ArtsATL > Music > Preview: Sonic Generator makes a French connection with l’Orchestre national de Lorraine

Preview: Sonic Generator makes a French connection with l’Orchestre national de Lorraine

Georgia Tech's Sonic Generator.
Georgia Tech's Sonic Generator.
Georgia Tech’s Sonic Generator.

Sonic Generator, the contemporary music ensemble-in-residence at Georgia Tech, will join forces with members of the Orchestre national de Lorraine and its conductor, Jacques Mercier, in a concert of innovative music by Steve Reich, Martin Matalon, John Zorn, Daniel Wohl and Jason Freeman at the Ferst Center for the Arts this Sunday evening, November 3, at 7 p.m.

The groups will perform together again on February 15, 2014, at the Arsenal in Metz, France, the orchestra’s home. The concert in Metz will involve the entire Orchestre national de Lorraine and will include John Adams’ “Century Rolls” piano concerto, with pianist Sébastien Koch as soloist.

“It’s not very often that musicians from two ensembles come together to play together,” Christopher Bayton, director general of the orchestra, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a really important point for us. The main work in this concert is the ‘City Life’ by Steve Reich. It just so happens that it was given its world premiere in Metz, in the Arsenal, in 1995. It’s really quite moving to think that we are going to be playing this great piece of American music here in Atlanta which saw the light of day, so to speak, in Metz all those years ago.”

One important point Bayton makes is how this music is especially engaging to young adult listeners who are inclined to seek out exciting, more adventurous listening experiences. He hopes it will attract students from Georgia Tech and other nearby college campuses.

“It’s a very interesting program, which also has to do with electronic music, because that’s what Sonic Generator is all about,” Bayton said. “The research into electronic music is something which Georgia Tech is involved in as well, which explains why we’re doing this kind of repertoire.”

Tom Sherwood, Sonic Generator’s percussionist and co-artistic director, said he’s excited about the coupling. “The Reich is a piece I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “There was a coincidence of connections between Atlanta and Metz and this piece. Georgia Tech has a sister campus [in Metz], and so it seemed like a nice connection for us to put these two groups together.”

Besides the academic connection via Georgia Tech, there’s a business connection between Atlanta and Metz in the person of Hervé Obed, owner of ProConsultant Informatique, a software company based in Metz that serves the broadcast industry. Obed opened an office of his company in Midtown Atlanta in 2011 and visits here frequently. He is also president of Prelude, one of the two sponsorship organizations for the Lorraine orchestra, and is said to be the mastermind behind the concert exchange project and the move to mount the Atlanta concert.

“Prelude is an organization that funds money for projects that involve the concert hall and the orchestra,” said Bayton. “They have brought in about a quarter of the financing for this project. The overall cost is about 90,000 euros.” Some of that funding came through other sources, such as local authorities in Metz, private sources such as French insurance broker Verspieren, and a $12,000 grant from the French American Cultural Exchange.

Sherwood notes that Obed first came up with the idea for the concert in Metz as a kind of celebration. “That was the impetus of this concert,” he said. “He wanted to do something there and then also something in Atlanta.” Because of logistical difficulty, Sherwood said, only a dozen of the musicians from Orchestre national de Lorraine are in Atlanta for Sunday’s concert, but the entire orchestra will perform with Sonic Generator at the Arsenal in Metz. Sherwood also notes that the Metz concert will be the first time his group has performed internationally; in fact, it will be its first performance outside metro Atlanta.

“It’s a first time for us, too,” said Bayton. “We’ll be playing with American musicians in our own concert hall. Definitely a big first. And if the concert is successful, we’ll come back in 2016 with the whole orchestra.”

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