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.
(Note that all files are in m4a format, download the files first before playing them)
* * * * *
For the last of this my five-part string quartet series (and my 100th blog post) I’ve decided to post more string quartets at once than I ever have before.
Following the work’s epigram “written In tempore belli” (in time of war) “Black Angels” is one of George Crumb’s most mystical and emotionally affecting works. To evoke the subtitle ““Thirteen Images from the Dark Land” the work requires a plethora of other-wordly extra-instrumental techniques and that the performers of the quartet also sing and each perform a number of percussion instruments including a glass harmonic (the sound of which it has been rumored to cause insanity). In our current era of extended and seemingly endless bloody conflicts this is still a very necessary work that still resonates strong.
Roger Reynold’s “Ariadne’s Thread” refers to the Greek legend of Ariadne and a method of problem solving called Ariadne’s Thread. In this work the string quartet weaves darkly with electronic sounds to create an environment and narrative that is both eerie and haunting.
“Tetras” represents a culmination of many Xenakis’s compositional techniques and successful virtuosic writing for string quartet. For many years I admittedly had a lot of trouble dealing with and understanding Xenakis’s music. The first piece that I began to actually appreciate was “Jalons” particularly because of one moment with a kaleidoscopic view on a synthetic scale. A few years later I heard “Tetras” and it became the first Xenakis piece that I really enjoyed.
With moments of strong tonality and an aching third movement that sounds as though it were lifted from a long lost late-Beethoven string quartet, George Rochberg’s third string quartet caused a large amount of controversy after its premiere. Early in his career George Rochberg was one of the strongest and finest proponents of serial music in the U.S.A. until his son died in 1963 and after an esthetic crisis he found that tonality was the only way that he could write that accurately expressed his grief. In my opinion, this quartet (along with the other three in the series of Concord Quartet) stands as the culmination of this emotional development in this later phase of George Rochberg’s music.
As a result of the impasse in serial music, as well as other causes, I originated in 1954 a music constructed from the principle of indeterminism [or entropy]. …other paths also led to the same crossroads first of all, natural events such as the collision of hail or rain with hard surfaces, or the song of cicadas in a summer field. These sonic events are made out of thousands of isolated sounds; this multitude of sounds, seen as totality, is a new sonic event. This mass event is articulated and forms a plastic mold of time, which itself follows aleatory and stochastic laws. If one then wishes to form a large mass of point-notes, such as string pizzicati, one must know these mathematical laws, which, in any case, are no more than a tight and concise expression of chains of logical reasoning. Everyone has observed the sonic phenomena of a political crowd of dozens of hundred of thousands of people. The human river shouts a slogan in a uniform rhythm. Then another slogan springs from the head of the demonstration; it spreads toward the tail, replacing the first. A wave of transition thus passes from the head to the tail … The statistical laws of these events, separated from their political or moral context, are the same as those of the cicadas or the rain. They are the laws of the passage from complete order to total disorder in a continuous or explosive manner. They are stochastic laws.
In a former life, I studied Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. What drew me to the subject the most were the explanations and discoveries of the beautiful entropic reactions that kept us alive. Although I’ve never been a religious person, every time I would learn about something like a simple internal cellular reaction it seemed like I gained some, however slight, insight into an internal perfection present in all things.
The nature of laboratory work and the politics of scientific research turned me off of ever completing my Bachelor’s of Science, but fortunately I think I found a place for a more sublime form of dignity through expression in music.
Recently, I discovered Xenakis’ remarkably lucid description (quoted above) of how through the movement of disorder, or entropy, music can display the exact same naturalism that one finds in organic life forms. Since early this the summer I’ve made a concerted effort to see this entropy beauty, not only in so-called “stochastic music,” but all forms of music that I love. So, this is my first attempt at finding a logical link (albeit a rather experimental one) for posting more popular song-form music at the same time as more abstract contemporary music.
Although Xenakis called “Herma” symbolic music – writing the piece as one his many early self-pedagogical experiments – I find that the piece beautifully contains the winds pelting from a storm that carries both varying intensities of rain and countless swells of electrically ricocheting balls of crystalline hail.
In contrast, the more conventional foreground in Yo La Tengo’s (who I saw put on one thoroughly ass-kicking show on Saturday) “Green Arrow” follows the pace of one walking through a field whereas the background is the slowly transforming sound-mass of cicadas (or grasshoppers or locusts) that Xenakis explains above.
In Grisey’s “Partiels” (which I just couldn’t resist posting twice), one primarily hears the movement of crowds from order towards disorder, from disorder to order, and crossing over each other.
Joanna Newsom’s “En Gallop” begins with a slow and almost tentative harp introduction before the long first verse paints a haunting portrait of the transience in our existence. Afterwards, in the second verse, a disordered and increasing emptiness surreal-y pulls the meaning from the lyrics almost representing the foreboding final dissipation that the first verse hints at. Over the summer, after taking a year to understand this song, I had a dream where I tried to help a ghost dissipate only to realize that almost everybody I saw was a ghost.
* * *
Outside of the general topic of this post, I’d like to mention that I saw Joanna Newsom put on an amazing show last night to a silently rapt and sold-out audience at the Ukraine Federation as part of Pop Montréal. In the concert she alternated five songs from her last charmingly sloppy album ”The Milk-Eyed Mender” with four breathtaking epic songs from her forthcoming album ”Ys” (which was produced by Van Dyke Parks, Jim O’Rourke, and Steve Albini). Last night and on “Ys” Joanna Newson’s playing and singing have advanced light-years and her new songs inhabit such a unique and grandiose emotional universe that it is almost hard to recognize the transformation she has gone through. In a way, it is a hard album to take, but when it comes out on November 14th, it is definitely not one too be missed.
If you’d like to read a more detailed description of “Ys,” I recommend reading Jordan’s posting on it over at a favorite mp3 blog Said the Gramophone. I personally think I may still be a little too shaken up after last night and other things going on in my life right now to trust myself in being able to make that much sense.
Performed by Elizabeth Chojnacka and Ensemble InterContemporain
* * * * *
Early in the summer I had a brief conversation with Jean Lesage about composing for the harpsichord in a contemporary context, in which he suggested that there are two valid modern approaches – the repetition Ligeti discovered in his masterful piece “Continuum” and the Xenakis’s statistical procedures. Since I have long been a fan of Xenakis’s music and have a certain inclination towards statistical theory and phenomenology I decided to spend a large portion of the summer studying Xenakis and seeking out his harpsichord works.
Although I had little trouble finding a few scores and an article on Xenakis’s harpsichord works, finding recordings proved exceedingly difficult. A possible reason, besides the extreme difficulty of these pieces, is that Xenakis wrote most of his harpsichord music explicitly for a modern harpsichord that has four manuals, an extended register, as well as 16’, 8’, 4’, timbral stops, and a pedals to change stops. In recent years there has been such significant backlash amongst harpsichordists against the modern harpsichord that its repertoire the modern harpsichord been rendered almost entirely obsolete. (I even know of a professor that refused to accept a free modern harpsichord somebody offered a university.)
Last week I finally found a recording of Xenakis’s harpsichord works and I have to say that I think they really live up to their reputation. In fact I think that one work in particular, “A l’Île de Gorée” for amplified harpsichord and ensemble, is the most emotionally powerful Xenakis composition that I know.
A lot of the emotional power in this work derives itself from the title, as Xenakis explains in his program note: The Isle of Gorée, off the coast of Dakar, in Senagal, was once a world slave market… This piece is a tribute to the black Africans who, torn by force from their homes on the way to appalling slavery, yet managed to win, in certain civilized countries to which they were transported, positions of first rank. It is also a tribute to the heroes and black victims of apartheid in South Africa, last bastion of hysterical racism.
In this composition, as with most of Xenakis’s oeuvre, one can almost see the moving statistical violence of the riotous crowd that Xenakis describes in his book “Formalized Music;” however, in “A l’Île de Gorée” there are also moments of painfully ambiguous beauty that contrast the descents into chaos and violence. This contrast is exaggerated by the two clearly different timbral worlds that the ensemble and harpsichord inhabit.
From a programmatic perspective it is difficult to determine if the harpsichord or the ensemble represents the slaves or oppressors, because at times the solo harpsichord plays extremely beautiful music and the collective ensemble plays very violent music and vice-verse. To further complicate matters, at times the harpsichord and ensemble play what appears to be a similar role.
Having studied the score and listened to “A l’Île de Gorée” a fair amount it seems that Xenakis wrote few, if any, of the registrations or effects that a modern harpsichord enables. Even if he did, they don’t play the integral role that they play in some of his other harpsichord works likes “Khoaï-Xoaí.” Therefore, it seems that one can easily adapt “A l’Île de Gorée” for the more common harpsichord historical recreations like some have done with Ligeti’s “Continuum.” If this is so, I strongly urge daring harpsichordists and ensembles to learn and program this work so that at least one of Xenakis’s amazing harpsichord works doesn’t fall into complete obscurity.
A friend of mine recently suggested starting a contemporary music mp3 blog to share and promote some great, yet fairly obscure, music. I was instantly reminded of some similar suggestions I’ve been given in the past, an old dream of programming my own radio show, and this blog at Sequenza21. After sifting through my collection and getting some ideas I decided to post this, the first in a series of mp3 blogs – Discordance, Gloria, and Communion.
The first piece I’ve chosen is my favorite tape piece by Iannis Xenakis – Bohor. This work is dedicates to Pierre Schaeffer, who didn’t quite appreciate this piece, saying “Boror was in the worst case (I do mean, best) the wood fires of his beginnings. No longer were we dealing with small embers, but with a huge firecracker, an offensive accumulation of whacks of scalpel in your ears at the highest level on the pentiomenter.” (“Chroniques xenakiennes,” Regards sure Iannis Xenakis (1991) 85) To fully appreciate this work I recommend listening to it (preferably with headphones) at the loudest tolerable volume to better appreciate Xenakis’s slow construction and demolition of a stunning sonic architecture.
The second mp3 is the first movement from Glenn Branca’s Symphony #3 (Gloria). This symphony is scored for a collection of amplified metal wires (which Glenn Branca invented) and drums. Similar in concept to some of La Monte Young’s sound installations, this symphony derives its material from the harmonic series. As the work unfolds, the listener is gloriously enveloped by the first 127 harmonics of the archetypal rock fundamental – E.
The final piece is the last movement of Pierre Henry’s Messe de Liverpool. This complete work is closely linked of the traditional Mass form. For example, in every movement except the last, the music contains spoken fragments from ordinary mass. These fragments are transformed and overlaid with other sounds in the type of imaginative and engaging paths that only Pierre Henry creates. These paths are so miraculous and extraordinary that one only realizes that he or she has arrived at the final communion by the time the final movement is half over.