Jacob David Sudol(b. Des Moines, Iowa 1980) writes intimate compositions that explore enigmatic phenomena and the inner nature of how we perceive sound. He recently finished his M.Mus. at McGill University and currently resides in La Jolla, CA where he is working towards a Ph.D. in composition at the University of California at San Diego with Roger Reynolds, Chinary Ung, Philippe Manoury, and Rand Steiger.
Over the last five years some of Jacob's mentors in composition have included John Rea, Denys Bouliane, Philippe Leroux, Sean Ferguson, Dan Asia, and Craig Walsh. He has also participated in master classes with Danish composer Bent Sørensen and German composer Manfred Stahnke.
During 2005-2006, Jacob was the first-ever composer-in-residence for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Denys Bouliane, in collaboration with the McGill Digital Composition Studio. He has also written music for the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Contemporary Keyboard Society, percussionist Fernando Rocha, saxophonist Elizabeth Bunt, and clarinetist Krista Martynes. As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, he composed the music for a collaborative dance project with choreographer Hillary Peterson, and he was the principal composer and pianist for El Proyecto de Santa Barbara, a chamber Latin jazz ensemble.
During the 2005 and 2007 Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques and 2006 MusiMars festivals Jacob was an electronic assistant for performances with Court-Circuit, Matt Haimovitz, Sara Laimon, Martin Matalon, Moritz Eggert, Manfred Stahnke, the Caput Ensemble, and the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble. These concerts were broadcast by the CBC and the European Broadcasting Union in over fifty countries throughout the world. He is currently a studio research assistant for Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds.
During his free time Jacob takes an active interest in religious phenomenology, cinema, acoustics, literature, poetry, and visual art. As a composer and performer, he always attempts to bring insights from these other fields into his work.
All music posted on this blog is posted out of love and the idea that for the truly great music of our time(s) to be known it must first and foremost be heard. If you like what you hear please support the artist by buying the recordings, scores, and/or encouraging the performances of the music in every way possible.
If you are the composer, performer, performing organization, artist or directly represent the composer, performer, performing organization, or artist of anything posted on this website and would like your material removed please contact me and I will happily oblige.
“...I pursued my work with a kind of marvellous serenity. I compose more slowly as I have more and more notes of my music to write! I have just completed the first six minutes of Croix-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme? I am almost doing ‘Dripping’! The whole piece uses two poles: mobility and immobility! Here is a text which I sue in an immobile part: I was cold, it was winter well I thought I was cold maybe I was cold. God had told me that I would be cold. Maybe I was dead.
I was not afraid of being dead as much as I was afraid of dying. Suddenly I got cold very cold - or I was cold. It was night and I was afraid. I believe that it is a beautiful text for the work I am now composing...”
Excerpt from a letter to Thérèse Desjardins by Claude Vivier, Paris, January 7th, 1983
Obvious meta-ironic philosophizing aside, I wanted to step in on this post to return to some things I left out of my more recent post...
Last summer I discovered that the McGill library has a fantastic collection of DVDs available to students for free three-day checkout. Ever since then I’ve been in veritable (mostly) foreign art-house film heaven watching great works by directors such as Bergman, Kiarostami, Fellini, Rossellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, Kurosawa, Ozu, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Scoresese, Godard, Buñuel, Almodovar, Kieslowski, Wajda, Dovzhenko, Forman, Polanski, Eisenstein, Von Trier, Herzog, and Fassbinder a few nights a week. Last autumn, on a particularly patient night I watched Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” It haunted me like few films had and even made me reconsider what I had long considered as perfection in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odysessy.”
John Rea and another friend later recommended Tarkovsky’s “The Passion According to Andrei” (or “Andrei Rublev”), which I had to watch over two days to emotionally handle. Over winter his other films “The Mirror,” “Nostalghia,” and especially “Offret Sacrifacatio” left strong impressions on me. Later Tarkovsky’s book “Sculpting in Time” significantly shaped my esthetic stance in a way that only Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as Young Man” can directly match.
As for Claude Vivier, to learn more about his music I highly recommend seeking out recordings of all his later (post-1978) works. The Canadian Music Centre is a good place to look for these. I’d also recommend the DVD “Reves d’un Marco Polo” which features a documentary and an extended concert of Vivier’s music featuring the Schoenberg and ASKO Ensembles. The documentary, although insultingly Euro-centric, provides a shattering view on Vivier’s tragic life. The concert features great performances of some of Vivier’s most significant works such as his opera “Kopernikus (A Ritual Opera of Death)” and the only recording I’ve found of “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” The DVD also has subtitles so you can understand the French and language fragments if you, like me, can’t fully comprehend French. If you read French the excellent Montréal-based contemporary music journal “Circuit” has published an issue which features Claude Vivier’s complete writings and tributes by the likes of Ligeti and others that is well worth a good read.
If you want hear some music, here's the last track from the Café Spies album I produced and performed most of – “Less is More (Parts 1-3).” This track was recorded sans plan in one take as I watched the four-track’s tape run out. Agent N8-10 speaks and I play and process all the instruments and sounds on this most note-y track from a very note-y album. Oh yeah, I’m also ripping off some of the two-keyboard stuff I did on this track for “Inner Music.”
Vivier’s last work “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?”) aside, I consider “Wo Bist Du Licht!” (“Light, Where Are You!”) to be Vivier’s most disturbing work.
A few months ago a friend of mine made a good argument against this piece by saying that, unlike some of Claude Vivier’s other masterpieces like “Lonely Child,” “Wo Bist Du Licht!” lacks the clear personal expression that makes Vivier’s music so profound. I considered this argument valid, until a few days ago when I listened to “Wo Bist Du Licht!” again. It sent chills up my arms, back, neck, and head and frankly left me in a stupor for quite a while. As a result, I now think that what makes “Wo Bist Du Licht!” so achingly beautiful is that it’s not directly personal.
When contemplating aesthetics I often return to the dialogue in James Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” where Stephen Dedalus argues that beauty in art requires pity ‘which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer’ and terror ‘which arrest the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant...and unites it with the secret cause.’ Although, I often think that beauty also requires direct personal expression, the seemingly objective perspective in which Claude Vivier places confused fragmented nonsense against the found text in “Wo Bist Du Licht!” invokes an almost universal personal sense of terror and pity that imbues the work with a frighteningly beautiful current that I think one rarely finds in music.
The following commentary on the textual and poetic focus of “Wo Bist Du Licht!” is taken from one by my friend, the Montréal composer, Michel Gonneville and uses large extracts of a quote by Claude Vivier.
“Hölderlin’s text “Der blinde Sänger” is superimposed on three types of texts:
1. ‘An emotional one that is extremely significant for America: Martin Luther King’s last speech and a recording in situ of Robert Kennedy’s assassination.’…
2. ‘Abstract text, with no signification’ (invented language)…
3. ‘Finally, a descriptive text about torture. This text has an enormous emotional power due, in part, to the almost neutral tone [of the two radio speakers]. Hölderlin’s text, “Der blinde Sänger,” holds the key to understanding my composition. An old blind man remembers his past, beautiful picturesque scenery; greenery, clouds, etc. The present is evoked by harsh sound images: thunder, earthquakes. He longs for light, freedom, death perhaps…’”
Although virtually unknown in the United States, Claude Vivier is widely regarded in Canada and most of Europe as the greatest Canadian composer. I was first told about his music and tragic life story by some of my fellow Canadian composer friends soon after arriving to Montréal. One friend initially recommended I listen to his orchestral piece “Orion,” which I loved on the first listening. However, it wasn’t until I found a four compact disc CBC collection and first heard “Lonely Child” that I discovered the strength of Vivier’s personal expression.
I could easily fill this entire entry with Vivier’s biographical details; however, I’ll highlight I what consider significant since one can find a longer biography on the great website for The Canadian Music Centre.
Rather than focus on furthering the musical advances of the European vanguard, Vivier’s greastest compositions focus on his personal obsessions – loneliness, ritual, and death. Claude Vivier was born in Montréal to unknown parents and is quoted as saying that upon learning of his adoption he felt a great freedom because he could now be anybody. When a teenager he attended a seminary school but was expelled for ‘inappropiate behavior.’ After receiving some early recognition in Montréal he went to Europe to study sonology at the Hague and, later on, to study composition with Stockhausen. He later traveled to Asia and spent a significant portion of time in Bali before returning to Montréal for a prolific period in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He later left for Paris on a grant from the Canadian Council for the Arts and was stabbed to death at 34 in his Parisian apartment, supposedly by a male prostitute.
Vivier’s best compositions come from an incredibly fruitful period that started after he returned from Bali in late 70’s and continued until his death in 1983. Particularly notable are his works for voice or voices and various ensemble that he wrote the lyrics for in both fragmented and made-up languages. These deeply emotional works include “Bouchara,” “Trois Airs pour un Opéra Imaginaire,” “Prologue pour un Marco Polo,” “Kopernikus (A Ritual Opera of Death),” “Lonely Child,” and the unfinished work “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?”). The latter work abruptly ends with a narrator describing his own murder and, eerily enough, was found on Vivier's desk in the same apartment where he was murdered. Although, many of these later works rely upon spectral techniques such as frequency shifting, the effect never sounds hollow and didactic like in some of his contemporaries’ works. In these later masterpieces, what I mostly hear is the singular longing of Vivier’s inner voice and the horrific suspended creative acceleration before his horrible tragic end.