Under the domed ceiling of the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium, eight musicians came together last Saturday to perform the “Double Quartet” composed by Gabriel Mininberg ’20.
The composition combined formats of traditional jazz quartets and string quartets, and included stylistic elements from jazz, afro-Cuban music, EDM, chamber music and progressive rock. The 30-minute performance consisted of four “tunes,” and was accompanied by animated graphics designed by Mininberg projected on the planetarium’s ceiling.
Mininberg, a double major in astronomy and music, said that while Yale’s music program has traditionally been “classically-focused,” his interests lie primarily in jazz. By combining the string and jazz quartet formats, he sought to bring the two genres together. According to Mininberg, in an era where “people are listening to such a broad array of things all the time,” there are many more possibilities for musical composition.
Violinist Epongue Ekille ’21 said that since she has played a lot of new music, adapting to the mix of genres was not as difficult as she initially expected. Still, jazz and classical musicians have very different ways of thinking about rhythm and “feeling” music, which posed challenges for the ensemble at first.
Ekille explained that many modern composers draw from various genres apart from the “mainstream” classical canon. Still, Epongue said student-organized, cross-genre collaborations are not common at Yale, and she was glad to participate in this relatively new type of performance.
Jisoo Choi ’22, who plays the viola and identifies as a classical musician, said the instrumentation and genres in “Double Quartet” were very unfamiliar to her. The ensemble consisted of four string musicians and four jazz musicians, who each thought about music very differently. Ultimately, Choi said the experience allowed the classical musicians to break the mold of their typical ensembles, and see how their instruments can play into other genres.
“It was really a learning experience, and just a lot of fun,” Choi said. “We came from very different places and it was cool to see those different views coalesce.”
Choi said she never expected to play at a venue like the planetarium. While performances often dictate a clear divide between musicians and audiences, the planetarium allowed the musicians to sit in a ring around the projector with the audience radiating around them, integrating the musical experience and mirroring planetary orbit.
Hannah Morrison ’23, who sang in the jazz quartet, said the planetarium provided an “immersive sensory experience,” and she was happy to see audience members take in the animations while listening to the music.
Morrison said although she is used to singing in vocal ensembles, the “Double Quartet” allowed her to learn how to blend her voice with different instruments — a very different experience from pairing with other voices.
Morrison added that “Double Quartet” offered a unique opportunity for a group of eight musicians who usually don’t collaborate to “play into” each others’ sound. She hopes audience members can now imagine various musical genres in different ways, and see that a string quartet can play jazz and vice versa.
“It was really about the music and about the performance,” Morrison said. “That was what was driving our rehearsals.”
The Leitner Planetarium opened in 2009.
Carrie Zhou | firstname.lastname@example.org