Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kati Agócs  John Riley (2005) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Race With the Devil (1975) - Music by Leonard Roseman - Film by Jack Starrett . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING for the week.

Peggy Glanville-Hicks  Gymnopedie No. 1 (1934; rev. 1953) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Tom Guralnick  Slides Peak (1994) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christopher Theofanidis  Rainbow Body (2000) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The Lucy Poems (2007)  -  Music by David Lang  -  Choreography by Deborah Lohse . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

William Walton  Viola Concerto, 3rd mvt (1929) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Katherine Hoover  El Andalus (2003) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Joan Tower  Wild Purple (1998) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

John Williams  On Scoring "Saving Private Ryan" . . . it's our FEATURED COMPOSER for the week.

George Crumb  Ancient Voices of Children (1970) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Kevin Volans  Mbira (1980) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Henri Dutilleux  Choral et Variations, from Sonate (1948) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

John Cage  A Flower (1950) . . . it's our BANG, CLANG and BEAT - New Music for Percussion for the week.

Leroy Anderson  Piano Concerto (1953), finale . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

James Dillon  Ti.re-Ti.ke-Dha (1979) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 21, 2011

 Luigi Dallapiccola  Ist's moeglich (1953) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Amy Beth Kirsten . . . she's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Alfred Schnittke  Piano Quintet (1976) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Ken Ueno  ...blood blossoms... (2002) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's Guitar Sonata was written in 1990 for guitarist Julian Bream, who gave its first performance the following year. The first movement, entitled Fandangos y Boleros, begins with a Preambulo followed by a Danza section in which, according to Graham Anthony Devine (Naxos Records), "Brouwer merges the rhythms of the Spanish baroque Fandango with those of the Bolero, a Cuban love-song. Brouwer describes the first movement as a sort of puzzle in which the colours are recomposed and redistributed much the same way as in Paul Klee’s Magic Squares. There is a quotation from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony towards the end of the movement and Brouwer has likened the fragmented form of Fandangos y Boleros to the fragmented sonata form found in the first movement of Beethoven’s famous Pastoral Symphony." Watch a performance of the Fandangos y Boleros section of Leo Brouwer's Guitar Sonata (1990) by Anna Likhachevao . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Andersen Viana received his PhD in Music Composition from the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. He started his activities as a composer at age of thirteen and as a music professor at the age of nineteen. At present he works as a composer-conductor, cultural producer as well as a professor at Clóvis Salgado Foundation – Palácio das Artes and at Escola Livre de Cinema, both in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He also lectures and presents workshops at various institutions both in Brazil and abroad. He has received twenty awards in Brazil, Europe and the USA, including the first prize in the International Contest of Composition Lys Music Orchestra 2001 in Belgium, First Prize and the Audience Prize in the Lambersart 2006 International Contest of Composition. To date, Viana has composed almost three hundred works for voices, acoustic and electronic instruments. He has also composed numerous film scores, including music for Rubens R. Camara's short film Vivalma (Living Soul) (2003). Watch Vivalma, with music by Andersen Viana . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING for the week.

The immediate impressions made by Joan Tower's music - bold contrasts, surprising subtleties, honesty of expression, imagination, sensitivity - derive from those same qualities in the composer. Many of her earliest works were composed for the New York new music ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, for which she served as pianist from 1969 to 1984. As a composer, Tower prefers to let her music speak for itself. Articulate about music in general, and used to exploring compositions with her students at Bard College, she nevertheless resists explaining her own music; writing program notes "is torture for me," she says. What, after all, can words say that music can't express much better itself? Clarity of expression has characterized Tower's compositions from the beginning. Whether written for orchestral forces, chamber ensembles, or solo instruments, her music speaks energetically and directly to the listener [Sandra Hyslop/New World Records]. Listen to Joan Tower's chamber work Fantasy ... those harbour lights (1983) performed by clarinetist Crystal Medina and pianist Manon Hutton-DeWys . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Lee Actor's Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2005) was commissioned by the Palo Alto Philharmonic, and dedicated to timpani soloist Stuart Chafetz. The concerto consists of a single movement divided into three distinct parts, with the two fast outer sections framing a slower middle section. The overall character of the piece is described by its initial tempo marking, "Playful and jazzy". Though much of this work is in a light and humorous vein, Actor's main aesthetic goals of clarity of expression and bold, dramatic style are still paramount. The harmonic scheme is tonally derived, though much of the main melodic and accompanying material (including a recurring walking bass line) is based on various octatonic scales. The resulting clashes between melodic material and the underlying triadic harmonies are exploited to produce what are effectively heard in context as "blue" notes, another allusion to jazz within the work's symphonic style. Listen to a performance of Lee Actor's Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra with timpani soloist Stuart Chafetz and the Slovak Rado Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kirk Trevor . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 7, 2011

American composer Christopher Rouse writes about his Flute Concerto (1993): "Although no universal credence for the Jungian concept of "genetic memory" exists, for me it seems a profoundly viable notion. Although both of my parents' families immigrated to America well before the Revolutionary War, I nonetheless still feel a deep ancestral tug of recognition whenever I am exposed to the arts and traditions of the British Isles, particularly those of Celtic origin. I have attempted to reflect my responses to these stimuli in my flute concerto, a five-movement work cast in a somewhat loose arch form. The first and last movements bear the title Amhrán (Gaelic for "song") and are simple melodic elaborations for the solo flute over the accompaniment of orchestral strings. They were intended in a general way to evoke the traditions of Celtic, especially Irish, folk music but to couch the musical utterance in what I hoped would seem a more spiritual, even metaphysical, maner through the use of extremely slow tempi, perhaps not unlike some of the recordings of the Irish singer Enya. The second and fourth movements are both fast in tempo. The second is a rather sprightly march which shares some of its material with the fourth, a scherzo which refers more and more as it progresses to that most Irish of dances, the jig. However, by the time the jig is stated in its most obvious form, the tempo has increased to the point that the music seems almost frantic and breathless in nature. In a world of daily horrors too numerous and enormous to comprehend en masse, it seems that only isolated, individual tragedies serve to sensitize us to the potential harm man can do to his fellow. For me, one such instance was the abduction and brutal murder of the two-year old English lad James Bulger at the hands of a pair of ten-year old boys. I followed this case closely during the time I was composing my concerto and was unable to shake the horror of these events from my mind. The central movement of this work is an elegy dedicated to James Bulger's memory, a small token of remembrance for a life senselessly and cruelly snuffed out. Watch a performance of the final movement from Christopher Rouse's Flute Concerto played by flutist Daniel Stein  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Chen Yi should be no stranger by now to listeners interested in contemporary music. She’s one of a potent handful of Chinese composers who came of age during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, but who were young enough not to be broken by it (as a matter of fact, for many, the forced repatriation into the countryside seemed to help them rediscover traditional musical roots). Chen Yi is perhaps the most extroverted of these; her music has color, dynamism, and energy to spare. She’s also developed an extremely fluent and sophisticated way of blending Eastern and Western classical practice. From the former, she takes traditional modes, rhythmic patterns, motivic formulae, and timbral/intonational inflections. From the latter, she takes larger developmental forms, quick modal modulations, polymodality, Western instrumentation, and extended performance techniques. The result sounds Chinese without ever sounding self-consciously exotic. No mean feat. This disc consists of chamber works, predominated by strings. Each has distinctive characteristics: Sound of the Five is the most substantial, being a four movement series of folkloristic portraits; Yangko is notable for the vocalizing (beat-box-like) of the percussionists; Sprout displays confident traditional counterpoint; Burning, as its title implies, is a passionate, propulsive work; the Tibetan Tunes are the only pieces to cite actual folk sources; Happy Rain on a Spring Night is for me the stunner of the group, a non-stop build of energy and color that crests and refreshes like an ocean wave (or the shower of its title). At the same time, these works seem to be part of one vast work in progress. Chen Yi has a seemingly inexhaustible store of music within her, and combined with her masterful technique, whatever seizes her at a given moment seems to be the piece that emerges [Robert Carl/Fanfare]. Check out Chen Yi's Sound of the Five (New World Records 80691)  . . . it's our FEATURED RECORDING for the week.

. . . also listen to Chen Yi, featured in this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Ulf Grahn studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, Stockholm and at the Stockholm City College where his principal composition studies were with Hans Eklund, violin and viola with Rudolf Forsberg, piano with Herbert Westrell, and voice with Bertil During. In 1973 he founded the Contemporary Music Forum, Washington, D.C. and served as its Program Director until 1984. During 1988-90 he was Artistic and Managing Director of the Music at Lake Siljan Festival, Sweden. Prior to this he was on the faculty of Catholic University of America, Northern Virginia Community College and at George Washington University. Presently he teaches Swedish language and culture at the Foreign Service Institute. He has received commisions from The Library of Congress Mc Kim Fund, The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, The Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony String Quartet, Washington Music Ensemble, and George Washington University. His awards and prizes include Composers’ Forum New York, Charles Ives Center for American Music, Composers’ Conference Johnson Vermont, First prize at the Stockholm International Organ Days, Musik i Dalarnas Carillon contest and the Kil International Piano contest. His music has been performed throughout Europe, North and South America, Japan, Korea. Listen to a performance of Ulf Grahn's A Due (1985) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Edson Zampronha has received two awards from the São Paulo Association of Art Criticism, Brazil. In 2005 he won, together with SCIArts Group, the Sixth Sergio Motta Award, the most outstanding prize on Art and Technology in Brazil, for the sound installation Poetic Attractor. He has received commissions from different groups and institutions such as the Museum for the Applied Arts (Cologne, Germany) for the Cultural Activities during the Soccer World Cup 2006; from designer María Lafuente for her catwalk show at the Pasarela Cibeles 2006 and 2010 (Madrid, Spain), and from the São Paulo State Symphonic Band for the 100th Anniversary of the São Paulo State Gallery in 2005 (São Paulo, Brazil). His works have been performed around the world, including performances at the Auditorio 400 - Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the CBSO Centre in Birmingham (UK), and the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, Brazil. Listen to a performance of Edson Zampronha's Viaje al Interior (Travel to Inward) (2006) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Born in Belleville, Illinois and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago, Amy Beth Kirsten received degrees from Benedictine University, the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and from Peabody Conservatory. She has taught on the faculties of Peabody Conservatory, Towson University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut. Kirsten received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship and Levy Supplemental Stipend for music composition and was recently a finalist for the Rome Prize. She has also received a Rockefeller Foundation Artist Fellowship, and was named a 2011 Artist Fellow from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. In 2009-2010, Kirsten was named Missouri's First Composer Laureate due to her close association with the state. Her composition World Under Glass No. 1, and its companion piece, World Under Glass No. 2, were inspired by the Distillation Series of visual artist Thomas Doyle. Watch a performance of Amy Beth Kirsten's World Under Glass No. 1 (2011) played by the ensemble Dark in the Song . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

For those of you in either the Portland (ME) or Baltimore (MD) areas, there are two new music performances by Pytheas Center Composers to check out . . .
On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, Frontier Cafe and Arts Venue is proud to present a Composer to Composer concert. In this unique event, Frontier Cafe will play host to some of New England's finest Composer/Performers as they present world premieres of ten new works for solo instruments. Curated by composer and contrabassist Joshua DeScherer, this concert also features compositions and performances by Beth Wiemann (bass clarinet), Matt Samolis (flute), Michael Dobiel (saxophone), Mark Tipton (trumpet), Morgan Evans-Weiler (violin), and others. The Composer to Composer concert is free, with donations for the performers strongly encouraged.

And, Vivian Adelberg Rudow will create a live sound collage using The Vivian Technique, in her Performance Art music presentation with the Effervescent Collective Dance Group, Friday, November 18, 2011, 7:30pm at Theatre Project [45 West Preston Street, Baltimore MD], during a Sound in Motion IV: Available performance of a collaboration between the Baltimore Composers Forum and local dancers and choreographers. Other composers music in the concert includes Garth Baxter, Jin-Hwa Choi, Ljiljana Jovanovic, Keith Kramer, Ariyo Shahry and George Spicka, with choreography by Lynne Price. Ticket are: General admission, $20; Seniors/Artists/Military, $15; Student, $10.

Lowell Liebermann's Eight Pieces, op. 59 (1997) for bass flute, alto flute, C-flute or piccolo was commissioned by Sarah Baird Fouse and first performed at the National Flute Association Convention in Phoenix, August 1998. These pieces were also awarded the Best Newly Published Work from the National Flute Association. Conceived initially as music for solo bass flute, Liebermann leaves the choice of flute completely up to the performer. The music is even supplied with some transposed parts and alternative notes to accommodate the shortened lower octave of the piccolo. The eight pieces are diverse and almost epigrammatically brief, but together form a set of engagingly varied works. Fanfare, the seventh piece, as the title implies, is an alternation of declamatory and what might be accompanying figures mixed together in a somewhat disjunct fashion. The eighth and final movement, March, became the basis for the second movement of Liebermann’s Second Symphony. These two movements have been choreographed by C. Neil Parsons for dancer and flutist. Parsons graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and received his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied bass trombone with Ray Premru. While at Oberlin, he combined his interests in music, dance and teaching by designing an individual major: Interdisciplinary Performance and Education. He then continued his studies with trombonist Tony Baker and at the Ohio University School of Dance. A diverse performer, Parsons' performance credits include roles in professional theatre productions, choreographing and performing numerous pieces, and playing music with a variety of ensembles including a disco orchestra. As a collaborative performance artist, Parsons has made a specialty of choreographing and directing musicians in interdisciplinary works. Watch a performance of Fanfares & March (2010) with flutist Zara Lawler and dancer C. Neil Parsons  . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

The children of composers often have dedications bestowed upon them, and the pieces so dedicated are normally simple, appropriately childlike works. Luigi Dallapiccola's Quaderno musicale di Annalibera (Annalibera's Musical Notebook), however, dedicated to his daughter Annalibera on her 8th birthday, is a dense 12-tone work whose name, form, and content all pay tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. The work was written during a 1952 journey across America, for the Pittsburgh International Contemporary Music Festival. Its sixth movement, Ornaments, would go on to serve as the basis of Dallapiccola's Songs of Liberation, leading some to suspect that the Quaderno was a preparatory work for the later piece; the whole notebook was later transcribed as the Variations for Orchestra. This is music of no mean interest — strictly constructed, and sharply characterized — but it may have left young Annalibera a little bewildered. Dallapiccola's Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera is an interesting and personal tribute to and assimilation of J.S. Bach and some of the most difficult music ever dedicated to an 8 year old [Andrew Lindemann Malone, Rovi/AllMusic Guide]. Listen to a performance of Dallapiccola's Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera played by pianist Mariaclara Monetti . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Long known for her luxuriant romanticism and uncanny ability to find just the right chord between onscreen drama and viewer emotions, composer Rachel Portman has been scoring films consistently and tirelessly since 1982. With more than 30 scores to her name, and work in both television and film, Portman became an important figure in the history of film in 1997 when she became the first female composer to win an Academy Award for her score to director Douglas McGrath's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Born in Haslemere, England, Portman showed an avid interest in music when she began to play a variety of instruments from a very early age. By the time she had reached her early teens, Portman had taken a strong affection towards the piano and begun composing original music. Drawn to the more naturalistic musical instruments rather than electronic synthesizers, Portman decided to pursue her career in music with an education at the University of Oxford. It wasn't until her enrollment at Oxford that she began to take an interest in the relation of music to film, scoring Privileged (1982), a successful student film also featuring an early appearance by Hugh Grant. A small theatrical release of the film found Portman with her first success as a film composer, an ability she would continue to refine with steady work for the BBC in the coming years, winning the British Film Institute's Young Composer of the Year award in 1988. A frequent collaborator of filmmaker Beeban Kidron (for whom she has scored Used People, 1992 and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, 1995), Portman has steadily gained recognition for her lush and emotional style, distinguishing herself with her moving compositions and richly organic scores. In 2000 she received her second Oscar nomination for her score to Chocolat. Listen to a suite from Portman's score to Never Let Me Go (2010) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thea Musgrave's Niobe (1987), a work for solo oboe and electronic tape, is closely based on the Greek legend about the weeping nymph Niobe. In Greek mythology, Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus and wife of Amphion, King of Thebes. She unwisely boasted to Leto about her many sons and daughters. Leto, who only had two children, Apollo and Artemis, was angered. As punishment Apollo slew all of Niobe's sons and Artemis all her daughters. Out of pity for Niobe's inconsolable grief, the Gods changed her into a rock, in which form she continued to weep. In this short work for solo oboe and tape, the solo oboe takes the part of Niobe bitterly lamenting her murdered children. The tape with the distant high voices and the slow tolling bells, and later gong, is intended to provide an evocative and descriptive accompaniment. Watch a performance of Thea Musgrave's Niobe by oboist Heather Guadagnino . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Writing about his Toccata and Divertimento (2000), composer Ney Rosauro says, "In Northeastern Brazil there is a kind of musical game where two people begin singing and making rhymes, and challenge each other to create a better story on a given theme. This musical genre/game is called 'desafio'. My "Toccata and Divertimento" is based on the mood and melodies found on the 'desafio' and as such, the two instruments will dialog, sometimes imitating, and sometimes challenging each other. The themes and the rhythm of the piece are based on modal melodies from the baiao, a very popular dance from Northeastern Brazil". Watch a performance of Ney Rosauro's Toccata and Divertimento by percussionists Josip Konfic and Hrvoje Sekovanic . . . it's our BANG, CLANG and BEAT - contemporary percussion music for the week.

Meira Warshauer's "Ahavah" (Love) (1994) uses a text in Hebrew and English from Deuteronomy 11:13-21 which is also found in the second paragraph after the Sh'ma (Hear O Israel) in the traditional Jewish prayer book. The themes of the text are love for God, and the rewards and consequences of following or turning away from God's commandments. Warshauer chose this text in part for its relevance to our threatened earthly environment and the role of morality and love in sustaining life. The first movement, Sh'ma v'ahavta, from "Ahavah" (Hear and love), portrays themes of love and fulfillment: "...and you will eat and be satisfied.." Here a mantra-like "ahavah" combines with a modal chant "v'ahavta" (and you shall love) and a more dramatic "sh'ma" (hear/listen) in an arch form over lush orchestral harmonies. The middle movement contains the warning, "Hishamru" (beware), and represents severity and chaos. A more strident musical language with chromatic harmonies and jagged percussive outlines portrays the consequences of turning away from the commandments: "...you will perish swiftly from the land." The final movement restores order, "Place these words on your heart..." with a passacaglia-like pattern of repeating harmonies under a calm tonal melody as the "ahavah" theme returns, weaving through the simple texture. Hear a performance of the first movement of Meira Warshauer's Ahavah" (1994) with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Hines and the Slovak Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra with Kirk Trevor conducting . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Canadian composer Robert Rival recently joined the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as Composer in Residence for the 2011-12 season. Critics have described his work, written in a contemporary tonal style, as "well crafted", "engaging", "immediately appealing", "melodic and accessible", "memorable", and his song cycle, "Red Moon and Other Songs of War", has been called "an unequivocal hit". His music for orchestra, chamber ensemble, voice and the stage has been broadcast on CBC radio and performed by the Gryphon Trio and other leading Canadian musicians, ensembles and orchestras. His orchestral works include a one-movement Symphony "Maligne Range", inspired by a hike through the Rockies, and "Maya the Bee", a work for young audiences based on the classic children's tale. Committed to music education and appreciation, he has taught theory and composition to students of all ages, at several universities as well as privately, and has written liner and program notes for major festivals, presenters and record labels. Hear excerpts from Robert Rival's song cycle Red Moon and Other Songs of War (2007) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.
You want the future of guitar? How about a guitarist in his twenties who is trained in composition (MM, SF Conservatory), who has received major commissions (Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center, NY), and who comes from a well-known lineage (son of famed minimalist composer Terry Riley). A guitarist trained by one of our formeost guitarists (David Tanenbaum) and one of the foremost guitarist composers (Dusan Bogdanovic). A guitarist who not only plays with but writes for other instruments and who accomplishes both tasks admirably. Isn't this what every teacher says the guitarist of the future should be? If it is, then Gyan Riley is the future of guitar, now [Andrew Hull, Guitarra Magazine]. Gyan Riley, born in northern California in 1977, has emerged as a prominent figure of guitar and contemporary music, both as a performer and composer. In 1999, he became the first graduate level guitarist ever to be awarded a full merit-based scholarship from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His awards include First Prize in the Portland International Guitar Festival Competition, First Prize in the San Francisco Conservatory Guitar Concerto Competition, and First Prize in the Music in the Mountains Young Musicians Competition. Riley played in the American premiere of John Adams El Nino, with David Tanenbaum, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and the San Francisco Symphony. Concert tours have taken him to some of the world's most prestigious concert halls in the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Croatia, Turkey, Norway, and throughout the United States, and her has been commissioned to write various works, served as the artistic director for the San Francisco Classical Guitar Society from 2002-2004, and is currently engaged as professor of guitar at Humboldt State University. Watch Gyan Riley perform his Food for the Bearded (1999) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

In Wayne McGregor's Chroma (with music by Joby Talbot), the bodies of 10 dancers are folded, a bit spindled, but not exactly mutilated, and you watch this process unfold for 25 minutes with a measure of fascination and considerable detachment. Which is, perhaps, what the choreographer wants. This much-lauded essay in kinetic architecture, prepared for London's Royal Ballet in 2006, arrived in the U.S. in 2011 via the San Francisco Ballet, and it is sure to provoke debate. Chroma revels in its unpredictability, and you are not sure it will look the same on your next encounter. This can be an exhilarating sensation, but it suggests that what's missing is an overall structure, a clearly conceived destination. The dancing stops when the music stops [Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle].  Watch an excerpt from Chroma (2006), choreographed by Wayne McGregor, with music by Joby Talbot   . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

Todd Goodman's Bass Clarinet Concerto (2008) was commissioned by Bruce Lauffer and the Beaver Valley Philharmonic to conclude their 2008-09 season. The work, in two movements, takes the orchestra and soloist through a passionate journey of the relationship between a child and a parent. The first movement, Promenade Comique, translated as funny walk, is an argument between the orchestra, acting as the parent and the soloist, representing the child. The second movement, A Berceuse et Reve (A Lullaby and Dream) reverses the roles of the two characters and tells the story of a parent, this time represented by the bass clarinet who is trying to put their child, the orchestra, to sleep. Goodman has been described as "one of America's promising young composers." Born in Bedford, Penn., he received his Bachelor of Music degree in composition at the University of Colorado at Boulder and his Masters of Music degree in composition at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Currently finishing a Ph.D. in theory and composition at Kent State University, he has also studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, France, with the European American Musical Alliance and at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado. His principal composition teachers have been pulitzer prize winning composer George Tsontakis, David Stock, Frank Wiley, and Richard Toensing. His work has been played by principle members of the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Singapore and Seattle Symphonies. Goodman has received commissions from a wide variety of players and ensembles across the United States. With many performances in the United States his works have also been performed in Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia. Goodman is also the founder and artistic director of the innovative contemporary art ensemble, Ensemble Immersion. The group combines music, dance, literature, film, visual arts, drama, set design, and creative audience interaction to create artistic experiences unlike any other. Listen to a performance of Todd Goodman's Bass Clarinet Concerto [and continued here] . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Francois Truffaut's film Fahrenheit 451 (1966) is based on Ray Bradbury's book, overtly from his science fiction genre, but in reality depicting something more akin to an Orwellian future. In this future all books are forbidden, and the film/book title represents the temperature at which paper burns, and the firemen of the story are employed not to put out fires but to find and destroy any discovered books. One of the firemen is tempted by the lure of books, and various characters including his wife and supervisor react to this in different ways. The movie has a surreal quality to it where the characters seem strangely detached from their predicament. It's difficult to pinpoint how this is accomplished exactly. In part it is due to some superb acting, where the characters behave quite normally in extraordinary circumstances, but the music, by Bernard Herrmann, is very much a part of this surreal experience. There are two sublime moments, both of which are enhanced by Herrmann's lustrous score. The first is the burning of Montag's books cruelly documented to the sound of the shimmering Flowers of Fire music. The second is the final shot of the Book People walking in the snow while reciting the texts they have learnt by heart - this scene, which was filmed outdoors at Pinewood Studios, was a happy accident with Truffaut taking advantage of a real snowstorm [thanks to The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann and mfiles]. Listen to two excerpts from the Fahrenheit 451 film score: The Road and Finale . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In a typically exuberant 1959 lecture-demonstration on the creative process, entitled Thinking Twice, composer Stefan Wolpe warned: "Form must be ripped endlessly open and self-renewed by interacting extremes of opposites. One is where one directs oneself to be. On the back of a bird, inside of an apple dancing on the sun's ray, speaking to Machaut [the 14th century composer], and holding the skeleton's hand of the incredible Cezanne - there is what there was and what there isn't is also. Don't get backed too much into a reality that has fashioned your senses with too many realistic claims. When art promises you this sort of reliability, this sort of prognostic security, drop it. It is good to know how not to know how much one is knowing. One should know about all the structures of fantasy and all the fantasies of structures, and mix suprise and enigma, magic and shock, intelligence and abandon, form and antiform."  Watch a performance of Stefan Wolpe's Form for Piano (1959) played by pianist Christopher Czaja Sager . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

If you are familiar with film maker/claymationist extraordinaire Bruce Bickford, you know that he specializes in a unique variation of surrealist animation, made famous in the Frank Zappa films Baby Snakes, The Dub Room Special and The Amazing Mr.Bickford. After breaking with Zappa, Bickford went on to create his magnum opus, Prometheus' Garden, and then dissolved into obscurity, feverishly working in solitude for some 25 years on perpetually evolving personal projects. He is also the subject of the award-winning documentary Monster Road. Gazing in awe at the vastness of his unseen work, I can't help but wonder if the majority of it might never see the light of day. He seems more interested in creating than finding an audience, which flies in the face of everything I previously surmised about the artistic impulse. Here was one that seemingly enjoys the act of creating, more than the result or the accolades of his achievement. Either that, or it's simply compulsion. Bruce Bickford may be notoriously lackadaisical about getting his work out there, but make no mistake; he's been incessantly building a vast library of work for himself outside of the public eye. He seems to have no qualms about exposing it, he's simply waiting for someone to show an interest. [from Erik Van Horn's blog Sinisthesia] . . . Watch an excerpt from The Amazing Mr. Bickford (1987) with music by Frank Zappa [his piece Dupree's Paradise] . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING for the week.

Tobias Fischer (at Tokafi.com) writes: "So, what constitutes the groove in the first place? To most, it’s the inexplicable part, the moment, when a "simple beat" turns into something bigger, better, brighter, when it suddenly lifts off into the sky and melts into the clouds. The groove is what makes you jump up, quit thinking, move your body and "shake that thing". Yet this mighty tool, which has been ubiquitious in charts and clubs all over the planet and, to a certain degree, even in the concert halls, has been noticeable absent from 21st century "serious" music. Why? "That’s an interesting question which invites a multitude of answers", composer Gernot Wolfgang says, "But I think at the core of the issue is, that for a long time a large majority within the classical and contemporary concert music world - conductors, musicians, critics, academics, record executives, radio hosts and the like - viewed groove-oriented music [like pop, rock & roll, jazz and world music] as inferior. Their dislike of the perceived simplicity in melody, harmony, form and rhythm translated into the exclusion of virtual all elements - including grooves - from contemporary concert music. Groove-oriented music was simply considered not to be intellectually high-brow enough and was only accepted in pops programs." Still, the inspiration for Common Ground stems from various sources and they don’t always have to do with Jazz or Pop music alone. Wolfgang openly admits his admiration for the work of Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Britten, Webern, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Markus Lindberg . . . and yet it might be interesting to shortly have a look at another archetypical musician of the last half-century, who probably emancipated the groove more than anyone else to understand Wolfgang’s point: James Brown." Listen to a performance of Gernot Wolfgang's Common Ground, Igor at Last (2004) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

American-born but now living in Austria, Nancy Van de Vate is known internationally for her orchestral, solo, and chamber music and is most famous for her Pulitzer Prize-nominated operas All Quiet on the Western Front and Where the Cross is Made. In 2005, Where the Cross is Made also was the winner of the National Opera Association's biennial competition for new chamber operas. Van de Vate has composed more than 130 works in virtually all forms, earning eight Pulitzer Prize and five Grawemeyer Award nominations. Her 26 orchestral works include Chernobyl, which was nominated for a 1989 Koussevitsky International Record Award. Van de Vate founded the International League of Women Composers in 1975 and supports the work of women composers with the Nancy Van de Vate International Composition Prize. She also includes many works by women composers on her Vienna Modern Masters label, an international recording company which she co-founded in 1990. Listen to a performance of Nancy van de Vate's Dark Nebulae (1981) played by the Polish Radio and Television Orchestra, Krakow with Szymon Kawalla conducting . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The music of Daron Hagen is notable for its warm lyricism, but his style defies easy categorization. While his works demonstrate fluency with a range of twentieth century compositional techniques, those procedures are secondary to his exploitation and expansion of the possibilities of tonal harmony, giving his music an immediacy that makes it appealing to a wide spectrum of audiences. Hagen's song cycle for baritone and string quartet Alive in a Moment was composed during July of 2003 and it functions both as an instrumental string quartet and a traditional song cycle. In seven movements, based on the poetry of W.H. Auden, the entire work develops three musical ideas given at the outset: a rhythmic tattoo in the violin, what the composer calls a "smudged melody," created by adding trills to each successive note of the melody, and heavy glissandi. Watch a performance of the first movement of Daron Hagen's  String Quartet No. 2, "Alive in a Moment", performed by baritone Robert Frankenberry and the Voxare String Quartet . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Composer William Ortiz-Alvarado was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. A member of that fascinating hybrid culture known as "Newyorican", Ortiz composes music that often reflects the realities of urban life. After studying composition with Hector Campos Parsi at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, he received his M.A. from SUNY at Stony Brook where his teachers were Billy Jim Layton and Bulent Arel. He later was granted a Ph.D. in Composition from SUNY at Buffalo, where he studied with Lejaren Hiller and Morton Feldman. Ricardo A. Coelho de Souza writes in his book The Percussion Music of William Ortiz, "Ortiz uses the clave rhythm as a motive or as a sonic icon of Latin American music. In his percussion quartet La Clave Bien Temperada for four clave players, it is no surprise that the clave rhythm is used. Here this distinctive rhythm is treated simply as a musical motif and not as a structural principle, as Ortiz has employed it in some of his other percussion works." Watch a performance of William Ortiz-Alvarado's The Well-Tempered Clave (La Clave Bien Temperada) (2003) played by members of Academia Latinoamericana de Percusion y Fesnojiv, with Jose Alicea-Concierto de Clasura conducting . . . it's our BANG, CLANG and BEAT/Contemporary Percussion Music for the week.

Scottish born composer Thea Musgrave writes about her work Night Music (1968), "In this work, two horn players are featured in soloistic and dramatic ways. Contrasting musical ideas are explored dependent on where they are seated in the orchestra — more lyrical when they are seated close together, more dramatic later on, when they stand at either side of the conductor, some distance from each other, and then near the end of the work the musical contrasts are further heightened by the echo effects produced by one distant offstage horn. As so often in Dreams, there are quickly changing moods; frightening, eerie, peaceful, romantic, stormy, and so in this work, highly contrasted musical sections quickly follow on from each other, they interchange and at times even overlap. The dream landscape painted in Night Music is thus in one continuous movement - the different sections indicating the changing moods: Andante Notturnale: / Misterioso: / Svegliato: (waking up) / Andante Amoroso..piu mosso, con ardore: / Appassionato: / Calmo: (Here the two horns move to their new positions either side of the conductor) / Minaccevole: (threatening) / Tempestuoso: (Here the first horn moves offstage) / Tempo di Andante amoroso alternating with Scherzoso: / Tempo di Andante." Hear a performance of Thea Musgrave's Night Music . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Award-winning composer Robert J. Bradshaw strives to forge a unique connection between composer, musicians and audiences. His compositions have been heard throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Middle East. Bradshaw’s numerous commissions include works for the American String Teachers Association with NSOA, New England Musical Heritage Initiative / New England String Ensemble and the Pappoutsakis Flute Competition. His music has been honored with first place awards by the Alabama Orchestra Association Composition Competition and the Manchester Music Festival Composition Competition which included a performance of Articles Nor-east at Lincoln Center, New York. Many of Bradshaw’s compositions, commissions and residencies have been made possible through such organizations as  the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, MetLife Creative Connections program, American Music Center, American Composers Forum, Harvard Musical Association, Harpley Foundation, Argosy Foundation, The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, The Cape Ann Symphony Association, Inc., Youths’ Friends Association, The Goldhirsh Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Passionate about expressing himself through the abstract art of music, Robert Bradshaw has always loved composing.  Winner of many commissions and awards, he is convinced that classical music is alive and well in America. Watch a performance of the third movement of his Concerto for Trumpet (2006) performed by trumpetist Michael Arndt and the MTSU Wind Ensemble . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Carlos Chavez's Ten Preludes for Piano, composed in 1937, is quite different in treatment from Chavez's earlier piano works. Both in form and in the natural pianism of the Preludes, Chavez renounced some of his former stridency and created instead a modern counterpart (terse, linear, percussive) of Bach's preludes. The composer wrote: "My plan was to write one for each of the seven white keys. I composed, then, a Prelude in each of the Gregorian modes. Thus I started with the Dorian and followed with Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, and Hypolydian. These seven modes taken care of, I decided to expand the series to ten and continued with a kind of bimodality in the eighth and a mixture of modality-tonality in the ninth and tenth. In almost all of my previous works there is evidence of procedures that are classic or academic, such as imitations, progressions, sequences, etc. In these Preludes, I indeed followed some of these procedures, since I felt that at least here they were capable of going beyond traditional effects." The Ten Preludes possess a hypnotizing monotony, the kind associated with the ritual music of the Aztecs. Instead of attempting to reproduce a direct reflection of the spirit of Mexico, Chavez has created a synthesis of that spirit. Watch a performance of two of Chavez's Ten Preludes played by pianist Mauricio Garza . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Pierre Boulez is among the most influential contemporary musicians, as both a composer and a conductor. He is known principally for his extension of the techniques of serialism beyond the limits of the Second Viennese School of Schoenberg, under the strong influence of his teacher Messiaen, into a logical style that brings with it a paradoxical freedom. His career as a conductor has brought him engagements with the most famous orchestras in a  wide repertoire, from Rameau to Wagner to the contemporary. Listen to an interview with Pierre Boulez as he discusses his life and his music . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.
. . . and watch a performance of his Le soleil des eaux (1948/65) with soprano Elizabeth Atherton, the BBC Singers and Symphony Chorus, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, Pierre Boulez.

Composer John Corigliano writes: "When Sylvia McNair asked me to write her a major song cycle for Carnegie Hall, she had only one request; to choose an American text. I have set only four poets in my adult compositional life: Stephen Spender, Richard Wilbur, Dylan Thomas and William M. Hoffman. Aside from asking William Hoffman to create a new text, I had no ideas. Except that I had always heard, by reputation, of the high regard accorded the folk-ballad singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. But I was so engaged in developing my orchestral technique during the years when Dylan was heard by the rest of the world that I had never heard his songs. So I bought a collection of his texts, and found many of them to be every bit as beautiful and as immediate as I had heard, and surprisingly well-suited to my own musical language. I then contacted Jeff Rosen, his manager, who approached Bob Dylan with the idea of re-setting his poetry to my music. I do not know of an instance in which this has been done before (which was part of what appealed to me), so I needed to explain that these would be in no way arrangements, or variations, or in any way derivations of the music of the original songs, which I decided to not hear before the cycle was complete. Just as Schumann or Brahms or Wolf had re-interpreted in their own musical styles the same Goethe text, I intended to treat the Dylan lyrics as the poems I found them to be. Nor would their settings make any attempt at pop or rock writing. I wanted to take poetry I knew to be strongly associated with popular art and readdress it in terms of concert art-crossover in the opposite direction, one might say. Dylan granted his permission, and I set to work. I chose seven poems for what became a thirty-five minute song cycle." Hear soprano Hege Monica Eskedal and pianist Eva Herheim perform Chimes of Freedom from Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man (2000) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

The years Bohuslav Martinu spent in America between 1941 and 1953 weren't happy ones; the combination of political events in Czechoslovakia, the turmoil of World War II, and Martinu's residing in a country he found less than congenial depressed his spirits considerably. Nevertheless, he managed to keep up his usual prolific pace of composition. In his first five years in America he had produced fully 25 new pieces, and the spirit of optimism upon the end of the war brought Martinu a new burst of creativity; the Symphony No. 4, one of Martinu's most engaging and mellow orchestral works, was born of this spirit. The symphony was written between April and June 1945, mostly in New York and partly at Martinu's summer home near South Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod [from the All Music Guide]. Watch a performance of the first part of the scherzo-like second movement of Martinu's Symphony No. 4 with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Karen Tanaka is acclaimed as one of the leading living composers from Japan. She has been invited as a composer in residence at many important festivals, and her music, for both instrumental and electronics media, has been widely performed throughout the world by major orchestras and ensembles. As described in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Tanaka's "music is delicate and emotive, beautifully crafted, showing a refined ear for both detail and large organic shapes." Her three movement harpsichord piece Jardin des Herbes (1989) is representative of her writing style: well crafted with attention to detail and attention to the transformation of timbres similar to the effect of light refracting through crystals and prisms. The second movement, entitled Sweet Violet: Early Spring Flowers with Seductive Scent is set in a freely ternary structure providing an attractive melody accompanied by consonant, yet not quite tonal harmonies. Watch a performance of Karen Tanaka's Sweet Violet by harpsichordist Antonio Oyarzabal  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Blow (2007) is an experimental film made with an 8mm camera, using the music of Estonian composer Mirjam Tally. It follows the different rhythms of urban society. Old abandoned greenhouses from the Soviet Era and quick changes to modern Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, are used to show how a country transforms from post-socialism to capitalism. Estonian film maker Ülo Pikkov graduated from the Turku Arts Academy in Finland in 1998 and from the Institute of Law at University of Tartu in Estonia in 2005. He has published numerous caricatures, comics and illustrations, as well as written and illustrated books for children. At the moment he works as an Associate Professor in Animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Watch Ülo Pikkov's film Blow (2007) . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING for the week.

Oleg Ledeniov (MusicWeb International), in reviewing the CD Montage Music Society - Starry Night Project writes, "The work that ends the disc - or, I better say, crowns it - is Andrew List's Noa Noa: A Gauguin Tableau for violin, clarinet and piano. The three eternal questions of Gauguin's picture - 'Where do we come from?', 'What are we?', 'Where are we going?' - are interpreted by the composer 'as representing three facets of human consciousness.' I hope the Mahlerites won't kill me if I describe the parts as 'What the body tells me' (aggressive, determined, forceful - our Past), 'What the mind tells me' (ever-changing, fluent, searching - our Present), and 'What the soul tells me' (spiritual, peaceful, and blissfully beautiful - hopefully, our Future). This last movement is sublime. It also serves as an answer to the unsettling questions of the first track, the Starry Night by Gauguin's friend van Gogh. If you know these moments, when the music ends and you stay in silent awe and then exhale 'Aaah!...' - you'll know this is one of them." Listen to the first movement of Andrew List's Noa Noa, A Gauguin Tableau (2008) performed by members of Montage Music Society . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Claude Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (1915) is at once evocative and emotionally ambiguous, a languid oasis from the harmonically adventuresome Cello Sonata (1915) and Violin Sonata (1917) which were written by Debussy in the final years of his life. He once remarked that he didn't know whether it "should move us to laughter or to tears. Perhaps both?" The sonata is in three free flowing movements: Pastorale, Interlude - Tempo di minuetto, and Allegro moderato ma risoluto. Listening to such an abstract, non-representational movements, it is easy to understand why Debussy was moved on one occasion to refer to anyone who described such music as "impressionistic" as an "imbecile" [from the All Music Guide]. Watch a performance of Debussy's gorgeous Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp played by members of The New York Harp Trio . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joaquín Rodrigo's music is an homage to the rich and varied cultures of Spain. No other Spanish composer has drawn on so many different aspects of his country's spirit as sources of inspiration, from the history of Roman Spain to the work of contemporary poets. His music is refined, luminous, fundamentally optimistic, with a particular predominance of melody and original harmonies. His first works reveal the influence of composers of his time, such as Ravel and Stravinsky, but a personal voice soon emerged which would go on to create a notable chapter in the cultural history of Spain in the 20th century, where the originality of Rodrigo’s musical inspiration goes hand in hand with a devotion to the fundamental values of his tradition. Rodrigo’s numerous and varied compositions include eleven concertos for various instruments, more than sixty songs, choral and instrumental works, and music for the theatre and the cinema. Many distinguished soloists have commissioned works from him, among them Gaspar Cassadó, Andrés Segovia, Nicanor Zabaleta, James Galway, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Romero guitar quartet. His numerous writings on music reveal a profound understanding of his art [note from GuitarDaily.com]. Watch a performance of Rodrigo's Tonadilla (1959) played by guitarists John Williams and Julian Bream . . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The ballet Maa (1991) [the word "maa" in Finnish can mean "earth", "land" or "country", possibly even "world"], with music composed by Kaija Saariaho, was the response to a commission from the ballet of the Finnish National Opera. The ballet does not have a plot as such, rather it is built around thematic archetypes such as doors, gates, stepping into new worlds, journeys and the crossing of waters. Both scenography and music are shrouded by deliberate mystery and characterized by a lucidity and minimalism of gesture. The work's openness and approachability make it an ideal introduction to the poetry and poeticism of Saariaho's music. The approach taken by original choreographer Carolyn Carlson and Saariaho when producing Maa was not one of close collaboration, rather they chose to let their differing artistic personalities encounter one another and spark off tensions and syntheses. Carlson's methods rely heavily on improvisation and the development of ideas whose outcome cannot be known a priori, while Saariaho's conceptual process makes active use of deterministic solutions and carefully planned temporal frameworks. In no sense did these contrasting, if not conflicting approaches lead Saariaho to neglect the dramatic requirements of the different sections of the ballet. In working a weave of textures which progress and change at a leisurely and gradual, almost minimalistic pace, she has clearly been attentive to finding a balance for the whole work which takes the listener into account. Saariaho's compositions are laid out in such a way that they encourage us to imbibe and dwell in the timbral detail. The sensuous calm which permeates the music for Maa inevitably affects our mood and senses, turning them to higher levels of sensitivity and awareness [note by Juhani Nuorvala]. Watch an excerpt from the ballet Maa, performed by Works & Process and the International Contemporary Ensemble, with new choreography by Luca Veggetti . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

The music of Puerto Rican composer William Ortiz-Alvarado depicts the Latino culture in the United States, mainly that of New York City. Raised in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the composer's musical roots are a mesh between the metropolis' own imposing and crowded socio-culture of the oppressed, with those unemployed and marginalized Latinos who gather in the streets in search of a musical outlet in order to forget their life condition. Ortiz-Alvarado is not deaf to this reality; he grasps it and makes a fascinating musical graffiti through his craft as a trained classical composer. He calls his musical canvas "graffiti sonora" or "streetlore" where elements of the two cultures collide to create a new authentic and legitimate musical language. Within the last three decades,  Ortiz-Alvarado has written over 130 compositions for almost all types of musical genres; from song to opera, from chamber music to symphonic works. Among his numerous awards, grants and commissions is the 2001 Latin Grammy Nomination for the CD Tango mata danzon mata tango by the Baja California Orchestra, which includes his Guitar Concerto Tropicalizacion. Listen to a performance of Ortiz-Alvarado's Urbanización (1985) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFUL for the week.

A self-taught composer, Don Dilworth's career has encompassed both folk music and contemporary concert music, ballet, and opera. An aspiring composer from grade school, he was proficient in both folk and classical guitar by the time he entered college at M.I.T. as a physics major. This coincided with the late '50s folk music boom, which was particularly vibrant in Boston. While attending M.I.T., he was a regular patron at Club 47, a venue that became one of the leading showcases for new folk music talent, including Joan Baez, Noel Paul Stookey, Eric Von Schmidt, and the Charles River Valley Boys, and he later started playing guitar there on occasion. Baez became a particularly big fan of Dilworth's playing and later asked him to perform at her sister's wedding. Shortly after Baez signed with Vanguard Records and left Boston, Dilworth gave her the gift of a song, Annabel Lee, based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Baez later recorded the song in an arrangement by Peter Schickele on her album "Joan" (1967). Apart from some instruction from Gregory Tucker at M.I.T. and Nicolai Martinov of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, Dilworth has remained almost entirely self-taught as a composer and musician. Based in Maine, he has written seven operas, several songs cycles, and a considerable body of chamber music, as well as works for synthesizer and cello. Listen to Don Dilworth's The Sick Rose (1994) performed by soprano Nancy Ogle and pianist Clayton Smith . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

According to composer Jesse Ayers, his piece Jericho (2005) is "a surround-sound piece employing expanded instrumentation, multiple antiphonal effects, narration, and extensive and unorthodox audience participation. It is based on the Biblical account of the Battle of Jericho (Joshua 6), in which the famed walls of Jericho fell down flat. The work was composed over a 17-month period from Oct 2003 - Feb 2005, and was premiered April 22, 2005, by the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Scott Doebler. The score carries the dedication 'to Ted, from whom I learned about risk taking and breakthrough.' Compositionally, Jericho makes extensive use of the 15th-century melody Veni Emmanuel (O come, O come, Emmanuel). It is used to generate motivic ideas; it appears as a cantus firmus in the bass in the long pedal tones; a three-voice, fifth species harmonization of Veni is used to generate harmonic cycles; and finally it is quoted directly in the last section of the piece as the audience sings the phrase O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Watch a performance of Jesse Ayers' Jericho by narrator Kenneth Cox with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, conducted by Lawrence Golan. . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Composer Richard Maxfield is one of the little-sung names in American avant-garde music. "For someone nearly forgotten today, Maxfield had a tremendous impact—largely through his classes at The New School in New York, which attracted radically avant-garde musicians such as Joseph Byrd, Dick Higgins, and even John Cage himself. Born in Seattle in 1927, Maxfield had studied with Krenek, Babbitt, Sessions, and Dallapiccola, but left this Eurocentric background behind to move toward a Cagean experimentalism." Eventually he made contributions to the so-called "minimalism" movement, while forecasting a wide range of developments in the future of electronic music. His Amazing Grace (1960) mixes tape loops from two sources: a speech by revivalist James G. Brodie and electronic fragments from Maxfield's 1958 opera Stacked Deck. The loops play back at various speeds, causing the fragments to overlap in complex ways. This method would later be explored further by Terry Riley, Steve Reich and others. "It is astonishing how many threads of 1960s music seem to begin with the ideas Maxfield explores, and it is a tragedy that his early death, from leaping out a window at age 42, kept him from participating in the more rewarding scene that would later appear" (our thanks to New World Records' liner notes). Listen to Maxfield's Amazing Grace . . . it's our SOUND ART for the week.

Louise Talma was born in Arcachon, France to American parents. Her pianist father died during her infancy, and her mother, an opera singer, moved the family to New York City in 1914. She studied at the Institute of Musical Arts (later the Juilliard School), New York University and Columbia University, where she received her Master’s of Arts in 1933; she also spent sixteen summers in Fontainebleau, France studying piano with Isidor Philipp and composition with Nadia Boulanger, who was the first to suggest that she compose. Talma's many awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Grant to compose the opera The Alcestiad (1958) (featuring a libretto by Thornton Wilder), the Sibelius Medal for Composition, the Bearns Prize for Composition, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities. And in 1974, she became the first woman composer to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In addition, she served on the music faculty of Hunter College in New York for over fifty years. Her best-known choral work is the charming three movement cycle Let's Touch the Sky (1952) for chorus, flute, oboe and bassoon to words by e.e. cummings. Listen to the Jane Hardester Singers performing "If ups the word...", the third movement of Louise Talma's Let's Touch the Sky . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFUL for the week.

In October 1918, Charles Ives suffered a heart attack brought on by exhaustion and undiagnosed diabetes. This marked a turning point in his career. As Ives' biographer Jan Swafford points out, for the remainder of his life the primary focus of Ives' musical efforts would be promoting his works, rather than composing. The very first work that he chose to show to the world - after fifteen years of nearly absolute artistic isolation - was his Second Piano Sonata, subtitled "Concord, Mass., (1840-1860). Ives had a special regard for the work. He took great pains to explain his aims in his Essays Before a Sonata, a programmatic overview of the sonata that Ives included when he published the work (at his own considerable expense) in 1921. In short, the sonata is a series of meditations on four great Transcendentalist writers: Emerson, Hawthorne, "The Alcotts," and Thoreau. The fourth movement is dedicated to Thoreau, who Ives describes as "a great musician, not because he played the flute, but because he did not have to go to Boston to hear 'the Symphony'". (note by Scott Mortensen/MusicWeb International) Listen to a performance of the Thoreau movement of Ives' Piano Sonata No. 2 . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.