Monday, March 14, 2011

Composer/pianist Frederic Rzewski's Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (1979) is an accessible, if disturbing, rumination on both industrial mechanization and a 1920's folk/blues song of the same name. The work slowly develops from a simple rocking two note figure into a low-register-driven juggernaut that, to those who have experienced it first-hand, replicates the clamorous workings of a cotton mill. A nervous pastoral interlude begins after the manically industrial opening section, which could possibly represents a weekend's rest after a hard week of work. However, all is not restful, as the pastoral melodies become more and more dissonant and manic. Watch a performance of Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues by pianist Ralph van Raat . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

In 1968, Jerry Goldsmith caught massive critical attention with his landmark, controversial soundtrack to the post-apocalyptic science fiction epic "Planet of the Apes" (1968), which was one of the first film scores to be written entirely in an avant garde style. When scoring "Planet of the Apes", Goldsmith used such innovative techniques as looping drums into an echoplex, using the orchestra to imitate the grunting sounds of apes, having horns blown without mouthpieces, and instructing the woodwind players to finger their keys without using any air. The score went on to garner Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score and the music now ranks as #18 on the American Film Institue’s top 25 American film scores. Watch the ending scene of director Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes . . . it's this week's PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

Karl Henning fell in love with the sound of the clarinet at age 10 and has been learning, practicing and creating music ever since in pursuit of the Muse. He has studied with composers Jack Gallagher, Paul Schwartz, Nancy Garlick, Judith Shatin, Walter Ross, Douglas Hargrave, Charles Wuorinen and Louis Andriessen. After his doctoral work, Henning lived for four years in and near St. Petersburg, Russia, where he studied the canals, bridges, cathedrals, white nights and starry winter skies of St. Petersburg. This was a period of informal arts study which he feels in many ways equal in importance to his years of formal musical training. Henning has served at different times as Interim Choir Director and Composer-in-Residence at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston, where he composed a 40-minute unaccompanied choral setting of the St. John Passion (2008). Hear a performance of his Heedless Watermelon, part of his flute and clarinet work entitled "Three for Two" . . . one of this week's PYTHEAS EARFULS.

According to composer Adrienne Albert, "The notion of writing a piece based on the findings of an Austrian mathematician who observed the increase and decrease in the pitch of sound when the source and observer are getting closer or further apart came to me while traveling through Italy and hearing the myriad sirens passing by through the dense traffic. The motif descends by a minor second returning to the original harmony combined with the repeated minor seconds portraying the incessant sounds of car horns. The melodic lines portray the vibrancy and sensuality of the people in contrast to the craziness around them". Listen to a performance of Adrienne Albert Doppler Effect (1998) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

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