Video Premiere: The Whale Song by Michelle Ross

The sea has been a source of enigmatic inspiration for many composers, representing a place of immense power and reckoning in the operas of Benjamin Britten, a shimmering obstacle to love in Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin, and the home of mysterious depths and undulating beauty in George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae.

For violinist and composer Michelle Ross, the sea is full of folkloric mystery where mankind, the natural world, and the spiritual world coalesce. Her forthcoming EP, The Whale Song, features cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdottir traversing mythical waters in the eponymous 14-minute work, presented as both a prologue with three individual movements, and as a single-track continuous version of the piece.

The beautifully illustrated video by composer and animator Lembit Beecher acts as a sort of immersive score-follower video as handwritten notation and live performance footage blend with cerulean oceanic imagery.

Michelle Ross--Photo courtesy of the artist

Michelle Ross–Photo courtesy of the artist

Here’s what Michelle had to say about The Whale Song:

Writing The Whale Song allowed me to traverse the boundary between composer and performer. Throughout my improvisations with a cello, a myth came to me: a whale swallows a group of monks, sinks, and the monks chant exuberantly from within. The Whale Song is an investigation of freedom found at the boundary: the liminal space between improvisation and notation, noise and note.

The Whale Song is out Friday, February 11, 2022, and you can pre-order the EP on Bandcamp.

About Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross is a violinist, composer, and multi-instrumental improviser. A protege of Itzhak Perlman-turned-multidisciplinary artist, Michelle is known for her debut album, pop-up project and blog Discovering Bach: Complete Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach, and her recent collaboration with Jon Batiste on the GRAMMY Nominated Best Classical Contemporary Composition “Movement 11.” Passionate about expanding the bounds of contemporary music as both a creator and performer, she is a member of Ensemble Échappé, a guest with International Contemporary Ensemble, co-curator of Lucerne Festival Forward and faculty at Lucerne Festival Contemporary. Michelle was recently soloist in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres with James Blachly and EXO at the Met’s Temple of Dendur, and collaborations include Bach Double with Itzhak Perlman, Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony, leading the LFCO with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Teodor Currentzis at The Shed, and Musicians from Marlboro tours. Michelle holds degrees from the Juilliard School and Columbia University.

About Sæunn Thorsteinsdottir

Sæunn Thorsteinsdottir is an Icelandic-American cellist who has appeared as soloist with the BBC Symphony, LA Philharmonic, Toronto, Seattle, and Iceland Symphonies. Her recitals and chamber music performances have taken her to Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Elbphilharmonie and Barbican Center in London. The NYTimes described her as “charismatic” and “riveting”, and the LATimes praised her performances for their “emotional intensity.” Sæunn has garnered numerous prizes, including the Naumburg Competition in New York and the Antonio Janigro Competition in Zagreb. She is on faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music. Sæunn recently released an album of Icelandic works for solo cello, Vernacular, and her recording of the cello concerto Quake by Páll Ragnar Pálsson with the Iceland Symphony was nominated for a 2020 Grammy award. Her recording of the Six Bach Suites is scheduled for release in late 2022 on the Sono Luminus label.


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