Beyond the Notes: The Course of Empire is launched!!

Well, it’s finally here!

Beyond the Notes presents…

enter website

enter mobile website *

Beyond the Notes: The Course of Empire is an in-depth multimedia exploration of 19th century American painter Thomas Cole’s suite of five paintings The Course of Empire, and the string quartet I composed in response to the paintings. The site includes more than twenty documentary videos illuminating Cole’s paintings, my music, and the connections between them.

The website is meant to be freely enjoyed by anyone, whether or not you’re familiar with Cole’s paintings or my string quartet, but it was created specially to serve as a companion (a “digital program note”) for audiences of the live performance of The Course of Empire at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA on July 30, 2011, and an additional performance of the piece on an upcoming concert of my music inspired by visual art at New England Conservatory in fall 2011.

* The mobile website is optimized for iPhone and Android, and will work smoothly on most mobile phones. Users may experience problems viewing the website on iPad. If you experience technical glitches on any other device, please let me know.

The Consummation of EmpireFor more information about the concert, the string quartet, and Beyond the Notes, please check out these relevant blog posts:

July 9
Announcement of Peabody Essex Museum concert, with an overview of Beyond the Notes.

May 30
Behind the scenes exploring and filming in the Hudson River Valley, Cole’s former home.

May 25
An introduction to Beyond the Notes.

Members of A Far Cry to perform “The Course of Empire” at the Peabody Essex Museum on July 30!

I’m thrilled to announce that I will collaborating with members of A Far Cry, Boston’s leading string orchestra, to present my string quartet The Course of Empire, which was inspired by the suite of five paintings by great 19th c. artist Thomas Cole. For the first time ever, the quartet will be performed directly in front of the paintings themselves! The performance will coincide with the unveiling of the first Beyond the Notes multimedia companion website, which explores the Course of Empire paintings and music in depth.

Thomas Cole, Destruction (1836) from The Course of Empire
Thomas Cole, Destruction (1836) from The Course of Empire

The concert is being presented by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA on Saturday, July 30, 2011, with two performances at 11:00am and 3:30pm in the special exhibit galleries (free with museum admission). The event is part of the Inspired by the Land festival, held in conjunction with the opening of national touring exhibit Painting the American Vision featuring 45 landscape paintings by Cole and his contemporaries.

A Far Cry
A Far Cry (Photo: Yoon S. Byun)

The Course of Empire will be brought to life by four musicians who perform regularly with A Far Cry: Liza Zurlinden and Ethan Wood, violin; Jason Fisher, viola; and Alexei Gonzales, cello. Founded in 2007, the groundbreaking self-conducted string orchestra has enjoyed a heady ascent toward the highest ranks of today’s new generation of classical ensembles. Hailed by the Boston Globe as “thrilling,” “intrepid” and “brilliant,” A Far Cry explores the traditional boundaries of classical music, experimenting with the ways it is prepared, performed, and experienced. A Far Cry was recently appointed Chamber Orchestra in Residence at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Visit for more.

The concert will coincide with the premiere of multimedia companion Beyond the Notes, which I’m producing with the support of an Entrepreneurial Grant from New England Conservatory (my first E-grant supported the production of The Faraway Nearby). The Beyond the Notes website and mobile app for The Course of Empire will be up and running in the very near future, and I will be posting on my blog, twitter, and sending out a newsletter announcing its release. Please keep an eye out for that!

Screen capture of The Course of Empire multimedia companion
Screen capture of the upcoming multimedia companion

The website/app will feature a comprehensive guide to the paintings and music, featuring audio of the string quartet and 23 short videos exploring the historical, artistic, and intellectual contexts for Thomas Cole’s five paintings, and illuminating how Empire fueled my creative process and musical decisions.

The videos include extensive excerpts from my interview with the awesomely knowledgeable and articulate Linda S. Ferber, Vice President and Senior Art Historian of the New-York Historical Society (sponsor of the touring exhibit and permanent home of the Empire paintings). My favorite quote from Ms. Ferber: “A string quartet composed to The Course of Empire is very natural, when you think about it. Thomas Cole was very musical…I think he would be immensely pleased to find his paintings transmuted into musical form.”