Com­ing up in Philly Music: Pio­neer­ing new medi­ums with Scott Ordway

2 minute read
Scott Ordway is innovating music by mixing mediums. (Photo courtesy of Scott Ordway.)
Scott Ordway is innovating music by mixing mediums. (Photo courtesy of Scott Ordway.)

In every crisis, people respond with creative approaches. Rutgers composer Scott Ordway has responded to COVID-19 by releasing Interiors, a series that includes three short videos composed for isolated musicians separated by a global pandemic. Ordway sees “remotely produced video films” as a new medium and plans to continue exploring its potential. His works-in-progress include a choral film, commissioned by two colleges, that features video performances by more than 50 singers.

Mixing the music

Thus far, Ordway has released three small-scale works for piano (played by the composer) and one or two partners. The third piece, “After Us the Birds Will Sing,” adds a long-distance avian collaboration with violinist Elly Toyada, who recorded birdsong outside her studio in Osaka, Japan, and Ordway recording birdsong outside his studio in the US. In the other two pieces, he plays with musicians located in Paris and Frankfurt.

As mixed-media pieces, the camerawork enhances the music with changing angles and distances, training attention on key aspects of the music and offering views you’d never get In a concert hall. They’re shot in black and white, which adds to the mood. Each video is only a few minutes long—an important consideration in a medium that encourages us to hop around. It's a welcome departure from performances with stationary cameras that have become common since the beginning of the pandemic.

Scott Ordway's bio includes a long list of inventive pieces commissioned by major organizations. His 2016 work “Tonight We Tell the Secrets of the World” premiered at the Penn Museum and enlisted the audience in a chorus that whispered three ancient texts. In his BSR review, Peter Burwasser said it “resonated with humanist spirituality, haunting the imagination long after the last echo died away.”

What, When, Where:

Scott Ordway’s Interiors can be viewed on YouTube at Interior No. 1 “we are all made of time”; Interior No. 2 “the water drawn from wells; and Interior No. 3 “after us the birds will sing”. Admission is free and they are accessible 24 hours a day.

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