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Jerry Bowles
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Love and Cow Bells
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Well, That Was Fun
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Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
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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, July 23, 2005
Ferneyhough�s Shadowtime at Lincoln Center Festival

To paraphrase Walter Benjamin, great works of art create or abolish genres; perfect works do both simultaneously. Brian Ferneyhough and his librettist Charles Bernstein have created what they call a "thought opera" based on the ideas of Benjamin, and the man himself would probably have recognized it for what it is: a great work of art.

From the grotesquely grazioso opening, through the many arresting a cappella choral passages, to the serene spatialized electronics of the conclusion, "Shadowtime" proves far more adept at creating contrast and sustaining tension than Ferneyhough�s other major work performed in New York this season, "Carceri d�Invenzione." The phrasing is more relaxed, and the complexity � while never yielding � never grows fatiguing: the music breaths and flows and doesn�t suffocate the ears.

Structured into six continuous scenes, the opera, after poignantly capturing the frenzied last days of Benjamin�s life, charts a conceptual descent from the "Doctrine of Similarity" � Benjamin�s conjecture that the sounds of language reflect the structure of the cosmos � to the shattering irreconcilability of historical time and "Jetztzeit" ("now time"). Accompanying Benjamin�s avatar, or "shadow," is an unnamed Lecturer, who spices the journey with whimsical and often nonsensical discourses on metaphysics. He is like an eccentric showy Virgil partnering Benjamin�s earnest Dante through Hell � a Virgil, by the way, who must also play the piano very well and be able to totally command the stage. In the role, Nicolas Hodges absolutely steals the show.

The production is a delicious echo-chamber of images: oversized mouths flash on a screen only to reappear later as suspended cut-outs; a man in silhouette undresses and dresses again � a sequence Benjamin soon echoes; through the entire second scene, Benjamin holds a mask in front of his face, and, later, giant mask-like faces � Karl Marx, Pope Pius XII, Hitler among others � descend from the rafters as characters portray them on stage. In the penultimate scene, as the Lecturer takes us in his absurd way through the crumbling of time, the set-pieces begin to crowd the stage chaotically, unfiltered light streams from the wings, scrolls of text that once hung triumphantly now crumple to the floor, and one is overcome by the powerful feeling that something important is coming to a sad, irreversible end.

What exactly, I don�t really know. "Shadowtime" may have flown over my head, but it didn�t fly over my heart. It�s quite a feat for an artist to command attention with the nearly incomprehensible: people are quick to ignore and disregard what they don�t understand. (Me included.) But the audience seemed pretty attentive last night, and, even though a few people did leave during the show, one regrets the incredibly limited run allotted "Shadowtime" at the Lincoln Center Festival: two performances just aren�t enough for a work this rich, this intricate, and this fascinating.
�We�ve �ad nothin� but maggoty bread for three stinkin� days!!�

Lots of kinda-interesting things happening today. Howard Shore�s "Lord of the Rings" Symphony is getting lots of play. It returns to Pittsburgh via John Mauceri, who, as it turns out, had a hand in its genesis. I personally like Shore�s score, but I tend to have problems when film music is asked to sound without the film. But you folks in Pittsburgh have fun anyway. Also, Peter Schickele is doing his thing in San Antonio, and Gunther Schuller will be livening up the University of Wisconsin, Madison this Fall.

It�s a sleepy day back here at the fish farm. Check out Pliable�s post below; and Larry Dillon just keeps �em coming � this time he gives some advice on how not to let MIDI take your breath away. At the moment, my ears feel like they�re standing in line for a frightening, dangerous roller-coaster, and they�re tempted to chicken out: it�s Shadowtime tonight. An interesting article about it is here. Mine will be up (probably) in under 24 hours.

And hey dude -- check this out.
Lumina String Quartet at Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia � Part 5

Actually, this entry will be a continuation of the festivities on May 27, as well as a report on the extraordinary day of May 28.

After the 5 PM concert on the 27th, we were brought back to our hotel to change for the evening�s program. We were put into our usual vans and driven across a bridge over the Kazanka River to what seemed to be a huge residential district, with the standard issue large apartment buildings and complexes. After climbing quite a few flights of stairs (you expected elevators, maybe?), we started to hear the thudding beat of what I�ve come to know and dislike as techno pop. As we finally reached the right landing, it was obvious that we were in a sort of high-rise nightclub. There were several rooms, all very busy � a central bar/lounge area, with a sort of large pool room/sports bar and cavernous, crowded performance room attached. This latter area was a duplex, the upper level of which wrapped around the walls and featured a walkway over the performance area and mountain of equipment below. The decibel level in here easily topped 110, but did set me in mind of all of the noisy and terrible high school bands I�d played in and what sound levels I endured for my art (?) then. High volume though it was, the performers were interesting and varied. They featured Rocky Racoon, Legalight and their �Jamayca sound�, several Tatar groups and performers, including Sixense and Paxat and Drum, who presented an �afro-germany mix session.� All kinds of interesting and experimental things, including electronic music, poetry and flat-out Henry Rollins-style howling. One poet in particular caught the ear of the Lumina Quartet�s Asya Meshberg, who was quite taken with his work and spoke to him about it afterwards. Interestingly, this was officially part of the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music.

Two things have stayed with me from the evening � 1. it was good not to feel fiftyish for a little while and 2. it was a great idea to include this as part of the Festival. Talk about giving an event variety! This was great fun and one of the most memorable parts of our time in Kazan.

Now, on to May 28. This began with a beautiful morning boat ride on the lovely Volga River, which actually reminded me just a bit of the Hudson here in New York. We traveled several miles up (or was it down?) stream before turning and traveling several more down (or was it up?) stream and returning to the docking area. Particularly interesting here was seeing the old hydrofoil boats that no doubt took several generations of happy Soviet-era revelers out for a days excursion.

So, back on dry land and in the bus, off to the neighboring city of Zelenodolsk for the evening�s concert. Along the way, part of the afternoon was spent at the serene, moving and beautiful Raifa Monastery about 20 kilometers outside of Kazan. This complex, situated in a deep pine forest, dates from 1665 and features wonderfully friendly monks who gladly posed for photos and chatted with us at length. It is also unmistakably a sacred space that I can easily see the attraction of.

Finally, Zelenodolsk. This is a sort of Soviet time-capsule of a small, perhaps once elegant city now gone slightly to seed. It seems to have been a center of arms manufacture and still builds real snazzy boats for river recreation. We were brought to the Gorky Cultural Center, a nice old wooden concert hall with a striking blue stage backdrop, tiled walls, non-tacked down carpets and curtains at the entrances.

The Lumina Quartet began the concert with Ron Mazurek�s Chants for String Quartet and continued with Rashid Kalimoullin�s excellent Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, with, of course, clarinetist Philip Bashor joining the fun.

Now, a bit about Rashid Kalimoullin. Besides being the creative mind and energy behind the Europe/Asia Festival of Modern Music, he is also a leading composer of Russia and the Tatarstan Republic. A member of the old USSR Union of Composers of Russia and the Republic of Tatarstan since 1986, since 1989 he has been the President of the Union of Composers of Tatarstan, one of the most significant composers organizations in Russia�and, he�s a great guy. You can read much more about him and see a cool picture of him and Sofia Gubaidulina at here. You can also hear some sound samples of his music and perhaps purchase some of his CDs here.

Next up was the Netherlands-based ensemble Ziggurat. Consisting of panflute, recorder, percussion, viola da gamba and a bandura/autoharp type instrument, they create a scintillating music that mixes middle eastern, jazz, Andean sounds, baroque and pre-baroque and has more influences than you can shake an alto recorder at. For this performance, they were joined by a fine soprano sax player, who improvised around their improvisations. The third selection was a particularly fine improv that included nicely intense percussion and scatting, with a very effective closing soprano sax solo.

They were followed by the Swedish vocal quartet Vox. Consisting of baritone (and former professional tour manager/baggage handler) Matts Johansson, mezzo soprano Katarina Lundborg, tenor Tore Sunesson and soprano Ulrika Ahlen Axberg, they bring an unearthly, ethereal beauty to their performances, as well as a wonderful sense of humor as shown in the three Shakespeare Songs titled Oh, Nuncle and the terrific staging of the Edward Lear-texted Such is Life, the latter of which really had the capacity audience going. Both works were, by the way, from the French composer Francois Surhan. These are special performers with wonderful sound and stage presence, and, we found out later, really lovely people that we hope to be able to bring to New York in the future.

Next was a wonderful piano piece by Finnish composer Tapio Tuomela. This is clear, logical music that occupies a unique and beautiful sound world.

Then, our friends from the Belgian Rapid Deployment Consort presented another rhythmic and wonderful piece for violin, clarinet and tabla that made me think of J.S. Bach stumping around the Taj Mahal. We hope to bring them to New York in the near future as well.

Finally, the remarkable Russian (living in Germany) Arkady Shilkloper offered a set of solo cornet improvisations with lots of extended techniques, including body and mouth percussion. Rhythmic and remarkable playing, which was even better on his next instrument, the plastic alpenhorn. This looks dangerous at first, as he shoots what looks to be an endless, telescoping tube at the audience, but which turns out to be the instrument. He has monster technique, can swing his hindquarters off and improvise brilliantly till the cows come home to the collective farm. And, he looks like he�s having a great time, so his audience does too.

Watching this concert in the middle of this lovely old concert hall in the middle of this old Russian city in the middle of this lovely part of central Russia, I was struck by what a wonderful festival this was and how great it was that Rashid Kalimoullin had the vision to bring such a world of musical ideas to Kazan and made it possible for such an incredible group of musicians to come together to share their gifts with these audiences and with each other. For this, he is to be highly commended.

One more concert on May 29, so one more entry in this trip diary. Then, on the plane and back home.
Webcasts for Corigliano and Dutilleux London premieres

Webcast London premieres at next week's BBC Proms include Henri Dutilleux's Correspondances with Sakari Oramo conducting the City of Birmingham Orchestra, and John Corigliano's Violin Concerto � The Red Violin� (illustration by Carol Cleere) with Joshua Bell playing, and lady in the news Marin Alsop conducting her Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Other new music in next week's programmes includes Oliver Knussen conducting his own Whitman settings, and the world premiere of Detlev Glanert�s Theatrum bestiarum.

Full broadcast dates and times, together with links to webcast resources (including 'on demand' listening) are, as always, On An Overgrown Path's weekly Proms preview. Plus more on the controversial BBC MP3 downloads in Download Doomsayer.
Hot Stuff

After a bout of relentless humidity, New York now is getting the heat: it�s been over ninety yesterday and today. You folks in Phoenix are getting it worse I suppose.

From what I can see there�s not much going on today in the greater world of Contemporary Classical Music.

But back here at the coral reef, we�re not sleeping on the job. Elodie Lauten has an eloquent essay on how American culture is trying to eliminate its artists as if society were nothing more than a giant game of Survivor; Anthony Cornicello has a great question: what happens when you put your iPod on "shuffle?"; and check out the latest in the Composers Forum � but turn up the air conditioning first: it�s hot stuff.

Also, I think we're in the clear: the website should now be available as usual all day.
�Food for Worms�

Ever seen Zorba the Greek? Then you�ve heard some music by Mikis Theodorakis. Theodorakis turns 80 this year, and, even though he�s echt Greek, Russia is celebrating by awarding him their St. Andrews Prize. Theodorakis is probably Greece�s most famous living composer, and he's lived a fascinating life at the intersection of music and revolutionary politics.

Back here at the branch, Alan Theisen channels Wallace Stevens, Charles Rosen and others in support of Brian Ferneyhough; Lou Bunk has a conversation about musical appropriation with, among others, his inner Buddha; Larry Dillon thinks Elliott Carter could be one of minimalism's founding fathers; and folks in the Duluth area will want to check out the Calendar.

And how about someone freshen up the Composers Forum with a new topic, huh?
Marin Alsop

'Tis done. Let's hope all goes well.
It Ain�t Over Till It�s �

It turns out Marin Alsop�s appointment isn�t a done deal after all. The musicians have formally asked the board of directors of the Baltimore Symphony to postpone any decision on a conductor until Thanksgiving. For perspective on this issue, better go see what Carmen Helena T�llez has to say: it seems women conductors face the same questions and obstacles that were around fifty years ago.

Also in the news . . . remember Ross Edwards � the guy who wrote that Oboe Concerto the Philharmonic premiered last season? Well he�s back in the news today after his Concerto for Guitar and Strings won "best orchestra piece" at the Australian Classical Music Awards. He has some interesting things to say . . .

Back here at the ranch, Everette Minchew asks how well you take criticism. As Everette especially knows, some folks don�t take it too well. Those of you in Pennsylvania will want to check out the Calendar, and I regret to inform you that, due to some technical mumbo-jumbo, Sequenza21 will have to close for a few hours on the 21st. So be sure to get your fill of new music news and views before then.
Department of Oversight

It seems my curatorial gaze is not all-seeing. Elodie Lauten slipped in a provocative post -- in more ways than one -- this morning, and Larry Dillon has had a terrific essay on his page since Saturday. (Sheesh!) Elodie asks about the ethics of jingle writing, and Larry delivers some sage advice for theory teachers via Vincent Persichetti. Y'all better stay tuned.
Guten Morgen

Just thought I�d start the day with a quick post concerning two little tidbits. Marin Alsop has been appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony. While listening to the Philharmonic in Central Park last Wednesday, a friend of mine (a woman) said: "Women? They conduct??" Yes ma�am, and congratulations to Ms. Alsop. Back at the ranch, Alan Theisen checks in with a quote from Norman Lebrecht about the conformist attitude bedeviling classical music these days. Amen, brother. Links in a sec...
Also, our friend Kyle Gann takes a little shot at Brian Ferneyhough, and Larry Dillon (and others) are wondering about multi-movement form at the Composers Forum. Let your voice be heard!!
CAPITAL M at Cornelia Tonight

S21's own Ian Moss and his ensemble Capital M will be raising the roof tonight at the Cornelia Street Caf� at 8:30. Capital M is "an electric chamber ensemble that lives between the edges of contemporary classical music, hard rock, and creative improvisation." I�m feeling cooler already. Click on the link for directions and more info and thank me later.


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