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.
Guest Mp3 Blog #1: “From the land of pity / To that without pity!”
A very dramatic person told me that folk music is dead. I don’t really know if these songs have anything to do with that or with each other, but I thought I would put them all together anyway and see what happens.
When the Carter Family sings, their achingly beautiful songs seem to contain endless human cries from endless origins. Here we find human cries ranging from an anonymous and threatening command from further down the line, the driver’s steadfast and reckless cry of love for the engine 143, the doctor’s cry for the driver’s quick death, his mother cry that he use caution, and – only when we see from the blood on the tracks and his eyes scalded shut – is there the final or ultimate cry to return to God.
I don’t know if R.E.M. meant to reference “Engine 143,” or some of its many similar variations like “The Wreck of Old ’97,” but I find the link undeniable. Here we are immersed in the setting and can feel the cry of the engine, the cry of the tracks, the cry of the country, the cry of the destination, the cry of determination, the cry of exhaustion, the cry of ultimate human longing, and the lingering cry of weary persistence. However, unlike in the Carter Family’s song, here there is no narrative arch; here we find ourselves suspended in this state and – besides in our minds – forever removed from the destination.
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.
Morton Feldman: String Quartet and Orchestra (1973) Performed by the Cleveland Quartet and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas conductor From the SUNY Buffalo Archives, not available commercially
I’ve heard that a number of people who speak French make a distinction between chanson or songs and musique, in that one might say that they love chanson whereas, in English, we always say that we love music. Naturally, the complexity found in contemporary songs exceeds that found in a lot of older music and certain non-lyric based music has a simplicity and lyricism that many songs don’t; however, I think making this making this distinction is quite telling and – for the record – I’d like to state that I love songs, music, and all good sounds/noises that fall between or outside the two.
I have to admit that I almost always love a great song. Since I started posting mp3 blogs in June I’ve been trying to find ways to slip in some great songs and, in the very least, keep them somewhat loosely related to the other more abstract contemporary art music selections that I usually post. At this point, after commenting above on a distinction some make between song and music, I think I’m ready to give up trying to find any rational argument for posting songs and, from now on, just post whatever I want to.
I consistently think that Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is the saddest book I’ve read. Probably because of this, over the years “The Grapes of Wrath” has also been one of the more significant novels I’ve read in terms of how it has influenced my beliefs and thoughts on a number of contemporary ethical, moral, and political issues.
I’ve got a give a hand to Woody Guthrie because he shore knew how to distill the essence of this 600 some page book in one seven minute song – “The Ballad of Tom Joad.” What the song may lack in the detail and imagery that Steinbeck provides, it shore makes up for it in its succinct directness of message.
I, myself, won’t write anymore about this song and, instead, am including the following preface Woody Guthrie wrote to it in my personal favorite songbook, “Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People” (which, by the way, contains includes extensive notes on each song by Woody himself and a forward by John Steinbeck).
The story of Tom Joad is one that a lot of boys went through. From the Oklahoma penitentiary – to his home in the dust bowl, and then they had to get away to California – had to pack up their old car and pull out -- and his mother and his dad, and his sisters and brothers found out about the thugs and the firebugs and the guards and the deputies that guard the fields that the rich man says “are mine” – “You keep off.”
I wonder about them guys, and I wonder what sort of songs they sing when they ain’t a black jacking somebody or beating you over the head with a pick handle. This book ain’t got no songs in it that was wrote by deputy sheriffs. It ain’t got no songs in it that was wrote by company guards, nor cops, nor snitches, nor guys that set fire to the little shacks of the poor folks along the river bottoms. It’s just got some songs wrote by some people. Real people. But, a guard or a deputy can always change over on the real people’s side.
A long son-of-a-gun. Take a deep breath and sail into it.
Admittedly, it’s taken me a long time to figure how what to include and write for the final part in my “trilogy” of Bob Dylan mp3 mixes. I wanted to make them in a chronological order, but after exhausting the 60’s through the mid 70’s, I had the most trouble choosing material from the last thirty years. Personally, I prefer to keep Bob Dylan as the changing enigma he has often sought to put forward and because of this, I continue to ignore a large portion of his material between Slow Train Coming and Oh Mercy. In my opinion, he has only really come into his own again on his last three albums Time Out of Mind, ”Love & Theft”, and Modern Times. So, as a result, for this last Bob Dylan mp3 mix I decided to just include my favorite version of a perennial favorite – “One Too Many Mornings” – and selections from his last three albums.
At this point, I’m hesitant to say anything about the music or lyrics that Bob Dylan has been writing lately. When I first got into Bob Dylan about ten years ago, his current image and music was a joke in many minds including mine. Back then I couldn’t conceived the easy transformation he’s undergone – from hollow shell of the singer and song-writer he used to be to the living undying culmination of his influences and constantly shifting self.
Oh yee, of little faith…
I think that in his last three albums – and more particularly ”Love & Theft” and Modern Times – Bob Dylan’s songs (in large help to recording with what he calls “the best band I’ve been in”) have become as natural and, arguably, as simply inevitable, as the best material he’s ever done. Oh yeah, and dig the fine bluesman’s voice that he’s developed
Okay now, for the time being I’ve got nothing more to write about Bob Dylan.
I often argue that I listen to popular music mostly for the lyrics. I support this with my fondness for Bob Dylan and folk music and how I can easily be turned off from a band or song if they have no redeemable lyrics. When I’m in a particularly theoretical mindset I try to quantify the percentages that lyrics and music matter to me in a song or composition. Obviously, on one extreme, in instrumental music the music matters 100%. However, I find it much more difficult to quantify the side of the spectra where the lyrics matter more. For example, at times I can say that I listen to Bob Dylan more for the lyrics than the music but I cannot pinpoint the percentage that lyrics matter.
I drew all but two songs for my second Bob Dylan compilation from the four Bob Dylan albums that I listen to the most. In regards to the point above, I think that people really underestimate the musical significance and quality in Bob Dylan’s recordings. Ever since he went electric, Bob Dylan has consistently hired, recorded, and toured with some of the best working musicians in rock and roll. For example, I think that I often listen to Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and The Basement Tapes as much for the music, if not more so, as for the lyrics.
For a number of years I considered Queen Jane Approximately my favorite Bob Dylan song. I’ve always loved its almost surreal description of everything falling apart and the chorus and music ambience that both offer some sort of bittersweet reconciliation and hope.
Visions of Johanna as well as the entire Blonde on Blonde album offers some of the best mergers of lyrics and music in Bob Dylan’s catalogue. For me this song describes what a mixed blessing it is to realize that memories, longing, dreams, and visions can sometimes last long beyond their initial fleeting appearance.
Hills of Mexico is an old traditional song (I mostly know the Woody Guthrie version) that, after taking a while to get started, starts to cook like some of the best stuff on Time Out of Mind. It’s a shame Dylan forgot the lyrics. Going to Alcapoco and Nothing Was Delivered are two of my favorite down-and-out songs of Bob Dylan and The Band. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine is one of the last songs I used to perform regularly in my folky days.
I consider Blood on Tracks to Bob Dylan’s lyrical masterpiece. The album took many years to unfold and grow on me. It wasn’t until I knew many of the lyrics by heart that they started to come back to me suddenly making sense at the most opportune moments. (This includes the Dylan line I quote the most “Been shooting in the dark too long/when something’s not right it’s wrong…”)
For years I had neglected Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts because of the organ part on the released recording. In fact, it wasn’t until I found a copy of the original unreleased version of Blood on the Tracks that I began to appreciate this song as well as the rest of the album. In the album’s original version, there is a certain simple unified directness that I think the released version lacks; it’s this a certain sloppy honesty that makes a story like Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts so much more personal and approachable. Personally, I almost think it’s dishonest to play this song with a band because, although it may be told in the third person, it demonstrates that the workings of imagination and the outside world can sometimes ring far truer than anything we attempt to describe about ourselves.
Since I’ve already apologized for posting popular music, I feel no reason to do it now. Likewise, since I’ve had to apologize for my strong fondness for Bob Dylan from the time I was a sophomore in High School, I feel no reason to do it here. In these lines I find it interesting that over the years I’ve had to argue for my fondness of Bob Dylan less and less and, more interesting, how I’ve practically always won and made many “Dylan-converts.”
In my (I’m not going to say giddy) anticipation of the new Bob Dylan album Modern Times that comes out next Tuesday, I’ve decided to post a few Dylan mp3 comps. A few years ago I tried a similar task and, because I tried to fit in all my Dylan favorites and “essentials,” I failed miserably. This time I’m keeping it much simpler and concentrating primarily on including some of my personal favorite songs that are not well known.
This first collection of songs concentrates on the early years before Bob Dylan first went electric. All but one of the songs I’ve selected are not on the three classic acoustic albums. I chose two songs, No More Auction Block and Moonshiner, to illustrate the strength of early Dylan as a traditional folk-singer performing traditional songs. I chose If Tomorrow Wasn’t Such a Long Time, I Was Young When I Left Home, and Mama, You’ve Been on Mind to show the quality of songs that Bob Dylan left off his first few albums. I chose Farewell and All Over You, well let’s just say, “for kicks.”
The last song Ballad in Plain D comes off of what has become my favorite acoustic Dylan album, Another Side of Bob Dylan. It is an illusively complex song about fragile and proud characters and reflections on a failed romance. The song ends with what I consider to be one of the most cryptic lines Bob Dylan ever wrote. I spent nearly ten years trying to unravel it until one night – after spending a day struggling to understand some compositional materials – it became a clear description of the relationship between our limitations and freedoms.