Composer/keyboardist/producer Elodie Lauten creates operas, music for dance and theatre, orchestral, chamber and instrumental music. Not a household name, she is however widely recognized by historians as a leading figure of post-minimalism and a force on the new music scene, with 20 releases on a number of labels.

Her opera Waking in New York, Portrait of Allen Ginsberg was presented by the New York City Opera (2004 VOX and Friends) in May 2004, after being released on 4Tay, following three well-received productions. OrfReo, a new opera for Baroque ensemble was premiered at Merkin Hall by the Queen's Chamber Band, whose New Music Alive CD (released on Capstone in 2004) includes Lauten's The Architect. The Orfreo CD was released in December 2004 on Studio 21. In September 2004 Lauten was composer-in-residence at Hope College, MI. Lauten's Symphony 2001, was premiered in February 2003 by the SEM Orchestra in New York. In 1999, Lauten's Deus ex Machina Cycle for voices and Baroque ensemble (4Tay) received strong critical acclaim in the US and Europe. Lauten's Variations On The Orange Cycle (Lovely Music, 1998) was included in Chamber Music America's list of 100 best works of the 20th century.

Born in Paris, France, she was classically trained as a pianist since age 7. She received a Master's in composition from New York University where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Indian classical music with Ahkmal Parwez. Daughter of jazz pianist/drummer Errol Parker, she is also a fluent improviser. She became an American citizen in 1984 and has lived in New York since the early seventies

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Saturday, April 08, 2006
Contrast versus stasis

Lately I’ve been going over a 10-year old score of mine, completely clean of dynamic markings. I am now compelled to write the dynamics as I am planning to present this piece again, and I know by now that people will most certainly be put off by the nudity of the score, and I am resigned to dressing it up somewhat. But that’s not as easy.

For one, I am tortured by the idea that I am writing the wrong dynamics. The reason why I didn’t want to set the dynamics is that I thought of my music as organic. The original singers who worked on the piece interpreted it perfectly without any interpretive markings, using their natural vocal abilities – some people have certain notes that sound better loud, or certain tessituras that sound better soft. By not stifling their interpretation, I was able to obtain a ‘natural’ rendition of the piece – and that’s what I am using as a cue for the vocal and instrumental dynamics.

I came across another issue while notating dynamics. Do people respond better to contrast? Is the esthetic of stasis unwarranted? And why would that be? Our society is conditioned by the fast-paced image changes of electronic screens from computers, films, DVDs, television. We are so conditioned by the constant onslaught of variety that sameness appears to have little value – except for those who meditate. On the other hand, there are esthetic movements and musical styles that are entirely based on like Indian music, with each raga solidly anchored in one tonal center.

Therefore, when scoring dynamics, what is the underlying model? Even the word ‘dynamics’ suggests movement and change. There is a preconception that music has to change volume in order to get across to an audience. Are we the victims of conventionality once again, when trying to come up with differences in dynamics? What is the value of that difference? Are we entertaining or making a statement? What is so great about contrast? Why is contrast better than no contrast? Has anyone considered the beauty of the old sepiatones where everything is in similar shades of brown? Is the full-color better than the sepiatone? Is it more ‘esthetic’? Maybe there is a certain je-ne-sais-quoi in the sameness, greyness, subtlety within one shade of feeling. How does one notate subtlety?