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.

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.

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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:

Chops Beyond the Practice Room

As if it wasn’t sufficient to be a superb violist, Jessica Meyer is also a clinician of a unique kind. Her “Chops Beyond the Practice Room” workshops help musicians learn how to network, how to speak to an audience or a colleague, how to actually open their mouths and connect with a fellow human being in a way other than with notes – a less than universal skill among those of us who spend  a huge chunk of our days alone with an instrument and a music stand. Her next such event is this coming Wednesday from 7 to 9:30 in Manhattan – details here.

Although the majority of participants in Jessica’s workshops are performers, composers need to work on these skills as well. Maybe if I was more verbally adept I would be able to deal better with the dreaded question “so, what is your music like?” – not an easy task given the lack of context that most folks asking that question bring to the conversation. Maybe I should try the gambit used by the instrumentalist who, when asked by the engineer what kind of sound he was seeking in the recording studio didn’t say something about miking or the use of digital reverb, but rather said “I want a sound like, like… like the sun rising over the mountains in Vermont on a day in late spring…” Yes, that’s what my music sounds like, sure it does…

More to say about that lack of context I mentioned, but that will have to wait for another post.