MP3 Blog #102: “Towards ‘The Midnight Sun’”

Joji Yuasa: Towards “The Midnight Sun”  –  Homage to Ze-Ami (1984)

For piano and quadraphonic computer generated tape

Performed by Cecil Lytle

This recording is currently out of print.  Another one featuring pianist Aleck Karis is available here.

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Program Note:

Towards “The Midnight Sun” - Homage to Ze-Ami was composed and realized on the CARL computer music system at the Center for Music Experiment (CME) at the University of California at San Diego … in the Spring of 1984.  It is my second composition for computer, coming after My Blue Sky in Southern California, realized in 1976 at CME.  The premiere performance was given on June 3, 1984 at Lincoln Center in New York City, as part of the Horizon ’84 Festival, with Alan Feinberg as the pianist.

Two characteristic sound sources are used in this work: synthesized white noise bands; and recorded concrete sounds such as a resonant stone struck with a mallet, a stick of bamboo, sleigh bell, clay bells and a brandy glass.  All the sounds are manipulated, formed and transformed by the computer, and then localized in a virtual space, the size of which can be varied to produce different aural sensations of spatial depth.

The aim in this work is to present a musical environment in which the audience can experience a total involvement in the kinetic manipulation of the synthesized sound and the pianist’s spontaneous interaction.  The role of the pianist here is as a communicator of this ritualistic work rather than as a competitive one in the concert.  Spatial manipulation of sound has been a continual topic of research for me since Icon on the Source of White Noise (1967), which makes extensive use of sound movement between five channels.

The titles is taken from the Nine Grades by Ze-Ami, the fifteenth-century establisher of Noh theatre in Japan.  In this work, Ze-Ami utilized a Zen koan: “In Shinra, the sun appears clearly at midnight,” to explain the indescribable state of extraordinary transcendence achieved as the ultimate attainment in Noh practice.

-Joji Yuasa

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MP3 Blog #101: “…wash yourself of yourself”

Jacob David Sudol: “…wash yourself of yourself” (2009-2010)
For piano and performed live electronics

Performed by Chen-Hui Jen and Jacob David Sudol

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“…wash yourself of yourself” incorporates two electronics techniques that I developed in 2008 and 2009.  One technique uses real-time spectral analysis to create timbres by both subtractive and additive synthesis.  These timbres imitate the original sounds as well as the combination tones our brains create when hearing these sounds.  The other technique uses real-time spectral analyses to create statistically transforming “clouds” of microtonal samples.  In the case of my recent piano works, the samples used to create these clouds are also piano sounds.  Both of these techniques aim to provide the listener with novel methods to explore his or her own listening.

“…wash yourself of yourself” is the second modular part to my other recent work for piano and electronics “Be melting snow…” While the latter work explores strictly notated algorithms, “…wash yourself of yourself” presents the same techniques in an open yet highly structured manner.  The combined quote “Be melting snow; wash yourself of yourself” comes from a poem by Rumi.  Both these works along with a third work for piano and electronics – “…approaching a prayer” – comprise a set of works that explore similar electronic techniques and contemplative interests.

Pianist Xenia Pestova and composer Jacob David Sudol premiered “…wash yourself of yourself” in the Experimental Music Theatre at the University of California, San Diego in November 2009.  The entire collection of works was written for and is dedicated to Taiwanese composer and pianist Chen-Hui Jen.

-Jacob David Sudol
January 8 and 9, 2010
La Jolla, CA and New York City, NY

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MP3 Blog #100 “Koumé”

Eliane Radigue: Koumé (O Death, where is thy Victor. Corinthians 15)

From the Trilogie de la Mort

For Tape

The entire Trilogie de la Mort is available for purchase here.

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Apologies for the long delay in my postings.  Ph.D. qualification exams and a rather large workload have prevented me from maintaining my previous rate of posting.

This said, although I might not always have time to write in depth commentaries on the works posted, from now on postings will resume with a pace of at least one per week.

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MP3 Blog #99 “Inner Voices”

Image of a Buddhabrot fractal

Chinary Ung: “Inner Voices” (1989)

For Orchestra

Performed by the American Composers’ Orchestra

Available for purchase on this compact disc

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Mp3 Blog #98: “The Space Between”

Jacob David Sudol: ”The Space Between” (2008)

For soprano, flute, clarinet, cello, and live electronics

Performed by Stephanie Aston (voice), Christine Tavolacci (flutes), Przemyslaw Bosak (clarinets), Ashley Walters (cello), Jacob David Sudol (electronics/mixing), Robert Zellickman (conductor)

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‘Alas, when the Uncertain Experiencing of Reality is dawning upon me here,
With every thought of fear or terror or awe for all set aside,
May I recognize whatever appear, as the reflections of my own consciousness;
May I know them to be the nature of the apparitions in the Bardo:
When at this all-important moment of achieving a great end,
May I not fear the band of Peaceful and Wrathful, mine own thought-forms.’

–verse for traversing the Chönyid Bardo *

The Space Between was written in 2008. The composition intends to explore the experience of traversing through and inhabiting a great variety of constantly changing yet unified intermediate states.
The primary inspiration for this work was the initial state of dying as described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead where one first begins to recognize “the dissolution of earth… into water, water into fire, fire into wind, wind into consciousness.”* These ideas were treated abstractly and combined with a personal vision of dying as a confused state where unusual simplified archetypal characters constantly bleed into and out of each other.

* Texts taken from Chapter 11 of the The Tibetan Book of the Dead: translated by W.Y. Evans-Wentz (Oxford, 1960)

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Mp3 Blog # 97: “Longing, we say”

Jacob David Sudol:
”Longing, we say” (2007)

For violin and cello (preliminary sketch for future string quartet)

Performed by Batya McAdam-Somer and Kaylie Eriksen

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“Meditation at Lagunitas”

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you
and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

- Robert Hass
from the poetry collection “Praise” (Ecco Press, 1979)

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Mp3 Blog # 96: “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?”

Claude Vivier:
“Trois airs pour un opéra imaginaire” (1982)
For Soprano and Ensemble

Performed by Ingrid Schmithüsen and the Société du musique contemporaine du Québec

Available on this album at emusic

“Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” (incomplete 1983)

Performers unknown

Live performance on this DVD

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“…I pursued my work with a kind of marvellous serenity. I compose more slowly as I have more and more notes of my music to write! I have just completed the first six minutes of Croix-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme? I am almost doing ‘Dripping’! The whole piece uses two poles: mobility and immobility! Here is a text which I sue in an immobile part:
I was cold, it was winter
well I thought I was cold
maybe I was cold.
God had told me that I would be cold.
Maybe I was dead.

I was not afraid of being dead
as much as I was afraid of dying.
Suddenly I got cold
very cold – or I was cold.
It was night and I was afraid.
I believe that it is a beautiful text for the work I am now composing…”

Excerpt from a letter to Thérèse Desjardins by Claude Vivier, Paris, January 7th, 1983

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Mp3 Blog # 95: Diario Polacco

Luigi Nono:
”Quado Stanno Morendo. Diario Polacco N. 2”

For two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, contralto, bass flute, cello, and live electronics

Performed by Ingrid Ade, Monika Bayr-Ivenz, Monika Brustmann, Susanne Otto, Roberto Fabbriciani, and Christine Theus

Currently out of print

Another recording available on this SACD

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Campo dei Fiori

In Rome on the Campo dei Fiori
baskets of olives and lemons,
cobbles spattered with wine
and the wreckage of flowers.
Vendors cover the trestles
with rose-pink fish;
armfuls of dark grapes
heaped on peach-down.

On this same square
they burned Giordano Bruno.
henchmen kindled the pyre
close-pressed by the mob.
Before the flames had died
the taverns were full again,
baskets of olives and lemons
again on the vendors’ shoulders.

I thought of Campo dei Fiori
in Warsaw by the sky-carousel
one clear spring evening
to the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned
the salvos from the ghetto wall,
and couples were flying
high in the cloudless sky.

At times wind from the burning
would drift dark kites along
and riders on the carousel
caught petals in midair.
That same hot wind
blew open the skirts of the girls
and the crowds were laughing
on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday.

Someone will read as moral
that the people of Rome or Warsaw
haddle, laugh, make love
hs they pass by matyrs’ pyres.
Someone else will read
of the passing of things human,
of the oblivion
born before the flames have died.

But that day I thought only
of the loneliness of the dying,
of how, when Giordano
climbed to his burning
he could not find
in any human tongue
words for mankind,
mankind who live on.

Already they were back at their wine
or peddled their white starfish,
baskets of olives and lemons
they had shouldered to the fair,
and he already distanced
as if centuries had passed
while they paused just a moment
for his flying in the fire.

Those dying here, the lonely
forgotten by the world,
our tongue becomes for them
the language of an ancient planet.
until, when all is legend
and many years have passed,
on a new Campo dei Fiori
rage will kindle at a poet’s word.

-Czeslaw Milosz
Warsaw, 1943

(translated to English from Polish by Louis Iribarne and David Brooks)

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The texts sung and the historical context of this masterpiece are available in this thorough online analysis.

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Mp3 Blog #94: Some Older Two-Part Compositions

J.S. Bach:
From The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Prelude in b flat minor
Fugue in b flat minor

Performed by Glenn Gould

Available on this compact disc

Fryderyk Chopin:
Two Nocturnes, Opus 55
#15 in f minor
#16 in E flat major

Performed by Arthur Rubinstein

Available on this compact disc

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Sonata # 32 in c minor, Opus 111
I. Maestoso; Allegro con brio ed appassionato
II. Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile

Performed by Artur Schnabel

Available on this compact disc

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Before I post a few more contemporary two-movement works I wanted to post a few older two-part and two-movement compositions.

The first two works not technically two-movement compositions. That said I feel that both are good examples of a work constructed in two parts. For example, the prelude and fugue is arguably one of the archetypal pairs that comprise a whole. I’ve chosen J. S. Bach’s b flat minor prelude and five-voice fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 because it is possibly my favorite prelude and fugue.

Most of Chopin’s nocturnes were published in pairs and to this day are often performed in recitals that way. Opus 55 is probably my favorite of these pairs.

Beethoven struggled with the two-movement form periodically throughout all of his piano sonatas and arguably it wasn’t until the last try that he really got it right. While looking for two-movement compositions I noticed that the form is used far less regularly than three or four-movements. This might be because it is harder to balance multiple movements when there are only two of them. In my opinion it is this attempt at literal balance that makes most of Beethoven’s other two-movement sonatas less remarkable. On the other hand, it seems to be the misbalance between the normal-length tempestuous first movement and extended and almost transcendental second movement that makes Opus 111 so moving and unforgettable.

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Mp3 Blog #93: Two Movement Compositions/Nørgård and Wölfli

Per Nørgård:
Symphony #4: (1981)
I. Indian Rose Garden
II. Chinese Witch’s Lake

Performed by the Danish Notional Radio Symphony Orchestra

Available along with many of Nørgård’s works on emusic

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In the last three years I’ve been rather preoccupied with the idea of writing two movement compositions. In reflection, I think this preoccupation started after I heard Denys Bouliane present an analysis of his work “Rumore Sui.” What struck me the most about this piece at the time was the two-sidedness of the two movements — how, although the two movements are constructed in a very simple near perfect symmetry, one perceives something much more complex in their relationships.

This preoccupation has led me to work on two compositions that each have two movements — a work for clarinet or saxophone and electronics and a violin and cello duo. To date, I have only finished the first movement of each work. (The violin and cello duo was premiered at a jury recently at the University of California in San Diego and the clarinet/electronic piece will be premiered in a rough form on Tuesday.) Not finishing either of these works has bothered me quite a bit and in attempting finally finish the second movement of the clarinet or saxophone and electronics works I’ve begun to listen to a lot of my favorite two movement compositions.

One of my favorite two movement compositions is Per Nørgård’s Symphony #4. Lately I have been listening to a lot of music Per Nørgård. This is in part because he has written a number of successful two movement piece such as the Third Symphony, “Voyage into the Golden Screen,” “Remembering Child,” and his Fourth Symphony.

Nørgård composed his Fourth Symphony soon after he became obsessed with the work of outsider artist Adolf Wölfli (1864 – 1930). As a result of this obsession Nørgård dedicates this work to Adolf Wölfli. This obsession with Wölfli is also seen in the compositional style of this symphony which includes an extreme drama not found in any of Nørgård’s previous work. In fact, I often hear this symphony as a parody of the monumental high structuralism that is so present in his previous Symphony #3. That aside, this symphony also includes a personal emotionalism drawn from Nørgård’s reflections on some of Wölfli’s imagination. In my opinion this emotionalism is largely what imbues Nørgård’s compositions written since the 80′s with an expressiveness that I am greatly drawn towards.

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