Program Notes

Songbirds of Europe and North America  (2004)

(recorded segments from Milton Babbitt Phonemena – Judith Bettina, Soprano – Milton Babbitt, Computer Sounds, and Luciano Berio Sequenza III – Luisa Castelliani, Soprano solo)

Various bird songs from America and Europe were mixed with two musical tracks of classic 20th century vocal music from American composer Milton Babbitt and Italian composer Luciano Berio. I separated the two musical tracks into short phrases or segments, numbered them, then rearranged the segments and inserted silences between them. The similar musical intonings of the human voice and bird songs remind us of our shared ancestry with all living creatures.

New and Ancient Voices  (2005)

(recorded segments by AKA Pygmies – African Rhythms, Arnold Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire with soprano Christine Schafer and Ensemble Contemporain, Quasi Moto – The Further Adventures of Lord Quas)

A variety of recorded tracks were sampled from some of the earliest known hunter-gatherer music of the AKA Pygmies (circa 3,500 years ago), from Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, and from current west coast hip-hop artist Quasi Moto. Each of the three vocal tracks was separated into short musical segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were then recombined independently of one another, and of the other tracks, and separated by varied durations of silence. The resulting music represents a divergent range of vocal expression that combines regular and irregular rhythms with cultural references of speech-song. The music reaches deep into the past, uniting primal memories with current musical idioms and ideas.

Lingua Franca  Nos. 1 – 4  (2004)

(a reconstruction of Pierrre Boulez Piano Sonata No. 3, Formant 2: Trope played by Idil Biret, with digitally modified piano segments in the first two movements, and accompanying electronic sounds in the last two movements including alphabetic intonations in the final movement)

Below is an excerpt of a description of Boulez’s Third Piano Sonata written in January, 2004 by Allan B. Ruch, followed by my own notes on the ‘reconstruction’.

‘In 1957, Pierre Boulez published an essay called “Aléa” (meaning a single die) in which he detailed his ideas on “controlled chance,” or limited indeterminacy; a compositional technique that would open a work up to indeterminacy while still preserving creative control. In this essay he attacked pure chance operations, and rather arrogantly implied that those who pursued such a course were foolish and incompetent. The attack was obviously directed at John Cage, who became quite angry with Boulez, once a friend and creative associate. Cage remarked, “After having repeatedly claimed that one could not do what I set out to do, Boulez discovered the Mallarmé Livre…. With me the principle had to be rejected outright, with Mallarmé it suddenly became acceptable to him. Now Boulez was promoting chance, only it had to be his kind of chance.” Cage’s anger was compounded by the popularity of the essay, which firmly established Boulez’s term “aleatory music” as the label for the type of music that Cage had practically invented.’  -Allan B. Ruch

I have taken the recording of Boulez’s Formant 2: Trope from the Third Piano Sonata, recorded brilliantly by Idil Biret, and reconstructed it to accommodate my own musical requirements. Trope consists of four fragments: first, within each fragment, I separated the music into short phrases or segments, numbered them, then rearranged the segments and inserted silences between them.

Finally, I digitally modified various segments in the first two fragments, and added accompanying sounds to the last two fragments. In addition, two female voices in the final fragment intone French and American-English  letters a-z, arranged in alphabetical order, with occasional inserts of text written and spoken by the great language experimentalist Gertrude Stein.

I have maintained the same order of fragments (Movements) in which they were recorded.

Because the very nature of the Third Sonata begs to be poked and exploited, I will not apologize for my meager transformations. It is true that in some way I have attempted this reconstruction as a hopeful conciliation between the great ideas spawned by these two ingenious masters of 20th century music, Pierre Boulez and John Cage.

Musique Antique  (2005)

(from recorded segments by Ensemble De Organographia and Atrium Musicae de Madrid on ancient instruments)

A variety of recorded tracks were sampled from some of the earliest music available from the Ancient Greeks (circa 1700-2500 years ago). Each track was separated into short musical segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were then recombined independently of one another, and separated by varied durations of silence. The duration of each silence was derived from the segment’s numeric position in the sequence. Finally, the segments were modified digitally.

Astrobeats  (2006)
(with various pulsars recorded by radio telescopes, digital percussion sequences, and electronically generated sounds)
Pulsars are neutron stars that rotate at extremely regular intervals. The piece begins with the sound of a pulsar. In general, pulsars are louder than the other sounds throughout, and can generally be recognized by their regular beating. Toward the end of the piece, a composite of different pulsars can be heard blending into and out of one another. Pulsars consist of regular beats, the percussion track is made up of irregular beats, and the electronic sound track contains both regular and irregular rhythms. In fact, musical rhythms of every kind are composed of either regular or irregular beats, or a combination of both. Sequences of pulsars, percussion, and electronic sounds were separated by silences, equal to the lengths of the segments, and reordered in random sequence.


The Blues 
(2007)

(Conlon Nancarrow Study No. 25 from Studies for Player Piano, and Billie Holiday singing I Can’t give You Anything But Love by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields with Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra, original electronic sounds)

The Nancarrow Study No. 25 is separated into naturally interrupted segments, then reordered. I separated the Billie Holiday track into short phrases or segments, numbered them, then rearranged the segments and inserted silences between them. I then added original electronic sounds.

Hello and Goodbye  (2008)

(excerpts from piano music of Claude Debussy, Eric Satie, Olivier Messiaen combined with original percussion music)

The piano music consists of a 2-track stereo recording containing only ‘beginnings’ and ‘endings’ selected from various piano pieces of Debussy, Satie, and Messiaen. The beginnings and endings were specifically selected based on natural breaks or character distinctions within the music.

Selected piano segments were placed on 2 tracks, independently of one another. The segments were numbered, then recombined randomly, with little or no separation of silence between them. True random numbers were used, generated by noisy conditions in the Earth’s atmosphere. Beginning and ending segments range in duration from several seconds to half a minute.

Percussion instrumentation consists of snare drum, timpani, timbales, tenor drum, tambourine, triangle. cymbal, gong, claves, woodblocks, rattle.

Recorded piano samples were selected from: Claude Debussy – various Preludes, Books I and II played by Krystian Zimerman and selected Etudes played by Garrick Ohlsson, Eric Satie – selected piano works played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Oliver Messiaen – Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jesus played by Joanna MacGregor.

Symphony of Episodes  (2005)

(symphonic segments from Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, John Cage,
Elliott Carter, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen,
Edgar Varese, Anton Webern; original electronic sounds)

The music consists of a single recorded track containing a variety of symphonic episodes by many of the leading musical voices of the 20th-21st century. The original track, containing a random distribution of orchestral samples, was separated into short segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were numbered, then recombined independently of one another, with little or no separation of silence between them. In addition, I have added a variety of electronic sounds selected from my library of samples. Together, the orchestral and electronic music represent a synthesis of 20th century musical thought and expression.

Humoresque  (2011)

(recorded segments from Antonin Dvorak Humoresque Op. 101, No. 7 for Violin and Piano – Zhou Quian, Violin, Edmund Battersby, Piano; Gioachino Rossini The Cat’s Duet – Elizabeth Soderstrom and Kerstin Meyer, sopranos, Jan Eyron, Piano; classic cartoon sound effects, and accompanying electronic sounds)

Two tracks of music were sampled from the standard recital repertory: Dvorak’s familiar Humoresque for violin and piano, and Rossini’s duet for two scratching, pawing (meowing) sopranos. Each of these musical tracks was separated into short musical segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were then recombined independently of one another, and of the other tracks, and separated by varied durations of silence. Another five tracks were devoted to classic cartoon sound effects along with electronic sounds. The structure of the music is designed to provide an animated ‘cartoon’ experience.

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