It’s probably safe to say that Nathaniel Stookey’s Junkestra is the first composition created and premiered at a city dump to be subsequently programmed by a major American orchestra. But then Junkestra is not your average piece of garbage.
The work in three movements is performed using instruments Stookey created from objects scavenged from Recology’s waste transfer facility in San Francisco: a sonorous collection of pipes, pans, mixing bowls, bottles, serving trays, deck railings, dresser drawers, oil drums, bike wheels, saws, garbage cans, bathroom fixtures, bird-cages and shopping carts. The result, says Stookey, is ‘a richer palette of timbre and pitch than anything I could have foreseen or designed.’ Junkestra was first presented in 2007 at a warehouse at the Recology facility. [See Youtube: Nathaniel Stookey’s Junkestra]
Following multiple performances to capacity crowds, the work was moved to the thousand-seat Herbst Theater in downtown San Francisco where, as one blogger reported, ‘the performance received a standing ovation from the sold-out audience, and when the composer offered to play the last movement as an encore, the audience cried out to play the whole piece again, which they then proceeded to do.’ [sfciviccenter.blogspot.com].
The work has been presented many times since, limited only by the daunting task of transporting a stageful of garbage. In 2009, it was performed twelve times over two days as the featured work at the opening of the new California Academy of Sciences and Music Concourse in San Francisco. In 2010, the work had its San Francisco Symphony debut at Davies Symphony Hall, conducted by Donato Cabrera. The new recording is performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Shwartz, and featuring David Weiss on saw. It includes a dance remix.
Nathaniel Stookey, a native of San Francisco, CA, has collaborated with a remarkable range of artists, from The Mars Volta to the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 2006, the San Francisco Symphony premiered a new commissioned work, The Composer is Dead, with libretto by Lemony Snicket, which, according to BBC Radio 3’s Norman Lebrecht, is the fifth most performed classical work of the 21st century. produced by Jack Vad performed by percussionists Brian Calhoon Katy LaFavre Miles Lassi Carl Peterson Greg Simonds Louis Siu Jacob Steuer conducted by Benjamin Schwartz and featuring David Weiss on saw