Monday, June 13, 2011

Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, Gloria Coates began composing and experimenting with overtones and clusters at the age of nine. Her musical intuition led her to ever widening visions and experiences. Coates, an American living in both Europe and the United States since 1969, has the honor of being the most prolific woman symphonist today. She also studied with Alexander Tcherepnin and has been a tireless advocate for American music overseas and at home, where she also maintains a residence. Kyle Gann, noted music critic and composer, who has served as an advocate for her music for many years, has written, "The sparer context of her chamber works sounds solidly American . . . a rustic stolidity, a willingness to walk firmly forward off the beaten paths . . . an American through and rough." And Trevor Hunter (NewMusicBox), writes, "For Coates, artistic expression is a spiritual necessity. She has great interest and significant participation in painting, architecture, theater, poetry, and singing - but it is through composing that she taps into a wellspring of abstracted emotionality that the others cannot reach. Or perhaps abstracted is not the correct term, as it would seem that Coates is merely being oblique about what the inner, personal meaning of the music is to her. Whatever the veiled expressions of her work may be, there is an undoubted emotional richness present, which if not concretely knowable is at least viscerally felt by the audience. Canons constructed of quarter-tones and glissandos evoke gloomy instability, but also unearthly beauty." She also has a lyrical aspect, of which her Three Songs are typical. Watch a performance of Gloria Coates Three Songs: "Armistice" (They Dropped Like Flakes)/1972/text by: Emily Dickinson; "Fangen den Wind" (Catch the Wind)/2009/text by: Alexandra Coates; and "Komplementar" (Complementary)/1999/text by: Mayroicker, all performed by soprano Patricia Sonego and pianist Taka Kigawa . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Evan Ziporyn makes music at the crossroads of genre and culture, high and low, west and east. Raised in a musically ecumenical household in Evanston, Illinois, he grew up listening to his father's violin, his grandmother's Yiddish Socialist chorus, his mother's extensive folk & jazz collection, and the sounds of top 40's; Motown on AM radio. A deep desire to play trumpet was thwarted by his 4th grade bandmaster, and his career as a clarinetist began. He started composing music at age 13 after a visionary high school music teacher, Betty Jacobsen, played him - in rapid succession - "The Rite of Spring", Charles Ives' "Quarter Tone Studies", Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in A Room", and Steve Reich's "Come Out". He soon thereafter began managing his father's small record store, beginning work the same week Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Earth, Wind & Fire's That's the Way of the World were released. By the end of high school he had composed earnest, undistinguished works for full orchestra, jazz ensemble, the high school musical, and his basement progressive rock band, "Chronosynclastic Infundibulum." Persisting, he studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, while also studying piano and clarinet. In 1979, he heard a short recording of traditional Balinese gamelan and had a self-described 'conversion experience.' He spent the following summer in Oakland working with Wayan Suweca and Michael Tenzer in the newly formed Gamelan Sekar Jaya, then traveled to Bali on Yale Murray Fellowship upon graduation in 1981. There he studied gender wayang, the music of the shadow play, and pelegongan drumming. Returning to the US he received his MA & PhD in composition from UC Berkeley. He was to New York to perform a solo clarinet work at a small new music festival, whimsically titled the "First Annual Bang on a Can Marathon", which he began an ongoing involvement with "Bang on a Can" that continues to this day. His works have been commissioned and performed by such artists and ensemble as Yo-yo Ma's Silk Road Project, Kronos Quartet, Orkest de Volharding, Maya Beiser, So Percussion, Gamelan Semara Ratih, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Listen to Evan Ziporyn talk about his life and his music . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Critically acclaimed guitarist/composer Nathan Kolosko has performed throughout the US, Europe and Asia. As a musician, Nathan is compelled to expand the voice of the guitar through composition, improvisation, and collaborations with both musicians and visual artists. He is currently collaborating with visual artist Ling-Wen Tsai on several inter-disciplinary projects, and performs regularly with flute player Carl Dimow. Nathan has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including grants from the Allied Arts Foundation and D'Addario Strings. As a composer, Nathan has made numerous contributions to the repertoire for the guitar. In addition to being a performer and composer, Kolosko is a teacher dedicated to furthering the pedagogy of the guitar. Listen to the first of Nathan Kolosko's Five Short Pieces for Guitar (2006) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

According to Steven Schick, "In many ways, Morton Feldman's The King of Denmark (1964) is an anti-percussion piece. It is to be played very softly using only the hand and fingers - no sticks or mallets. Its notation on a graph indicates how many sounds are to be played per beat and whether they are to be in high, medium, or low registers. Even though a tempo runs throughout, no rhythmic coherence emerges. Sounds simply float out, detached and weightless. One instrument has no more sonic gravity than another does. A small bell weighs the same - takes up the same acoustical space - as a large gong. An auditory illusion follows: close your eyes and you can imagine that the instruments are being played at their natural volumes. They are sounds in many different loudnesses, but they are being heard from different distances. The gong is really forte but it is heard from the distance of fifty yards. It sounds as soft as the little bell six inches from your ear. Mirages of distance appear and evaporate again into music. It is like rain or the sound of rain. These illusions come from Feldman's love of the pulsating but rhythmically directionless canvases of Mark Rothko and other American Abstract Expressionists. Directionlessness is key here. The King of Denmark is music that refuses to dictate the way it should be perceived. It does not light a particular way nor lead you by the ear like an angry headmaster along a corridor of preferred comprehension. It simply floats in timeless ether to be looked at from any angle, any proximity, any point of view." Watch a performance of Morton Feldman's The King of Denmark (1964) played by percussionist Shawn Savageau . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

And by the way, if you missed the link on last week's feature of Ravel's "Bolero", watch a second, even more exiting performance of this modern masterpiece with Sylvie Guillem and members of the Tokyo Ballet - it's well worth it!

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