Friday, May 1, 2009

This week our first featured NEW MUSIC VIDEO is Aaron Jay Kernis' "Lament and Prayer" (1996). According to the composer, "Lament and Prayer marks the end of a series - the other bookend, so to speak - of a group of works motivated by my reaction to war and suffering, to genocide, especially in terms of the Holocaust, and to what we know has been going on in Bosnia. Upon completing Lament and Prayer, I intend to put these emotional concerns to rest for a while. Ever since my Symphony No. 2 of 1991, which was partly a response to the Gulf War crisis, I've been writing pieces related to war. In fact, I quote a number of these pieces throughout Lament and Prayer. The dedication in the score reads: 'In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Holocaust'. The image I often had in mind while composing Lament and Prayer was that of a cantor and a congregation. The music proceeds as statement and response in much of the first part, which is very chromatic, rather severe-sounding and intense the prayer is mostly quiet, and spun from a very simple, long line with pulsing harmonies underneath - just the hint of the minimalist elements that occasionally crop up in my music. On the surface it is mostly peaceful, and the last part comes to a resolution, closing this chapter of my work. Things on this globe are even more precarious than when I began this series in 1991. I have to detach and leave the world conflicts out of my music for a while."

Composed in 2002 for the Waging Peace Through Singing competition Greg Bartholomew's The 21st Century (A Girl Born in Afghanistan) is our second featured featured NEW MUSIC VIDEO. The The text is adapted from the Nobel Lecture given on December 10, 2001, by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. The work was premiered by the William & Mary Choir, under the direction of Dr. Constance DeFotis, at the College of William & Mary's Charter Day celebration on February 8, 2003. "It's a message of desperate significance," Dr. DeFotis said of the piece. College President Timothy Sullivan called the performance "brilliant and beautiful." The piece was also selected as a Finalist in the 2003 Briar Cliff University New Choral Music Competition, where it was performed in concert on May 2, 2003, by the Briar Cliff University Chamber Choir under the direction of Dr. Mark Simmons. "It is a very, very powerful piece!" says Brenda C. Kayne, director of the Euphonia! Choir.

In our COMPOSER PORTRAIT this week George Crumb visits his home state of West Virginia for an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Finally, each week FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES will take us back to past Featured Items (in case you missed any!). This week we revisit Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos (1932) ~ full of wit and diverse in its influences: Mozart, the concerto grosso, jazz, silent film music, French music hall music, and even Balinese gamelan. Check out this classic, imaginatively filmed performance!

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!

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