Only: Works for Voice and Instruments
Joan La Barbara, soprano, Ralph Grierson, piano, Erika Duke Kirkpatrick, cello, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Stephen L. Mosko, music director
Jamais l'austérité n'a été aussi plaisante. Rating: 10
Only when flight shall soar not for its own sake only
up into heavens
and be no more
merely the lightly profiling, proudly successful tool,
playmate of winds, beguiling time there, careless and cool:
only when some pure Wither outweighs boyish insistence
on the achieved machine
with who, has journed thither be, in that fading distance
all that his flight has been.
-Ranier Maria Rilke
In 1988, the Holland Festival presented a John Cage musicircus from various locations around Amsterdam and in addition to several of Cage's works, in memorium to Feldman who had died the previous autumn, I was asked to sing "Only." I sang it for the first time on June 23, from the roof of the State Opera House on the Leidseplein, at midnight, in the rain. I am sure only the angels heard it... and, perhaps, Morty. It is so uncharacteristically brief and so openly poignant that I wanted to find out more about the circumstances surrounding its composition. The manuscript I had gave the publishing copyright date as 1976, but none of Morty's friends or students from around that time could shed any light on its mystery. It remained an enigma until I learned that it had been written when Morty was just 21 years old, in 1947. For me, Rilke's text is an eloquent epitaph for a soul flown too soon.
In choosing the other works for this collection, I wanted to explore Feldman's interest in using the voice as an instrument and discovered the kernel of ideas that he later expanded in depth and at greater length. In the voice leadings and intervallic tunings of the three lines of "Voices and Cello" are moments that presage "Three Voices". Structurally delineated by chordal pillars, each bearing a single word of the spare but chilling text, "Life is a passing shadow", the delicate percussion rumbles and strokes of "Vertical Thoughts 5" found further extension in the "The King of Denmark"... (etc.)
For those who have enjoyed the late works of Feldman that have appeared on recordings like sudden flowers after a rain in the desert, this collection offers a glimpse of earlier pieces, helping to paint a more complete portrait of this man whose thoughts and sounds influenced and continue to affect so many composers and musicians in the last part of the twentieth century.
--Joan La Barbara
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
From Ancient Worlds
for harmonic piano
Through the miracle of just intonation -- the art of tuning to the ratios found in the natural overtone series -- Harrison evokes glorious clouds of harmonics, from which emerge peals of divine thunder, angel choirs, celestial bells.
"From Ancient Worlds" is an allegory for a journey of the soul. "Song of the Rose," representing the soul, is the central theme of the work, and is presented in the style of a chorale (although it also appears in numerous variations, such as "Quest for the Rose", "Epiphany" and "Rose of Remembrance"). Various motifs, cadences and harmonic relationships from "Song of the Rose" are echoed in other parts of the work as well, depicting the soul's return in different guises as it travels through the imaginary landscapes of the various sections.
At the end of its journey, "Song of the Rose" returns in the elegiac "Rose of Remembrance", where phrases are juxtaposed with flashbacks of the major themes of the work. This is a metaphor for what is believed to be one of the first experiences of the afterlife: seeing life pass before your eyes in the presence of a Being of Light. "Rose of Remembrance" reaches for a glimpse behind the veil of our reality as it explores the experience of passage into the other world. What once existed is never completely finished, and as the soul lives on, so the final note of "From Ancient Worlds" is left unresolved.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Visions de l'Amen
featuring Double Edge: Edmund Niemann & Nurit Tilles, pianos
Niemann and Tilles play like one person with four very powerful hands and the recording is as crystalline as Messiaen's religious vision: * * * *
I. Amen of the Creation
Amen, so be it! "God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light!" (Genesis)
II. Amen of the Stars, of the Ringed Planet
A savage and brutal dance. The stars, suns, and Saturn the planet with its multicolored ring, rotate violently. "God called them, and they said, 'Amen here we are!'" (Baruch).
III. Amen of the Agony of Jesus
Jesus suffers and weeps. "My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." (St. Matthew)
IV. Amen of Desire
There are two themes of desire. The first, slow, ecstatic and yearning with deep tenderness: already the peaceful perfume of Paradise. The second is extermely passionate; here the soul is torn by terrible love that appears carnal (see the "Song of Songs"), but there is nothing carnal about it, only a paroxysm of the thirst of Love.
V. Amen of the Angels, Saints and Birdsong
Song of the purity of the saints: Amen. The exultant calling of the birds: Amen. "The angels fall prostrate before the throne: Amen." (Revelation)
VI. Amen of the Judgement
Three notes frozen like the bell of evidence. In verity, I say to you, Amen. "Accused, get thee hence!" (St. Matthew)
VII. Amen of the Consummation
Consummaton, Paradise. The life of the bodies in glory, in a carillon of light, "the shining light that shineth more and more." (Prophets)
Vikings of the Sunrise
Featuring the Bowed Piano Ensemble of Colorado College
... the first truly provocative work of new music for the '90s.
Vikings of the Sunrise is a composition for bowed piano on themes of navigation, exploration and discovery in the Pacific from ancient times until the present era. The term "vikings of the sunrise" was coined by the noted Maori/Irish ethnologist Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) to denote the intrepid seafaring peoples who first settled the islands of the "Great Ocean of Kiwa." They set out, probably from Indonesia, as early as 1500 B.C. or before; paddling and sailing from the West, ever toward the sunrise, they populated island after island throughout the central and south Pacific, sometimes traversing vast expanses of open sea, eventually reaching as far east as Easter Island and perhaps South America; to the north they discovered and colonized Hawai'i, and to the south New Zealand. They were the first Polynesians, and probably the first long-distance ocean navigators.
"Vikings of the Sunset" refers to the European explorers of the Pacific, beginning with Ferdinand Magellan, who first rounded South America from the Atlantic, sailing ever toward the setting sun to discover new trade routes and new lands to colonize (and Christianize as well), and to help complete the map of the world by proving finally that the earth was a sphere and could be sailed around. There are also references to the great explorer Captain James Cook and the latter-day anthropologist, adventurer and iconoclast Thor Heyerdahl.
While the themes outlined above provided the general inspiration for "Vikings of the Sunrise," the music should not be thought of as depicting a specific program or story. Rather it consists of sound patterns aroused in my own imagination by ancient and heroic sagas told of men and women who traveled the "Great Ocean of Kiwa."
Whatever those people are doing inside the piano, the result outside the piano is an expansion of space and time.
--NPR's All Things Considered
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Symphony No. 2(42)
Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra-Katowice, with the Polish radio Choir of Kraków, conducted by Delta David Gier
Kievman uses a modernist's compositional tools, but he's a late-Romantic at heart .. challenges adventurous listeners without alienating those more traditional tastes.
--Miami New Times
Symphony No. 2(42) was commissioned by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. The music conveys a sense of Mozart as visionary artist, striving to pursue creative freedom despite the ultimate costs to his career and health. The final movement incorporates the "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's unfinished Requiem: the last bars of music that he wrote from his deathbed at age 35. For Kievman, this tragic ending becomes a frame of reference for the creative life, with the symphony's four-part structure depicting a metaphorical journey from youth through death, and beyond.
From the midst of modernist techniques, Mozart's 18th-century theme arrives with an aura of otherworldly clarity and purity. The fatalism, sadness and fear of earlier movements have yielded to the expression transcribed by Mozart at his own moment of death, reassuring and expectant. From this brief plateau of eight bars, Kievman carries forward the rising notes of the Lachrymosa in a beautiful and majestic ascent. The spiritual intuition is developed seamlessly, free now of worldly constraints, as if Mozart could suddenly experience the motion of time in an accelerated vision. Mozart's classical theme goes through a historical metamorphosis, from the romantic and chromatic to the modern and postmodern. The chorus and orchestra become gradually more expressive, colorful, and rhythmic, reaching a powerful crescendo; from this summit, the individual voices become more free and complex, resuming the ascent towards a final point of unison, then beyond into infinite silence.
... heavily layered music echoes Ligeti and Varese.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
100 Greatest Dance Hits
David Tanenbaum, guitar; The Chester Quartet; Aaron Berofsky, violin; David Harding, viola; Tom Rosenberg, cello; Christopher O'Riley, piano; Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano; John Dent, trumpet; Jeff Milarsky, glock & percussion; Benjamin Herman, glock; Leslie Stifelman, piano; Lisa Moore, piano; Kim Barber, mezzo-soprano; Kathleen Nester, flute; Larry Guy, clarinets; Anthony Cecere, horn; Mary Rowell, violin; Leslie Tomkins, viola; Tonya Tomkins, cello; Robert Black, bass; Susan Jolles, harp; Michael Barrett, conductor
... the most important young composer working in this country. Ambitious and witty, thoughtful and sensuous, alluring and provocative, his music grips both heart and mind. --San Francisco Chronicle
As the title of this album suggests, this is a compilation of the composer's lighter works. The pieces in this collection exhibit all the wit and ebullience of Classical-period divertimenti, but also the craftsmanship and earnestness associated with more serious musical essays. Even in a lighter vein, there is zeal in Kernis's compositional method, in the fastidious notation, the control over rhythm, and in the minutiae of instrumentation.
The label minimalist is so often misapplied as a mask for the vapid that it seems wrong to use the term in reference to Kernis's music. But there is an aspect of phase-shifting in Kernis's music that recollects the best exponents of that school -- from the out-of-synch pop refractions in America(n) (Day) Dreams to the aggregating ostinati in Nocturne.
Ultimately, Kernis's music rejects stylistic polemics, both the obscurantism of the Ivy Tower and the jejune blather of the New Age. The music is unconcerned with constructed historical exigencies and manifestos. Kernis listens to all he hears, and then writes his own music, full of warmth and humor -- eclectic in influence, but decidedly singular in voice.
Available here: Groove
Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental
for computer, synthesized voice, piano & viola with Enrico Caruso, Baird Dodge, Alan Feinberg, Joan La Barbara
Like almost all of Dodge's music, the Elegy is restrained but romantic, elegantly controlled, moving.
--The New Yorker
If there is one piece identified with Dodge, a "signature" piece if you will, it would have to be "Any Resemblance..." which has those qualities that seem to imbue his work in general -- charm, wit, poignancy and technical brilliance. The texture is rich, the piano playing a dramatic and dynamic role, but there is never the sell out to the trickier potentials of an idea like this one. Dodge restrains, and the piece is informed with a sad, ironic wit which points to a profound realization. Both "Any Resemblance..." and "Speech Songs" share this centrality of theme which must have something to do with loneliness and searching. Actually, in "Any Resemblance..", not all is restraint; it is in fact thrilling when the voice and piano find each other in the 'climax'.
Enrico Caruso not only epitomizes the end of the Romantic era in music (as does the aria "Vesti la giubba") but he also represents the beginnng of the modern age in which practically all music becomes electronic, as he was one of the first musicians to become a best-selling recording artist. The composer has said that he has always wanted a great performer to play his music, and finally found one who was in no position to refuse. The idea of 'publicness' of the recording becomes a trope for Dodge, allowing him to make a statement about the 'loneliness of the great performer.' I think there is also a deeper level concerning the situation of any artist whose work must exist in the public domain but who must grapple with a core of loneliness.
Available here: iTunes
The Ready Made Boomerang
Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis and guests; recorded on location in The Cistern Chapel, Ft. Worden Cistern, Olympic Peninsula, WA.
Timbres and harmonies warp as they well up toward the open air, change shape, resonate in unfamiliar, sometimes disturbing combinations. The pace is peaceful, pulseless, the boundaries of the compositions gaseous and difficult to define.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
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