Fred, I’m thinking of setting E.E. Cummings for tenor and chamber orchestra… That’s a wonderful idea, it goes along with your other settings of important American poets; which poems will you use? Perhaps some of the early poems having to do with WWI.
Can you play these multi-stops: C, G, C#, G#, E and C, G, E#, D#, B, F#? I’ll try them out when I get home. [Later, on the telephone] Yes, they work. Good, I’m putting them in my new Double Trio.
I’m working on a String Trio, do you think the viola can hold a high F-sharp for almost two bars? What is the tempo? Oh…it is half note = 60. (Knowing it will work, I answer) Let me try it out. Yes, the viola will be able to hold it. Good, that’s the end of the piece!
Then the idea of the 103rd birthday concert for Elliott Carter came about. Last year, for his 102nd birthday, Charlie Neidich and the Camerata Notturna did a beautiful concert which included the Clarinet Concerto, Wind Rose and the slow movement of Carter’s Symphony No. 1. This year, I thought, let’s do all of Carter’s new music, most of which has not been heard in New York or anywhere. This concert is fated to succeed because of the music, and the people: Carol Archer, Nicholas Phan, Virgil Blackwell, Rolf Schulte, Gordon Gottlieb, and many more.
Elliott will be hearing five of his pieces for the first time. THIS IS GOING TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTY!
It’s hard to believe, but one of the primary forces that fostered the “Indie Classical” phenomenon of the aughts is celebrating its tenth birthday. The Brassland imprint, which curates artists such as the National, Clogs, Doveman, and Nico Muhly, is celebrating their anniversary by sharing music: a different free download of a song from their catalog every weekday throughout November.
Thanks to the kind folks at Brassland, below we share a stream of tomorrow’s pick: Nico Muhly’s “Skip Town,” a bonus cut from his Mothertongue CD.
Be sure to visit the label’s “song a day” giveaway site or their Facebook page to collect all the goodies (schedule below).
Steve Reich turns 75 today. One of the premiere maestros of minimalism continues to dazzle us with thought-provoking and musically moving creations.
This morning, I introduced some of my undergraduate BA students to Reich, playing excerpts from Piano Phase, Music for 18 Musicians, and Different Trains. Some of them were unfamiliar with his music, but one student piped up,”What about Four Sections? I like that one too!”
If our students, particularly our student musicians, are picking out favorites and learning to perform Reich’s music, that is indeed a promising sign for the future of his works. As a small online musical offering, below are three student performances of Reich. The first is the trailer for Grand Valley State University’s Music for 18 Musicians recording. It was released a couple years ago, but has remained in heavy rotation in these parts! The second is an excerpt of Six Marimbas by students at the University of Kentucky. The third I’ve shared before, but can’t resist posting again: a pianist playing both parts of Piano Phase - at once!
And, just for my morning class, a video of a dance performance of Four Sections.
Daniel Wolf’s appreciation is better than anything I need to muster, so I’ll just say Happy Birthday Alvin Lucier, wonderful milestone, and thanks for some of the most beautifully pure musical and sonic revelations ever conceived.
Update: While I still don’t have much to add, I will point you to this wonderful discovery… In 1972-3, When (now long & well-established) experimental composer/performer Nicolas Collins was a fresh-faced freshman in college, he took Lucier’s Introduction to Electronic Music class. Good student he was, Collins also took copious notes on what Lucier taught them during those two semesters. Collins has gone ahead and scanned this unedited notebook to PDF files, and he shares it on a special page at his website. As Collins writes, “I am no Ned Rorem — this notebook does not reflect a particularly interesting life — but I think it provides a rare window into Lucier’s teaching and the musical culture of the day, both of which are very interesting indeed, and — secondarily — it documents my gradual conversion from student to acolyte.“
Virtually thumbing through this document is definitely worth any composer’s time.
Composer Mario Davidovsky turns 77 today. The International Contemporary Ensemble and soprano Tony Arnold are celebrating his birthday with a Portrait Concert at Miller Theatre tonight at 8 PM (details here). They’ve also recorded a birthday greeting for the composer (video below), adding a bit of angularity and jocular dodecaphony to a more traditional number.
Elliott Carter at Miller Theatre. Credit: Jon Simon
Boulez's 85th celebrated - a bit late - at Miller. Photo: Jon Simon
Elliott Carter turns 102 today! He was at Miller Theatre this past Monday night at the all Pierre Boulez concert put on by the Talea Ensemble. This was the last of many concerts celebrating Boulez’s 85th birthday (which occurred back in March).
The group played the US premiere of the latest version of Dérive 2: a work composed in 1988 to celebrate Carter’s 80th birthday. 22 years later, Boulez, now 85 himself, has expanded the piece to well over double its original length!
Talea Ensemble at Miller. Photo credit: Jon Simon.
As Raymond Bisha wrote on the Naxos Blog, Elliott Carter is planning to spend his 102nd birthday in Toronto, at a concert comprised entirely of works he’s written in the past two years!
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt turned 75 yesterday. His record label ECM Records is celebrating his three-quarters of a century with two new recordings.
Pärt’s 4th Symphony is a long-anticipated follow-up to his 3rd – which was written back in 1971! In the interim, the composer has moved from a modernist style to an idiosyncratic version of minimalism; one the composer calls the “tintinnabuli” style of composition. From bell-like resonances and slowly moving chant melodies, Pärt has crafted a personal compositional language of considerable appeal. And while this has included a number of stirring instrumental works, such as Tabula Rasa and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, more recently Pärt has been known for his choral music. His return to symphonic form is thus an opportunity to explore his mature language in a different milieu.
Perhaps in part as an acknowledgement of the home of the orchestra commissioning the Fourth Symphony – the “City of Angels” – Pärt decided to use a text as a formative – if subliminal – device in his preparations of the piece: the Canon of the Guardian Angel. Thus, while this is certainly not merely a transcription of a vocal piece – it sounds idiomatic and well orchestrated – there is a certain chant-like quality which demonstrates the symphony’s affinity with the vocal music and chant texts that are Pärt’s constant companions.
The live recording is of the work’s premiere in Disney Hall in LA. Salonen and the LA Phil give a muscular rendition of the piece, emphasizing its emphatic gestures while still allowing for the symphony’s many reflective, meditative oases to have considerably lustrous resonance. And while one can certainly hear a palpable connection to Pärt’s chant-inspired tintinnabuli pieces, the symphony also allows for dissonant verticals and melodic sweep that recalls both Pärt’s own Third Symphony and the works of other 20th century symphonists, from Gorecki to Shostakovich.
Perhaps in order to clearly attest to the connection between text and symphony, the disc is balanced out with a fifteen-minute serving of fragments from one of his important choral works from the 1990s: Kanon Pokajanen. The composer has pointed out the relationship between the canon that was his reference point for the symphony and the texts upon which the latter choral work was based.
He says, “To my mind, the two works form a stylistic unity and belong together. I wanted to give the words an opportunity to choose their own sound. The result, which even caught me by surprise, was a piece wholly pervaded by this special Slavonic diction found only in church texts. It was the canon that clearly showed me how strongly choice of language preordains a work’s character.”
Kaljuste and the Estonian Chamber Choir are seasoned handlers of Pärt’s works, having made a number of recordings of his music. They do not disappoint here, providing a performance that juxtaposes the ethereal eternity found in the texts with an earthy and corporeally passionate rendering of the music.
In order to further fete Pärt, ECM also plans a lush reissue of their landmark 1984 recording, Tabula Rasa, complete with a generous accompanying book with newly commissioned essays about the composer.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Washington Composers Forum. Like any of these ventures, they’ve had some busy and some moribund periods. But more than most and especially through the last decade, the WCF has been a pretty consistent force, beacon and shelter for composers of all stripes (as I can personally attest to from my own long sojourn in the Seattle area). They’ve been great about getting the word on opportunities out to their members, sponsoring commissions, readings and concerts, and their Composer Spotlightseries (a different composer holds court each month, sharing whatever they think is important in their world) has been a fabulously smart and successful local draw for years now.
The WCF is having their celebratory concert this Thursday evening, May 6th, 8pm at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Avenue North, 4th Floor, Seattle / Tickets at door. $5-15 sliding scale), as part of their Jack Straw-supported Transport Series. The concert of world and regional premieres will feature the Icicle Creek Piano Trio, Pacific Rims percussion quartet, violist Melia Watras, and the Seattle Phonographers Union. Highlighted on the program is the premiere of a new work by composer Wayne Horvitz, an inaugural commission by Washington Composers Forum, launching the organization’s new commissioning program. Other composers on the bill include Christopher Bailey, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Diane Thome, Huck Hodge and John Cage — and if you’ve never yet seen the Seattle Phonographers Union in action, you’re in for a spookily wonderful treat.