Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas — “Syzygy” (Culburnie, 2020)

Cite this article as:

Gretchen Mayer-Yeh. (September 25, 2021). Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas — “Syzygy” (Culburnie, 2020). International Journal of Music. Accessed July 25, 2024. https://ijm.education/strings/violoncello/alasdair-fraser-natalie-haas-syzygy-culburnie-2020/

As the musical voyage of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas unfolds, the word “syzygy” takes center stage, symbolizing the harmonious convergence of their distinct musical voices. Derived from Greek and Latin, syzygy signifies the joining of two entities without compromising their individual characteristics. In this article, I delve into the significance of syzygy in our latest album, “Syzygy” (Culburnie, 2020), offering a glimpse into our creative process and the culmination of over two decades of collaboration.

Syzygy: A Musical Odyssey

The concept of syzygy might evoke thoughts of astronomy, mathematics, and various disciplines far removed from the realm of music. Yet, as Alasdair and I embarked on crafting our sixth album together, the word resonated with us as a fitting descriptor for our fiddle and cello duo. This album serves as a testament to our journey, a celebration of contrasting backgrounds, experiences, and world views converging in a dance-like conversation between two instruments.

Our compositions, equally shared, encapsulate the essence of syzygy by allowing us to retain our individuality while creating a harmonious musical dialogue. Rooted in tradition, the tunes traverse a diverse array of themes – from weddings and newborns to bicycle mishaps, Scottish landscapes, Nordic heroes, Broadway, family, myths, jesters, and troubadours. Amidst this melodic tapestry, the term “Caledonian antisysygy” surfaces, reflecting the clash of extremes within the Scottish mind and character, a subtle “zigzag of contradictions.”

The Syzygy Music-Writing Process

The process of composing the music for “Syzygy” is a blend of spontaneity and collaboration. Half of the compositions are mine, and the other half belong to Alasdair. Inspiration often strikes unexpectedly – a specific moment, a fleeting thought, or simply experimenting with our instruments. The synergy between the fiddle and cello begins with the melody, a fragment that evolves into a rich musical narrative.

Sometimes, inspiration stems from unconventional sources, such as playing with a drone or experimenting on different instruments. The melodies, once established, become the foundation for a collaborative arrangement. Alasdair and I engage in a rhythmic and harmonic dialogue, passing the compositions back and forth multiple times, shaping and refining them until they embody the syzygistic essence we strive for.

Looking Beyond Syzygy: Future Projects and Collaborations

While “Syzygy” marks a pinnacle in our musical journey, it is not the end but a stepping stone to new horizons. Our commitment to the ultimate combination of minimalism and richness propels us towards further exploration of sophistication and vigor in our compositions. As we continue to celebrate the ancient and modern, we anticipate future projects that will delve even deeper into the intricacies of our musical partnership.

Beyond our collaborative efforts, individual opportunities arise, enriching our musical experiences. Summers are dedicated to fiddle camps, where I engage in teaching at multiple camps, immersing myself in the educational aspect of music. These diverse experiences, coupled with our continuous touring throughout the year, contribute to the evolving narrative of our musical careers.

Conclusion

In the intricate dance of our musical partnership, “Syzygy” stands as a testament to the enduring power of collaboration. The album not only encapsulates the convergence of our individual voices but also reflects the rich tapestry of influences and inspirations woven into each composition. As Alasdair and I continue to explore the nuances of syzygy, we embark on a journey that extends beyond the confines of this album, reaching towards new heights of creativity and expression.

In the realm of music, the concept of syzygy serves as a guiding principle, reminding us of the beauty that arises when seemingly disparate elements align in perfect harmony. Whether lying back and contemplating the intricate melodies or dancing to the rhythm of opposing forces coming into alignment, “Syzygy” invites listeners to join us in this musical odyssey, syzygystically exploring the ever-evolving landscape of our artistic collaboration.

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