Inspired by the sonic possibilities of the bass and harp, Austin Lewellen and Caitlin Mehrtens have begun an extensive commission project, building a repertoire for this unique instrumentation. Despite their large and difficult-to-transport instruments, Austin and Caitlin have a well-established performance history together, most recently as members of the Syndicate. In their first official concert as a duo, they are excited to present works by Jonah Haven, Judy Jackson, Sage Jenson, Greg Manuel, and the Syndicate's very own Joshua Rosner.
While they are all written for the same instrumentation, these compositions vary greatly in style and execution. Sage Jenson and Judy Jackson have both employed nontraditional score techniques; Jackson's is a concept score that involves personal reflection and improvisation, while Jenson's is a graphic score that is tied to a variety of specific extended techniques. Jonah Haven's piece is a short exploration of the harp and bass sounds conflated, and manipulated through guitar pedals. Gregory Manuel has blended the sonorities of two instruments using carefully crafted harmonies, and in contrast, Joshua Rosner's transcendental etude highlights some idiosyncrasies that both instruments have when juxtaposed against each other.
An avid interpreter of new music, Lewellen regularly collaborates with composers in his area. In 2015, Austin worked with composer Beat Furrer as a stipendiat of the Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie program at Klangspuren Schwaz. Caitlin Mehrtens, Outreach Director for the Syndicate for the New Arts, has not only enjoyed performing new music, but also creating partnerships with other artists and organizations in the greater Cleveland area that will grow the community surrounding new art. Most recently, the Syndicate has hosted workshops with the Cleveland Public Library system that teach young kids about how to create their own music.
After graduating from the Oberlin Conservatory in May 2016, both Austin and Caitlin will pursue their master's degrees at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music. They are excited to expand their commission project and continue making music together.