D'Antonio, a faculty member at the Community Music School, and Pulley, co-author of the grant proposals, commissioned two of the new works for the concert tour, the point of which, D'Antonio explained, "is to highlight lesser known contemporary pieces written for flute and piano."
Contemporary music is frequently marginalized, said D'Antonio, except in places like New York City, Boston, or Victoria, Canada, where he was invited to play last August in what is touted as one of the more prestigious, high-profile events of its kind, the bi-annual SALT New Music Festival & Symposium. There he met composer Ben Wylie, from whom he and Pulley commissioned a piece for the tour, "Tool-Being." The piece features cassette tape players as the third instrument, with visuals provided by red and white bicycle lights, transforming the performance into a theatrical experience.
Only 26-years-old, D'Antonio has already commissioned and premiered several other works. "When I commission a piece," said D'Antonio, "there's one more available in the repertoire for performers. I think it's culturally enriching." Likewise, Pulley, age 25, strives to add to the contemporary repertoire, most specifically by collaborating with fellow musicians, and exploring the bounds of the modern flute. Both share a predilection for the timbres of piano and flute joined in performance.
Also making its world premiere on the tour is "From Concord," a piece by Salvatore Macchia, a professor of composition at the University of Massachusetts and principal bassist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. According to Macchia, he wrote the piece in response to his long-term fascination with the last movement of Charles Ives' Concord Sonata, "Thoreau."
"Alethe," by Mara Penatzer, a Northampton-based composer, and former student of Macchia, was also commissioned for the tour. The title, according to the composer's program notes, is a play on words, "Alethe" being a kind of thrush, or songbird, and the Greek word "Lethe," meaning forgetfulness or oblivion. The piece can be perceived as an exploration of memory, from the early morning pitch of a thrush, providing the awakening, to any range of forgotten things that one may not have realized one knew.
Other playbill highlights include: Messiaen's, "La Merle Noir"; Salvatore Sciarrino's, "D'Un Faune"; and Viet Cuong's, "Lacquer and Grit." The pieces, all contemporary, feature extended techniques, such as "over blowing" on the flute to achieve coarse and metallic harmonics, bend tone, accentuate timbre, or play multiple notes at once; and stopping the notes with the hand on the piano, jumping octaves to generate higher pitch, and playing the fingernails on the keys.
Aside from his faculty post at the Community Music School, D'Antonio is organist/pianist and coach at Springfield's Faith United Church, operates a music studio out of his home in Northampton, and teaches aural skills and piano at the University of Massachusetts, where he is the recipient of two graduate teaching assistantships. A large portion of D'Antonio's teaching focuses on using music as therapy for young children with special needs.
Pulley holds a master's degree in flute performance from UMass-Amherst, where she worked closely with contemporary musicians, Christopher Krueger and Ayano Kataoka. She maintains a private flute studio and serves as flute instructor for schools in Litchfield and Londonderry, N.H., and Sturbridge, MA. She also performs regularly as a soloist, duo and ensemble player, and is a section flutist with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.