Duo Sonidos Gets Funky With Classical Music, South Bend Tribune

Duo Sonidos Gets Funky With Classical Music

By: Jack Walton for the South Bend Tribune

March 14, 2013  South Bend, Indiana

The path from J.S. Bach to Bootsy Collins is not easy to negotiate, but Duo Sonidos makes the trip
seem like a perfectly natural progression.
Guitarist Adam Levin and violinist William Knuth both carry top credentials as classical musicians, and
they’ve teamed up to explore — and expand — the repertoire for guitar-violin duet.
Tuesday at Indiana University South Bend’s Campus Auditorium, Duo Sonidos will present a concert
that juxtaposes stately pieces from 18th-century Europe with a brand-new composition by IUSB’s Jorge
Muñiz, titled “Funk.”
“He mimics a lot of funk effects, like slap bass, with pizzicato,” Levin says by telephone from Boston.
“He creates a rhythmic drive, this motor force that builds throughout the entire piece.”
Duo Sonidos commissioned the work from Muñiz, recognizing him as a kindred spirit: someone who
respects classical traditions, but with an interest in exploring new perspectives. He teaches composition
and theory at IUSB, and has already written extensively for both chamber and symphonic forces.
Muñiz explains that although “Funk” is not a virtuoso showcase, it does require expert musicians to
make it succeed.
“I’m using some extended techniques with the instruments: more percussive colors for the guitar, some
snapped pizzicatos for the violin,” Muñiz says.
“Funk” is in one movement, but subdivided into three sections. It builds from a slow, contemplative
beginning and gradually makes its way into a fast groove.
In the middle of “Funk,” the violin takes on the role of a singer, even a rapper. Muñiz achieves this
effect via short, fast, syncopated phrases that he’s marked “like speaking” in the score.
“There’s even a sense of rhyme in the cadence, the way a voice rises and drops,” Muñiz says. “At the
same time, the guitar gives the clear pulse, like a drum set.”
The concert will begin with arrangements of violin sonatas by Handel and Corelli. Levin’s guitar will
provide the accompaniment usually performed by a harpsichord or a piano.
“We try to pick Baroque pieces that show the more rock ’n’ roll Baroque side of things, rather than the
tame Baroque that’s become clichéd,” Knuth says. “We can really tear into these pieces.”
Corelli’s sonata, a set of variations on a theme nicknamed “La Folia,” is an ideal vehicle for this kind of
voracious musicianship.
“It has a smoldering intensity that’s bubbling under the surface and explodes at points,” Knuth says.
Bach appears in the program by way of his B-minor partita for solo violin, with a creative spin from the
duo. The musicians play different movements of the work simultaneously, superimposing sections that
were originally separate, shining new light on Bach’s compositional logic.
The duo also will perform a series of three homages from contemporary composer Eduardo Morales-
Caso. The works are in tribute to Joaquin Rodrigo, Federico Mompou and Manuel de Falla.
Levin and Knuth did their own transcription work in transforming Xavier Montsalvatge’s song cycle
“Cinco Canciones Negras” into a guitar-violin duet. Levin arranged the piano part for his guitar, while
Knuth “sings” the vocal part with his lead violin line.
“It’s super-idiomatic for both instruments,” Levin says. “It’s our way of contributing something to the
(guitar-violin) repertoire.”
The show closes with a couple of selections from Robert Beaser’s “Mountain Songs.”
Neither conservative nor radical, Duo Sonidos operates as a unit that is largely traditional, albeit with a
huge curiosity in pulling classical music into the present and future. The same description easily applies
to Muñiz.
He’s confident that the musicians will interpret his composition properly, from a funky frame of mind. “It
needs to sound,” Muñiz says, “like a couple of performers just getting together and jamming.”