Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On the text

So, I promised to write a little about the text of my piece, and how I found it. The best way to introduce this is probably to show part of what I'm doing with it.

Beyond the meaning, inherent rhythm, or accent patterns of the text, for this piece I was interested in the semi-random arrangements of sounds, coming and going, returning or being abandoned for a while, that show up in any text. (In general, I like these semi-random processes, that are the result of systems and mechanisms, but as by-products, not as their main point; think of the random motions inside a typewriter, ... or, for that matter, those inside a piano.)

So, for example, the first line of the poem: Aquel que al verme, has sounds a-k-e-l-k-e-a-l. Only four sounds. "k" always followed by "e", "a" and "l" as appendices. Imagine "a" as an introduction to a statement ("k-e"), after which a rebound ("l") fades out. Then a pause, and according to the text the statement is then re-stated ("que"), and the other motives close off ("al"). A non-trivial unit of discourse!

And then the poem continues, after "verme" (variations on the k-e theme, with the predominance of the "e" motive), with "supuso mi paso". This is a whole new soundworld: the s-p-s interplay takes over, the e has disappeared for a little.

This is the kind of process I wanted for the piece. I had some texts in mind, that I've wanted to set to new works for a while, but somehow they didn't fit this idea as much. They were either too long (imagine a long poem set with every letter being a motive), or too meaningful, so that the references of its meaning would be too weighty to allow my very autonomous handling.

So I called my brother, who knows a lot about poetry. Who, what period, should I look into? As I was trying to explain what I needed, he offered several suggestions, but each had something that didn't appeal to me. Little by little we defined what it was I was looking for, and when he thought he had understood---wanting to confirm---he said: "oh, something like 'aquel que al verme...'"

---Yes, yes, something like that, let me see, let's write it down... Wow, this works, and, here, this is great, wow! What was it? "no supo", or "ignoraba"?
---Oh, it was "ignoraba", but "no supo" makes more sense, with the reference to "supuso"

And so on. After that conversation I knew the piece was coming along.

An update: today I finished the score of the "Festive Fugue" for Ryan Ross. I look forward to this!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Coatroom Concerts

I get quite a few press releases about very interesting new music events every day, but a concert series in a coat closet? This feels like a first. Chris Kallmyer has organized "four resident ensembles, 96 composers, 350+ new works, and over 400 concerts inside a coatroom, under the stairs in the lobby of the Hammer Museum"  in Los Angeles. The performances take two minutes a piece and are performed for the gathered Saturday afternoon audience members two at a time. Also, it is free. For once, I really wish I lived in L.A.  To read more, visit http://ow.ly/2GAmh

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My introduction (Federico Garcia, featured composer)

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be the featured composer at Dallas this year! It's a great opportunity to get to meet and work with people who believe as much as I do in new music and in sharing it with the public.

I'm writing two pieces for the festival, one each for co-directors Jordan and Ryan. I'll be sharing the instrumentation of the rest of their programs: one of the pieces goes with Le Marteau (wow, I'd be excited even just to get to hear this live!), and therefore I am writing for mezzo, guitar, flute, viola, and three percussionists... the other one is for a larger ensemble, namely the 'orchestra' of Kurt Weil's violin concerto (ditto about hearing this).

So, two pretty different pieces. The chamber wind ensemble (the piece for Ryan) is a 'festive fugue'. Upbeat, fun, a little flashy... I'll be done with it very soon. The other one is one of those things... I have thinking about it for months, and each step is a major effort.

I was just working on it, and made a big step. Feeling a little drained for the day, I decided to start my posts on this blog. First time I do something like this (talk, let alone write, much less blog, about a piece I'm writing), but it adds to the excitement.

So for today I'll leave you guys with the text of the piece. It's by my brother, who has written some wonderful texts in the past (one of them I already set to music). I'll tell you how I (we) got to this text in a future entry. But here it goes:

Aquel que al verme
supuso mi paso muy firme
y al irme
me auguró ventura,
no supo que yo a esas alturas
tornaba y no iba del alba al ocaso
(Nicolás García De Castro, Colombia, 2000)

It's dense in meaning (each word meaning several different things) so it's been hard to translate. This is my current version:

He who in seeing me
took my step for quite firm,
and as I left
bid me good fortune,
did not know, by that point,
that I turned, did not go, from dawn to sunset.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vocal Phenom Bryn-Julson Advises Festival

Recognized as one of the most authoritative interpreters of vocal music of the 20th century, Phyllis Bryn-Julson commands a remarkable repertoire of literature spanning several centuries. Born in North Dakota, she began studying the piano at age three. She enrolled in Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, studying piano, organ, voice and violin. She received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia in 1995. After attending the Tanglewood summer music festival, she transferred to Syracuse University, studying voice with Helen Boatwright, completing her BM and MM degrees. During these college years, she made her debut with the Boston Symphony in Boston, Providence, RI, and Carnegie Hall in New York. She ultimately sang with this orchestra and the New York Philharmonic dozens of times.
Ms. Bryn-Julson collaborated with Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporaine for much of her career, taking her to numerous festivals in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and Japan. She has premiered works of many 20th century composers, some of which were written for her. Included in this list are Boulez, Messiaen, Goehr, Kurtag, Holliger, Tavener, Rochberg, Del Tredici, Rorem, Carter, Babbitt, Birtwistle, Boone, Cage, Felciano, Wuorinen, Aperghis, and Penderecki.
In recent years, Ms. Bryn-Julson gave performances of Kurtag's Kafka Fragments in New York at the Guggenheim Museum with Violaine Melançon, violinist. She took part in the Radical Past series in Los Angeles, giving four performances of the great works of Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Cathy Berberian, and Luciano Berio. She toured with the Peabody Trio throughout the United States and Canada, and recorded works of Samuel Adler for the Milken Foundation in Barcelona. She also toured with the Montreal Symphony, performing the award winning opera Il Prigioniero by Dallapiccola. Performances occurred at Carnegie Hall, and in Montreal. Following this, she premiered the same work in Tokyo, Japan, where it was staged and televised. With Southwest Chamber Music Society, Ms. Bryn-Julson has performed and recorded the complete works of both Ernst Krenek and Mel Powell. Last season she premiered and recorded An American Decomeron by Richard Felciano, commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation, and written for her and the Southwest Chamber Music Society.
With over 100 recordings and CD's to her credit, Ms. Bryn-Julson's performance of Erwartung by Schönberg (Simon Rattle conducting) won the 1995 best opera Grammaphone Award. Her recording of the opera Il Prigioniero by Dallapiccola won the Prix du Monde. She has been nominated twice for Grammy awards; one for best opera recording (Erwartung), and best vocalist (Ligeti Vocal Works). She has received the Amphoion Award, The Dickinson College Arts Award, The Paul Hume Award, and the Catherine Filene Shouse Award. She was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 2000. She was the first musician to receive the United States - United Kingdom Bicentennial Exchange Arts Fellowship. She received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Syracuse University, the Peabody Conservatory Faculty Award for excellence in teaching, and the Peabody Student Council Award for outstanding contribution to the Peabody Community.
Ms. Bryn-Julson has appeared with every major European and North American Symphony Orchestras under many of the leading conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Slatkin, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Gunther Schuller, and Erich Leinsdorf.
Ms. Bryn-Julson's students continue to win prizes and awards, and have made careers in some of the leading opera houses and orchestral venues. They have had contracts in opera houses in Zurich, Duesseldorf, Vienna, Paris, Lyons, London, and Sydney, and in America, the Metropolitan Opera, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The Dallas Festival of Modern Music proudly welcomes Ms. Bryn-Julson to the festival's Artistic Adisory Board. Phyllis was gracious in her praise of Dallas' newest contemporary music organization.
"It is always a great pleasure to support a festival that aims to bring the new to its audiences with not only solid performances, but fundamental knowledge and education as well. Congratulations to this wonderful group of performers." The Dallas Festival of Modern Music will be held this November 5-14, 2010 in venues across Dallas. For more information, visit dallasmodernmusic.org or facebook.com/dallasmodernmusic. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The Dallas Festival of Modern Music is proud to present, from the University of North Texas College of Music: NOVA, the nationally recognized new music ensemble. This concert will take place in Dallas on Monday, November 8.

Nova is the new music ensemble of the University of North Texas. Nova’s mission is to provide students and audiences with an engaging diversity of musical, aesthetic, and cultural experiences. Repertoire includes classics of the modern era alongside music by younger and less familiar composers. Nova provides students with the opportunity to perform fresh and exciting contemporary works. Collaborations with faculty and guest composers give students insight into the process of creating new music.

Recent performances have included music of Elliott Carter, David Lang, Frederic Rzewski, Steven Stucky, Giacinto Scelsi, Nick Didkovsky, Libby Larsen, Judith Shatin, James Tenney, Isang Yun, Christian Wolff, John Cage, Stefan Wolpe, and Charles Ives. Nova has recently collaborated with guest composers Augusta Read Thomas, Mario Davidovsky, and Dexter Morrill, as well as UNT faculty and student composers.

The ensemble’s instrumentation varies by semester. Projects each term include solo, chamber, and large ensemble works. Faculty and guest performers often join the ensemble, further enhancing students’ understanding of contemporary performance issues.
NOVA is lead by distinguished flutist and interpreter of contemporary music, ensemble director Elizabeth McNutt.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Noise: Yo-Yo, Chacona

Juan Arañés's "Un sarao de la chacona," from Villancicos y Danzas Criollas; Jordi Savall leading Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Alia Vox 9834, also download.

Tickets for the New Yorker Festival are now on sale. I have two events in the mix: an evening of conversation and music with a promising young cellist named Yo-Yo Ma, on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 7PM; and an audio-driven lecture entitled "Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues," on Sunday, Oct. 3, at 4PM.

Read the rest: http://ow.ly/18X8jP

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cage at 98

Noise: Cage at 98 - Laura Kuhn has an update on recent Cage doings.


John Cage - 4'33" by David Tudor