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.
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.
Bent Sørensen probably said the best thing I’ve ever heard from composer when giving a talk about his music – “I don’t want to talk about what musical materials [e.g. harmonies, rhythms] I use; it’s too embarrassing.”
Bent Sørensen’s music is obsessed with death and endless decay as he said “From the moment we are born, there is only one way – a slowly sliding decay. Time eats away at us.” It is a transient music filled of passing phantoms, funeral processions, distant bells carried by the wind, time-destroyed frescos, overgrown gardens, and fading dreams, hopes, and longing.
Some of my colleagues have complained that there is little to hold onto in Bent Sørensen’s compositions; but I contend that that is exactly the point. The music constantly slips from your hands so clearly that if you pay close attention you can almost watch the ebb and flow of your own thoughts and attention.
It seems almost silly to talk about music that is always fragilely falling and teetering on a threshold of non-existence. In the liner notes for an out of print disc of Bent Sørensen’s musicen lieau of a written description for “The Deserted Churchyards,” there is a black and white photo showing a crumbled tombstone against an arid autumn landscape.
Similarly, I cannot think of words to explain “The Echoing Garden.” I can only think of how I first heard this piece in the McGill Digital Composition Studio in February and how, on this coldest day of the winter, you could hear the horrifyingly dark wind blow against and batter the sealed-off windows.
Four summers ago I wrote a poem about a brief dream fragment. Although I’m hardly a poet it began with a few lines that I still love: “This morning I dreamt that Megan –/skinny-legged, tender, fragilely falling –/came up questioning time enigmas.” Since writing that, I’ve often thought of life in terms of this image where we are each fragilely falling at an intangibly slow pace.
In the last four years I have tried to capture this illusion in music. In my pursuit, I’ve encountered and been reminded of the ease visual artists can have in depicting illusions that contradict our visual perception. For example, I’ve been drawn to the works of Bridget Riley (see above) and other op artists like Victor Vasarely and Québecois painter Guido Molinari. (In contrast, in the last few years I’ve begun to find M. C. Escher’s art slightly hollow and inexpressive.) In musical auditory illusions, I seek something abstract, emotive, and fragilely intangible. The compositions I’ve chosen for this entry (and the next few this little series) are works that I feel explore not just auditory illusions but some of the key underlying phenomenological and emotive contradictions of our existence.
I consider “Le Mort de l’Ange,” the first song from Grisey’s "Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil," one of the most consistently beautiful and horrifying pieces of music I’ve ever heard. After a brief prelude, where a percussionist rub a brush on a bass drum and three musicians blow into their instruments, the work begins with one of the best musical depictions of “fragilely falling” that I’ve found. This highly deterministic music, which features a three-voice polyrhythmic canon between three of the ensemble’s four groups, is at once clearly directional and eerily tranquil. As the voice and remaining instruments enter the music slowly becomes more indeterminate, expressive, and shockingly frightening.
“Treppenmusik” (Stairway music) refers to the piece Wagner wrote for his wife Cosima and the paradoxical staircases found in the famous works by M. C. Escher. To achieve this illusion John Rea uses, amongst other things, a quadraphonic tape delay system (poorly represented in this recording) and an acoustic adaptation of the famous Shepard Tone auditory illusion where one is unable to tell where a scale or figure stops or begins rising. To explore “Treppenmusik” further, I recommend a fantastic analysis (in French) that Michel Gonneville wrote for Circuit that can be found for free here.
…next time: Falling Fragilely… (the music of Bent Sørensen)