Archive for the “Los Angeles” Category
…Is that it’s happening in California, and not spreading the wonderful work and word in some navel-gazing opposite coast (NYC, I’m talkin’ to youz!). But even those who are or might be L.A.-bound, what better place to be on a Monday night (January 11 2010, 8:00pm; Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School), than taking in this absolutely fine mix of the old and the new?:
California has always attracted innovators. Three composers from Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego confirm this is still the case. In a program showcasing the variety of activity in our own backyard, Michael Pisaro’s gently expansive The Collection is presented in a version for twenty players. Luciano Chessa’s Variazioni su un oggetto di scena and Louganis (with a video by Terry Berlier) create a poignant lyricism in his radical and theatrical works, including a tribute to Olympic diver Greg Louganis scored for piano and electric toothbrushes. Clint McCallum’s in a hall of mirrors waiting to die pushes a saxophonist to his physical limits, while the sax also enlivens two rarely-heard non-Californian 20th century classics: Anton Webern’s Quartet and Milton Babbitt’s All Set for jazz ensemble.
With Eliot Gattegno, saxophone; Eric Wubbels, piano; Benjamin Lulich, clarinet; David Fulmer, conductor and violin; David Borgo, saxophone; Scott Worthington, double bass; Brian Archinal, percussion; Ross Karre, percussion; Avi Bialo, trumpet; Ian Carroll, trombone; Luciano Chessa, piano.
Here are YouTube previews of Louganis and in a hall of mirrors waiting to die.
Tickets and more info at MondayEveningConcerts.org.
Last night’s Green Umbrella concert was programmed as part of “West Coast, Left Coast”, and it certainly sounded as if almost all of the 1500-or-so of us had as much fun as I did. The program ended on a high with five selections from Frank Zappa‘s The Yellow Shark album (1992), conducted by John Adams, our festival curator (and conductor, and occasional composer, and friendly guide). You can read Adams’ comments made during rehearsals here (just read the second half of yesterday’s entry and then scroll down to the November 25 entry). The concert ended with a riotous (orgasmic?) performance of “G-Spot Tornado”, which was then repeated as an encore. Adams finally led the orchestra off stage, because very few of us in the audience were headed for the exits, instead staying and applauding and wanting more.
The Phil has had a long association with the music of Frank Zappa, going back to 1970 when Zubin Mehta was music director and Ernest Fleischmann had started his program of bringing contemporary music into the Phil’s repertoire and helping the Phil’s audience listen to the new. (Ernest and others had to cultivate the ground for many years before the current audience was built up; you in New York should not get too impatient.) As the program for last night states, that 1970 concert was “locally notorious”. Here are Zappa’s comments. Some uncredited and undated but contemporary comments are here if you scroll down to the heading “Hit It, Zubin”, and here is a funny article from a 1971 Playboy concerning the first Zappa concert. (Confession: Phil concerts have been my only exposure to the music of Frank Zappa.)
The concert opened with Fog Tropes (1981) by Ingram Marshall, an accessible work for six brass and taped sounds of fog horns and San Francisco in fog. Then Kronos Quartet with the astounding voice of David Barron performed Ben Johnston‘s 1998 transcription of Harry Partch‘s 1943 U.S. Highball, originally written for adapted guitar, kithara and chromelodeon. Johnston worked hard enough to support Partch and his work, especially at the U of Illinois, that I trust his instincts in agreeing to make this work more performable by replacing the original instruments. This was a delightful performance, and David Barron’s unique pitch control and his acting skills made him a great narrator.
Sunday the Festival gave us two concerts. In the afternoon, the Phil and Gustavo Dudamel showed us that the powers had recorded the wrong concert when they taped the inaugural concert and John Adams‘ City Noir symphony. That first night gave us a good performance; Sunday (the fourth performance of the work) gave us an exciting performance of the absolutely best orchestral work yet written by John Adams. On Sunday, the “big band” and jazz elements had swing while still retaining drive. The work built into a great evening. The concert began with Dudamel conducting Esa-Pekka Salonen‘s pivotal L.A. Variations (1996). And then the strings, trombones, harps, and percussion (re-tuned as appropriate) with Marino Formenti on the piano in Lou Harrison‘s Piano Concerto (1983-1985). Darn! There should have been a recording of this performance. The second movement, “Stampede”, was thrilling in its breath-taking drive; we relished the change into the almost ethereal slow movement. The whole performance was great, for a work that should have a larger audience. We think of those Sunday afternoons after a concert when we saw Harrison at Betty Freeman’s musicales; these were the first performances by the Phil of this concerto.
And then Sunday evening the four pianists of PianoSpheres (Gloria Cheng, Vicki Ray, Mark Robson, Susan Svrcek) gave us “California Keyboard”, a survey of some of our music. The opening work was instructive. The spotlights shone on four toy pianos as the four pianists came on stage and bent down to the keyboards for John Cage‘s Music for Amplified Toy Pianos (1960). Initially there were some titters: the sounds were a bit odd and the sizes were humorous. But four pianists, focused on the music, brought the audience from humor into music appreciation, and the performance cast a spell. Mark Robson then played the oldest works: four of Henry Cowell‘s Miniatures (1914 to 1935), and we heard how original Cowell was, and how modern he could be.
But there was so much in the program. My own favorites included a concerto-like work for piano and electronics by Shaun Naidoo, Bad Times Coming (1996), played by Vicki Ray. I also really liked William Kraft‘s Requiescat (Let the bells mourn for us for we are remiss) (1976), commissioned by Ralph Grierson and premiered at the 1975 Ojai Festival. This was a lovely work for electric piano. And the concert closed with a beautiful work by Daniel Lentz, NightBreaker (1990) for four pianos. A great concert!
Mr. Adams, Ms. Borda: you put on good festivals!
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The Los Angeles Master Chorale gave the Phil’s West Coast, Left Coast Festival the opening it deserved: a joyous statement, a vibrant concert, and a rousing end that left us wanting more and looking forward to our next event. Regrettably, last night’s concert wasn’t the opening, but the second event. The opening occurred Saturday night in a hodge-podge concert that just drained away. But more on that, later. It’s much more fun to talk about the good things.
Grant Gershon and the LAMC put together a program of four works by four composers (all alive, present, and introduced at the concert) that certainly brought out one of the festival’s themes: to portray the sheer number and variety of traditions and styles present in our music. The program gave us a local premiere to begin, then brought out two LAMC favorites, and concluded with a reprise of a delightful LAMC commission from 2007. The work new to us was “Savage Altars” (1992) by Ingram Marshall; his notes on the work are here.
Morten Lauridsen has enriched our music, not merely through his own major compositions, but also through the other composers and colleagues he has mentored, challenged, and helped in composition at the USC Thornton School of Music. The program gave us his “Mid-Winter Songs” (1980, in this version with piano accompaniment). Lovely music. His notes are here.
The second half of the program moved forward a generation, to two composers still (barely) in their 30s: Eric Whitacre and David O. The LAMC performed a youthful work of Whitacre’s, “Cloudburst” (1992), written while he was still a music student at UNLV. Listening, and watching, the work is great fun. Here is the video of Whitacre conducted a group of mixed choruses and singers in Minnesota last April; I wish there were a video of last night’s performance.
Two years ago the Master Chorale had a great enabling them to commission works recognizing the diversity of Los Angeles, LA is the World. The hit of the year was David O’s “A Map of Los Angeles”, and this was given a reprise last night. The chorale gave some good program notes for each of the works in the concert, and I recommend reading those on David O’s work in particular (just scroll down through the notes). I hope that this music is not too location-specific, because this is so much fun to hear it should receive many performances. I think all of us in this full house left WDCH with a feeling of pleasure. A perfect opening.
But Saturday night’s official opening was a good program badly positioned and supported. Great ingredients: Terry Riley extemporizing on the WDCH organ, the Kronos Quartet in a new work, electronics/visual performances by Matmos, and a young composer in a performance of a new work inspired by the architecture of Disney Hall. The Phil’s web site has three interesting videos here. Perhaps for marketing purposes, perhaps to make this seem like a rock or hip-hop performance, the concert began at 9:30. It did bring in a younger audience (not more, just younger) than even the Green Umbrella series, but there were lots of late arrivals, which didn’t quite fit with the performance by Kronos of Thomas Newman‘s new work “It Got Dark” (2009); and while interesting, and worth really listening to, this didn’t seem quite right for a festival opening. But finding out what we were listening to was another of the problems: for some reason the program did not provide a summary listing of the works to be performed. You had to go through the text in the program to see what was named and then to try to match that with the sequence in the performance.
Terry Riley came on stage for some improvising in the second half of the program, and then, at midnight, went to the center console of the WDCH organ, which he has named “Hurricane Mama”. He gave a solo concert last season, and through his midnight practices has developed quite a feeling for the organ and its capabilities. He began playing. Probably many in the audience had no idea of what to expect or what to listen for. There were no announcements nor descriptions of what he was doing. And it was late. The audience began leaving. The concert concluded near 1:00 a.m., with probably a quarter of the audience left.
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This coming Saturday is the official opening concert of the L.A. Phil’s exciting new festival, West Coast, Left Coast, but performances introducing the concept have now begun. REDCAT showed a “re-interpretation” of a noted performance piece with music by Morton Subotnick and choreography by Anna Halprin, and Jacaranda Music had another full audience for its concert last night as a prelude to the festival itself.
Parades & Changes, the Halprin-Subotnick performance collaboration from 1965 is coming to New York, and it provides a fascinating hour. The use of electronics in music has advanced so much in the past forty years, and can now be heard so often, that Subotnick’s music no longer sounded as radical or disturbing as it must have seemed then, but it held its own and contributed to the performance, which didn’t seem at all dated. When I got home, however, I did a search to find my LP of Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon, once played so often. Gone. I don’t know when, or how. Surely the California pioneers in electronics in music should have had a place in a West Coast, Left Coast Festival!
The Jacaranda concert Saturday night was pure delight, and perfectly aligned with the festival’s theme. The program opened and closed with John Adams: Road Movies (1995) for violin and piano to open, and Shaker Loops (1978) for string sextet to close. The Denali Quartet brought in two friends to round out the performance of “Loops”, and this was a pleasure to listen to. The hit, however, was early Lou Harrison: Solstice (1949-1950) for celesta, tack piano, and flute, oboe, trumpet, two cellos and bass (including an instrument on its back, providing its strings as the target of mallets). This was Harrison attracted by Eastern sounds, but not yet comfortable with how much use to make of them. But it’s a lovely work. The fourth work on the program was by Ingram Marshall, whose work I don’t know. The concerts by the Master Chorale and by the Phil’s New Music Ensemble in a Green Umbrella concert will also give us works by Marshall, and I’ll wait until I’ve heard more before commenting.
The West Coast, Left Coast Festival looks on paper as if it can be more exciting then the last festival, Minimalist Jukebox, curated by Adams. Here’s the listing of events. And the LA Times has an excellent essay on Adams, here.
Today’s Philharmonic concert featured Luciano Berio and Franz Schubert, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. The concert opened with Berio’s commentary on the fragments left from Schubert’s ideas for his Tenth Symphony, Rendering (1989). Instead of developing a hybrid work “in the style of” Schubert, Berio supplemented the fragments with his own ideas, carefully orchestrated so that the listener could distinguish between real and restoration. We then ascended to the higher realms with Berio’s Folk Songs (1964, with the 1973 version for orchestral accompaniment). The singer? Dawn Upshaw. Dudamel closed the concert with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. The Dude is gaining control of the audience; in today’s concert he got everyone to be silent for over a minute after the last notes as he slowly lowered his arms. Last week’s concert, Verdi’s Requiem, was the only concert so far without a major work written after 1900.
Posted by John Clare in Bang on a Can, Composers, Contemporary Classical, Experimental Music, Film Music, Interviews, Los Angeles, tags: (UNTITLED), Adam Goldberg, David Lang, Soundtrack
(UNTITLED), an original film satire of New York’s avant-garde art scene, will appear in theaters across the nation this fall. By poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of 21st century Bohemia, (UNTITLED) introduces American audiences to some of the best that contemporary art has to offer, notably a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, who merges the artistic expressions of the composer protagonist with his own musical voice.
(UNTITLED) revolves around melancholy composer Adrian (Adam Goldberg) and his whirlwind affair with a Chelsea gallerist (Marley Shelton), who unbeknownst to Adrian sells vacuous commercial works to high-paying corporate clients. The film explores the idea of true art and the question of integrity lost through commercialism – all with tongue in cheek. At the beginning, Adrian’s music comprises cliché contemporary classical music elements, such as crinkling paper and breaking glass. Once his perspective and emotions achieve depth and insight through his blossoming romance, his music becomes more profound.
John Clare had a chance to send questions to both David Lang and Adam Goldberg. In the second part (part 1 is here with David Lang), John Clare finds out more about (UNTITLED) from its star, Adam Goldberg.
1. Often with a joke, there is some seriousness or truth behind it. Is there some truth to this movie even though there is some fun being poked?
Well, actually upon my last viewing of it, the second time I watched it with an audience, albeit at LACMA–the perfect audience–it seemed to have a real weight to it. The film sort of takes a turn once the absurdity is established I think. For me the film really has always been about this righteous indignation, this sort of defensiveness of one’s position–whether as an artist or a audience member or a critic or an art dealer, in this case–that really is front for enormous insecurity. These characters are all wayward and tend to overcompensate with very stringent , often absurd, points of view.
2. There are some outrageous sounds and art. How does your taste run in real life – in both “new concert music” and “art”?
I definitely have always been obsessed with sound and strange sounds and repetition, but usually incorporated into something melodic or hypnotic in some way. I have for a long time been a fan of Steve Reich–whose work began with simple tape loops and phasing of found material, but eventually he applied this process to beautiful symphonic pieces. I have also been a fan of some conceptual art, but usually when it engages the viewer, interacts with him or her in some way or tells a story. I don’t like things that seem to aim merely to shock or to alienate. Basically if it moves me or I can relate to it in some way then, well, I like it.
3. David Lang is a Pulitzer Prize winner and incredibly gifted composer, but unfortunately not a household name – how was he chosen for the movie, and how was collaboration with Untitled?
I believe Jonathan, the director, knew David from music school. He had an interesting job, both to score the film and create the ‘sound’ pieces our little group performs–though in the end it was so bizarrely structured and arranged that we could often only barely perform to playback so much of the “music” we’re making we actually are making. David also served I think as a bit of a consultant to Jonathan when he was writing this, creating my character. I love David’s music and this score is quite beautiful I think.
4. What is the possibility of Untitled 2, or Untitled – the Showtime series?
5. There have been quite a few composers in pop culture these days, from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (Jason Segal) to “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (Natalie Portman’s piano/composer) and the likes of Paul McCartney & Billy Joel writing new classical music. Is composition a new cool as nerds (think Big Bang Theory) are?
Hmmm….I’ve never thought “Big Bang Theory.” Well, I remember years ago Elvis Costello put out a sort of classical record with the Brodsky Quartet that was pretty innovative. Conversely, Philip Glass many many years ago started I think to incorporate a sort of popular music element–singing an so forth–into his music. I think there’s always been some overlap. I saw a great piece that a childhood friend of my girlfriend’s put on. Michael Einziger from Incubus of all things. It was fantastic, sort of Reich meets Bernard Hermann. I think there’s something that feels for lack of a better word “legitimate” about working with classical elements. I know that some of the stuff musically I’ve done musically, with my project LANDy, that I’ve been most proud of incorporates some classical elements–arrangements of strings and that sort of thing. Albeit I’m usually humming the arrangements like a crazy person to the poor violinists.
(UNTITLED) opens tomorrow, October 23rd, in a limited release; and the soundtrack is out already from Cantaloupe!
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Received a blurb from the LA Phil the other day, which in all caps proudly declares “LA PHIL LAUNCHES MICROSITE CELEBRATING INCOMING MUSIC DIRECTOR GUSTAVO DUDAMEL“ … Kaboom!… Here’s the relevant bit (my bolds):
On September 24, 2009, the LA Phil launched a microsite celebrating the arrival of incoming Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. Introducing audiences worldwide to Gustavo in new and engaging ways, the comprehensive microsite, located at http://www.laphil.com/gustavo, features videos such as Gustavo’s first rehearsal with the YOLA Expo Center Youth Orchestra, the LA Phil’s video tribute “Welcome Gustavo,” and the press conferences unveiling Gustavo’s inaugural season and appointment as 11th Music Director of the LA Phil. Visitors can also take a multimedia journey through Gustavo’s life with tiling photographs, video and biographical text. The latest Gustavo-related news and newly recorded audio and video content will be added to the microsite as Gustavo’s exciting inaugural season progresses.
The Gustavo microsite prominently features a brand-new interactive online game and iPhone application, Bravo Gustavo, designed by Hello Design to simulate the experience of conducting an orchestra. The Bravo Gustavo online game invites users to interact with Gustavo and the LA Phil performing Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique (music courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon). The Bravo Gustavo iPhone application adapts the mobile device into a conducting baton, utilizing the accelerometer to directly affect the overall tempo and note duration of the music – just like a real conductor.
Wow, conductor as new “my best friend forever”, and it seems like the only thing missing from the package is the action figure. I suppose if the classical world had been cool enough to do a “Bravo Herbert” or “Welcome Antal” back in the day, the crowds would never have left.
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Saturday night at 8 pm, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, under the direction of Michael Christie, gives the US premiere of Enrico Chapela’s Noctámbulos, a piece for rock trio and orchestra. Chapela will also participate in a panel discussion on Latin American Identity in Music at 4:30 (details below).
Chapela is a composer on the rise; Boosey and Hawkes added him to their roster in 2008 and he’s recently received several high profile commissions. I spoke with him on Thursday about the BAM event and his other activities. Born in Mexico, he started out his musical career as a rock guitarist, playing SXSW with a band in the nineties. He currently resides in Paris, where he’s finished a Master’s degree at the University of Paris and is pursuing a Ph.D. His dissertation topic is the two-hundred year history of symphonic music in Mexico.
An earlier version of Noctámbulos, titled Lo Nato es Neta, can be heard on Chapela’s debut CD, Antagonica. Lo Nato es Neta is scored for rock trio and acoustic quintet. Chapela readily acknowledges the cross-pollination present in the work, “It explores a wide range of rock styles – everything from metal to Pink Floyd to King Crimson.” I hear a fair bit of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in its juxtaposition of rock solos with angular melodic fragments, spiky post-tonal verticals, and Stravinskyian ostinati.
The piece was entered in a composition competition, but didn’t place. Happily, one of the judges dissented from the majority and separately arranged a commission for the Dresden Sinfoniker. The result: Noctámbulos, a revisioning of Lo Nato es Neta that features the rock trio as concerto soloists. It also incorporates more improvisation.
This is an exciting time for Chapela. He’s playing the guitar part in the premiere. Simultaneously, he’s working hard to finish a commission for the LA Philharmonic. “At first, I thought it would be too much to be the solo guitarist at the Brooklyn Philharmonic performances while trying to finish the piece for LA. But then I realized, who could ask for a better gig than this? Between practicing and writing, I told my wife to not expect to see me much for a couple of months!”
CROSSING BORDERS: A discussion on Latin American identity in music
Saturday, January 31, 2009 / BAM Hillman Attic Studio, at 4:00PM
Moderated by Carmen Helena Téllez / Invited panelists: Gabriela Lena Frank, Enrico Chapela, and Paul Desenne
NUEVO LATINO MAINSTAGE – Saturday January 31, 2009 at 8:00 PM
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Michael Christie, conductor; Virginie Robilliard, violin; Chapela Trio; Enrico Chapela, guitar; Jesús Lara, bass; Luis Miguel Costero, drums
Gabriela Lena Frank: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (NY Premiere of string orchestra version)
Paul Desenne: The Two Seasons (NY Premiere)
Enrico Chapela: Noctámbulos (US Premiere)
January has brought a richness of performances of contemporary music. At the half-way point on the calendar this has already been a marvelous month, but there’s much more to come. Each of the major music organizations across the county seems to have decided on some exceptional music. I haven’t been able to attend everything: too many tickets, too many nights. Wouldn’t it be nice to be paid to attend the concerts? Wouldn’t it be nice just to afford them all? Oh, well, the old suit will last another year or so before replacement.
The Phil is leading the way, of course, as appropriate to our major music organization. The number of concerts left for Salonen as Music Director is now down to single digits. His valedictory concerts will be of Stravinsky the radical-reactionary (Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms). But the concerts before that all focus on some brilliant new works, Philharmonic commissions or co-commissions. Yes, we’ll have Dudamel, but we’ll certainly miss Esa-Pekka! Last Sunday when he walked on stage to begin the first concert of the year, the applause continued as he stepped onto the podium. The applause continued. He finally had to turn to the audience to acknowledge their welcome before Disney Hall became still enough for the concert.
The first program of the year gave an engrossing, beautiful new work by Arvo Part, Symphony No. 4, Los Angeles. In a rare gesture, Universal Edition published the score of the work, making it available on the internet in December. The symphony is scored for strings, harp, and percussion; often it presents the sound of a single instrument vibrating in the surrounding silence. The work is a meditation, and the thoughts of the symphony are of angels, not of the city named in the subtitle. While a meditation, the work is not restful and offers no easy resolution; the music is tonal, but wavers between major and minor. The score reveals (see the third movement in particular) how Part has the orchestra in two different keys. I had not realized how much the music had drawn me into its own world until we returned from intermission. I had thought that it would be jarring to end the music with Ax playing the Brahms first piano concerto. I found, instead, that the muscular tonality of the Brahms came as a release. The recording of the Part will be a must-buy.
And then this week, another noteworthy work: Kaija Saariaho‘s La Passion de Simone (2006), with Dawn Upshaw in the Peter Sellars production featuring Michael Schumacher as dancer. This Phil co-commission has been withdrawn from the past two seasons, first because of health, last year because of scheduling conflicts. Oh, the wait was worth it. The music shimmers. Dawn Upshaw is peerless. The Sellars dramatization amplifies the language. I must admit, however, that I am not captured by the personality and philosophy of Simone Weil, but I could just concentrate on the music. One point on the artistry of Dawn Upshaw. We could see a TV screen above the stage, facing down to the stage. We wondered what that was used for. Then we saw that Upshaw spent a climactic scene flat on her back in the position of a crucifixion. The screen was for her to see Salonen while singing from the floor. This work is being presented in alternation with the premiere of a new work for orchestra and two pianos by Louis Andriessen. We hear this on Sunday afternoon.
The marvelous Jacaranda series resumed its two-year season celebrating Messiaen. We spoke while walking from the parking structure that we wouldn’t be able to see and talk to Betty Freeman that night, and we will miss her. Jacaranda presented a lovely program of Messiaen and his students, Boulez, Murail, Benjamin, and a follower, Takemitsu. The musicians are skilled, the works are well-selected. We now re-schedule other tickets to attend a Jacaranda concert. Our revitalized Monday Evening Concerts presented an evening of American music. Their program this week started at a high with Kazi Pitelka playing Morton Feldman‘s The Viola in My Life II (1971), and this seems to resonate with some of the sounds of the rest of the month. And we had the first L. A. performances of Rzewski‘s Pocket Symphony (2000) and 96 (2003). We didn’t have tickets for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and their performance, with Yo-Yo Ma, of Golijov’s Azul, in its West Coast premiere.
And coming up we have the Phil’s Green Umbrella concert and Southwest Chamber Music and its program of music by composers who are women: Gabriela Ortiz, Joan Huang, Lera Auerbach, and Thea Musgrave.
So with all pleasures of life.
All things pass with the east-flowing water.
I leave you and go—when shall I return?
Let the white roe feed at will among the green crags,
Let me ride and visit the lovely mountains!
How can I stoop obsequiously and serve the mighty ones!
It stifles my soul.
His Dream of the Skyland – A Farewell Poem.
Li Po (Li Bai) (~701-763 CE) is universally recognized as one of the greatest Chinese poets of the Tang period, or for that matter, of the entire Chinese literary tradition. His poetry shows the influences of the interwoven philosophical religions of his time, Taoism, Neo Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as a particular fondness for nature and wine. Well educated, highly regarded by everyone, he had lifelong trouble securing a post and spent his life as a wanderer, preternaturally creative and prolific. Over one thousand poems remain, along with the stories of his improvisations, drunkenness and generosity. Legend has it that he drowned while trying to grasp the moon in the water, but he is generally regarded to have committed suicide after leaving a farewell poem (partially quoted above). (This poem is the 10th of the set of 17 Lyrics).
The parallels between Partch and Li Bai are so striking as to imagine that they are the same person, re-cycled after a period of 1200 years. Hoboes, brilliant, often drunk, deeply admired, suspicious of authority, unable to find peace or security, and spectacularly creative, they are the irritating grain of sand in society’s eye that add the full dimension to our humanity – the rememberers of forgotten things.
“I am first and last a composer. I have been provoked into becoming a musical theorist, and instrument builder, a musical apostate, and a musical idealist, simply because I have been a demanding composer. I hold no wish for the obsolescence of the widely heard instruments and music. My devotion to our musical heritage is great — and critical. I feel that more ferment is necessary for a healthy musical culture. I am endeavoring to instill more ferment.” –Harry Partch 1942
In 1930, the composer Harry Partch (1901-1974) broke with Western European tradition and forged a new music based on a more primal, corporeal integration of the elements of speech, rhythm and performance using the intrinsic music found in the spoken word, the principles of acoustic resonance and just-intonation. Borrowing from the intonation systems of the ancient Greeks, he created a scale of 43-tones per octave, in part to enable him to capture the nuances of speech in his music, and to forge purer harmony. Read the rest of this entry »
The Los Angeles Master Chorale gave the premiere of a new work by Eve Beglarian for full chorus and two Persian instruments. The work is “Sang”, Persian for “stone”, taken from a Persian parable that appealed to Beglarian; she added texts in Hebrew and Septuagint Greek from the Hebrew scriptures. Her program notes are here. An English translation of the texts was given in the program, but no attempt was made to provide surtitles; the thing to do was to relax and be absorbed into the sounds.
The work was the first in a planned series of commissions for the Master Chorale, LA is the World, in which a particular cultural background will be honored in works for chorus. With her selection of a Persian parable at the center of the work, Beglarian decided to link Persian musicians with western singers to create a work compatible with both traditions. Supporting the vocalists, sometimes as accompanists, sometimes in the lead, were Manoochehr Sadeghi playing the santur, a 72-string hammered dulcimer, and Pejman Hadadi on percussion, notably several sizes of daf, a frame drum, and the tombak, a goblet-shaped drum. The instrumental duets seemed to successfully blend improvisational heritage with western structures so that the flow between chorus and instruments was smooth.
A commission of this sort should have incorporated recording and distribution. It deserves hearing. I’d certainly like to hear it again, but it may take the Chorale three years or so before the work gets on another program. But are there that many brave boards out there, boards that will program a choral work with words in Persian, Hebrew and Greek that requires Persian instrumentalists?
The Master Chorale audience is really fairly open to newer music, especially for an audience that makes me seem young when I mingle with them. The program last night began with James MacMillan’s Magnificat (1999) and Nunc Dimittis (2000) with David Goode on the WDCH organ. The second half of the program was Arvo Part’s Te deum (1984-1985; 1992 revision). This masterwork requires a string orchestra, piano, recorded tape of a wind harp giving the sustaining pitches throughout the work, and three choruses. Grant Gershon placed the men’s chorus in the left-center rafters and the women’s chorus in the right center, placing the mixed chorus on stage behind the strings. The sound was lovely.
The Part work was also a nice link to the Philharmonic’s “Shadow of Stalin” series of programs, which ended that afternoon with the orchestra playing Prokofiev’s complete Alexander Nevsky to accompany the Eisenstein film. The music is glorious, but the film isn’t. Imagine putting together the three worst WW II films out of Republic studios, and you approach the jingoism of the film. (The music was a re-thinking of the film score, starting from Prokofiev’s cantata and applying it backwards to fit the movie, ignoring some dialogue to increase the musical values.) The preceding Thursday was a concert of composers searching for musical freedom and using folk music to reflect nationalism and implied anti-Soviet resistance. Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc (1951) was an Enesco-like work that was still controversial enough to get banned for twenty years after a single rehearsal. Lutoslawski’s brilliantly-colored Concerto for Orchestra (1954) was able to pass. Karel Husa’s powerful Music for Prague 1968 was the statement of an emigre against the re-conquering of Czechoslovakia after the brief “Prague Spring”.
Last week’s concert was by three young composers, writing wild music until the 1936 crackdown came. Gavriil Popov wrote a suite from his Komsomol Patron of Electrification, which opened the concert; the score was ready for release when the Government objected to contemporary music and it went unheard for 46 years. Alexander Mosolov wrote The Iron Foundry in 1926-1927 as part of a ballet (which was actually performed in Hollywood Bowl in 1931 as part of a different ballet) — great clanging music by a composer not able to adapt to new rules. And there was a young composer named Shostakovich who wrote astounding operas: The Nose and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. We heard the composer’s suite from the former and the Act I, Scene 3 from the latter (the scene with the xxx-rated trombone part). Shostakovich survived, of course, but never again with the freedom, and never another opera.
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