16. June 2020

Lockdown Tape #21


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Sandeep BhagwatiStele IV (for Jürgen Gosch) (2009/12) for two trumpets

Christine Chapman, double bell trumpet
Marco Blaauw, double bell trumpet

Janet Sinica, video
Daniel Seitz, sound design

Lockdown Tape #21 contains the trumpet-duo by Sandeep Bhagwati Stele IV, played by Christine Chapman and Marco Blaauw. On the blog, Christine Chapman tells their story of representing gender equality in brass playing and their struggle to present this important message visually throughout the recording of the duo.

Stele IV – Two Views, Back-to-Back

“Sandeep Bhagwati made the first sketches for Stele IV after hearing of the death of Jürgen Gosh, a German actor and theater director with whom he’d worked and also much admired. The version for “2 brass instruments (trumpets)” was published in 2012.

Side 1
When the call went out to all of the Ensemble Musikfabrik members to find repertoire to play for the Lockdown Tapes, there was a flurry of activity. An incredible amount of solo works sprang to life in the beautiful videos by Janet Sinca. Playing chamber music during Corona, however, was until very recently impossible, unless your colleague also happened to be your partner. Marco Blaauw and I were looking for duet repertoire, and Stele IV seemed perfect for the Lockdown Tape format. The composer’s wish that the players play back-to-back while slowly turning was dramatically represented by Janet filming us in a circle. To avoid the mute changes during the video, we used double-bell trumpets, with Sandeep’s enthusiastic permission. Although I’ve played trumpet longer than I’ve played horn, this was my first performance on the double-bell. (It is a LOT heavier than it looks…respect to all those double-belled trumpeters out there!)
Marco and I were excited about the recording. The music’s beautiful, poignant melancholy was heart-touching to perform. We were also both happy to have the chance to present a visual statement of female/male equity in brass playing. We anticipated how the strong imagery of the video would make a great statement against gender bias.
And yet…

Side 2
We struggled with the initial video Janet sent us. The first half of the video shows a man playing powerful trumpet, a woman playing in the background, face completely in shadow. This was not the statement we wanted to make. The concept of the Lockdown Tapes is simple: One camera, one take, a “live” performance. Janet Sinca’s video artistry is also live; she responds to the musicians’ intensity, to the light and drama of the moment. When we expressed our concerns to Janet, she adjusted the lighting to support the shots during my “side” of the circle, using her skill to bring me out of the shadows. Although Marco and I still struggle with the video, we were encouraged by Sandeep to present it. He wrote, “The darkness, the focus and the passion of the music translate well into the video, and the slow visual circuit around the two of you…intensifies the listening experience.”
The release of the video is not without hesitation. The backstory of this performance is essential for me to tell. Perhaps the statement that we hoped to present is better represented not as an ideal achieved, but as a struggle to be continued.”
– Christine Chapman, June 2020