An OOVE Story

The weirdly named star of our Season Opener’s YTTE (Yield To Total Elation) by Nathaniel Stookey is a one-of-kind, electro-acoustic instrument created by San Francisco-based Grammy-nominated audio engineer and kinetic sculptor, Oliver DiCicco has designed, with whimsical names like “Crawdad” and “Olivetti.”

The OOVE, created by Oliver DiCicco and played at our Season Opener by composer Nathaniel Stookey in YTTE (Yield To Total Elation).

As for the OOVE, when composer Nathaniel Stookey first came across the instrument, he imagined the name came from the Latin for egg, ovum, “because it sounds sort of primoridal. And it ended up being the egg of the piece in a way — the thing that everything else grows out of.”

But no, DiCicco informed him: It’s because side-on, it looks like a HOOVER upright vacuum cleaner.

Composer Nathaniel Stookey — who also plays the instrument at our Season Opener — explains that the sound is generated not by plucking or bowing. “It’s not really even really touched. You approach it with an electromagnet, and as the magnet gets closer to the field created by the nodes (towards the bottom of the instrument), it sets the string vibrating.” Pitch is shifted using small sliders on the four strings. As the magnet gets closer to and further from the instrument, the sound becomes louder or softer.

Music Director Donato Cabrera likens the instrument to early 20th century experiments in sound like the Theremin — which will forever be associated with the theme from iconic 60’s TV series, Star Trek, “Approaching an electromagnetic field, in the disturbance of something entering the field, sound is created. It’s the same concept.”

Only the OOVE generates a richly layered texture of sounds rather than a single pitch.

“This instrument has that idea of yielding to total elation,” continues Cabrera, “because it’s all sound at once. It’s not so much an instrument like you might think of today, like a violin or a French horn or a piano that creates discreet, individual pitches. It creates this ambiance from which sound can emerge, and that yielding to this total soundscape is what is so inspiring in this piece.”

“Playing the OOVE is an amazing experience for me,” says Stookey, “because its sound is both giving rise to the music of the orchestra and allowing me to respond to that music in real time, in a way that is different with each performance. It can be pretty intense for all concerned, especially towards the end, where the score offers only four words of advice:

Give in to it.”



ABOUT CALIFORNIA SYMPHONY

The California Symphony, now in its fifth season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is a world-class, professional orchestra based in Walnut Creek, in the heart of the San Francisco East Bay since 1990. Our vibrant concert series is renowned for featuring classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians who have performed with the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and many of its musicians have been performing with the California Symphony for nearly all its existence.

Outside of the concert hall, the symphony actively supports music education for social change through its El Sistema-inspired program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to Contra Costa County schoolchildren for free, in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.

We also host the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program, which this year welcomes its first female composer, Katherine Balch.

California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today’s most-performed soloists and composers, including violinists Sarah Chang and Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and composers such as Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts. The Orchestra performs at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

For more information, please visit californiasymphony.org.

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