Free Exercise (2014)
Free Exercise is a work for a hybrid orchestra made up of both military and experimental musicians. It was commissioned and premiered in 2014 at the Bergen Kunsthall, Norway, for Borealis Festival, and revised and restaged in 2016 for the Biennale de Montreal, at the Regiment de Maisonneuve and the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal.
In 2014, Free Exercise was performed in the four linked galleries of the Bergen Kunsthall with performers from the Royal Norwegian Naval Band (Sjøforsvarets Musikkorps) and violin and piano soloists Kaarin Hellqvist and Heloisa Amaral. From the Borealis catalogue: "The work has been developed with the exhibition rooms of the Bergen Kunsthall as a site-specific framework for the performance, where the orchestra and soloists, which are separately engaged in series of motivic and rhythmic “exercises” of varying degrees of physicality, are distributed across the four adjacent exhibition rooms of the Kunsthall. This gives the audience intimate access to certain gestures while making others only available at an acoustic remove. The work fleetingly evokes two films, ‘Beau Travail’ by Claire Denis and ‘Duck Soup’ by the Marx Brothers, both featuring uniformed bodies engaged in complicated choreographies. As in her previous works, Rosenfeld’s distribution of events, objects and players, in rigorous formations that are responsive to both acoustic and architectural properties of the site, allows a compositional staging of relations—order, disorder, stress, distraction and escape—that unfolds gradually in musical form."
In 2016, an expanded 60-minute version of the composition, for drummers, percussionists, wind players and others was presented in Montreal. Participants, including the Fusiliers de Mont Royal, an enlisted military orchestra based at the Armoury of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and luminaries from Montreal's (and New York's) rock, contemporary and free/improvised music scenes, including Jessica Moss, Greg Fox, Eli Kezsler, Cleo Palacio-Quintin, Philipe Lauzier and Noam Bierstone. mounted an initial collective performance on the exhibition's opening night distributed within a large drill hall. Performers carried out a series of collective musical "exercises" testing the limit points of rhythmic and melodic unisons and "dis-unisons." In a subsequent performance, segments of the work were restaged within the confines of the museum, extending the sonic juxtapositions and mappings of the initial performance into the space of the biennial exhibition. The 2016 version of Free Exercise moved the work into open, resonant space which audience and performer alike could navigate, and expanded upon sequences from the Norwegian production, in particular, highlighting patterns of cooperation and conflict and their intersection and enactment within institutional architectures.