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January 21-28, 2002
eighth blackbird has a growing reputation for its astounding musical versatility as well as for its dedication to the works of today’s composers. The sextet, currently ensemble-in-residence at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago consists of Michael J. Maccaferri (clarinet) :: Molly Alicia Barth (flute) :: Matthew Albert (violin) :: Nicholas Photinos (cello) :: Lisa Kaplan (piano) :: Matthew Duvall (percussion).
eighth blackbird
13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird--Number 8
by Deborah Kravetz
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know
     --Wallace Stevens

eighth blackbird flew into town on a winter wind from Chicago and blew away the locals with unpretentious professionalism and understated theatricality.

Although I am not fond of self-editorializing, in this case recitation of excerpts of reviews served as introduction to Minimum Security Trailer (2000), a sampling of a larger commission by the Minimum Security Composers Collective. With Io by Dennis DeSantis sandwiched between two sections of In another man's skin by Adam Silverman, we are served a contrasting set of romantic, long melodic phrases and alternating duets for flute-clarinet and violin-cello in which the piano and marimba serve as ground and bridge, between two chunks of frenzy for marimba and ensemble in short jagged percussive phrases performed without score, but lots of eye contact and body English—a sort of inverted Bachian fugue that is certainly lively, but lacking in resonance. With Io played under moonlight lighting and marked by poignant sweetness that never became a saccharine satire, the return of In another man's skin is a refreshing jagged frenzy in darkness.

George Crumb's Vox Balaenae (1971) reminded me of Alan Hovaness's and God created great whales. This one is performed by amplified cello, piano and flute in dark blue light with players anonymized in half-masks. Flute notes are half-blown, half-sung as the flute trills and sobs; deeply muted piano strikes, strums and chords serve as percussion and bass; there are vast echoey depths with far-off barely heard sounds; the cello presents a Far Eastern tonality in sitar-like passages; there is an eeriness in high cello scrapes that are very whale-ish. A high melodic phrase with tinkling accompaniment creates a mesmerizing attenuation to the piece.

Daniel Kellogg (b. 1976) has a Bachelor's degree from Curtis Institute and is studying at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His fascination for the medieval chant Divinum Mysterium led to creation of this piece (2000) following the Creation narrative of Genesis incorporating that chant. In the beginning there was one note and the original chant sung by the performers accompanied by off-stage instruments as the players walk on one at a time...in the beginning. Then there is agitation, twittering and a great thump (obviously, the composer espouses the Big Bang theory of creation). There are irregular percussive strikes as the winds become more agitato and the primordial soup bubbles and boils. This is a piece where you keep your eye on the balleticism of the percussionist who is busier than the rest of the ensemble combined and who does everything including turning the page with great flair worthy of DCI awards, although the bass clarinet also gets its due. The third movement Light has an abundance of lightness and litheness, Rest has the muted violin and cello in twining lines, and Rejoicing presents the chant in recognizable form with punctuation in a fearless organic tonality that reprises the theme before breaking into—a dance fugue with its own variations.

The pleasant surprise of this group is that nothing feels difficult or forced—every selection seems user-friendly, making me wonder if this is the way they are when they're at home, or was this a special program for out-of-town audiences.

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 1-16-02.)

What's New

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

A New Hall for Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Complete List of Grammy Nominations

Exploring the Carnegie Hall
Millennium Piano Book
Deborah Kravetz

Terry Riley Gets Hot
A new recording makes an unlikely star.

Indie-Rock Meets Neo-Bach
Key to Relâche Repertoire
Deborah Kravetz

Kernis Wins Grawemeyer
Adds to Pulitizer; nets $200,000

Death of Liberty
The Boston Symphony's cancellation of The Death of Konghoffer chorus does not bode well for the future of the arts in a free society.

Lilith 2001
Deborah Drattall's revisit to the Garden of Eden delivers less than promised.

Interview with Poul Ruders

Why the Arts Matter
by Cary Boyce
In the face of overwhelming loss, the arts help us give voice to our sorrow. 

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jbowles@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note.  JB

Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for our Editor's Pick's of the month.  Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, NY, NY 10019  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.


Modern Music News

old news
SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY GETS ITS $100 MILLION - AND THEN SOME: Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan were going to give the San Diego Symphony $100 million, but at the last minute kicked in another $20 million. It's the largest gift ever to a symphony orchestra. "The additional money is to go to the symphony's operating funds - $2 million a year for the next 10 years. Thus, the symphony will get $7 million a year over the next 10 years, with $5 million each year going into an endowment. The Jacobses have also pledged $50 million to be paid upon their deaths." Orange County Register 01/16/02

SOME PEOPLE REALLY ARE TONE DEAF: There's even a technical name for the problem: amusia. Usually, it's the result of head injury, or an illness. But some people are just born that way. All Things Considered (NPR) 01/16/02

UNDERSTANDING PERFECTION: Scientists are trying to determine why some people have perfect pitch - the ability to identify notes without other reference notes. "Based on the evidence so far, most scientists believe that genes do play at least a subtle role, perhaps by keeping a developmental 'window' open wider and longer during early childhood, when note-naming ability generally takes shape. Still, some experts argue the quest for an absolute pitch gene is akin to searching for a gene for speaking French; it doesn't exist." San Francisco Chronicle 01/15/02

IS ALL MUSIC THE SAME? "Especially in post-modern times where categories are being redefined, it is easy for many to assert that a tango, a rock tune, and a Beethoven symphony are all the same except perhaps for the musical parameters that define the style. This can have its positive as well as negative ramifications. The positive perhaps being that all types of music are understood as having similar importance, the negative that everything is considered in many ways as being the same." NewMusicBox 01/02

HISTORY OF A BACKSTAGE FRACAS: Just what the heck is going on in Edmonton, anyway? Since when do fired conductors start their own competing orchestras? And what kind of musicians are prepared to follow such a heretic? The answers are the stuff of bad TV dramas and David Mamet plays. Edmonton Journal 01/20/02

EDMONTON ULTIMATUM: "The lawyer who raised $4 million to form a new orchestra says he will give the money to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra board instead - on one condition." The condition is that if the musicians of the ESO don't like the way the board is spending the money, they will have the right to fire the board members. If the ESO agrees (which seems unlikely,) the arrangement would be unprecedented in the history of North American orchestras. CBC 01/18/02

RIGHT OF WAY: The BBC has made a costly mistake. The corporation filmed an expensive version of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors that was set to air Christmas eve - "until it was found at the last minute that no one had checked who owned the copyright, and the programme had to be pulled." Seems an American company owns the film rights, and the company is not inclined to grant permission for another version. The Observer 01/13/02

WHERE ARE TODAY'S COMPOSERS? Why, at the start of the 21st Century, are our "mainstream musical tastes are still stuck so completely back then, in the 19th century. Not that there's anything wrong with listening to Wagner or Chopin, or even Mendelsson. But it is strange - isn't it? - that an absolute majority of the music performed by all the American symphony orchestras this season will be by just four guys. Four guys who were all composing music during the same hundred-year period that ended more than a hundred years ago: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. Who are our Brahmses and Tchaikovskys, the historically important composers of this time? Why don't we know their music? Why don't we even know their names?" Public Arts (Studio 360) 01/11/02

TENOR'S NIGHTMARE: It's the kind of scenario that causes performers to wake up screaming at night: for whatever reason, a singer suddenly loses his ability to sing, on stage, with thousands in attendance. It happened this week in Toronto to legendary Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, who was forced to halt a recital halfway through when he could not stop his voice from cracking repeatedly. Toronto Star 01/18/02

GEEK SQUAD 1, WRITER'S CRAMP 0: The worst part of being a composer, hands down, is the endless hours spent scratching out scores and parts for cranky musicians with dubious eyesight who are forever claiming that nothing is legible, or spaced right, or has the page turns in the right place. So what, other than a dungeon full of enslaved copyists, can make the drudgery easier? Why, a couple of British computer geeks, of course! Los Angeles Times 01/19/02

MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE: Digital music and file sharing isn't just about making copies and getting music for free - it is changing the music industry in a fundamental way. "The advent of new and accessible technologies has made the independent route much more possible. The 1960s aesthetic which caused some theatre practitioners to abandon the stage for the street, and visual artists to seek an audience outside formal galleries, has now visited popular music in a much more radical way than it did back then. The possibilities the Internet and related technologies offer to bypass major record labels and give the artist direct access to a potentially mass audience have changed the music industry forever." Irish Times 01/15/02

HOPE FOR THE DYING? Okay, so 2001 was a terrible year for the classical recording industry. The worst, in fact. "Still, if one looks hard enough, some promising signs can be gleaned from the cards dealt to recorded classical music, both in the major and independent sectors. Having survived the Tower debacle — in which the cash-strapped retailer demanded drastically extended payment terms from most of its independent accounts — a distributor like Harmonia Mundi might actually end up stronger, having now culled back its inventory and overhauled its retail sales/stock process. Universal Classics Group — a key industry barometer — finished the year not only with a bevy of crossover hits but also with the highest number of top-selling "straight" classical offerings, according to Billboard." Andante 01/15/02

 --more news--

               PHILIP GLASS

Philip GLASS: Violin Concerto / Company
Adele Anthony, violin 
Ulster Orchestra 
Takuo Yuasa, conductor

Electronic Dialogues

An Interview with
Steven R. Gerber
Steven R. Gerber's music has achieved international recognition recently as a result of two CDs of his orchestral music released on Chandos and KOCH International Classics.  Chandos has issued his Symphony #1, "Dirge and Awakening," Viola Concerto, and Triple Overture, played by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra under Thomas Sanderling, with Lars Anders Tomter, viola, and the Bekova Sisters Trio, and the CD has received  rave reviews in a large number of magazines, newspapers, and websites in Great Britain and the U.S.  Under a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund, KOCH has just released his Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto, and Serenade for Strings, with the National Chamber Orchestra under Piotr Gajewski and soloists Kurt Nikkanen and Carter Brey.

     Gerber has written for many of the major performers of our time.  In addition to the concertos written for Nikkanen and Brey, he wrote his String Quartet #4 for the Fine Arts Quartet, his Viola Concerto for Yuri Bashmet, who premiered it at his festival in Tours, and several works for Russian violinist Tatyana Grindenko. His works have also been performed by such groups as the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra under Kirk Trevor, Philharmonia Virtuosi under Richard Kapp, and The Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev.  Most recently, he received a commission from Concertante Chamber Players for a work entitled "Spirituals" for clarinet and string quartet, premiered by them in 2001 in Harrisburg, New York City, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

    Born in Washington, D.C. in 1948, Gerber now lives in New York City.  He has degrees from Haverford College and from Princeton University, which awarded him a 4-year fellowship for graduate studies.  His works have been played throughout the U.S., Europe, and the former Soviet Union, where he has toured frequently and had literally dozens of orchestral performances and 
many concerts of his own chamber and solo works.  Several solo and choral works of his have been recorded on CRI and the French label Suoni e Colori.  His works are published by MMB, Boelke-Bomart/Mobart, and APNM.  Currently he is working on a clarinet concerto for Jon Manasse and has been commissioned by Voice of America to write a new work for its 60th anniversary.

S21: You are a remarkably prolific composer and have created works in a wide variety of forms—orchestral, chamber, choral, solo.  Do you prefer one form over another? 

SRG: For a long time I preferred to write solo, vocal,  or chamber works and didn't expect to write much for orchestra.  When I began my Symphony in 1988, at the age of 40, I had written only one previous work for orchestra, some settings of Wallace Stevens for soprano and orchestra, which were still unplayed.  (I had to wait nearly 15 years for them to be performed; oddly enough they were given two performances in Ukraine during the same year with two different orchestras, singers, and conductors.)  I Had no idea when I would hear the Symphony, or my next work, a Serenade for Strings, but I got 
lucky very soon after they were finished and they were both played a lot, first in Russia, and then, in the case of the Serenade in the U.S. too, and 
those performances inspired me to write a lot more for orchestra.  Since then I have enjoyed alternating between orchestral works and works for much smaller groups, but I think my greatest affinity may be for writing pieces for solo viola, solo oboe, etc.  At one time I enjoyed writing songs and choral music more than anything else, because the texts made me feel a connection to the world in a way I didn't feel with instrumental music, but I haven't written for voice since 1988.


Violin Concerto
Composer: Steven R. Gerber
Performer: Kurt Nikkanen, Carter Brey
Koch International Classics - #7501 


The Adams Chronicles

Previous Interviews/Profiles
Simon Rattle, Michael Gordon,Benjamin Lees, Scott Lindroth, David Felder, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Erkki-Sven Tüür, John Luther Adams, Brett Dean, Judith Lang Zaimont, Meyer Kupferman, Evan Chambers, Poul Ruders

Previous Articles/
Busoni The Visionary
The Composer of the Moment:  Mark-Anthony Turnage
Electronic Music
Voices: Henze at 75
Henze Meets Emenim
On Finding Kurtag
Charles Ruggles:  When Men Were Men
Ballet Mécanique

EDITOR'S PICKS - January 2002

The Music of Elliott Carter, Volume Four
Composer: E. Carter
Conductor: Elliott Carter
Performer: Susan Narucki, David Starobin, et al.
Ensemble: Daniel Druckman
Bridge - #9111 
Volume four of Bridge's comprehensive Elliott Carter series includes the  masterpiece, Eight Pieces for Four Timpani,  as well as a number of short recent works. Particularly fine  is  David Starobin's performance of  "Shard," a piece for solo guitar that is short but breathtakingly original.

Complete Crumb Edition, Volume 5: Easter Dawning, Celestial Mechanics, A Haunted Landscape, Processional
Composer: George Crumb
Conductor: George Crumb
Performer: Thomas Conlin
Ensemble: Haewon Song , Robert Shannon Don Cook 
Bridge - #9113 
The fifth release in Bridge's award winning Complete Crumb Edition includes the premiere recording of Crumb's1992 carillon solo, "Easter Dawning"  played by Don Cook, carilloneur at Brigham Young University."Celestial Mechanics", for piano, four-hands is pure Crumb.  "A Haunted Landscape" 1984) for orchestra is played by  The Warsaw Philharmonic under conductor Thomas Conlin, the same combination that produced the Grammy-winning "Star-Child". 

Klezmer Suite
Composer: Sid Robinovitch
Cbc Records --Naxos-- - #5212 
Okay, so klezmer is not everybody's bag but folk and popular music blend seamlessly with the classics in this appealing new release from CBC Records celebrating the music of Sid Robinovitch. The three works performed  are Klezmer Suite, Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra, and Camptown for Banjo and Orchestra.

Dioscures, Ephemeres
Composer: Yves Prin
Conductor: Bruno Ferrandis
Performer: Pierre-Yves Artaud
Ensemble: Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Naxos - #8555347 
Once you know that Prin was in Boulez's first composition class at IRCAM, the fact that all of these pieces are revisions of earlier pieces begin to make sense.  Like the master, Prin is obviously a harsh critic of his own work.  At 41 minutes, the disk covers a lot of contemporary territory and contains flashes of geninue originality.

Violin|Viola and Keyboard Works
Composer: Alan Hovhaness
Performers: Christina Fong, Arved Ashby
This disc  might easily be subtitled "music to chill out by."
Deceptively simple and meditative with just the right touches of exotic  eastern mysticism, this is music that captivates through  simplicity.  A keeper. 

Colored Field · Musica Celestis · Air 
Composer: Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor: Eiji Oue
Performer: Truls Mørk
Emd/Virgin Classics - #45464
Some of Kernis' greatest hits retooled for Truls, who performs them magnificently.


This Is the Colour of My Dreams
Conductor: Mario Bernardi
Performer: Shauna Rolston
Ensemble: CBC Radio Orchestra
Cbc Records --Naxos-- - #5214 
Ralson is an enthusiastic advocate and performer of contemporary music. She has given the North American premiere of Gavin Bryar’s concerto, "Farewell to Philosophy", Rolf Wallin’s "Ground" for solo cello and strings, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Sextet for violin, viola, cello, piano, clarinet and horn, as well as the Canadian premiere of "Kai", a work for solo cello and 18 instruments by Mark Anthony Turnage. Here she delivers  the world premieres of  works written especially for her by Canadian composers Heather Schmidt, Christos Hatzis, Chan Ka Nin, and Kelly-Marie Murphy.

Selected Songs
Composer: Ned Rorem
Performer: Ned Rorem, Carole Farley
Naxos - #8559084 
Pushing 80, Rorem continues to add to his extensive catalogue of over four hundred songs. His individual settings and cycles draw their texts from a wide range of poetry. Among his favorites sources have been Walt Whitman, Theodore Roethke, Kenneth Koch, Paul Goodman, and the English Metaphysical Poets.  Nobody does art songs better.

Composer:  Paul Lansky 
 The title track, 'Ride', is a 19 minute piece made from sounds of a highway, processed and filtered to create sweeping sonic landscapes. An 8 channel version of the piece was played at Lincoln Center's 'Great Day in New York' festival in January 2000. 

 Triple Quartet/Music for a Large Ensemble/Electric Guitar Phase
Steve Reich, Kronos Quartet, conductor Alan Pierson
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79546
This is the first recording of Reich’s Triple Quartet performed by Kronos Quartet, who commissioned the work and in whose honor it was written. This disc, the first to include a new work by Reich since the 1996 release City Life,  also features first recordings of Electric Guitar Phase and Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint, as well as the first recording of a newly revised edition of Music for Large Ensemble. 

Pulse Shadows
Composer: Harrison Birtwistle
Wea/Atlantic/Teldec - #26867 
Written for soprano, string quartet & ensemble of 2 clarinets, viola, cello and double bass, Pulse Shadows' nine string quartet movements alternate with the 'song' ensemble. The nine quartet movements comprise five Fantazias and four 'Friezes', of which the fourth is an instrumental meditation on Celan's famous poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue), with its strange recurrent image of black milk.

Brahms · Stravinsky - Violin Concertos
Composer: Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky
Performer: Neville Marriner
Sony Classics - #89649 
Thank heaven for little girls. Kid breathes new life into old workhorses.

The Ancient Thespians
One-Minute Web Guide
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SEQUENZA/21/ is published weekly by Sequenza/21 
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editors: Armando Bayolo, Sam Bergman, Joshua Cohen, Karina Cristina Demitrio, Deborah Kravetz 
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