Classical Music

Kinetic Ensemble Tackles The Wilderness This Weekend

Nothing will slow down Kinetic Ensemble. An object in motion will stay in motion - including this arts group.
Nothing will slow down Kinetic Ensemble. An object in motion will stay in motion - including this arts group. Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
Kinetic Ensemble will open its eighth season with The Wilderness Anthology, featuring premieres by award winning composers, which calls to attention the climate changes happening – some of them right here in Houston. The performance takes place at 6 p.m. at MATCH on Sunday.

“The program has a hazard thread running through it, and that is that each piece on the program takes some kind of inspiration from the natural world from the environment,” said Natalie Lin Douglas, the group’s founder.

First up is Nicky Sohn’s What Happens If Pipes Burst? For anyone who lived through what we'll delicately refer to as The Great Freeze of 2021, we know what happens. Sohn has turned those feelings into musical format.

“It's a reflection on a freak winter storm that happened in 2021. It’s a reflection on her personal experience but also a reflection on how it affected the Houston community. That one strikes particularly close to home for many of our musicians. Her take on it is an observation about climate change broadly but also seeing how it really affects people's lives in the city,” Lin Douglas said.

Also on the set list is the show's namesake, Patrick Harlin’s The Wilderness Anthology.

“I'm really excited about this because it's a format we haven't done before. It has soundscapes that the composer recorded when he was out in the field…very, sort of, remote places in the world. It pairs sounds out in the wilderness with a live sound that you hear in the concert hall from the instruments,” she said.
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Prepare for Kinetic Ensemble's eight season with an artistic conversation about climate change.
Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
If that’s not enough, the group continues with Paul Novak’s a string quartet is like a flock of birds.

“Novak wrote this during the pandemic pretty early on in 2020. I think that's such an evocative title, just thinking about the patterns that birds make when they fly together,” Lin Douglas said. “He was thinking about that particularly during the pandemic when everyone was quite isolated. We premiered this piece virtually in 2020, but we really wanted to bring it back so that it got a true, live performance.”

It will certainly get the live performance it deserves, only to be followed by the fourth piece in the production, Leo Weiner’s Pastorale, Fantasy and Fugue.

“It’s an homage to the pastorale roles that composers in the past have written…sort of drawing inspiration from pastures. We wanted to make sure we tied something older to the other newer works on the program.”

Fair enough. A little bit of vintage music never hurt anybody.

The Kinetic Ensemble might be new name to some, but they have mighty ambitions, especially since they work without a conductor when performing.

“This project started when I was a doctoral student at Rice University. I have always been very interested in the conductor-less model of making music. I have always found it to be an extremely collaborative and uniquely democratic model of making music with others,” Lin Douglas said. “We launched our first season in the fall of 2015 and have been going since then. We perform four to five concerts a year with a full ensemble, which is 16 musicians. Other concerts of ours have been pared down to the chamber music concert model, so we're quite versatile in that way.”
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Prepare for Kinetic Ensemble's eight season with an artistic conversation about climate change.
Photo by Ben Doyle
That’s not the only thing that makes this ensemble worth noting. They bring attention to artists who are underrepresented in the artistic world.

“The other aspect about Kinetic Ensemble, besides the fact that we don't play with a conductor, is that our programming mission is to amplify diverse, underrepresented composers of classical music. To me, as a performer, there's something really exciting about sharing music to an audience for the first time, whether that's something written in the past that, for whatever reason, has been overlooked,” she said. “That always is a really exciting process for me. Kinetic’s mission is a programmatic one, and it’s quite specific. It makes for a really interesting concert experience because a lot of the audience members will come, quite often, not having heard any of the pieces we’re going to play. It's an exciting time of discovery and surprise.”

Kinetic Ensemble presents The Wilderness Anthology at 6 p.m. Sunday at MATCH, 3400 Main Street. For information or tickets, visit kineticensemble.org. $30.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd