Icons in Staten Island

icons_cdI just learned that Ben Fingland, clarinet, and Stephen Gosling, piano, will perform my 1984 work for clarinet, piano and electronic sound called Icons at a concert on Staten Island on June 14 at 3:30 pm. The concert is part of a series called Music at St. Alban’s, and while I don’t know all the program details, it sounds like a reprise of the Voixtronica program Ben, Steve, and Ben’s wife, the violist and composer Jessica Meyer, offered at Penn not so long ago. Go here for details on the St. Alban’s concert, and here for the New World cd recording of Icons, with Jean Kopperud and Aleck Karis.

Network plays Chamber Concerto

Network for New Music gave an excellent performance last night of my Chamber Concerto. This is not an easy piece – I wrote it for the hyper-virtuosi of Speculum Musicae, with Allen Blustine as clarinet soloist – but the Network ensemble pulled it off in style. Soloist Ben Fingland had full command of the part, not only the rapid flurries of notes, but the most delicate nuances, including some uncannily soft high register tones. The players relished the jazzy parts of the last movement. My one small regret was that I don’t feel I tweaked some of the synthesizer patches quite properly; Linda Reichert covered the part just fine, but if the piece is done again I would make some of the patches a little more resonant, with longer decays and capable of a wider dynamic range. Besides Ben and Linda, the players were Paul Arnold, violin; Tom Kraines, cello; Mary Javian, double bass; Christopher Deviney, percussion; and Charles Abramovic, piano, with Jan Krzywicki conducting.

The other works on the program were performed to the customary high Network standard – Paul Arnold’s violin was alternately dancing and lyrical in Judith Shatin‘s Penelope’s Song; Hirono Oka, Burchard Tang and Thom Kraines were an exceptionally refined string trio in Paul Lansky‘s As If. (It’s odd to realize that I was a tech person for the premiere of the Lansky in 1981 at Columbia University – “tech” only in the sense of being assigned to move speakers around.)  Arne Running gracefully commanded the sleight-of-hand narrative of Mario Davidovsky‘s clarinet Synchronisms.

Network’s Third Space festival continues, with programs at Temple U on Sunday night, at Community College of Philadelphia on Monday, and with a reprise of the Sunday program at Haverford College on Friday. Read more details at the Network website.

In addition to tomorrow’s Network concert, you will want to be present for the premieres of works by Melinda Wagner and Richard Brodhead at Marcantonio Barone’s piano recital this Sunday, sponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and presented at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.


sunspots_full_diskThese things just happen once in a while – I don’t know why – sunspots? –  but I seem to have six performances coming up next month. To save you from having to click on the “upcoming performances” link above, (although you should feel no inhibitions about doing so), here’s the news for April:

April 2, 2013: Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift (premiere)

Judith Gordon, piano
Sage Hall
Smith College
Northhampton, MA

April 5, 2013: Chamber Concerto

Benjamin Fingland, Clarinet
Network for New Music
Rose Recital Hall
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

April 13, 2013: Times Like These

Lisa Oberlander, clarinet
Yien Wang, piano
Cheryl G. & Joseph C. Jensen Grand Concert Hall
of the Stephens Performing Arts Center
Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

April 16, 2013: “Cinder” from Holy the Firm

Kameryn Lueng, soprano
Szilvia Mikó, piano
Longy School of Music
Boston, MA

April 18, 2013: String Quartet #3

Daedalus Quartet
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Settlement Music School, Queen Street Branch
Philadelphia, PA
Concert will honor composer Richard Wernick with performances of works by his students.
Program includes music by Melinda Wagner, Yinam Leef, and Philip Maneval.

April 27: “Cinder” from Holy the Firm; How Can I Keep From Singin’? (arranged by Primosch)

Kameryn Lueng, soprano
Szilvia Mikó, piano
Bito Performance Space
Bard College Conservatory of Music
Annandale on Hudson, NY

Would that this kind of thing happened more often. Hope to see you at one or another of these – I’ll be at Smith, in Philly for both concerts, and possibly at Bard.

Voixtronica in Philly

ben and jessicaBravo to Ben Fingland and Jessica Meyer (pictured) who played a superb program at U of Penn last night. Calling the show “Voixtronica”, they offered a variety of pieces that combined live viola, clarinet, and keyboards with electronic sound, both pre-recorded and generated on the spot. Jessica had an uncommon array of stompboxes for her amplified viola in works by Robert Karpay, John Kaefer, and herself.  Ben set aside the mouthpiece of his bass clarinet for a work by Vinko Globokar in which he spoke, shouted, sang, whispered and more directly into the instrument. (Globokar premiered Berio’s trombone Sequenza. Did Berio get the vocal effects in that piece from hearing Globokar demonstrating the techniques, or did Globokar become interested in such things because of what Berio asked him to do? I would guess the former.) Later Ben partnered with Steve Gosling at the piano for my own Icons, with its electronic sound from the analog studio of 30 years ago, and with Steve at a DX7 synthesizer, playing digital sounds from a slightly less distant past, for a work by Eric Moe. Yes, he played a real DX, so this was a performance, like certain early music performances, on an authentic instrument.

Seen below are Ben and Steve as they prepare to play Eric’s piece.


Icons in NYC and Philly

Ben Fingland, clarinet, and Steve Gosling, piano, will play my Icons in New York tonight, Feb. 12, at Spectrum NYC, which is at 121 Ludlow Street, on the second floor – show at 7:00 pm. Violist Jessica Meyer will also perform. The program comes to  Philadelphia tomorrow night, Feb. 13, at Rose Recital Hall on the U of Penn campus – 8:00 pm

Icons is a piece for clarinet, piano and electronic sound – originally on tape, but now played back from a CD. Here is a program note for the piece:

Icons was completed in 1984 and premiered later that year at Tanglewood.  The tape part was realized, using analog devices, at the Columbia University Electronic Music Center.  Most of the tape relies on classical studio techniques, affording a tight interweaving of instrumental and electronic parts.  Portions of the piece exploit voltage-controlled synthesizers to provide a diverse palette of colors.

The work was recorded by Jean Kopperud and Aleck Karis for release on New World Records in 1998.

The title refers to passages in a book by Madeleine L’Engel entitled Walking on Water.  In this book, the author speaks of the calling of artists to form “icons of the true”.  The following excerpt from the book appears in the score: “In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.”

Yes, it’s the same Madeleine L’Engel who wrote this beloved book.

Electronic Affinities

Penn is presenting a number of programs involving electronic music in the coming months, some organized by the Music Department, some created by Network for New Music. Here’s a list of events:

– Wednesday, February 13: Penn Contemporary Music presents violist Jessica Meyer and clarinetist Ben Fingland in recital, with pianist Stephen Gosling. The program includes music by Eric Moe, Vinko Globokar, Robert Karpay, alongside premieres by John Kaefer and Jessica herself. The program also includes a piece of my own: an oldie called Icons for clarinet, piano and tape, which was made in the analog tape studio at Columbia during my student days, and premiered at Tanglewood in 1984. You can hear it on a New World disc.

– Friday, February 15: Network for New Music will screen video interviews with pioneers of electronic music, including Milton Babbitt, Mario Davidovsky, Bebe Barron, Max Mathews, and Pauline Oliveros. Composer Maurice Wright and I will introduce the videos. Registration is required for this event – more information here.

– Wednesday, March 13: Penn Contemporary Music will present soprano Stacey Mastrian in recital, with Scott Crowne, piano. She will be doing a program of 20th century Italian music with pieces by Berio, and Dallapiccola among others. The featured event will be Nono’s La fabbrica illuminata, for soprano and electronic sound. Stephen Lilly will assist with the electronics.

– Friday, April 5: Penn will present one of the concerts in Network’s Third Space mini-festival of works with electronic media. There will be music by Mario Davidovsky, John Chowning, Paul Lansky, Judith Shatin, Kaija Saariaho, and my own Chamber Concerto for clarinet and six players – again featuring Ben Fingland.

All these events will take place in Rose Recital Hall in Fisher-Bennett Hall at 34th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. The concerts are at 8:00pm; the video session at 7:30 pm.

Here’s a video from Network regarding the Feb. 15 event: