Program Notes

A Middle Quartet

The title of A Middle Quartet (“In Medias Res”) refers to a number of things: a kinship with the spirit of Beethoven’s Middle Quartets (energetic, dramatic, extroverted); a compositional style which draws freely from surrounding influences; the form of the piece (see below), and the composer’s somewhat optimistic surmise that, after 20 years of composing, he should be in his own “middle period.”

The formal concept of A Middle Quartet (1987) is derived from the narrative technique “In Medias Res” (literally, “in the middle of things,” that is, starting in the midst of the dramatic action). A Middle Quartet should give the listener a sense of beginning and ending “in the middle.” The work starts with an extended string of “fast music” sections, during which the ideas become progressively more sharply profiled. In the center (which is really the end/beginning of the middle) stands a simple but expressive jazz tune with a rock trio.

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A Stage Is All the World: Fantasy for Piano and Tape

A Stage Is All The World is a fantasy for piano and tape, using as it’s point of departure a quote from Shakespeare (As You Like It): “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

This quote is heard backwards at the beginning of the piece. What ensues is a virtuoso concertino, stringing together an eclectic assortment off styles and textures. The tape part was realized on determinedly modest equipment: a Casio MT70 portable keyboard, a 512 Macintosh with the first generation “Professional Composer” program, and old piano records the composer had lying around, all combined on a four-channel Yamaha cassette “home studio.”

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Arioso and Splat

Arioso und Splat makes the most of the contrast between the sweet, distant quality of the opening trumpet “bel canto” melody (over a rather edgy piano accompaniment) and the blatantly raucous “Splat” section, which has its occasional moments of sultriness, mystery, and even a little whining, before working its way to a triumphant splattiness.

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Autumnsongs

Don Freund’s Autumnsongs was commissioned in 2010 jointly by Indiana Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association as part of the MTNA Commissioned Composer Program. The work was composed to be performed by a trio of fabulously talented pre-college musicians in the fall season, so it is touched by a sense of youthful discovery along with the feelings that arise as summer turns towards winter. There is some wordplay behind the narrative of the piece as well — “fall” suggests not only a time of year but also a descent from one world into another.

The first movement, “Fall from Grace,” begins with only the purest of intervals and natural string harmonics, but as more pitches are added, a pentatonic scale and some faint allusions to “Amazing Grace” emerge. Adding still more pitches inevitably leads to the discovery of the tritone interval, that “devil in music.” Along with that discovery comes a gradual transformation from the initial mysterious other-worldly atmosphere to the rough and violent music which ends the first movement.

The second movement, “Turning Colors/Harvest Hymn/ Harvest Dance,” portrays a different kind of transformation. Material borrowed from Debussy’s Prelude “Feuilles mortes” (fallen leaves) is presented with an aura of progressive change which leads to the Harvest Hymn, presented by the piano over the strings’ color-shifting background.  The strings respond with a Harvest Dance, a robust celebration spiked with bits of Vivaldian autumn. When the dance begins to careen out of control the hymn returns, mixed with echoes of the Debussy prelude and the pristine music of the spheres.

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Aware

Poem by D. H. Lawrence

Slowly the moon is rising out of the ruddy haze,
Divesting herself of her golden shift, and so
Emerging white and exquisite; and I in amaze
See in the sky before me, a woman I did not know
I loved, but there she goes, and her beauty hurts my heart;
I follow her down the night, begging her not to depart.

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Backyard Songs

Backyard Songs was commissioned by the Jubal Trio, a trio of voice, flute and harp. In its original form, there are three songs surrounded and connected by scat interludes. Two of the songs have been transcribed to substitute piano for harp and make a short suite. The poetry is by Chicago’s Afro-American Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gwendolyn Brooks.

Backyard Songs (1990) emulates the carefree virtuosity heard in the jazz singing of Ella Fitzgerald and the raw emotional power communicated by Memphis blues singer Ruby Wilson. The voice-dominated “songs” — settings of poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks — are introduced and linked by “scat” sections in which the voice is instrumentally integrated to create a real mixed-trio texture. Dramatically, the set moves from the whimsical naughtiness of “a song in the front yard,” through the threatening suppressed violence of the up-tempo “We Real Cool,” and concludes with the wrenching, cathartic blues-cortège “of DeWitt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery.”

a song in the front yard

I’ve stayed in the front yard all of my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

WE REAL COOL

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery

He was born in Alabama.
He was bred in Illinois.
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.

Drive him past the Pool Hall.
Drive him past the Show.
Blind within his casket,
But maybe he will know.

Down through Forty-seventh Street:
Underneath the L,
And Northwest Corner, Prairie,
That he loved so well.

Don’t forget the Dance Halls—
Warwick and Savoy,
Where he picked his women, where
He drank his liquid joy.

Born in Alabama.
Bred in Illinois.
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.

“a song in the front yard,” “WE REAL COOL,” “of DeWitt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery,” © 1987 by Gwendolyn Brooks,
The David Company, Chicago, Illinois.

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Bitter Sweetness

Bitter Sweetness, a work for solo harp, was composed in the fall of 1992.  Twelve years later I returned to this work to create a piece for solo harp and mixed sextet for Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble. In this work, the harp performs Bitter Sweetness unaltered, with the sextet’s interpolations and superimpositions providing context and commentary, a “frame” for the earlier work.

I find the sound of the harp to be the most intrinsically seductive of all musics. The point of Bitter Sweetness is to give edge to this natural acoustic allure of the harp, mixing-in elements which present the more biting, noisier, grittier side of the instrument. Some of these elements are extensive use of the low range, a highly chromatic harmonic and melodic language, sharp articulations and generally loud dynamics. The pervasive half-step pedal glissandi (heard as pedal buzzes near the end) articulate the defining gestures of the piece. In Framing [Bitter Sweetness] these themes and sounds are echoed, decorated and reinforced in the framing sextet of oboe, bassoon, tuba, viola, double bass, and harpsichord.

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Breezeworks

Commissioned by Clarion, BreezeWorks takes its cue from that fact that the trumpet and organ are two wind instruments. So, wind images abound — the listener should feel lightly tossed about, along with the ideas of the piece.

The piece opens with a breezy, popsy tune in the trumpet accompanied by groovy, syncopated chords which are swept up and down the organ manuals. Tune and accompaniment waft about in musical space, until a new section (slightly faster and marked “light, deft”) kicks in. A two-note gusting squeezebox figure is added by the trumpet beneath and around the organ’s airy fluttering until a rude repeated note figure interrupts — but the easy breeziness returns in organ swirls while the muted trumpet and high (4’) organ pedals twine mystic twisting lines around each other.

A new character, an archaic mini-fanfare in 5ths, magically appears after a few more rude interruptions, and gets a whiff of development before yielding to a section of dreamy drifting breezes. Here a gentle wraith of scale-like material in the organ is pushed and tugged as it is mirrored by slightly slower and faster lines in the trumpet and pedals. We awake from this reverie with a start — a rhythmically driven section marked “blustery”, obsessing on a stuttering syncopated pattern. Gradually a tempest accumulates in the organ, building to the organ’s full-blown statement of its opening accompaniment chords. When the trumpet doesn’t respond with the opening tune — only a nervous mini-cadenza — the organ suggests another strategy of summation: a majestic stutter-chord chorale. The trumpet finally joins in with the chorale, playing the stutter bass-line, then, at last, reprises the opening tune slowed down to its full glory — but ends low, with the little 5-note motive with which the organ began the piece, and has been lurking in the background throughout.

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Cello Concerto

The cello is human, struggling, rhapsodic, atonal, ametric, technically self-assured but emotionally insecure, particularly in light of its encounter with the orchestra, a mysterious, overwhelming supernatural or extraterrestrial force. The cello tries in several ways to cope with this unpredictable presence which spews bits of Beethoven and Berlioz, haunting echoes from the cello’s irrelevant, long-forgotten past. The energy of the orchestra culminates in a tempestuous whirlwind fugue.

An outburst of Sibelius ushers in a third character, the solo percussion: liaison, angel, envoy, reflecting the orchestra but sympathetic to the cello. Through him, the cello seeks rapport with the orchestra, unsuccessfully. The orchestra and percussion fall silent. The cello’s peripatetic cadenza is interrupted by bowed solo percussion which leads to a new kind of orchestral entrance: a rich, soft blanket of sound eliciting at last a lyric, embracing response from the cello.

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Childhood Awakening

Childhood Awakening was commissioned by Voces Novae to be part of a program of music touching on the experience of childhood.

Texts from “An American Childhood” by Annie Dillard

From page 11:
Children ten years old wake up and find themselves here, discover themselves to have been here all along…

I woke in bits, like all children, piecemeal over the years.
I discovered myself and the world, and forgot them, and discovered them again.
I woke at intervals until the intervals of waking tipped the scales,
and I was more often awake than not. I noticed this process of waking,
and predicted with terrifying logic that one of these years not far away
I would be awake continuously and never slip back,
and never be free of myself again.

Children ten years old wake up and find themselves here, discover themselves to have been here all along…

From pages 16 and 17:
… In the kitchen I watched the unselfconscious trees through the screen door, until the trees’ autumn branches like fins waved away the silence. I forgot myself, and sank into a dim and watery oblivion.

A car passed. Its rush and whine jolted me from my blankness. The sound faded again and I faded again down into my hushed brain until the icebox motor kicked on and prodded me awake. “You are living,” the icebox motor said, …or the dripping faucet said, or any of the hundred other noisy things that only children can’t stop hearing. Cars started, leaves rubbed, trucks’ brakes whistled, sparrows peeped. Whenever it rained, the rain spattered, dripped, and ran, for the entire length of the shower, for the entire length of days-long rains, until we children were almost insane from hearing it rain because we couldn’t stop hearing it rain. …The silence, like all silences, was made poignant and distinct by its sounds.

What a marvel it was that the day so often introduced itself with a firm footfall nearby. What a marvel it was that so many times a day the world, like a church bell, reminded me to recall and contemplate the durable fact that I was here, and had awakened once more to find myself set down in a going world.

In the living room the mail slot clicked open and envelopes clattered down. In the back room …the steam iron thumped the muffled ironing board and hissed. The walls squeaked, the pipes knocked, the screen door trembled, the furnace banged, and the radiators clanged. This was the fall the loud trucks went by. I sat mindless and eternal on the kitchen floor, stony of head and solemn, playing with my fingers. Time streamed in full flood beside me on the kitchen floor; time roared raging beside me down its swollen banks; and when I woke I was so startled I fell in.

Children ten years old wake up and find themselves here, discover themselves to have been here all along…

from “An American Childhood.” Copyright © 1987 by Annie Dillard. Permission granted.

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Clamavi

Clamavi (“I have cried out”) is a musical reflection on the meaning and sound of the third word of the Latin “De Profundis” (Out of the depths I have cried out to you, Lord.)
Clamavi is written in a style intended to provide a heightened sensitivity to musical time and space. One important element is the extensive repetition of rapid note sequences with tone color modification created by variation in pedaling, dynamics, balancing and articulation, a technique associated with electronic music. The composer readily admits to many conscious and subconscious influences: the minimalism of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, the sensitivity of George Crumb, the mysticism of Messiaen, the stochastic shapes of Xenakis, the visceral power of Penderecki. Clamavi grapples with the problem of reflecting these influences within the confines of traditional piano techniques (no amplification or “inside-the-piano”).

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Consort Piece

Consort Piece features the fascinating sound of a consort of six members of the oboe family. A motoric single line distributed through the consort in the first 14 measures becomes an underpinning for a series of textural variations.

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Crossings

Crossings examines relationships between two string instruments which are similar in range but quite different in tone-production. The sections of the piece alternate between twinings of the instruments with similar material and sections in which the instruments perpendicularly intersect—one of them playing repeating background material against the other’s free soliloquy. Since the piece was commissioned for church performances, it has religious undertones, ending somberly at the foot of the Cross.

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Crunch Time

Crunch Time was commissioned for Ensemble Zellig, a brilliant Paris-based new music ensemble. What impresses me most about their playing is their captivating exuberance in playing rough, primal music unapologetically, so in writing Crunch Time for them, I took advantage of the opportunity to write something determinedly brutish, joyfully violent, defiant, confrontational. The piece begins with raw intensity, fortississimo crude dissonances pounding against one another. This leads to a faster section, rugged riffs rocking with hard-hitting syncopations. And finally a tune, but not a pretty one — this is marked “insolent, punk” and refuses to go anywhere or go away.

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Daydream in A-flat

Commissioned by Caroline Hartig (and premiered by her at Michigan State on February 9th, 2005), Daydream in A-flat (2005) evokes a state of sweet semi-consciousness. This 12-minute unaccompanied clarinet solo is fashioned in a way that should allow the listener notice the cyclical returns of tunes and gestures, and to be consciously aware of implicit relationships of tonality (yes, the piece really is all about the sounding key of A-flat major). But at the same time, the music should resonate deep in the listener’s subconscious, stirring feelings and fantasies that are too primordial to be captured in conscious thought.

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Departing Flights

Departing Flights for Piano Trio (1993) reflects emotions precipitated by the composer’s decision to pick up roots after 20 years in Memphis to fly to Australia for a summer and then on to a new life in Bloomington, Indiana. The piece goes beyond these specific references to other implications of “flights” and “departures”.

The first movement, Ungrounded, is marked “with anxious exhilaration”. The second movement, which quotes fragments from J.S. Bach’s Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, becomes an elegiac memorial of the composer’s brother. The third movement considers various ways of extending two contrasting tunes, but ends with a literal rendition of Isaac’s farewell to the city of Innsbruck (“Innsbruck, ich musz dich lassen”). This is followed by …Afterthought — not really a “movement” but a half-minute musical evaporation.

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Dissolving Music

Dissolving Music (1978) is a “Rockpiece for Soprano and Six Instruments” setting
W. S. Merwin’s poem “For a Dissolving Music”. One of the “instruments”
is a drumset augmented by vibes, tuned cowbells, and suspended
water-filled paint-cans. The soprano is asked to deliver the words and
music in a style that emulates Grace Slick, Mariah Carey, and Jan de
Gaetani; the remaining instrumentation (flute, trombone, violin, cello,
and piano) and performance style (the instrumentalists are asked to sing,
play a little percussion, and render some heavy duty rock’n’roll) reflect
the attitude and showpiece style of OMNIBUS, a new music ensemble that
lived and died in Memphis in the late ’70’s.

The text of Merwin’s poem is given below:

FOR A DISSOLVING MUSIC

What shall be seen?
Limbs of a man
old and alone,
his shadow with him,
going and gone.

What shall be heard?
A hollow rime:
the heart gone tame
knocking afraid.

What shall be known?
Briefly the name,
but its frame shaken,
house of time
blown and broken,
draughty room,
dwindled flame,
red coal come
out of the warm,
dry honeycomb,
ended dream.

What shall be said?
This word if any:
Time and blood
are spent money,
rain in a sieve;
summer is dead
(whom fools believe)
in a far grave,
worms receive
her fire to wive,
fear walks alive,
prayers I would weave,
pains I have,
hopes not many;
wherefore grieve
o splintered stave,
withered glove,
dry groove,
shaken sleeve
empty of love.

What shall be sung?
This song uneven:
eleven, seven,
chance cloven,
joints spavin,
blood-chill-driven,
flesh craven,
breath not often,
teeth riven,
all day shriven,
last coven,
all night raven,
all doom woven,
none forgiven,
no curse ungraven,
no peace at even,
remnant for leaven,
promise true-given,
field but shaven,
nor hope of heaven.

“FOR A DISSOLVING MUSIC” c 1954 by William S. Merwin. Permission granted by the author.

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Earthdance Concerto

Earthdance Concerto, a Ballet/Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble, was composed for choreographer Jacques Cesbron and the Indiana University Ballet Theatre, and for IU faculty virtuoso pianist Emile Naumoff and the IU Wind Ensemble, conducted by Ray E. Cramer, who gave both the concert and ballet premieres of the work. Although many ballet scores have become better known as concert works and many concert works have been used for ballet choreography, it is rather rare that a piece is deliberately composed to have such a dual life at its onset; in many ways it is this special situation which creates the particular sound and shape of Earthdance Concerto.

The four-movement form of the concerto was prescribed by Jacques Cesbron; ironically it follows a traditional symphonic structure that I had in the past religiously avoided. A similar paradox is manifested in the fact that the physical, theatrical extramusical imagery which is the impetus for the music led me to write a score which is more elemental and clear in its rhythmic and formal articulations than any of my non-theatre scores. Superimposed on these considerations is the drama implicit in any concerto: the role of a single protagonist instrument against a powerful large ensemble. I found the convergence of this array of elements and resulting energy fascinating and intriguing.

Here is a brief description of the four movements of the work:
1) Heart Throb Dance: An insistent pounding rhythm against turns of heroic powerchords, strains of lyricism, an ostinato toccata, a free-flown cadenza, a circular melodic distraction, and a sudden return to the dark, irrepressible torrent.
2) Rivet Dance: A “Riverdance” jig with variations — the scherzo movement.
3) Soundwave Dance: a lyric non-dialogue between the piano and the winds; the principal arpeggio melody line is characterized by its following transposed echo.
4) Ele-metal Dance: The realization of a neologism, combining the hard beats of heavy metal with a fanatical elemental fury.

The composing of Earthdance Concerto was supported by a grant from Indiana University’s Arts and Humanities initiative.

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Edge: Saxophone Quartet

Edge: Saxophone Quartet was commissioned by Allen Rippe for the Memphis Saxophone Quartet. The “edge” idea is to be felt in all kinds of ways: for examples, the rough edge of torn paper, the gleaming edge of a blade, the piercing edge of a laser, the edge which separates contrapuntal voices, the perceptual edge between conflicting musical styles, the twilight between light and darkness, the thin edge between existence and nothingness. The form of the work is sectional, exploiting various kinds of edges between sections. Here is a little sectional guided tour: Schizo-intro; riveting repeating notes; clockworks; gigue-motet; four-voice style-canon stew; filigree chorale; blocks of contrasts; sixteenths city; blues; swing-tune; ghost melody.

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Elegy for Simas Kudirka

Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian nationalist conscripted into the Soviet navy, attempted to defect by jumping from the deck of his Soviet fishing vessel to the deck of a US Coast Guard cutter during a previously arranged rendezvous to discuss fishing rights. The Coast Guard incredibly allowed Soviet sailors to board the US cutter, beat the would-be defector into unconsciousness, then return with him in a Coast Guard launch to the waiting Soviet ship.

Elegy (1972) was partially inspired by outrage at the military mentality which allowed this event to transpire: to a young composer facing the Vietnam War draft, the US Coast Guard brass who permitted Kudirka to be beaten and returned appeared to feel a stronger responsibility to regulations concerning conscription and desertion common to all large military powers than to the American ideals of personal freedom which they profess to support. More important to the piece, however, is the character of Kudirka and the drama of the incident: Kudirka’s courage, his exultant leap to freedom, his violent beating, and his subsequent frustration and bitterness suggested musical materials which are interposed out of sequence over the generally elegiac tenor of the piece.

Most of the pitch material of the piece is built around the three-note sonority of two major seconds. The use of four of these triads to form a complete 12-note set is integral to the organization of the piece.

Five large sections (slow-fast-slow-fast-slow) are perceivable. In the final slow section a rapid harp cadenza appears over a chorale in the five other instruments. The timbre of each sonority of the chorale was determined by a numerical sequence; the harmonies are major second triads built on successive “roots” from the row.

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Elles

Program Notes

The music for Elles (1989) was written to be performed along with a slide display of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithographic folio, one piece for each of the prints in the series. The pieces are intended to be be listened to only while observing the prints, so the experience should be (in a decidedly “low-tech” way) multi-media. The music responds not only to the emotion and atmosphere of the prints, but also to their abstract texture and technique.

The “Elles” series is generally considered a milestone of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s career. These lithographs commissioned to be sold as portfolios intended for the erotic print collectors’ market prove to be a financial failure; rather than erotic, the series is intimate, replacing licentious explicitness with natural honesty. The images are reminiscences drawn from Lautrec’s thematic exploration of the daily routine of life in brothels. Technically “Elles” (which translates as the feminine pronoun they) holds an important position in the history of printmaking, extending the pictorial possibilities of the medium to achieve fluid and expresssive effects previously associated only with painting. Lautrec demonstrates a preference for a modern flat design style over the traditional chiaroscuro, but uses color, ink density and the paper itself to conjure the mood and atmosphere of light and shadow. (These comments are drawn from Nora Desloge’s Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection catalogue.)

The titles and order of the plates (as established by cataloguers) are as follows:
1. Cover for Elles (Elles, couverture)
2. The Seated Clowness — Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o (La Clowness assise [Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o])
3. Woman with a Tray — Breakfast (Femme au plateau —Petit déjeuner)
4. Sleeping Woman — Awakening (Femme couchée — Réveil)
5.Woman at the Tub — The Tub (Femme au tub — Le tub)
6. Woman Washing Herself — The Toilette (Femme qui se lave — La toilette)
7. Woman with Mirror — The Hand Mirror (Femme à glace — La glace à main)
8. Woman Combing Her Hair — The Coiffure (Femme qui se peigne — La coiffure)
9. Woman in Bed, Profile — Awakening (Femme au lit — Au petit lever)
10. Woman in Her Corset — Passing Conquest (Femme en corset — Conquête de passage)
11. Reclining Woman — Weariness (Femme sur le dos — Lassitude)
12. Frontispiece for Elles (Elles, frontispice)

Performance Notes

Elles was composed expressly for the exhibit of the Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection exhibit at the Dixon Gallery in Memphis. It was premiered in a concert sponsored by the Dixon Gallery and the Memphis Composers Alliance and was performed by the MCA Synthesizer Quartet: Julian Ross, violin, Allen Rippe, saxophone, and Robert Patterson, horn, with the composer as synth-player. The composer highly recommends commentary on the “Elles” series found in the Baldwin M. Baldwin Toulouse-Lautrec Collection Catalogue written by Nora Desloge. This collection has been donated to the San Diego Museum of Art; the catalogue is distributed by the University of Washington Press, Seattle and London. Slides of the lithographs and a Macintosh disc bearing the ELLES-CZ voices formatted for use with the Opcode CZ Editor-Librarian, and tape demonstrating the ELLES-CZ voices are available from the composer.

Elles is approximately 25 minutes in duration.

Synthesizer Notes

Each of the pieces is built around a voice designed on the Casio CZ 101 synthesizer. It is possible to approximate these voices on other synthesizers, but the performers wishing to render an authentic “original instrument” realization will want to find a synthesizer in the CZ series and program it according to the data provided in the charts which follow. The appeal of the CZ (apart from being cheap and extremely portable) is the directness, clarity and intimacy of its voices, perfectly suited to the lithographic technique of Toulouse-Lautrec, and mixing easily with the acoustic members of the quartet. Keyboard velocity sensitivity is not available on this instrument, and this should be considered a welcome stylistic limitation of this work, but the synth performer should allow his sense of articulation and timing to be sensitively attuned to the CZ sounds. The following three pages provide all the data needed for programming a CZ and descriptions that might be useful in imitating the sounds on a substitute synthesizer.

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End of Summer

End of Summer for Wind Orchestra is one of a series of Poem Symphonies. Each “symphony” is inspired by the work of a contemporary American poet. The symphonies are not attempts to get poetry to music, but rather each proceeds from a poem, using the visions, images, and atmosphere of the poem as a point of departure.

“End of Summer”
by Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.
I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.
Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows

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Episode

Episode was designed to exploit the “real-time” performance resources of the Casio MT70, an instrument I bought as a toy, but which soon captivated me with its surprising potential. The MT70 has a resident drum machine and a “synch” button that allows the drums to be triggered by the first bass note played. Although only one tempo is used throughout, three main rhythmic “feels” (Rock 1, Waltz, and Disco) divide the piece into three contrasting sections. The most intriguing aspect of the MT70 is its “fingered chord” arpeggiator, which will take any number from 1 to 8 bass notes and build an amazing variety of patterns. Tom Walsh will be playing his early ’80s alto saxophone, so tonight’s performance will be on authentic original instruments.

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Exotic Particles and the Confinement of Quarks

In April of 2004, Indiana University Physics Professor Alex Dzierba presented his Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture: Exotic Particles and the Confinement of Quarks. Within the proton’s hot, bubbling cauldron of activity, quarks and glue move at nearly light speed and quarks and anti-quarks pop continuously in and out of existence. When pried even one proton’s width apart (less than one trillionth the size of an atom), quarks experience ten tons of force pulling them together. Quarks are so small that we have not been able to measure their size; they take up less than one billionth of the space inside the proton. Particle accelerators can blast quarks out of a nucleus, but within much less than a billionth of a nanosecond “free’ quarks join with newly created ones and brand new particles are formed. *

Now, thanks to the marvels of modern compositional technology, we are able to expand the world of the quark billions of billions of billions of times to produce an aural replica encompassing eight minutes of time and the space and sound range of a large wind ensemble. It is thus possible to hear evanescent particles come into being and disappear, massless neutrinos passing through, and even the moaning low brass of the confined quarks. We are amazed to discover that at this magnification one can even hear the passing of time in bits of a Morse code mantra that seems to take on a syncopated groove. At one point the violent batterings of colliding particles threaten to break this world apart but the superpowerful force of gluon surges to bring things back together.

The depictions and accounts presented in this work are solely those of the composer, and in no way is the IU Department of Physics responsible for their accuracy. Furthermore the Department of Bands cannot be held liable for any disfiguring of the listener’s psycho-acoustic physiology created by the use of the lion’s roar or androgynous C triads (with a quarter-tone third.)

Exotic Particles and the Confinement of Quarks was written in celebration of the tenure of Ray E. Cramer as IU’s Director of Bands as he prepares for his retirement, which we suspect will be superactive, exotic, and wonderfully quarky.

*Paraphrased from a flyer provided by the Jefferson Lab (the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.) Bona fide information about Alex Dzierba and his research can be found at http://dustbunny.physics.indiana.edu/~dzierba/

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Fanfare of Celebration and Commemoration

Fanfare of Celebration and Commemoration was composed for the IU Herald Trumpets to perform at the Oct. 10, 2001 Installation Ceremony of our new Chancellor, Sharon S. Brehm. It was begun on September 8th and was was a cheerful, rollicking half-finished piece when the attacks of 9/11 shook us into a new reality. When I returned to the piece the following weekend, continuing the work without some reflection of this darkness seemed impossible. This sudden sombre music is followed by a gathering of strength and eventual return to the optimism of the opening, asserting a confident vision of a brighter future for our society and our world, and for our university community under the leadership of Chancellor Brehm.

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Fanfare for Violas

Fanfare for Violas  was commissioned by Atar Arad and Alan de Veritch to serve as the opening piece for the XXIII International Viola Congress at IU in June of 1995.  The piece grew to be longer, wider, and more virtuosic than the dedicatees or composer had anticipated — there were just too many fascinating ideas suggested by massed violas, and too few occasions to realize them.  The fanfare is written for 8, 16, or 24 violas.  Bloomington is one of the few places where putting together a double-digit viola choir is not too daunting a proposition: if it hadn’t been for the Bloomington Pops and Columbus Symphony rehearsals, we might have never have had 50 on stage! 

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Fast Music

Don Freund’s Fast Music (1994) was composed to exploit the cello wizardry of Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi.  It is approximately 10 minutes of solo cello virtuosity which flies, propels, drives, flashes, chugs, blurs, and rocks. These different kinds of fastness appear and reappear in a sort of exponential rondo: the opening fastness — fleet, breezy, and amiable — returns often enough to spread a benign whimsy over the proceedings, but not without being challenged by other fastnesses which are rougher, threatening, rambunctious, even frenzied. Close to the end, a theme with an almost Straussian heroic character appears to rescue the piece from its more diabolical tendencies, and usher in the final fling of the opening fastness.

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Feux d’artifice – Tombeau

A ballad for piano solo, the title and subtitle (“Shuttle Explodes: Seven Feared Dead”) may provide all the listener needs to know about this work. The tension between power and brilliance of the shuttle’s lift-off and explosion and the the tragic outcome demanded a musical expression, with solo piano being the ideal medium. The shuttle disaster deeply affects us, not simply because of sorrow for the loss of life, or because of bruised national pride, but because it presents an iridescent, existential metaphor for our existence. Our awareness of the ultimate dissolution of the universe only creates a context with makes our quests and adventures, despite their inevitable futility, radiant and heroic. The climax of this piece comes not in the virtuoso fireworks, but in a massive “white-key” chorale which appears suddenly, like death, suggesting the shuttle, gigantic, white, promising another world, poised with its enormous booster rockets on the launch pad on a frosty January morning, imposing and irresistible. Feux d’artifice – Tombeau was commissioned by and written for Samuel Viviano, a pianist who infuses his of new (and old music) with magical brilliance and electrifying emotional intensity. Mr. Viviano premiered the work on July 20, 1986 in Merkin Hall, New York City.

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Flute Concerto in Three Reels

I can remember reading movie reviews in which the critic would refer to events in the film as occurring in “the second reel” or “the third reel.” It seemed strange to think of the extended dramatic form of a motion picture defined as series of reels of film. We, certainly, were never aware of the reels at all, unless the projectionist fell asleep or the film broke, ripping the audience from the continuum of the film’s fantasy world into stark reality.

The breaks between the “reels” of my Flute Concerto are purposefully arbitrary. They give the performers a chance to re-tune, and provide the opportunity for the audience’s attention span to re-engage. But their principal function is to sharpen the awareness of the counterpoint between the physical properties of the medium and the fantasy world it creates. It could be argued that all art — or more grandiosely, our experience of life itself — is about this meeting of the physical and the spiritual worlds.

Those looking for a deeper meaning might consider the proposition that our prevailing perception of reality is simply a superficial layer, waiting only for the reel to stop, abruptly exposing something more substantial beneath it. One possible lyric for the tune which introduces the flute and dominates the third reel:

“Show me the way to back to nowhere,
Show me the road to go home.”

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Framing [Bitter Sweetness]

Bitter Sweetness, a work for solo harp, was composed in the fall of 1992.  Twelve years later I returned to this work to create a piece for solo harp and mixed sextet for Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble. In this work, the harp performs Bitter Sweetness unaltered, with the sextet’s interpolations and superimpositions providing context and commentary, a “frame” for the earlier work.

I find the sound of the harp to be the most intrinsically seductive of all musics. The point of Bitter Sweetness is to give edge to this natural acoustic allure of the harp, mixing-in elements which present the more biting, noisier, grittier side of the instrument. Some of these elements are extensive use of the low range, a highly chromatic harmonic and melodic language, sharp articulations and generally loud dynamics. The pervasive half-step pedal glissandi (heard as pedal buzzes near the end) articulate the defining gestures of the piece. In Framing [Bitter Sweetness] these themes and sounds are echoed, decorated and reinforced in the framing sextet of oboe, bassoon, tuba, viola, double bass, and harpsichord.

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Gold

Gold is one of a series of Poem Symphonies. Each “symphony” is inspired by the work of a contemporary American poet. The symphonies are not attempts to get poetry to music, but rather each proceeds from a poem, using the visions, images, and atmosphere of the poem as a point of departure. Gold is written for the string section of the orchestra.

“Gold”
by Donald Hall

Pale gold of the walls, gold
of the centers of daisies, yellow roses
pressing from a clear bowl. All day
we lay on the bed, my hand
stroking the deep
gold of your thighs and your back.
We slept and woke
entering the golden room together,
lay down in it breathing
quickly, then
slowly again,
caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily
touching my hair now.

We made in those days
tiny identical rooms inside our bodies
which the men who uncover our graves
will find in a thousand years,
shining and whole.

“Gold” reprinted by permission of the author from
The Yellow Room, Houghton Mifflin,
© 1969 by Donald Hall.

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Hard Cells

Because of their intrinsic nature and the way they are deployed in the composition, the materials out of which Hard Cells is composed are to be perceived as metallic, hard-edged, unyielding building blocks of sound. Rather than allowed to grow, develop and blend into an organic flow, they are contexted by repetition, superimpositioning and juxtapositioning – what might be described as a cut-and-paste approach to fabricating a work. This hard-shell cellular approach to the character and structuring of material is what (I believe) distinguishes Stravinsky from Bartok, Scarlatti from Bach, and rock from jazz. In Hard Cells, the steely nature of the ideas is underlined by a insistent unchanging 16th-note pulse.

Hard Cells divides into three sections. In the opening third of the piece, the cellular ideas are deployed over an unrelenting A pedal-tone. The cello finally breaks loose from this encasement, initiating the second section with a primal rock 5-4-1 progression; in this section the material is free to shift into contrasting tonalities, and even, after a brief reprise of the A pedal, gathers momentum into a celebratory climax. The final section, which grows out of the after-shocks of this climax, functions as a non-sequitur epilog; fastened to a metrically uncommitted stream of tambourine 16th-notes, the remainder of the ensemble independently loops odd-lengthed mechanistic fragments.

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In Medias Res (quintet version)

In Medias Res is a quintet version of an earlier piano quartet, A Middle Quartet (“In Medias Res”). This version, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, was written for ONIX: Nuevo Ensamble de México.

The title of A Middle Quartet referred to a number of things: a kinship with the spirit of Beethoven’s Middle Quartets (energetic, dramatic, extroverted); a compositional style which draws freely from surrounding influences; the form of the piece (see below), and the composer’s somewhat optimistic surmise that, after 20 years of composing, he should be in his own “middle period.”

The formal concept of the work is derived from the narrative technique “In Medias Res” (literally, “in the middle of things,” that is, starting in the midst of the dramatic action). The listener should have a sense of beginning and ending “in the middle.” The work starts with an extended string of “fast music” sections, during which the ideas become progressively more sharply profiled. In the center (which is really the end/beginning of the middle) stands a simple but expressive jazz tune with a rock trio.

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In Medias Res (sextet version)

In Medias Res is a sextet version of an earlier piano quartet, A Middle Quartet (“In Medias Res”). This version, which adds a flute and clarinet to the ensemble, is dedicated to ONIX: Nuevo Ensamble de México. The title of A Middle Quartet referred to a number of things: a kinship with the spirit of Beethoven’s Middle Quartets (energetic, dramatic, extroverted); a compositional style which draws freely from surrounding influences; the form of the piece (see below), and the composer’s somewhat optimistic surmise that, after 20 years of composing, he should be in his own “middle period.” The formal concept of the work is derived from the narrative technique “In Medias Res” (literally, “in the middle of things,” that is, starting in the midst of the dramatic action). The listener should have a sense of beginning and ending “in the middle.” The work starts with an extended string of “fast music” sections, during which the ideas become progressively more sharply profiled. In the center (which is really the end/beginning of the middle) stands a simple but expressive jazz tune with a rock trio.

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Intermezzo

Intermezzo (1971) exploits the horn’s ability to present sudden timbre and character shifts, an amazing tribute for an instrument generally regarded as possibly a bit slow-witted in its heroic grandeur. The horn of Intermezzo becomes three very distinct instruments: the first is the rich, confident open sounds which early in the piece finds itself in competition with the nasal, tense, rather nervous duality of the stopped horn. Later these two are joined by the flutter-tongue character, creating  three-way conversation which is more than a little combative in its schizophrenic climax.

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Killing Time

Killing Time was composed in 1980 for amplified alto saxophone, amplified piano and a stereo tape which is decidedly pre-digital. Listeners who didn’t live through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s may not recognize Charles Manson’s favorite Beatle tune or know that a certain symphonic composer was a turn-on for the “ultra-violent” protagonist of A Clockwork Orange.

The unexpurgated program notes read: “Killing Time celebrates the power and joy of ugliness, violence, and wanton destruction. It was inspired by a newspaper article about a Punk Rock concert which incited listeners to acts of brutality and self-mutilation.” The performance instructions suggest that “playback and amplification levels should be very loud, though not painfully so. The pain is inside the music, and the discomfort is in the listener’s moral-aesthetic consciousness, preferably after the fact.”

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Life Goes On

Life Goes On (1988) is concerned with the phenomena of continuance and contiguity. In abstract terms, it reflects an interest in how music moves through time, undaunted by silences and unexpected cuttings and splicings. On a programmatic, philosophical level, it muses on nature’s indifference to human glory and tragedy (“Why does the sun go on shining?….”), or, from a reversed viewpoint, celebrates life’s primal resilience and tenacity.

Life Goes On was written for violinist Julian Ross, whose expertise and enthusiasm made it go.

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Life of the Party

Life of the Party (Concerto for Bassoon and 16 Friends) could be described as an instrumental mini-opera with two identifiable layers of musical activity. One layer is the “Party Music,” a series of “songs” in varied vernacular styles which recede into the background to allow the more intimate party “Chats” to be heard. The scenario is this: the bassoon and its date, the contrabassoon, show up at a party, and before long engage in a “Small-Talk Chat” with the other woodwinds — a breezy triple-triple meter against the heavy duple of the “Hard Rock Party Music.” When a new “Gospel Party Music” begins, the bassoon and contra begin an earnest, spirited discussion of religion with the electric piano, later joined by the marimba. This odd mixture of gospel blues, Messiaen-ic chords, and simulated Gregorian chant yields to the next party music, a robotic “Techno” passacaglia, over which the bassoon and brass trio engage in a heated debate about politics. This stark tension is replaced by the thick, rich harmonies of the “Posh Party Music,” over which the bassoon and piano (later joined by the flute and clarinet) discuss sports in 16th-note flurries of sinewy athleticism. The string quartet interrupts, advancing some abstract theories of art; the bassoon sympathizes, while “Cool Jazz Party Music” is heard in the background. A sultry “Blues Party Music” follows, with sexy electric guitar riffs that elicit some flagrant flirtation from the bassoon. The contrabassoon is outraged, and retaliates by becoming closely intertwined with the electric bass. A lovers’ spat erupts, a duo-cadenza for bassoon and contra, full of choice multiphonics and other extended effects. During the ensuing “Deep Funk Party Music” the bassoon goes off by itself as has a cry. The contra re-enters, and reconciliation is found in a country-flavored Ballad. All is well; the party ends with a rollicking celebration!

Life of the Party was inspired by the incomparably vivacious personality and astounding virtuosity of Kim Walker.

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Louder than Words

Louder than Words, composed in the fall of 2001, was commissioned by saxophone virtuoso Joseph Lulloff. It continues the composer’s longtime sound identification with the instrumental personality of the saxophone, which began with Killing Time, an ultra-violent 1980 composition for amplified alto saxophone, amplified piano, and an electronic tape with a definite attitude. That was followed by EDGE, a saxophone quartet which takes polystylistic juxtapositioning and superimpositioning to an existential extreme. EDGE was followed by a series of works combining alto saxophone with Casio synthesizer and a variety of other instruments (though mostly horn and violin) and dance or other visual images. All of these works were inspired by the playing of Memphis saxophonist Allen Rippe. In 1997, Freund composed Sky Scrapings for the legendary Eugene Rousseau, reverting to the classical instrumentation of alto saxophone and piano but still electrified by jazz-rock influences and its “subversive serenade” form.

Louder than Words, a trio for alto saxophone, tenor saxophone and piano (it also exists in a version for alto saxophone, bassoon and piano), addresses the joys and conflicts of the emerging 21st century in a “stream-of-consciousness” form. There is really one accumulating flow of time, divided into 2 “parts” for manageability.

Part One begins with a driving ritornello, followed by a section marked “restless” built around a surging fast triple-time rhythmic motive. The ritornello returns in a truncated form, followed by a quietly lyric transition to an f-minor waltz tune. The peace which follows the closing full cadence of this section is rudely interrupted by an interpolation from Mozart’s K. 466 Piano Concerto (possibly offered to give some historical validity to the concept of continuity by intrusion — Mozart used this material in the same intrusive way). The ensuing distortion of this material becomes a return of some previous agitated material, leading to a sudden, enigmatic close to Part One.

Part Two begins with a section marked “frazzled” (sort of a cat-fight for two saxophones with piano commentary), eventually straightening out into a pairing of the saxophones in conga-flavored licks. This builds to a three-measure cataclysm which actually appears three times, each time leading to different result. The first non-sequitur is a g-minor unison hard boogie breakout; the second is a rollicking troubadorish melody — a surprising final destination for all the accumulated momentum. The final appearance of the cataclysm introduces a cathartic return of the f-minor waltz tune, which is not quite the last thing heard — the piano closes with a short, ghostly allusion to the beginning ritornello.

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Madame Bovary Ballet Suite for Orchestra

The Don Freund/Jacques Cesbron ballet, Madame Bovary is based on the celebrated (and once notorious) mid-19th century novel by Gustave Flaubert. The score is divided into four parts with 20 sections; 9 of these are heard in this suite.

Part I
[1] Scene 1 – Convent School Reveries: We first meet Emma Roault in her early teens, steeped in the sensual mysticism of her convent school. She revels in the languor of the incense, the colored light of the stained glass, the ritual of confession. An old seamtress secretively brings the girls novels, which dazzle Emma…
[2] Scene 2 – Romance Visions: “They were all love, lovers, sweethearts, persecuted ladies fainting in lonely pavilions, horses ridden to death on every page, gentlemen brave as lions, gentle as lambs…”
Emma, returning home from the convent, encounters Charles Bovary, a simple, unimaginative, unexciting country physician called to her home to set her father’s broken leg. Emma imagines Charles as the hero of her visions; she accepts his proposal of marriage.

Part II
Charles adores his bride, but Emma soon realizes that her husband and her life are far removed from her romantic dreams. The dull routine of the town-folk passing by her window contrasts with visions from her novels.
[3] Scene 2 – The Invitation: The somber mood is broken by excitement over an invitation from a Marquis for Charles and Emma to attend a ball at the château La Vaubyessard. The maid helps Emma pick out a gown.
The ball begins with a formal entry dance. Emma is entranced by the aristocratic guests and the exotic conversations. Charles appears awkwardly out of place.
[4] Scene 4 – Slow Waltz: The waltzing begins slowly, elegantly…
[5] Scene 5 – Fast Waltz: A dashing dandy takes Emma’s hand, the room begins to whirl, and Emma nearly swoons with exhilaration. As the ball scene dissipates, Emma is left to her memories and fantasies, and is more than ever disenchanted with Charles and her mundane life.

Part III
[6] Scene 1 – Infatuation with Léon: Back home in their village, Charles introduces to Emma two characters: Lheureux, the draper, who wishes to sell her expensive finery and lend her money; and Léon, a young, starry-eyed law clerk, who falls in love with Emma. Their infatuation is deeply felt, but Platonic; Léon decides to leave for Paris, and Emma is bitter that she resisted his love.
[7] Scene 2 – The Fair / Rodolphe’s Advances: The town is abuzz as the regional agricultural fair begins; Charles re-introduces Emma to wealthy landowner (and heartless womanizer) Rodolphe Boulanger. While visiting dignitaries and bureaucrats and Charles address the public, Rodolphe whisks Emma away from the crowd and woos her with Romantic clichés.
[8] Scene 3 – Seduction in the Forest: With Charles’s naive blessing, Rodolphe takes Emma to the forest for some fresh air. At first she fends off his advances, but soon yields, and savors the thrill of having a lover.
Emma is carried away with delight over her role as a mistress, and goes into debt buying extravagant gifts for Rodolphe from Lheureux. She arranges secret rendez-vous at Rodolphe’s château, and demands that he prove his love by running away with her. Rodolphe pretends to acquiesce, and Emma buys expensive traveling attire from Lheureux. Back at his château, Rodolphe cynically writes Emma a hackneyed letter of farewell. When Emma receives Rodolphe’s letter her world collapses.

Part IV
Emma and Léon rediscover their love. She becomes obsessed with her affair, making regular trips to Rouen to see Léon, and buying finery from Lheureux. Emma’s love becomes more passionate, wild, and violent, overwhelming Léon. Lheureux demands payment on Emma’s debts, and the Bovary’s furniture and effects are put on auction. Emma implores first Léon and then Rodolphe (who has returned to his château) to rescue her from her financial disaster but they are unable or unwilling to help her. All her dreams are shattered; she runs to the apothecary shop, finds arsenic and eats it straight from her hand.
[9] Scene 6 – Throes of Death: As she is racked with pain from the poison, Emma finds her only solace in her visions of religious passion and the constant love of Charles, whose life withers with the loss of the wife he still sees as beautiful and guiltless.

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Machaut Tunes: Realizations of Ballades and Virelais

Being a composer, I can’t listen to any music without empathizing with the thoughts, choices, struggles and joys a composer feels when they fashion their ideas and available musical resources into a shared musical experience. Even listening to the simplest folk song, I hear some passionate musical mind at play in every turn of the phrase. Guillaume de Machaut is the earliest composer I feel I can identify as a distinct, living, recognizably poetic human being. Machaut left us an extensive and wide-ranging catalog of music and poetry. My love for his music centers on the secular love songs he composed, using the traditional forms of the Trouvère balladeers. These are above all catchy, wonderfully engaging tunes, but they display a masterful designing of so many elements of line, rhythm, harmony, and counterpoint that they have become illuminating models for my own composition.

Seven centuries ago, Machaut was writing in a period when for the first time composers could notate music with a full metric and rhythmic vocabulary, allowing not only subtle rhythmic shadings of his melodic lines but also unprecedented control over harmony and counterpoint. He also could make expressive use of notated chromatic alterations of diatonic pitches, which combine with the assumed functional “leading tone” inflections in the style to provide a kaleidoscope of harmonic colors, which Machaut uses to underline the dramatic shapes of his forms.

Some of the things you will hear in my “realizations” are not composed by Machaut, particularly in the monophonic virelais: the drone accompaniment in the first tune, Quant je suis mis (Virelai # 13) and the rhythmic grooves and flourishes of finale Douce Dame (Virelai # 4) are modeled after early-music performers’ renditions of these songs. And I’ve made free use of the range of the piano to vary the colors of all the lines. But the delicious harmonies and counterpoints heard in the three-voice canon Sanz cuer-Dame-Amis (Ballade #17), the rambunctious two-voice Se je soupir (Virelai # 36), and the exquisite melody with two-voice accompaniment of  Je sui aussi (Ballade # 20) can all be found fully notated with little variance in scholarly transcriptions of the music of this 14th century musical giant.

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Music for No Apparent Reason

Music for No Apparent Reason is a one-page piece for any melody instrument. It is marked “relaxed” and “casual” and should be played “as if remembering a melody your mother sang to you as a child.” On tonight’s recital it works first as an introduction and then as a “sorbet” to more purposeful, instrumentally defined pieces.

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Nativitas! – Fantasy on Perotin’s 12th-Century Alleluia 

Program notes:

Nativitas! is a fantasy on the 3-voice organum Alleluia: Nativitas composed by Perotin, one of the first music masters of Notre Dame Cathedral in medieval Paris. Actually, the musical style of organum is in itself a fantasy on Gregorian chant; Perotin’s organum is built over a plainchant Alleluia (which is played by the winds in octaves over driving drum rhythms in the middle of Nativitas!). In Perotin’s organum the lowest voice sings the chant at an extremely slow tempo creating monumental drones, while the top pair sings a lilting contrapuntal dance. Nativitas! uses great blocks of Perotin’s polyphony, juxtaposed and superimposed at multiple tempos and embroidered with some new materials echoing the Gothic style, celebrating this ecstatic, powerful sound from the 12th century.

A note regarding tempos:

Lovers of early music can hear performances of Gothic modal music performed at a variety of tempos: slow and grand, gently lilting, or fast and driving; Nativitas! presents all of these, juxtaposed and even occasionally superimposed. There are three basic tempos in this piece which have a 2:3:4 relationship, that is, the beat of the fast tempo (Ç = 132) is twice as fast as the beat of the slow tempo (Î = 66); the note values of these two tempos have the same speed — it is only the beat groupings which create the different tempos.  A “Moderately Fast” 3/4 tempo (∂ = 100) feels “half-again” as fast as the slow tempo; here also the note values have the same speed (the ç always equals 200) — when these consistent ç’s are grouped in Î beats the tempo is 66; when grouped in ∂ beats the tempo is 100. To make things more interesting, there is another variety of the “Moderately Fast” tempo (beat = 100) which arises when the meter is 6/8 and Î’s get the beat  (Î = 100); the note values are here moving 150% faster than the other tempos (e.g., ç = 300; notice that in this tempo, the Ç equals 200, the same speed of the ç’s in the slow tempo — see the trombones in m. 308 ). Conductors and performers who practice making these tempo shifts while keeping their inner subdividing metronome constant to preserve the relationships will find that it’s a very useful musical discipline and a lot of fun!

Main tempos:

Slow (Î = 66)

Moderately Fast 3/4  (∂ = 100)

Moderately Fast 6/8  (Î = 100)

Fast (Ç = 132)

To shift from “Slow” to “Fast” subdivide the Î’s into pairs of  Ç before making the shift.

To shift from “Slow” to “Md. Fast 3/4” keep ç’s constant while shifting from groups of 3 to groups of 2.

To shift from “Md. Fast 3/4” to “Md. Fast 6/8”  keep beats constant while shifting subdivision from groups of 2 to groups of 3.

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November Songs

November Songs were composed for IU faculty mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Hart . Written around Thanksgiving break 2002, the songs set poetry by Christina Rosetti, Sarah Teasdale, and Muriel Stuart. These texts are printed below (just in case the composer’s quest to write songs which need no printed text was not entirely successful).

A Daughter Of Eve
Christina Georgina Rossetti

A fool I was to sleep at noon,
And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
A fool to snap my lily.

My garden-plot I have not kept;
Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
It’s winter now I waken.

Talk what you please of future spring
And sun-warm’d sweet to-morrow:–
Stripp’d bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
I sit alone with sorrow.

“Did You Never Know?”
Sarah Teasdale

Did you never know, long ago, how much you loved me —
That your love would never lessen and never go?
You were young then, proud and fresh-hearted,
You were too young to know.

Fate is a wind, and red leaves fly before it
Far apart, far away in the gusty time of year —
Seldom we meet now, but when I hear you speaking,
I know your secret, my dear, my dear.

“It Will Not Change”
by Sarah Teasdale

It will not change now
After so many years;
Life has not broken it
With parting or tears;
Death will not alter it,
It will live on
In all my songs for you
When I am gone.

“Because”
by Sarah Teasdale

Oh, because you never tried
To bow my will or break my pride,
And nothing of the cave-man made
You want to keep me half afraid,
Nor ever with a conquering air
You thought to draw me unaware —
Take me, for I love you more
Than I ever loved before.

And since the body’s maidenhood
Alone were neither rare nor good
Unless with it I gave to you
A spirit still untrammeled, too,
Take my dreams and take my mind
That were masterless as wind;
And “Master!” I shall say to you
Since you never asked me to.

“Only in Sleep”
by Sarah Teasdale

Only in sleep I see their faces,
Children I played with when I was a child,
Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,
Annie with ringlets warm and wild.

Only in sleep Time is forgotten —
What may have come to them, who can know?
Yet we played last night as long ago,
And the doll-house stood at the turn of the stair.

The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces,
I met their eyes and found them mild —
Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder,
And for them am I too a child?

“The Seed-Shop”
by Muriel Stuart

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry –
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams;
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams;
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells, a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

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O Fortuna

The text of O Fortuna (1968) is very familiar as the opening movement of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” Don’s setting, for unaccompanied women’s voices, is more intense, bordering on hysterical. In the main body of the piece, the fifteen syllables of each stanza are quickly articulated to create a 15/16 metrical backdrop drone behind an insistent melody, which eventually builds to a mad climax.

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Offering: Fantasy on a Royal Theme

Offering: Fantasy on a Royal Theme (1976) for clarinet and piano is compulsively obsessed by the pitch sets, rhythms, and motives found in the theme given by Frederick the Great to Bach as challenge to Bach’s contrapuntal skill. Bach responded with a series of ricercars, canons and a trio sonata called the Musical Offering. Offering pores over the harmony created by the first five notes of the royal theme (sort of a minor triad gone wild), the plodding descending chromatic scale of the middle of the theme, and the sprung dance rhythm which leads to the theme’s cadence. Along the way we run into references to an English suite, a Mozart piano concerto, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and finally the Art of the Fugue.

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ON AGAIN, off again

The title of ON AGAIN, off again (2004) probably says it all. It’s about continuity and discontinuity, expressed in a number of diverse layers.

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One Singer, Two Voices

One Singer, Two Voices ( 1999) was commissioned by the Festival Internacional de Agosto in Caracas, a wonderful guitar festival that fell victim to the political shift to the Chavez regime before the work could be premiered. The melody introduced at the beginning of the piece eventually blossoms in the middle of the work, surrounded by material that explores the textural colors and symbiotic energy of two guitars.

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Ordinary Pieces (A Concert Organ Mass)

An organ mass is a multi-movement organ solo composition — instrumental reflections on the movements of the “Ordinary” of the Roman Catholic Mass that would be sung in a High Mass. Although modeled formally after Baroque organ masses by French masters such as François Couperin, Ordinary Pieces is a secular concert work, less about liturgical reverence than humanistic dramatic responses to ideas and icons of the Christian faith. Composed in 1991, Ordinary Pieces is dedicated to Barbara Harbach who commissioned and premiered the work. There are 14 movements. These notes are personal comments from the composer, along with descriptions provided by Vance Reese, who (as far as I know) had given the only complete performance of this piece since its premiere. (Vance played it on an IU DM recital in the round building’s MA407).

Prelude: Asperges me, Domine…– “You will sprinkle me, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed.” (Psalm 51, verse 8) Having been a choir boy in the late 1950’s, I may belong to the last generation that regularly chanted Latin Gregorian masses. The “Asperges” is not part of the traditional Mass form, but it’s the first part we always sang, with the priest sprinkling holy water on the congregation. In my organ setting, angular jagged harmonies are cleansed by a drizzling pentatonic fountain.

Et introibo… “I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth” This is not a movement in the sung Mass, but rather the first exchange between the celebrant and the altar boys. After memorizing all that Latin, I was told I had to choose between being an altar boy or a choir boy; I went with the choir. My organ intrada is a shuffling, syncopated 3-voice procession. The back-beat is in the pedal.

Kyrie, Christe – Traditionally there is a contrast between a darker, heavier “Kyrie” and a lighter, more intimate “Christe,” presented in ABA form. My movement preserves this contrast, but these elements are freely juxtaposed and mixed.

Gloria… A trumpet fanfare, with a chorus of angels and a fluttering of wings.

Et in Terra…  “And on earth, peace” — a simple, quiet movement, a monophonic moment of stillness.

Qui Tollis…  “Who takes away the sins of the world” is a movement with two characters. The hands work in polyphony, then in unison, interrupted by the feet who have their own statement to make. After a hymn-like passage, the piece ends with the pedals concurring with the theme stated earlier in the manuals.

Credo in Unum Deum… “We believe in one God” is a movement with a resolute, martial feel appropriate to any creedal statement pronounced by a large body of people.

Qui propter…  “who for us and for our salvation” is the section of the creed that refers to a descent from heaven — the incarnation of Christ. The “Et in terra” melody returns in the pedals — the peace promised by the angels coming in a whirlwind. This movement is a “tempest created by the crescendo pedal.” It is a storm that leads up to…

Crucifixus etiam… “He was crucified for us” brings back the painful dissonances of the “Christe,” this time played full organ as a slow bolero. Unlike traditional somber Mass settings, my Christ does not go gently — this is a tortured struggle, a defiant dance with death.

Qui locutus est… “who spoke by the prophets” In the calming aftermath of the Crucifixus explosion, we hear than Holy Spirit speaking through the chant of the prophets and a brief allusion to the opening “Credo” theme.

Et vitam venturi… “and the life of the coming world”  Marked “boogie,” this movement presents a picture of the afterlife as one glorious everlasting party.

Sanctus… “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts” This is a movement in three sections: a distant echoed “Sanctus,” a bright Pleni (“Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory”), and a breakout Hosanna of pealing bells. The mysterious echoes of the Sanctus return (in inversion) in the coda.

Benedictus… “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Picture a funky procession of a ragtag gang following a guy on a donkey. Enjoy the rests.

Postlude: Deo Gratias – “Thanks be to God.” This is a full-voiced hymn of praise, ending with an echo of plainsong in the pedals.

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Ornery Prelude

Ornery Prelude (2009), a pocket-orchestration of Piano Prelude ’96, was written for Duquesne University’s Accidental Collective ensemble. The prelude focuses on a boogie-woogie moto perpetuo bass line, whose “ornery” roughness is amplified by a series of rugged textural variations before suddenly melting into a 4-against-3 walking bass line counterpointed by a pearly Baroque trumpet riff.

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Outsider

Outsider was composed in the early spring of 2006. The title “Outsider” suggests a character that is rough and outside the mainstream, unsheltered and ready to face the forces of nature head-on. This character is captured in music featuring insistent melodic figures articulated in relentless sixteenth notes. One tempo pervades the entire 11-minute work: “not fast, but always with a feeling of surging forward.”

In addition to a large battery of percussion instruments, the instrumentation of “Outsider” calls for piano and harp, which are frequently paired to create unusual articulation mixtures. The trumpet section is divided between trumpets and flugelhorns that provide an additional rich, dark color for the brass section.

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Pachelfreund Canon

Pachelfreund Canon (1990) is a strict 4-voice canon that strays only as it nears the final cadence. It comes from “Winter Canons,” a set of pieces written for wine-tasting parties, usually an hour or so before the gig.

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Papillons: String Quartet after R. Schumann

Papillons (1976) is, on one level a piece-within-a-piece about a string quartet playing a paraphrase of Robert Schumann’s “Papillons” (Butterflies). Schumann’s fascinating piano work is in the form of untitled character pieces which are so evanescent individually that the listener links them together into a unique kind of formal perception. The quartet is in the form of a Prologue and Paraphrase.

In the Prologue, the players present some of Schumann’s melodic and rhythmic ideas in a number of late 20th century stylistic disguises, separated by a recurring fastand light butterfly texture. It is the cellist who determines to bring this venture to a halt, quoting the recitative from Beethoven’s 9th — “O friends, not these sounds” —suggesting that these 20th century (now 21st ) musicians might feel more at home with the musical gestures of the 19th century.

The Paraphrase then begins, alternating Schumann’s 12 pieces with newly composed pieces which emulate or reflect upon the vitality and infectious appeal of Schumann’s music. The solo first violin is permitted the final comment as Schumann’s music dissipates, quoting the motto line from Freund’s setting of Carl Sandburg’s “Playthings of the Wind”: “The past is a bucket of ashes.”

Papillons was the winner of the 1979 Washington International String Quartet Composition Competition, and was premiered at the Corcoran Gallery by the National Symphony String Quartet.

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Pas de Deux

Pas de Deux (1969) for clarinet and bassoon is written in “proportional notation” — a graphic method of indicating durations, where instead of traditional time signatures and note values, the horizontal spacing of symbols represents the intended rhythms and durations of notes. This gives the instrumentalists a degree of rhythmic independence while maintaining an awareness of their relationship with each other. The piece has a “plot:”

The bassoon enters, introverted, lost in itself. The clarinet, a flamboyant extrovert, attempts to distract him, and after several failures, finally succeeds in getting his attention with a half-plaintive, half-seductive melody. The bassoon becomes more involved in the clarinet’s ideas, introduces one of its own, and the music builds to a flurry of activity, both players playing some lines as fast as possible, followed by a section of passionate lyric intensity in which the lines grow more and more together — a passage in octaves makred “almost together,” and finally a 4-note phrase marked “very slowly, together” which ends in a unison. Then the parts gently separate, and await their next encounter. The bassoon soliloquizes first, his character brightened by reminiscences of the clarinet’s theme. The clarinet then a solo in which its opening flamboyance had been tempered by the steadiness of the bassoon’s opening idea. Somewhat accidentally, the meet again, and soon try to recapture the bliss of their previous encounter, but this time, despite attempts to rekindle their earlier attraction, they find themselves incompatible. Eventually they depart their separate ways; each leaves the way we found them. The music of the final minute is an exact retrograde of the beginning.

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Passages: Six Movements for Dance

Passages (1991) was commissioned for the Island Moving Company, a modern dance/ballet company in Newport, R.I. It was composed in collaboration with choreographer Judith Wombwell who suggested the title and the program for the piece. The 6 movements (Birth, Innocence, Growth, Nurturing, Longing, and Building), describe the maturation of a society as well as an individual. The work was first performed outdoors, so primal naturalistic gestures dominate the musical character. The Casio CZ voices were specifically created for this work by the composer. Although composed as a trio (with the Casio part performed on the keyboard), Passages may also be performed with MIDI sequence-driven Casio, or with a CD of the Casio part.

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Passing Fancy

Passing Fancy (1981) is a whimsical, essentially lyric work. The opeing tune seems to be the focal point, but distractions, tangential extensions, and non-sequitor intrusions give the piece an evanescent, lighter-than-air aspect.

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PASSION with Tropes

Don Freund’s PASSION with Tropes is a collage of various music, theatre, and music-theatre experiences, using a collage of texts about religion, love, death, and the experience of human existence. It may be described as a theatre work about the experience of attending an oratorio (or, more specifically, a Passion). But the medium of the oratorio is supplemented or challenged by the invasion of other musical and dramatic media (e.g., chamber songs, pop songs, excerpts from plays, poetry recitations, philosophical declarations, sermons, processions) just as the scriptural telling of the Passion story is convoluted, supplemented, and challenged by texts from the works of over 40 poets, playwrights, and philosophers.Although Christ’s passion and death are historically fixed in time, theology and folk tradition tend to view these events as timeless, eternal, and on-going. The events of the last days and hours of Christ’s life are presented out of sequence in PASSION with Tropes. This temporal re-arrangement gives the work a surrealistic, non-linear quality, and allows a fresh interpretation of familiar scriptural passages, particularly when juxtaposed with “tropes.”The word trope has a double meaning: in one sense, the use of a word or expression in a figurative way; in another, better known to students of music history, a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to sung parts of the Mass in the medieval period.

PASSION with Tropes is about life as defined by suffering and death and love; it is about music, about time, about the theatre experience, about sounds, about words, about beginnings and middles and ends, about confusion and frustration and desire, and about God who became human and finite in order to taste all these things and find a love that no all-knowing eternal being could feel.

Thanks to an Indiana University New Frontiers grant, an 80-minute immersive theatre version of the last half of PASSION with Tropes was presented on the stage of the Ruth M. Halls theatre in May, 2011, combining the creative talents of Robert Shakespeare (lighting design) and Paul Brunner (set and technology) from the Department of Theatre, digital visual artist Margaret Dolinsky and videographer Susanne Schwibs under the musical direction of Carmen Tellez.

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Pastoral Symphony

Pastoral Symphony (1977) owes more than just a few passing motivic quotes to its namesake; it is the spirit of Beethoven’s Symphony which inspired this piece, whose main impetus is the bright, sunny, open-air, joyous music which is rather rare in the art music of our century. There are rough, tense sections of serial disjunctness sprinkled through the piece, but tunes and buoyant rhythms clearly rule the day.

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Pentecost

Pentecost (1980) creates a sonic carnival, a neo-medieval celebration of the coming of the Holy Ghost. A panoply of styles parades through the piece, mixing Ars Antiqua-inspired tunes and textures with contemporary sounds, pitting dark, unearthly moans against the brightness and brilliance of the Spirit. The Latin text is drawn from the traditional Sequence, Hymn, and Mass Propers for the Feast of Pentecost, somewhat broken-up and sensationalized.

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Piano Preludes

Piano Preludes are an on-going series of annual short piano pieces, begun in 1990; counting the recently completed Piano Prelude 2010, there are now 21 of them.

Prelude ’90 (after Thelonius) explores a punchy chromatic lyricism — what Thelonius Monk might have sounded like if he listened to too much Schoenberg.

Prelude ’91 (collisions and canons) sports a perky multi-metric tune that eventually grows into a two- and three-voice polymetric canon. This growth only happens after a number of fits and starts and flash-forwards and rude interruptions.

Prelude ’92 (Intro/Tune/Coda) The Introduction is a succession of textural aphorisms; the Tune references a tonal progression to give its line cohesion through extensive silences; the Coda is a two-measure fortissimo cry lifted from the middle of the Tune.

Prelude ’93 (fluid, singing) combines two contrasting voices: one is a flowing 16th-note background line, while the foreground line is a singing, occasionally angular melody.

Prelude ’94 (incisive, bright) begins with a spunky repeated note fanfare, followed by a jerky little tune that is continually interrupted by disjunct sound bytes of development.

Prelude ’95 (Tune and a Half, for Elliott) is a transcription of a chamber piece written for a Merkin Hall (NYC) concert honoring beloved American composer and 20th-century music chronicler Elliott Schwartz on his 60th birthday.  It alternates between a relatively extended playful, charming tune and a more mysterious, exotic, two-bar mantra.

Prelude ’96 (rough, ornery)focuses on a boogie-woogie moto perpetuo bass line, whose “ornery” roughness is amplified by a series of rugged textural variations before suddenly melting into a 4-against-3 walking bass line counterpointed by a pearly Baroque trumpet riff.

Prelude ’97 (slow, dark, deep) gradually moves from the depths of E-flat minor to fragile sharp-key brightness before falling back into the blackness.

Prelude ’98 (blurringly fast) is a disjunct narrative. There are clear thematic characters which move through musical and dramatic space. The featured idea appears at the start, etched in a “blurringly fast” figuration, emerges “indistinct, ghostly” midway through the piece, and finally appears quietly and forlorn as the piece ends. The disjunct quality is created by “twists of fate” the material encounters, unexpected right-angle turns in the music. One of these is a stuttering chordal motive which often interrupts the flow and “steals the stage” at the climax of the work.

Prelude ’99 (caffeinated) begins with a burst of nervous energy (marked “ caffeinated”) but suddenly shifts to something more laid-back, but just as curious.

Prelude 2000 (for Lennie and Lou) was composed after the composer gave a series of lectures on Bach’s WTC, and attempts to replicate Bach’s syntactic density in a contemporary dialect. It was composed to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Lennie and Lou Newman, IU School of Music’s most prominent citizens (although other Lennie’s and Lou’s might come to mind).

Prelude ’01 (tender, tentative) starts with something like a 40’s movie waltz-noir tune, and gets dramatically darker.

Prelude ’02 (for SAmuel ADlEr) was written to celebrate the distinguished American composer and pedagogue on his 75th birthday. The capitalized letters in the subtitle provide the pitches for the theme (S = the German E-flat); although subordinate material references (á la Alban Berg) Sam’s students CB (Claude Baker) and DF (Don Freund) as well as Sam’s wife, conductor Emily Freeman Brown (EFB-flat).

Prelude ’03 (view from the top) focuses on the top range of the piano; its use of driving mixed meters is more Middle-East than rock’n’roll.

Prelude ’04 (second-hand emotion) Right Hand: pure, sweet, eternal, absolutely even; Left Hand: intensely lyric, impassioned.

Prelude ’05 (rolling darkness) A twisting chromatic melody line is embedded in dark, low rolling patterns, played without pedal but with every note held by the fingers, providing an always changing accumulation of sound.

Prelude ’06 (sweet refrains) Multiple repetitions of a strongly projected melodic line, with textural and contrapuntal variations.

Prelude ’07 (ring tones) “Like great bells.” A study in the ringing sound of single tones, and the extended melodic and harmonic implications heard through the reverberations.

Or

Prelude ’07 is very different: as it begins it appears to be about the sound of isolated ringing tones reverberating in space. But as the piece progresses, the listener is invited to engage the melodic patterning, harmonic syntax, metrical implications and expressive context connecting the notes, despite the great distances of musical time and space between them.

Prelude ’08 (for Evelyne) was composed to exploit the brilliant pianistic flair of Evelyne Brancart. It features ideas ignited by Hispanic dance motives and hand-hocket piano figuration, all gone a little bit wild.

Prelude ’09 (winter whimsey) presents a G-major melody whose sweet but terse phrases are interspersed with contrasting fragments.

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Prelude, Chorale, ..and a few other things

The musical materials of Prelude, Chorale, .. and a few other things (1985) are designed to be sturdy, concrete, clearly profiled. They are non-organic, and larger structures are created not through any growth process, but by reorganizing contexts and collisions. The opening idea of the Prelude, for example, resembles an interstellar oxcart — heavy, a little rusty, and mechanically rumbling along, but appearing with a kind of contextual independence that gives it the transported sense of floating through wormholes in the space-time continuum. The traditional texture of the chorale-prelude has a similar aspect: the insistent quarter-note rhythm and square phrase structure of the chorale tune (in this case, a tritone-outlining tune of the composer’s own devising is surrounded by independent, free-form material.)

The “few other things” appear in two sections, ” Spherical Night Music” and “Toccata Ruvida.” In the “Night Music,” the repeated octaves are shared by both pianos throughout, taking on a different ambience which isolates this sound from the more individualized surface material tossed between the pianos. More tossing and colliding of ideas occurs in the “Toccata,” but in one visceral climactic section cascading scales are riveted in both pianos reinforced in four octaves. 

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Preludes for Orchestra

Don Freund’s Preludes for Orchestra (2005) is an orchestral realization of three of the composer’s piano preludes, an on-going series of annual short piano pieces, begun in 1990.

Tune and a Half (Piano Prelude ’95) alternates between a relatively extended playful, charming tune and a more mysterious, exotic, two-bar mantra.

Second-hand Emotion (Piano Prelude ’04) features the orchestra’s “left hand” playing a line which is “intensely lyric, impassioned,” while the remainder of the orchestra (“right hand”) remains pure, sweet, eternal, and absolutely even.

Rough, ornery (Piano Prelude ’96) focuses on a boogie-woogie moto perpetuo bass line, whose roughness is amplified by a series of disjunct textural variations before suddenly melting into a 4-against-3 walking bass line counterpointed by a distant “Baroque trumpet” riff.

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Primavera Doubles

Primavera Doubles (2000) was commissioned by the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music for violinist Julian Ross, cellist Regina Mushabac, and the Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Dwight Oltman. This Double Concerto features a pair of soloists, but there are other “doubles”as well: each of the three movements is a double-movement; reflections of material using variation and imitation populate the work; and two-voice writing is abundant — the most obvious example being “Echo la Primavera,” a two-voice madrigal by 14th-century Italian composer Francesco Landini, which haunts the piece, appearing in various guises and finally providing the work’s conclusion.

First Doubles: Suggestions and Sauntersongs begins with a double cadenza that is introduced and interrupted by a unison tutti motto rhythm which will re-appear obsessively in the last movement. The cadenza fades to a glimmer of disembodied Landini and then to the Sauntersongs, presented over a trundling passacaglia bass.

Second Doubles: Scherzos and Sombersongs breaks in with a rough, turbulent tutti acting as a foil to another lighter scherzo, which pits the pair of string soloists against a pair of drummers. The ensuing Sombersongs similarly alternate dark, brooding phrases (tuba solo answered by cello) with a high, bright version of the Landini (violin and glockenspiel, echoed by flutes). Other soulful and eventually radiant dialogues follow, closed by a ghostly return of the “pairs” scherzo.

Third Doubles: Swaggersong and Saltarello reverses the shape of the other movements, beginning with a heavily charactered folk-song which accelerates into a swirling dance. At the end, the opening cadenza returns, but this time it leads to a culminating invocation of Landini’s “Primavera” madrigal.

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Quilt Horizon

Quilt Horizon (2002), commissioned by Robert and Sara LeBien for the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, is the composer’s response to a brilliant and deeply engaging quilt by Melody Johnson displayed in the LeBien’s home. The music reflects the radiant color, explosive shapes, and underlying memorial tone of the quilt, and faithfully structures musical time in a way that observes the formal designs and proportions of the quilt.

The quilt, entitled “Eternal Horizons.” commemorates the tragic deaths of seven high school students caused by the collision of a commuter train with a school bus stopped in traffic. This happened in Fox River Grove, just east of Cary, Illinois, where Melody Johnson lives. The artist says, ” The gist of the design is the seven panels, four and three on either side of the center panel, for the seven lost kids and the central panel is the glorious heavenly vista which is their Eternal Horizon.”

Correspondingly, the music is in the form of eight panels separated by borders, each a clanging stroke for percussion, pianos and harp built on superimpositions of harmonies representing the colors found in the borders. All of the panels are treated as a succession of quilt sections viewed from bottom to top, excepting the central and final panels which are viewed top to bottom. The individual formal strategy of each of the musical panels represents not only the succession and proportions of the quilt’s patches, but also the unique design flow of each panel. For example, the seventh panel is the most elemental and the patches are represented by static rising blocks of sound. In contrast to this, the patterns of the last panel scurry together, superimposing elements from earlier in the piece until falling into the languorous, comforting green waves that dominate the lower right panel of the quilt. The fifth panel contains the most extended and ecstatic musical sections, reflecting the quilt artist’s glorious Eternal Horizon.

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Radical Light

Radical Light is one of a set of orchestral movements entitled Poem Symphonies. Each symphony is inspired by the work of a contemporary American poet. The symphonies are not attempts to set poetry to music, but rather each proceeds from a poem, using the visions, images, and atmosphere of the poem as a point of departure. Radical Light is inspired by the poem “He Held Radical Light” by A. R. Ammons.

HE HELD RADICAL LIGHT
by A. R. Ammons

He held radical light
as music in his skull: music
turned, as
over ridges immanences of evening light
rise, turned
back over the furrows of his brain
into the dark, shuddered,
shot out again
in long swaying swirls of sound:

reality had little weight in his transcendence
so he
had trouble keeping
his feet on the ground, was
terrified by that
and liked himself, and others, mostly
under roofs:
nevertheless, when the
light churned and changed

his head to music, nothing could keep him
off the mountains, his
head back, mouth working,
wrestling to say, to cut loose
from the high, unimaginable hook:
released, hidden from the stars, he ate,
burped, said he was like any one
of us: demanded he
was like any one of us.

“He Held Radical Light” reprinted from A. R. Ammons’ Collected Poems, 1951-1971, with the permission of
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1972 by A. R. Ammons

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Recycles

Recycles (1980) was commissioned by Barney Childs, an American composer well known for using improvisation and chance elements in his music. The indeterminate elements in Recycles include its instrumentation and the way in which instrumentalists choose to double and sustain pitches. The choices concerning these elements are made before and during rehearsals; each performing ensemble that plays this piece works out it own realization. The core of the activity is found in two lines assigned to antiphonal keyboards, each embellished by its own group of auxiliary instruments. All of the pitches fall within the octave extending up from middle C, until the final break-out clarinet cadenza.

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Requiem (Reflections from a Life)

Requiem (Reflections from a Life) was composed in memory of my father, who died May 2008, a week after turning 94. 94 years is a long time to live, and my father experienced a healthy portion of the joys and sorrows and triumphs and frustrations that come to define human existence; this requiem is a small reflection on that. It was also written to celebrate the wondrous gravity and agility of the tuba, and the marvelous musicality and virtuosity of Daniel Perantoni.

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ReTournai: Toccata a quatre

The anonymous 14th-century Tournai Mass is the earliest known polyphonic cycle of the Ordinary of the Mass. ReTournai (1977) revisits the first 11 chords of the Agnus Dei of this Mass, a fascinating example of early functional chromatic harmony that includes in this short phrase chords as distantly related and F# minor and Bb major. The first four melodic notes are F-E-F#-G, sort of a twisted version of the famous B-A-C-H motive. In ReTournai this material is juxtaposed and superimposed on a percolating toccata whose principal obsession is the way tempo shifts when fast notes of equal value are collected in groups of 3’s and 4’s.

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Rite Now!

My favorite bass clarinet lick is the little solo riff that leads to the Sacrificial Dance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. So when Howard Klug asked me to write a trio for clarinet, bass clarinet and piano, I decided to use that lick as a springboard to examine it and various other thematic, harmonic and structural elements from “Le Sacre” (hence the subtitle, Trio Sacre-ligioso). Perhaps the most disrespectful moment in Rite Now! is the appearance of the infamously metrically complex Sacrificial Dance, straightened out in rockin’ 4-bar phrases of 4/4 time. By the way, the little 5/4 melody that dominates the middle of the piece is my own tune.

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Romeo and Juliet: A Shakespearian Music – Drama

While the idea of yet another version of Romeo and Juliet may seem something less than “cutting edge,” I have discovered that the familiarity of the story and the iconic power of the poetic text provide a sturdy launch pad for a new kind of intertwining of words, drama, and music. In this re-invention of the music-theatre medium, the musical materials must be artful enough to respond to the characterizations and dramatic interactions of Shakespeare’s text, but also simple enough to allow the singing actors a naturalness that communicates with an audience on a personal, human-scaled level. The glories of Shakespeare’s poetry and the vitality of his dramatic constructions take on a special resonance when song and music is worked into the tapestry.

All of the “lyrics” are Shakespeare’s texts, abridged from five acts to three. The vocal writing for the leading characters is created in a tuneful style appropriate for young, clear, not particularly large voices, and a priority is placed on making the language readily intelligible and dramatically compelling. The choice of piano as the only instrumental component gives the actors freedom from concerns about audibility and instrumental ensemble issues.

My goal has been to capture in a music-theatre work the kind of immediacy one can find only in small theatre productions with effective but minimal sets and lighting, ingenious stage direction and charismatic actors. I believe the enclosed DVD demonstrates how the tuneful prosody of the vocal lines and the musical shaping of the dramatic events has allowed the very talented cast and production team of this BPP production to create a performance that involved, delighted and moved its audience.

Many of those in the sold-out audiences commented on how this production allowed them to appreciate Shakespeare in a remarkably fresh and thoroughly engaging way. Critic Peter Jacobi wrote in the Bloomington Herald-Times, “The score holds profoundly powerful touches that seep into the play’s atmosphere. At those moments, and they come along abundantly, a viewer/listener is likely to be startled into a fresh take on an old and familiar tale. Freund’s love for and knowledge of Shakespeare’s masterpiece is much in evidence, and that devotional combine has been wedded to the composer’s vividly creative imagination. As a result, one can enjoy masterful, occasionally even memorable, scenes: a dreamy and steamy balcony encounter fueled by sweeps of musical passion; the marriage in Friar Laurence’s cell; the fury unleashed by Juliet’s parents when she refuses to marry Paris; the lovers in final embrace after Romeo has been banished, and the whole denouement leading to the lovers’ suicides. Those final scenes become close to spine-tingling, thanks to Shakespeare, of course, but also to music that heightens tension while not getting in the way of the ever mounting tragedy.”

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Rough and Tumble

The title Rough and Tumble (1996) not only conveys the character and attitude of this 8-minute piece for mixed quartet, but also describes the micro-form of the opening gesture and the overall form of the piece.  The first half of the work is a stringing together of several rough-hewn subjects; these yield to a “Slow Tumble”, a lyric passage entwining first the clarinet and trumpet, then the piano and marimba; this spills into a “Fast Tumble” which scurries to a final reprise. The first two-measure kick-off phrase is also Rough and Tumble: rough stuttering block chords punctuated by drumset yield to a single line which tumbles to a cadence.

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SeeNoHearNoSpeakNo

SeeNoHearNoSpeakNo (2011) assigns the character of each of the three wise monkeys of the pictorial maxim “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” to a member of an instrumental trio who is in turn paired with a dancer. The viola is “SeeNo” consists entirely of different varieties of trills, as she is attacked by buzzings of all the things she can’t see with her eyes covered. The percussionist (“HearNo”) is assigned an array of 12 pots and pans, three courses of four, one course damped, one muted, and the third ringing freeing. Moving from one course to another replicates the effect of covering and uncovering your ears. “SpeakNo” is the string bass, who begins each statement with a boisterous blurting, and then, remembering himself, tones it down gradually to silence. SeeNoHearNoSpeakNo was composed for violist Rose Wollman.

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Seven Etudes a due

Seven Etudes a due (1973) for viola and cello are more than just technical studies, although each piece does present the performers with a number of technical problems stemming from the hybridization of traditional and “extended” string techniques. More important is the “a due” aspect of the etudes. Each piece explores a different kind of ensemble relationship between the performers, presenting a variety of musical challenges. The first etude, marked “violently,” evolves from a rugged opening statement with striking tension contrasts into an intense struggle for control of a syncopated beat. The second etude is a declamatory recitative for cello against the viola’s whirring backdrop. In the third etude, this whirring is transformed into a dialogue of scurrying scale-like shapes. Etude four has a free introduction, and then proceeds with a mechanically precise succession of regular eighth-notes which bounce back and forth between the instruments. In etude five, the players break loose from this mechanization into a succession of overlapping surrealistic events built around various ways of playing chords on string instruments. The exuberance of this etude is sharply contrasted by the dark, earthly sighs heard in the sixth etude. In the final etude, the music rises to a chance interweaving of melodic fragments, and finally takes on the mysterious, other-worldly character of the music of the spheres.

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Silver Lining

Silver Lining ’s style is a juxtapositioning and occasional wedding of a be-bop jazz tune and more abstract, disjunct, violent elements. The brilliant silver tones of the piccolo trumpet, usually associated with Baroque music, are here used in determinedly contemporary way.

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Sinfonietta

My Sinfonietta (1989) emulates its namesake — the Sinfonietta of Leos Janacek —  in a number of ways. Both pieces use folk-like ideas to provide material that is sharply-profiled and direct (although my own “folk” roots are very different from Janacek’s, and  I define them broadly enough to include swing and rock-and-roll). Both pieces are comprised of an irregular number of short sections, each section with its own strongly independent melodic and rhythmic personality, with some occasional cyclical references. In both pieces, the form, though superficially episodic, is designed to create an eventual integrity, a culminating synthesis. My fascination with this formal phenomenon of small sections or pieces accumulating into a larger continuum spans three decades, and arises from an early realization that many of the pieces I love for their continual freshness and uncompromised vitality fall into this formal category — Schumann’s Papillons, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, to mention a few. Although I don’t believe one can postulate a demonstrable analytical system for how these forms are constructed, there must be a definite design of what I call “psycho-informational vectors” in the way the various sections are created, articulated, and arrayed. In other words, the composer creates with purposefulness and playfulness an engagingly winding, zig-zagging but nonetheless directional path of varied perceptual attitudes for the listener.

Ultimately, I might be better advised to ask the listeners to ignore all the above; I simply hope that they will find in the tunes and characters and shapes and surprises of my Sinfonietta some of the same delight and emotional resonance I have found in the tunes, characters, shapes and surprises of Janacek’s score.

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Sky Scrapings

Sky Scrapings (1997) is a subversive Serenade for Alto Saxophone and Piano. Subversive, in that none of the material ends up going in the direction it appears to be pointed. Transient Fixations begins as a rondo between a nonchalant opening tune and rougher, slightly faster music, but the movement prematurely dissolves in swirls of descending dissipation. Hypertoccata is marked “electric, ‘wired’, feverish,” but its opening section is abruptly displaced by torrential unison scales jigsawed against a driving flurry. In Colliding Cantilenas tunes which suggest cocktail piano, “chaste” early Renaissance-style, and pop ballad abut one another, flanking a scurrying middle section marked “anxious, fugitivo (chased).” Gathering begins easy and buoyant, but soon turns darker and threatening, careening through rough juxtapositions to a cumulative cataclysm. In the aftermath, a morphing multiphonic leads to  a little Adieu, short, simple, and tinged with nostalgia.

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Soft Cells

For 15 instruments, Soft Cells (1997) was conceived as a kinder, gentler counterpart to its older sibling Hard Cells, a work composed 8 years earlier. Hard Cells (on the CD New Music from IU, Vol.1) is a steely, tough piece based on a unyielding, relentless 16th-note pulse and sharp-edged bits of material which move in space but generally resist any re-shaping. By contrast, the motives of Soft Cells, while retaining their definition and character, are allowed to rhythmically expand and contract; tempo changes are frequent, and irregular beat subdivisions become an obsession. Dynamic shapes ebb and flow as well. A harp has been added to the 14-piece instrumentation of Hard Cells, and the general sound world of Soft Cells is more post-Impressionistic than rock’n’roll.

In the midst of the predominantly rich harmonies and textures of Soft Cells, two leaner, more linearly driven sections help define its overall structure: one, marked “appassionato,” occurs in the middle of the piece, providing a temporary rest to the surging activity of the first half; the second is a non-sequitur sudden sunset which abruptly halts a culminating flurry and brings the work to its close.

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Sonapartita (Noch Nach Bach)

Sonapartita (Noch Nach Bach) was written for the Brussels-based duo of Daniel Rubenstein and Muhiddin Dürrüoglu-Demiriz for inclusion on their CD of new music for violin and piano inspired by the Baroque. Sonapartita is indeed influenced by an antique style period — the late 1960’s, when composers like George Rochberg (whose harpsichord piece “Nach Bach” is celebrated in the subtitle) took to heart T.S. Eliot’s dictum that artists should steal rather than borrow. This is particularly true of Sonapartita’s third movement (Presto), in which the violin part is an exact replica of the final movement of Bach’s G minor Partita for solo violin, while the piano (in a manner that ‘60’s new-music fans will remember from Lukas Foss’s Baroque Variations) colorizes various structural notes (it’s almost Schenkerian) and exaggerates Bach’s dramatic shapes. The other three movements hearken back to an even more ancient style period, resembling the sound and attitude of Stravinskian neo-classicism more than ‘60’s stealism; there are no quotes in these movements (at least not intentionally), but the present composer hopes that his life-long immersion in the music of Bach resonates in this music.

The title “Sonapartita” is an obvious amalgam: Bach’s six works for unaccompanied violin alternate between Sonatas and Partitas, and so do the 4 movements of Sonapartita. The first and third movements (Adagio and Presto) are more sonata-like; the 2nd movement (Passepied – a lively old French dance) and 4th movement (Siciliano — the composer should be congratulated for resisting the appending of “ma non Mafioso”) are dance inspired.

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Sonatina—Spring 1967

Sonatina—Spring 1967 is a transcription for violin and piano of a youthful piano sonatina whose sweet melodies and lilting rhythms are still close to the composer’s heart. The three short movements are played with only the briefest pause between them.

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Songs Without Words

Songs Without Words was compiled for a 2011 recital to give me an opportunity to collaborate again with the king of the viola, Atar Arad. Only the first song was composed with the viola in mind: Muse was written last summer as a gift for Bethany Harper Bernstien, the woman who taught me viola in string class and premiered my Viola Bagatelles 42 years earler. Morning Sunsong is the first big tune in my saxophone concerto Sunscapes. Come, Gentle Night actually does have words, as sung by Juliet while she awaits her groom, unaware of the events that have eternally crossed their stars:

Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night.

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Springsongs

Springsongs (1978) was composed by a composer in love with the music of Machaut, Josquin, Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Xenakis, and Rock’n’Roll. He considers himself fortunate to live in an era when all these marvelous sounds and tunes and gestures are available at the push of a button, and when composers have lost their inhibitions about wearing their hearts and roots on their sleeves. He is also aware of the esthetic dangers of imitation and self-indulgence, realizing that a piece of music is pointless unless it is stamped with the composer’s own personal twists of language, sense of syntax and context, his/her own world-outlook.

Springsongs was also composed by a composer intrigued by the magic of musical performance — how notes, lines, rhythms, textures, seemingly abstract musical functions, can come to life in the hands of skilled and understanding performers, and implant themselves in the consciousness of the listener.

Springsongs was commissioned by the Memphis in May Fine Arts Festival and was written in Memphis in the spring when all of creation seems to burst forth with brightness, exuberance, and vitality. At the same time, news reports were full of their usual tales of wars, mass murders, and various natural catastrophes.

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Spur of the Moment

Spur of the Moment was composed in the fall or 2003 for flute virtuoso and long-time new music angel Kathryn Lukas. This 10-minute work has the structural feel of theme-and-variations, but the forms and sound-shapes of the “variations” are more driven by their own character and impetus than by any recognizable references to the “theme.” The (occasionally whimsical) sub-titles of the successive sections should give the listener a helpful guide through the piece: Theme / Trills & Tuckutucks / Theme in Bass / Toccatina / Pipes & Bells / Tarantella Light / Reprise.

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Stirrings

Stirrings was the winner of the 1997 Rodrigo Riera International Guitar Composition Competition.

Stirrings — both the title and the music itself should conjure up several different images: programmatically, the barely perceptible beginnings of an idea coming to life, the faint but irrepressible awakenings of an emotion; structurally, the mixing together of elements which retain their identity, no matter how broken-up and “stirred” together. Although a traditional large-scale fast-slow-fast form is apparent, the mixings and crossings of many micro-sections throughout the piece give it a variegated, catalytic surface.

A preliminary version of Stirrings was composed in 1990, but was substantially revised in 1993 with the help of Alan Thomas, who premiered the work in February of 1994.

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String Quartet No.1

String Quartet No.1 (1965) is in two connected movements — a prelude with Gershwinesque tartness and a driving fast-movement  in sonata-form with a couple of juxtapositions from the prelude.

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String Quartet No.2

The five-movement arch-form of this very early work (1966) is obviously inspired by Bartok, but the unabashed tunefulness and folksong/rock’n’roll impetus give it a directness the composer still cherishes.

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Summersongs (String Quartet #4)

Summersongs (String Quartet #4) could be described as three tunes in search of a string quartet. The tunes present contrasting characters. The first one, which dominates the opening of the piece after emerging from a torrential tangle of energetic scale patterns, is strong and broad, a bold rising-fourth beginning (think “All the Things You Are”) followed by driving syncopated phrases and shifting harmonies. The second tune, which defines the middle of the piece, has a distinct Latin flavor. Easy-going at first, its syncopations become more insistent, igniting a firestorm of activity. The final tune is as slight and refreshing as a summer breeze. Heard over a gentle drone, its only development is by reduction, inviting the listener to fill in the missing notes.

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Sunscapes

Sunscapes (2006) was inspired by the scintillating brilliance and warmth of the sun at Hua Hin, Thailand’s royal beach resort, coinciding with plans to write a concerto for alto saxophone, which happens to be the beloved instrument of the King of Thailand.

Sunscapes takes the form of alternating sun tone-pictures with solo-dominated “sunsongs.” These alternating sections are gathered together into two “Parts” separated by a movement-break pause.

Part One begins with “First Rays,” a quiet awakening brimming with distant energy. Three shimmering tremolos introduce “Morning Sunsong,” a lyric saxophone ballad whose final cadence interlocks with the next section, “Beamdance,” a juxtaposition of fiddle licks and jazzy saxophone riffs. These exchanges get closer and closer together, the tension releasing into “High Noon Sunsong,” an expansive saxophone ballad accompanied by the orchestra’s throbbing waves of light. As the saxophone reaches its peak, the section breaks into “Midday Radiance,” a cadenza of cascading arpeggios followed by shimmering “sun-chords,” a succession of brightly colored harmonies that appear throughout the work. The accelerating repetition of the last sun-chord (in tandem with a Peking Opera Gong) announces the closing section of Part One, “Blazing Sundance,” a whirling jig-dervish.

Part Two begins right where we left off, only the “Overexposed” version of the sundance is an overbright sound-photo of the previous section — only the glimmering outlines of the material can be distinguished against the triangle’s pulsar. The whispering saxophone descends into “Sunshine though the haze,” rays of light fleetingly penetrating a murky orchestral cloud-shape. All this serves as an extended introduction to the next saxophone tune, “Sunbreeze Song,” a sassy two-part melody whose simple six-note refrain moves at a quicker tempo than the heavy beats of the initial phrase. A sudden saxophone explosion ignites “Sunstorm,” eruptions of solar flares that blast superhot gasses into space. The storm abates, leaving only a pair of clarinets to accompany the first strophe of the saxophone’s final lyric ballad, “Song in the Lengthening Glow.” The song grows, cadencing in “Setting Sunburst” — the sun-chord succession passed from strings to brass to woodwinds. This transcendental mood is broken with “Celebration Sunsong,” an unabashed rock’n’roll party with a 4/4/+5/4 refrain. “Last Lights” is a nostalgic look back to the opening of the concerto which closes the piece as the colors fade to uncover the brightness of the evening star.

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Test of Time

In order to appropriately describe the piece, the two nouns in the title of Test of Time (2009) should both be plural. Not only are there all kinds of tests, but there are also a variety of ways of perceiving time that are challenged in the course of the piece. How long can rhythmic groove retain its momentum against interruptions and juxtapositions? How do beats and syncopations change their syntax when shifted or superimposed? How can micro-second subdivisions of a beat be re-configured into unpredictable patterns that can still be felt as rhythmically tight? When musical events are frozen and cut-and-pasted out of context, are they perceived as existing independently in their own non-directional time-world? Can the four-phrase tune of the solo tuba prologue pass the test of time and be recognized when it reappears ten minutes later? Can the metrical implications of this tune still be appreciated when it is played by the brass in a free-sounding rhythm superimposed over a driving 9/16 torrent in the rest of the ensemble? When — at the end of the piece (spoiler alert!) — the tune is played by solo flute over a tapestry of bells, will the listener recognize on some intuitive level that the notes of each phrase are played backwards although the ordering of the phrases is forward?

I have for a long time considered the one-on-a-part (two violins) chamber sinfonietta to be nature’s perfect musical ensemble. No other ensemble could provide at the same time the timbral variety and turn-on-a-dime agility needed to execute a piece like Test of Time. I’ve included tuba and alto saxophone, instruments too often neglected in this medium. I have also avoided using standard percussion instruments, replacing bass drum and tom-toms with log drums, the surdo (Brazilian carnival drum), and the cajon (Afro-Peruvian wood box drum), and writing for almglocken (tuned cowbells) and singing bowls in place of marimba and vibraphone.

From the beginning of the tuba prologue to the final wa-wa decay of the spring drum around fifteen minutes will have expired in the outside world. I hope that those of us inside Test of Time will have experienced a universe of time dimensions totally apart from that.

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Three Bagatelles

Three Bagatelles for Viola and Piano begins with a terse Toccata that contains the seeds for much of happens in the latter pieces. Arioso exploits the singing nature of the viola, while the finale, Ballata, turns the thematic materials of the earlier movements into an extended bravura dance.

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Three Blake Songs

The poetry of William Blake (1757-1827), thought by most of his contemporaries to be the work of a “lunatic,” has become some of the best known and loved lyric poetry in the English language. Blake, who made his living as an illustrator and printer, presented his poetry in “illuminated printing” — prints from engraved poems and ilustrations that were hand-colored. Blake believed that the path to eternal truth is “imagination heightened to vision.” The clarity and power of his personal visions and symbols have over time proved effective in leading toward his goal of “liberating the human spirit for free expression and development.”

Three Blake Songs is written to poems from Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794). Since the accompaniment was designed for Orff Instrumentarium, all three songs are diatonic, patterned, and direct, but the composer has sought to “illuminate” with instrumental color, vocal phrasing and rhythmic characterization the particular “vision” of each of the poems: the naive gentleness of The Lamb, the fiery terrific wonder of The Tyger, and the peaceful, universal humanity of The Divine Image.

1. THE LAMB (Songs of Innocence)

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
he became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.

2. THE TYGER (Songs of Experience)

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

3. THE DIVINE IMAGE (Songs of Innocence)

To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is God our father dear:
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is Man his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then ev’ry man of ev’ry clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love Mercy Pity Peace.

And all must love the human form,
From old worlds to the new,*
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too.

*This is a paraphrase of Blake’s original line:
“In heathen, turk, or jew.”

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Trio

Trio (1971) for Violin, Trombone, and Piano examines how these three very unlike instruments can relate to each other; for example, how each in its own way handles such instrumental gestures such as repeated notes, trills/tremolos, and glissandos. The material of the piece is extremely focused: one three-note cell provides all the pitches, an 8-note rhythmic figure is progressively obsessive, and a crescendo gesture which transforms into a glissando is all that’s left at the end of the piece.

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Triomusic

Triomusic (1980) is something of a musical “stream of consciousness”; its identity and cohesiveness emanate from the patterned contrasts and dramatic flow of its sharply profiled, thematically and stylistically incongruous sections. Two ideas create a context for the others. One is the gentle tune with which the pianist introduces Part One and which returns near the end of Part Two. The other is the driving 11/8 – 5/4 ostinato which is first heard in alternation with the “tune” when it reappears in Part Two, but outgrows balanced proportions to become the propulsive, obsessive concluding section.

The first-time listener might feel more secure being guided through the two parts of the piece by the following sectional outline:

Part One — piano tune; violin “fiery” cadenza; heavy triple “rock” feel which gradually dissipates; biting, brittle aphorisms; quasi 14th-century chorale (violin and clarinet only); unison statements with sound-space reverberations; enigmatic postlude.

Part Two — frenetic triple cadenza; piano chorale; bright imitative tarantella; another piano chorale, foreboding (Ach wie flüchtig, ach nichtig…How fleeting, how void is life); desperate fortissimo trills yielding to pianissimo whispers, segue to return of the piano tune and ostinato finale.

Triomusic was composed in 1980 for the Verdehr Trio.

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Tune and a Half, for Elliot 

Tune and a Half, for Elliot  (1995) is a miniature musical sketch of Elliott Schwartz’s dual personality: it alternates between a relatively extended playful, charming tune and a more mysterious, exotic, two-bar mantra.

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Ukrainian Fantasy

Ukrainian Fantasy (1977) was written for Ukrainian-American violinist Adrian Bryttan, who requested a violin and piano piece employing Ukrainian folk melodies in a work similar to Ravel’s Tzigaine . However, as I listened to this folk music, particularly in recordings of unadulterated folk performances, I became too intrigued by the actual sound quality of the music to be happy with a translation to piano. I convinced Adrian that what he really wanted was a piece which used the actual sound of these recordings as a context for a violin fantasy. So the piece emerged as a work for violin with a collage “tape” of material assembled from a wealth of folk recordings. The main compositional enterprise was to design a form and a sound fabric which would allow the violinist and the audience to revel in the high spirits, humor, nostalgia, frenzy, and lyric emotional power this music evokes.

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Viola Concerto in One Movement

Viola Concerto (1995) was written for Atar Arad. Every idea in the piece reflects one of the marvelous qualities of a viola in the hands of an artist. No other instrument has such a natural warmth, mystery, amiable jocularity, forthright directness, and folk-like voice. In this Viola Concerto, the sound and character of the solo instrument is set apart from its surroundings in a variety of ways; the viola and orchestra rarely share material.

The one-movement form provides ample opportunities for sectional overlapping, juxtapositioning, interlocking, and cross-referencing, but the listener should be able to recognize six distinct sections (averaging 3-4 minutes in length) which alternate slow and fast tempos. The initial idea, a gesture which grows out of a repeated C£ (marked &Mac185;, marcato, relentless) presents a ritualistic character which re-appears throughout the piece. The three fast sections are defined by (section 2 – at CD track time 3:03) demonic, incisive staccato eighth-notes; (section 4 – at 7:49) a “rustic, hearty” folk-like melody peppered with driving repeated 32nd-notes interlaced with the orchestra’s delicate triplet weavings; and (section 6 – at 16:40) a bright, high-spirited scherzo-finale. The work’s center of gravity is the pivotal fifth section, a free “Blues” (at 12:50).

Viola Concerto is scored for 2 antiphonal wind quintets, percussion, harp, piano and strings.

Atar Arad  is Professor of Viola at the Indiana University School of Music. His honors and prizes include Artist Diploma, Israeli Academy, 1966. Graduo, La Chapelle Musicale de la Reine Elisabeth, Brussels, 1971. He won First Prize, Geneva International Competition, 1972. He has been principal violist for the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra, Senior Lecturer at the Royal Northern School of Music and Rice University. He was the violist of the Cleveland Quartet from 1980-87. He has been Artist-Faculty at the Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared in concert tours and festivals worldwide, including featured performances in Berlin, Edinburgh, Israel, Paris and Salzburg.

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Word on the Street

Word on the Street (2007) brings “vernacular” tunes, rhythms, and attitudes to the medium of the chamber orchestra and the developmental processes beloved by composers of concert art music. This 10-minute celebration of the joys of rock and blues and counterpoint and orchestration falls into five clearly delineated sections.

Word on the Street gets down to business immediately with a bright declamatory main tune — a rising 4-note phrase answered by a syncopated riff. This tune and its chatty counterpart get a thorough work-out, moving through the choirs of the orchestra in a variety of keys and juxtapositions, building to a unison statement that suddenly slams on the brakes. The energy subsides in the following section, which features sustained solo lines over a repeated bass-line mantra that is quietly inaugurated by the violas and cellos. A sudden gear-shift opens the third section in a fast-triple feel; a surging undercurrent accompanies a sassy tune first heard in the flute and oboe. The surging expands and the tune gets edgier, erupting into a dialog between timpani and strings, and paving the way for another gear-shift, this time into a heavy triple-time heroic blues. This slower wave figure gets weightier and weightier, eventually grinding to a halt. A whispered glissando ignites the fifth and final section, a hyperkinetic chattering imitative texture that drives towards an exuberant return of the opening tune.

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