Fresh off the national tour of Bridges of Madison County, violinist Rebekah Butler works hard and makes it work. A native of Utah, Rebekah earned her music degrees from the University of Arizona and the Hartt School and then moved to NYC in 2014 where she has been living, leaving, and returning to since.
As a freelancer, Rebekah has been involved in many of the activities of a professional musician - orchestral, chamber, Broadway, even busking. Her goal has been to play as much as possible in as many categories as possible. Rebekah discovered that the more musical experiences she encounters, the more she realizes how many more there are. All the same, Rebekah values each as its own unique situation and appreciates that they all collectively inform and give meaning to the other parts of her musical life. In busking, she found that maximizing her artistic output on the platform while trying to maintain the flow of a concert performance amidst the ebb and flow of the city's underground traffic is just as challenging and has as many benefits as playing in a concert hall or in an ensemble.
Interestingly, the one area Rebekah has been involved with the least so far is the one in which she is most interested - the contemporary music scene. In the process of challenging herself to learn new music for graduate program auditions, she became aware of and was very drawn towards music from the 20th and 21st centuries, even if most of what we think about as "new music" isn't so very new anymore.
Rebekah actually had three pieces in mind when approached to perform as a soloist with TCS. Two of these (Prokofiev, Bartok's first violin concerto) are more firmly in the violin canon (or closer to, in any case) but it was the work Fire and Blood by American composer Michael Daugherty that fit best with the Mahler and Takemitsu program for this concert series.
There has long been a connection with Fire and Blood for Rebekah that first sparked during her undergrad studies. A self-prescribed "music nerd listening to the classical music radio station on the way home," she happened upon the premiere performance from May 2003 with violinist Ida Kavafian and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi. It made an impression on her and became a piece she kept revisiting in her mind until finally, under the tutelage of Katie Lansdale at the Hartt School, she resolved to learn and perform it on her master's recital.
Based on the vivid "Detroit Industry" murals by Mexican modernist Diego Rivera, Daugherty says the inspiration to turn these works of visual art into sound came from the artist himself.
In my ears, I heard the wonderful symphony which came from his factories where metals were shaped into tools for men's service. It was a new music, waiting for the composer…to give it communicable form.
The "Detroit Industry" murals were commissioned in 1932 by Edsel Ford to represent Detroit's booming auto industry. Daugherty's Fire and Blood is based on the murals but also the artists themselves. The first movement, "Volcanoes," is shaped by the element of fire. This imagery is apparent in the murals as both a reflection of the literal volcanoes that surrounded Mexico City and the factory's furnaces, as well as the conceptual ideas of the artistic and political passions of the artist himself, translated into sound. The second movement, "River Rouge," is an homage to Frida Kahlo, who was with Rivera during his time in Detroit painting "Detroit Industry." Kahlo had a series of medical issues that began as a child when she suffered from polio, escalated by the well-documented bus accident that occurred when she was just 18 years old, and devastatingly compounded by a tragic miscarriage that happened while Rivera and Kahlo were in Detroit. The final movement of the piece is "Assembly Line," an evocation of not just the assembly line within the Ford factory but also the idea of the potential for collaboration between man and machine not as something to be feared but a path to liberation.
Join TCS as we showcase Rebekah Butler performing Michael Daugherty's Fire and Blood at 8:00 PM on Saturday, June 4, at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music - tickets available on Eventbrite!