A New Ballet for Philbrook: Ryan Lott's Pentaptych

Jan 31, 2019

Album cover by artist Eric Sall
Credit Eric Sall/courtesy

This past September, the Tulsa Ballet gave the world premiere of a brand-new work commissioned by the Philbrook Museum. Called Pentaptych, the music was composed by Ryan Lott, a Los Angeles-based musician and founder of the electronica ensemble Son Lux, and realized by Lott together with violinists Hajnal Pivnick and Rob Moose and cellist Eric Byers. To mark the work's album release, Ryan Lott answered a few questions about the origins of this evocative music:

How did this collaboration with Philbrook and the Tulsa Ballet come about?
Scott Sullen at the Philbrook was familiar with my work and dreamt up the collaboration.
 

What inspired the title? And is there any significance to the names of the movements?
Pentaptych is the title of the ballet, which is in five major sections. There were also five minds sharing the work of the full production (costuming, lighting, movement, music, and painting). The movement names are loose historical or geographical references to the Tulsa area, and not based on the choreography.
 

Did you approach this piece any differently because it was for a ballet company? 
I've been writing music for dance for over twenty years now, so it's second nature. And in this case, I led the collaboration, writing ahead of the movement and visuals, so I didn't feel the constriction that is sometimes part of a complex creative partnership. I had the easiest job!
 

How much of the music is acoustic versus electronic?
The score is derived exclusively from exclusively acoustic material, though only a handful of the elements are explicitly acoustic in the traditional sense. I'm curious about the space between the familiar and the unknown. In Pentaptych, for example, I explore various stages of abstraction of the violin. We hear the violin expressed traditionally, but also through less familiar extended techniques. Beyond this, the violin becomes a source for manipulation to achieve unrecognizable sounds. These sounds exist on the line between the familiar and the strange, imbued with the organic but existing in an augmented state.
 

Finally, do you plan to follow this up with future dance works?
Absolutely. I'm also considering releasing selections from my vault of previous work for dance. There are better places for my music to live than old hard drives.

Pentaptych is on sale now at the Philbrook Museum as a limited-edition 12-inch 45 rpm vinyl album, which includes instructions for downloading the tracks in an electronic format. The cover features a painting by artist Eric Sall, and the proceeds from the sales of the album benefit the museum's educational programs; for more information, visit philbrook.org.

To hear some selections from the album, tune in to Classical Tulsa on Friday, February 1, at noon on Classical 88.7 KWTU HD1.