About Us
Essential Library
Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
 November 04-11, 2002

Lee Hyla:
An American Original
Miller Theatre at Columbia University NYC. presented the second concert in its Composer Portraits series on October 23 featuring  the music of composer Lee Hyla.
by Duane Harper Grant

Lee Hyla, the American composer who lives now in Boston is as brilliant as he is unknown outside new music circles. At the age of fifty, he is going strong, utterly captivated with music and with his work as a composer and yet, it must also be noted, not yet the recipient of the resounding recognition as a truly great composer on the world scene that he deserves.

Hyla is somewhat of an enigma in that he  doesn't fall neatly into any category or school of the modern/new music movement and seems not to really need to do so. He lives in the eclectic American music landscape that encapulates everything from pure classical forms to punk rock and what sounds like--but isn't--free form jazz.  He seems to thrive on contemporary music scene's terrain, its liveliness, its expansiveness, its inexhaustiveness. Think Eliott Carter meets
meets Cocteau Twins meets Cecil Taylor and Steve Lacy He uses it all and synthesizes a sound and a content that is unique and completely his own. 

The concert featured the composer/musician collective, counter)induction which played the sometimes very challenging music seamlessly and expressively. Their brilliant pianist Blair McMillen was featured in several pieces including a witty "Wilson's Ivory-bill"  for baritone, piano and an old, scratchy field recording of the squawks of an ivory-billed woodpecker. The text, cantored bravely and sure by bass-baritone Robert Osborne, is taken from the journals of the 19th-century ornithologist Alexander Wilson.

The program included two other works:  "The Dream of Innocent III" (1987) and "Pre-Pulse Suspended" (1984). These two pieces comprised the second half of the program and while the first half was formidable with the aforementioned "Wilsons.." and the Concerto No: 2  for Piano and  Chamber Orchestra, the second half of the program was even more enjoyable for me. For one thing, the audience was more tuned in and quieter. Hyla abruptly shifts directions in ways where the relationship between adjacent sections of music aren't always immediately obvious.  This is music that requires close listening but it is also music that rewards its listener with a sense of elegance and breadth. Ideas and gestures flow,  They evolve and they make sense. In "The Dream Of the Innocent Child" for instance, a solo cello is flanked on either side by cacophonous percussion; a drum set on one side and a percussive piano on the other, both launching their consorted rhythmic salvos while the lone cello riffs away melodically and sweetly in the

counter)induction, now in its fifth year, 
played really, really well. They are a composer/performer collective committed to the notion that contemporary music can and should be both accessible and challenging. c)i celebrates the diversity of contemporary music by presenting the best, most innovative new music to all audiences, new and experienced. They were led by Jefffrey  Milarsky, who did a splendid job of keeping that boat on course in sometimes choppy waters.

Hyla's small compositional output suggests that he is a perfectionist, an impression bolstered by the fact that each of his pieces is meticulously constructed.  He is a truly an original composer whose work deserves much greater recognition and respect than he has gotten so far.  Reese Cups for the Miller folks for including him in this prestigious series.

Miller Theater

Composer Portraits 
Lee Hyla 
 Saturday, October 23

What's Recent

David Lang's Passing Measures
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson
The Good Solider Schweik
Neely Bruce Loves a Parade
John Cage's 90th Anniversary
Michael Gordon's Decasia
Bright Sheng's Silver River
 Earle Brown Dies
Oliver Knussen at 50
John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts
Interview with Gloria Coates
Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton
Julia Wolfe after minimalism
Philip Glass at 65
Interview with Poul Ruders
Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jbowles@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note. JB

PRICING THEMSELVES OUT? A crew from Deutsche Grammophon was in Boston this week to record Andre Previn's new violin concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In years past, this wouldn't have been unusual, but in today's music world, big labels rarely record American orchestras. T.J. Medrek asked DG's top man if the Previn recording could signal a turnaround, but the answer, in a word, was no: "It always comes back to money. I think when the (musicians) unions of this country decide that they have overpriced themselves and that it would really make sense to renegotiate terms in order to make more recordings, then I think we (DG) would be the first ones who would be there." Boston Herald 11/01/02

NEW DEAL OPERA: Opera is drawing big crowds in America, new operas are finding performances and innovation seems to be in the air. "Is America about to put its own, contemporary stamp on opera, that centuries-old import from Europe? Maybe. While it may be too much to call this burst of activity a trend toward 'Americanizing' opera, it's certainly a sign of life, and that's enough to get opera enthusiasts cheering." Christian Science Monitor 11/01/02

WELL, NOT TOO NEW: Innovation is all well and good, but the staples of the operatic repertoire are still the most popular draws at most North American opera companies. A new survey by Opera America finds that Puccini's La Boheme is the most oft-produced show on the continent, with 27 separate productions scheduled for this season, and 207 since the 1991-92 season. Andante (AP) 11/01/02

WHEN MUSIC REALLY MATTERED: There was a time, at the turn of the 19th Century, writes Michael Tilson Thomas, that music "was the only art form where, in real time, one could take in the vast experiences that we think of now as being in the realm of cinema - experiences on the scale of invasion, tempests and geological cataclysms." The Guardian (UK) 11/01/02

THE DEATH OF THE AUDIO CASSETTE: The audio cassette is for all intents dead. "The end, on some strange and intellectually picky level, of the crucial dialectic between Side A and Side B, and the idea that songs talk to one another and take you someplace. Is the death of the cassette as sweetly sad as the death, years ago, of the vinyl record? No, the professor sighs. Well, maybe yes. 'It's a mixed romance'... Washington Post 10/29/02

THE PROBLEM WITH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS: Symphony orchestras across America are struggling with money (or rather, a lack of it). "What's the problem with classical music? As it turns out, all unhappy symphony orchestras are unhappy in their own way, but the answer is surprisingly consistent. "It really is 'the economy, stupid.' It's affecting all those revenue sources - especially corporate, foundation, government and individual donations - that are crucial to an orchestra's bottom line." Los Angeles Times 10/29/02

PLOT PROBLEM: Why are opera stories often so ridiculous? When one thinks of all the effort that goes into composing and producing an opera, it seems odd that plots are often so ludicrous. But many are classic stories, and "some stories grow over centuries - each new generation's projections and alterations ripening them until, eventually, they become mythic. With each successful retread, a story will gain in resonance and meaning - reinforcing its power to move and inform us." The Guardian (UK) 10/28/02

PLANS FOR COPENHAGEN'S OPERA HOUSE IN DISPUTE: Plans for Copenhagen's new Opera House were unveiled last week, but Henning Larsen, the project's architect, wasn't present for the event after apparent disagreements with the owner about what the project would look like. "It's an embarrassing situation at the moment, and it would be sad for Copenhagen if Henning Larsen resigned from the opera house project. I can't even bear the thought. It would be like the Sydney Opera House all over again." Copenhagen Post 10/25/02

 Last Week's News

Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for our Editor's Pick's of the month.  Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, NY, NY 10019  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.


Let Us Now Praise Philadelpha. 
No, Seriously.

When it comes to classical music, Philadelphia is the Rodney Dangerfield of the arts world.  It “don’t get no respect.”  This is odd perception since the hometown of the Liberty Bell has produced more than its share of composers who have heavily influenced the development of modern music and no shortage of local supporters.  When Leopold Stokowski was conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, his response to the booing of modernist composers work was to play the work over again. 

The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society is on a mission to change that perception and has enlisted the aid of six local ensembles and 15 guest artists and groups to create a six-concert Festival of Philadelphia Composers that runs from tomorrow (Tuesday) through November 24. 

Among the 17 composers represented, nine have won the Pulitzer Prize (well eight, technically speaking, the Pulitzer committee took Ralph Shapey’s away at the last minute.) 

The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Curtis Institute of Music have all been home to such luminaries as Samuel Barber, George Crumb, George Rochberg, and Jennifer Higdon.  In addition, the city has attracted a lot of European-born transplants, including Stefan Wolpe, Lukas Foss, Bernard Rands and Leo Ornstein. 

Unlike the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society's highly-successful festival of New York composers last season, Philadelphia's version doesn't attempt to be comprehensive. The programs evolved from a master list of composers and pieces that the chamber music society's founder, Anthony P. Checchia, assembled after consulting with local critics and musicians.

The perfomers for the six concerts will be Peter Serkin, Marcantonio Barone, Hyunah Yu and the Brentano String Quartet; Network for New Music; Colorado and Miami Quartets with Ignat Solzhenitsyn; Orchestra 2001; Settlement Contemporary Players, and Juilliard and Chicago Quartets with Marc-André Hamelin.

For a complete schedule, go HERE

Edit Note:  The following e-mail turned up in our  inbox.  We are publishing it as a public service to those who don't like Pierre Boulez and, perhaps, are just a little mad at the French.   JB

Hello. My name is Josh Ronsen and I am a Mail Artist and musician living in Austin, Texas. I have embarked on a long term collaborative project that I have been calling the Pierre Boulez Project. Years ago, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez wrote that _All art of the past must be destroyed._ Before and since writing that statement, he has made a living in presenting many art works of the past, from Handel to Wagner to Stravinsky. In my project, I am collecting recordings of Boulez_s work as a composer and a conductor. Once I have assembled a sufficient number of recordings (and books and scores), my comrades and I will destroy them through various means in a performance creating a new work of art of the Present.

I ask that you submit any unwanted Boulez recordings to my project. I will duly credit all submissions on my web site and as well as the programs and final documentation of the project. If you wish, I can keep your donation anonymous. 

Please see the Pierre Boulez Project web site. You will find a list of current contributors as well as the most comprehensive index (in English) to online information about Boulez, including links to a number of interviews with him. An article about my Mail Art activities can be found online. 

If you wish to receive future updates about this project, please email me at jronsen@flash.net  If you would like a color flyer to post at your local record store/music department/hang-out, email me and I will send you one.

I thank you for your time,

-Josh Ronsen
PO Box 7896
Austin, TX 78713

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance
Classical Grammy Winners

Previous Interviews/Profiles
Simon Rattle, Michael Gordon,Benjamin Lees, Scott Lindroth, David Felder, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Erkki-Sven Tüür,John Luther Adams, Brett Dean, Judith Lang Zaimont, Meyer Kupferman, Evan Chambers, Poul Ruders, Steven R. Gerber, Gloria Coates

Previous Articles/
Busoni The Visionary
The Composer of the Moment:  Mark-Anthony Turnage
Electronic Music
Voices: Henze at 75
Henze Meets Emenim
On Finding Kurtag
Charles Ruggles:  When Men Were Men
Ballet Mécanique
The Adams Chronicles


String Trio & Duos
Composer: Heitor Villa-Lobos
 Cpo Records - #999827 

One of the great pleasures of CD collecting in recent years has been the reemergence of an enormous amount of recorded Villas-Lobos' chamber music.  Impossibly lush melodies, exotic rhythms, otherworld spirtiuality in extremely vivid performances.   Music to love and listen to over and over again.

Piano Music 
Composer: Leo Ornstein
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin
Label: Hyperion - #67320 

There was a time, in the 1920s, when Ornstein's name was mentioned in the same breath as Stravinsky and Schoenberg, and he lived long enough (he died earlier this year at 109)  to see his music come and go in fashion several times.   One thing is certain:  he has never had--and probably never will have again--as formidable and effective an advocate as Marc-Andre Hamelin, the brilliant Canadian pianist, who makes a convincing case that Ornstein's early admirers had it right--he belongs in the same company as Stravinsky and Schoenberg.

 Fuerzas [for viola] 
Composer: Maria de Alvear
Performer: Christina Fong
OgreOgress Productions

Christina Fong is among the most adventuresome of modern violin and viola players having lovingly committed to CD modern masterpieces by John Cage, Morton Feldman, Alan Hovhaness and now the Spanish composer Maria de Alvear's glorious extended 1994 meditation for viola.  Engaging and important music from one of the most inventive of the independent CD labels. OrgreOgress Productions



The Wayward
Composer: Harry Partch
Conductor: Dean Drummond
Ensemble: Newband
Wergo - #6638

Harry Partch was iconoclastic American composer, musical theorist, philosophic instrument builder, raconteur, artist and hobo and it is Partch's king of the road life from which Dean Drummond and Newband draw the inspiration for The Wayward. "Found" hobo poems serve as fodder for Patch style "just intonation"  or what might be called American plainsong. 

Viola Concerto
Composer: Bela Bartok
Performer(s): Csaba Erdélyi,
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Concordance CCD03

Here's something irrestible to collectors--the first release of the long awaited recording of Csaba Erdelyi's Restoration and Orchestration of the Bartok Viola Concerto, which was left in an uncompleted form when the composer died in 1945.  For many years the only way in which the work could be heard was in the completion by Hungarian Tibor Serly, which nobody much liked.

 Erdelyi has worked for many years on a better restoration and  has produced, after exhaustive study and consultation, a number of interim 'completions'. Now he has arrived at his definitive version.  The trick is that for copyright reasons, the CD is not available in this Hemisphere but can be ordered directly from New Zealand.  Click on the cover picture for details.

Black Sounds
Composer:  George Rochberg
Performers: Boston Modern Orchestra Project Gil Rose, conductor 
Naxos - #8559120

 George Rochberg was  born in 1918, and became one of North America's most influential composition teachers.  A rabid atonalist Rochberg abandoned that stance following the death of a son and began to construct his music out of both tonal and atonal languages. In so doing, he dramatically reinterpreted the notion of stylistic uniformity that had been a hallmark of the Western aesthetic since antiquity. By including these diverse musics, Rochberg believed that he had expanded the emotional range that modern music was able to express. He had found a contemporary language that could both bear the weight of despair and point to transcendence. And—unlike either strict serialism or aleatoric composition—it was a language that was pointedly individualistic. 

Symphony in G Minor
Composer:  E.J. Moeran
Naxos - #8555837 

Our usual monthly bow  to English country estates, chintz and big slobbering dogs.  Every culture has some composer or artist or writer who is famous for being unknown:  E.J Moeran is England's claim to unsung genius. 

The White Peacock
Composer: Brotons, Damase, Dorff Griffes, others
Performer: Debora Harris, Mike Coates
Ensemble: Harris-Coates Duo
Barking Dog Records

Delightful collection of contemporary works for flute and guitar including a new transcription of American composer Charles T. Griffes' "The White Peacock." This piece, originally written for piano in 1915 and later scored by Griffes for full orchestra, was transcribed and arranged by Mike Coates for flute, guitar and bassoon -- this recording features guest artist Russell Peterson on bassoon.  Also, contains lovely piece by Debussy and Rodrigo.

West Side Story
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers:   Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Naxos - 8559126

Oh, no, Maria.  No.  Ready or not the "composer's version" of the now overly familiar score has arrived, courtesy of Bernstein disciple Kenneth Schermerhorn and the first-rate Nashville orchestra. 



17 Themes for Ockodektet
Composers: Jeff Kaiser
Performers: The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
Jeff Kaiser is a composer, trumpet player, conductor, and private music instructor residing in the cozy town of Ventura, CA, where he does the lion's share of his performances and turns out really nicely packaged CDs that are as funky to listen to as they are Zen-like to contemplate. Think big band on acid on one of Dizzy's most innovative nights.

Symphonies No 1 and 2
Composer:  Serge Bortkiewicz
Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
Label: Hyperion - #67338 
Audio CD (October 8, 2002) 
ASIN: B00006GO65518 
  Frankly, I never heard of the guy until this CD appears in my mailbox but if you like fiery late Romantic Russian music that stirs the soul this one  will get your mojo working . 

American Breath
Composer: Larry Thomas Bell, Russell Peterson David Maslanka
Performer: Russell Peterson
Barking Dog Records

Saxophonist Russell Peterson plays David Maslanka's Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, Larry Thomas Bell's Mahler in Blue Light and his own Concerto for alto Saxophone and Percussion Orchestra.  Distinctly American music, masterfully played and recorded.  Highly recommended.

SEQUENZA21/is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editors:    Jerry & Suzanne Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
(C) Sequenza/21 LLC 2000

Search WWW Search www.sequenza21.com 
Sequenza21/The Contemporary Classical Music Weekly is part of
Classical Music Web Ring
The free linking service provided by Classical Music UK
[ Previous 5 Sites | Previous| Next | Next 5 Sites | Random Site | List Sites ]