Friday, September 18, 2009

According to composer Michael Daugherty "No rock and roll personality seems to have inspired as much speculation, adulation, and impersonation as Elvis Presley (1935-77). In Dead Elvis (1993) the bassoon soloist is an Elvis impersonator accompanied by a chamber ensemble. It is more than a coincidence that Dead Elvis is scored for the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's L’histoire du Soldat (1918), in which a soldier sells his violin - and his soul - to the devil for a magic book. I offer a new spin on this Faustian scenario: a rock star sells out to Hollywood, Colonel Parker, and Las Vegas for wealth and fame. I use the Dies Irae - a medieval Latin chant for the Day of Judgment - as the principal musical theme of the composition to pose the question, "is Elvis dead or alive beyond the grave of Graceland?". In Dead Elvis we hear fast and slow fifties rock and roll ostinati in the double bass, violin and bongos, while the bassoonist gyrates, double-tongues and croons his way through variations of Dies Irae. Elvis is part of American culture, history and mythology, for better or for worse. If you want to understand America and all its riddles, sooner or later you will have to deal with Elvis." Check out a performance by bassoonist Hayley Pullen at the Royal Academy of Music, London ... one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Michael Horwood's more than seventy compositions constitute a kaleidoscope of the traditional and the avant-garde, spanning a wide variety of contemporary idioms including twelve-tone, theatre pieces, electroacoustic (both live and pre-recorded), jazz, minimalism and neo-romanticism. He has written for conventional ensembles, unusual instrumental combinations and even flexible scoring. Horwood seems content writing in any genre and, similarly, feels a composer today should be able to adapt and create in a variety of styles. From all the deliberate variety in Horwood's music, a few personal traits have tended to emerge. One of these is an acute sense of sonority, the knack of exploiting the unique ranges and timbres of his instrumental forces, whether solo or in combinations. This use of instrumental sound is occasionally coupled with an overt sense of theatricality or humour, even in his non-theatre works. Hear Michael Horwood talk about his life and works ... this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

sound festival 2009 is an exciting festival of new music in North East Scotland, driven by the passion to make new music more accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. They try to avoid pigeon-holing, wanting people to experiment and discover for themselves the different types of music that are out there today, taking risks to find out what they enjoy (or don't!). Hoping to create a live music experience that leaves its audience eager to explore sound in new ways, they introduce this wide range of music and sound (classical, contemporary, improvisation, traditional, popular, jazz, experimental, ambient, sound art, electro-acoustic, etc.) through a variety of events including concerts, talks, installations and workshops. This year the festival runs from October 28th through November 22nd ... check it all out at Pytheas' NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL page.

Silvestre Revueltas wrote of his childhood, "As a small boy (and maybe as an adult) I always preferred banging on a washtub or dreaming up tales to doing something useful. And that is how I spent my time, imitating instruments with my voice, improvising orchestras and songs to accompaniments on the washtub, one of those round galvanized tubs that I always preferred to drum on more than to bathe in." Hear how that "all came out in the wash" with the Martinez Bourguet String Quartet's performance of the first movement of Revueltas' String Quart No. 4, "Música de Feria/Fair Music"(1932) ... this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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