By Samia Afsar
Enclosed between the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Claire Tow Center lobby was an array of musical instruments that were played by the Brooklyn College Composers’ Collective. In their second in-person concert since the COVID-19 pandemic, the club’s members delighted music lovers with original pieces on Mar. 28.
The club was renamed to “Composers at BC” for this particular concert to highlight each of the distinct composers that participated in the event, not just composition majors.
“[…] The purpose of this concert [was] just to have an opportunity to present our own original pieces,” said club president Gidong Kim in his welcome address. “Original,” he emphasized as he utilized air quotes to highlight its importance. “That is key.”
Following his address, Kim welcomed piano performance and musical composition major, Zhi Chen, and his jazz ensemble “The Chicken Combo,” which consisted of Ryan Martin, Christopher Lutsker, Nikita Tumanov, and Marty Hamburger.
Accessorized in a hat depicting two long rabbit ears, Chen elucidated his composition “The Rabbit” as a piece that he constructed for the year 2023, or the year of the rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac calendar.
Chen then took the make-shift stage to play the vibraphone as he melodically narrated popular Chinese folklore, The Legend of the Jade Rabbit, while accompanied by his ensemble on the trumpet, piano, electric bass, and drums. Blending the dulcet and rhythmic elements of jazz and traditional Chinese music, “The Chicken Combo” proved to be an exemplary start to the afternoon’s event as patrons settled into their seats to the serene sounds of Chen’s composition.
As his piece came to a close, Chen accompanied Lutsker, Tumanov, and Paolo Lembo for an improvisation composition they called “Beatbox Jam.” The performance began with Lembo beatboxing varying sounds into his looper to produce a beat his musical accompaniments then joined in on. Beatboxing a range of sounds over the original beat he composed at the start of the piece, Lembo mimicked the deep bass notes of a drum to curate an intricate tempo and harmony that paired magnetically with the instruments played by the ensemble.
Up next was Javal Minor who ever so timidly walked to the stage to showcase “Mania,” a song both produced and performed by Minor himself. Having explained it as a song reminiscent of Kid Cudi’s sound, Minor’s robust voice bounced off of the walls of the lobby, overpowering his timorous introduction.
Club president Kim followed Minor to present a quick minute-long composition he called “Rush, Ash! Rush!” On the piano, Kim confidently struck the piano keys to produce an almost looney-tunes-esque soundtrack, conjuring a mental picture of the falls and tumbles usually associated with such a sound.
Later in the show, Kim was accompanied by Eduardo Palacios on the guzheng, a 21-stringed Chinese instrument, to perform another one of Kim’s original compositions called “The Leaf on the Tea.” Pairing the delicate yet powerful sound of the guzheng with the mellowness of the piano, Palacios and Kim were able to create a sense of balance and harmony, combining the two distinct sounds to create something new and beautiful.
Palacios also showcased two of his own compositions at the concert. The first, which was performed by Yuxing Feng on the piano, was called “Prelude.” The second untitled piece was played by Palacios himself on the guzheng. Although his two compositions were performed on separate instruments, they both possessed a bright and uplifting quality to them that radiated a sense of hope and security. The relaxed tempo and Palacios’s radiant smile as he strung the guzheng set the mood for the afternoon as the event came to a close. In the words of Kim himself, Palacios’ performance “was perfect.”
The Composers’ Collective will be hosting another concert in the fall. Those interested in showcasing their work are encouraged to reach out to Kim or to the other members of the club.