Musically, I am gearing up for a performance of Recoil with my fellow Soochow University faculty colleagues. Might take a rearrangement of the percussion because our gear probably won't be shipped in time for the September 15 concert. But, it is nice to dust off this piece and see what it is all about again. I believe I will be conducting the performance. Woot!
We are down to the top 15! 3 more weeks of updates. Though, I might spread out the top 5. I could probably write an entire post on each one of those pieces.
Oh. I should probably explain the title of this weeks edition. Early this week Kate and I had a Google+ party with our friends Lydia, Jonathan, Mark, Steve, Charlie, and Cathy. During this awesome cyberspace hang, we told them about the app WeChat. Get it. It's awesome. It is text/chat that uses data, not SMS text. You can do video, text, voice, and leave voice messages. Doesn't seem that cool in the states but when you have an international friend - it really comes in handy. Over here, I don't text any of my colleagues. We all use WeChat. You can search people by their ID or phone number. And it has very cool, specialized emoticons. Check them out and you'll understand the title.
(15 players and quadrophonic tape)
Introduced to me by Kurt Stallmann. The idea of a large chamber ensemble really appeals to me. You have enough players for an orchestral sound and yet you can still be intimate. Kurt told me about this piece when I was writing The Gate. He thought I should listen to the first movement since I was working with an ensemble and electronics and my first movement was timbre based. It is a fantastic piece of music. I've really gotten into Harvey's other music recently. But, this first experience really did something for me.
(soprano, harp, strings)
Also introduced to me by Kurt Stallmann. Kurt has had a big impact on my musical life. And one of the ways has been turning me on to new music that doesn't necessarily make its way around the new music circles as much as it should. I've talked about Listening Friday's at the Shepherd School before. All the composers would gather together in the electronic music studio and play music for each other. Well, this had become known to the faculty who supported it. Kurt was very supportive. The semester had ended and a lot of the grad composers where still around. He decided to host a Listening Friday (though it was on a Wednesday).
He has a pretty incredible CD/record collection. The group of us poured through what he had and we made some picks. After we listened to some pieces, Kurt pulled out Dawn Upshaw's disc, The Girl with the Orange Lips. We first listened to Ravel's Three Poems of Stephane Mallarme and then Stravinsky's Three Japanese Lyrics. And then we heard this piece. We only listened to a few of the movements. But, we listened to the movement entitled Ophelia.
I never thought a piece almost entirely for solo voice could be so captivating. Jaw-dropping beauty. Everyone in the room was stunned. How could you follow that? What else could be played? Still stands out as a night that I won't forget. You always read about composers in the 20's or 50's having these kinds of nights. Sharing ideas, sharing music, having a good time. Reading about it romanticizes the experience into something you never think is possible in this point in history. The aura around those types of gatherings is lost. Not true. Shepherd was a great place for that type of experience.
(four organs and maracas)
Steve Reich has been part of my musical life since undergrad. Through I first performed one of his works in my doctorate. Five composers got together and put together this work for a 20/21 Contemporary Ensemble concert. 20/21 was the student run new music ensemble at Rice which I co-directed with some of my colleagues. I love this piece. I love getting lost in it. I hated having to count and be precise in practicing it. I loved performing it when it was finally ready. It falls within Reich's early, more experimental phase (no pun). After 1984, Reich really started writing the same piece over and over again. He really hasn't done anything new since Tehillim. I would take Drumming, Four Organs, and Piano Phase over any of his later work. Thank you Steve Bachicha, Charles Halka, Bryce Ingmire, and Ben Krause for this experience. And for the country graw.
(soprano and fixed media)
There isn't much to say. It is a calming work with a beautiful vocal line and intoxicating electronics. It is one of the two pieces that influenced me quite a bit while writing now our grief is put away. Stay tuned for the other. Enjoy Dawn Upshaw again.
(soloists, chorus, orchestra)
Again, Tom Hulce. Why? Because Amadeus introduced me to the Requiem. Truth be told, I've never listened to the second half of the mass. I always stop at the Lacrimosa. As I see it, there is no point in going forward because what follows isn't Mozart. When I wrote about his 20th piano concerto earlier on the list I said that Mozart was best in a minor key. The same is completely true here. I truly think it is his best work. It is heart wrenching as only Mozart can be in the late classical style. No other composers come close around that time period.
You'll notice that of the five pieces on this list of 50 that reside outside of the 20th century, Mozart is the composer with two works. There is something about his cleanliness of style that really speaks to me. I do not approach masters lightly. Just because everyone else in the musical universe loves you doesn't mean that I will. I approach each piece on its own terms. Just because a piece has Mozart's or Beethoven's or Wagner's name next to it doesn't mean it is any good. I think musicians in particular assume a composer's entire catalog is worth performing. Not so. Reduce the catalogue of the classics and start performing music of your own time. Diatribe over.