Frank J. Oteri

Everything Old is New Again: Frank J Oteri’s Dually

Duo Montagnard  (saxophonist Joseph Murphy and guitarist Matthew Slotkin) will perform Frank J Oteri’s composition Dually for the second time this year during their concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Elmira NY on Friday, December 8, 2017 at 7:30pm. (The Duo gave the world premiere performance in the rotunda of Bronx Community College’s Gould Memorial Library on April 26, 2017.) Inspired by and dedicated to Oteri’s high school music teacher Lionel Chernoff, Dually is simultaneously Oteri’s oldest and most recent chamber music composition. He explains:

Dually is based on the very first stand-alone instrumental composition I wrote back in 1979, having gotten deeply interested in classical music for the first time in my life because of a teacher I had at New York’s High School of Music and Art named Lionel Chernoff.  I was not yet 15 years old.  I substantially revised it decades later, in 2017 at the age of 52, soon after I learned that Chernoff had passed away, by developing melodic motives and chord progressions based on various anagrams of Chernoff’s name [C, B (for H), E, D (for Re), two rests (for NO), F, F]. Strangely, this idiosyncratic musical material had already been hinted at in what I had originally composed, probably by pure coincidence. Though one of the primary reasons for titling this music “Dually” was because it is a collaborative composition between younger and older versions of myself, I also wanted to acknowledge something that classical music parlance too frequently ignores. The classical music canon is built upon the notion that the great composers of the past were solely responsible for their timeless masterpieces, but nothing has ever been created in a vacuum and this music would not exist in our present time without the contributions of many other people—interpreters, presenters and other advocates, and, perhaps most importantly, listeners. All of my own humble attempts at contributing to the repertoire have been the by-product of lots of things I have learned from lots of other people. Many of the most important things I learned in my formative years I learned from Lionel Chernoff and whenever I listen to or write music, I am not doing so alone; he is with me. The word dually and the words I used for the titles of each of the four movements of the piece are all adverbs ending in “ly” for Lee, Lionel Chernoff’s nickname which I rarely called him by but which I will always remember.

Lionel Chernoff was simultaneously extremely erudite and very open-minded, something that I know has rubbed off on me and hopefully comes across in this particular piece of music. I created the version of Dually that Duo Montagnard perform on alto saxophone and guitar expressly for them, but in the spirit of Chernoff’s inquisitiveness and voraciousness, I leave the possibility open for other instrumental combinations consisting of a wind and a plucked string instrument. It could work well as a duo for flute and harp and, in honor of Chernoff’s Medieval and Renaissance class, in which I learned about everything from Guillaume Dufay to Blondie, I would love to hear it played on recorder and lute one day.