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.
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.
My first tribute to Ligeti was posted in a hurry and regrettably brief. Since Ligeti has played such a pivotal role in my compositional thought, I’ve decided to make up for my previous brevity with this post. After a lot of listening I’ve chosen a collection of mp3s that, in my humble opinion, make one kick ass Ligeti mix cd. Of course, if you don’t have own any recordings of Ligeti I recommend running out and buying The Ligeti Project I (which I instantly bought a second time after losing my first copy) and The Ligeti Edition 3: Works for Piano. If, on the other hand, you have already some Ligeti’s music go out and buy whatever else you can find because most of he wrote is worth hearing repeatedly.
The hardest part in arranging my tribute was deciding what to leave out. I desperately wanted to include Three Pieces for Two Pianos, the Piano Concerto, Book One of the Piano Etudes, Volumina for organ, the five octave Eb in the Chamber’s Concerto’s first movement, and – had I been able to find it – Glissandi. Regrettably, I also left out a few selections that just seemed too obvious like Lux Aeterna and the Requiem.
With three exceptions, I’ve decided to focus mostly on Ligeti’s late period. Although his middle period (late 50’s through mid 70’s) seems to the best known, thanks mostly to Kubrick’s fine musical taste, I really think that Ligeti’s best works come from the later period when rhythm became more of a central parameter.
Lontano (available on The Ligeti Project II) is my favorite orchestral work by Ligeti. I am always struck by the massive orchestral force and harmonic beauty in this piece. Continuum (available on The Ligeti Edition 5) is one of the best contemporary harpsichord works and one of the neglected little gems in Ligeti’s catalogue. The third movement of the Chamber Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project I ) echoes his Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes, signals a rhythmic focus that would predominate Ligeti’s later period, and is just one of the best damn three and a half minutes of music there is.
Ligeti’s Horn Trio (available on The Ligeti Edition 7) uses the same instrumentation as Brahm’s Horn Trio and is often considered the first piece in Ligeti’s late period. The melodic invention, rhythmic focus, and an almost romantic drama probably made this work seem strange to the Hamburg audience that was at the work’s premiere. Although this work sounds little like Ligeti ‘s earlier works, what distinguishes it has proven itself over time and will remain as a cornerstone of his ever-fruitful ouevre
Some other masterpieces from Ligeti’s late period are the Violin Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project III) and the Piano Etudes (available on The Ligeti Edition 3). The Piano Etudes are, in my humble opinion, the best piano works written in the last fifty year and the best collection of piano etudes since Chopin’s.
The last selection is taken from Ligeti’s wryly profound Hamburg Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project IV). The four obligatto horns recall the Epilogue in Grisey’s L’espace Acoustique and this movement’s final chord is truly an acoustic phenomena to behold.