Threefifty’s first record, released in 2006, is a testament to the duo’s pedigree and finesse as classical musicians. Yet, despite being self-titled, contains more works from Scarlatti, Handel, and Super Mario than members Brett Parnell and Geremy Schulick themselves. 2009’s Circles, their second offering, is full of entirely original music but doesn’t stray from the acoustic duo configuration that has always been Threefifty’s bread and butter. Their newest offering, Collapses, leaps forward into unmarked territory, a genre bending triumph infused with the strength of their technique, the broadness of their palettes, and their appeal as composers. Having received its debut in concert at SubCulture on September 13, Collapses opens pathways leading to a thousand new sounds that immediately become vital to Threefifty’s identity and storytelling.
Threefifty Duo – Photo by Jordan Matter
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“They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them…”
In the poem “I Sing the Body Electric” from his masterpiece Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman ruminates on humanity, the love he consents to accept, and the love he is willing to give. In the context of Duo Orfeo’s newest record, I sing the body electric, the meaning of those words broadens to include an artistic longing, one that drove two musicians to apply an inspired spark of originality to “go with” and “respond to” music that called to them but had hitherto been evasive and inadequate on their chosen instruments. For Joe Ricker and Jamie Balmer, two of a crop of young, classically trained guitarists who are finding new means of expression through finely honed technique, I sing the body electric is a milestone record that encompasses their pedigree and their passion in a completely original and captivating way.
Duo Orfeo (Joseph Ricker and Jamie Balmer) - Photo by Tristan Chambers
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Classical guitar is a pain in the ass. The way you’re meant to sit: weird/humiliating. The disparity between left and right hand technique: completely frustrating. Reading guitar music at sight: laughably annoying. And, perhaps most maddening: trying to project to a point at which an audience can actually hear you once you get all those other things to jibe. Maybe these reasons are why the instrument is so often neglected in the realm of chamber music, and furthermore, maybe that’s why there’s such a preciously tiny handful of classical guitarists that have broken the boundary into composition and true musicianship – because so few of us have the facility to deal with our own instrument, let alone communicate with or through other ones. That is why seeing David Leisner perform alongside pianist and compadre Jon Klibonoff as part of Symphony Space’s Guitar Plus series marked, for me, a kind of breakthrough. Apart from Leisner’s amazing facility that showed the guitar can definitely hang with arguably the most important instrument in the history of western music, his original composition for piano solo proved that classical guitarists can be legitimate musical thinkers with the ability to range out of the cramped knot that is them and their instrument and into a world of sound and color that points towards totally new directions.
David Leisner – Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
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