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April 11, 2014

Salem State professor, flutist with cerebral palsy release CD

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Branch and Bradshaw have been using music to discuss socially relevant issues since their first collaboration in 2009.

The composer first learned about Branch when she was traveling the world on the Watson fellowship. She was meeting with other artists who lived with disabilities in every field, from dancers to visual artists.

“During our first conversation, she told me about how someone had mentioned to Catherine that her walk reminded her of her own mother. That got her thinking about movement and mobility and motion,” said Bradshaw, whose imagination was fueled by the notion of making movement into music.

Branch made a videotape of herself walking around the conservatory in Australia where she was traveling at the time.

“We came up with a plan to translate her physical motion into music. I used video software to map her unique body movement based on the video she sent me. I listened to the resulting rhythms and turned the visuals marks into sounds,” Bradshaw said.

The result was a flute concerto, which will be part of their presentation. Bradshaw will show the video and talk about transforming those images of her manner of walking into a concerto, which will be performed live.

Bradshaw said the title of the CD was inspired by a thought-provoking book, “Whistling Vivaldi,” written by psychologist Claude Steele, the I. James Quillen dean for the School of Education at Stanford University.

Bradshaw’s new composition, “At the Root of Identity,” is for flute, baritone saxophone, violoncello, two percussionists and laptop — or orchestra. The composition premiered and was recorded at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, N.Y., featuring Branch on flute, and the Music of Difference Ensemble.

“Catherine and I are dealing with words and disability and music. We talk about tough issues. But through music, it is non-threatening. This is pure joy. Music for me is not separated from society, but it is an emotional connection to society,” Bradshaw said. “It is my hope that this piece of music embodies our collaboration using art music to encourage positive discussion about social change.”

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