The California EAR Unit
Zilver; Disco; Overture to Orpheus; Worker’s Union
No composer can provoke, jolt and threaten the system better than Mr. Andriessen, who has been practicing those skills for his entire career ...
--The New York Times
The basic idea of Zilver is to write a chorale variation like Bach did for the organ: a long melody in slow musical motion, combined with fast playing of the same melody. The slow playing of the melody, which is a pop song that nobody will recognize, is done by the winds and the strings; they also play in slow four-part harmony, like a chorale. The rest of the instruments -- the two percussion players, playing on keyboard instruments (vibraphone and marimba), and the piano -- play staccato chords, and these staccato chords become faster and faster all the time. Basically the ensemble is divided into these groups, and the two groups play canons that are combined together. Zilver also seems to be a part of a series of chamber music pieces named for certain kinds of matter: Hout which means 'wood', could be the first, and Zilver could be the second one. ("Zilver" means 'silver' in Dutch.) The title probably also has to do with the fact that the two silver instruments -- flute and vibraphone -- start and end the piece. Zilver was written for the California EAR Unit.
Disco was written in 1982 on a commission from the Dutch government. The outer sections of the piece occupy the sound environment of the 'hyper-instrument' created when both instruments play in unison, while the static inner section explores the ringing overtones of sympathetic strings in the piano.
Worker's Union (1975) is a 'symphonic movement for any loud sounding group of instruments.' It is from the same period as Andriessen's Hoketus and shares many similarities with that work. Most notably, it is built of short rhythmic cells which are repeated varying numbers of times. However, in this work there are no specific pitches until the very end of the piece. Instead, the notated rhythms are played precisely, with the pitch content consisting of contours depicted relative to a horizontal line representing the middle register of a player's instrument. The instructions are 'to make the piece sound dissonant, chromatic, and often aggressive.' And only in the case that every player plays with such an intention that his part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work.'
--Louis Andriessen and the California EAR Unit
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The Perilous Chapel
David Tanenbaum, guitar; William Winant, percussion, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; John Duykers, tenor
Harrison has pursued his iconoclastic vision since the '40s, evolving a colorful, almost mystical vocabulary that melds the unorthodox textures of Henry Cowell and early John Cage with a love of repetition and clean diatonicism that foreshadowed minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
Please note: in the spring of 2003 this title was discontinued when the guitar works were reissued with additional music on Lou Harrison's "Serenado" [NA123]
In the late thirties of this century and the early forties I was, as have been many Californians, enamored of Mexico. At about this time a small book of reproductions from Mexican codices, all in color, came into my possession, and I immediately wanted to do something about the life of the culture-hero Quetzalcoatl which was there depicted. It was also a period in which one or two films were made in which the camera explored a painting in detail with musical accompaniment. Thus I immediately thought of such a thing in connection with the Mexican codices. I did not have any access to film at the time, but went ahead enthusiastically to the composition of a score. This must have been a hint to Eric Marin a few years ago, for in the excellent film about me and Bill, "Cherish, Conserve, Consider, Create", he made a passage in which part of the score is used with still photos of Mexican architecture and people. I still think that a complete film could be made based on my original idea, but in any event the score, which is played with fair frequency, I like to think reminds audiences of the extraordinary and often very beautiful civilization of Mexico and its pre-Columbian history. We first performed the work in San Francisco, and I believe that that was in the concert that John Cage and I gave in the California Hall - the concert which was concluded by the "Double Music" which he and I composed together and which resulted in the first public recording of one of my works for percussion ensemble.
Available here: iTunes
Maia Quartet; Dunsmuir Piano Quartet
The all too familiar hymns of my childhood have come back to haunt me ... --Ingram Marshall
The music recorded herein ranges over a twelve year period; most of it is imbued with strains which will be recognizable to many. For me the research into memory is an important tool in my compositional workshop. We are, all of us, always searching our past in an attempt to understand the present. I think this is especially useful for the artist.
The opening work, Entrada (At the River), is based on a fragment for string quartet, amplified with electronic delays, conceived in 1984; it is a process of gradually revealing itself.
The Piano Quartet (In My Beginning is My End) originated as a trio (no viola) and was written for the then Dunsmuir Trio in 1986-87. It was commissioned by my longtime friend and supporter, David Rumsey. By the time this recording bacame a possibility, the Dunsmuir had become a quartet and Jennifer Culp, the cellist, an old and dear friend, suggested that my trio might be "improved" as a quartet. And it was. The revision was done in 1995. At the time of rewriting it I was reading Elliott's Four Quartets and the title seemed appropriate.
The first movement has no conscious references in it; it was a spontaneous invention composed in rough form shortly after the birth of my son in 1986. The second movement, which might be considered a set of variations, dwells on two hymns, both quite well known.
The string quartet, Evensongs, is really a collection of pieces, hymnodic meditations, concerning the crepuscular. Its six sections are bound together in two "movements." They were, mostly, written in 1991-92 in anticipation of a workshop collaboration with the Stuart Pimsler Dance Theater in Minneapolis. Working with a local string quartet, Stuart and Susanne Costello created a dance theater work around some of the music; it was called "Hymn of Two Embraces." Also involved in that collaboration was the sculptor Carol Parker, whose intensely personal work has always been an inspiration to me; to her we owed the idea of using in the performance the chorus of music boxes, which now appear in the string quartet at several points; the child's voice, heard in these tape collages, is that of my then five year old son, Clement. In several ways, this music is about childhood, or more specifically, is a reflection on the mirror of childhood one sees in one's own children.
For those who think of me mainly as a composer of tape and/or electronic music, which is understandable in light of my discography, this music presents another side. Although there is some electronic processing in Entrada and a bit of tape collage interjection in Evensongs, this is "musica acustica." Yet, I like to think that my treatment of purely instrumental sound is not so different from that of taped and electronic sources.
Available here: iTunes
Dark Blue Circumstance
the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio; New Performance Group of the Cornish Institute; Thomasa Eckert, Rinde Eckert, John Duykers
His sound can be both lush and austere. But there's always a sense of pulse, evolution and destination in his music. --San Francisco Examiner
The music on this recording was composed over a span of over ten years. During this time many friends' ideas, generosity, support and tolerance have had a profound affect upon my work and life. I particularly want to acknowledge and thank composer and teachers Lou Harrison and Robert Erickson, sitarist/teacher Nikhil Banerjee, and friends and colleagues Rinde Eckert, Jay Cloidt, John Duykers, Kay Norton, and my wife and producer Robin Kirck.
"Dark Blue Circumstance" (1982-87), for electric guitar and live tape processing, is performed on an elaborate tape loop system which is an instrument which allows live multi-track recording, mixing, processing and immediate playback of any sounds produced by the performer(s). It was designed and built by Paul Tydelski and me in 1979 and consists of a 4 channel tape machine with 3 playback heads located at various points in the path of a single loop, the duration of which is variable by controlling the tape speed. Record/play functions and the mixing and routing of all sounds are controlled by the performer with an array of foot pedals and switches, thus leaving the performer's hands free to play their instrument without interruption. This instrument was my principal performing tool for most of the 1980s and was integral to many compositions, both for me as a soloist as well as for ensemble music and theater performances and purely tape compositions.
The work arose while also composing the score for the music theater collaboration, 'are are', by the George Coates Performance Works of which I was a member at the time.
Available here: iTunes
True to the Times (How to Be?)
David Hykes, voice, windharp, organ, keyboard; Peter Biffin, dobro; Bruno Caillat, zarb, daff; Tony Lewis, tabla
"True to the Times (How to Be?)" develops further the current phase of Harmonic Chant work (since 1991), which began with the album "Windhorse Riders". My aim now is to show Harmonic Chant as a unified field joining chant, mode, text and rhythm.
The double focus of this album is on harmonic polyrhythms (just-intonation transposed into the realm of rhythm), and singing harmonic songs. The trio format is very inspiring, and, with collaborators like Peter Biffin and Bruno Caillat, seems to hold few limits.
"True to the Times (How to Be?)". These times ask us to share a responsibility for which little data of a spiritual nature in our civilization has survived to prepare us. We are cut off from that level of harmony which, were we able to attune to it, might illuminate and guide us, with quite different results than those which we are now having to face.
We don't see how to be. To see our whole world, we need a stable point of view toward all which is moving...turning, seasons, time. How to be? This windy life. What is behind all this movement? How to be? This is the drift of the title. The only way I can see of being true to the times is in trying to be true to deep self-questioning each day. Like an enigma which only deeper and deeper contemplation -- more and more real living -- can answer, or at least keep alive. Contemplation, being, reflection, pondering -- few of the inner endangered species in the inner nature of Man.
Thinking it all over again, I would say that for me, today, the purpose of music still seems to be to help us find harmony within ourselves. In that effort we can hear differently the question of how to be face it more globally, and even, at some moments, find an eventual source of reply. The seeking is itself a kind of pilgrimage. My image of the pilgrim, who could at some moments be any one of us, is of someone constantly working...lost in work. One spark of that energy and the pilgrim can go on for days... or eventually forever, like the real Ones. Not just up and down, or back and forth, but ever onward.
--David Hykes, first day of Spring, 1993
Available here: iTunes
Walk in Beauty
Aki Takahashi, piano; Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, violin, piano, vibraphone & tom-toms
Often simple in design, his consonant or modal melodies, frequently inspired by southwestern Native American or Mexican folk music, grow rich in resonances through repetition or subtle variation, suggesting the stark beauty and vast open space of the New Mexican desert.
The conceptual basis of "Walk in Beauty" is found in the all-night peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church and the curing ceremonies of the Navajo. There is also a simple musical correlation: In the fast, nervous repetition of single notes, and their high pitch registration (as in the first section) can be heard the influence of peyote drumming and musical style. And perhaps there is a certian similarity in the emotional function of the music too.
The movements follow a hypothetical sunset to sunrise time cycle, and are dedicated to close friends. Movement One is in three parts: (1) "Walk in Beauty" (opening song) for Aki Takahashi; (2)"Turquoise Trail: In memoriam Louise Varese" (sunset song); and (3) "A Peyote Fan" (night song) for Lou Harrison and William Colvig. Movement Two is subtitled "A Pine-Pitch Basket" (midnight song), after the baskets covered with pitch used as water vessels in the Southwest, and is dedicated to Susan Ohori. Movement Three is in two sections: (1) "Lightning Flash" (rumba-not really) for Conlon "El Rey" Nancarrow (night song); and (2) "Walk in Beauty (Calling Home My Shadow)" for Peter Garland -- myself (sunrise song). The piece was written from August 15 to October 31, 1989.
As mentioned, the second section of the first movement, "Turquoise Trail", is dedicated to the memory of Louise Varese -- translator, author and wife of the composer -- who died July 1, 1989 at the age of 98, and whom I was privileged to know. In the midst of this part a musical "visitor" arrives, and interrupts the texture: the ghost of Erik Satie. This is a dual reference: To Aki Takahashi's fame as an interpreter of Satie and to a comment I made to Louise Varese on my only visit with her, in New York City in 1975, that I was amazed to be spending an afternoon with a person who had entertained Erik Satie on a similar day in 1921.
Available here: iTunes
Range of Light/The Fifth Lake
Catherine Robbin, mezzo-soprano; Just Strings Ensemble,; John Schneider, guitar
Most of us are not able to live in a state of nature and wilderness, but perhaps the aesthetic dimension opened through art can bring the image of Nature to us where we do live; that is the goal of this music.
Range of Light was composed after encountering for the first time the writings of naturalist John Muir, in particular the posthumously published excerpts from his journals. In considering what it meant to be a composer with roots in California, the depth of the chord struck by Muir's beautiful language echoed my own desire to bear witness to the glorious reality of the Sierra Nevada mountains; this is a celebratory work.
The Fifth Lake is an instrumental work, with a specific personal program attached. Several years ago I visited a small chain of five jewel-like lakes above the Mineral King Valley in the southern Sierra Nevada: the Mosquito Lakes. We camped at the top lake, the fifth one in the chain, and the next morning I experienced what I believe is signified by the word Peace; a brief state of grace. I took a photograph of the outflow of the lake that morning, which is reproduced on the cover of this booklet. Memory and music can often form a powerful alliance; through the temporal arts we have the power to reinvoke time. The spell, if successful, can be created so as to give substance to the insubstantial; this is the potential triumph of aesthetic mimesis over linear time.
Available here: iTunes
Toward the Night
String Ensemble Endless; Masaharu Kanda, cello; Kyoko Sato, soprano; Toshiyuki Uzuka, conductor
Mingling minimalism and traditional Japanese music, imperturbably ascetic textures and the sensuous appeal of endless melody, Satoh's music opens another window on comtemporary music for listeners already seduced by the music of Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Henryk Gorecki
In Buddhism there is the idea of Samsara (transmigration). It is believed that man infinitely repeats life and death toward the next life. Mankind is also thought to repeat its fall and rebirth. After millions of years, the existence of mankind is beginning to sink into the deep dusk. As an ancient Chinese saint once said, "If I don't obtain enlightenment now, in which life should I be able to get it?" I find myself constantly returning to his words. "Toward the Night" is the tone of the dusk which resonates in my mind.
"Ruika" [an ancient Japanese expression] is an anthem to mourn the soul of the departed. Within this music we hear the wind from the world of spirit - it intrinsically emanates an odor of death. In listening, we immerse ourselves in the vibration of voices coming from the abode of departed souls, from a vacancy of sound, and we sense the waves of a glimmer appearing at the margin of sound.
"Homa" [Sanskrit] is a sacred fire, a fire of purgation, a sacrificial fire offering to celestial gods. In the summer of 1988 my grandmother passed away at the age of 90. I wrote this music as a prayer for the peace of her pure spirit in the firmament. This music is chanted as a mantra.
Om mani padme hum.
Om sarva-tathagata-pada-vandanam karomi.
Om svabhave-suddhah sarva-dharmah-suddho ham.
Om, jewel in the lotus!
Om, I believe in and worship Buddha, past, present and future!
Om, this eternal universe is the uterus of God and all the emerging events here are intrinsically pure and innocent.
Thus I myself am also pure by nature.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
The Complete Works for Solo Piano
David Arden, piano
Cinque Variazioni; Sequenza IV; Rounds for Solo Piano; Erdenklavier; Feuerklavier; Brin; Leaf; Petite Suite
Arden, who has worked with Berio, plays in elegant virtuosity that seems to know no limitations. No one interested in serious modern music should miss this release.
Luciano Berio (b. 1925 in Oneglia, now Imperia) is among the most widely performed and internationally respected composers today. This collection, developed in collaboration with the composer, presents his oeuvre from student era work to the mature master. Pianist David Arden worked with Berio on the repertoire in Tuscany. This recording followed performances at Tanglewood in Ozawa Hall.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Solo piano recital recorded live at Festival dos Capuchos
Equal-tempered piano improvisations that owe much to his lifelong study of Indian Nuusic -- a brilliant CD.
--Wall Street Journal
This concert represents about 50 years of thought, practice, composition and improvisation for that marvelous and ever challenging instrument -- the piano. I seriously started to consider my voice or role in this arena, which includes the Pantheon of my teachers and heroes, Duane Hampton, Adolf Baller, Wally Rose, Art Tatum, Bud Powell and Bill Evans, in the mid 1960s when I began formulating and composing Keyboard Studies. These works, based on very basic improvisational procedures and heavily informed by many years of study of North Indian raga and jazz, form the basis of nearly all the keyboard and piano playing I have done. Since 1984 I have performed almost exclusively with my voice (not heard on this album) and the magnificent grand piano, which opens doors to one of the most liberating forms imaginable, making available lyrical sounds, orchestral sounds, sounds that are oceanic and percussive, sounds that pulse and flow over its entire majestic range.
On this magical night in the magical city of Lisbon a kind of retrospective of my work unfolded and I felt the spirit play through me in a way that gave feelings of rare and deep emotion. Here and there are exhilarating moments in which are framed split second decisions, which opened up entirely new avenues of musical direction and exploration. And finally it must be said that, without an audience, none of this could be brought into existence in the same way. The shared attention to the sound current helps to channel the spontaneity and inspiration that makes this experience one of life's most sacred and privileged moments.
Available here: iTunes
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