For her next performance, Crystal Young-Otterstrom will slip out of her typical black stage dress and into something a little more comfortable—a kitchen apron and a curly, brown wig. The Salty Cricket Composers Collective co-founder will act the part of Julia Child, chef and television personality, to sing a recipe, as she bakes it, for an original piece titled “A Little Recipe.”
That’s certainly atypical for classical music, but Salty Cricket—now entering its fourth year—has a philosophy of modern classical music that mirrors Child’s approach to cooking. “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure,” Child said. “In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
“We definitely have a tongue-in-cheek flare with our concerts. We are serious about composition, but we have a sense of play about it,” Young-Otterstrom says. “A lot of pieces have an element of humor, because that’s a tie with all of us.”
Salty Cricket performances can offer experimental and avant-garde musical journeys, like a tonal rock-inspired piece, a cabaret, a minimalist piece or something indescribable, and perhaps all in the same evening.
“A Little Recipe,” written by Dave Sullivan, will be performed at the collective’s 2011-12 season opener, Mélange a Trois. The season will feature four performances, up from three last year. Mélange a Trois will feature about 10 pieces of modern classical work; each involves the use of another medium—such as audience interaction via iPad-triggered sounds or a stop-motion animation projection.
Mélange a Trois is all about breaking perceptions. “People have this perception that [classical music] is stodgy and you have to sit in this sacred concert hall and worship at the altar of classical music. Music is not always like that,” Young-Otterstrom says.
The collective was co-founded by composer-musicians M. Ryan Taylor and Young-Otterstrom in 2008 to debunk such myths and to put local composers on podiums—to be a Local First for modern classical. They noticed there were few avenues outside the university and academic setting for Utah-based composers to showcase their music. Salty Cricket’s database lists about 100 composers, Young-Otterstrom says, and about 30 actively submit scores to be performed at the collective’s concerts.
One such local is Sullivan, who will showcase his first piece with the collective at Mélange a Trois. His “A Little Recipe” most likely wouldn’t get attention elsewhere because it is so quirky—written for piano, solo voice and cooking appliances. A food processor is used as an instrument, and each ingredient of the recipe—a dip—is a sub-movement lasting as briefly as 20 to 30 seconds. Each sub-movement will be in a different style of music, with references to Bach, Berio and Philip Glass.
There will be two movements: One is of “Julia Child” singing the recipe and cooking, the other is her taking the dish out of the oven and letting it cool. “I’ve always wanted to do a piece as a recipe. I’m not much of a cook at all, but it sounded fun,” Sullivan says.
Equally experimental composer John Newman will take audience involvement to a new level in “Small Fish.” Before the show, he will record people tinkering with iPads—preprogrammed with sound files that can be triggered. Those musical renderings will be saved and sequenced into the piece when he performs.
Another composer to perform during the evening, Scott Wasilewski, is a prime example of why the collective functions. He works a full-time job and composes on the side, although that can be up to 30 hours a week. “The dream would be to be a full-time composer, but I’m 70 years too late for that,” he says. So he gets his creative kicks with Salty Cricket; this will be his sixth performance with the group.
Wasilewski will show a multimedia video presentation in the style of a spaghetti Western, titled “You’d Better Carry a Gun,” the bulk of which he’ll record in the nights leading up to the performance. The stop-motion animation short will have a soundtrack including flugelhorn, percussion, euphonium and piano. “I was never a huge Western fan, but wound up seeing one, and realized I was completely wrong and stubborn,” Wasilewski says.
The late nights are worth it, however, because it fulfills a necessary void for him and the others. Young-Otterstrom sums it up best: “We need this creative outlet to stay sane.”
SALTY CRICKET COMPOSERS COLLECTIVE:
MELANGE A TROIS
Salt Lake Art Center
20 S. West Temple
Thursday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.
$15, $10 for students