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Jerry Bowles
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Latest Posts

Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, February 12, 2005
The Gates - Christo & Jeanne-Claude - Central Park (1979-Today)

Death of a Playwright

Speaking of A View From the Bridge (see below), Arthur Miller died today. In addition to Bolcom's View, there is also The Crucible: An Opera in Four Acts with music by Robert Ward and libretto by Bernard Stambler. Anyone know if there are other musical works based on Miller plays?
Hey, Kids. Let's Put on an Opera

Some adventurous opera programming coming up from the music schools in the next couple of weeks. The Curtis Opera Theatre is doing a simple staging of The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, on Friday, February 18 at 8 p.m.

Klinghoffer has been a political hot potato since its debut in 1991, mainly because of its even-handed treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It recounts the October 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro and subsequent murder of wheelchair-bound passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The piece moves back and forth between the actions of the hijackers and hostages on the ship itself and the reflections of the hostages after the incident. Through these overlapping sequences, the historical and personal points-of-view held by all sides are juxtaposed and revealed. As Time Magazine�s review said at the time, �It takes no prisoners, and takes no sides either.�

Indiana University Opera Theater is doing the first collegiate production of William Bolcom�s A View from the Bridge again (there were two performance last weekend) tonight and tomorrow night. Bolcom�s full-scale opera was adapted from the Arthur Miller tragedy. This is the second time IU Opera has been the first collegiate program to produce one of his works. In 1996, IU Opera delivered a critically acclaimed performance of McTeague.
More Outback Input

Steven Swartz, the nice PR guy over at Boosey & Hawkes was kind enough to send along some additional info about the U.S. premiere of Australian Ross Edwards' Oboe Concerto (for symphony and pantheress):
In his Oboe Concerto, Edwards has sought to imbue the traditional concerto with elements of theater, ritual and dance, while preserving its concert hall function as an accompanied soloistic display. For example, the work begins with the stage in darkness; the soloist enters from the wings, playing a cadenza. Gradually, the lights go on and she moves through the orchestra, playing to various members of the string section. Characteristically for Edwards, the texture is dominated by an almost kaleidoscopic interplay of material gleaned from the natural environment and diverse cultural sources, whose symbolic meaning remains ultimately and tantalizingly elusive. There are, however, references to other Edwards works, notably Dawn Mantras and Symphony No. 2 (Earth Spirit Songs), whose common theme is renewal.

Apart from his Oboe Concerto, Edwards�s output includes four symphonies, the violin concerto Maninyas, and the internationally acclaimed Dawn Mantras, which ushered in the new millennium from the sails of the Sydney Opera House. He also composed the film score for Bruce Beresford�s Paradise Road.

Last Night in LA--Bassoons, Bassoons, Bassoons

Are you ready for a concert of bassoon music? Stravinsky would have loved the sounds last night, and the concert wasn�t just a musical oddity: it had real substance. Six works by six composers, played by four bassoonists, with two premieres, two other essentially-new serious works, and two chamber concertos for bassoon. The place of honor was deservedly given to Sofia Gubaidulina�s �Concerto for Bassoon and Low Strings� (1975), a work much bigger than its complement of bassoon, four cellos and three basses would indicate. This is a major composition.

Closing the first half was a near-concerto: �Huit pieces, pour basson et ensemble instrumental� by Philippe Hersant (1995), for bassoon and seven assorted instruments. Both works required virtuoso and advanced bassoon techniques, including multiphonic sounds, microtones, pitch blendings, and a range of voices and colors for the instrument.

Four of the composers were present for the concert. Opening the concert was a work by Marc Lowenstein, �T�shuvah� (2003) for bassoon and string quartet. This work had melodies and inflections from the Middle East, including some themes that danced in the ear. It was only slightly easier on the bassoonists than the two concertos.

The three remaining new works were for soprano, as well as bassoon, and the combination was a pleasant one. Mark Menzies, a CalArts man-of-all-talents, composed a quiet, contemplative work, �Adjure� (2004), to lyrics by Walt Whitman. A piano, played by Menzies, led the way, joined by the bassoon and then by a clarinet, until the singer voices quiet, firm resolution.

James Newton, whose name might be recognized as the Downbeat-winning jazz flutist, as well as professor and director of the jazz program at CalState LA, gave the premiere of �In a Moment, in the Twinkling of an Eye� (2004), to verses from First Corinthians. There were moments of jazz-like improvisational passages by the piano, bassoon and clarinet to leaven the deeply serious work.

The other premiere was David Roitstein�s �Five Poems by Mary Oliver� (2004) for soprano, bassoon, clarinet, and viola. People who program interesting new music, especially for festivals, should grab hold of this work. It doesn't have major technical challenges (you can imagine yourself picking up one of the parts), the lyrics are charming, and the music is very accessible.

REDCAT is the CalArts center for experimental and new works across the range of performing arts. It�s located in the Disney Hall complex and is a real asset to Los Angeles. Special notice is due to CalArts� professor and assistant Dean Julie Feves, a bassoon virtuoso herself, who organized this stimulating program and played the bassoon in the three works with soprano.

What's New Today?

For your dining and dancing pleasure, we have an mp3 file of the gorgeous second movement of Lawrence Dillion's Furies and Muses for bassoon and string quartet. Lawrence has supplied a running Composers Comment to walk you through the piece. Crank up your speakers and head over there.
Classical Discoveries Goes Outback

Marvin Rosen does a wonderful radio program called "Classical Discoveries" which airs on WPRB in Princton, NJ and also online. On Wednesday, February 23, he's presenting a special 5-hour program of music by Australian composers titled "Classical Discoveries Goes Outback" from 6-11 a.m. EST.

Featured will be a 2 1/2 hour visit, beginning at 8:30, by Ross Edwards who is in America for the U.S. premiere of his Oboe Concerto, featuring soloist Diana Doherty and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Loren Maazel on February 24-26. Maazel conducted the world premiere of the work (which requires Doherty to not only play but to dance her way through the orchestra like a "pantheress") in Sydney in 2002.

"Classical Discoveries" is devoted to rarely heard repertoire of all periods with an emphasis on the old and the new. It is a major supporter of new classical music. Take a look at the website.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's the Atlanta Symphony's New Home

 height= Consumed no doubt by an edifice complex about the new Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has unveiled plans for its future home. Designed by architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, who did the steel-and-glass-roofed Olympic Stadium in Greece, the site of the 2004 Games' opening and closing ceremonies, the 279,600-square-foot structure will sit on a 3.8 acre site at Peachtree and 14th streets.

The Concert Hall will feature 34,000 square feet of performance and public space and 41,000 square feet of backstage support space and will be surrounded by 2,000 vineyard-style seats, including 200 seats for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. It will have an operable ceiling, adjustable in height from 48 feet to 104 feet above the stage to provide variable acoustics.

The press blurb reads like an Victoria's Secret catalogue for architecture freaks:
Calatrava's design enfolds expanses of glass and steel within gently curving shells of gleaming white concrete. Public areas in and around the building, notably a pair of light-filled lobbies, open onto landscaped plazas. The lower plaza provides an entrance for visitors who arrive by car. The upper, which serves as a public gathering place and lookout, connects the building to a ceremonial run of trees via an elevated walkway.

Rising from behind the structure and then swooping down, as if reaching toward Peachtree Street, are two "bent leaves" of lattice-like steel. The smaller of these marks a side entrance on a terrace. The larger, which tops the structure at 186 feet, gives dramatic definition to the building's central axis. The movable steel "wings" of a sunscreen will open and close over the soaring, glazed volume of the upper lobby.
I don't love it like I love Frank Gehry's masterpiece in Los Angeles.
What's New?

Hot discussions going on over in the Composer's Forum about inspiration and where it comes from, as well as finding your own "voice," whatever that is. Hop over there and plunge in with your own witty bon mots by hitting the "Comment" button and opining away...David Salvage has his own discussion going on further down this page, something about Foucault and Boulez, too deep for me, but some heavyweights are weighing in...Brian Sacawa is talking about "virtuosity" and quotes our hero, Luciano Berio...And don't forget Lawrence Dillon who's always good.
Everything�s Up to Date in Kal-li-forn-ni-a

It�s official�California is now the center of the contemporary music universe. Esa-Pekka Salonen has re-upped with the Los Angeles Philharmonic until at least 2008 and the Phil announced by far the most adventuresome 2005-2006 schedule of any major American orchestra. Throw in the premiere of John Adams� Dr. Atomic in San Francisco and you have a seismic shift that leaves our West Coast cousins sitting atop Mt. Slonimsky and us Easterners bogged down in some sort of regressive Bushian cultural tarpit.

Among the many highlights of the Los Angeles season, which begins Sept. 29 and runs through June 4, 2006, is a two-week "Minimalist Jukebox" festival directed by John Adams, that will include his own music as well as works by Louis Andriessen, Philip Glass, Arvo P�rt and Steve Reich.

The season will also include concert performances of Adams' oratorio El Ni�o around Christmas; four world premieres, by Thomas Ad�s, Anders Hillborg, Magnus Lindberg and Roger Reynolds; and U.S. and West Coast premieres by Ad�s, Andriessen, Niccolo Castiglioni, Unsuk Chin and Salonen himself. And, if that weren�t enough, Dawn Upshaw is singing Osvaldo Golijov's folk-song-based cycle, Ayre.

Time to go West, young man.
Last Night in LA--California EAR Unit

Every city should have at least one organization like California EAR Unit. The Los Angeles based new music ensemble is dedicated to the performance, promotion and creation of new music, not simply music of composers who are still alive. For 18 years the County Museum�s Monday Evening Concerts have provided the group with its major local venue. Last night�s concert was a typical EAR Unit evening: two local premieres and one world premiere.

David Lang is well-known to Sequenza21 readers, especially for his music with the Bang on a Can organization. His work �Child� is a group of five pieces, separately composed between 1999 and 2003, originally for separate groups, each with slightly different instrumentation, and now collected into a whole. I wish Lang had edited the first piece, a Glass-like quiet evolution which seemed half-again as long as it needed to be and then unraveled. And I would like to hear the five pieces in a different sequence so that the work didn�t end on the minimalism of a series of long cello notes. The second piece was particularly engaging, with an almost Cuban rhythm that got me moving in my seat.

After intermission the group played Erkki-Sven T��r; you�re wrong --- he�s an Estonian not a Finn. The selection was Architectonics VII (1992), a lovely work for piano, flute and bass clarinet. The piano provided washes of color as well as foundation for the flute. This work will be valuable for flute players wanting to organize a chamber performance.

The final work was the first performance of a work by Stephen Mosko composed for California EAR and its players with whom he shares a CalArts connection. This is poles apart from the simplicity of Lang�s music; there may not be more notes, but they have much wider variety and sound and technique.

Mosko describes the work, �J� (journal), as evolving from thoughts of the Druid alphabet with each letter named after a tree or shrub of which it is the initial. He thought about the association of the letter, of its tree, with each member of the EAR Unit. The work has 9 parts, differing in texture and style. One of the parts had five of the musicians making music at--and with--the piano leaving only the cellist unchanged in position. Mosko�s work does not communicate in its first hearing, at least not to me, but I was interested and wished I could have taken a recording away to try to understand better what he was saying in his music.
Everything is Good, Nothing is Bad

There�s a fascinating dialogue between Pierre Boulez and Michel Foucault reprinted in "Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics," an anthology of essays from the journal "Perspectives of New Music" edited by John Rahn. In the dialogue Boulez and Foucault ponder musical/aesthetic pluralism. While they admit there�s something "liberating" about a cultural discourse which refuses to value one kind of music over another, they fear this "everything is good, nothing is bad" attitude sanctions a conservative aesthetic that resorts to old habits at the expense of engaging new possibilities. If nothing can be better than what I like, why bother with something else?

Two thoughts.

One: in a world of "separate but equal" musics, music appreciation as we know it goes right out the window. If a Christina Aguilera album is just as good as a Brahms Symphony, why teach a class about how to appreciate the Brahms? And just renaming the class "classical music appreciation" doesn�t get around the issue. What is it about classical music that makes it so special that we�re taught how to appreciate it and not other genres?

Two: are people really isolating themselves as Boulez and Foucault suspect? On the one hand, one can think of any number of composers and performers who engage other musics with sedulous dedication. But for every one of them, how many orchestras isolate themselves from new music? How many commercials and TV programs stereotype classical music as old and crusty, rather than seriously paying attention to it?

I don't have answers for these questions, but, whether you love or loathe what Boulez and Foucault stand for, they�re certaintly still worth listening to.
Schoenberg in Los Angeles

Although Arnold Schoenberg�s Gurrelieder wasn't premiered until 1913, it may be the last great work of the 19th century. By the time Schoenberg began working to finish the orchestration of this massive work, he had already moved into the new century and into new music in a variety of other compositions. The two-plus hours of song and orchestra that make up Gurrelieder are a kind of culmination of Wagner and Brahms.

 height=When Esa-Pekka Salonen scheduled his cycle of Schoenberg works two years ago to close the LA Philharmonic�s stay in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, he wasn�t able to schedule Gurrelieder. As yesterday's performance demonstrated, the delay worked out to everyone�s advantage. The open stage and acoustics of Walt Disney Concert Hall made it possible for Salonen to bring together more than 250 musicians to produce glorious music with marvelously clear, transparent sound.

Schoenberg was extravagant in his call for resources; the Phil�s normal complement of musicians was supplemented by about 30 additional instrumentalists to produce an orchestra of 25 brass, 25 woodwinds, 11 percussionists, four harps, and the 70 strings. The augmented Master Chorale provided 130 voices, including major additions to the complement of male voices.

Schoenberg was also profligate in his call for soloists; of six vocalists, four perform in only one song each; only one appears throughout the work, and he has to be a heldentenor capable of singing Tristan. Simon Rattle once said this Schoenberg should be performed like a string quartet, or perhaps like �Daphnis and Chloe�, to emphasize that the massed resources should not work to form heavy sounds since the sheer quantity of performers adds weight by itself. With Salonen firmly in control and shaping the shifts in instrumental and vocal color, this performance was a feast for the ears. Salonen never let the orchestra overwhelm the voices, although the tenor�s consonants weren�t always audible and the female narrator used discreet amplification for her sprechstimme part (in Schoenberg�s nod to the 20th century). Disney Hall was almost sold out; there were a few empty seats to be seen in the far corners of the side and rear balconies, and a few unused tickets leaving empty seats, primarily in the inexpensive section, but the house was almost full on Super Bowl day. The audience loved what they heard and roared their approval.

This month Salonen�s own compositions will be the focus of the Phil�s concerts with three major works in separate programs and a fourth work for the Youth Symphony. In March he takes the Philharmonic to Cologne for a residency.

Upcoming schedule: tonight, a Monday evening Concert with California E.A.R. Unit in contemporary works. Tuesday, a chamber concert by Phil musicians with Emanuel Ax at Disney; Brahms and Faure, so probably not of interest to contemporary music fans. Wednesday, a concert at REDCAT (the CalArts space in Disney) of virtuoso works for bassoon. Phil concert of Salonen next Sunday, then Green Umbrella on Monday, with newer works by Steven Stucky and Kaija Saariaho. Then some days off.
What's New Today?

You've come to the right place, amigo. Our collection of composers' blogs has been joined by Judith Lang Zaimont, who weighs in with her thoughts on a new music festival she just attended at Florida State...Lawrence Dillon talks about the daunting task of re-arranging Stravinsky...David Salvage immerses himself for a weekend in Harry Partch and emerges relatively unscathed...Brian Sacawa channels Andy Goldsworthy and Milan Kundera. And don't forget to get your tickets now for Brian's American Voices" recital February 16 at Miller Theater.
Playing Favorites

Two of our favorite young composers are on the menu tomorrow night at 8 pm when the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra continues its 32nd season, with pianist Jonathan Biss as guest soloist at Carnegie Hall.

The Orpheans will perform the world premiere of Daniel Schnyder�s Concerto for Winds (Some Other Blues) (commissioned by Orpheus, with funding from Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland).

 height= �I was especially interested in writing this piece for Orpheus, featuring its wind section, because I am also a wind player and wanted to reflect on the new aesthetic developments of the 21st century,� Schnyder says. �I know that Orpheus really loves to push the envelope. They often progress into new, uncharted waters without fear and full of enthusiasm. This allows the composer to write without inhibitions and second thoughts.�

The Concerto is dedicated to John Coltrane and even though it is not a jazz composition, it uses some phrases, articulations, and expressions derived from the treasures of the jazz heritage. Some Other Blues is the subtitle and is a reference to the famous Coltrane tune, which reflects on the idea of expansion and transformation of existing forms and musical ideas.

 height= On the program, also, is the New York premiere of Erkki-Sven T��r�s Action - Passion - Illusion for String Orchestra, a utilizes a musical language he developed (his �meta-language�), at the heart of which can be heard both the human anxiety and fin-de-si�cle optimism of our late 20th century times. T��r�s work incorporates a wide range of 20th century compositional techniques, representing the program�s overall theme: young composers representing the times in which they live.

There is also a couple of pieces by a guy named Mendelssohn on the program, which is where Jonathan Biss comes in.
Some Different Trains

In the midst of an orgy of Harry Partch, I encountered something very interesting. Have any of you heard "US Highball?" It is easily, to my knowledge, Partch�s crowning achievement. But it also strikes me as potentially a likely precursor to Reich�s seminal "Different Trains." Both pieces share a focus on the musicality of ordinary speech; both pieces evoke the rhythm of trains; both pieces bear a loose narrative structure composed of fragments of text; both "take place" during WWII; both are autobiographical. And both are masterpieces.

Steve, are you out there?


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