CALL AND RESPONSE was born out KMFA’s Star Notes Program, which was created to foster opportunities for deep connection through explorations of music and meaning across generations. KMFA named this signature project “Star Notes” to tie in our branding – a music note with a star at its base. The “star” represents where we are, the Lone Star state. The “note” reflects our place as a Classical Music public broadcaster.
We hoped to provide Star Notes participants with multiple live, in-person music experiences as launching points for discussion, interaction, and learning, but the pandemic made it necessary to rethink that approach. Rather than starting with in-person engagement, what if we began with people’s significant musical memories, using remote technology?
KMFA engaged one of our local arts partners, Austin Classical Guitar, in addition to the wildly creative Thomas Echols, as well as genre-blurring string quartet Invoke. Technology would now be key to the project due to the virtual nature of our world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The artists wanted to build a concert program centered around musical memory – in particular, the aspect of our sonic memory that brings experience and feelings back to us.
Invoke violinist Zach Matteson moderated and recorded Zoom conversations between youth, and elder participants from our local community. Participants were asked to describe their first memories of music, talk about pieces of music that made them feel safe, and to dream up playlists that they might offer as gifts to loved ones. Over two dozen different works and artists were mentioned across a broad range of genres and styles. The music and ideas generated by these discussions influenced the lush, poetic, and evocative sonic landscapes created by the musicians.
Echols provided participants a unique opportunity for creative play through the invention of a proprietary CALL AND RESPONSE app. The app allowed users to isolate particularly precious moments of meaningful songs, and rework them to capture their personal significance. Invoke and Echols used this app to reimagine music suggested by the participants to compose new works. The program was then organized as a series of “calls” created by each member of the ensemble, designed to artfully convey the memories and ideas of the participants and performers. The result was a free livestreamed performance of these new compositions from KMFA’s new performance space, the Draylen Mason Music Studio.