It’s no secret that classical music is not what is commonly listened to by generations today. What was first composed in the 17-1800s has very little (if any) similarities to the rock, pop, alternative, and rap genres that populate playlists today.
However, bringing classic style into modern times might not be as far-fetched as it looks. Violinist Maya Bennardo and violist Hannah Levinson, Ph.D., formed the classical duo andPlay in 2012 after both moving to New York City to pursue their masters studies and perform together in other ensembles.
“People think classical music is that old thing that’s been around forever, but don’t realize it’s still being created,” Levinson said.
AndPlay takes a unique approach to classical music in the hopes of showing audiences that classical music is not a thing of the past. While classical music ideas are generally associated with composers like Beethoven and Mozart, this duo strictly plays “contemporary classical music,” which is music by current composers.
“A lot of times as students we are encouraged by our teachers, and for good reason, to study a lot of music from the past to develop our technique,” Bennardo said. “But then, by also realizing that there is music being written today, hopefully it will encourage students to want to start exploring that.”
According to Levinson, the duo work directly with composers in a collaborative process where composers write pieces specifically for andPlay. For Bennardo, being in contact and “opening a dialogue” with the composer is very different from receiving a musical score and being supposed to play it.
“I like having this time and this space to be with the composers,” Bennardo said. “I never feel like it’s one-sided, and one person is dictating something, and I just have to. We have the impression of being in a conversation.
AndPlay’s most recent project worked directly with four composers from higher education institutions in the Philadelphia area: Suzanne Sorkin, Ph.D., associate professor of music, chair of music, chair of theater and film in St. Joe’s, Richard Belcastro, assistant professor at Delaware County Community College, Richard Brodhead, professor emeritus at Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University, and Ingird Arauco, Ph.D., professor of music at Haverford College.
Each composed a piece especially for the duo, which they then performed for the students of each educational institution.
“We are very different from each other in terms of songwriting style, but I think it has helped us all grow as we have now worked together on a number of different concerts over the past four years,” said Sorkin.
Belcastro, one of the composers, writes “experimental” classical music from his rock and pop background. Belcastro said their writing style for andPlay allows artists to interpret music in their own way and play it like no other duo would.
“I am more and more free for the interpreter,” Belcastro said. “It’s not so much improvisation, it’s a very structured instruction list that doesn’t require you to count and be exact with each other in the traditional sense, but rather in a conversational way.”
In addition to their selection of compositions, their performance style is also unique. According to Levinson, andPlay always features the tracks they play.
“It can be a little different from a normal concert in that we really try to fit our personalities into it and connect with the audience by just providing a little glimpse of the play or what they’re on. point to hear or the project in general. “said Levinson.
AndPlay brought their unique take on classical music to St. Joe’s on September 30 as part of their recent project. Sorkin was thrilled to give her music composition course the kind of experience that andPlay could offer.
“I think for a lot of our students at Saint Joseph University, this may be the first time they’ve engaged in new classical music,” Sorkin said. “So I wanted them to have some sort of immersive experience. “
Joshley Moore ’24 said she hasn’t had a lot of exposure to classical music, but enjoys listening to music that she typically wouldn’t listen to.
“I’m really happy to have [went] because the experience is something that as a person who loves music it’s new, it showed me a different side, ”said Moore. “When you love something, I think you should know every aspect of it, and that gave me a vision that I never had. ”
Allison kite ‘22 contributed to this story.