Thursday, November 26, 2009

Takehisa Kosugi, "Smoking Music"

Smoking event using the instructions for Organic Music. Smoking instrument may be used.

Organic Music
Orchestra breathes in unison and slowly following the rhythm indicated by conductor. Breathing is done through long tubes or wind instruments without mouthpieces.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ivo Malec, "Triola"



Face A
TRIOLA
1. Turpituda 9'30" + long silence
2. Ombra 12'03" + long silence

Face B
TRIOLA
3. Nuda 12'30" + long silence
BIZARRA 7'30"

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Dinosaur Jr., "Your Weather"



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Igor Stravinsky, "Canticum Sacrum" & "Symphony of Psalms"

Todd Snider, "Corpus Christi Bay"



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Friday, June 26, 2009

Arnold Schoenberg, "String Trio"


Whose version of Schoenberg's 'String Trio' is better?
Los Angeles String Trio
Trio à Cordes Francais
  


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Deer Tick, "Smith Hill"

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Olan & Miller

-- LINER NOTES --

COMPOSITION FOR CLARINET AND TAPE (1976) 5:35
David Olan
The composer has approved this recording. The work won the 1980 International Clarinet Society Composition Competition.

PIECE FOR CLARINET AND TAPE
(1967; rev. 1982) 5:30
Edward Miller
The composer has approved this premiere recording.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DAVID OLAN (b. 1948) attended Columbia University and University of Wisconsin; since 1979 he has taught at the Baruch College of the City University of New York. Olan's works have been performed by such groups as Parnassus, the Group for Contemporary Music, Speculum Musicae, and the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble. His music may also be heard on CRI and New World Records. Olan comments:

"In my Composition for Clarinet and Tape, I wanted to incorporate the unique characteristics of each medium: drawing on the expressivity and fluidity of the clarinet as well as the extremes of speed, register, dynamics and percussiveness which can be achieved only with tape. I meant for this juxtaposition to be felt within a process of accommodation between the two worlds, with each medium having the opportunity to reinforce and support the other. The tape was realized at the Columbia-Princeton Music Center, and employs only electronic sources."

EDWARD MILLER (b. 1930) studied music at the University of Miami and the Hartt College of Music. He has taught composition at the Oberlin Conservatory since 1971. Miller has received many honors, and has had his works performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and several other major symphonies. Works are also recorded on CRI and Opus One. Miller states:

"Completed April 1, 1967, Piece for Clarinet and Tape was my first attempt at electronic music and the tape part contained many flaws. In this recording Dr. Kireillis uses a new version of the tape part that I finished in January, 1982. I used a Sigma IX computer, a facility of the Music Technology Program at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. The programming was MPL (Music Program Library), developed by Gary Nelson."

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP, Michael

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Charles Hamm, "Canto"

-- LINER NOTES --

CANTO Charles Hamm (1963) for soprano, speaker & chamber ensemble. Helen Hamm, soprano; Elizabeth Hiller, speaker, The Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Illinois; Jack McKenzie, conductor....6:23

The Studio for Experimental Music at the University of Illinois was established in 1958, and placed under the directorship of Lejaren Hiller, Professor of Music, to provide facilities for the creatin, research and teaching of electronic music techniques, to investigate the application of computers to musical composition, and to encourage original instrument design and construction. These related roles the studio has fulfilled admirably, and from its relatively modest beginnings it has developed into one of the best equipped in the world.

The works on this recording provide a representative selection of the more than forty works which have been composed in the studio since its inception.

CHARLES HAMM (b. 1925), composer and musicologist, studied at the University of Virginia and at Princeton University. His teachers in composition were Randall Thompson, Bohuslav Martinu, and Edward Clone. Prior to his appointment, in 1963, as Professor of Music at the University of Illinois, he taught at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and at Newcomb College, Tulane University. His compositions include six operas, an orchestral work--"Sinfonia 1954"--which was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony, and numberous chamber, piano, and vocal works. Among his more recent works are "Mobile for Piano and Tape," "Portrait of John Cage" for piano and three tape recorders, and "Round" for unspecified instrumental or vocal ensemble.

CANTO


For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses:
Rain; empty river; a voyage,
Fire from frozen cloud, heavy rain in the twilight
Under the cabin roof was one lantern.
The reeds are heavy; bent;
and the bamboos speak as if weeping.

Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes
against sunset
Evening is like a curtain of cloud,
a blurr above ripples; and through it
sharp long spikes of the cinnamon,
a cold tune amid reeds.
Behind hill the monk's bell
borne on the wind.
Sail passed here in April; may return in October
Boat fades in silver; slowly;
Sun blaze alone on the river.

Where wine flag catches the sunset
Sparse chimneys smoke in the cross light

Comes then snow scur on the river
And a world is covered with jade
Small boat floats like a lanthorn,
The flowing water closts as with cold. And at San Yin
they are a people of leisure.

Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar,
Clouds gather about the hole of the window
Broad water; geese line out with the autumn
Rooks clatter over the fishermen's lanthorns,

A light moves on the north sky line;
where the young boys prod stones for shrimp.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes.
A light moves on the South sky line.

State by creating riches shd. thereby get into debt?
This is infamy; this is Geryon.
This canal goes still to TenShi
Though the old king built it for pleasure


K E I M E N R A N K E I
K I U M A N M A N K E I
JITSU GETSU K O K W A
T A N FUKU T A N K A I

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The Power of Sound

One thing I'll always regret is watching the video of Nicholas Berg being decapitated. It's a horrifying sight, and I couldn't get it out of my head for days afterwards. I still think that watching it rearranged some molecules in my head in a way that will never be the same.

Watching the video of Neda Agha-Soltan die has the same searing effect. As this Gawker contributor put it:
I first saw the video of Neda's death on Sunday afternoon at around 2PM. For the remainder of the day and up to this point, I've failed every effort, and there have been many, to get it out of my head. Even when I went to the gym late in the day, a place of solace where I'm usually able to blast music in my ears while exercising and just forget about everything going on in the outside world, I found myself unable to remove Neda from my mind.
My coping mechanism is analysis. I find solace in deconstructing my reaction to determine what gets me so rattled. I've found that as with Nicholas Berg, it's not the images, it's the sound.

Both videos are the types of gore that we've all seen countless times in horror films or war epics. There's nothing in the images themselves that is any more disturbing than what we see in an Eli Roth or a Steven Spielberg film. Our eyes are accustomed to glossing over such graphic violence, but there's no way to trick the ears. The anguish of Nicholas Berg and Neda's friends is far too real to the ear to dismiss it. The stylized sound of the cinema allows you to wrap up violent images and store them away as fantasy in your mind.

The horror of these clips is driven home by the unmistakable sound of human suffering that no actor or sound designer can ever replicate. We know it's real because we hear it, and that's what makes it so damn hard to shake.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Street Sweeper, "Paper Planes" (LIVE)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Elvis Costello, "Red Cotton"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Electronic Music from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center

This recording of electronic music presents the works of four authors who come from four different countries with quite varied musical backgrounds. Two of them have considerable knowledge of electronics which stems from a formal engineering training in one case, and from a high degree of practical experience in the other. Diversity of styles is in evidence, as each composer's style is his own concern. The common experience for these composers has been the use of technical resources at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and the investigation of specialized methods for the evolution and transformation of recorded sound materials, conducted in my course at Columbia and further demonstrated in private sessions by technicians. This work is done in Studio 106, located in McMillin Theatre on the campus of Columbia University in the same room where the older Columbia University Tape Studio was housed. The present studio has been considerably expanded in recent years and has become a part of a complex of three studios and a small laboratory established under a Rockefeller Foundation Grant given to Columbia and Princeton Universities in 1959.

With the notable exception of the very unique possibilities offered by the RCA Sound Synthesizer located in Studio 318, the standard and specialized equipment of the Center is devoted to the production of sound materials by "Classical" methods, common to all electronic music studios. Thus, materials (of either purely electronic or non-electronic origin) recorded on tape, may be subjected to manipulation by tape speed variation, electronic filtering, several types of frequency modulation, artificial reverberation, etc. Tape cutting and splicing by hand still occupies a good deal of time in preparing the sound patterns and arranging them in longer sequences. Techniques are available to create certain types of rhythmic patterns and timbre variations by semi-automatic methods, but the materials thus produced are of limited usefulness. Much time in classroom discussion is devoted to the structural considerations which we believe to be quite challenging and of paramount importance in the electronic music medium, rich as it is in unusual timbres and opportunities for the realization of complex rhythms.

It is hard to imagine that there is much occasion any more for claiming that electronic music is "dehumanized" in its content. Electronic music simply undertakes to express, by different means, human situations, ideas, and emotions.
Vladimir Ussachevsky
Professor of Music
Columbia University
SIDE 1


Band 1. Study No. 1
My main objectives in this Study were: 1. to obtain instrument-like sounds, such as the bell-like sonorities of the opening (derived from saw-tooth waves), or those in the epilogue that resemble contrabass pizzicati (derived from sine waves), with a vast range of percussive and plucking sounds in between: and 2. to create tensions and relaxations, the former achieved through complex rhythms, increased densities of tone color, and other similar effects; the latter occurring when a high degree of intensity is diluted by the introduction of "richer" and "more familiar" sounds. The sources are all electronic.

Absolute control has been excercised over the development of component materials and their final mixing, by integrating six channels coming from four precisely synchronized tape recorders. The result is a finished composition originally designed for two-channel reproduction.
Andres Lewin-Richter

SIDE 2


Band 1. Vocalise

Vocalise was composed in the Spring of 1964. Conceived as a study, it is an attempt to create electronic music of an expressive, emotional nature. Two elements are juxtaposed: the human voice (that of Pnina Avni, my wife) and sounds from electronic sources.

These elements are stated at the beginning in a pure and simple form, but later undergo changes and variations through the use of the techniques of the electronic medium.

After the first presentation of the musical material, an elaborate process of development ensues, in which the two elements -- voice and electronic sounds -- are drawn closer and closer together until it sometimes becomes almost impossible to distinguish which is which.

The third section of the work serves as a kind of recapitulation, and the piece ends in the same characteristic lyrical mood as in the beginning.
Tzvi Avni

Band 2. Variations for Flute and Electronic Sound
Band 3. Dialogues for Piano and Two Loudspeakers

Since 1954, composers of electronic music have turned their attention to the problem of combining electronic sounds with traditional instruments. The discipline, as well as requiring new compositional skills, calls on a composer's more traditional training in matters of balance and notation, and heightens his sensitivity to the formal problems of composition in general. My pieces on this disk were designed to give the live performer maximum expressive freedom within each tape cue. The cues are not "technical improvisations in sound", but are realizations of a carefully notated score in which both live and taped portions have been composed. A competent musico-technician, once familiar with my notational techniques and compositional style, could produce, from the written score, an electronic performance differing only in interpretation from the sounds heard on this record.

Variations for Flute and Electronic Sound (1964) in contrast to Dialogues, is a very strictly organized set of six variations on an eleven-bar theme stated at the outset by the flute. The first variation is a restatement of the theme (in altered rhythm) to march-like electronic accompaniment. The second is a strict canon in three parts. The third, entirely electronic, burlesques the theme, making free use of octave transposition. The flute re-enters with the fourth variation, a passionate soliloquy with only one brief electronic punctuation. Variation five, a character variation, features rapid alternation between flute and electronic sound, and a distinctive trilling figuration. Variation six, drawn freely on materials from variations one and five, brings the piece to a brisk cadence.

Dialogues for Piano and Two Loudspeakers (1963) is rhapsodic in character, deriving most of its thematic-motivic construction from an ascending series of gradually diminishing intervals, forming an almost-serial basis for the piece. Two of the themes are developed and transformed at some length, i.e., the piano's theme in twelfths at the entrance of the electronic sound, and the rhythmic novelty of a rising and accelerating series of seven eighth-notes, heard in the middle and latter portions of the piece.
Walter Carlos

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Sunset Rubdown, "Silver Moons"

1974 ISCM Electronic Music Winners

[In listening to this installment from AGP, I was stunned to hear the opening chords of the Radiohead's "Idioteque" in Paul Lansky's mild und leise @ the 43" mark. It turns out, Jonny Greenwood listened to this LP during the Kid A recording sessions and a couple of samples made their way onto the album.]

-- LINER NOTES --

In the autumn of 1974, the League of Composers-International Society for Contemporary Music, U.S. Section, organized an International Electronic Music Competition, the first undertaken by the organization. Tapes of electronic music compositions were solicited from composers and electronic music studios all over the world. A distinguished panel agreed to select the winners.

The judges were:

Bulent Arel, composer and Professor of Music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Mario Davidovsky, Pulitzer prizewinning composer, Co-Director of the Electronic Music Center of Columbia and Princeton Universities, and Professor of Music at City College of New York. Jean Eichelberger Ivey, composer and teacher of composition and electronic music at Peabody Conservatory of Music. J. K. Randall, composer and Professor of Music at Princeton University.

129 tapes representing composers from 15 countries were entered in the competition. Each judge listened to each tape individually, and then the judges met as a group to make their final selections. During the entire judging process, the tapes were placed in unlabeled boxes and identified only by numbers.

The winning compositions are presented in this album. It should be noted that no distinctions were made between the winning compositions, and that the order of works presented on the recording does not signify a ranking.

Program notes and biographical material have been provided by the composers.

As President of the League-ISCM and coordinator of the International Electronic Music Competition, I feel that these works, besides being excellent pieces of music, represent a wide spectrum of approaches, attitudes, styles, and technical procedures that will give the listener much enjoyment and, also, an understanding of the breadth and sophistication of current electronic music. -- Hubert S. Howe, Jr.

Maurice Wright:
Electronic Composition (1973)

Electronic Composition was completed in the spring of 1973. The piece is centered on the pitch Middle C. The timbre space is created by assigning component musical lines to various synthetic "instruments" that are comprised of simple combinations of oscillators and amplifiers and then recording these lines with careful control of reverberation and phase. Certain elements of the piece, namely the sounds that some listeners have compared to "a distant chorus," or "a mutant brass band," as well as the time-pointed clip-clop of electronically pitched horses' hooves in the brief Coda, are developed further in Cantata, a composition for tenor, percussion, and synthesized voices and instruments. -- Maurice Wright

Maurice Wright was born in Front Royal, Virginia. He was a Mary Duke Biddle Scholar at Duke University and Presidents' Fellow at Columbia University. He has studied composition with Jack Besson, Chou Wen-Chung. Paul Earls, lain Hamilton, Jacques Monod: and Charles Wuorinen; computer music and synthetic speech with Charles Dodge. He received a master's degree in 1974 from Columbia University, where he teaches Music Theory. He received the Henry Schuman Prize for Music from Duke University in 1972 and the Joseph Bearns Prize for Music from Columbia University in 1974.

Menachem Zur:
Chants, for magnetic tape (1974)

Chants, for magnetic tape was realized in the electronic studio of Columbia University in March 1974. The work is shaped by a series of phrases divided by small pauses, somewhat resembling a Gregorian chant. The pitches are organized around a nine-tone series: F Bb G, A D B, C# F# D#. The main melodic cell is the figure F ascending to Bb and descending to G. -- Menachem Zur

Menachem Zur was born in 1942 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He studied theory at the College for Teachers for Music in Tel Aviv and in the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. In 1969 he came up to New York to complete his B.M. degree in Composition at the Mannes College of Music. Mr. Zur received his M.F.A. degree in Composition at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. His master's thesis in Composition was a piece for choir, magnetic tape, brass quartet, and percussion that won first prize in a contest in Jerusalem in 1973. He is currently completing his D.M.A. degree at Columbia University in New York City, and teaches music at Queens College, City University of New York.

Side 2
Richard Cann: Bonnylee (1972)

(This song was sung by an IBM 360 model 91)


Paul Lansky: mild und leise (1973/74)

mild und leise was written and synthesized during 1973-74 using the IBM 360/91 computer at Princeton University and the Music 360 synthesis program written by Barry Vercoe. I want to thank my former student Richard Cann, composer of Bonnylee, for his help in learning how to use this program, and the Princeton University Computer Center for its generous allocation of computer time. This work is dedicated to Godfrey Winham.
I would like to advise the listener to:
listen easily and slowly--this
work takes its time,
listen to changing timbres,
to chaning chords,
to changing timres within chords,
to changing chords within timbres,
listen to repetition,
to changes within repetition,
to increasinly more complex forms of the same under repetition,
listen to different ways of doing things,
to linear shapes,
to repeated chords,
--spreading out, and contracting, registrally, to simple rhythms,
--becoming complex rhythms,
listen to combinations of different ways of doing things,
listen to starts and stops as breathing points and places where new twists begin an old material,
listen to each part of the piece as an evolving growing, and more complicated form of earlier parts of the piece,
--as a way of doing things which has only gradually become possible.
listen carefully, and easily.
-- Paul Lansky

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Black Eyed Peas, "Rock That Body"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jacob Druckman, "Animus I"

-- LINER NOTES --

Animus I for trombone and tape was composed in 1966 in the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. The larger formal aspects of the work are concerned with the relationship between live player and the tape: man and the machine which he created in his own image. In concert performance the trombone player presents certain dramatic-theatrical elements. After the first splitting off of the tape and the ensuing dialogue the player sits while the electronic sounds move too quickly for him to compete. The man begins again with angrier, more animal-like material, the tape again enters in imitation but this time overwhelming him and driving him off the stage. The tape exhausts itself, the man reenters, the two finish in a tenuous balance.

Jacob Druckman was born in 1928 in Philadelphia. His musical studies were at Juilliard, at Tanglewood with Aaron Copland and at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. In 1954 he received a Fulbright Grant for study in France and in 1956 a Guggenheim Grant in composition. Works have been commissioned by: Lado (String Quartet No. 2, for the Juilliard Quartet, 1966); Walter M. Naumburg Foundation (The Sound of Time, 1964); Juilliard (ballet music for Jose Limon, 1960); Berkshire Music Festival, Tanglewood (Violin Concerto, for Jascha Heifetz Award, 1955) and others. Mr. Druckman is the recipient of the 1967 publication award from the Society for the Publication of American Music for his Dark Upon The Harp which is recorded by C.R.I. He is a member of the faculty of the Juillard School of Music.

Animus I is published by MCA Music, New York.

Andre Smith, trombonist, was a member of Leopold Stokowski's American Symphony Orchestra for several seasons and is now with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. He's a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

McGinty & White

Ward White has teamed up with Joe McGinty on a new album. You don't usually hear the word 'beautiful' associated with a male singer, but Ward's got a beautiful voice.

When I have time to check out one of the albums submitted to ANABlog, my usual method is to put it on while I do something else. If a track makes my ears perk up, I give it a second listen, and if I dig it, I post it.

Ward & Joe have made the kind of album that you can't help but listen to closely. I kept trying to put it on in the background, but I repeatedly failed to do anything except listen to the gorgeous songs. "I'm So Tired" is a fine case in point, and the whole album is streaming at their website. Though it's titled McGinty & White Sing Selections from the McGinty & White Songbook, it does close with a wonderful cover of "Wichita Lineman" which you should totally check out.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

1970 Dartmouth Electronic Music Competition

-- LINER NOTES --

For the last three years, Dartmouth College has held an annual competition for electronic music. The winners and finalists' works from the first competition were released by Vox two years ago and we at Dartmouth felt gratified by the warm critical response to the recording. We were also pleased that the competition gave the public an opportunity to hear some of the best works by new and younger composers.

The judges for the second competition were Lars-Gunnar Bodin from Sweden, Charles Dodge and Pril Smiley from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and Kenneth Gaburo from the University of California, San Diego. They chose the winning works anonymously after listening to nearly one hundred different entries. The winning composers were Peter Glushanok, an experienced film maker who has a small electronic music studio in his home, and Peter Klausmeer, a graduate student at the University of Michigan. The two finalists were Walter Kimmel,who is director of the electronic music studio at Moorhead State College,and Raymond Moore, who is a recording engineer for a large record company.

There were over two hundred entries in the 1970 competition which meant nearly a week of listening for judges Sal Martriano from the University of Illinois, Francois Bayle of France and James K. Randall of Princeton University. Again the prize was divided between one of Chile's leading composers, Jose Vicente Asuar and Richard A. Robinson, the director of the Atlanta Electronic Music Center. The finalists were Jean-Claude Risset who works in Marseille, France, but who realized his work at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey,and Jonathan Weiss, a Composer in his early twenties who is in residence at the R.A. Moog Co. in Trumansberg, New York.

The listener to this album will hear enormous diversity in the approach used by the different composers. The following comments about the works were written by the composers themselves.

Jon H. Appleton, Director
Dartmouth Electronic Music Studio

Side I - 22:53 Min.

IN MEMORIAM FOR MY FRIEND HENRY SAIA - 10:35 Min.
Completed in early 1969, this piece was begun as an experiment in textures from concrete sources, and was developed as an elegy in memory of my friend Henry Saia who died by suicide just a few months before.

Henry's transient and restless quality, seen through the eyes of his friends who discussed him interminably; his depressions lightened by a sense of humor, and his life which ended without hope despite the jokes and the friends, broke traumatically into our unawareness. -- Peter Glushanok

CAMBRIAN SEA - 6:18 Min.
This piece was put together in the University of Michigan Electronic Music Studio in January, 1968. There is nothing particularly complicated about the material used; all the sounds are electronic in origin.

White noise formed the basis of the first couple of minutes of the piece. The signal was into several components, filtered through two Krohnhite band-pass filters, re-mixed and shaped by a Moog envelope generator-voltage controlled amplifier combination.

The "metal" sounds were made by modulating a mixture of three sine waves with a white noise signal whose short attack & decay envelope came from the Moog equipment mentioned above. An old tube-type balanced modulator was used here. The "belch" sounds were made in a fashion similar to that of the metallic sounds, except that a very low sawtooth wave was the modulating signal instead of the white noise, the frequency of one of the sine generators being altered by hand during the decay of the envelope.

With the return of the sea sounds at the end, the piece is closed off in the age-old, time-tested A-B-A fashion. -- Peter Klausmeyer

"TRIP THROUGH THE MILKY WAY - AN ELECTRONIC PANORAMA" - 5:57 Min.
The three basic motives of "Trip Through the Milky Way - An Electronic Panorama" are: a twenty-three-note row in which the interval of a fourth appears thirteen times; a series of thirteen fourths; and a sine wave glide tone whose ups and downs are governed by the interval of a fourth. All of the motives were created with a sine wave oscillator.

Several one-voice lines were created from these three basic motives. They in turn were copied - halving or doubling the tape speed, and hence creating a building block - i.e., a four-voice unit.

These building blocks were then combined so that in the middle of the composition there are sixteen distinct lines on each stereo channel and thirty-two in the center (Two channel version). . .. ...

Hence, "Trip Through the Milky Way - An Electronic Panorama" is a multi-voiced (64) canon at the octave.

The composition was not a planned trip through the Milky Way but rather after the fact. When it was finished (March 1969), the structure and contour of its sound densities and intensities were not unlike a sound picture (or, if you will, Panorama - in the four channel version) of a trip through the Milky Way.

Since April 1969, there have been performances of the "Trip...." in Sweden by the Fylkingen, and Rikskonserter groups, by the Swedish Radio and at the opening of the United States Cultural Center, Stockholm, Sweden, in the music-light-dance festival "Action Center U.S.A." In the July 1970 issue of High Fidelity, "Trip Through the Milky Way" was awarded Honorable Mention in its Electronic Music Contest of August 1969. -- Raymond Moore

Side II - 24:00 Min.

DIVERTIMENTO
- 7:05 Min.

In works such as "Serenade para mi Voz" (1962) and "Divertimento" (1968), I've tried to bring back, using the electronic medium, recollections of the chamber music of the 18th century not by pretending to revive the classical form but by taking a thought or an idea that could have inspired music at that time and could also do it in our age. The elegance of the classical Divertimento has always interested me for within the Suite form can be outlined the "Variation", the "Dance" or the "Reprise", all in an extroverted mood, full of virtuosity and good humor.

The realization of my Divertimento is wholly electronic while its organization is greatly dependent on mathematics and biology. A kind of bio-chemistry which consists of transforming sound molecules into cells, tissues, organs, and bodies, and feeding them from the same vital tension that gives energy to the whole as well as to each one of its parts. In this way, the composition laws of the sonorous unifying elements have been the determining factor in the structure of the work, since I believe that through electronic music we can establish space-time-structure relations that can be projected in the micro form as well as in longer time lapses with the same degree of significance. In other words, I believe that the unifying factor of the form-matter (energy-matter) which has been lost, acoustically speaking, in our present-day instrumental music can be found again in the electronic medium, and this is, for me, the main reason for working out the musical-technical problems that are inherent in this form of communication. -- Jose Vicente Amar

AMBIENCE - 6:23 Min.

The source material for Ambience was produced on an "instrument" consisting of three electric bass guitar strings strung lengthwise across a long board, with a bridge and a small magnetic guitar pickup at each end. Two modes of sound production were used. One, in which transversely placed metal pipes were rolled up and down the length of the strings, of multiple glissandi. A second, predominant texture was produced by causing a number lengths to "oscillate" or rock across the strings (rather than to roll lengthwise).

This basic recorded material was then extensively transformed electronically by filtering, heterodyning, ring modulation, speed changes, etc., an 6' finally an overall structure was composed of variously complex superimpositions and juxtapositions of the two basic textural types. A light controlled channel-speaker distributing device used in the original qaudrasonic version further emphasizes this textural contrast in that gliding textures have a predominantly circling movement around the listening area, while the more active, rhythmic textures move disjunctly.

The intention of the piece, originally conceived for performance with the Atlanta Contemporary Dance Group, is to create an impression of actually being swept up in a familiar yet mysterious sound-atmosphere or ambience - perhaps somewhat like the experience of driving alone in a car at night - a sense of increasing absorption and identity with the surrounding sounds - the motor, rushing air, tires on pavement, vibrations, etc. -- Richard Allan Robinson

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Breeze

Last May, I sent Brian Sacawa the score for Mauricio Kagel's A Breeze (Ein Brise). I couldn't think of a better mashup of his twin passions: new music & cycling. He thanked me for turning him on to the score, and Mobtown Modern is performing it next month in Baltimore.

As fun as it would be to perform the piece, I think I'd rather be in the audience. Kagel's score immediately sparked my interest when I found it in the stacks at the NYPL. The mass of people coming at you and the sudden increase in sound pressure would be wondrous. I wish I could be in Baltimore for the performance. If you can, they're looking for performers, and you don't need to be a musician!

Mauricio Kagel
1996

A BREEZE
Transient Action for 111 cyclists


  • Each of the 111 bicycles has a bell or a horn.
  • Streets with little traffic are preferable.
  • Young people prone to childish behaviour should not really take part.
  • As the layout sketch indicates, the distance between the bicycles should remain the same (c. 1.50 meters in front and behind, and to either side).
Procedures
A. The spectators are assembled at one point. The course for the bicycle contingent is short: the cyclists come round the corner, swish past the spectators, and disapear round the next corner:

or B. The cohort approaches along a straight line, and turns off at the first opportunity:

or C. The cyclists come round the corner and leave the location along a straight line:

All three procedures can be executed the other way round.
Five materials are available to the participants:

1. Three bell- or horn-sounds of different lengths:
2. Three long, high whistled notes (tied):
3. Three long, high sung notes (always with a short pause after the fermata):
4. Four long, high fluttertongue sounds:
5. Imitation of gusts of wind:

Sequence of Sound Events
  1. Approaching the spectators: ring bells or sound horns
  2. Just before the spectators: whistling and singing (divisi)
  3. While driving by: fluttertonge sounds, imitating gusts of wind
  4. Drawing away from the spectators: ring bells or sound horns
  • A repetition of the action would be possible so long as another course is chosen - maybe in the opposite direction. The pause between the two procedures would have to be short and the sequence of the sound events remains the same.
  • It is conceivable that this fleeting action could be performed within a closed space. In this case it would perhaps be desirable to reduce the number of cyclists taking part.
  • Duration: 60-90 seconds.
Set up

[Yeah, that's right. You get 111 volunteer cyclists together and the whole piece lasts 90 seconds! That's why I always thought it would be best to pair it with other works for bicycles like Godfried-Willem Raes' Second Symphony. Seems a pity to let all those cyclists go after just a minute and a half of music...]

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The Real Legacy of Hillarycare

The standard takeaway from the Hillarycare debacle is that such a large scale policy can't originate from behind closed doors in the White House. By not consulting with the Hill and throwing elbows to anyone who interfered, Hillary doomed her bill to failure.

It's a good theory, but Dick Cheney, who's got the sharpest elbows in Washington, did the same thing with Bush II's energy policy and got what he wanted. Closed doors and cronyism are well nigh best practices in D.C.

Unfortunately, Obama's let Congress take the lead on the bill, priding himself on having learned from Hillarycare's defeat. This has set him up for another debacle, like the stimulus bill. As Camille Paglia put it this morning:
...the monstrous stimulus package with which this administration stumbled out of the gate will prove to be Obama's Waterloo. All the backtracking and spin doctoring in the world will not erase that major blunder, which made the new president seem reckless, naive and out of control of his own party, which was in effect dictating to him from Capitol Hill.
When you let Congress draft a bill of this magnitude, you are ceding your mandate to a sea of micro-constituencies that have no vested interest in genuine reform. The real problem, however, is the notion that a massive bill is needed in the first place.

That's the real legacy of Hillarycare: maximalism doesn't work.

Passing a bill that would provide the massive overhaul that our health care system needs would require a mandate far greater than Obama will ever have. The best approach would be the incremental one. Pass an insurance requirement. Build on the electronic records initiative championed by both Hillary and Newt. Create stronger consumer protections. Take baby steps, and we'll all end up in a better place than where we are now.

All Obama has to do is look back 4 months to see what a gargantuan bill generated by Pelosi's Congress will do for him.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pril Smiley & William Hellermann

-- LINER NOTES --

PRIL SMILEY (b. 1943)
ECLIPSE (1967) * 1st Finalist *
(Realized in the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center)
Eclipse was originally composed for four separate tracks, the composer having worked with a specifically-structured antiphonal distribution of compositional material to be heard from four corners of a room or other appropriate space. This record necessarily represents a reduced two-track version of the piece, and hence (from the composer's point of view) the piece loses some part of its structural significance. Some sections of Eclipse are semi-improvisatory; by and large, the piece was worked out via many sketches and preliminary experiments on tape: all elements such as rhythm, timbre, loudness, and duration of each note were very precisely determined and controlled.

In many ways, the structure of Eclipse is related to the composer's use of timbre. There are basically two kinds of sounds in the piece: the low, sustained gong-like sounds (always either increasing or decreasing in loudness) and the short more percussive sounds, which can be thought of as metallic, glassy, or wooden in character. These different kinds of timbres are usually used in contrast to one another, sometimes being set end to end so that one kind of sound interrupts another, and sometimes being dovetailed so that one timbre appears to emerge out of or from beneath another. Eighty-five percent of the sounds are electronic in origin; the non-electronic sounds are mainly pre-recorded percussion sounds-but subsequently electronically modified so that they are not always recognizable. By Pril Smiley

WILLIAM HELLERMANN (b. 1939)
ARIEL (1967) * 4th Finalist *
(Realized in the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center)
The name Ariel is related to Shakespeare's character in The Tempest: the music isn't. I chose this name for my piece only because it sounded appropriate to the music. Not because the music was especially poetic or playful, but because Ariel suggests to me a transformation of spirit, the ability to change shape at will.

In listening to Ariel, it might also be helpful to know that it was not designed to illustrate any technical process or aesthetic dogma; nor was it intended to create any visual images. It is a composed performance, not a composition. A performance, because all its events are the result of live operations in real time, not the result of careful measuring and splicing. Composed, because many separate performances were then transformed, made to have new significance, by being placed in relation to each other. The performing medium was an electronic music studio: the basic sound source was a gong. By William Hellermann

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* It's on days like these when living in New York feels like being held hostage.

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Chickenfoot, "Learning To Fall"

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Olly Wilson, "Cetus"

On April 5, 1968 composers Milton Babbitt, Vladimir Ussachevsky and George Balch Wilson came to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire to judge the first competition devoted to electronic music. The Dartmouth Arts Council had made available a five hundred dollar prize which was awarded to Olly W. Wilson for his composition "Cetus." Babbitt, Ussachevsky (Directors of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center) and Wilson (Director of the University of Michigan Electronic Music Studio) singled out five other works which they felt were significant compositions. Over one huindred entries were received front studios around the world and the judges listened to more than sixty of these before selecting the finalists whose works are presented here for the first time. The judging was anonymous and it was a mere coincidence that two of the finalists should have come from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and two from the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio.

This recording is, in one sense, an historic document for it testifies to the breadth of interest in electronic music by composers and the new audiences. It is also significant that these works will reach that audience through this recording and not the concert hall. The following notes were written by the composers themselves.
Jon H. Appleton
Director, Electronic Music Studio
Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire

OLLY W. WILSON (b. 1937)
CETUS (1967) * Winner *

(Realized in the Studio for Experimental Music of the University of Illinois)

Cetus was completed during the summer of 1967 at the studio for Experimental Music of the University of Illinois. The title refers to an equatorial constellation whose arch-like configuration was suggested to the composer's mind by the form of the work. This musical structure is the result of an evolutionary process in which basically simple timbres, textural combinations, and rhythmic events become more complex before ultimately returning to simpler relationships. For example, the basic timbre of the first selection was produced by amplitude modulation of a single sine wave which evolves into a combination of modulated sound sources, the sum of which is then modulated.

The compositional process characteristic of the "classical tape studio" (the mutation of a few basic electronic signals by means of filters, signal modifiers, and recording processes) was employed in the realization of this work and was enhanced by means of certain instruments which permit improvisation by synthesized sound. Cetus contains passages which were improvised by the composer as well as sections realized by classical tape studio procedures. The master of this work was prepared on a two channel tape. Under the ideal circumstances it should be performed with multiple speakers surrounding the auditor. By Olly Wilson

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

RIP, Koko



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Daria Semegen, "Arc: Music for Dancers"

I. ARC: MUSIC FOR DANCERS
(By Daria Semegen; Time: 13:40)

The music was composed following the choreographer's detailed graph-diagram indicating each beat of the dance and descriptions of dancers' motions on stage, combined with a plan of synchronous stage lighting effects. The dance itself does not suggest a specific programmatic idea throughout, but each section of its arc pattern seems to feature motivic gestures ranging from slow, graceful movements to rapid motions involving solo, duet, and trio combinations of the seven clmcers. Sometimes, the lighting effects themselves are featured in precise synchronization with the music, and create elaborate silhouette designs as they play across symmetrical groups of stationary dancers. The piece consists of five parts whose themes, tempos, and "orchestrations" are arranged in the shape of an arc (A B C B A). Each section is itself divided into a smaller arc (a b a ). After a brief introduction of phrases in groups of three beats each, the first prt begins with two motivic elements arranged in a simple question-answer idea: lower range sounds on the beat, and contrasting high echoed flourishes in alternation. Section B introduces both a new tempo and "orchestration" or sound texture, as well as a new motive featuringa tremolo effect on harsh sounds alternated in various patterns from one channel to the other. A six note ostinato appears toward the middle of this section and is gradually integrated into a polyphonic pasage. Section C's theme resembles an orchestral "tutti" and is followed by a variation of the tremolo idea and echo figurations heard previously. Although the music is essentially tonal and establishes various temporary tonal centers throughout, microtones and the characteristically rich textures of electronic sound sources provide dissonant impressions counterbalancing the tonal aspects.

The work was composed using a Buchla series 200 synthesizer and classic studio techniques. The music tape was synchronized at Bell Telephone Labs with the program of the Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre's portable computer-controlled lighting system by Mimi Ganard and James Seawright in preparation for Arc's first presentation in May of 1977.

Daria Semegen (b. 1946, Bamberg, Germany) studied at the Eastman School of Music, Yale and Columbia Universities, and in Warsaw, Poland as a Fulbriiht Scholar. Her composition teachers include Samuel H. Adler, Robert Gauldin, Bunill Phillips, Witold Lutoslmki, Biilent Arel, and Vladimir Ussachevsky. She has received numerous awards in composition including two BMI Awards, Chautauqua, MacDowell Colony, and Tanglewood fellowship, Fulbright Grant, two National Endowment for the Arts commissions, prizes from Yale University, Mu Phi Epsilon, and the ISCM Int'l. Electronic Music Competition for her work Electronic Composition # I. She is author of instrumental and electronic music and has published articleson electronic music in the Music Journal. Since 1972, she was on the teaching staff of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and & worked as technical assistant to V Ussachevsky and Otto Luening. In January 1974, she joined the Dept of Music of the State University of New York at Stony Brook where she is Asst Professor and Associate Director of the Elecrronic Music Studios.

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How To Take The Cake:

From The Economist's review of Barry Seldes' Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician:
Bernstein died two years later, his lifelong wish to complete “That One Important Piece”, as he described it in his final letter to his business manager, left as unfulfilled as his longing to see liberal democracy flourish in America.

Why did the popular, powerful and prodigiously gifted Bernstein never compose that masterpiece? This is the central question Barry Seldes asks in his new political biography. The usual answer turns on the suggestion that Bernstein’s talents were overstretched by his heavy conducting, recording and publicity schedules. Critics also like to carp, pointing out that, although he was a brilliant musician, Bernstein somehow lacked the depth of thought and vision necessary to produce a genuine masterpiece.

Mr Seldes’s answer is different. Bernstein, he says, never wrote “That One Important Piece” because the only audience for which he could have written it—an American citizenry united by progressive liberalism—failed to materialise.
That's all kinds of crazy. So crazy it makes me want to read the book.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Diane Thome, "Anais"

-- LINER NOTES --

DIANE THOME
ANAIS
Diane Thome, piano; Michael Finckel, cello; tape part realized at the SUNY, Binghamton electronic music studio

DIANE THOME (b. Pearl River, New York, 1942) received her musical education at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, where she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Music. Among her teachers were Dorothy Taubman in piano, and Robert Strassburg, Darius Milhaud, Roy Harris, Alexander Urijah Boscovich and Milton Babbitt in composition. Her compositions have been presented in Europe and throughout the United States under important auspices. Her collaborative works include Night Passage, an environmental theatre piece, as well as compositions for dance and film. She has received many grants and awards including one from the National Society of Arts and Letters and two from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a member of the National Council of the American Society of University Composers and Co-chairperson of the Northwest Region. She has taught at Rutgers University, the State University of New York at Binghamton and is currently (1980) on the faculty of the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle.

ANAIS, for tape, violoncello and piano, was composed at the invitation of cellist Michael Finckel during the summer of 1976. The tape portion of the work was synthesized in the analog studio at the State University of New York in Binghamton while Thome was working under a SUNY Research Grant. The piece is dedicated to the memory of the writer Anais Nin, who died shortly before its premiere in March, 1977, in Los Angeles.

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Positively Precious

One of the downsides of opening your mouth to express a negative opinion is that someone, somewhere is gonna get hurt. Most of the reviews that are ever published about anything are positive. Sure, there are bad reviews out there for movies or books, but for the most part, whether you are thumbing through Rolling Stone's CD reviews or reading the Book Review, most of what you read falls down on the plus side. We're hard wired to expect good reviews.

One of the upsides of the blogosphere is the freedom to write about what you want. We do a bit of that here every now and then, but a guy like Nico Muhly does it on every engaging, meandering post. His hobbyhorses are food and grammar, and he's usually a good read. Until recently though, I hadn't noticed how flat out honest he was being. He's received a lifetime of press in the past few years, and almost all of it has been glowing. When he got a bad review from Pitchfork, he blogged about how deeply it got under his skin and confessed to the fact that the review hit the mark.

Over the weekend, Nico reacted to a negative review of a Grizzly Bear concert in the Times with what, for him, counts as a blistering attack on the reviewer. I find his warts and all approach refreshing. He could be posting 50 words about going into the studio with (uber-hip band) and how he can't wait for their show at (major venue). Instead of blasé blasts of self-promotion, we get the genuine, conflicted thoughts of a young, working composer.

Regarding the Times review, Nico suggested that there was no alternative to the description of Grizzly Bear's music as 'precious'. He found it to be coded, something that was irrefutable because it only had meaning to the reviewer who invoked it (Sort of like how Dick Cheney can keep insisting that those memos that Obama won't release prove torture worked). I pointed out in a comment that 'precious' does have an alternative, however. It's 'careless'.

There is a common usage of precious which means that something is too affected, but the more damaging meaning is when something is too closely held. Think Gollum and his ring:





The relationship between Gollum and his ring is so precious that it clouds out all other things. Neither the ring, nor Gollum, have a life outside of each other. In his adoration for the ring, Gollum keeps both it and him from actualization. A surfeit of care stifles anything.

Nico came back with this comparison:




bagel

Precious? “Everything Bagel” from WD-50
2306088949_39df359f9d

Sloppy? Not Precious?


Exactly. I'd be happy to eat both of those plates. The first is richly attended to, while the second is just meat on a plate. These are two very different experiences, and neither is inherently negative.

Returning to the Times' review, it touches on the only negative thing that's being said about Veckatimest, which is that its preciousness makes it dull. The musical analogy to those dueling plates that I'd offer is Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" versus Queen's "Love of My Life". Both come from richly detailed albums (A Night At the Opera remains the standard bearer for obsessively inventive studio wizardry). Both songs are beautiful on their surface and full of swooning, complex textures.

"Two Weeks" leaves it at that, however. That's largely due to the length of it. If it simply ended at 2'30", it would be a gem of a song, but by repeating its form and texture without major development, it frosts over. It becomes remote.

"Love of My Life" is as immediate as a dog licking your face. There's no distance between you and Freddie as he sings to his lover. In fact, it's so easy to think he's singing directly to you that the song became his in-concert lullaby to his audience for a decade.

Both songs are highly refined studio creations. The former remains self-contained, while the other sprawls in the ear. There are legitimate reasons to love and hate both songs. Calling 'Two Weeks' precious is just one way of describing it. For me, it's not a dismissal of it. It's just a helpful description of one of its flaws, which brings me back to my original thought.

Negative criticism often prompts people to throw the baby out with the bathwater. After reading my thoughts about Up, my wife assumed I hated it, even though she'd seen it with me and knew that I enjoyed it. Within minutes of saying that the wordless opening of Wall-E was overscripted, a fan of the movie wrote to cry foul, saying that I'd 'trashed' it, but I liked that movie too. Maybe in another post, I'll go on about the merits of those films. As Nico said, "This is what the internet is for."

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Elias Tanenbaum, "Contradictions"

ELlAS TANENBAUM
CONTRADICTIONS (1974)
Tape realized at the electronic music studio of the Manhattan School of Music

-- LINER NOTES --

ELlAS TANENBAUM (b. 1924, Brooklyn) studied trumpet at an early age. His first musical experiences were in the field of jazz, and his music reflects the openness and spontaneity of the jazz experience. After serving in World War II, he entered the Juilliard School of Music; upon graduation as a trumpet major his interests turned to composition. He studied privately with Dante Fiorillo, Bohuslav Martinu, Otto Luening and Wallingford Riegger.

Tanenbaum, who has composed extensively in all mediums, is the recipient of many prizes and awards. He is the director of the electronic music studio, a member of the composition.faculty, and conductor ofthe Composers' Improvisation Ensemble at the Manhattan School of Music. He writes:

"The material used in CONTRADICTIONS is varied. There are both electronically generated and concrete sounds. The work opens with a man's voice saying, 'Sounds are.' That phrase expresses my feelings about this work; sounds are whatever they are and stand by themselves."

AMERICAN COMPOSERS ALLIANCE
Each year, the American Composers Alliance chooses several member composers to receive the ACA Recording Award. These awards are given either to stimulate the career of a talented young composer or to call attention to the recognized achievement of a mature musician. Occasionally, the birthday of an outstanding composer is celebrated with the Award. In all cases, the selection is made by a jury of the composer's peers, whose principal criterion is artistic excellence.

Frank Wigglesworth
President

This record was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Alliance.

Producer: Carter Harman
Associate Producer: Carolyn Sachs,
Art Director: Judith Lerner
Cover Judith Lerner 1982
LC#: 82-74331 2
1982 Composers Recordings, Inc.

THIS IS A COMPOSER-SUPERVISED RECORDING
Printed in the U.S.A.
CRI
WRITE FOR A COMPLETE LISTING OF ALBUMS ON CRI
COMPOSERS RECORDINGS, INC.
170 WEST 74TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10023
A NOT-FOR-PROFIT. TAX-EXEMPT CORPORATION

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Coldplay, "Glass of Water" (Live)



Grab the full live album here. You don't need to give a legit email, either.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

William Matthews, "Field Guide" & "Aurora, A Waltz"

-- LINER NOTES --

WILLIAM MATTHEWS
FlELD GUIDE
Tape realized at the Institute of Sonology; Utrecht. Holland

WILLIAM MATTHEWS (b. 1950) is a flutist and conductor, as well as a composer. He studied at the Oberlin Conservatory and at the University of lowa, and is currently (1977) working with Jacob Druckman at the Yale School of Music. In 1972,1973 and 1974, he received BMI Awards to Student Composers, and in 1976 received a Charles lves Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

From 1974 to 1976, he worked at the lnstituut voor Sonologie in Utrecht, Holland, using the computer facilities there to produce several works, including FlELD GUIDE on this album. He writes:

"In FlELD GUIDE, for computer-synthesized electronic sound, the composer and computer wander together through a 'field' of 103 different sound events. The program for the piece calls upon the composer to decide which general direction the music should take during the course of performance, while the computer is allowed to decide the details. Listening to FlELD GUIDE is a bit like walking through a woods in which each species of flora is found only in its particular habitat, while interloping fauna are more free to put in surprising appearances here and there."

--------------
WILLIAM MATHEWS
AURORA, A WALTZ (1981)
Tape realized using computer music equipment of the Structured Sound Synthesis Project at the University of Toronto

WILLIAM MATTHEWS (b. 1950, Toledo) studied composition at Oberlin, the University of Iowa, the Institute for Sonologie in Holland, and the Yale School of Music. His principal teachers include Richard Hervig, Gottfried Michael Koenig, and Jacob Druckman. Among his awards and prizes are three BMI Awards to Student Composers, several grants for study abroad, a Charles E. lves Scholarship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, two ACA recording awards, and a composer-fellowship from the NEA. He has composed music of several types, including solos, orchestral, electronic and chamber music, as well as music for the theater. Since 1978 he has taught at Bates College in Maine. He writes:

"AURORA, A WALTZ, uses a few distinctly electronic timbres, but mostly uses sounds with sharp attacks and immediate decays, similar to those of the piano. These sounds were chosen to emphasize the energetic rhythmic life of the musical structures employed.

"I would like to express my gratitude to William Buxton, the Director of the SSSP in Toronto, for the invitation to work there and for technical assistance."

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pixar At the Crossroads

Somewhere back in its early days, Pixar had to have struck a devil's deal which insured glowing press for its films. There's just no other way to figure how something like Up could be received with such breathless criticism. It's being hailed as the 'best film of the year'. It's not even the best film released this month.

The Wall Street Journal pinpointed its central weakness as a lack of coherence. There's far too much weight placed on the back story of the old man. The montage which summarizes his marriage to his childhood sweetheart is told through a series of pictures. (BTW, am I the only one who gets creeped out when movie romances start in early childhood? These kids are six or seven years old when they meet!)

This montage has been as warmly received as the wordless opening of Wall-E. From the same WSJ review:
"It's the essence of daring, the sort of thing that only Pixar would try to do, let alone do wondrously well."
That's funny, because Zach Snyder dared to do the exact same thing a few months back to relate the back story of Watchmen. These montages are never silent, either. Dylan blared over Watchmen, and an extra syrupy Chaplinesque waltz is drizzled all over Up. For some reason, when it comes to Pixar, critics are not only quick to reach for their superlatives, they are also more than eager to abandon any grasp they ever had on film history. Pixar is seemingly the first and best to do anything.

The wordless sequence is now shtick for Pixar. Wall-E's opening sequence, which apparently broke all kinds of new ground, was actually, if anything, over-scripted. Not a second goes by that the little robot doesn't tweet or whir in a way that's adorable, and whenever you slap giant expressive eyes on anything, it becomes infinitely more likable. Whatever emoting is not done by Wall-E's sound design is ably picked up by his ever changing eyes. There's probably a snowball's chance in hell that human beings would design a robotic trash compactor with such adorable eyes. But then again, what are the odds that an alien from Brodo Asogi would have ginormous blue eyes?

To me, both E.T. and Wall-E would have resonated more if they were more alien to us. But if I were tasked with creating a blockbuster family film, I'd use googly eyes and sound cues too. With Up, it's just not clear what purpose is served by the heavy handed approach to the old man's marriage. The purpose of talking, adorable dogs is quite obvious, even though it's just as transparent a manipulation as the montage. The whole film feels like an endless series of pokes at your emotional buttons. Most of them provoke the desired response, but the feeling you're left with after all that button pushing stops is fairly hollow. The whole film is like a sugar rush, just a lot of empty calories.

You can skip the premium for 3D, too. The most eye-popping things in 3D are the fabrics of ties and curtains, actually. Everything else is barely an advance over Jaws 3. It's just an endless search for excuses to have things zoom straight at the camera. If this is the 3D that James Cameron has been working on, I might have to stop looking forward to Avatar.

This 3D is not much of an advance over stereoscopes. A few items are rendered in sharp focus in the foreground, and everything else is rendered in slightly less focus in the background. It's a neat effect, but it mainly feels like you're looking at a diorama. No matter where you look, there's still a 2D backstop to the visual. There's a struggle atop a dirigible at the end of the film which had a very real sense of danger to it because the 3D so effectively characterized the altitude of the action. I actually got a bit of vertigo, but for the most part, the 3D wasn't worth the extra $5.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Ramon Zupko, "Fixations" & "Fluxus I"

RAMON ZUPKO

FIXATIONS (1974)
Nancy Elan, violin; Barbara Bogatin, cello; Andrew Thomas, piano; tape; Harvey Sollberger, conductor

FLUXUS l
Electronic tape realized at the Western Michigan University Electronic Music Studio

RAMON ZUPKO (b. 1932, Pittsburgh) started learning the piano from his mother, a good pop pianist, at the age of 8, and started to compose at about the same time. His talent for composition was encouraged in high school, in Ohio, and he went on to study with Vincent Persichetti (at the Juilliard School) and later in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship and at Columbia University. He lived in Europe from 1962 to 1966, studying at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and taking courses in electronic music at Bilthoven, Holland. Back in the U.S.A., he lived for a year on a Ford Foundation grant and then became Director of the Electronic Music Laboratory at Roosevelt University, Chicago. Since 1971 he has held a similar position at Western Michigan University, where he also teaches composition and theory and directs the New Music Ensemble. In 1970 his work for soprano and chamber ensemble, La Guene was chosen to represent the U.S. at the festival of the ISCM in Basel, Switzerland.

He has written the following about his music on this record:
"explore obsession
"-focus (out of chaos)
"-set in time (tradition persists)
"frozen movement-change without change . . .
"fixations
"Since about 1970 1 have been concerned with four areas of expression in my music in varying degrees of emphasis: space, timbre, expanded tonality, and theatre. FIXATIONS deals in one way or another with each of these, the last one of course being apparent only in live performance. Spatial characteristics are enhanced in live pefformance through the placement of the speakers for the tape part behind the audience. The sounds of the tape part are electronically modified and de-synthesized versions of several of the live instrumental sounds, relating-to the latter as extended timbres and dimensions of them. The pitch and rhythmic structure is derived entirely from the two hexachords and rhythmic cells of the first dozen bars, and each section of the piece deals with a fixed harmonic field, which creates its own tonal hierarchy. There are ten continuous sections within the single movement, four of which are rhythmically freer cadenzas for each of the three solo instruments, as well as the tape.

"FLUXUS I for electronic sounds (1977) is in many ways an alternate solution, employing completely different materials, to the stylistic approach developed in FIXATIONS. It was realized on the Moog synthesizer of Western Michigan University, and employs as raw material four parallel seventh chords, and pitch sequences derived from them. These are subjected to a wide ,variety of controlled manipulations, creating within the basic drone character of the piece a constant state of flux between density and transparency, simple and complex timbres, foreground and background, tonal progression and stasis, rapid and slow spatial movement, regular and irregular rhythms, dramatic declamation and reverie."

JAMES DIXON, a protege of Dimitri Mitropoulos, has established a reputation as one ot the most conscientious and musical of all conductors of new music. He is in residence at the University of lowa, and makes guest appearances in major centers. He has appeared on several CRI records.

HARVEY SOLLBERGER, flutist extraordinary, is as distinguished as a composer and conductor. He is co-director of the Group for Contemporary Music at the Manhattan School of Music and a frequent participant in CRI recordings.

This recording was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Alliance.

Produced by Carter Harman
Cover by Judith Lerner
LETTERS FROM HOME: 12'35"
Recorded by Lowell Cross, April 1977
FIXATIONS: 15'30"
Recorded by David Hancock, March 1977
FlELD GUIDE: 7'55"
FLUXUS 1: 6 min.
All ACA (BMI)
LC# MATHEWS 77-750619, ZUPKO 77-750620
1977 Composers Recordings, Inc.
THIS IS A COMPOSER-SUPERVISED RECORDING
Printed in the U.S.A.

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Russ Irwin, "My Heart Belongs To You"



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Ramon Zupko, "Masques", "Nocturnes, "Fluxus II"

MASQUES (1973-78)
Western Brass Quintet (Donald Bullock and
Stephen Jones, trumpets; Neill Sanders, horn;
Russell Brown, trombone; Robert Whaley, tuba);
Phyllis Rappeport, piano

NOCTURNES: 1-3, 4-6 (1977)
Abraham and Arlene Stokman, pianos

FLUXUS II (1978)
Abraham Stokman, piano

RAMON ZUPKO (b. 1932, Pittsburgh) is the director of the Studio for Electronic Music and the New Music Ensemble at Western Michigan University, where he also teaches composition, music theory, and acoustics. He began his musical studies at an early age, eventually receiving composition degrees from Juilliard. He studied further at Columbia, and in Europe, where he lived for several years. His principal composition teacher was Vincent Persichetti.

Many of his works make use of the electronic medium, as well as theatrical elements. His awards include grants from the Fulbright Commission, the Ford Foundation CMP Project, the Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund. Several of his works have been published, including the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1962) which was awarded first prize in the "Premio Citta di Trieste," and FIXATIONS for Piano, Violin, Cello, and Tape (1974), which received a 1977 ACA Recording Award (CRI SD 375). His orchestral works have been performed by the Detroit, St. Louis, and Indianapolis Symphonies. He writes:

"As is the case with most of my works, those recorded here received'their initial impetus from either poetic sources or dramatic-theatrical conceptions. Each of them deals with a re-interpretation of the resources and techniques of the past, with special attention focused on the elements of timbre, space,and an expanded concept of tonality.
MASQUES
play minstrels!
begin your journey
in sound and in motion
unfold your theatre -
allow us an image
of free spirits!
"As the title implies, this is an entertainment piece which combines music with ritual and pageantry. In live performance the musicians, who are costumed uniformly, move about the stage in specified patterns, creating a constantly changing visual as well as aural perspective. The 1978 version includes a number of modifications in order to render the work more suitable as a purely audible experience on disc. This recording attempts to preserve some of the sonic spatiality which one would experience if hearing the work live. Formally, the piece is a series of static sound blocks within a single movement, each one a 'disguised' version of one or more of the others. All of the pitch material is an outgrowth of a single five-note cluster: B, C, D, E, and F, and the sound 'metamorphosis' of the piece is from pitch-oriented to noise-oriented sound, then abruptly back again for the last segment.

"MASQUES was premiered by the artists on this recording on February 15, 1974, on the campus of Western Michigan University.

"NOCTURNES was written during September and October of 1977, and received its premiere by the Stokmans at the University of Chicago on January 20, 1978. Although there are six separate pieces here they form an entity. Each of them is tied to the others through its timbral, melodic, and rhythmic materials, but especially through the harmonic elements, all of which are permutations of a polychordal structure consisting of three major triads a half-step apart. The homage to Chopin is apparent throughout, as is the tone-picture quality of each of the pieces, inspired as they were by the following Haiku:
1. (Calmato)
autumn evening;
a crow perched
on a withered bough (Basho)

2. (Bizzarramente)
the sound of dancing dies;
wind among the pine trees,
insect cries (Sogetsu)

3. (Freddamente)
icy the moonshine;
shadow of a tombstone
shadow of a pine (Shiki)

4. (Ardente)
a lightening gleam
into darkness travels
a night-heron's scream (Basho)

5. (Affabile)
the water-fowl
pecks and shivers -
the moon on the waves (Zuiryu)

6. (Lontano) the bell from far away -
how it moves along in its coming
through the spring haze! (Onitsura)

"FLUXUS II was composed between February and April, 1978, and is dedicated to Abraham Stokman, who premiered the work at Alice Tully Hall on January 20, 1979. The expressive and dramatic flow of the work was strongly influenced by a poem of Dylan Thomas entitled In the Beginning, the poet's personal expression of the story of Genesis. Musically the work is concerned with Baroque and Classical keyboard embellishment, Romantic keyboard figuration and bravura, and with the relationships among static tonal centers. The piece derives its form from the melodic growth and expansion of a three-note cell. It approaches the piano as a polyphonic 'color' instrument, with many gradations of attack and dynamic, 'orchestrated' textures with foreground accompanied by one or more layers of background, various 'echo' effects and the rapid alternation of differing textures and shapes."

ABRAHAM STOKMAN was born in Israel, where he began his piano studies at the age of six. Later he came to the Juilliard School to study with Edward Steuermann, receiving his B.S. and M.S. degrees in piano. Since taking up his residency in Chicago several years ago, he has performed often as soloist with the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in chamber music concerts, and most recently as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Bach D Minor Concerto. He has had compositions written for him by Ralph Shapey, Robert Lombardo, and John Austin. In addition to activities as performer, piano teacher, accompanist, arranger and composer, Mr. Stokman improvises in the manner of the 19th century pianists.

ARLENE GATILAO STOKMAN is a native of the Philippines. After she received her B.S. degree from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, she came to the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University, where she received the Rudolph Ganz Piano Award. She has performed frequently with her husband as a piano duo.

PHYLLIS RAPPEPORT is Professor of Music and head of the piano department at Western Michigan University. She holds degrees from Queens College and the University of Illinois, where she was a member of the Contemporary Chamber Players. She has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, and has been active throughout the country as accompanist and ensemble performer.

THE WESTERN BRASS QUINTET was founded in 1966 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Its members are professors of music at Western Michigan University. It has performed throughout the country, including performances for the Composer's Forum on NPR, the Composer's Forum in New York, invitational performances for the Tuba Universal Brotherhood Association and the International Trumpet Guild, and at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. The ensemble has premiered numerous works which were written for it, including the work on this album, 'Nodding Music' by Elgar Howarth, and LANDSCAPES by Pulitzer composer Karel Husa, a work commissioned by the Quintet, and recorded by them on CRI 192 (78).

This record was funded in part by a grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music, Inc.

Musical production by composer
Produced by Carter Harman
Cover art Judith Lerner 1979
FLUXUS II - ACA (BMI): 13'50"
NOCTURNES - ACA (BMI): 17'45"
MASQUES - ACA (BMI): 13 min.
LC#: 79-750595
1979 Composers Recordings, Inc.
THIS IS A COMPOSER-SUPERVISED RECORDING
Printed in the U.S.A.

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Henry Mancini, "It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)"

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ramon Zupko, "Noosphere"

American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award Record

Ramon Zupko
Noosphere (1980)

New World Ouartet
(Curtis J. Macomber and William Patterson, violins; Robert Dan, viola; Ross T. Harbaugh, cello)

Ramon Zupko (b. 1932, Pittsburgh, PA) is Professor of Composition at Western Michigan University, where he also directs the Studio for Electronic Music. He began his musical studies at an early age, and studied at Juilliard, Columbia, and in Europe, where he lived for several years. His principal composition teacher was Vincent Persichetti.

He has composed more than 100 works, many of which include the electronic medium, as well as theatrical elements. His more than forty composition awards include a Guggenheim, a Koussevitzky Foundation Award, a Kennedy-Friedheim Award, an American Composers Alliance Recording Award, a Berkshire Music Center Commission, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was named a Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Western Michigan University for 1983-84.

Zupko's compositions have been performed in New York and at various festivals and college campuses throughout the country, as well as in Europe. His orchestral works have been performed by the Detroit, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, Curtis, and Tanglewood Festival Orchestras. His compositions appear on CRI 375 and 425.

Zupko has become concerned with a more ecumenical approach to musical materials, which endeavors to synthesize the spectrum of contemporary compositional techniques with those of the past, as well as those of other, non-Western cultures. This approach is supported philosophically by the writings of various 20th century thinkers whose conclusions have to do with the essence of our survival as a species, particularly: the acceptance of the multiplicity of experience, and the evolution of the network of human consciousness. He writes:

"Noosphere is an interpretation, in musical terms, of the substantive elements of the philosophy of the Jesuit priest-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It was Chardin's vision that the 'Noosphere,' the network of communication, information, and personal aspiration that embraces the universe, is evolving into a collective mind and soul, in which all humans participate.

"The three movements of the quartet express this evolutionary process through the incorporation of various folk songs and chants which represent most of the major world cultures. The same material is employed in all three movements.

"In the first movement, 'Alpha,' the primordial state is represented: independent, elementary energies, in search of unification. The second movement, 'Convergence,' exoloits the effects of unification, creating an increased interaction and inter-dependence among the materials, resulting in higher and more complex levels of organization. The third movement, 'Omega,' the ultimate state of convergence, brings the total inter-meshing of the materials to the forefront. While still maintaining their identities, their main focus becomes interaction with one another, in order to achieve an intensely unified 'hyperpersonal' organization, what Chardin describes as the 'Cosmic Omega.'

"This work was written under a Faculty Research fellowship from Western Michigan University."

IN MEMORIAM R. DOUGLAS

The New World String Quartet, with a repertoire ranging from the standard quartet literature to premieres of contemporary American works, has been acclaimed as one of America's most prominent young ensembles. Formed in 1977, the quartet has appeared at major halls in major cities and universities. It is currently Ouartet-in-Residence at Harvard University. It also appears on CRI SO 497.

This recording was made possible by grants from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Each year, this organization awards four prizes to composers of outstanding accomplishment during the preceding year. The prize consists of a cash award and a recording on CRI. Thomas McKinley was a winner in 1983 and Ramon Zupko in 1982.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Charles Dodge, "Changes"

-- LINER NOTES --

Charles Dodge received his early musical training in Ames, lowa, where he was born in 1942. During his years as a composition student (at the University of lowa with Philip Bezonson ond Richard Hervig, at Tanglewood with Gunther Schuller and Arthur Berger, and at Columbia University with Jack Beeson, Chou Wen-chung, and Otto Luening), many of his works were awarded composition prizes. Since then, in addition to teaching in the music departments of Columbia and Princeton Universities, he has conducted reseorch in computer sound synthesis at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center and lectured on the subject for musicians, scientists, and engineers at various colleges and universities.

Concerning his work, Mr. Dodge writes: "Changes was commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation for performance at the Library of Congress. The texture of the composition comprises the same three elements throughout: lines, chords, and percussion; and each textural element delineates a different aspect of the composition's pitch structure. The chords play segments (3 to 6 notes) of the twelve-tone set that forms the basis of the work. In the course of the work the chords sound all 48 forms of the set. The lines play six note segments of the set which are related to the original by rotation. The percussion duplicates the pitch-class content of the chords (i.e., the percussion linearizes the pitches of the chords).

"For the computer performance I designed an 'orchestra' of 'instruments' that emphasize the different types of pitch-delineation. For the lines, a family of registral instruments was created which consist of a pulse generator (of the type used in speech synthesis) which is fed into multiple banks of filters in series. As the amplitude of the banks of filters is varied, the timbre of the note changes.

Further, the center-frequency settings of the filters are changed with each chord change, so that the timbre change itself changes as a function of the chord changes, which are themselves a function of the rate at which the lines sound all twelve tones. As the work progresses, each note in the lines incorporates more and more timbre changes, so that at the end each note changes timbre six times. All of the 'percussion' sounds entail a timbre-change which is the result of different components decaying at different rates."

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Charles Ives, "Concord Sonata"

-- LINER NOTES --

Produced by Leroy Perkins

Side 1
IVES: SECOND PIANO SONATA:
"Concord, Mass., 1840-60" (Beginning)
I-Emerson (13:35)
II-Hawthorne (10:02)

Side 2
SECOND PIANO SONATA:
"Concord, Mass. 1840-60" (Conclusion)
III-The Alcotts (4:40)
IV-Thoreau (9:38)

People often ask why this performance of Concord differs so from the published second edition. The only answer is to tell how the various versions grew.

It all started in 1904 when Ives sketched an Orchard House Overture (the Alcott house), of which only a half line survives, quoting Charles Zeuner's hymn Missionary Chant ("Ye Christian heralds, go proclaim..."). In 1907 Ives projected a series of Men of Literature overtures, the one on Emerson as a piano concerto--"the orchestra was the world and people hearing the piano...was Emerson." The overtures on Hawthorne (1909, for pianos) and on Thoreau (strings with flute and horn) were hardly more than imagined.

But in September 1911, "I got the idea of a Concord sonata, and...took the common themes from the Alcott overture and 'Fate knocking'" (the two themes common to all four movements: one Ives called "that human faith melody"--the other is a complex of Zeuner's hymn and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony). Hawthorne was finished that October, Emerson in 1912, and The Alcotts and Thoreau enough so that, later in 1912, "I played the whole sonata...though Thoreau I played partly from the sketch and with a few improvisations." By 1915 The Alcotts and Thoreau were also finished.

Parts of the sonata were simpler than the prototypes, and shorty after 1915 Ives made the beginning of Emerson into a separate piece more like the overture (the first of the Four Transcriptions From Emerson). In 1916 he used Hawthorne as the nucleus of the second movement of his Fourth Symphony and later reworked both into a piano fantasy, The Celestial Railroad.

In October 1918, Ives suffered his first heart attack, and during the long convalescence he wrote out the clear ink copy of Concord and finished the Essays Before a Sonata. No sooner were these privately printed, in 1919-20, than Ives again regretted some of his simplifications and excerpted three more transcriptions from Emerson. For many years he kept filling various copies of the first edition and of the transcriptions with pencil revisions. Every time he played any of it, he improvised new variants--"and I don't know as I ever shall write them out, as it may take away the daily pleasure of...seeing it grow."

In 1927 I saw a copy of Concord and was told to write Ives, and he sent me the sonata and the Essays. Penetration was gradual: In '32 I played The Alcotts, in '35 Emerson. Not having met Ives, I wrote him a questionnaire and he sent many explanations and photostats, saying "the printed movement is nearer Emerson...and I think you are right in keeping to that. The transcriptions seem to grow away from Emerson in some places...However, do whatever seems natural or best to you, though not necessarily the same way each time."

In '37 I finally met Ives, and while I could ask him things, I soon learned how he hated to be pinned down to a definite answer, preferring to make every thought a springboard. For instance, the one time I started to play Concord for him, hoping for criticism, all he wanted to do was to play me other pieces based on the same material--The Anti-Abolitionist Riots, bits of Hawthorne and The Celestial Railroad, etc.--and I never regained the piano stool.

By '38 I was playing the whole sonata, and Lawrence Gilman's review of '39--"the greatest music composed by an American"--helped to spread a contagious enthusiasm. Ives asked me to supervise the second edition, but being still mystified by many of his revisions, I procrastinated, and he did it all himself, helped by George Robert's clear copies of patches. After many proofs, it appeared in '47.

All this time I was understanding more and more of the revisions--Mrs. Ives had brought me an extra set of the third proofs--so that, whereas in the 30's I had modified the first edition with some of the revisions, by the 50's it was the other way around. Then when Ives died in '54, and it was my privilege to sort his manuscripts, the enormous extent of the source materials for Concord finally came to light. Every time I take it up again, some choices change.

Nearly all details of this performance that differ from the second edition are from one source or another--for instance: in Emerson, the fugato (pp.13-15) and the climax before the coda (bottom of p. 17) from the first edition; in Hawthorne, the hovering thirds above the second hymn (p. 34) from a sketch, the roll-off ending the march (p. 36) and the canon on "Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue" (p. 46) from the way I heard Ives play them; in Thoreau, the expanding wedge after the chords rolled inward (p. 65) from a patch, the omission of four beats two lines later from Ive's indication in several copies to do so, the flute passage as a fresh arrangement keeping the flute an octave higher (as Ives begins the piano solo version on p. 67). The march in Hawthorne (p. 35) has some naturals instead of flats which I once thought Ives might have meant that way (knowing how inconsistent his accidentals could be)--and even though the later proofs contradicted me, I still think Ives would have liked those naturals, as he liked the engraver's mistake in Thoreau (5th chord in the bottom staff of p. 61). He loved to surprise people, and it often struck his funnybone to be surprised himself.

An important distinction in the first edition became a footnote in the second: most of Emerson is labeled "(prose)" except the second theme (both times, p. 5 and p. 16) and the variations (pp. 8-11, corresponding to the scherzo movement of the overture), which are labeled "(verse)." Ives explained the prose as "not to be evenly played...the tempo is not precise"--and about Hawthorne, "it is not intended that the metrical relation 2:1 be held too literally." If this may seem to invite rhythmic chaos, it is more than offset by the way the rich logic of thematic transformation throughout the sonata requires a tightly organic integration. -- John Kirkpatrick

The cover photo of The Old Manse in Concord, Mass., is by Daniel and Juanita Farber. The house was built in 1769 by Ralph Waldo Emerson's grandfather, and Emerson wrote most of his first book there. In 1842, the house was leased to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who gave it its name and wrote much of his "Mosses From an Old Manse" there.

Engineering: Fred Plaut, Milt Cherin

Other recordings of the works of Charles Ives:
Three Places in New England (The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Conductor)...MS 6684
Symphony No. 3 ("The Camp Meeting"); Decoration Day; The Unanswered Question (New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, Conductor)...MS 6843
"Holidays" Symphony (New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, Conductor)...MS 7147
Sonata No. 1 for Piano (William Masselos)...Odyssey 32 18 0059

COLUMBIA STEREO RECORDS CAN BE PLAYED ON TODAY'S MONO RECORDS WITH EXCELLENT RESULTS. THEY WILL LAST AS LONG AS MONO RECORDS PLAYED ON THE SAME EQUIPMENT, YET WILL REVEAL FULL STEREO SOUND WHEN PLAYED ON STEREO RECORD PLAYERS.

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