Ran Blake Trains Ear, Imagination on Shostakovich in Annual Summer Course


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Jazz Great Ran Blake Trains His Fantastic Ear and Musical Imagination on Dmitri Shostakovich

Four-Day Annual Course Highlighted by Free, Public Improvisation Event, August 15 in St. Botolph Hall

“Noir" pianist Ran Blake, who focuses on a different musical master every summer in his intensive seminar, will this year train his extraordinary ear and improvisational imagination on the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. A longtime faculty member and former chair of New England Conservatory's Contemporary Improvisation department, the MacArthur Fellow and two-time Guggenheim Fellow leads a four-day course through NEC's Summer School, Aug. 9--17 which will be highlighted by a free, public improvisation evening, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in NEC's St. Botolph Hall. At that performance, audiences will be able to hear the fruits of participants' immersion in the Russian master's music.

Concentrating on the middle symphonies, several string quartets, The Age of Gold ballet suite and the Violin Concerto No. 1, Ran will apply his hallmark processes of ear-training which blend listening, historical perspectives, memorization, discussion and performance. Based on what they have absorbed aurally, participants will be encouraged to re-compose melodies and moods of Movement II of the Ninth Symphony, Movements I and II of the Tenth Symphony, and the beginning of the String Quartet No. 13. Jeffrey Levenberg '06, a violist and NEC graduate student in music theory, will assist Ran in teaching the course.

Ran, who has devoted past summer courses to musicians such as Mahalia Jackson, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, described a typical three-hour class this way: “The first hour will be spent on hearing specific themes and note structures from the repertoire. This is very intense work. And this will be followed, after a small break, by what I would call a much more gentle hour during which we will discuss some of the Shostakovich history. Little attention will be devoted to formal analysis; I'm more interested in the cause and effect." Among the areas probed will be the contrast between Shostakovich and Nobel Prize-winning author and outspoken critic Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, “particularly why did Solzhenitsyn speak out and not Shostakovich--and how did this affect the composer's music. The third hour of the class will review material from the first hour."

Commenting on the types of people likely to be interested in his course, Ran listed jazz musicians, classical instrumentalists and singers, CD collectors, and “composers who may wish to improvise and improvisers who may wish to develop their powers of premonition and composition."

For more information, call the Summer School office at 617-585-1126 or visit NEC on the web at http://www.newenglandconservatory.edu/summer/courses/Music_Theory.html


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 750 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes--thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 100-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC's opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of “From the Top," a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
[email protected]

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