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.
The perfect piece of music for whatever your Bloomsday festivities may be Berio’s “Thema” is one of the first masterpieces and one of my favorite works in the acousmatic genre. It also features one of my favorite instances of word painting in all music – the b-b-bl-bl-bloo-bloo-bloom-bl-bloom-bl-bloom-bloom-blooming-ooming-ming-ing of the word blooming.
The text that Cathy Berberian recites in this piece, taken from the beginning of the “Sirens” episode in James Joyce’s ”Ulysses”, follows:
BRONZE BY GOLD HEARD THE HOOFIRONS, STEELYRINING IMPERthnthn thnthnthn.
Chips, picking chips off rocky thumbnail, chips. Horrid! And gold flushed more.
A husky fifenote blew.
Blew. Blue bloom is on the
Gold pinnacled hair.
A jumping rose on satiny breasts of satin, rose of Castille.
Trilling, trilling: I dolores.
Peep! Who's in the... peepofgold?
Tink cried to bronze in pity.
And a call, pure, long and throbbing. Longindying call.
Decoy. Soft word. But look! The bright stars fade. O rose! Notes chirruping answer.
Castille. The morn is breaking.
Jingle jingle jaunted jingling.
Coin rang. Clock clacked.
Avowal. Sonnez. I could. Rebound of garter. Not leave thee. Smack. La cloche! Thigh smack. Avowal. Warm. Sweetheart, goodbye!
Boomed crashing chords. When love absorbs. War! War! The tympanum.
A sail! A veil awave upon the waves.
Lost. Throstle fluted. All is lost now.
When first he saw. Alas!
Full tup. Full throb.
Warbling. Ah, lure! Alluring.
Clapclop. Clipclap. Clappyclap.
Goodgod henev erheard inall.
Deaf bald Pat brought pad knife took up.
A moonlight nightcall: far: far.
I feel so sad. P. S. So lonely blooming.
The spiked and winding cold seahorn. Have you the? Each and for other plash and silent roar.
Kaija Saariaho is arguably one of the most prolific and successful Post-Spectral composers. Like many of the other composers in this generation her music broadens the initial experiments into harmony/timbre the 1970’s by spectral composers like Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail with various structural and more traditional melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic techniques.
The three pieces in Kaija Saariaho’s “Jardin Secret” cycle are unified by an interest in combining harmony with timbre primarily by means of a unified technique of expansion and contraction. The esthetic approach in “Jardin Secret I” harkens back her earlier pivotal first work for computer “Vers le blanc” where she “sought to create the illusion of bodiless, eternal, and ‘unbreathing’ voice whose timbre changes continuosly…” In “Jardin Secret I” this approach is accomplished with sounds that are only created digitally.
In “Jardin Secret II” this approach is expanded with the concréte sounds of a harpsichord and her own breath. The focus then becomes the interaction that leads to a new hybrid instrumental harmony/timbre between the live harpsichord and the prerecorded tape.
“Nymphéa (Jardin Secret III)” is the last work in this cycle and you may also notice that it is yet another string quartet that I am posting. In this work the harmonic/timbral materials are mostly taken from a spectral analysis of a cello transitioning between “pitch” and “noise.” Formally Kaija Saariaho organizes this material following her model of a “timbral axis” that moves from purely deterministic pitch (such as in a sine wave) to the completely indeterministic white noise. This cohesive and well-thought out approach helps this work become arguably the most fully developed and sophisticated work in this fine trilogy.
Paul Dolden is one of the more exciting composers of visceral acousmatic music that currently lives and works in Montreal. He constructs most of his by writing and recording a lot simple patterns and riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in a standard rock band and then layering these recordings, often over a hundred tracks with little to no processing, to create mammoth sound masses that build to unbelievable heights of intensity and force.
These two works are the last two works from what Paul calls his “Walls of Jericho” trilogy. The esthetic aim of these works came in response to a friend who stated that there may be a capacity or threshold that things can be layered so that they no longer would be perceived as a collection of individual sounds but rather as noise. The works in the “Walls of Jericho” trilogy and many of his subsequent works seek to test and challenge this idea. To do this Paul Dolden builds the layers to moments where with multiple octave clusters completely filled with every possible eighth division of a tone. If these sound masses ever reach or surpass the threshold of noise is probably a matter of subjectivity but I think that if you listen to these works carefully enough you might end up wondering what few proposed sonic limits an ably minded composer can’t surpass.
A few summers ago my friend Bryan first came up with the idea of writing a piece that used extreme vocal nonverbal emotive gestures such as crying, screaming, and panicked breathing. We talked about the idea quite a bit initially but it wasn’t until last winter that he set out to finally try the idea. When he first proposed a similar idea for a seminar we were both taking with Philippe Leroux his idea was to use vocal samples, possibly from one character in a foreign film, and cross-synthesize them with an acoustic instrument such as an oboe.
It didn’t take too long before this proposed idea was abandoned in favor of sampling extreme emotive vocal sounds from a number of movies by Lars Von Trier, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Ingmar Bergman. Following extensive cataloguing, studying, and a test montaging these samples it became clear that the idea of cross-synthesizing this material with an acoustic instrument would probably not work. Despite this, he found a number of ways to bring out the more pitch and harmony-based elements from this material and create an acousmatic piece with these movie samples that, although it lacked any conventional acoustic instrument, used elements such as filtered noise and ring modulation to focus the listener’s ears on the harmony and more conventional musical elements in extreme vocal nonverbal emotive gestures.
This piece has ended up being quite successful and, although I think it a bit too clean and didactic compared to Bryan’s initial esthetic goal, it has been since selected for playback in a number of festivals.
Since then he wrote another piece using the same materials for a large chamber ensemble and is also currently finishing a piece with the same materials for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble with the assistance of the McGill Digital Composition Studio but I think that, so far, the most successful of his pieces to use these samples is “Into Callous Hands” which was commissioned for the 7th Biennial International Competition “Concours Luc Ferrari” competition in France.
Unlike the Byran’s other pieces exploring this esthetic the music in “Into Callous Hands” entirely focuses from these extreme vocal nonverbal emotive gestures. The difficult to relate instruments, pitches, as well as the harmonic and didactic qualities of his other tape piece are missing in this piece. All that remains is the voice and its utmost intimate and dirty dramatic extremities with an engaging formal construction that draws the listener into what really constitutes these sounds. It may not be emotionally easy music but it is definitely worth hearing.
Two years ago, during the last Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques, I first Bernard Parmegiani when he diffused his music live in the second half of a concert that also featured François Bayle. It had also been a long and cold day and just beforehand I had fallen asleep at a concert for the first time in a number of years during a performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. During the first half of the second concert my mind finally woke up while listening to Bayle’s subtle and clear transformations of acoustic sounds, but the real highlight was when Parmegiani started at midnight with sonic compositions that seemed to dig much deeper into the intimate and almost silent inner nature of sound.
In my first mp3 blog post I posted the last part from this, possibly my favorite work by the acousmatic master Pierre Henry. Since then I’ve regretted placing that movement out of the context of the entire work, especially because separating it takes it away from the powerful dramatic movement towards the sound mass in the “Communion.” Now I think it’s time to rectify that error and demonstrate the powerful subsuming that is at the heart of this mass.
Although I wasn’t raised in the Christian faith and probably know far more about most of the world’s other religions and faith besides Christianity I’ve long been drawn toward the musical form of the Mass and new contemporary perspectives on it. Of all the contemporary Masses and Requiems that I’ve heard, I think that Pierre Henry’s “Messe de Liverpool” (composed for the inaugural overeture of the Liverpool Metropolitain Cathedral of Christ the King) is my favorite.
Earlier today I heard percussionist Steve Schick make a point that I really agree with – that there are so many amazing sounds in the world that composers really do not need to use technology to create new sounds. This statement particularly reminded me of this Mass and most of Pierre Henry’s oeuvre – where the primary source is performed acoustic sounds. It is from this dynamic and exciting source that this work begins and derives the imagination that is at its centre.
I’ve never really understood Postmodernism and, although I’ve spent some time researching and learning on the subject, I don’t really care to. It may be that living in Montréal (supposedly one of the most Postmodern cities) that the little bit of a punk in me feels the need to rebel and express my own independent identity. On the other hand, I simply cannot agree with how I understand that Postmodernism dismisses grand theories and ideologies to favor of viewing one solely as a culmination of external influences. Although I am by nature skeptical, I believe that art and expression speak to and come from something far greater and more objective and universal than that which Postmodern proposes.
I’ve often found that I agree far more with Modernist philosophies; however, I obviously cannot agree with the “Zero Hour” European Post-WWII ideology that produced some of Boulez’s, Stockhausen’s, and others’ failed experiments. For me there is simply something exciting and effervescent in an artwork that seeks to create an eternally new object. Of course – as Postmodernism claims – art is bound to one’s own influences, but to primarily focus on this or deny art’s fundamental power try and find the means to supersede these mundane concerns seems, to me, a grave error.
To finally come around to the featured composer and mp3 of this entry, although this may be a slightly flawed view, I’ve always seen Luciano Berio as the first and most important Postmodern composer. Despite this, or possibly in spite of this, I’ve always wanted to love Berio’s music. For example, I’ve tried so hard to really appreciate and enjoy “Circles,” “Coro,” “Oh King,” “Recital for Cathy,” the Chemins and Corale, “Points on a Curve to Find,” “A Ronne,” the Sequenzas but – after dozens of listens – I find that Sequenza 21 is the only one that I regularly go back to. Currently, besides “Folk Songs” (which I have studied intensely and always love to listen to) the only pieces of Berio that I still like (albeit, mostly on a Platonic level) are “Sinfonia” (only for the ground-breaking “sampling” in the third movement), “Thema (Ommagio for Joyce)” (particularly for the Bloo-bloo-bloo-bloom-bloom-oom-oom-ooming-ing-ing and how the words finally drown in sound), and the ever-disturbing “Visage.”
The Montréal composer Justin Mariner brought up a good argument once about Berio –the reason his music may seem to “remain new” (or have aged that well) is possibly because he has had so many imitators and – while his music may have sounded revolutionary at one time – the ever-expanding line (and this is my mildly naïve addition to the argument) of "Postmodern composers" like Osvaldo Golijov, Louis Andriessen, Gorecki, John Adams, and even John Zorn have only weakened Berio’s initial impact.
Despite this, I continually turn back to “Visage.” Although this work seems to take a Postmodernism approach by seeming to focus on the language’s historical development, there is some almost primordial in the drama and emotions that the work conjures up. Truthfully I’ve only listened to “Visage” twice, but each listening is firmly etched in my memory. I’m not much an expert in criticism, but if that doesn’t speak of a work’s power I don’t know what does.
Both of these tracks have compositional demonstrations of what is arguably one of the most famous auditory illusions – the Shepard tone, a veritable auditory barber pole where, in the constantly rotating movement, it is nearly impossible to identify where one line ends and another begins. Although this auditory illusion can easily come across as one of the cheaper contemporary music clichés to an ear well versed in contemporary compositional techniques, I find that the dirty raw striving in Glenn Branca’s Symphony #6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven) holds up consistently on multiple listenings.
In contrast, Jean-Claude Risset’s “Mutations” is one the original classics in the digital acousmatic age and was the first composition ever to use a Shepard tone. This short, delicate, and almost perfect work seamlessly transforms (or “mutates”) into the first Shepard Tone ever found in a musical composition – a one ten octave glissando reiterated in a ten part cannon.
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.