Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Carolyn Surrick and Ronn McFarlane — Fermi’s Paradox (Sono Luminus)
“It's almost impossible to imagine that we had never performed together before, we both grew up in Maryland and in the early music world pushing its boundaries,” said Carolyn Surrick about Ron MacFarlane. “The fact that we had never spent much time in each other's presence was hysterical.”
Surrick first picked up the viola da gamba in the 70’s. That’s also when Ronn MacFarlane, a founding member of the Baltimore Consort, became infatuated with the lute. During the pandemic they finally made music together, and the result is their first album, Fermi’s Paradox.
“Ron and I got together because we were going to do a house concert and then COVID happened,” explained Surrick. “This album is a different kind of collaboration for me and incredibly exciting. It’s one of the things that really changed my experience of living through COVID. I was having and developing a new and intensely rewarding musical relationship.
“The time was so beautiful that we keep developing repertoire and finding new music. We did that for months. Finally, I said, ’Ron, we could record a new CD.’
Why is the album titled Fermi's Paradox?
Ron: “Enrico Fermis, an Italian physicist during the 20th century, remarked at how strange it was that there's an overwhelming scientific probability that there's intelligent life on other planets, yet there's absolutely no scientific evidence of their existence. So where is everyone?
“The idea of ‘is anybody out there’ and ‘where is everyone’ made this a poignant idea when there's nothing anyone can do except play music at home.”
What musical discoveries did you uncover?
Ron: “The title piece, Fermi's Paradox, was originally written as a solo mouthpiece. But, it always felt a little awkward. I discovered that when I shared the piece with Carolyn and gave certain melodies to viola de gamba the piece came alive.”
Did any of the works move in a surprising direction?
Ron: “One of them was Blackwater Side. It's a traditional tune that I became aware of from a Led Zeppelin album. Years later, I found that it was a traditional tune that goes back hundreds of years, and I became enamored with a Bert Jansch version of it. That was the version that Led Zeppelin drew from.
“It's very rhythmically irregular, yet it has a groove. It feels good. We really enjoy playing it together.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.