Phonochrome is a flexible-roster chamber ensemble in the San Francisco Bay Area. Comprised of dynamic young artists, Phonochrome seeks to increase the accessibility and impact of chamber music while maintaining unwavering dedication to performance at the highest level. Each concert is a thoughtfully woven musical narrative accomplished through innovative, diverse, and thematic programming.
Phonochrome is a fiscally sponsored 501(c)3 through Fractured Atlas.
banned books solidarity concert
Join Phonochrome for a noontime concert in solidarity with the annual event Banned Books Week. This concert aims to raise awareness of the political oppression of artists, journalists, and musicians, as well as highlight the importance of our First Amendment rights and the ongoing work of organizations like the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation.
This program is a diverse and compelling array of music that exemplifies various forms of political censorship. Cellist Natalie Raney opens the concert with the Catalonian folk song, “Song of the Birds,” made famous by cellist Pablo Casals during his self-imposed political exile from Spain. Numerous other works, such as Aaron Copland’s “As It Fell Upon A Day” and Claude Debussy’s “Chansons de Bilitis,” were censored in their home countries as well as in China during Mao Zedong’s infamous cultural revolution. Performances of Dorothy Parker’s “Songs of Perfect Propriety” and Maya Angelou’s “Calypso Songs” honor two outspoken literary women who were silenced for their work. Parker was investigated by the FBI and placed on the Hollywood Blacklist for her role in pre-WWII antifascist organizations such as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and Maya Angelou’s autobiography remains one of the most contested books in American literary history. Our goal is to honor the legacy of these great artists and their works in appreciation of our freedom to read.
Catalonian Folk Song: Song of the Birds
Johann Sebastian Bach: Flute Sonata in E Major, BWV 1035
Aaron Copland: As It Fell Upon A Day
Unsuk Chin: Advice From A Caterpillar, from the opera Alice in Wonderland
Pierre Louys, arr. by Claude Debussy: Chansons de Bilitis
Dorothy Parker, arr. by Seymour Barab: Songs of Perfect Propriety
Tribute to Maya Angelou, curated by singer Melinda Becker
A flexible roster ensemble, this performance features an all-female cast of Bay Area musicians: Anne Hepburn Smith, soprano; Melinda Becker, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Talbert, flute; Sophie Huet, clarinet; Natalie Raney, cello; and Anne Rainwater, piano.
Admission: $18 for non-members / $12 for C4NM Members.
*Doors open at 11:30 for complimentary Ritual Coffee before the show.
Tickets available at the door or online here.
Phonochromaticism: A Sonic Journey through the Visible Light Spectrum, is of course a play on our name. This program was mutually inspired by George Crumb's Vox Balanae and our desire to put on a concert that reflects who we are as an ensemble. Since Voice of the Whale uses blue lighting to effectively transport the audience undersea, we found ourselves asking, "What effects would the other colors have on the music and our perception of it?" To find out, we teamed up with Guerrilla Composer's Guild, a local collective, to commission six new works exclusively for our ensemble. Each composer chose a color on the visible light spectrum and was asked to, as Crumb did, use it in a way that either directly inspires or enhances their composition. The results have been fascinating, ranging from a dark and mysterious indigo work for piano fourhands, to an explosive instrumental quartet that contrasts red with infrared. All 6 commissioned works can be heard here.
San Francisco Classical Voice: "Guerrilla Guild's Light Programming."\
Guerrilla Composer's Guild, Image Gallery: "Phonochromaticism"
love at the end of the world
This particular program explores themes of love in twentieth-century French music. The distinct compositional voices of Debussy, Gaubert, and Messiaen reflect their musical milieu and the political climate of France at the time of their writing. Debussy’s violin sonata poignantly marks his final contribution to music before his death in 1918, the same year that World War I ended. In the interwar period, Gaubert revolutionized the flute’s repertoire and technique in his post at the Paris Conservatoire. Messiaen’s iconic Quartet for the End of Time, premiered in 1941 at a German prisoner-of-war camp, presents us with the horrors of war juxtaposed with a devout love of God.
The concert features Phonochrome founders Allegra Chapman, piano; Laura Gaynon, cello; and Elizabeth Talbert, flute. They are joined by guests Cassandra Bequary and Joseph Maile, violins; Sophie Huet, clarinet; and Jerry Liu, cello.
Claude Debussy (1917): Violin Sonata in G minor, L 140
Philippe Gaubert (1926): Trois Aquarelles (Three Watercolors)
Olivier Messiaen (1941): Quartet for the End of Time
Phonochrome will perform George Crumb’s iconic trio Vox Balanae (Voice of the Whale) at 405 Shrader. The program also includes Folksongs, Set No. 9 for flute and cello by contemporary Iranian composer Reza Vali.
Phonochrome builds its programs around the ideas, historical and ongoing, that connect music to broader cultures - cultures of heritage, of the arts, and of intellectual and political movements. For this concert, pianist Allegra Chapman will be returning to 405 Shrader with Phonochrome co-founders Laura Gaynon, cello, and Elizabeth Talbert, flute.
Voice of the Whale will be performed in masks under blue lighting, prepared piano, and amplification of all instruments. Inspired by live recordings of humpback whale song, these specifics, “by effacing a sense of human projection, will symbolize the powerful impersonal forces of nature (nature dehumanized).” Vali, hailed as “an Iranian Bartok,” uses similar instrumentation and extended techniques to imitate the sounds of the Iranian ney.