Wednesday, January 1, 2014

21ST-CENTURY MUSIC / January 2014


January 2014

Volume 21, Number 1

Muiesis: An Interview with Heloise Ph. Palmer / Cristina Scuderi   

Short and Shorter / Michael McDonagh
Chronicle / Of November 2013


Illustration / Heloise Ph. Palmer

Editorial Staff

Mark Alburger


Harriet March Page

Patti Noel Deuter

Erling Wold

Elizabeth Agnew
Alexis Alrich
Katherine Buono
Ken Bullock
A.J. Churchill
David Cleary
Jeff Dunn
Phillip George
Elliot Harmon
Brian Holmes
Jeff Kaliss
John Lane
Arel Lucas
Michael McDonagh
Chip Michael
Tom Moore
Carol Marie Reynolds
William Rowland
Lisa Scola Prosek
Cristina Scuderi
Andrew Shapiro
Alice Shields


21ST-CENTURY MUSIC is published monthly by 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC, P.O. Box 2842, San Anselmo, CA 94960. ISSN 1534-3219.

Subscription rates in the U.S. are $96.00 per year; subscribers elsewhere should add $48.00 for postage. Single copies of the current volume and back issues are $12.00. Large back orders must be ordered by volume and be pre-paid. Please allow one month for receipt of first issue. Domestic claims for non-receipt of issues should be made within 90 days of the month of publication, overseas claims within 180 days. Thereafter, the regular back issue rate will be charged for replacement. Overseas delivery is not guaranteed. Send orders to 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC, P.O. Box 2842, San Anselmo, CA 94960. email:

Typeset in Times New Roman. Copyright 2014 by 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC. This journal is printed on recycled paper. Copyright notice: Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC.

The Journal is also online at and


21ST-CENTURY MUSIC invites pertinent contributions in analysis, composition, criticism, interdisciplinary studies, musicology, and performance practice; and welcomes reviews of books, concerts, music, recordings, and videos. The journal also seeks items of interest for its calendar, chronicle, comment, communications, opportunities, publications, recordings, and videos sections. Copy should be double-spaced on 8 1/2 x 11 -inch paper, with ample margins. Authors are encouraged to submit via e-mail.

Prospective contributors should consult The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), in addition to back issues of this journal. Copy should be sent to 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC, P.O. Box 2842, San Anselmo, CA 94960. e-mail: Materials for review may be sent to the same address.


Send all inquiries to 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC, P.O. Box 2842, San Anselmo, CA 94960. e-mail:

Muïesis: An Interview with Heloise Ph. Palmer / Cristina Scuderi

In this interview Italian musicologist Cristina Scuderi speaks to pianist and muïetic artist Heloise Ph. Palmer on Muïesis and contemporary performance practice.

SCUDERI: Why the name Muïesis? Where does the name spring from?

PALMER: I needed to create a term that would combine the word music with my intention to increase the audience’s awareness of music during a performance. I have always been intrigued by the Aristotelian concept of poiesis. When thinking about a name for my approach to contemporary performance that concept came back to me. In fact, it expressed what I had in mind pretty well. So I combined poiesis and music, et voilà: Muïesis was born.

SCUDERI: At which point in your career did Muïesis become clear to you?

PALMER: This is difficult to answer: Having performed music for several years, as well as attended classical music concerts myself, I have often felt that the listening experience can be enhanced by using very little extra-musical means. I tend to think that the audience’s wish to listen to and discover (unknown) music is something performers have to feel more responsible about. Music events may be a source of mere distraction, entertainment and pleasure, but there is surely more to it. For example, I dare dispute that Beethoven wrote his sonatas for the sake of entertainment. Concert events should not be limited to this aspect only. I also see again and again that most of the time classical recitals do not follow any logic; they seem to reflect a mere combination of compositions from different eras put together in a programme in order to create a variety of different styles. You see some other programmes following a rather encyclopaedic approach, for example the cycles of all the Beethoven sonatas, or the Bach Suites and Partitas and so forth. Other performers do go further and more in the direction of Muïesis, but very often all they do is excluding certain composers, and therefore certain styles, and create niches. Muïesis not only questions the role of such concerts, but also helps to rethink the often too categorical dissociation of musical styles and genres by surmounting barriers and creating bridges whenever needed. By proposing extra-musical contexts, muïetic concerts combine music of all genres and offer a broader and more intense experience.

SCUDERI: What is the need for Muïesis in today’s musical world?

PALMER: In my opinion music has lost its value of an art that potentially triggers both emotional and intellectual stimulation. I assume ‘division within itself’ is partly responsible for this dilemma. I see music as being a victim of mass production and consumption. A victim that seems to be doomed to become either sonic pollution (there is music wherever you go) or an exclusive product for the élite. Presumably there was a time when people would go to classical music events in order to inform themselves about the latest styles and compositions. I feel this wish to discuss music and what music can trigger in us has become very rare. Muïesis wants to stir up a contextual platform for discussion.

SCUDERI: To be more specific: How are you dealing with this issue in your own performances? What are you trying to achieve by doing all this?

PALMER: First of all, Muïesis is an alternative performance practice that wants to overcome the somewhat stiff routine of classical concert events. My concert programmes usually unfold without any interruption such as an applause after each piece is performed. This, at least to a certain degree, allows both listener and performer to remain focused on the topic and keep up the tension of the music that is being played. As I said earlier on, the goal of Muïesis is to enhance a more intense listening experience.

SCUDERI: What means in particular do you usually use for your performances?

PALMER: That differs from programme to programme depending on what will fit the leading thought behind it. It can be interludes connecting one piece to another, single words or excerpts of prose, visual images, the clothes I wear, and even the use of different instruments. It really doesn’t matter much what you use in order to create the plot. What matters is, as usual, how you do it. Every detail will have its own importance and meaning.

SCUDERI: I have attended your Dalla gioia all’animo performance and noticed all the different art forms you included in your work. One could think that Muïesis is a mere multimedia event. Is there more to it?

PALMER: There is indeed. It is the context that matters, not the tools or those features that created it, or at least not primarily. The chosen means are there to enhance the perception of the music. It is not they that make Muïesis unique and special, and by the way the use of multimedia is actually a well-established practice. What counts is the frame of reference, the context that these means are supposed to create and its resulting awareness.

SCUDERI: That makes it different from the usual piano recital. Is Muïesis then related to the Opera tradition, where all these elements play an important role for the performance?

PALMER: In a way one could say so. The main difference, however, is that Muïesis allows the performer to put together music of different times, styles, even genres, while in the Opera tradition you present a specific composer, hence one idiosynchratic style. There is another analogy that I find interesting: some venues offer music of a particular era with the performers dressed accordingly. Actually, this is close to a muïetic approach since it creates a context. Yet, it is equally exclusive because, again, we see one era being extracted from the rest of music history. Muïesis wants to go beyond this! It’s trying to create bridges and larger frames of reference.

SCUDERI: You are a pianist. Does a muïetic performer, if I may say so, have to be a pianist as well?

PALMER: I prefer the term muïetic artist. But, yes, the performer has to be a musician. Ultimately, Muïesis is all about music and increasing the audience’s awareness during a performance.

SCUDERI: What are you currently working on?

PALMER: I am preparing a show called The Righteous Fatale. It is the final concert of a series of seven recitals that started in spring 2012. In the previous six concerts the audience was asked to send me their associations and the thoughts triggered by the performance. I wanted to use these comments in order to create a new event. The audience gradually grew onto a somewhat co-creative counterpart. After having experienced a muïetic performance of mine, British composer James Ingram decided to write a piece for me and his assistant performer Moritz, a MIDI-based performance software. Song Six features the scene of Clytemnestra calling the Furies to revenge her, and for the first time Moritz is going to be integrated in a live performance. I am creating a programme around Song Six by using poetry, image, electronics and some elements of ancient Greek tragedy in order to let Clytemnestra’s dilemma unfold. I’ve got a very personal interpretation of the story and was able to transfer it to our time. I have also commissioned two other pieces, from John Palmer and another “surprise” composer, and wrote another one myself. There will also be music by Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Franck and Mompou, as well as improvisation. Apart from the piano, I will include a synthesizer and a Doepfer MIDI controller. There’ll be a great deal of ambiguity and the listeners will find themselves as being an integral part of the show. They will be confronted with music, poetry, image and acting.

SCUDERI: How contemporary is your approach?

PALMER: I have come to the conclusion that Muïesis is the only way to present classical music in a contemporary manner. We aren’t living in the 19th century anymore. We’ve got to move on to contemporary days in terms of how to present music today. Actually, in the past it has always been like this but for some reason we are currently stuck with a specific performance practice that is rooted in the Romantic era. It doesn’t really make sense to do this today, does it? My point of view is that we need Muïesis if we want to break with the increasing decay of value and perception of classical music. It is the only way to catch the listener’s attention and don’t allow it to fade. You see, performers seldom play for experts only and the non-experts are supposed to know all the different styles well enough in order to enjoy a recital fully.  That’s simply too much to expect, and in fact almost impossible, especially for those people who haven’t got the time to study music.

SCUDERI: What is your vision then?

PALMER: We artists have to present the audience with an experience that lasts longer and has the power to change their perception of the world, at least a bit.  I think this is my responsibility and even my duty as a performer. In the world of pop music all this seems to work much easier, so why is that? By putting music back into a context that listeners can relate to, they will follow the music more attentively, because they will feel connected to it.  Think of the success of film music, for example. Think of Yann Tiersen.  What a hype!  People loved the film and apparently related to it quite strongly. The music became famous overnight.  If we manage to promote this attitude towards classical music, the very same music will flourish and thrive again.  We wouldn’t lack audiences anymore, and this is exactly where Muïesis is heading.

Graz-Stuttgart, November, 2013


Heloise Ph. Palmer, creator of Muïesis, has been designing and performing interdisciplinary concerts since 2007. She writes music, poetry, and short prose pieces.

Short and Shorter / Michael McDonagh

Theme programs are always fun, especially if the pieces glance off each other, or conjoin in interesting ways, and irrepressible and imaginative composer-conductor Mark Alburger's latest installment in his Opus series -- 12, on December 28, at Berkeley Arts Festival -- engaged both ear and mind.  Famous -- even seminal -- names abutted the scarcely known, and the collision of the big time and the small fry was instructive.  What makes a great composer and what makes a minor one? Well the evidence was here if you're into judging, and who isn't these days?

Central and Eastern European composers have usually been the bread and butter of American concert programs and this one featured lots of them, though there was a sprinkling of Americans and Brits.

The main fascination of this one seemed to be atypical rarities by heavy hitters like Arnold Schoenberg whose 1907 setting of Heinrich Ammann's poem Jane Grey was typically overwrought and I was minded of the composer's retort to David O. Selznick when he showed him a cut of The Good Earth replete with earthquakes and revolution. "With all that going on what do you need me for?" Well, this was chromatic melodrama big tim,e which soprano Heather Klein grounded with her clear and supple tone.  Igor Stravinsky's 1919 Three Pieces for Clarinet, which specifies one in A, and one in Bb, was a more substantial effort -- transparent, fluid, often plaintive, and derived no doubt from Russian folk sources objectified.  Michael Kimbell gave a rich and rhythmically secure account of it and the audience responded warmly to this supposedly "cold " composer.  Bela Bartok's II. Scherzo from his 1912 Four Pieces for Orchestra sounded like a dry run for The Miraculous Mandarin with its chopped up ostinatiand extreme contrasts in tone, which the Opus band projected with accuracy and verve. 

Humor's in short supply in the works of most high modernist composers, who always seem to replay the tired old cliche of the Western neurotic artist, so Sergei Prokofiev's IX. Humoresque Scherzo, from his originally-for-piano Ten Pieces (1913 ), was a breath of fresh air -- cheerful and exceedingly well made, though we went back to the suffering artist model with Shostakovich, and a video projection of Lilya Zilberstien's account of two movements from his 1926 Piano Sonata, written when he was just 20, struck me as dry and overly-complex, afflicted with the "notice me, I'm important" persona which was to drive his whole career.  And speaking of careers, I found the IIa. Nocturne from Kurt Weill's 1925 Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra odd, oddly scored, and completely underwhelming, with none of the snap and polish of his later justly-treasured works for the musical theatre. Paul Hindemith's introduction to his first opera Murder, Hope of Women (1918) -- Alburger announced from the stage that its librettist was Oskar Kokoschka -- was, however ,a real find, with vibrant thick sonorities and a true sens du theatre.  I've always found it strange that Hindemith has often been considered an "academic" composer, but, hey, fashion -- and I don't mean what people are wearing -- and gossip have always ruled the day.

The pieces by Britten -- in his 100th anniversary year -- were predictably tepid British entries (it must be the food) -- and Oliver Knussen's "I just wanna be German" Trumpets (1973), which was shown as a video with Linda Hirst soprano and the Oliver Knussen Ensemble, was a dull-as-dishwater Brit version of Sprechstimme .

Why must everyone fall to their knees before the Germans ?  I've never bought Richard Wagner's Holy German art -- who are you kidding ? -- though I had a wonderful time in Berlin this fall making a film version of my Sight Unseen -- a theatre piece for one performer -- with my lovely German actor friend Hermann Eppert.

And lest I forget, Alburger's 1978 Procession 1 -- Vivace-- from his Four Processions -- has the infectious charm and vitality which runs through his subsequent work.

The Opus Project Orchestra, though obviously underrehearsed and in a deeply unwelcoming venue -- they were squeezed to one side of an incredibly unresonant wall -- played with enthusiasm and commitment throughout.

Chronicle / Of November 2013

November 5

Ned Rorem Celebration.  Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY.  "Ned Rorem, the composer of poetic art songs and author of sharp-witted essays and diaries, turned 90 last month. He didn’t look a day over 70 on [November 5] as he acknowledged, with a wry smile, a standing ovation . . . after an evening-long birthday tribute by the New York Festival of Song. It contained all the key ingredients of his work: a deep poetic sensibility laced with sardonic wit and a romantic’s receptivity to the sublime in nature parceled into forms that have all the economy of New York apartment living.  Mr. Rorem had much to smile about. The composer in him must have been delighted to hear his work performed by two outstanding recitalists, the baritone Andrew Garland and the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey. The man of ideas -- and barbs and indiscretions -- may also have been gratified by the warmth and thoughtfulness of the program put together by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, the festival’s artistic directors, highlighting Mr. Rorem’s take-it-or-leave-it sense of self. This includes his homosexuality --  cheerfully publicized when it was imprudent or even dangerous to do so   --  his pacifism, and his affinity for French culture and music, with which he snubbed large segments of the midcentury establishment.  It was revealing to hear Ms. Lindsey’s exquisite rendition of Poulenc’s C next to Mr. Rorem’s Lordly Hudson, which was inspired by it. Mr. Garland’s robust, glowing performance of that song contrasted with Ms. Lindsey’s gauzy, veiled sound in the Poulenc, yet the common theme of nature, rather than politics, as a locus of patriotism came through.  Aside from Mr. Rorem’s own songs, the program included works by composers he worked with, befriended, or admired, among them Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Virgil Thomson. Harmonically, these songs are overwhelmingly tonal, yet capable of troubling the ear with the use of a sudden questioning chord or unorthodox time signatures.  Ms. Lindsey brought great expression and vocal shadings to Bernstein’s wintry What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, a setting from Songfest of a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and impetuous charm to Thomson’s Sigh No More, Ladies from Five Shakespeare Songs. In Copland’s Dear March, Come In! from the song cycle Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, she vividly drew a character who is nerdy, coy and clever in equal measure.  An affecting sequence of songs about war linked works by Samuel Barber, Marc Blitzstein, and Mr. Rorem, with Mr. Garland slipping in and out of a wide range of characters and emotions. In his choice of texts -- for example by Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Robert Browning, and Robert Frost -- Mr. Rorem reveals a sybaritic delight in first-rate poetry. His unobtrusive but finely observed settings invite performers and audiences alike to share that delight [Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times, 11/8/13].

November 8

San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra presents Fellow Travelers: Mark Alburger's Double Piano Concerto ("Fellow Travellers"), Philip Freihofner's Filled with Moonlight, Eduard Prosek's The Curse, Lisa Scola Prosek's Two Excerpts from "The Lariat", David Sprung's Haiku, and Davide Verotta's Invitation.  Old First Church, San Francisco, CA.

Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Louis Langree, in Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait (narrated by Maya Angelou) and Jennifer Higdon's On a Wire.  Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH.  Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire [is] a sprightly chamber concerto composed in 2010 for the young sextet called eighth blackbird, whose members did graduate study at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.  It begins with the six soloists surrounding the open body of the piano, pulling rosined fishing wire around certain strings to elicit haunting whalelike calls from them.  The players eventually disperse to their own instruments, but periodically return to the piano, including for a slow passage in which the eerie calls alternate with nocturnal marimba colors over lyrical surges in the orchestra.  The muscle and emotion of Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” which was commissioned by the conductor André Kostelanetz and given its premiere by Kostelanetz and the Cincinnati Symphony in 1942, highlighted the ensemble’s characteristic sound: the different sections adroitly balanced and focused yet never harsh, with bronzed, burnished brasses infusing a strings section that plays with warm, cohesive bite. Ms. Angelou brought her inimitable combination of majesty and folksiness to the speaking part, drawn from Lincoln’s writings, ferociously digging into the final words of the Gettysburg Address" [Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, 11/10/13].

November 14

Liang Wang Performs Christopher Rouse’s Oboe Concerto, with the New York Philharmonic.  Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY.  "Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, has been a steadfast advocate for [Christopher] Rouse, who is that orchestra’s composer in residence. But Mr. Rouse composed this work for Minnesota, whose long-serving principal oboist Basil Reeve, who retired last year, gave the premiere in a 2009 concert conducted by Osmo Vanska. . . .  Rouse’s concerto showed how deep the Philharmonic’s connection to his music has become -- and how open-minded and flexible its players are, too, since the piece is unlike much of what we have heard from Mr. Rouse.  In particular, few living composers rival Mr. Rouse’s knack for the grotesque, the elemental and the bombastic. And the oboe, for all its politesse, is capable of producing positively hideous multiphonics and other unorthodox effects. Liang Wang, the Philharmonic’s principal oboist, evidently has not yet encountered a technique he could not master or a challenge he could not meet.  But in Mr. Rouse’s concerto, the principal test for the soloist is to produce seemingly endless lines that float weightless over aural backgrounds that shimmer and sigh in summer-afternoon languor. This Mr. Wang handled sublimely, with ceaseless breath and immaculate intonation.  He handled faster figurations with equal aplomb, and the Philharmonic’s collective wheels gripped the track truly in Mr. Rouse’s writhing odd-meter sprints" [Steve Smith, The New York Times, 11/17/13].

November 15

Benjamin Britten's Noye’s Fludde.  Park Avenue United Methodist Church, New York, NY.  "Enchanting" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 11/20/13].

November 17

American Symphony, conducted by Leon Botstein, performs an all - Elliott Carter program.  Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.  "When it comes to ambitious, fearless orchestral programming, there is Leon Botstein, the music director of the American Symphony Orchestra, and then there is everyone else. Say what you will about Mr. Botstein’s esoteric tastes, professorial inclinations, or limitations as a conductor. It’s all been said before, endlessly, and it’s not indicative of the edifying experiences his concerts tend to be for anyone whose tastes extend past the safety zone in which most other orchestras huddle.  That said, in some ways the concert Mr. Botstein and the orchestra presented . . . seemed more than usually quixotic. The program included music by Elliott Carter, the towering American modernist who died just over a year ago at 103 — and nothing but.  For all the rowdy ovations and newfound acceptance that Carter earned during the efflorescence of his final decades, for most concertgoers his name still causes unease. Serving up his music in the generous portions that Mr. Botstein favors is already a tall order . . . .  And the orchestra, while undeniably fine, is a freelance ensemble with limited rehearsal time: not a condition that lends itself to the kind of precision needed to make Carter’s music sing.  Turned out Mr. Botstein could not have been more thoughtful in his planning. The program started with Carter’s 1960 suite from the ballet Pocahontas, written in 1936 and orchestrated in 1938-39. The music is brash and colorful, brimming with folksy melodies and vivacious rhythms. Opening with it showed where Carter started before he became the composer we know while also offering reassurance to an audience of respectable size, most of which remained in place throughout the afternoon.  Sound Fields, from 2007, showed a side to Carter that even his admirers might not have encountered before. Its near-motionless flickers and sighs for strings conjured a color-field canvas dominated by limited hues, with minute gradations.  Carter’s Clarinet Concerto (1996) is less a grandiloquent showpiece than a sequence of succinct conversations between the soloist and various small instrumental groups. Anthony McGill, a brilliant young principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, wandered the stage animatedly, pausing here and there to burble alongside drummers or melt into a muted-brass lullaby.  The concert’s second half brought two elegant vocal works from 1943.  Warble for Lilac-Time, a vernal Walt Whitman setting, featured sweet, gracious singing by the soprano Mary Mackenzie; Voyage, based on Hart Crane, benefited from the mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz’s luscious tone. At times I wished for stronger projection from Ms. Mackenzie, firmer diction from Ms. Buchholz and a subtler touch from Mr. Botstein, but on the whole the works were admirably done.  The program ended with the Concerto for Orchestra (1969), a virtuosic piece in which Carter imposes order upon chaos with an architect’s rigor and a poet’s imagination. Whatever Mr. Botstein and his orchestra may have lacked in machine-tooled precision, they made up with commitment and heart, as well as a bravado that any orchestra might envy -- and ought to" [Steve Smith, The New York Times, 11/18/13].

November 19

White Light Festival: In the Dark.  JACK Quartet Performs Georg Friedrich Haas in the Dark.  Clark Studio Theater, New York, NY.  "Darkness enveloped me as I listened to the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas’s String Quartet No. 3 . . . . This is the way the composer intended for the piece to be performed. As much as I was engrossed by the music, the performance by the JACK Quartet and the rare experience of hearing music with others in darkness, I could not help feeling that some uncomfortable assumptions were being made for this event . . . .  In welcoming remarks before the performance, Jane Moss, the artistic director of Lincoln Center, invited the audience to what she said would be an “extreme listening experience.” In a discussion afterward, led by the WNYC radio announcer John Schaefer, the thoughtful Mr. Haas said that darkness is something “we have lost in our lives” and that we suppress the tension it creates.  Of course, a significant number of people live with darkness every day. And those of us who take sight for granted have to be careful about assuming what it is like for blind people to hear and perform music. Still, this event was another highlight of the White Light Festival, which becomes richer and more interesting every season.  It is very rare for a concert to begin with a test of darkness for the sake of the audience. But that is what happened with this performance of Mr. Haas’s quartet, written in 2001. The quartet is subtitled In iij. Noct., a reference to the Third Nocturn of the Roman Catholic Tenebrae services, held by tradition in the dark during the days before Easter. But, as Ms. Moss explained to the audience in her comments, some people can become anxious in this situation, even with the music. So the lights in the studio were turned off and the audience of 140 people, which was all the space could accommodate, was plunged into silent darkness for about a minute (The concert was long sold out).  When the lights came back on, Ms. Moss invited anyone who found the darkness unnerving to leave with “no shame.” What she and the musicians did not want was for anyone to leave during the performance. Sure enough, about two minutes into the hushed and tentative first section of the work, one person, using a red light from an electronic device to find the way, walked down the aisle and out the back.  Mr. Haas, now teaching at Columbia University, has used darkness as an essential element of some earlier pieces. But this quartet is his boldest exploration.  The four players are instructed to be as far apart as possible. The JACK musicians sat in the four corners of the studio. The opening and closing sections of the quartet are fully notated. But the work is structured as a series of 18 “situations,” the composer’s preferred term for sections. Given the darkness, the players must perform from memory. But the sequence of the situations, and how many times each one is played, is determined by the performers in the moment. Any musician can invite the others to begin a section by playing a gesture from it; the others may accept or decline the invitation, until they come to agreement and proceed. The adventurous JACK Quartet, which has performed the piece 21 times, usually takes just over an hour to complete it, as happened [here] .  Would a vision-impaired person hearing Mr. Haas’s Third Quartet have an automatic advantage in experiencing the piece? Is “In iij. Noct.” primarily intended for those who can see, which includes most of us? I have no answers to these questions. I would have felt better, though, had Mr. Haas or someone involved in this fascinating performance raised them.  That said, hearing the quartet’s assured, intensely subdued and atmospheric performance, I was riveted by Mr. Haas’s piece, with its shifting episodes and contrasting moods. Short riffs flickered by; collective scraping sounds built into banshee shrieks that morphed into angelic harmonies. Thick, piercing cluster chords would emerge and linger, and somehow the players always found what seemed the right pitches at the right time.  There were some driving, insistent passages, though over all the music seldom had a strong pulse to move things forward. At one point, as indicated in the score, the musicians played a quotation from a choral piece that the 16th-century composer Gesualdo wrote for a Tenebrae service. Gesualdo’s language, alive with strange harmonies and unstable elements, performed with melting richness by the impressive JACK Quartet, melded wondrously into the astringent modernism of Mr. Haas’s music" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 11/20/13]. 


CRISTINA SCUDERI is a post doctoral researcher (Ph.D. in Theory, Techniques and Restoration of Music, Cinema and Audiovisual - University of Udine), journalist (pubblicista), who graduated with full marks in History of Music (University of Padua) and graduated in Organ, Harpsichord and Electronic Music (Conservatories of Padua and Venice). She is "cultore della materia" for the chair of History of Modern and Contemporary Music at the University of Padua and Technical Consultant of the Civil Court of Udine. Since 2005 she is responsible for the organization of Contemporanea New Music Festival and for the International Composition Competition Città di Udine (Taukay Music Publishing House).

MICHAEL MCDONAGH is a San Francisco-based poet and writer on the arts who has done two poem/picture books with artist Gary Bukovnik, Before I Forget (1991) and Once (1997), the former being in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Berkeley Art Museum, and the New York Public Library.  He has also published poems in journals including Mirage, and written two theatre pieces -- Touch and Go, for three performers, which was staged at Venue 9 in 1998; and Sight Unseen, for solo performer.  His critical pieces have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Review of Books, 3 Penny Review, California Printmaker, Antiques and Fine Art, The Advocate, High Performance, and In Tune.  He writes for The Bay Area Reporter and heads the Bay Area chapter of The Duke Ellington Society.  He co-hosted nine radio shows on KUSF with Tony Gualtieri with whom he now shares a review website -- -- which has also been translated into Russian and appears in Intellectual Forum.  He is currently working on a collaboration with pianist-composer Ric Louchard.

MARK ALBURGER is Editor-Publisher of 21ST-CENTURY MUSIC, an award-winning ASCAP composer of concert music published by New Music; Music Director of The Opus Project, San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra; and San Francisco Cabaret Opera; Instructor in Music History and Theory at Diablo Valley College, author and subject of articles in The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2nd ed.), and Grove Online; music critic, musicologist, oboist, pianist, recording artist, and vocalist.  He is currently at work on Abducted by Aliens, Op. 222.