Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 7:30 PM
The Loft of Daniel Goode and Ann Snitow
167 Spring Street – bell #3
New York, NY 10012
subways: E. C, 6, 1, N and R
tickets $15/ $10
no advance reservations
Can you imagine a piece that combines the athleticism of an uphill marathon run on a continuously steepening course with an ethereal, other-worldly sound that takes you out of-body?
I’m excited to invite you to a truly rare experience, the first performance in decades of Bill Hellermann’s extraordinary solo flute piece Three Weeks in Cincinnati in December. The athleticism in this piece is a non-stop circular breathing run for close to an hour! And what is being circular breathed? A highly evolved, gorgeous multiphonic world shimmering though a continuous breath tremolo! This incredible duality between the physical and ethereal makes for a musical and emotional experience unlike any other. Those who heard the premiere of this piece at Phill Niblock’s loft in 1979 remember it vividly.
Before I coalesced my identity as a composer-performer, there was a period in the 1970s when I asked a number of composers to write works for me. Of the solo flute pieces from that time, Three Weeks… is by far the most unique and indeed the very best.
I’ve wanted to revive this work for quite some time, and now it’s happening! I’ll be recording Three Weeks in Cincinnati in December for New World Records on September 21 and 22, and this public performance is a celebration of the work and the wonderful friendship and collaboration between Bill and I that made it possible.
I’ll also be performing two of my pieces for solo contrabass flute, Afterimage, Before and Our Cells Know. An extremely athletic work in its own, maximally percussive way, Afterimage, Before is surely the first flute work dedicated to Ginger Baker, my favorite rock drummer. Our Cells Know, the title track of my recent solo contrabass flute CD on Tzadik Records, is a lyric work dedicated to the beautiful spirit of Stephanie Stone.
Bill Hellermann on Three Weeks in Cincinnati in December:
“Three Weeks in Cincinnati in December is the last of four compositions I wrote In the late 70’s for solo instruments. They all feature a focus on a specific instrumental technique that was both unusual and difficult. Three Weeks… was exceptional in that it featured three such techniques taking place simultaneously: circular breathing for close to one hour, a continuous diaphragm tremolo, and a succession of beautiful yet very challenging multiponics.. The piece was conceived of and written in close collaboration with the extraordinary flute virtuoso, Robert Dick. Without his involvement I would never have dared to write such a piece and without him it never could have been performed. The intent of all the pieces in the group of four was to explore the special tension attained through the intense physical and mental focus demanded of the performer. This results in sounds I feel have a very complex, not entirely predictable, beauty.
The title is from a chance remark made by Peter Gordon during a conversation around the time I was finishing this piece.”
Bill Hellermann graduated from the Univ. of Wisconsin in Mechanical Engineering and arrived in NYC in 1962, where he performed in the Village as Guilliermo Brillante, flamenco guitarist. Following a series of minor miracles he became a composition student of Stefan Wolpe’s, got a DMA in Composition at Columbia, did post graduate studies with Morton Feldman at the Chock Full of Nuts at 116th & Broadway and wound up in SoHo exhibiting sculpture, scores, and photographs, as well as composing and performing. In the 70’s he was a curator at PS 1, The Clocktower and the Alternative Museum, where he launched the first exhibitions of sound sculpture and audio art — in the process bringing into usage the term “Sound Art.” Among his many awards is a Prix de Rome from The American Academy in Rome.
All eighteen of his Etudes for Piano, composed between 1985 and 2001. A tour de force of composition, and of pianism by Taka Kigawa. Several of them played from memory. Most read from huge cardboard paste-ups. No page turns! The notes must be very small and the pianist, very good eyesight. I’ve been an admirer of Ligeti since the days of LPs. I have many. I should look at his notation. But Taka carries away the huge cardboard paste-ups after each of the three sets.
I’m amazed by what I’m hearing. Speechless, but I would like to say something. Rather bland words below. Add color!
Up the piano it went.
Down the piano it went.
In the middle of the piano it stayed. Then up, then down. To the top. To the bottom. Bam! Tonal? No, but something like it. (Schoenberg said there was no such thing as atonal.)
Fast, faster and fastest it went. Then faster. Loud, loudest. Terribly soft. Terrific activity then over, there’s another layer, low, softer, slowly ending underneath. That happened again in another etude. And again. Is there another way of listening to this? Should a “Schenker diagram” be forming in my head? N/A.
Dreamy slower, but never too slow. Suddenly come in some irregular accents. Dream is over. Louder, much. Regular accents, violent, but not for long. Nothing too long. This is Europe, not the U.S.
Why do I think that this piano converts everything into 19th Century music? It’s not the pianist. He’s doing more than just his job. Still, I think: Chopin, Liszt (that other Hungarian). Debussy. But how can this be since the program notes by Taka Kigawa tell us of the fantastic numerical and rhythmic facts about the pieces. Algorithms gone wild. Or maybe semi-wild—”poly” is just not strong enough a word for these rhythms. Super-Poly? Is my impression of the Romantic era because of the pedaling? and is that Ligeti’s or Kigawa? Seems right for the material. Not too much. Just enough. So, why? Should the touch be more “mechanical?” That seems wrong. So, why?
Poetic titles: L’escalier du diable, Vertige, A bout de souffle, White on White, Automne å Varsovie—is this last an in-joke about the Warsaw Autumn Festival, or composed for it?
I notice the pianist’s frequent use of the soft pedal—for all soft passages. Yes, I can hear the difference. I like the sound. Is it in the score? or is it the pianist’s decisions? (Should I ask him, I think afterwards. But there’s a line.)
I’m in the front row of tables. Across the table is the NY TImes music critic. I ask him if he’s going to write about it (I saw him scribbling in tiny red handwriting). He says: yes.
In Wednesday’s edition. I’ll get it. It’s a big crowd at LPR. They are enthusiastic. So am I. I try my “bravo” whistle at the end, but it doesn’t come out. Wet my fingers?
I’m weary. So much effort by these tours de force dazes me. Maybe I need a drink?… Oh, I already had a drink, Le Poisson Rouge requires it.
Do I like the music? That almost seems superfluous.
And I really don’t know.
Maybe I’ll know in a week or two. Or more. If yes to like, could it be like a lot Maybe admire is safe. Respect? No problem. But like? That’s the issue, isn’t it? To have on that desert island with you. And what about love, need? Another thumbnail for that. And another for the issues that lie behind this post.
Thumbnail Review No. 49
It’s hard to know where to start with Larry Polansky’s new Three Pieces for Two Pianos. There are more than three pieces on the New World CD, and they are not all for two pianos. But let’s say we start in the middle, with the third of the three pieces which Michael Winter rightly calls, in his excellent liner notes, an “epic.” Or, on the other hand, let’s jump in with the next track, Old Paint, a rather sad folk song that was sung to me as a child by Tony Kraber, actor and folksinger, at our school fair.
It is sung softly to us here by the young, talented pianist, Rory Cowal, too soft to hear the words, but with the slow swinging rhythm of the original which acts like a baby’s crib for the song, cradling it in a bath of non-related piano tones. So beautiful! Half-way through I started to sing softly with Rory, even though I don’t remember most of the words. It was more than an exercise in nostalgia—though that is the sentiment of the song about leaving a favorite horse and his home town of Cheyenne. It’s a piano piece that just moves you in a slow triple rhythm.
So on to the epical third movement of the Three PIeces for Two Pianos, played by such sensitive pianists, Marilyn Nonken and Joseph Kubera. Like many of his pieces this one begins softly, poignantly, only to betray that mood gradually with an outpouring of wonderful “cacophony.” Caused apparently by what I’d like to call Larry Polansky’s “irrational canons.” They quickly stream into a low bass-register stream, and into at least one stream in the treble range. The ear tends to simplify at least in early hearings, so I’m saying one treble stream for now. Larry has used canonic practices in many earlier pieces, typically staggering the voices’ entry times so that they all end together. Here the canonic texture can only be heard as fabulous heterophony. This gluing together of tones into streams that decorate unisons into spikey non-unisons is such an important development in modernist (and beyond) music. One can’t really account for much great music of our times and before without heterophony. You can get there—to heterophony—by many routes. Mike Winter, composer and liner-notes writer can help you with Larry’s!
I sense that his usual canonic practice is not the case here with piece no.3, but rather there is a big bubble effect that starts at the beginning, then continues on with a maximum explosion of energy in the middle, and a soft, again poignant, ending. Not all algorithmic composers do as Larry does, shaping the expressive output along with the notes.
The first of the three pieces starts out almost like a Chopin prelude. But overlays soon obscure a single-minded trajectory. There are dominant seventh chords, and a couple of re-beginnings. You sense that inside of the complexity there are the modules of the earlier material. Only the second of the three pieces and its following “Interlood” feel amorphous. But even here as throughout, the harmony however generated, algorithmically or otherwise, is complexly interesting, and probably immune from chord labels and any simplistic analysis.
There is more to say about the other pieces. The k-toods, for example, which for the composer is about parenting, and for the listener about a set of romps, some of which claim a kind of motoric, ostinato quality that says to me: ‘I’m not a minimalist, but I can repeat and excite!’ Interestingly, much of these latter pieces is based on guided improvisations. So bravo for the two players, Tobin Chodos and Ittai Rosenbaum. Both have backgrounds in improvisation and jazz. Ending the CD is an arrangement with stretched-out harmonies made from a Shaker hymn. played beautifully by Amy Beal.
So what is our conclusion—though none is needed: There is grandeur and quietness, sheer positive energy, and complexity of composition. Ives feels to me like a progenitor, but new algorithmic and compositional ideas have come since Ives. Finally one can only ask the listener to listen. And then, listen again!
Thumbnail Review # 48
Esa-Pekka Salone turned the Hugo Ball poem, KARAWANA, into a huge, sumptuous, post-modern orchestra piece so very much like the huge, sumptuous MODERNist orchestra piece he just conducted by Messiaen, his Turangalila Symphony. At the Philharmonic this week and last. I went to open rehearsals both times. Wonderful experiences. But:
Somehow I’m dying from too much chocolate. And yet—the symphony is so sexy; it hardly matters whether it’s sumptuous or not. It glows in the light or the dark.
So, what’s to complain about? Really not much, just that the great Dada master, Hugo Ball’s wonderful nonsense poem with allusions on almost every made-up word, like bung (which occurs three times in the short poem), is not really audible, intelligible in the orchestra piece, or worse, not funny in the declamatory way it is funny if you recite it yourself. Try it in the attachment I’m including.
There’s nothing funny in the Messiaen piece. It’s too beautiful to be funny. So, two non-funny, almost too beautiful orchestra pieces. Then there’s the deflationary Hugo Ball telling you it’s all bung. And he’s telling you in a beautifully collaged sound-text graphic which he designed. Now we’ve got three beauties, and very little satire left.
But Ball will win it back from beauty once we recite his poem in our own voice. And also…let’s get off it about beauty being bad for art. Not true. Even in the most mundane, unbeautiful Fluxus event, presentation can be beautiful: the toy paper boats being blown about in a tub of water. Whose beautiful piece was that, I don’t remember. It might be George Brecht. Bob Watts’s F/R Trace has the performer walk on stage with a French Horn, bell up. He (there was only one female Fluxus artist, Alison Knowles, with Yoko Ono a runner-up), thus he, would face the audience, bow, and out would come from the bell of the horn a myriad bunch of ping-pong balls. They would bounce and bung all over the stage, even into the audience; the sound and the sight was awesome. A one-liner. How beautiful!
So that’s what was missing. We don’t get it all from one artist, and that’s a little complicated to take in. We assemble it from parts made by several people, including from a gigantic, gorgeous orchestra that, nevertheless…leaves something out.
Thumbnail Review No. 47
January 24th, 2016
Birthday Concert #1: Chamber Music
167 Spring Street, 7:30 PM
with Joseph Kubera, piano; and Pauline Kim Harris, violin
Sonata for Violin and Piano (2014)
Piano Sonata #1* (2015, premiere)
OoMPAH for piano (2002, revised: 2007)
Relaxing at the Piano (‘70s) – performed by the composer
Piano Sonata #2* (2015, premiere)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (reprise)
• The two piano sonatas use piano music composed in 1959, extended and developed with newly composed material.
Birthday Concert #2 takes place on February 12th, 7:30 PM at the Cell: 338 West 23rd Street. Premiere of Clarinet Quintet, for clarinet solo (Moran Katz) and string quartet (Momenta Quartet) and a revival of Tunnel Funnel for chamber orchestra (Flexible Orchestra conducted by David Gilbert who premiered it in 1988), dubbed by VV critic, Kyle Gann, “Tune of the decade.”
DEAR FRIENDS, yes,
My delightful two-octave toy piano, pulled out of the back of a closet to star in my one-act, autobiographical opera, Irina, along with many other stars of the orchestra, like dramatic soprano, Kamala Sankaram, like wonderful ballet dancer au point, Mayu Oguri, like virtuoso principal violist AND composer, Stephanie Griffin, and like Maestra Extraordinaire, Tara Simoncic, our conductor since 2004.
Not to mention the other fabulous, amazing, dedicated performers, and old friends like Fritz Kraber on flute and with only a little reluctance on wooden piccolo (for only a few bars—thank you Fritz!)
TOMORROW, THURS, MARCH 31st AT THE UKRAINIAN RESTAURANT (great borscht) at 8 PM, 140 Second Av. at 9th St. $20 at the door. We’ve had standing room only at past concerts, so don’t delay. Show up!
And the fabulous ending to all endings: Phil Corner’s Ideal AMEN. He takes the ending of the Berlioz Requiem and ends and ends and ends that fabulous chameleon-like piece.
Oh, and Lev Ljova Zhurbin’s window into our eastern european past, its emotional melodies and thoughts, the slow-fast form of so many of those folk pieces.
I could go on. Violas extraordinary, all those sounds they can do: in Toronto composer, publisher, experimentalist, Gayle Young’s Departures. And Dean Rosenthal’s dedication to “deductive music” pioneered by Tom Johnson, last year’s Flexible Orchestra composer. And still more: Stephanie Griffin’s passionate new piece for SEVEN violas!
It’s the last year of “VIOLAS PLUS.” The Flexible Orchestra flexes into a new sound next year. So get the old sound now while it lasts!
SEE YOU THERE!
Here’s the info. Put it into your book! In addition to the premieres mentioned we have two to add:
Stephanie Griffin, principal violist with the Flexible Orchestra:
Poem from Exile (2015) for seven violas, and:
Lev Ljova Zhurbin:
Pastorale – Bagel for violas and clarinets
Hope to see you all there! Yours, Daniel
Here’s the ad announcement from the Calendar for New Music: (See Above)
From: Noah Creshevsky
Date: February 29, 2016 2:14:55 PM EST
To: Daniel Goode
Subject: Your clarinet quintet
That is such a beautiful piece–written on a quite large scale, technically assured, expressive, and–yes, a rare word–inspired!
I had great pleasure hearing it now. Thank you for posting it.
My best to you,
The “symphony of a thousand.” At the premiere in Munich, 1910 there were apparently 1,0030, counting the conductor, Maestro Mahler. I haven’t counted last night’s forces, swelled by very big choruses, but it might not be a thousand, and of course it often isn’t and it doesn’t need to be. Punkt! Big: yes, very.
I was anxious to have Ann, my wife hear it, and though I didn’t really hear it very well, even though “enhanced” by the big loud speakers a few yards from our seats, still, it communicated a great and fabulous glowing sound.
What was this Jewish composer, who converted to Catholicism before becoming artistic director of the famous Vienna Imperial Court Opera under the Hapsburg emperor, doing in setting, in Part 1 of the symphony, a ninth-century religious hymn, “Come, Creator Spirit” and in Part 2, the final scene of Goethe’s two-part, “Faust” poem? Very god-infested, yes it is!—(and why that from the humanist, cosmopolitan, Goethe? I don’t know.)
Well, Mahler called it an allegory of what cannot be spoken of. A good defense! He was a well-read intellectual, interested in ideas, progressive aesthetically and helpful to, for example, the young composer, Schoenberg who befriended him. That’s a good story.
Back to Ann who, not knowing the music as I do, coming to the event fatigued and ready for bed, was revived and full of enthusiastic appreciation. She said: “A superfluity; staggering, complex; moments when a kind of screaming enters from the side like a blue-note.”
That’s a complex review, probably not what Mahler consciously intended. As Theodore Adorno says in his excellent short book, Mahler, a Musical Physiognomy, “Mahler was a poor yea-sayer.“ So the Eighth Symphony is a kind of anti-phobic answer to a difficulty in his psyche. Fine! It works and the marvelous, doleful, dark shadings, in the beginning of Part 2, and in Part 1 with the verse that begins “Infirma” —“[strengthen] our weak body”—we get the wonderful part of Mahler who can’t say “yes.” And we know that he continued not to say “yes” persuasively in the Ninth Symphony, some of Das Lied Von Der Erde, and the uncompleted Tenth Symphony. We don’t really like false positive-ness! Quite amazing, also, that neither of these three amazing works did he hear in his lifetime.
He was obsessed with death (well documented in marginalia), and in fact, though vigorous and athletic, was struck down by endocarditis at 51, an infection of the heart, now easily treatable with antibiotics. Heart! But there was more to it. He’d lost one of his two daughters to a childhood disease. And he’d also very late in life lost his beloved Almschi to a lover, the architect, Walter Gropius. Lots to cry about. He was bereft, finally, and sick, even while conducting the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera as a European star! At the same time composing his Ninth and Tenth symphonies, mostly in the summer, back home in the Austrian countryside. He was recognizably “modern,” 20th Century even with his rich, opulent, essentially late 19th Century musical language (thank you, Barry Goldensohn, for this accurate adjective: opulent).
So in Mahler-time, he races through a huge amount of material in an hour and a half. It’s efficient, with no lovely dallying as in the “Night Music” of the Seventh Symphony. We get to the last line of text, “the eternal feminine leads us up” sung by the Chorus Mysticus, and that’s it. Terrible pre-feminist politics: masculine is striving, ambitious, heroic; feminine is nurturing, comforting, satisfying. But hey, he sort of lost his loved one. And also, how could he contradict his beloved, German, Goethe (he hated Austrian culture, was a Germanophile)!
At the same time he suffered from the standard anti-Semitism of the time, saying that being Jewish was like going through life with one arm shorter than the other; yet having to identify with the dominant Christian culture which repeatedly hired him to more and more prestigious positions. We are luckier living among the diaspora in New York, not in Budapest and Vienna of his time.
But of the performance at St. John the Divine under its music director and organist, Kent Tritle conducting: what was it like? Well, really not very intelligible to one who knows the music. The cathedral succeeded in muddying the very precise rhythms of the excellent players from the Manhattan School of Music, and making such things as the wonderful bass pizzicati throughout the beginning of Part 2 sound like random dull thuds. A “sound-designer” failure? Probably. And what about the stridently over-amplified, over-vibrato-ed soprano soloists (google the performance for names). It’s a lingering operatic disease from Wagnerian times on: vibrato amplifies the volume of the sound for very well-documented scientific reasons. The justification used to be that the Wagnerian orchestra was always in danger of drowning out the Wagnerian sopranos and tenors. But why now! in a piece of music where Mahler’s superior orchestrational knowledge allows a less strident vocal style? No answer to this persistent question.
And what of Adorno’s disparaging and sarcastic remark about the Eighth Symphony as a “genre chef d’oeuvre?.” (page 138, op. cit.) A genre masterpiece. What’s the genre? Spectacle? Conflation of religion and art? He answers: “To glorify the collective sounding through him as an absolute… That he did not resist, is his offense,” his “false consciousness.” Adorno prefers, and maybe we do too, that part of the composer that looks “questioningly into uncertainty.”
So why given Mahler’s “offense,” and that last night when we couldn’t really hear Mahler in St. John the Divine’s, did we jump to our feet at the end, clapping and cheering with tears in our eyes?
Because we knew he was there! His temporary “Yes” was our temporary Yes.
—Thumbnail Review No. 46