Signal has existed for little over a year. But in that time, the flexible New Music ensemble has developed a reputation as one of the finest interpreters of the canon. The group skillfully tackles the music of many of today’s greatest composers, but it’s closely identified with the work of Steve Reich — partly because composer-conductor Brad Lubman, one of Signal’s two co-founders, has long been associated with Steve and the Steve Reich Ensemble.
Signal had the honor of being the first ensemble other than eighth blackbird to play Steve’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet. It was an honor because eighth blackbird commissioned the piece and has control over who else can perform it. Signal did such a fine job with the piece, clearly illustrating its strong connections with Steve’s work — that I started wondering how long it would take before Signal would get its own piece from Steve.
I asked Signal’s other co-founder, cellist Lauren Radnofsky, that question, and was thrilled to learn that we were on the same page: a commission was in the works. Because the commission involved a Meet the Composer grant and a co-commissioner, the news had to stay under wraps until everything was nailed down. With today’s announcement of MTC’s grants, it’s no longer a secret.
Lauren and Brad filled in Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? about the exciting news in an email interview last night:
Q: How did Signal’s Steve Reich commission come about?
A: It was an idea we thought of early on, after Signal formed. We love his music, so it seemed that he’d be the first and most obvious person to ask, especially given everyone’s association with him and his music — especially Brad, who has worked with Steve and premiered a number of his pieces over the last 14 years.
Q: What are the parameters of the piece? Is there a subject, context, or idea that you guys suggested, or is he totally on his own?
A: He’s totally on his own.
Q: Is there a title?
A: Not yet.
Q: What’s the process? Is it collaborative or will Steve write and you guys will play it?
A: He writes, we play!
Q: Is he writing for a specific configuration of the group?
A: The exact instrumentation is not yet determined, but the piece will be for approximately 20 players.
Q: You describe it as a co-commission.
A: The other co-commissioner is MITO/Settembre Musica in Italy.
Q: How excited are you guys about this?
A: YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We couldn’t be more excited!!!!!!!!!
Q: When will it be premiered?
A: The premiere will be during the 2011-12 concert season.
Q: What are your plans for the work?
A: We’re working to plan tours in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. We would record the piece at a later date.