Friday, February 1, 2013
Chronicle of December 2012
Dolci premieres Philip Freihofner's Filled with Moonlight. Trinity Chapel, Berkeley, CA.
Guitarist Dieter Hennings in Antonio Jose's Sonata, Juan Trigos's Partita, and the premiere ofAnthony Korf's El Diario. St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, San Bruno, CA.
Linda Bouchard's Murderous Little World. ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA. Repeated 12/10, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA. "Something important is said in "Murderous Little World." But what?
This is Canadian composer Linda Bouchard's music theater collaboration with several of her country's exceptional artists. She has based her work on seven poems from Anne Carson's Men in the Off Hours. The 68-minute work . . . includes enigmatic video by Yan Breuleux and Frédéric St-Hilaire. It features a versatile three-man ensemble of brass and accordion -- Bellows and Brass -- that pretty much blew me away. Keith Turnbull has discreetly directed the production so that theater not burden poetry or music with extraneous explanation. The short first poem in Carson's collection, which is the last in the theater piece, begins: 'Murderous little world once our objects had gazes.' It ends: 'Here lies the refugee breather/ Who drank a bowl of elsewhere.' Bouchard's music is the 'bowl of elsewhere.' The rest of the show, I'm not so sure of. Murderous Little World begins with static produced by Bouchard, whose works often include environmental electronics, sitting in a darkened corner of the stage, operating two laptops. On the large video screen that served as the backdrop was a changing mosaic of news clips from political demonstrations in Katmandu, Nepal. Guy Few sits in a chair, reading a book. He has a black bandanna over shaved head, earrings and is leather clad. He looks like trouble. But he eventually reveals himself as a brooding trumpet player, percussive pianist, hard-edged crooning singer and an actor of plastic expressivity. Joseph Petric sits near Bouchard and noodles on the accordion. Eric Vaillancourt comes along and noodles on the trombone. Some words from Carson's poem Hokusai appear on the screen, but not enough to tell us how Hokusai drew a lion every day in his 83rd and last year, 'their white paws/ mauling stars,' the painter 'hoping for/ a peaceful day.' . . . On video a house of cards is constructed and destroyed, again and again. The musicians whirl in and out, with what can sound like improvisational imagery. But they also assume theatrical roles, playing an existential game of cards on three music stands bent horizontally to form a table. . . . Carson introduces Men in the Off Hours with a meditation on Thucydides and Virginia Woolf. She looks at how reason and strength start to slip away not when war begins but later, when it's too late. For her 'Who drank a bowl of elsewhere' is a depiction of the fragility of life and of time. At the end of "Murderous Little World," Few intones that line at the piano, longingly, over and over, and it turns into a question. So who drank a bowl of elsewhere? There are many layers to shift through in Murderous Little World. Query the video and you might miss something in the music. Let a Carson line gyrate in your mind and you'll fail to capture another as it glides by. The sheer brilliance of Bellow and Brass may draw you to them alone. Bouchard's electronic soundscape is its own enchantment" [Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 12/11/12].
New York Festival of Song presents Women: An Evening of Songs Exploring the Lives of Women. John Musto's I Stop Writing the Poem and Rome: In the Cafe, Ned Rorem's A Birthday and We Never Said Farewell, Arnold Schoenberg's Galathea, Mark Adamo's The Racer’s Widow, Carla Kihlstedt's Woman’s Body, Harold Meltzer's Topography, Thea Musgrave's I Love My Jean, Judy Collins's My Father, Benjamin Britten's Sephestia’s Lullaby, and Mohammed Fairouz's A Prayer to the New Year. Kauffman Center, Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY.
Death of Dave[id Warren] Brubeck (b. 12/6/20, Concord, CA), a day before his 92nd birthday. Norwalk, CT. "In a long and successful career, Mr. Brubeck brought a distinctive mixture of experimentation and accessibility that won over listeners who had been trained to the sonic dimensions of the three-minute pop single. Mr. Brubeck experimented with time signatures and polytonality and explored musical theater and the oratorio, baroque compositional devices and foreign modes. He did not always please the critics, who often described his music as schematic, bombastic and -- a word he particularly disliked -- stolid. But his very stubbornness and strangeness -- the blockiness of his playing, the oppositional push-and-pull between his piano and Paul Desmond’s alto saxophone -- make the Brubeck quartet’s best work still sound original. Outside of the group’s most famous originals, which had the charm and durability of pop songs (Blue Rondo à la Turk, It’s a Raggy Waltz, and Take Five), some of its best work was in its overhauls of standards . . . Surrounded by farms, his family lived a bucolic life: his father, Pete, was a cattle buyer for a meat company, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a choir director at the nearby Presbyterian church. When Mr. Brubeck was 11, the family moved to Ione . . . where his father managed a 45,000-acre cattle ranch and owned his own 1,200 acres. Forbidden to listen to the radio -- his mother believed that if you wanted to hear music you should play it -- Mr. Brubeck and his two brothers all played various instruments and knew classical etudes, spirituals, and cowboy songs. He learned most of this music by ear: because he was born cross-eyed, sight-reading was nearly impossible for him in his early years as a musician. When Mr. Brubeck was 14 . . . he was paid $8 for playing from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with a one-hour break. But until he went to college he was an aspiring rancher . . . . At the College of the Pacific . . . he first studied to be a veterinarian but switched to music . . . . It was there that he learned about 20th-century culture and read . . . Freud, Marx, and serial music; it was also there that he met Iola Whitlock, a fellow student, who became his wife in 1942. He graduated that year and immediately enlisted in the Army. For two years he played with the . . . band at Camp Haan, in Southern California. In 1944, Private Brubeck became a rifleman, entering basic training . . . and was then sent to Metz . . . . When his new commanding officer heard him accompany a Red Cross traveling show one day, Mr. Brubeck recalled, he told his aide-de-camp, 'I don’t want that boy to go to the front.' Thereafter, Mr. Brubeck led a band that was trucked into combat areas to play for the troops. He was near the front twice, during the Battle of the Bulge, but he never fought. Finished with the Army at 25, Mr. Brubeck moved with his wife into an apartment in Oakland . . . and, on a G.I. Bill scholarship, studied at Mills College . . . with . . . Darius Milhaud. [The French composer] asked the . . . musicians in his class to write fugues for jazz ensembles, and Mr. Brubeck played the results at a series of performances . . . . Brubeck had such admiration for his teacher that he named his first son, born in 1947, [after him]. . . . Brubeck first met his most important musical colleague, Mr. Desmond . . . in an Army band in 1943. [The alto saxophonist] was a perfect foil; his lovely, impassive tone was as ethereal as Mr. Brubeck’s style was densely chorded. In 1947, they met again and found instant musical rapport, fascinated by the challenge of using counterpoint in jazz. Mr. Brubeck’s first group, an octet formed in 1946, contained several of Milhaud’s students, and played pieces influenced by his teachings, using canonlike elements. The group’s earliest recorded work predated a much more famous set of similarly temperate jazz recordings, the 1948-50 Miles Davis Nonet work later packaged as Birth of the Cool. In the late 1940's and early 50's Mr. Brubeck also led a trio with Ron Crotty on bass and Cal Tjader on drums. It was around this time that he started to develop an audience. He was given an initial boost by the San Francisco disc jockey Jimmy Lyons, later the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival, who plugged the band on KNBC radio and helped secure it a record deal with Coronet. In 1951 the trio expanded to a quartet, with Mr. Desmond returning. . . . Quickly the constitutionally different men -- Mr. Brubeck open, ambitious, and imposing; Mr. Desmond private, high-living, and self-effacing -- developed their lines of musical communication. By the time of an engagement in Boston in the fall of 1952 they had become one of jazz’s greatest combinations. The next part of the equation was a record label, and for that Mr. Brubeck had found another booster: Fantasy Records, just started by the brothers Max and Sol Weiss, who owned a record-pressing plant and had little interest in jazz apart from wanting to make a profit from it. They did, eventually, with Mr. Brubeck. But Iola Brubeck also played a role in the growth of his audience. Before Mr. Brubeck became a client of the prominent manager Joe Glaser, she handled her husband’s business affairs. In 1953, she wrote to more than a hundred universities, suggesting that the quartet would be willing to play for student associations. The college circuit became the group’s bread and butter, and by the end of the 1950's it had sold hundreds of thousands of copies of its albums Jazz at Oberlin and Jazz Goes to College. In 1954, Mr. Brubeck became only the second jazz musician (after Louis Armstrong) to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. That year he signed with Columbia Records, promising to deliver two albums a year, and built a house in Oakland. For all his conceptualizing, Mr. Brubeck often seemed more guileless and stubborn country boy than intellectual. It is often noted that his piece The Duke -- memorably recorded by Miles Davis and Gil Evans in 1957 on their collaborative album Miles Ahead -- runs through all 12 keys in the first eight bars. But Mr. Brubeck contended that he never realized that until a music professor told him. Mr. Brubeck’s very personal musical language situated him far from the Bud Powell school of bebop rhythm and harmony; he relied more on chords, lots and lots of them, than on sizzling, hornlike right-hand lines. . . . It took a little while for Mr. Brubeck to capitalize on the greater visibility his deal with Columbia gave him, and as he accommodated success a certain segment of the jazz audience began to turn against him. . . . Still, by the end of the decade he had broken through with mainstream audiences in a bigger way than almost any jazz musician since World War II. In 1958, as part of a State Department program that brought jazz as an offer of good will during the cold war, his quartet traveled in the Middle East and India, and Mr. Brubeck became intrigued by musical languages that didn’t stick to 4/4 time -- what he called “march-style jazz,” the meter that had been the music’s bedrock. The result was the album Time Out, recorded in 1959. With the hits Take Five (composed by Mr. Desmond in 5/4 meter and prominently featuring the quartet’s gifted drummer, Joe Morello) and Blue Rondo à la Turk (composed by Mr. Brubeck in 9/8), the album propelled Mr. Brubeck onto the pop charts. Initially, Mr. Brubeck said, the album was released without high expectations from the record company. But when disc jockeys in the Midwest started playing Take Five, the song became a national phenomenon. After the album had been out for 18 months, Columbia released [the title cut] as a 45 r.p.m. single, edited for radio, with Blue Rondo on the B side. Both album and single became hits; the album . . . has since sold about two million copies. In 1960, realizing that most of the quartet’s work centered on the East Coast, the Brubecks, with their children, Dan, Michael, Chris, Darius, and Catherine, moved to Wilton, where they stayed. They later had one more child, Matthew. Genial as Mr. Brubeck could seem, he had strong convictions. In the 1950's, he had to stand up to college deans who asked him not to perform with a racially mixed band . . . . He also refused to tour in South Africa in 1958 when asked to sign a contract stipulating that his band would be all white. With his wife as lyricist, he wrote The Real Ambassadors, a jazz musical that dealt with race relations. With a cast that included Louis Armstrong, it was released on LP in 1962 . . . [and]t staged . . . at that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival. When Mr. Brubeck’s quartet broke up in 1967, after 17 years, he spent more time with his family and followed new paths. In 1969 he composed Elementals (subtitled Concerto for Anyone Who Can Afford an Orchestra), a concerto grosso for 45-piece ensemble. He later wrote an oratorio and four cantatas, a mass, two ballets and works for jazz combo with orchestra. Most of his commissioned pieces from the late 60's on, many of them collaborations with his wife, whose contributions included lyrics and librettos, were classical works. As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious themes and to bridge social and political divides. His cantata The Gates of Justice, from 1969, dealt with blacks and Jews in America; another cantata, Truth Is Fallen (1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra, electric guitars and police sirens. He played during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in 1988 and he composed entrance music for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1987. In 1968 he formed a quartet with the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and later he began working with his musician sons Darius (a pianist), Chris (a bassist), Dan (a drummer), and Matthew (a cellist). He performed and recorded with them often, most definitively on In Their Own Sweet Way (Telarc, 1997). The classic Brubeck quartet regrouped only once, in 1976, for a 25th-anniversary tour. . . . Brubeck resumed working with a quartet in the late 1970's -- finally settling into a long-term touring group featuring the saxophonist Bobby Militello -- and thereafter never stopped writing, touring and performing his hits. To the end he was a major draw at festivals. . . . He gave his archives to his alma mater. Despite health problems, Mr. Brubeck was still working as recently as 2011. In November 2010, just a month after undergoing heart surgery and receiving a pacemaker, he performed at the Blue Note in Manhattan. Nate Chinen of The Times, noting that Mr. Brubeck had already 'softened his pianism, replacing the old hammer-and-anvil attack with something almost airy,' wrote that his playing at the Blue Note 'was the picture of judicious clarity, its well-placed chordal accents suggesting a riffing horn section.' Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to him. 'One of the reasons I believe in jazz,' he said, 'is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born -- or before you’re born -- and it’s the last thing you hear'" [Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, 12/5/12].
Phil Kline's Unsilent Night. Greenville, SC. Peformances in 23 cities worldwild through 12/22, Saskatoon, Canada.
ZOFO Duet and Del Sol String Quartet in the U.S. Premiere of Kui Dong's Shall We Play? for string quartet, piano duet, and two toy pianos. Z Space, San Francisco, CA.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s in Night Music, featuring George Gershwin’s Lullaby, Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, and Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht. Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley, CA. Repeated 12/10, Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion, San Francisco.
Darmstadt Classics of the Avant Garde presents its eighth-annual performance of Terry Riley's In C.
Public Assembly, New York, NY.
Death of Ravi Shankar (b. Robindra Shankar Chowdhury, 4/7/20, Varanasi, India), after heart-valve replacement surgery, at 92. San Diego, CA. "In particular, his work with two young semi-apprentices in the 1960's -- George Harrison . . . and . . . Philip Glass . . . -- was profoundly influential on both popular and classical music. And his interactions throughout his career with performers from various Asian and Western traditions -- including . . . Yehudi Menuhin, . . . Jean-Pierre Rampal, [Alan Hovhaness] and . . . John Coltrane -- created hybrids that opened listeners’ ears to timbres, rhythms, and tuning systems . . . His final performance was a concert with his daughter, . . . Anoushka Shankar, on November 4 in Long Beach, CA. He was also the father of the singer Norah Jones. Mr. Shankar, a soft-spoken, eloquent man whose own virtuosity transcended musical languages, was trained in both Eastern and Western musical traditions. . . . [H]e began touring in Europe and the United States in the early 1950's [and] Mr. Shankar and his ensemble gradually built a large following for Indian music. Western interest in his instrument, the sitar, exploded in 1965 when Harrison encountered one on the set of Help!, the Beatles’ second film. Harrison was intrigued by the instrument, with its small rounded body, long neck and resonating gourd at the top, and its complexity: it has 6 or 7 melody strings and about twice as many sympathetic strings . . . . He soon learned its rudiments and used it that year on a Beatles recording, Norwegian Wood. The Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Byrds and other rock groups followed suit, although few went as far as Harrison, who recorded several songs on Beatles albums with Indian musicians rather than with his band mates. By the summer of 1967 the sitar was in vogue. At first Mr. Shankar reveled in the attention his connection with popular culture had brought him, and he performed for huge audiences at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 and at Woodstock in 1969. He also performed, with the tabla virtuoso Alla Rakha and the sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, at an all-star concert at Madison Square Garden in 1971 that Harrison had organized to help Mr. Shankar raise money for victims of political upheaval in Bangladesh. But his reach went much further. He composed for films (including the score for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi in 1982), ballets, electronic works and concertos for sitar and Western orchestras. As his popularity spread, societies for the presentation of Indian and other traditional music began springing up . . . and a thriving world music industry was soon born. . . . Though linked with the early rock era by many Americans, Mr. Shankar came to regard his participation in rock festivals as a mistake, saying he deplored the use of his music, with its roots in an ancient spiritual tradition, as a backdrop for drug use. 'On one hand,' he said in a 1985 interview, 'I was lucky to have been there at a time when society was changing. And although much of the hippie movement seemed superficial, there was also a lot of sincerity in it, and a tremendous amount of energy. What disturbed me, though, was the use of drugs and the mixing of drugs with our music. And I was hurt by the idea that our classical music was treated as a fad -- something that is very common in Western countries.' . . . Ravi Shankar . . was born . . . to a family of musicians and dancers. His older brother Uday directed a touring Indian dance troupe, which Ravi joined when he was 10. Within five years he had become one of the company’s star soloists. He also discovered that he had a facility with the sitar and the sarod, another stringed instrument, as well as the flute and the tabla, an Indian drum. The idea of helping Western listeners appreciate the intricacies of Indian music occurred to him during his years as a dancer. 'My brother had a house in Paris,' he recalled in one interview. 'To it came many Western classical musicians. These musicians all made the same point: ‘Indian music,’ they said, ‘is beautiful when we hear it with the dancers. On its own it is repetitious and monotonous.’ They talked as if Indian music were an ethnic phenomenon, just another museum piece. Even when they were being decent and kind, I was furious. And at the same time sorry for them. Indian music was so rich and varied and deep. These people hadn’t penetrated even the outer skin.' Mr. Shankar soon found, however, that as a young, self-taught musician he had not penetrated very deeply either. In 1936 an Indian court musician, Allaudin Khan, joined the company for a year and set Mr. Shankar on a different path. 'He was the first person frank enough to tell me that I had talent but that I was wasting it -- that I was going nowhere, doing nothing,' Mr. Shankar said. 'Everyone else was full of praise, but he killed my ego and made me humble.' When Mr. Shankar asked Mr. Khan to teach him, he was told that he could learn to play the sitar only after he decided to give up the worldly life he was leading and devote himself fully to his studies. In 1937 Mr. Shankar gave up dancing, sold his Western clothes and returned to India to become a musician. 'I surrendered myself to the old way,' he said, 'and let me tell you, it was difficult for me to go from places like New York and Chicago to a remote village full of mosquitoes, bedbugs, lizards and snakes, with frogs croaking all night. I was just like a Western young man. But I overcame all that.' After studying with Mr. Khan and marrying his daughter, Annapurna, also a sitarist, Mr. Shankar began his performing career in India. In the 1940's he started bringing Eastern and Western currents together in ballet scores and incidental music for films, including Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, in the late 1950's. In 1949 he was appointed music director of All India Radio. There he formed the National Orchestra, an ensemble of Indian and Western classical instruments. Mr. Shankar became increasingly interested in touring outside India in the early 1950s. His appetite was whetted further when he undertook a tour of the Soviet Union in 1954 and was invited to perform in London and New York. But it wasn’t until 1956 that he began spending long periods outside India. That year he left his position at All India Radio and toured Europe and the United States. Through his recitals and his recordings on the Columbia, EMI and World Pacific labels, Mr. Shankar built a Western following for the sitar. In 1952 he began performing with Menuhin, with whom he made three recordings for EMI: West Meets East (1967), West Meets East, Vol. 2 (1968) and Improvisations: West Meets East (1977). He also made recordings with Rampal. Coltrane had become fascinated with Indian music and philosophy in the early 1960's and met with Mr. Shankar several times from 1964 to 1966 to learn the basics of ragas, talas and Indian improvisation techniques. Sitar performances are partly improvised, but the improvisations are strictly governed by a repertory of ragas (melodic patterns representing specific moods, times of day, seasons or events) and talas (intricate rhythmic patterns) that date back several millenniums. Coltrane named his son Ravi Coltrane, also a saxophonist, after Mr. Shankar. Mr. Shankar loved to mix the music of different cultures. In 1978 he collaborated with several prominent Japanese musicians -- Hozan Yamamoto, a shakuhachi player, and Susumu Miyashita, a koto player -- on East Greets East. In 1988 his seven-movement Swar Milan was performed at the Palace of Culture in Moscow by an ensemble of 140 musicians, including the Russian Folk Ensemble, members of the Moscow Philharmonic and the Ministry of Culture Chorus, as well as Mr. Shankar’s group of Indian musicians. And in 1990 he collaborated with Mr. Glass -- who had worked as his assistant on the film score for Chappaqua in the late 1960's -- on Passages, a recording of works he and Mr. Glass composed for each other. 'I have always had an instinct for doing new things,' Mr. Shankar said in 1985. 'Call it good or bad, I love to experiment.' Though many listeners became familiar with Mr. Shankar mainly through his cross-cultural, style-blending experiments, his film scores and his concertos, his main love remained the ancient Northern Indian Hindustani style in which he was trained as a young man. Throughout his career he toured the world with a variation on the traditional Indian ensemble: himself as the sitar soloist, backed by a pair of tamburas . . . and tabla . . . . Often his tabla player was Alla Rakha, who became a renowned soloist in his own right. At times, Mr. Shankar also shared the spotlight with Ali Akbar Khan, a master of the sarod, another Indian stringed instrument. These concerts, including an annual performance at Carnegie Hall, adhered to traditional forms, in which the musicians would improvise on a raga, often ecstatically, for about an hour per piece. . . . Mr. Shankar maintained his friendship and working relationship with Harrison, who released a recording of a 1972 performance by Mr. Shankar on the Beatles’ Apple label. . . . After Harrison’s death in 2001, Mr. Shankar contributed a new composition to the Concert for George, a starry celebration of Harrison’s music staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2002. The new piece, Arpan, was performed by an ensemble of Indian and Western musicians led by Anoushka Shankar. . . [H]is popularity abroad and his experiments with Western musical sounds and styles drew criticism among traditionalists in India. 'In India I have been called a destroyer,' he said in 1981. 'But that is only because they mixed my identity as a performer and as a composer. As a composer I have tried everything, even electronic music and avant-garde. But as a performer I am, believe me, getting more classical and more orthodox, jealously protecting the heritage that I have learned.' Mr. Shankar was a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, from 1986 to 1992 -- one of 12 'nominated members' chosen by the president for their contributions to Indian culture. Mr. Shankar taught extensively in the United States and founded a school of Indian music, the Kinnara School, in Los Angeles. He was a visiting professor at City College in New York in 1967. Recordings of his lectures there were the basis for Learning Indian Music, a set of cassettes. Mr. Shankar was the subject of a documentary, Raga: A Film Journey Into the Soul of India, in 1971, and published two autobiographies: My Music, My Life in 1969 and Raga Mala in 1997. In 2010 the Ravi Shankar Foundation started a record label, East Meets West Music, which began by reissuing some of his historic recordings and films, including Raga. Mr. Shankar’s first marriage, to Annapurna Devi, ended in the late 1960's. They had a son, Shubhendra Shankar, who died in 1992. He also had long relationships with Kamala Shastri, a dancer; Sue Jones, a concert producer, with whom he had a daughter, Ms. Jones, in 1979; as well as Sukanya Rajan, whom he married in 1989. Ms. Shankar, the sitar virtuoso, is their daughter, born in 1981. . . . “If I’ve accomplished anything in these past 30 years,' Mr. Shankar said in the 1985 interview, 'it’s that I have been able to open the door to our music in the West. I enjoy seeing other Indian musicians -- old and young -- coming to Europe and America and having some success. I’m happy to have contributed to that. Of course now there is a whole new generation out there, so we have to start all over again. To a degree their interest in India has been kindled by Gandhi, Passage to India, and The Jewel in the Crown . . . . What we have to do now is convey to them an awareness of the richness and diversity of our culture'" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 12/12/12].
Zorn for Strings. John Zorn's The Alchemist -- a true and faithful chronicling of the esoteric spiritual conferences and concomitant hermetic actions conducted by Her Majesty's Alchemist Dr. John Dee and one Edward Kelley invoking the Nine Hierarchies of Angelic Orders to visible appearance, circa 1587 (2011), and the world premiere of Apophthegms (2012). Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York, NY.
Ann Callaway's Vladimir in Butterfly Country. Old First Church, San Francisco, CA.