Eden MacAdam-Somer, My First Love Story

"Astonishing virtuosity and raw expression” - New York Times

“Her instruments dance between echoes, reverberating with Bartokiani suggestions and ethno-folk singer”  - Il Manifesto

“Hints of Joni Mitchell with tensions noir” - www.mescalina.it

"[Eden's] comprehensively unifying vision has added something precious to this music. It is a richly stimulating recital. Bravo!" -  Raul da Gama

Eden MacAdam-Somer, My First Love Story (2015, 002)

Press Release

My First Love Story introduces the solo work of one of New England Conservatory’s newest faculty members and one of the most dynamic young artists performing today: composer, performer, and improviser Eden MacAdam-Somer. Recorded live in NEC’s Jordan Hall, this album is an incredible blend of contemporary and traditional art, moving fluidly between Appalachian folk song and cutting edge classical performance.

The seeds for this project were planted years ago, when I played my very first notes on the piano. I don’t remember that day (I was four years old); in fact, I don’t remember a time in my life before music. Music is the language in which I am the most comfortable, and a language that I have been fortunate to share with artists all around the world, in many dialects and in all kinds of settings. For most of my life, I have struggled in defining myself as an artist: violinist, fiddler, singer, dancer, improviser, composer, educator, performer, musicologist… but I have come to realize that it is the sum of all of these parts that makes me who I am. This project is a portrait of the artist that I am today and the story of my first love, kindled all of those years ago in my four-year old heart.

The album centers around MacAdam-Somer’s Rumi Songs, an open-ended cycle for voice and violin that is partially composed and partially improvised. The three movements carry the listener from sweet Bach-like tones through serial systems, folk references, and free improvisation, while vocals soar in translations of ecstatic love poems by the famed Sufi poet Mevleva Rumi. This work was inspired by Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Along the Field, also featured on the recording arranged for solo performer with improvised fiddle interludes and English Country Dance tunes. “Vaughan Williams is so skillful in blending folk songs with classical composition, and I always wondered what it would be like to perform this piece with a folk singer…it is not at all uncommon for folk musicians to sing and play at the same time and eventually I thought, ‘maybe I can do both parts.’ I love being able to tell the whole story myself, because I can follow my imagination wherever it takes me at any time… it isn’t about “blending” genres or about the technical challenges in playing and singing at the same time, but simply telling the story the way I hear it, which might be a little different in each performance.”

MacAdam-Somer carries the listener to many imagined worlds in this recording. “Jump for Joy” is a jubilant blending of Duke Ellington’s composition with African-American spirituals and folk dance tradition, the violin taking on the role of the big band with drumming in her tapping feet, which burst into celebratory percussive dance. From here, she moves into the realm of film noir with “Lullaby,” a dark, early-music-inspired tribute to jazz pianist Ran Blake:

“This scene is from Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher, in which an Algerian war veteran, (and the local butcher), is suspected of being a brutal serial killer in a small French village… in this scene, school children are practicing a courtly Baroque dance in period costume, creating a sense of eerie serenity just before the traumatic climax of the film.”

Also featured on the album are more traditionally rooted pieces. The CD opens with an original song, “Fourteen Miles” with straight up Appalachian fiddling darting suddenly through angular pizzicato passages under sweet vocals. “Barbara Allen” blends the familiar folk ballad with West African gonje tunes, traditionally used to relay village histories as a means of preserving aural history. The recording ends with “Say Darlin’ Say,” a sweet lullaby in which the voice and viola intertwine and become one, speaking to the way MacAdam-Somer weaves all of her musical selves into one exceptional and very unique voice, each and every time.

NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department is all about developing one’s unique voice, invoking a methodology that liberates the idea of improvisation from any specific genre. CI faculty provide students with grounding in aural skills, vocal and instrumental technique, a wide range of improvisational traditions – in short, everything a student might need to become a leading artist of today. Department Chair Hankus Netsky describes MacAdam-Somer as “a ‘compleat musician.’ She’s a violin virtuoso who knows many fiddling styles…a wonderful composer and a great singer…she represents another generation, a continuity that we can all agree on here.”

Indeed, MacAdam-Somer’s music transcends genre. She has been a featured soloist with symphony and chamber orchestras, jazz and swing bands, and Eastern European and American folk ensembles. As an educator and composer/improviser, MacAdam-Somer has been a guest artist at such institutions as the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (where she is a regular visiting faculty member) and the Dundalk Institute of Technology, as well as a featured performer at the Eastbourne and Beijing International Music Festivals.

While growing up in Houston, Texas, MacAdam-Somer studied classical music formally, spending her free time at the local folk music sessions and working as an arranger and studio musician. She attended Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts, winning the Music Teacher's National Association State Division and the Lennox Young Artists Competitions. Later, she earned her BM and MM in classical performance from the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston as a student of Fredell Lack, and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University as a student of Kenneth Goldsmith.

In 2004, MacAdam-Somer moved to Boston and began touring with guitarist and banjo player Larry Unger as the core members of the ensemble NotoriousFolk. Together, they have performed across the continental United States, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, India, Iceland, the UK, and Afghanistan, teaching and playing for festivals and dances of all kinds. Their music has been featured in many of Ken Burns' documentaries, including Our National Parks, The Dustbowl, Prohibition, and The Roosevelts.

With her diverse interests and capabilities as a performer and educator, MacAdam-Somer finds NEC’s Department of Contemporary Improvisation the perfect home base.

“When I arrived at NEC and attended my first CI concert, I realized that I had found the artists I’d been looking for my whole life…the CI Department is much more than a degree program – it is a vibrant community of creative musicians, each coming in with a distinct voice of their own, eager to push themselves to new artistic levels and completely open to and enthusiastic about the music of their peers. It is one of the most mutually supportive and exciting musical communities that I have ever been a part of.”

 

Outside of the classroom, MacAdam-Somer maintains an active international performance and recording career as a soloist and with such bands as Notorious Folk, the Sail Away Ladies, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

For more information, visit Eden's website at www.fiddlegarden.com

Or, for more on the New England Conservatory CLICK HERE

Track List

Fourteen Miles

Rumi Songs: My First Love Story

Rumi Songs: Phrases and Pages

Rumi Songs: Transformed

Jump for Joy

Lullaby

Barbara Allen

Along the Field: We’ll to the Woods No More

Along the Field: Along the Field

Along the Field: The Half-Moon Westers Low

Along the Field: In the Morning

Along the Field: The Sigh that Heaves the Grasses

Along the Field: Goodbye

Interlude: The White Wheat/Shropshire Lass

Along the Field: Fancy’s Knell

Along the Field: With Rue My Heart is Laden

Say Darlin’ Say

 

Personnel: Eden MacAdam-Somer: violin, viola, voice, percussive dance

Artist Bio
Eden MacAdam-Somer at Symphony Space NY, NY CI 40th 2013

Eden MacAdam-Somer at Symphony Space NY, NY CI 40th 2013

Eden MacAdam-Somer is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians performing and teaching today. Her music transcends genre through soaring violin and fiddling, vocals, and percussive dance. She has been a featured soloist with symphony and chamber orchestras, jazz and swing bands, and Eastern European and American folk ensembles. As an educator and composer/improviser, Ms. MacAdam-Somer has been a guest artist at such institutions as the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and the Dundalk Institute of Technology, and a featured performer at the Eastbourne and Beijing International Music Festivals, in addition to maintaining a full-time studio at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. With her contemporary duo, NotoriousFolk, she has toured across the continental United States, and performed and taught in Alaska, Hawaii, India, Iceland, the UK, and Afghanistan.

Beginning her classical studies at the age of four, it was not until her teenage years that Eden became an active member of the traditional music and dance community in Houston, Texas. This led to years of playing and singing with American and International folk bands, jazz and swing groups, and early music ensembles. Eden also continued to develop her skills as a classical violinist, attending Houston’s renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, winning the Music Teacher’s National Association State Division and the Lennox Young Artists Competitions, and, eventually, earning her BM and MM degrees in classical performance from the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston as a student of Fredell Lack, and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University as a student of Kenneth Goldsmith.

As an educator, Ms. MacAdam-Somer is strongly committed to a holistic and creative study of music, grounding students in sonic awareness and self-expression, while building technical facility as performers, improvisers, and composers. She encourages her students to ask questions, respect tradition, and challenge convention, developing their individual voices, regardless of genre or style. Ms. MacAdam-Somer has taught privately for over fifteen years, and joined the faculty of the Contemporary Improvisation Department at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2012. In addition, she has helped develop teaching programs at Houston Community College, the Shepherd School of Music’s Preparatory Department, and Southshore Conservatory of Music. She has also acted as teaching assistant to Kenneth Goldsmith at the Shepherd School of Music and to Hankus Netsky and Ran Blake at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Eden MacAdam-Somer at Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM)

Eden MacAdam-Somer at Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) Kabul, 2013

Ms. MacAdam-Somer has made annual visits to Afghanistan since 2009, where she teaches and performs at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Her work there has led to her research of the current opportunities for women as musicians in Kabul, culminating in her Doctoral of Musical Arts Thesis: “Dukhtar-e Afghan – Women and Music in Kabul in the 21st Century.” Ms. MacAdam-Somer will return to Kabul in the Spring of 2013 to assist in curriculum development for higher education at the ANIM.

Her compositions include numerous works for solo performer on voice, violin, and body percussion, such as Jump for Joy and Rumi Songs, a partially composed, partially improvised song cycle, hailed by the New York Times as reflecting “astonishing virtuosity and raw expression.” Ms. MacAdam-Somer is currently working on a piece for chamber ensemble, entitled The Shooting Gallery, reflections on war as seen through the eyes of children, largely inspired by her work in Afghanistan.

In 2009, Ms. MacAdam-Somer was accepted as the first doctoral student of the groundbreaking Contemporary Improvisation (CI) department of the New England Conservatory of Music. There, she has pursued explorations of composition and improvisation across genres, including works for solo performer on violin, voice, and percussive dance. In fall of 2011, she was named Chair of the CI Department of Preparatory and Continuing Education at NEC, and in 2012 became Assistant Chair of the College CI Department. Outside of the classroom, she maintains an active performance and recording career with Boston area bands, the Sail Away Ladies, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and continues to tour, both as a soloist and with the duo NotoriousFolk.

Rumi Songs: My First Love Story by Eden MacAdam-Somer (poem by Rumi)

Video Sample: Rumi Songs by MacAdam-Somer (poetry by Rumi)

Video Sample: Jump for Joy by Duke Ellington (arr. by MacAdam-Somer)