Friday, January 18, 2013

Based on historical fact, Tan Dun's opera Tea: A Mirror of Soul (2002) sketches the tale of Seikyo, a prince-cum-monk. By suffering "bitter love," Seikyo has transcended a cruel destiny to achieve an austere peace, the meaning of which he teaches through tea rituals. But that is only half the story. For Seikyo's bitter love also involves a princess, an erotic passion so tainted by jealousy that it ends in death, shamanistic rituals, and fierce struggles over an ancient book of wisdom. Combining the lyricism of Italianate opera, lush Western orchestration, a male "Greek chorus," gamelan-like percussion, and the organic sounds of nature - water, paper, and stones - Tea brings an ancient tale to the 21st century. Watch soprano Nancy Allen Lundy sing  Death of Lan, an excerpt from Tan Dun's Tea: A Mirror of Soul  . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Composer Lance Hulme's music "reflects the ambience and musical approach of the North American musical tradition. Compositional eclecticism, a conscience, playful and uninhibited attitude with tradition and the crossover between ‘serious’ and vernacular music. All these elements are to be found as well as the most advanced structural and aural techniques". His music has received many international awards and commissions, with performances in Europe, Asia, South America and the United States. Hulme studied at Yale University, the Eastman School of Music and the Universität für Musik in Vienna, Austria. Listen to Lance Hulme's Ghost Dialogues (1980) for tenor saxophone and trumpet . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Until 1986 when he left Romania, Corneliu Dan Georgescu was considered a favorite minimalist composer, stubbornly re-inventing the intimate mechanisms of traditional Romanian folklore in a haven of mute aesthetic theories and (in his early music) grievous public hearings. Then, after moving to Germany, rumors about the composer and his theoretical concerns diminished and faded, just as it was becoming more difficult for him to mount such undertakings, or continue his émigré creations without the personal contact of musicians from his native land. Georgescu's settling in Berlin marked the continuation and completion of compositional cycles and sets started decades ago in Bucharest: Jocuri (Games), Transylvanian antemporale Studies, Preludes, and other contemplative models. His forays crossed the rubicon of musicological exile, without any formal schism or break, perpetuating those cherished structural themes of profound vision, based on rules and precepts concerning the essential act of creation. Georgescu's aesthetic guidelines are "based strictly on geometric symmetries and principles of proportion" or "the idea that anecdotal art that entertains the audience, especially in association with the 'standardized academic vanguard', is profoundly foreign" [notes thanks to Liviu Dănceanu]. Listen to a sampling of Corneliu Dan Georgescu's sound world with his electroacoustic piece Resonanzen (1999) . . . one of our SOUND ART for the week.

. . . and check out Mark-Anthony Turnage's  Hidden Love Song (2005) . . . a work co-commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with generous support from the South Bank Centre and in association with the Risør Festival of Chamber Music and Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie. The soprano saxophone is an instrument closely associated with Turnage's music, and the love song of the title is heard as a melody in the solo part, with occasional contributions from orchestral soloists. The chamber orchestra provides supporting accompaniment for much of the piece, coloured distinctively with high and low contrasts (for instance with the woodwind line-up of pairs of flute, cor Anglais and bass clarinet), but a number of characteristic violent interruptions attempt to disrupt the lyrical line. The ‘hidden’ aspect of the title comes through the work’s ‘secret’ composition as a gift for Turnage's fiancée Gabriella Swallow, the use of musical cryptograms of her name, and allusions to a W.H Auden Lullaby (‘Lay your sleeping head, my love…’). It's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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