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.
My long previous entry "Anxiety and the Exotic" seems to be quite a fruitful ground for mp3 blog posts. For this entry I thought I’d just focus on two perspectives on the exotic – one from an insider and one from an outsider.
Although Toru Takemitsu was Japanese he was quite reluctant towards composing for traditional Japanese instruments. “In an Autumn Garden” (and the other movements in the larger eponymous cycle of which this piece is the center) is in fact the only work he wrote for the traditional Japanese Gagaku orchestra. Possibly because Takemitsu spent most of his career writing contemporary music for Western instruments his approach to the Gagaku, although filled with traditional approaches, is far more viscous and ghostly than the music in its traditional repertoire. To be honest, although I absolutely adore Takemitu’s approach to western orchestration, this is really my favorite of his compositions.
Scelsi’s complete “Canti del Capricorno” (from which this live performance takes excerpts) for the Japanese singer Michiko Hirayama is arguably one of Scelsi’s finest works and best representations of his esthetic position. Scelsi worked intensively with Michiko Hirayama who commissioned them while writing these works. Since these songs borrow so heavily from many of the world’s incantatory traditions it is actually impossible to place them concretely within any specific tradition. As a result the work is at once traditional, contemporary, completely personal, and brilliant.
For almost two months I’ve been working on gathering and constructing the materials and initial sketches for composition to be played by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. During I come up with a number of ideas based upon piano improvisations, continued some of my previous explorations in rhythm, harmony/timbre, microtones in OpenMusic, and spent some time taking apart pieces by Lachenmann,Rihm,Vivier,Scelsi, and Grisey. Despite this work I have largely felt that I’ve lacked a method to unify these elements in a manner that would satisfy my formal conceptions for the work. To try and rectify this I’ve spent hours listening to new works in the hope that they might demonstrate part of a solution to my dilemma.
After hearing Enno Poppe’s “Öl” for the first time a few days ago I found what I think is probably be the solution – long exotic melodic lines. In “Öl” Enno Poppe bases most of the music and form around these long melodic lines exotically filled with ornate non-equal tempered embellishments and intervals. Although these resemble and allude to non-Western folkloric melodies they seem entirely in place in Western instruments in this contemporary composition.
Coincidentally these are exactly the types of melodies I have improvised singing and whistling to myself since I began college. A few years ago I had the idea to record a number of these improvisations and then montage and transcribe them for a solo instrument like a clarinet, oboe, or viola. However I have never had an opportunity to realize this idea and, until now, I frankly have been too afraid to even attempt to.
Most of my anxiety towards this material stems from the fact that it alludes to folkloric music from cultures that I am not a part of and, therefore, do not know their their complex and delicate subtleties and implications. Over the last few days and occasionally in the last few months I’ve commented on this fear to a number of my friends emphasizing issues such as “How can I pretend to use folkloric music from cultures I don’t even know?” and “How can I have the audacity to pretend I know this music so well as to insert it into our so-called Western ’art’ music?” Furthermore I’ve long had a deep respect and fondness for various traditional like Afro-Cuban drum chants and Gamelan orchestras and despise commercial world-beat and other world music that superficially use any much more deep-seated folkloric traditions. My real fear is that if I were to use the type of melodies that I like to sing to myself is that I would do so similarly superficially and risk creating the very type of music I despise.
My initial anxiety towards using exotic melodies is similar to my anxiety towards using more popular music elements in contemporary “classical” or “art” music. Because I don’t want this entry to turn into a personal polemic I won’t site specific compositions or composer, but I often that composer who fail in this latter regard do so because they do not fully incorporate this elements into their compositions’ sound world or – even worse – attempt this incorporation as a superficial attempt to make their music more widely accessible.
On the other hand, there are a few contemporary composers I’ve heard who I think succeed incorporating popular music with “classical” or “art” music. For example I think of think of Glenn Branca’s fully conceived guitar orchestral symphonies that practically ooze with the angst and visceral energy of a no-wave punk New York. I also think of Fausto Romitelli and how he completely incorporates certain psychedelic mutations, mutilations, and over-the-top histrionics into compositions like Professor Bad Trip.
Now if one considers our popular music to just be a different form of the world’s continually changing and vibrant folk or folkloric musical traditions there really isn’t too much of a distinction between incorporating exotic and popular music into one’s own so-called “classical” or “art” music.
This immediately brings to mind one of my favorite jazz albums Duke Ellington’s “The Far East Suite.” Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn composed the music for this suite after an extensive tour of the Middle East and Asia. In the liner notes they admit that this tour led them towards the suite’s more exotic elements but they also admit that they did not conscientiously borrow or learn exotic materials or musical procedures. The result is something that, although it sounds at once exotic, also seems more distinctively theirs than any other of their works.
I feel that this is also what Enno Poppe does so successfully in “Öl,” or what Claude Vivier did in works like “Lonely Child” and “Zipangu,” or what Scelsi did with his explorations of Eastern Mysticism, or what Bartok did with Hungarian folk music, or what Ligeti did with the endless folkloric laments in his late works. In fact upon further reflection I can think of almost a countless number of examples to illustrate this point.
To make a long story short, I think I may for myself to overcome this anxiety of the exotic by attempting to let it come fully from what I would do naturally or, in other words, to more strongly bring out the personally exotic in what I already do. For me, I find this often comes out in hypnotically tangling and unwinding visceral laments. To achieve this I’ve begun spend more time trusting my ears, imagination, and more experimental abstract explorations to guide me and it’s starting to become a lot of fun.
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…’”