Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shhhhhhhh........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!............ ,,, .......... !!!

Hi everyone,
As you may know, c)i is going to have a concert at the "Casa Italiana" of Columbia University. 
Please note: It is a 6 pm concert! (on March 4th).
Below: Jessica Meyer, Miranda Cuckson and wonderful guest violinist Yuki Numata during the rehearsal of Nono quartet.
As Miranda mentioned in her previous post, Nono's "Fragmente-Stille" has text fragments. on the contrary to Schoenberg's "Ode to Napoleon", Nono himself asked performers not to reveal the texts in the program notes... !!! 
So, the only way for the audience to know what texts say is ..... to listen, sound, and silence.
Here is the very first page of the piece. The first text says..... 
.....Geheimere welt..... "....secret world...."

Welcome to our world. See you at the concert.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dal Niente

In a performance career which often calls for the use of extended instrumental techniques, it's been quite refreshing working on Lachenmann's Dal Niente. I've had quite a number of experiences where composers seem use these sonic effects more for their shock or novelty value, rather than as structural components which are developed into substantive ideas, as Lachenmann does. In the right hands, they can also very effectively enhance and expand the contextual sonic envelope of a piece without being structural. But in many other cases they do seem to be used as a kind of wallpaper of pseudo-sophistication, trying to add a layer of depth that sometimes doesn't quite match the design scheme of the piece as a whole.

Lachenmann is extremely meticulous with his notation, not only creating sensible symbols for each effect, but also devising a whole alternate set of values in bass clef, of all things, to differentiate between fingered playing with just air sound/key-click variants and the actual sounding treble-clef pitches which are notated normally. This initially seemed ludicrous for a treble instrument (indeed, as written the bass clef values do sound an octave higher than written, which was a little confusing a first). But if one shrugs off the convention of actually having to play something in the correct octave and looks at this system purely from an interpretive point of view, it becomes increasingly apparent that this was the right choice: as the piece cycles from bass to treble clef, one begins to develop a sense of two instrumental personalities struggling for dominance. One is the sound of the clarinet as we know it conventionally, and the other is its opposite, perhaps even its genesis; simple air, channeled at different speeds and modulated to bridge the gap between sound and space.


Over the years, counter)induction has performed several concerts thematically related to our up-coming concert, Where words leave off:  New Voices,  Talk Dirty to Medrama: music and its double.
This persistent recapitulation of a thematic is rare for us, and indicates either a shortfall of our programmatic imagination (unlikely, it seems) or a question that keeps resurfacing, an unsolvable question, an aporia in the discursive network of musicking.

This endless interrogatory recapitulation shouldn't surprise us, as it is a continuation of traditions' inability to resolve the question;– as a survey of the Muses and their domains shows us that the line between music and speech was a blurry one from antiquity.  Whether we consider Hesiod's Euterpe, muse of flutes and lyric poetry or  Pausanias' Aoide (the muse of song), the muses with musical attributes are linked to poetry and sung text.

Nor are these Classical linkages simply a confusion that modernity sorted out;–  the wrangling of  of the Council of Trent, the monody of the Florentine camerata, the rise of instrumental music in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the synthesizing aspirations of Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerke show us not a  gradual clarification, but a return again and again to this unresolvable tension and ineluctable linked between speech and music.

What this makes me think of, actually, is a different source from antiquity - the closing of Plato's Phaedrus, in particular the readings of the passage by Derrida and Ricoeur.  There's a nice summary of the Derridean take [ here ], and for Ricoeur's take, it's probably just best to read Memory, History, Forgetting.  Derrida expands Rousseau's notion of the supplement - it is that which comes to aid to something ‘primary’ or ‘original.'  In this aiding, the supplement displays that which is absent from the original form.

What this makes me think of here is not that music is a supplement to speech or that speech is a supplement to music, but rather that the relationship seems to alternate, each becoming the supplement of the other.  This transductive loop does not render the question of primacy moot, though it does become unanswerable; rather, the positioning and re-position of the two domains becomes generative, a source for next question, the next concert, the next work of music, and the next piece of verse.  And this constant generation of new question seems very much what we do here at c)i.

Monday, February 27, 2012

music and words

Luigi Nono's string quartet Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima is in many ways about silence and introversion. The act of listening is heightened by the music's many long fermatas and silences, and by the many hushed but precisely shaded colors and timbres. Meanwhile, fragments of text by Hölderlin are meant to be read silently by the performers only. Amidst the quiet and contemplation, though, we find in rehearsal that there is a multitude of concrete details of sound and ensemble to be figured out! Intricate rhythms that combine and interlock amidst tempos that shift constantly, sometimes even a few times within a measure. Phrases that are shaped in rhythmic unison, pitches and colors that blend and match. Nono's distinctive, dark and energetic scrawl on the manuscript facsimile pages presents thickets of fermatas of varying lengths, tempo markings, tremolos, dynamics ranging from pppp to fff, extensive bowing instructions in Italian, Hölderlin text fragments in German...Lots of information, all distilled in performance into precise yet rough sounds, synchronized gestures and a string of poetic fragments provoking individual streams of thought.

It will be thrilling when all this contained introspection and the eerie metallic sound of this piece explodes after intermission into Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon, in which Lord Byron's text will boldly issue forth in the voice of Paula Robison, and we will fill the hall right from the start of the piece with rich, resonant harmonies, erupting energy and swaggering long phrases. Come and hear this great program and experience as the balance swerves between words and music, thought and expression!

Fuller program note on the Nono here:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Words about Music!

For the next concert, I'm hugely excited to be working with one of my favorite musicians, Paula Robison. She and I first played together on a Mozart concert; she played operatic arias on the flute with such style, so communicatively, that one heard the text in one's head. She has since taken up a second career as Sprecherin; we have done Pierrot Lunaire several times together, and when the idea for the upcoming show took shape, I knew she would be interested in this meeting place of words and music we are exploring.
I'd also like to share some things I've seen recently that seem relevant to our program:

Sometimes the words get in the way of my poetry.
-John Ashbery

…we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
-Romans 8:26

These certainly got me thinking.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Schoenberg is (still) contemporary

On March 4, counter)induction will present "Where Words Leave Off...," a concert exploring the written word as inspiration for music. On this program we will perform Arnold Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41, composed for string quartet, piano, and recitation.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, wrote his large-scale poetic work Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte in 1814, upon the ignominious abdication of that leader. His stanzas drip with sarcastic disappointment, castigating Napoleon's vanity and greed. Arnold Schoenberg took up Byron's work and composed his Ode during World War II, as a work of protest against that tyranny. In light of the Arab Spring and the continuing bloody struggles in Syria and Bahrain, the messages of Schoenberg's 1942 musical work, and of Byron's 1814 poem, seem distressingly contemporary.

I am so pleased that we are able to present this monumental work. If you don't know it, the poem can be found here.

We are especially fortunate to be joined by Paula Robison as reciter for this work. In addition to being a world-renowned flutist, she has given many critically acclaimed performances as reciter of of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Meaning, hotter than hot. Join us for the free show - more info here.