audience at the Museo de Bellas Artes!

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Cuba’s Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica

While in Cuba, the students in Berklee’s Interarts Ensemble worked on their compositions at the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica, founded by Cuban electroacoustic pioneer Juan Blanco. Katie Bilinski described its role in relation to the Instituto Superior de Arte as like that of Mix One Studios to Berklee. This is where they spent most of their time, preparing the pieces that would be shown during their final concert at the  Museo de Bellas Artes.

Julia at the LMNE

Julia Easterlin practices with the help of LNME engineer Miguel Parera.

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¡Hola, Cuba!

Last week I followed a group of Berklee students to Havana, where they worked with Cuban students to create musical pieces influenced by their surroundings in less than a week. Electronic Production and Design (EPD) professor Neil Leonard handpicked the students in the Interarts Ensemble to go along with him on this trip: MP&E/EPD alumnus and pianist Enrico de Trizio, EPD major and bassist Katie Bilinski, pro music major and vocalist Julia Easterlin, and MP&E/EPD major and guitarist John Hull.

Interarts Ensemble in Cuba

The Interarts Ensemble and professor Neil Leonard at the home of Cuban musicians Eugenio and Feliciano Arango.

The ensemble is used to creating under pressure, having undertaken a similar trip to Italy in September. There, students recorded impulse responses and instrumental sounds in the Marble Caves of Carrara, ambient street noise of the medieval town of Fosdinovo, church bells, and sound unique to the Castello Malaspina, which they later manipulated and incorporated into their music. Instead of an Italian castle, here in Cuba they stayed in an apartment near their studio at the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica, to get a feel for day-to-day life in Havana.

Stay tuned for updates about their work from Cuba.

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