Musical Explorations: Interweavings of Ideas and Music

In addition to presenting superb traditional concerts, the Trio also delights in offering engaging Musical Explorations which invite audiences to see things from new perspectives, to cross stylistic or cultural or disciplinary boundaries.

In these imaginative musical collages, the musicians juxtapose or make connections between intriguing ideas and pieces of music, musing about the music itself and about its affinities to a surprising range of intellectual pursuits or its role as eloquent cultural storyteller.

Lively conversation, stimulating readings, and special guest performers often enhance the experiences.

Ideal for the general public, a variety of educational levels, and many areas of study, these mind-expanding journeys are often incorporated into the Trio’s Mini-Residencies.

The Helices love to explore new territory — let us know where you’d like them to take you.

THsquare4Encore! Encore!
Music by Composers in their Second Half-Century

“Encore! Encore!” concerts are comprised entirely of works written during composers’ later years. These works—often transformations of or new “takes” on the experiences of youth—were created by people who met success early in their careers but who were nonetheless impelled to stay engaged with their inner muse, to reinvent themselves as they grew older.

THsquare3Reaching Across the Divide—Globally and Stylistically

A program presented at the 2007 Chamber Music of America conference, NYC

Drawing from the rich and growing repertoire of chamber music inspired by — and often incorporating — authentic folk traditions, we illuminate kinships with people in diverse landscapes throughout the world, by walking in their musical footsteps. This exploration includes all or parts of the following works:

  • Bright Sheng – Four Movements for Piano Trio, based on Chinese folksongs
  • Frank Martin – Trio on Popular Irish Melodies
  • Arno Babadjanian – Piano Trio, based on Armenian folk materials (and which we have performed with guest Armenian artists from Boston’s Sayat Nova Dance Company)
  • Vartabed Komitas – Armenian Folksongs arranged for Piano Trio
  • David Baker – Roots II, based on the African-American experience


For this program, Triple Helix draws from and builds on the success of our two-year project at Wellesley College, “A Sense of Place: Music Shaped by Cultural Experience.” The project was comprised of six programs, each focusing on a different part of the world. The offerings featured discussion-recitals and music from Eastern Europe, France, Russia, The Pacific Rim, and the Middle East, with a special, innovative multi-media theatre piece highlighting the experiences of American immigrant groups and a work composed expressly for the Trio and a pansori singer!

THsquare2From Tongue-in-Cheek to Chuckle: Elements of Wit in the Trios of Haydn and Beethoven

One often thinks of the Classical Style in terms of its highly cultivated musical wit. What actually accounts for musical humor in the late 18th century, in its range from the sublime to the ridiculous? What is the anatomy of a musical joke, and what strategies were available to composers of the period in a wordless medium such as the piano trio?

Using the E-flat Major Trio, Hob. XV:30 by the 64-year-old Haydn and the E-flat Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 1 by the 23-year-old Beethoven (both works from the mid-1790s), we will explore the dynamics of delight as inherent possibilities in the musical language of the time, while delineating the particular ways that the Grand Master and his one-time protégé expressed their capacity for the comic.

THsquare1The Emerging Self in Beethoven: Music That Enacts its own Becoming

Focusing on the highly personal and sometimes enigmatic work of Beethoven, this discussion-recital explores both the development of subjectivity and an increasing fascination with psychic processes in 19th-century Europe, in terms of music, visual art, medicine, science, and literature. The fascinating discussion and demonstration will culminate in a performance of the “Ghost” Trio, a work which still strikes us as revolutionary and freshly imaginative.


THsquare5The Science in Art OR What’s in a Name? Intriguing Forms in Music of Ravel and Ives

To what extent is “the medium the message” in works of art or music? How does form inform? How does knowledge of particular formal strategies affect a performer’s interpretive decisions?

Taking unusual and provocative formal premises in works by Ravel (the “Pantoum” movement of the Piano Trio is based on a strict Malaysian poetic form) and Ives (the first movement of his Violin Sonata No. 3 is an ingeniously magnified hymn), we’ll discover the ways in which these “external” premises shape the “internal” drama and see how knowing the Game Plan influences the Game.

THsquare4Math and Music: Intersecting Lines of Thought

Why have mathematics and music been such constant companions throughout history? From Pythagoras to Kepler, Bach to Bartok and John Cage, mathematicians and musicians have marveled at — and played with — the almost mystical affinities between Number and Sound. What are some of the commonalities? What aspects are inherent in both disciplines that predispose them to resonate with each other?

Join the Triple Helix Piano Trio for an exploration of these questions, along with the shared notions of: pattern, symmetry, point/line, space/time, and metric/gestural transformation. Plentiful musical examples will be chosen from the following works: Schubert Nottorno; Ravel Piano Trio in A minor; Carter Cello Sonata; Beethoven “Ghost” Trio.

THsquare3Charles Ives and the Spirit of Transcendentalist New England

A staunchly independent thinker, Charles Ives drew spiritual and aesthetic sustenance from his transcendentalist compatriots and heroes, when he managed to take the popular sacred and secular music of his childhood experience — along with a small dose of European art music and a big dose of experimental music — and synthesize these disparate elements into a truly innovative music of his own. His music challenges our ears and our expectations, with its freshly dissonant flavors and highly personal rhetoric.

We will interleave performances of Ives’ fourth violin sonata and his piano trio with evocative readings of New England transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau, along with writers who were their contemporaries, such as Whitman and Melville. This aural collage brings to life music and thought in an age which valued the “infinitude of the private man” (Emerson) and sought transcendence through an embrace of the commonplace.

And here’s a quick look at a few other variations on this theme:

Music from the Melting Pot: Celebrating Our Diversity

A multi-media performance — with music, movement, and readings — using some or all of these compositions:

  • Frank Martin Trio on Popular Irish Melodies
  • David Baker Roots II
  • Charles Ives Piano Trio
  • Astor Piazzolla Tangos
  • Paul Ben-Haim Variations on a Hebrew Melody

The Spirit of Improvisation

Composers from diverse periods and places have incorporated elements of improvisation into their scores, either actually or tacitly; we’ll see what the implications of such inclusions are for a work’s performers — and its audience.

  • David Rakowski Hyperblue (1991-’93)
  • Haydn Trio in E-flat
  • Dvorák Piano Trio in E minor Op. 90 (“Dumky”)

Mozart and His Spiritual Progeny

  • Mozart Trio in E Major, K. 542
  • Alexander Zemlinsky Trio in D Minor, Op. 3
  • Ravel Trio in A minor

The Vocal Impulse: East Meets West

  • Beethoven Op.70, No. 2 in E-flat Major
  • Arno Babadjanian Piano Trio
  • Shostakovich Trio No. 2 in E minor

Musical Thinking Outside the Box

Three or four selections from among:

  • Haydn Trio in F-sharp minor
  • Beethoven Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97 (“Archduke”)
  • Beethoven Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1
  • Schumann Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63
  • Ives Piano Trio
  • Rakowski Hyperblue (1991-’93)