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)
Clarinet Quintet – 15:07
Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin (Momenta)
Karen Kim, violin (Momenta)
Stephanie Griffin, viola (Momenta)
Michael Haas, cello (Momenta)
Jay Elfenbein, contrabass
Chris Nappi, mallet instruments
Marijo Newman, piano
David Gilbert, conductor
Moran Katz, clarinet with the Momenta Quartet in Clarinet Quintet
In spite of my continuing series of “Thumbnail Reviews,” this is not a review. First because I haven’t finished Tom’s book yet, and second because I don’t do reviews in the journalistic meaning of the word. More like: reflections.
I’ve known Tom since he appeared in the downtown scene of new music in the ‘70s around when I did, and admired his music, his theoretical approach, and his important role as a music critic for the Village Voice; his “beat” being the very downtown scene we were part of. I’ve performed some of his music with my DownTown Ensemble, and Flexible Orchestra. And I visited him after he had become an ex-pat in Paris in 2005, and where he has lived since leaving New York in the ‘80s. His habit for visitors was to offer to play you some of his “deductive music” and when he thought you had heard enough he would say something like: that’s enough deductive music for today—and stop.
So this important, and I hope, controversial (and index-less book), which goes “beyond tonal and atonal” music (that’s his subtitle) pits once more the music as a listened-to phenomenon against the theory of music: a tradition of quasi opposition that goes back to Greek and Roman times. The most interesting of these writers are the ones who are also important composers, like Olivier Messiaen, about whose theory Tom has much—very positive—to say.
I’ve been ambivalent about this opposition. Partly because on one side, I contributed to a “structuralist” approach through my minimalist pieces, and through the “systems group” which we briefly had in the late ‘70s in New York with artists from several media, including composer, Philip Corner. Tom doesn’t remember this group when I recently brought it up to him. But it was a fun and wonderful thing to have for its short life. The other side of the ambivalence comes out below.
My biggest question about the kind of structuralist approach that equates notes with numbers, is: Would any of this have happened if we didn’t have discrete entities like twelve pitches to our “Western” scale? And my answer to my self is: maybe we have to have discrete numbered entities because of who (or what) we are. We are counters, enumerators, makers of discrete intellectual things, alphabetizers, and so on. But is that what music should be doing? All counting, I thought, was in the service of music, not music in the service of counting. But then Tom and Charlie Morrow did counting pieces. And they were interesting, even fascinating. Whether or not they were “music” seemed beside the point. Even when “boring.”
“Equal and Complete” is one of the chapters of the book. In it he means that the system behind the notes should have equality and completeness. An example of equality might be the interval between notes of a chord, like a major 7th. Or, simply, our system of “equal temperament” whereby the distance between each note of the 12 in the octave is the same. Completeness is something like: what are all the four note chords made up of such-and-such group of notes in a scale.
So then the eternal question is: What is the purpose (and use) of music? Is it to exhibit or manifest a system or process or structure, OR to move, invite, satisfy, transport, or amuse the listener? Can it be both? Difficult, but yes, it can be. I count my self in both camps, at least for several of my pieces. Though Tom is firmly in the former, some of his earlier compositions like the Shaggy Dog Operas are in both camps. In those, the system or process was kept discretely (other meaning of that word!) behind the surface sound. And they were comedic, theatrical.
What is true of this book is that Tom Johnson has thoroughly brought the discussion up to date. Will he compose captivating music now, from the “other harmony” he’s written about? Does it have to be captivating? I would hope yes. But that’s because I like as much to be happening as possible.
Thumbnail Review No. 45
Please visit New World Records’ website for further details (Click Here). The following text is from New World Records’ Album Details section and should be referenced accordingly.
The Flexible Orchestra:Jen Baker, Monique Buzzarte, Tim Sessions, Keith Green, William Lang, Daniel Linden, Christopher McIntyre, Johannes Pfannkuch, Sebastian Vera, Deborah Weisz, trombones; Carlos Cordeiro, J.D. Parran, clarinets; Stephanie Griffin, viola; Ken Filiano, contrabass; Marijo Newman, piano; Laura Liben, percussion; Chris Nappi, percussion/marimba; Tara Simoncic, conductor;
Daniel Goode, clarinet; Douglas Martin, piano; Michael Finckel, Pitnarry Shin, Alexandra MacKenzie, cellos; Joseph Kubera, Sarah Cahill, pianos
Daniel Goode (b. 1936) is a fan of (in his own words) “minimalist thinking and process thinking,” the “long form,” and “the trance effect that repetition brings about.” Comprising solo, chamber, and orchestral works, these four pieces span his career as a composer. The earliest, the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1959-60), reflects his early interests and influences. Using the harmonically enhanced vocabulary of neoclassicism, the Sonata is a fast-slow-fast, three-movement tour-de-force similar in many ways to “the neoclassic sweetness and pizzazz” of Poulenc’s three-movement clarinet sonata composed two years later.
Mr. Goode later learned circular breathing and developed his own approach to minimalism and “process music.” Goode’s Circular Thoughts (1974) for solo clarinet is among the earliest minimalist scores to be published by a major publisher (Theodore Presser Co.). This twenty-minute guided improvisation is also a process piece with specific scales and suggestions about tempo, articulations, timbre, and dynamics. Representing both the ideas of gradual process and resultant patterns commonly associated with the music of Steve Reich, Circular Thoughts highlights the trance-like quality of relentlessly repeating melodic patterns and cyclic ostinatos.
Ländler Land (1999–2000) is subtitled “a waltz for concert performance and dancing for three cellos and two pianos.” Goode started Ländler Land while living briefly in Vienna, and it was influenced by a 1993 film called Latcho Drom about the music of the Roma people. Annbling (2006, rev. 2007), was composed for the Flexible Orchestra, a new concept in orchestral sound designed by Mr. Goode in 2004. Annbling is a trombone-dominated contemplation of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, a Sundanese pop song, and the tragedy of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. The piece opens with a re-orchestrated quotation from the beginning of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, and ends with a long, sensuous rendition of a West Javanese popular song, “Tonggeret,” which Mr. Goode found on a commercial cassette of dance music while in Java in 1996.
Performance by the Flexible Orchestra
Buy Tickets Here
Listen to a sample of last year’s French Arithmetic – 24m 23s
$15 General Admission
Flexible Orchestra was formed by composer, Daniel Goode, in 2004 with the purpose of having an ensemble of about fifteen sound as full as a symphony orchestra—through strategic orchestration. One larger section from one instrumental family gives the mass effect, plus a smaller section of varied instruments which is there to complement, contrast, and “spice up” the ensemble.
Featured will be Guy Klucevsek’s “Suite for Accordion and Flexible Orchestra.” This is the 2nd year of the “Accordions Plus” format for the orchestra, with five accordions, violin, cello, bass, flute, and percussion, conducted once more by Tara Simoncic, who has led the Flexible Orchestra since its debut in 2004. Guy will also be soloist in orchestra-member, Kamala Sankaram’s new commissioned work. Daniel Goode, artistic director and founder, will present “Adagietto-ed” which reworks Gustav Mahler’s “Adagietto” from the Fifth Symphony for the Flexible Orchestra, using toy accordions from Chinatown. Barbara Benary, director of Gamelan Son of Lion, long time collaborator of Mr. Goode’s, who composed for the “trombones plus” format of 2006, offers her “Accordingly,” featuring Kamala Sankaram, soprano. Bill Hellermann, co-director of the DownTown Ensemble will have a new work for the full ensemble and narrator.
The first Flexible Orchestra was 12 cellos, flute, clarinet, and trombone. Each format is planned to last two years. The second two-year orchestra was 10 trombones, 2 clarinets, 2 contrabasses, and piano with amplified viola, marimba, gamelan gongs added in one instance. All the music is composed expressly for the orchestra, or arranged for it. An added benefit is that with a section of cellos, or trombones, or flutes, or accordions already in place it is able to do revivals of mono-timbral works which rarely get performed after their premieres. So eight amplified cellos did an early Lois Vierk work; ten trombones did a early Frederick Rzewski work; eleven flutes did Henry Brant’s 1932 “Angels and Devils.” The orchestra has done arrangements of Christian Wolff, Kent Kennan, and others. The New Yorker called it “Daniel Goode’s big avant-garde combo,” and Time Out said the name of the ensemble “implies a certain frame of mind.” Both true!
Daniel Goode, composer-clarinetist lives in New York, is founder of the Flexible Orchestra a new concept in orchestral sound, co-director of the DownTown Ensemble, member of Gamelan Son Lion. Recent work is the opera, French Arithmetic premiered 2010 by the Flexible Orchestra’s concert of new works and revivals for its latest array of seven accordions, three strings.
Daniel Goode, composer-clarinetist, is founder of the Flexible Orchestra – a new concept in orchestral sound, co-director of the DownTown Ensemble, member of Gamelan Son Lion. On November 9th, Goode brings his Flexible Orchestra to Roulette.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
DANIEL GOODE: The Flexible Orchestra is my baby. “Invented” in 2003-04. My project is to reform the modern symphony orchestra. Its inflexibility of instrumentation first of all. Yeah, you can add the occasional electric guitar or schmoosaphone, or something, but basically you’re stuck with the old tried and true format. So I made up a paradigm format that expresses the meaning and intent of the orchestra in my opinion (I theorized a bunch in the Letter From Vienna): one large section of one family that gives the “massed” or “chorale” effect (like the strings in the trad. orch.) but DOESN’T always have to be strings. LIke ten trombones, or twelve cellos, or eleven flutes, or now seven (this year five) accordions. THEN, you need smaller numbers of other contrasting and supporting instruments: like 2 clarinets plus 2 double basses, plus piano (to go with the 10 trombones). Given my budget and my rehearsal loft size, I picked 15 instruments as the approximate total (give or take a few) and made those distributions and choices. All this is documented with programs scores, mp3s and pix at the Flexible Orchestra website
Go there and have a ball! I found a really talented young conductor, Tara Simoncic, who has made each concert an artistic success. All work (including arrangements which we happily do) must be commissioned since each combo is unique.
BUT, here’s a fabulous serendipity: we have a large section of trombones or flutes or cellos or accordions as a core to the group, so we can revive pieces written for multiples of these instruments that don’t get many “second” performances because of the difficulty of assembling such. So a ’60′s piece for multiple trombones by Fred Rzewski (“The Last Judgement” – a spin-off of the trombone solo near end of M’s Don Giovanni), Lois V Vierk’s “Simoom” for 8 amplified cellos, Bill Hellermann’s 1976 “to brush up on” for 6 cellos, Guy Klucevsek’s “Spinning Jennie” for 7 accordions, Henry Brant’s classic 1932 “Angels and Devils” for 11 flutes. So we plug these in to a program of all new pieces by famous or not famous wonderful composers. (See programs on web site). Then, I’m so proud of this: because it’s an idea not a specific group of people the orchestra can spring up anywhere where these combos can be assembled. So next July 14 in Wroclaw, Poland (that’s “Vrotzswaff”) we are funded to do a concert using the first format, 12 cellos-flute-clarinet-trombone, with local Polish composers and some of our American repertory.
R: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
DG: Well, the composers I like are, as you might expect, the ones we program on the Flexible Orchestra: Barbara Benary, Kamala Sankaram, Bill Hellermann, Guy Klucevsek, Jordan Nobles (Vancouver), Christian Wolff, Philip Corner, Skip LaPlante, Jim Fox, and on and on (see programs).
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
DG: I’ve been on the scene in NY since 1971 (not counting grad school at Columbia in the ’60s. I’ve always been in the avant-garde or whatever the new music scene is or was from the world of Cage, minimalism, world music (or new music for gamelan ensemble—Gamelan Son of Lion). Did lots of solo clarinet (extended and circular breathing techs) at XI and Roulette—of West B’way days. Started with Bill Hellermann the DownTown Ensemble in 1983 because there were NO repertory groups of the very new (only Composer X’s Ensemble–you know who I mean) type of thing existed based on the one-man show art exhibits. So we dissented from this as non-communitarian art. Our friends and us had no ensemble taking care of our needs. New groups, high-technique conservatory trained groups not composer-performer groups which we were, added to the scene in the late ’90s. I think they are more conservative than we are at the DownTown Ensemble. Our ties go back to the original revolutionary composers of the late ’50s through the ’60′s etc. I recently deplored the world of the Stone which lets the composer shoulder the financial burden of the concert—which is where we all began. I titled my two little articles “We’ve Been Demoted” (see attachment).
R: What was the last music you listened to?
DG: Just finished listening to a CD from Australia called “Ecopella.” Fun madrigal and folk-song style chorus on original pro-environment lyrics and music. Why not! But New York Kool it’s not! Last night I went to the new Freddy’s Back Room to hear my friend and sometime collaborator, Bonnie Barnett, improvising experimental vocalist playing with bassist extroadinaire, Ken Filiano. Great. She also did a set at ABCnoRio with guitarist extraordinaire, Anders Nilsson.
R: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
DG: In the late ’60′s I discovered myself on experimental clarinet. And started really enjoying playing other’s new music scores in ensembles.
R: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
DG: No one person to point to in going into new music. The scene in Southern CA at UCSD was hot with composers, performers, ideas flowing all over the place. Then continuing in Soho in the ’70′s.
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
DG: I’m really pushing all my inner resources now. Continuing instrumental orchestra music with my Flexible Orchestra pieces since 2004. Now adding opera and political cantata type of music. I’m working on my “One-Word Opera.” And my first opera, “French Arithmetic.” Working on a second one-act: “Puppet Dance, and Opera-Ballet.”
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
DG: I’m writing more about music now, and in a personal voice. Published by Frog Peak Music, and in occasional issues of the blog, “Deliberately Considered.” I’ve got my own blog now, https://danielgoode.com/