Friday, June 12, 2015

 Spatial Music / Music & Space

Clapp Recital Hall, Sunday, February 23, 2003, 8:00 pm


Fluvience (1991)
    for multiple trumpets
  Marc Weber
  David Greenhoe, Aren Van Houzen,
Theresa Anderson, Fritzgerald Barran,
Joel Crawford, Nate Collins, Tabatha Klopp,
Leah Ledtje, Adam Page, Katie Rice, Dan Terrell,
Caster Teoh, Jennifer Thomas, Brandon Wojcik,
Obsession (1960)   Makoto Shinohara
  Enid Wright, oboe
Yun-Pai Hsu, piano
Quartetto (1987)
    for flute, violin, viola, & violoncello
  Mario Davidovsky
  Ismael Reyes, flute
Alla cross, violin
Charletta P. Taylor, viola
David Evenchick, violoncello
Jardin Secret II (1989)
    for harpsichord and 4-channel tape
  Kaija Saariaho
  Marcelina Turcanu, harpsichord
Joseph Dangerfield, electronics
Horizontals Extending (1982)   Henry Brant
  Ismael Reyes, flute
Gina Vega-Reyes, piccolo
Laveena Sollenberger, Shandra Feldthouse, clarinets
Gina Cole, Scott Sandberg, saxophones
Dan Gould, Mick Phipps, bassoons
Anne Guthrie, horn
Aren Van Houzen, Joel Crawford, trumpets
Joshua Bynum, trombone
Didzi Dzakuma, tuba
Michael Masengarb, Ginny Armstrong, percussion
Jeffrey Piper, Laura Kelly, percussion
Jean Montès, Amelia Kaplan, conductors


Notes & Bios

The word "space" has been applied to music in many different ways. As an art form primarily concerned with organizing sound in time, most references to space are metaphorical - but not all. During the past 50 years, the spatial arrangement of the performers (or speakers in the case of electronic music) has become an important parameter for many composers. Tonight's concert explores the idea of "space" in music as conceived by a variety of composers - all of the pieces are ones in which the composer consciously used an idea of space to help organize or add expression to his or her composition.

There are two basic motivations behind pieces which feature a "spatial" arrangement of performers. The first is to greatly separate the performers so that musical strands, which under normal seating arrangements would blend together into one sound, are perceptible as separate entities because they come from completely directions. The second strategy is to change the relationship between the sound and the listener. The first piece, Fluvience, for multiple trumpets, employs both strategies. Indeed, as Weber writes, "first and foremeost, placement of the performers is a crucial aspect (of the piece) - the audience is meant to be surrounded by these very directional instruments, hearing similar material coming in and out from all directions. Also important to the work is the interaction of the performers; there are hinge-points throughout, where those who arrive early wait for "stragglers" before continuing, and sections where various ensemble members cue each other to enter or quit. Formally, Fluvience is a canon with modifications. Some sections are literally one part, in succeeding entries, while others split the ensemble into various groupings of two, three, four, and five separate parts. Everything is specifically notated - pitch, articulation, dynamics, timbre. Rhythm is most often indicated proportionally, but within definite parameters (accelerandi, ritardandi, fermatas of suggested lengths, as-fast-as-possible grace-note figures, etc.). The discretionary aspect of the rhythm provides an "improvisando" feel, and allows for highly complex relationships to develop without a shared pulse - a difficulty for players who are spread far apart from one another. The title refers both to the actual sound of the piece - sometimes akin to a babbling brook, sometimes more a roaring river - as well as to its process; the fluid nature of the actual parts flow in and out of each other like currents and cross-currents, coming together and apart, bubbling and splashing in all directions, and yet ultimately uniting into a solid mass of moving water."

A second example of the use of "space" in music is Makoto Shinohara's Obsession, for oboe and piano. It uses the technique of spatial notation, in which the spatial arrangement of the pitches on the page are a metaphor for time. Instead of the usual modern notation in which notes have specific durations, the notes are spaced along the page such that the distance between pitches approximates time values, where shorter distances represent less time, and longer distances represent more time. Obsession is a piece most about emotions, and the use of this flexible notation gives the performers more control to communicate the central idea. The work begins with a mysterious, brooding section that speaks of repressed anxiety. It moves on to a frenetic middle section that concludes in screaming high notes; and finally returns to the dark mood of the beginning, ending abruptly as if leaving something unsaid.

Mario Davidovsky, a pioneer in the realm of electronic composition, is a composer who often refers to his music as having "space". His Quartetto, for flute, violin, viola and violoncello pits the flute against the three strings, much in the same way he treats the compositional problems of performer and tape in his many famous Synchronisms. The piece consists of four sections, the outer parts paired and the inner parts paired. Musical events are related by common register, articulation, and gesture. Quartetto can be seen as a quest to unite the sound space of the flute and sound space of the strings.

Kaija Saariaho's Jardin Secret II, for harpsichord and 4-channel tape, employs the idea of space in multiple ways: it uses spatial notation in the harpsichord part, and the four speakers are to be placed at the four corners of the concert hall with the harpsichord on a platform in the middle of the audience, so that the location of the sound sources are not immediately perceptible. (for tonight's performance we place the harpsichord at the very front of the stage). Even the title indicates that the piece is about a place, or a particular space. Throughout the piece, the mix of harpsichord sound and prerecorded sound constantly changes, so that the sound sometimes emerges more from the center of the room (the harpsichord) and sometimes more from the outer rim (the speakers). The piece alternates between sections with clear pulse, usually from tape, which contains voices and processed harpsichord, sections of changing pulse rates, and sections with no pulse at all. Like most of Saariaho's works, musical events unfold on an extremely slow times scale, intended to draw the listener into a concentrated mode of listening.

Our final work is Horizontals Extending, by Henry Brant; a pioneer of music in which the spatial arrangement of performers is a crucial feature. In the 1950's and 60's Brant performed a series of experiments with instrumentalists and singers placed in different vertical and horizontal arrangements in spaces of various shapes and sizes, and with sounds of various textures, registers and timbres, which he documented. Written more about as a practical guide for composers, rather than as a scientific document about perception, he concluded that a wide separation of performers achieves the effect of making perceptible multiple musical strands which would normally blend together into one homogeneous sound if emanating from the same location, as happens when the performers sit in a normal concert arrangement onstage in front of the audience. Using very different timbres and registers in addition to a wide separation of performers further enhances the effect. Because of the time delays involved with separation, he also concludes that pieces which do not require exact coordination of the sub ensembles will be more successful than those which do require coordination. Much of Brant's work is about the chaos of modern urban life in a multicultural world. For example, one could walk down the streets of a large modern city and simultaneously hear rap coming from a car radio, Indian classical music emanating from an apartment windows, and Beethoven or jazz coming from from a sidewalk cafe. He tries to capture this effect in much of his music, and tonight's work has this sonic effect. It features two ensembles spaced widely apart (in Clapp we have placed them in opposite balconies) and a trapset onstage. Each ensemble has it's own conductor. The first ensemble in the front balcony features high winds and percussion, and moves in triple meter; the second ensemble, in the back balcony, features low brass and timpani, and moves in duple meter. The percussionist onstage cues and is cued by the first conductor, and improvises between and during the two ensembles, which progess in an uncoordinated manner until the very end of the piece, when the trapset sets a tempo which the two conductors must follow.

Marc Weber studied composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music (B.M.) with Donald Erb, Eugene O'Brien, and John Rinehart; at the Yale School of Music (M.M.) with Martin Bresnick, Earle Brown, Louis Andriessen, and Leon Kirchner; and at the University of Iowa (Ph.D.) with Martin Jenni, Bill Hibbard, and Kenneth Gaburo. He received the Bradley-Keeler Memorial Scholarship and the Kellogg Composition Award while at Yale, and an Iowa Fellowship and the Pelzer Prize in Composition while at the University of Iowa. He has also received grants from Iowa Arts Council, McElroy Trust, and Meet the Composer, Inc. towards the commission, preparation and performance of Intuit for the Hudson High School Band and Columbus Suite for the Columbus High School Band in Waterloo, as well as a commission and subsequent premiere from the Center for New Music for Invoca/Responsories, a large-scale antiphonal work for 34 players.

Makoto Shinohara was born in 1931 in Osaka, Japan. He studied composition with Ikenouchi at the Tokyo Arts Academy, electronic music with Koenig, and composition with Stockhausen in Cologne. Obsession for Oboe and Piano was composed in 1960 for an oboe class competition at the Paris Conservatory, during the time Shinohara was studying with Messiaen in Paris. Shinohara is known for his skill in combining elements of Western and traditional Japanese music in his compositions,and this combination can be heard in Obsession.

 Mario Davidovsky was born in 1934 in Medanos, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began his study of composition with Guillermo Graetzer at the University of Buenos Aires.

In 1958, Davidovsky came to the United States to participate in the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood with a specific interest in electronic music. At Tanglewood he worked with Aaron Copland and, from Milton Babbitt, learned of the forthcoming electronic music studio at Columbia University. In 1960 Davidovsky took up permanent residence in New York City. From 1961 to 1963 he was a Guggenheim Fellow at Columbia. He is perhaps most widely recognized for his contributions in the realm of electro-acoustic music, with his series of Synchronisms for instrument(s) and tape, and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for Synchronism #6 for piano and tape.

The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) has lived and worked in Paris since 1982. She studied composition under Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy and later at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg with Brian Ferneyhough and Klaus Huber, receiving her diploma there in 1983. In 1982 she attended courses in computer music at IRCAM in Paris. Saariaho is the recipient of numerous awards including the Kranichsteiner Preis (1986), the Prix Italia (1988), and the Ars Electronica (1989) to name a few. Some of her more recent works include a violin concerto, Graal Théäaut;tre, for Gidon Kremer premiered at the 1995 BBC Proms and two pieces for Dawn Upshaw: an orchestral song cycle, Château de l'âme, premiered at the 1996 Salzburg Festival, and a solo song cycle Lonh for soprano and electronics, premiered at the 1996 Wien Modern Festival. Lonh was awarded the Nordic Music Prize in 2000. In 1999 Saariaho completed a major work for chorus and orchestra, Oltra mar, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and Kurt Masur on November 11, 1999, as part of their millennium series of commissions.

Henry Brant, America's pioneer explorer and practitioner of acoustic spatial music, was born in Montreal in 1913 of American parents and began to compose at the age of eight. In 1950 Brant began to write spatial music in which the planned positioning of the performers throughout the hall, as well as on stage, is an essential factor of the composition. This procedure, which limits and defines the contrasted music assigned to each performing group, takes as its point of departure the ideas of Charles Ives. Brant's spatial music is widely performed and recorded in the U.S. and Europe. His long career is recognized by numerous awards and honors, most recently the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Ice Field (2001). Other awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Prix Italia (which he was the first American composer to win, in 1955), the American Music Center's Letter of Distinction, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Brant currently resides in Santa Barbara, California.