Dr. Benjamin Boone, Fresno State professor of music theory and composition, released the video “Waterless Music,” an orchestral composition featuring the poetry and narration of the late Philip Levine, emeritus professor of English, last week.

The orchestra is conducted by Dr. Thomas Loewenheim, a Fresno State music professor and cellist.

Waterless Music hands

Waterless Music hands

The 19-minute video, which is available on YouTube, features participants of the Fresno Summer Orchestra Academy performing Boone’s composition at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on June 26.

The composition was initially commissioned by the Youth Orchestras of Fresno and originally performed as part of a concert in May at the William Saroyan Theatre.

Boone and several other musicians were working on a CD project with the former Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet laureate when Levine died in February.

That project, which is near completion, inspired Boone’s work when he observed the water theme in 29 tracks Levine had recorded.

“Somewhat unexpectedly, I noted that Philip frequently used water, rain and dryness as metaphors,” Boone said. “I began writing down water, storm and agricultural references and categories began to emerge.


Fresno State Orchestra

“I excerpted these phrases and created a montage — a narrative that goes from the beginning of earth’s existence, to water, to rain, to dark clouds, to a violent storm, to environmental collapse, to fallow land and infertility and finally to a complete lack of water. Once I finished the narration track, I composed the orchestral music around it.”

The College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State will pay tribute to Levine on Saturday, Feb. 20, with the event “Philip Levine: A Celebration.”

The composition also draws inspiration from the California drought and its impact on the environment.

The main instruments of the orchestra are two amplified 44-quart bowls of water that create sound effects simulating dripping water, light rain, a thunderstorm, polluted rivers and the lack of rain.

Other Fresno State faculty members who participated in the performance and are in the video include Dr. Matthew Darling, timpani; Dr. Limor Toren-Immerman, violin; Hatem Nadim, piano; and Bruce Bransby, bass. Numerous Fresno State students also performed and are featured in the video. Staff member Jose ElaGarza designed the lighting effects.

For more information, contact Boone at 559.278.7717 or bboone@csufresno.edu.
Copy by Erika Denise Castañon, University Communications news assistant).

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