Student composers saw their works come to life on Saturday as Binghamton University’s Explorchestra hosted “An Evening with Explorchestra: 11 Years of Original Music” in University Union 120. The free concert ran from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and featured 13 songs written and performed by members of the club.
Founded on campus in 2009, Explorchestra is a student-led orchestra that prides itself on performing exclusively original musical pieces. There are no limitations based on skill, and any student who brings their own instrument is welcome to join the group. Seth Gully, public relations chair for Explorchestra and a sophomore triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French, said many members appreciate the club for the lower time commitment compared to groups such as Symphony Orchestra.
“I know for me, the reason I’m in this group was because the Symphony Orchestra and auditioning and stuff, it just seemed like quite a lot to do after high school, so I thought ‘Explorchestra,’” Gully said. “And I think a lot of people probably have that same sort of thought pattern.”
The 13 songs performed by Explorchestra varied widely in musical tradition and style, with influences ranging from classic compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach to the eclectic energy of a Manhattan street. “Rise of the Byzantines,” a piece written by Gabriel Zornberg, a freshman majoring in Japanese studies, was inspired by his interest in the Byzantine Empire born out of playing the video game “Age of Empires II” with his father as a child.
Eschewing traditional ideas of orchestral music as stuffy and serious, the semester show featured moments of comedic relief. In one song called “The Perfect Baton,” a conductor searches for a suitable baton, attempting and failing to use a bag too heavy to keep time, as well as a magic wand that works well until a musician finds flowers coming out of the end of their instrument.
Gully described the process of helping members write original pieces, and said Explorchestra provides a collaborative atmosphere.
“Some people come in ready [and] they want to write music, they’re driven, others, maybe they’re in our club for like a semester or two and then they decide to try and write something,” Gully said. “All of us e-board members and general members are happy to provide feedback. I know for me, for example, I play the clarinet, but I have no idea how to write violin music sometimes. Hearing back from other people like, ‘This is difficult’ or ‘That’s not possible.’”
Explorchestra also provides a “composer’s workshop” each semester, in which a music professor comes in to listen to audio recordings of a writer’s work and offers feedback on their projects. The group’s approach to encouraging new submissions has paid off, as six of the 13 performances came from first-time composers. Gully specifically noted the contributions of the club’s younger members.
“Especially this group of freshmen, a few have written pieces, and they are honestly just exceptional,” Gully said. “I know I am blown away by some pieces other people write, and especially our freshmen this semester.”
Editor’s note: Gully is a contributing columnist for Opinions.