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 October 13-20, 2003

Waking in New York
A Ginsburg Tribute by Elodie Lauten

Elodie Lauten, photographed by 
Amy B. Marciano, 2002
Elodie Lauten has been a fixture of the downtown New York musical scene for more than three decades. During that time she has produced some 18 recordings on 10 labels and has become widely recognized as a pioneer of post-minimalism. Her work is acknowledged in Music in the 20th Century by Kyle Gann (Schirmer), La Musica Minimalista by Giovanni Antognozzi (Rome), John Schaefer's New Sounds (Harper & Row) and the recently published Soho - The Rise and Fall of an Artists Colony by Richard Kostelanetz (Routledge). 

Born in Paris in 1950, the daughter of jazz composer Errol Parker, Lauten acquired a deep understanding of improvisation and studied classical piano. Her first composition was well-received at the Paris Museum of Modern Art (1972), when she was 22. Shortly after, she moved to New York where she was discovered by poet Allen Ginsberg, whose purchase of a Farfisa organ for her dramatically changed the course of her musical career, exposing her to the possibilities of music produced electronically. Ginsberg also introduced her to Buddhism.   She moved permanently to New York and became active on the music scene in the late 70s, performing at the Ear Inn, A’s, CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City, the Mudd Club, Folk City, Inroads and The Kitchen. 

During the 80s, she started producing and releasing her own music; she studied privately with LaMonte Young; spiritual discipline and the study of Buddhism were an integral part of her training; she was a disciple of Sri Chinmoy, Paramahansa Yogananda and Chogyam Trungpa; she received a Master's in composition from New York University where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Indian classical music with Ahkmal Parwez. 

Lauten's most recent CD--Waking in New York, Portrait of Allen Ginsberg from the poetry of Allen Ginsberg--is both a monument to the past and a tribute to life in New York City.  During the 90s she took a two-year 'sabbatical' in New Mexico to concentrate on her compositions, returning to New York in 1996 and felt impelled to write a piece about her regained city. She asked her old friend Ginsberg for a libretto. He responded with a group of highly personal poems. Six months later--in April 1997--Ginsberg died, and soon afterward, Lauten's father died as well. Lauten continued to work on the piece and it was premiered in June 2001.

"Waking in New York is actually a lovely, effective and affecting song cycle for vocal ensemble and orchestra," wrote Allan Kozinn, in the New York Times. "Ms. Lauten has treated Ginsberg's poetry and its underlying spirit carefully, even reverently. She tucked its personal and sometimes diarylike texts into her own agreeably melodic and ecclectic style, but she also appears to have listened carefully for traces of the music that animated Ginsberg's soul." 

In the liner notes, composer and critic Kyle Gann writes:  "For all that Lauten came upon her musical idiom through her own idiosyncratic evolution, it nevertheless falls into a tradition, appropriately one with both American and French roots. Her syllabic, chantlike text setting follows an American usage, quite different from the melismatic European tradition based on Italian opera. The tradition is traceable back through Robert Ashley and Harry Partch to Virgil Thomson, whose operas with Gertrude Stein have a similar repeated-note urgency. And Thomson honed his craft in Paris under the spell of the great musical trickster Erik Satie, whose magnum opus Socrate is the closest musical kin to Waking in New York. Satie in Paris, Socrates in Athens, Lauten and Ginsberg in New York, all know that we can see the universe in a grain of sand. And with Ginsberg affording the grains of sand, Lauten can provide the universe."

Waking in New York
Composer:  Elodie Lauten
Libretto:  Allen Ginsburg 
Advertising and Sponsorship Information
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 
The Portable Musician "Working on the go has become standard operating procedure in the music industry. Times have changed: Twenty years ago, a studio was the only place where professional recordings could be made; even five years ago, desktop computers were just starting to get enough horsepower to make great records. Today, a laptop offers plenty of power to make a great-sounding track - and that portability is changing the way music is made." Wired 10/02/03 

A Tale Of Two Opera Openings Two of the country's grandest and most venerable companies, the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, began their new seasons recently, and they made an instructive contrast." Both face financial challenges. The Met chose ear-pleasing fare for its opening. SF Opera, by contrast presented a challenging American work. And the grumbling at intermission?.... The New York Times 10/03/03 

Making The Music The Star For small, regional orchestras, the challenge of drawing a significant audience to concerts is considerable, and many resort to booking "superstar" performers like Itzhak Perlman or Yo-Yo Ma in order to sell tickets. The trouble with that strategy, of course, is that such soloists command exorbitant fees, which tend to wipe out most of the profit gained from the full hall. But not every orchestra is trapped in the star cycle. "The simple idea of giving the music itself top billing has kept the Las Vegas Philharmonic in the black for its first four seasons, without having to prop up its main-stage offerings with pops concerts or big-name guest artists." Las Vegas Review-Journal 10/03/03 

In Defense of Tough Criticism After the Akron Beacon-Journal's music critic blasted the Akron Symphony's first concert of the season, readers wrote in to protest. Why so harsh, they wanted to know, particularly when the performance got a standing ovation? The Beacon-Journal's public editor writes that the orchestra must be held to a standard: "If it wants to charge major league prices for tickets, it shouldn't expect to deliver minor league performances and not be called on it. Readers deserve honest reviews from the music critic, not flattering boosterism." Akron Beacon-Journal 09/28/03 

Taking On Ticketmaster A classic David-and-Goliath battle is shaping up over the way concert tickets are marketed and sold in the U.S., thanks to an ongoing dispute between ticketing behemoth Ticketmaster, and a wildly successful Colorado indie band known as The String Cheese Incident. The band has been doing something of an end-run around Ticketmaster, which has exclusive ticketing rights at venues across the country and often incurs the wrath of consumers with its famous "convenience fees" and handling charges which significantly boost the cost of tickets. "Ticketmaster's dominance is increasingly threatened as technology allows more [musicians] to sell tickets for low costs." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/01/03 

Taking Another Look At Khachaturian Aram Khachaturian's music was dismissed by many in the 1950s and 60s as being lightweight. But this year - the year he would have been 100 years old, "the pendulum of serious music has swung to the other extreme. The realities of Soviet life and politics are better known, and the personal histories of artists are understood as having been more complex. The time may be ripe to take another look at Khachaturian's music." The New York Times 10/05/03 

Music As A Contact Sport Conductor Keith Lockhart tore his rotator cuff last year, as a direct result of what he does for a living. Laugh if you must, but what orchestral musicians (even conductors) do onstage is a physical nightmare for the human body, and injuries are becoming increasingly common. String players contort their arms and shoulders into impossible positions to reach around their instruments, brass players spend hours with their lips frozen in a pucker, and a conductor leading a Mahler symphony might not drop his hands to his sides for more than a few seconds in a 90-minute performance. Many musicians are adapting new methods of relaxation and muscle relief in an effort to stave off career-threatening injuries. Salt Lake Tribune 10/05/03 

Elevating Elgar Edward Elgar was so revered in his home country England that his picture adorns the back of the £20 note. "Yet a recent YouGov poll found that three-quarters of British adults were unable to recognise his portrait on the back of theirs. They were more likely to say the man with the droopy moustache was the imperialist Lord Kitchener than England's greatest home-grown composer since Henry Purcell." A new initiative aims to raise Elgar's profile. The Guardian (UK) 10/06/03 

 Last Week's News

 Osvaldo Golijov Wins MacArthur Fellowship
It's been a mixed blessing month for the Argentine- American composer Osvaldo Golijov, one of 24 MacArthur Fellows for 2003, named by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
He will receive $500,000 in award money over the next five years, entirely free of any restrictions, requirements or stipulations.

On the downside of the ledger, Golijov's  one-act chamber opera Ainadamar, which was to have premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival later this month, will be rescheduled due to the lingering vocal problems of soprano Dawn Upshaw, for whom it was written.

The MacArthur Fellowships, often referred to as the "genius grants" or "genius awards," are given every year by the Foundation in order, as Foundation president Jonathan F. Fanton stated on the organization's Web site, to "offer highly creative people the gift of time and the unfettered opportunity to explore, create, and accomplish," free of worries about supporting themselves and their families. No one may apply for a MacArthur Fellowship, and winners do not know they were even being considered until they are notified that they have won.

Golijov, currently an associate professor of music at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, was born in 1960 in La Plata, Argentina to an Eastern European Jewish family. He studied composition at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and with George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he received a Ph.D. in 1990. Known for combining contemporary classical techniques with such vernacular musical idioms as klezmer, tango, samba, cumbia and Jewish liturgical chant, Golijov is probably among the four or five most in-demand American composers alive today. 

Among his well-known works are Yiddishbbuk — Inscriptions for String Quartet (1992, recorded in 2002 and nominated for a 2003 Grammy Award); The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994) for string quartet and clarinet; Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra (2002, written for Dawn Upshaw and the Minnesota Orchestra); Tenebrae (2002) for soprano, clarinet and string quartet; and the one-act chamber opera Ainadamar (2003, also written for Upshaw). The Kronos Quartet's disc "Nuevo", for which he provided one composition and seven arrangements, was a top seller and received another 2003 Grammy Award nomination. Yet Golijov is best known for his Pasión segun San Marcos (2000), which has been met with near-delirious acclaim in concert halls from Stuttgart to Brooklyn and Boston to Los Angeles.

Golijov studied composition at the Rubin Academy of Jerusalem and received his Ph.D. (1990) from the University of Pennsylvania.  He was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center (1990) before joining the Department of Music at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1991.  Golijov also serves on the faculties of the Boston Conservatory and the Tanglewood Music Center.

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, Steven R. Gerber, Gloria Coates, Tobias Picker

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
The Adams Chronicles

What's Recent
An Interview with Tobias Picker
Handmaid Tale's Debuts in English
Rautavaara Joins B&G 
Who's Afraid of Julia Wolfe
Derek Bermel's Soul Garden
 The Pianist: The Extraordinary 
True Story of Wladyslaw Szpilman
John Adams' Atomic Opera
A Bridge Not Far Enough
Turnage Signs With B&H
Sophie's Wrong Choice
Copland's Mexico
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson


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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

Composers: King, Kline, Reynolds, Ziporen
Performers:  Ethel

New York's most daring string-quartet sensation, Ethel, makes its debut here with a menu of the kind of hard-edged downtown music that has won the group a big following in the NY new music scene.   Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins; Ralph Farris, viola; and Dorothy Lawson, cello—all began their careers in New York as freelance musicians, playing difficult music that relies heavily on non-classical sources but requires a virtuoso classical ensemble to play. Its repertoire ranges from John King's energetic blues transcriptions to  the gnarly quartets  of Julia Wolfe and on Todd Reynolds' quirky 
musical postcards.  Adventuresome and fun for the advanced music listener.

Return from a Journey
Composers:  Gurdjieff, De Hartmann,
Performer:  Kremski

Gurdjieff was a Russian Aremenian spiritual master who, in addition to the main body of his teaching created sacred dances, or Movements, as well as  200 or so musical compositions--all of which were were done  in collaboration with German composer Thomas de Hartmann at Gurdjieff's  Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, near Paris,  in the years 1925–27.  For many years, the pieces heard here were played only by De Hartmann or another of Gurdjieff's disciples but in recent years they have attracted the interest of a number of adventuresome pianists.  Kremski plays these exotic, vaguely oriental and oddly thematic pieces with great respect and warmth.

Chichester Psalms
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Marin Alsop (conductor)

Commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester, Bernstein’s colorful Chichester Psalms is one of the composer’s most successful and accessible works on religious texts, contrasting spiritual austerity with impulsive rhythms in a contemplation of peace. The composer fashioned his Oscar nominated score to the 1954 movie On the Waterfront into a symphonic suite, skillfully capturing the oppression of the New York dockyards in the ’50s. The Three Dance Episodes were extracted from the popular On The Town, Bernstein's first successful foray into musical theatre.  Bernstein protege Marin Alsop gets a robust performance from Bournemouth orchestra and chorus.

Double Concerto
Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski
Performers:  Polish National Radio Symphony, Antoni Wit

Volume 8 in Naxos' indispensible survey of Lutoslawski's orchestra work brings us into lesser known territory but there are still treasures to be found.   The  Dance Preludes from 1955 is basically a five-movement clarinet concerto, with lots of  interesting harmonies and rhythmic twists and turns. The Double Concerto for oboe and harp from 1990 rattles the ear a bit and has a  demanding oboe part, beautifully  played by Arkadiusz Krupa. The Children's Songs, gorgeously sung by the soprano, Urszula Kryger, are beguiling. 

Doña Francisquita
Composer: Amadeo Vives 
Performers: Maria Bayo,
Alfredo Kraus, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife, Antoni Ros Marba

A superb performance of Amadeo Vives' zarzuela masterpiece, sung with enormous vivacity and brio by the ravishing-voiced Maria Bayo and the sturdy Alfredo Kraus.  With its nineteenth century Madrid setting, its roots in classical Spanish drama  and its festive nocturnal amours, Doña Francisquita provides  a retrospective on the romantic zarzuela tradition and its crowning glory. The work was immediately recognized not only as Vives’ masterpiece, but as the greatest full length zarzuela of its era. If you're not into zarzuela already, this is the perfect place to start your  collection.

Symphony 9 Visionaria
Composer:  Kurt Atterberg
Satu Vihavainen (mezzo-soprano); Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)
NDR Choir, Prague Chamber Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic, 
Ari Rasilainen

The 9th and final symphony of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg bears a superficial relationshp to Beethoven's 9th with its big, expresssive choral sound but Atterburg's world is a good deal less joyous.  Atterberg's choice of texts reflects the lasting impact on his psyche made by World War II and the Korean War. The Poetic Edda, an Icelandic epic dating from around 1270, relates the visions of a wise prophetess (hence the Symphony's title "Sinfonia Visionaria") who foretells the creation of the world, the warring among gods, giants, and humans, the world's destruction, and finally its recreation. 

Atterberg uses mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with chorus and large orchestra, as  well as a quasi-oratorio form, to tell his epic tale. This is extraordinary symphony by a composer who is far too little-known in the musical world.

The Complete Mazurkas
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin

Marc-Andre Hamelin continues his extraordinary journey through the forgotten rivers and bayous of the modern piano repetoire with masterful performances  of Szymanowski's Twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50, composed between 1926 and 1931.  After assimilating the influence of Stravinsky, Szymanowski began looking for folk themes in Polish music to rival the Russian folk touches of the master. The Mazurka,  a traditional Polish dance in three-quarter-time with an often erratic-seeming emphasis on the second beat, (and a favorite form for Chopin) offered great possibilities . 

These highly diverse pieces are more complex  than Chopin, more modern and dissonant, yet also more muted and elusive.  Still,  Szymanowski remained too much a romantic to settle for anything less then flamboyant virtuosity--a quality that Hamelin possses by the truckload. 

Composers:  Transciptions:
Bach, Barber, Berg, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Wolf
Peformers: : Choeur De Chambre Accentus, Equilbey

Worth having for the ravishing performances of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" and Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5." 

Symphony No. 6
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: London Symphony Orchestra; Mariss Jansons
Label: LSO Live 

It is rare that you find a recording that you need listen to for only a minute to know a masterpiece is unfolding before your very ears.  This stunning live performance of Mahler's "Tragic" symphony is one of the rare ones,  From the first rhythmic thumps of the long and  stately funeral march to the final faded chords, Mariss Jansons draws a passionate and committed performance from the LSO.  Certain to be among the best of the year noninees. 

Wheel of Emptiness
Composer: Jonathan Harvey
Performers:  Actus
Cyprès CYP5604

English composer Jonathan Harvey is one of those modernists whose work is more frequently talked about then played.  This rare recording contains five representative works ranging from the lyrical to the raw, built on  instrumentations ranging from electroacoustical to the  traditional.  An excellent introduction to an unjustly neglected maverick. 

Piano Etudes 1
Composer: Philip Glass
Performer: Philip Glass 
Orange Mountain 

Glass says he wrote these "studies" as fodder for his own concert performances and as a way of challenging himself as a pianist.  But, they are much more important than that.  They provide a real insight into how Glass composes and, although billed as sketches,  sometimes are more rewarding to the ear and intellect than many of Glass's larger-scale works.  Essential recording for the Glassologist.

Music from the Thin Blue Line
Composer:  Philip Glass
Orange Mountain

 Glass's hypnotic score for  Errol Morris’ extraordinary 1988 documentary film entitled "The Thin Blue Line". Nonesuch Records released a CD of the film’s soundtrack that included the narration and interviews from the film but this  Orange Mountain release contains  the original score without the voice-over.  The music is dark and brooding, full of tension appropriately for such a chilling film, and it stands well on its own. 

Sonic Vision
Composer:  Carolyn Yarnell

 Inspired by the beauty and power of nature, the music of Carolyn Yarnell straddles the borders of minimalism, romanticism and Baroque.  Sonic Vision, the first CD devoted entirely to her music, contains the powerful electronic composition Love God, a beautiful solo piece for Baroque flute, a minimalist suite for chamber ensemble and a powerful extended work for computer piano. Lyrical and mystical music that evokes volcanoes, birds and the Rocky Mountains. 

Chamber Music
Composer;  Harold Shapero
Performers:  Lydian String Quartet
 New World Records - 

 Shapero’s (b. 1920) vastly underrated portfolio is one of the great undiscovered treasure troves of American neoclassicism. The String Trio, the String Quartet, the Serenade in D offer a  broad-based introduction to Shapero’s compositional thought processes.  Beautiful, committed playing by the Lydian String Quartet.

 Composer: Steve Reich
 Performer: Ictus, Synergy Vocals

 Reich's 1971 masterpiece gets a spirited workout by the Belgian new music group Ictus.  Drumming is constructed around one single basic rhythmic-melodic pattern, for an imposing ensemble of percussion (bongos, marimbas, glockenspiel) joined by some female voices, a piccolo flute or a whistling part. The breathtaking feeling of simplicity/complexity in this work is transmitted with an amazing skill by the Belgians.

American Works for Piano Duo
Composer(s): Barber, Persichetti, Diamond, Fennimore 
 Performer (s): Georgia & Louis Mangos 
Cedille Records

  Barber's homage to the Plaza Hotel's Palm Court, Souvenirs, Op. 28, has never sounded better or more nostalgic  and Joseph Fennimore's Crystal Stairs also invokes the quintessential American city.  The real surprise here are the two pieces by Vincent Persichetti, which invoke a more dynamic and rough and tumble form of Americanism.  The Mango sisters display formidable technique and taste.

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