Performed by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yue Bao.
In typography, kerning refers to the horizontal spacing between characters in a font. Good kerning makes a font proportional and pleasing to the eye, while bad kerning, for example, can make “cl” look like “d” (just think of the unintended typographical entendres). In Kerning, for orchestra, this space between letters is directly (and rather naively) translated as the vertical space between musical pitches. The piece offers a series of “kernings” on a single musical phrase. Sometimes, the pitches are tightly packed together in clusters. Other times, they are much more spread out, notably over the open, consonant interval of a perfect fifth. The result is perhaps akin to reading a single sentence in a variety of fonts. While the linguistic material is the same, the different fonts can illicit different expressive connotations. Or, the meaning of the sentence can fade to the background as you admire a font’s distinct serifs, or in this piece, maybe the particular blend of muted trumpet and english horn.