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Jerry Bowles
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Love and Cow Bells
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Well, That Was Fun
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Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
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Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, March 05, 2005
Fiddle Players We Love

Janine Jansen
Last Night in LA--Honoring George Crumb

CalArts musicians presented a concert commemorating George Crumb�s 75th birthday at REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre in the corner of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The concert gave us three of Crumb�s exceptional chamber works, starting with the great �Ancient Voices of Children� (1970). This is still a marvelous work, and it sounds fresh, and new, and alive. Written for soprano, boy soprano (here sung by another soprano), piano, mandolin, harp, oboe, and three percussionists --- with guest appearances by toy piano, musical saw and harmonica--"Voices" comprises settings of fragments of five poems by Federico Garcia Lorca accompanied by two instrumental dances. The Crumb web site provides the Lorca words (and their translations) so you can read the imagery in the words, imagery on which Crumb built a new structure of sound. Perhaps now that our ears have become more accustomed to the range of extended techniques and non-traditional sounds Crumb has his musicians produce we can better hear the sheer beauty and musical quality of the work.

After intermission for the rearrangement of the stage, a new set of musicians presented �An Idyll for the Misbegotten� (1986) for flute and three percussionists, a �duet� between two types of sound. The music includes a short poem from the Chinese: �The moon goes down/there are shivering birds/and withering grasses�, spoken by the flutist. The music does seem to be a song at night.

The concert closed with �Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)� (1971), another beautiful vision performed by a third set of musicians, this one using flute, cello and piano. Crumb calls for the performers to wear black half-masks, which the performers did, and he suggests that the work be performed under deep blue stage lighting, which wasn�t done. The masks, by themselves, achieved nothing; it�s possible that blue lighting would have made the musical images of the sea even stronger than they were in this hearing.

Crumb describes the first movement as a kind of cadenza for the solo flute; the movement makes extensive use of the technique of singing into the flute while playing it. The second movement is a theme and set of variations, each variation named for a different geological era as the music surveys the passage of time. The work concludes with a nocturne � � for the end of time� in which the sounds of the sea and the world of the sea gradually fade away, the ebbing of waves. The work requires extended techniques for all three performers; in addition to the flute techniques, the pianist must frequently strum the piano strings and the cellist must produce harmonics on his specially-tuned instrument.

Performances like last night�s make you realize, if you didn�t already, that in these works Crumb went far beyond mere sound effects to produce music of real vision and image. A master. Crumb has an excellent web site. In addition to presenting a short bio and listings of his works, his recordings, and his writings, the site includes the program notes of each work. New Music Box also preserves a 2002 wide-ranging interview with Crumb.

By coincidence, the next Monday Evening Concert will also present a recognition of Crumb, performing Books I and II of his �Madrigals�.
So, New?

Jonathan Russell has a terrific review of last weekend's Other Minds Festival in San Francisco Classical Voice. Long-time S21 supporter and friend John Luther Adams grabbed some especially positive vibes with So Percussion's performance of his Selections from Strange and Sacred Noise:
Unlike many percussion ensemble pieces, which make the most of the vast array of colors and contrasts available in this family of instruments, each movement of this piece limits itself to a single color. Far from being dull, this has the effect of immersing the listener in all the subtle details and variations of this color in a way that I have never before experienced in percussion music.
Here at home,in the Composers Forum, Cary Boyce, Galen Brown, Larry Bell and Lawrence Dillon have all weighed in with an answer to the unanswerable question: what is music? Give us your thoughts.
Que Pasa Hoy?

Forty--count 'em--world-class piano players will converge on Faust Harrison Pianos at 205 West 58th Street New York beginning at noon this Sunday, March 6, for a 12-hour Tsunami Relief Pianothon, in association with NPR. Among the volunteer pianists are Philip Glass, Ursula Oppens, Margaret Leng Tan, Michael Harrison, Jenny Lin, as well as jazz notables like Benny Green and Hilton Ruiz. Seatings at 12 noon or 6pm. Tickets $25 per seating.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lawrence Dillon has done a post-partum review of the premiere of his Revenant: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra last week...Our Composers Forum is tackling the question: Who's more cultivated: Stockhausen or Captain Beefheart...and Brian Sacawa wants to know why composers don't write more for the saxophone so he doesn't have to steal stuff via transcription.
Lieder Chansons Canzoni Mazurkas (And All that Jazz)

One of the most charming CDs to land on my desk in a long time is a multilingual collection of bouncy salon songs called Lieder Chansons Canzoni Mazurkas (Analekta)
written by the 19th century female singer and composer Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821-1910), once described by no less an authority than Berlioz as "one of the greatest the past and present history of music." Probably not, but there is certainly an enormous amount of pleasure to be had here.

Isabel Bayrakdarian, a saucy young Canadian soprano of Armenian extraction--probably the only world-class canary to hold a degree in biomedical engineering�breezes through these lively songs in French, Italian, Spanish and German with just the right sunny, bright touch needed to bring them to life for a new age. She is greatly abetted in this effort by Canadian-Armenian pianist Serouj Kradjian.

By any standard, Viardot-Garcia was a musical phenomenon, befriended by the most distinguished musicians and writers of Europe. In 1862 Charles Dickens wrote of one of her more than 150 appearances as Orpheus in Gluck's Orfeo et Euridice that it was "a most extraordinary performance - full of quite sublime acting." In addition to her singing career, she found time to compose four operettas (three to librettos by her lover Ivan Turgenev), and more than 200 songs and a few instrumental works. Some of her French songs were based on the mazurkas of Chopin who was said to be delighted with them. Robert Schumann's Op 24 and Saint-Sa�ns' Samson et Delila are dedicated to her.

Viardot-Garcia was born into a family of famous French singers of Spanish origin, several of whom were famous: her father, Manuel Garcia, who, among other things, had premiered the role of Figaro in Rossini�s The Barber of Seville; her mother, Maria Joaquina Sitches; her elder brother, Manuel Jr.; and her elder sister Maria, a living legend by her early twenties known as �La Malibran,� the surname of her first husband. La Malibran died accidentally at the age of 28 in 1836, and Pauline, then barely 16 with a range of three and a half octaves, was encouraged to fill her shoes.

In 1840, Pauline Garcia married the writer and director of the Th��tre Italien in Paris, Louis Viardot, who was 21 years her elder. Shortly after their wedding, he resigned his position to manage his wife�s career, accompanying her to cities such as Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, London, St. Petersburg�wherever fame took her. While they were in Russia, Turgenev fell so deeply in love with her that he hovered near the Viardot family for the rest of his life.

In 1863, at the age of 42, Viardot-Garcia retired to Baden-Baden, where she began to teach using her father�s method and compose. The fall of Napoleon III and the creation of the Third Republic in 1890 allowed the Viardots, confirmed republicans, to return to Paris, where Pauline lived until her death in 1910 at the age of nearly 90.

Georges Sand predicted in 1840 that "The appearance of Miss Garcia will be a shining moment in the history of women�s art. The genius of this musician, both accomplished and inspired, demonstrates a progress of intelligence that has never before been so conclusively manifested in the feminine sex." A bit patronizing, perhaps, but as this splendid recording demonstrates, Pauline Viardot-Garcia was more than just a footnote in the lives of great men.
Mo Better Modern at City Opera, S.F. Symphony

If the New York City Opera�s 2005-2006 schedule looks a little more modern and adventuresome than usual, I�m convinced you can thank me. Every time some fundraiser from the City Opera called last year (which was once or twice a day) to inquire why the wife and I were staying away in droves and refusing to give them their usual $50 donation, my answer was always �too much old crap that the Met can do a hundred times better.� Amazing what witholding a Grant will do. This season�s schedule has a more modern flavor. On tap is Mark Adamo�s Lysistrata, or the Nude Goddess, which debuts in Houston Friday night, and Rachel Portman�s The Little Prince. New productions also include The Mines of Sulphur, by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, which was given its premiere in London in 1965; Paul Dukas's Ariane et Barbe-bleu (1907); the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Patience (1881); and Capriccio, the last opera by Richard Strauss, first performed in 1942. At least it�s not Handel.

The San Francisco Symphony�s 2005-2006 season includes two weeks of celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Shostakovich's birth, works new to the symphony by Morton Feldman, Peter Lieberson, Thomas Ades and HK Gruber, semistaged performances of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Le Rossignol, Berg's Lulu Suite, and more Mahler. In fact, Feldman�s lovely Chopin homage--I met Heine on the Rue F�rstenberg--is paired with Mahler�s 5th. Guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth leads the U.S. premiere of English composer John Pickard�s The Flight of Icarus and Kurt Masur will conduct the first local performances of a work by Sofia Gubaidulina.
What's New Today?

Peace has returned to St. Louis. Musicians with the St. Louis Symphony agreed to a new contract. The vote was 56-36 in favor of the deal reached last week...While we're talking about the business of classical music, take a look at a profile of how the San Francisco Symphony operates developed from a recent Wharton Business School Leadership Conference. I find it scary but not much scarier than the tedious music that Michael Tilson-Thomas composes. Better he should stick to business, as we say here in New York...The province of Styria, Austria, has declared itself a Mozart-free zone in 2006. I know where I'm vacationing next year.

Closer to home, good discussion of contests and prizes going on in the Composers Forum and you should join in. Elodie Lauten remembers when there was an "underground" movement in New York and wonders where it went. Brian Sacawa and Lawrence Dillon are the hardest working guys in the blog business and deserve your attention. If you're really desperate you can read a moderately amusing piece at my other blog about what I've learned over the past four years in the George Walker Bush re-education camp.
Last Night in LA--Visitors from New York

The New York New Music Ensemble made its annual appearance at the Monday Evening Concerts and presented another challenging, stimulating, rewarding concert. The concert began with a literal bang in Magnus Lindberg�s early work, Ablauf, (1983/1988) for clarinet and two bass drums. Jean Kopperud handled all of the technical challenges Lindberg threw at the clarinet, and while she couldn�t make it sound effortless, she made music from the sounds. She performed exceptionally well throughout the program. The first half included the Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1971) by Jonathon Harvey and a sextet, Exordium, Genesis, Dawn (1990) by Dorrance Stalvey, written for the Ensemble, and performed last night in honor of Stalvey�s thirty-some years as director of music programs, including the Monday Evening Concerts, for the LA County Museum of Art. Stalvey is one of the remaining links to the first �golden age� of Los Angeles new music, when Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff all lived on the West Side. Stalvey studied with Stravinsky at UCLA, and served as his copyist.

After intermission the Ensemble grabbed everyone�s attention again with David Lang�s Cheating, Lying, Stealing (1995) for bass clarinet, cello, piano and three percussionists. The piece pulsates. The conclusion was an early, but major, work by Christopher Rouse. Rotae Passionis [�Passion Wheels��] (1983), was Rouse�s first major commission, issued by Boston Musica Viva, and they got a keeper. The work is for seven musicians: violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, piano, and percussion; using three percussionists, however, would not be out of order and would avoid some carefully-choreographed movements around the stage. The piece pulsates. The percussionist, Tom Kolor in a guest appearance, gave a good demonstration that he was not only ambidextrous, he was polydextrous as he kept one set of beats going with his right foot, another with his left hand, and a third with his right hand as he coordinated the ensemble with beats on section changes using his chin. The work begins with a lament for clarinet and percussion and then moves into the Fourteen Stations of the Cross in which the three strings maintain a spiritual progress as the rest of the ensemble narrates the events. The work is recorded, available from Amazon, with musicians from the Concordia Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. It was better to be in the audience, but it�s good for a listen.
The Macintosh Man Who Made Music

 height=Jef Raskin, the man who a) created the Macintosh computer as employee number 31 at Apple in the early 1980s (his version) or b) worked at Apple for Steve Jobs when the Macintosh was invented (Jobs' version) died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday. He was 61 and had played many roles in his relatively short life--mathematician, professor, bicycle racer, model airplane designer, and pioneer in the field of human-computer interactions. Of all his interests, none were enduring or important than music which he wrote and played with great enthusiasm throughout his life.

In a article called In Defense of Music Education on his web site, Raskin writes: "...if I had not studied music, there would be no Macintosh computers today.� The story is hardly a common one:
I had written a computer-music language, Lingua Musica pro Machinationibus -- I took Latin in high school, and tended to inflict it on the world -- and it became the starting point of DARMS, a music description language used worldwide to this day. One of the leaders of the project was Leonard Bernstein, who took the time to teach me the elements of conducting, critiqued my compositions, and even included me (in my capacity as fly-on-the-wall) in his discussions with his assistant conductors and first chair musicians on how he wanted various works performed and why. I got to use the latest computers and software at Columbia. It was all very heady for a 17-year-old and it provided another priceless education.
Before he reached the age of 20, Raskin was consultant and programmer for the Columbia-Princeton Computer Music Project. A few years later, he became an instructor in Electronic and Computer Music at Penn State and designed and built the Penn State Electronic Music Studio. He even did a stint as a touring percussionist with the San Diego Symphony. After he became rich and famous in the computer world, he served on the faculty of San Francisco Community Music Center.

Although his interest in music never diminished, he abandoned the academic side in 1969 after a frustrating stint as a student/lecturer at the University of California at San Diego:
I never did complete my Ph.D. in music. The breaking point came when after having had dozens of my compositions criticized almost out of existence (I had an unfortunate tendency to write music that most people enjoyed) I took some graph paper, a collection of colored pens, and a can of silver spray paint and made an artistic-looking "score" with the names of instruments and terms like "Andante," "pizzicato," "con molto tomatoes," and the like placed at random here and there. It was purely graphic, with only a few G, C, and F clefs at the beginning to hint that it was playable.

My professor loved it, and said to me, "If only you would write all your music with such intricacy and depth. Finally, you have more than one idea going at a time. And your juxtaposition of stasis and movement is superb!" He wasn't being sarcastic.
What's New Today?

Can you believe the insipid crap nominated for musical Oscars this year? The songs were wretched and the snippets of all of the "original" scores sounded as if they were written by lawyers. Where is Bernard Herrmann when you need him? Dead, unfortunately, but Australian playwright David Knijnenburg is staging in Brisbane (just a bit off Broadway) a new play called Hitchcock and Herrmann, which explores the volatile relationship between the certifiably rotund director Alfred Hitchcock and the certifiably nuts composer, Bernard Herrmann...John Adams wrapped up a weeklong residency at Northwestern University's School of Music with a concert of two of his own pieces, "Gnarly Buttons'' and "Grand Pianola Music,'' at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on NU's Evanston campus. Adams worked with NU students in classes and rehearsals all week as part of his commitment as the inaugural winner of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize, established in 2003, which has a cash award of $100,000, one of the country's most lucrative arts awards. He will return to NU for three more weeks, in October, and January and May 2006...Chorale conductor Harry Simeon died last week at age 94. He was responsible for "The Little Drummer Boy." No word on who gets the reward money.

Here at the ranch, the Composers Forum is hot, hot, hot. Elodie Lauten has a new post on "Underground Nostalgia" and Lawrence Dillon talks about "the first time." Just below, Robert Jordahl takes a stroll down memory lane. And all our composers and performers need your comments. The big bucks are just not enough.
And the Music Goes Round and Round

One of the blessings of living a long life is that you collect a lot of wonderful musical experiences. The ones I selected mostly have nothing to do with my own work or my teaching, but I thought it might be fun to put together a top five list of the most memorable �sightings " of classy composers, conductors, and performers that I've been lucky enough to see since the 1930s.

1.Seeing/hearing Rachmaninoff. He was appearing in recital in a small recital hall in San Antonio, Texas. I had gotten a free ticket from my piano teacher. He was about 20 feet from me--tall, gaunt, almost ghost-like, Slavic-looking, and, to a youngster my age, a bit scary. He played Chopin, and, of course, himself. I remember him having large hands and long fingers, and never smiling. Of course, he played beautifully and gave several encores--a very gracious gentleman. At that point in my life, I didn't realize that this was how he earned his living.

2. A few years later, around 1936, I saw Igor Stravinsky conduct the San Antonio Symphony in a program of his early music. He was such a little guy.

3. In the mid- 1940s, when I was in the Navy, I heard numerous big bands--Harry James (with Betty Grable sitting at a side table ) in San Diego, Benny Goodman in San Jose, Stan Kenton at Balboa Beach, Count Basie in Oakland at a black movie theatre ( I was the only " honky" there ), and Woody Herman in an almost deserted hotel ballroom in San Francisco shortly before my discharge in 1946. What great bands! There were other headliners, of course--a young Frank Sinatra trying to sing over the teenage screams in a San Francisco theatre in 1945, and others.

4. Around 1960, my family and I were in Rochester, N.Y. while I was working on a Ph.D. at Eastman. A colleague of my wife's treated us to a concert by Judy Garland in one of her several comebacks. She was beginning to go downhill, but still had some of the magic left. Of course, she had to sing all of her old hits like "Over the Rainbow " and " Chicago," among others. Judy was a gracious lady, and the fans loved her as much as she loved them. Her appearance was in a small hall and the fans were actually only a few feet away. Between songs they would approach her, and she made it a point to thank each one.

5. In the summer of 1978 I attended an N.E.H.Summer Seminar on electronic music at Dartmouth College, was hosted by Jon Appleton, composer and co-inventor of the Synclavier. It was an exciting time for me. There were guest lectures by people like Roger Reynolds and Laurie Anderson, who had just gotten back from a tour of Japan with her band. I listened to lots of electronic music, and marveled at the wealth of Dartmouth. The small town where Dartmouth is located is like a step back in time--no billboards are permitted by the city fathers. Oh, a couple more things, I did a paper on text-sound music, went to a church supper across the state line where some gravestones in its cemetary dated before 1700, and learned that you can eat flowers (peppery), and I did. Who says an old dog can�t learn new tricks? I�d be curious to hear some of your favorite musical memories.


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