THE ORCHESTRA OF THE S.E.M. ENSEMBLE
Petr Kotik, Conductor
WORLD PREMIERES BY GEORGE LEWIS, ROSCOE MITCHELL,
CHRISTIAN WOLFF, AND PETR BAKLA. WORKS BY MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS, PETR KOTIK, AND JACKSON MAC LOW
Muhal Richard Abrams, Piano
Thomas Buckner, Voice
Claire Chase, Flute
Joseph Kubera, Piano
George Lewis, Trombone
Roscoe Mitchell, Saxophone
BOHEMIAN NATIONAL HALL, NYC
April 25, 2017, 7 – 10:30 p.m.
“No one makes programs like Petr Kotik.” – The New York Times
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, founded and directed by Petr Kotik, presents a marathon program which uniquely combines composers from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) – Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Roscoe Mitchell – with those associated with the New York avant-garde tradition – Christian Wolff, Petr Kotik, Jackson Mac Low, and Czech composer Petr Bakla. SEMs collaboration with AACM began 20 years ago, when Muhal Richard Abrams invited Kotik and his orchestra to perform, and has continued until today with many commissions and recordings. The concerts program aims to bring forth the proximity of different musical ideas and underlines Kotiks openness to unorthodox combinations of composers, whose work he has presented at SEM concerts in New York, and in Europe at the Ostrava Days festival.
Highlights for the Bohemian National Hall concert include five world premieres: George Lewis Seismologic (2017) for solo bassoonist Dana Jessen and electronics; Roscoe Mitchells Distant Radio Transmission (2017) with the composer on saxophone, baritone Thomas Buckner, and the SEM Orchestra, conducted by Kotik; Christian Wolffs 5 Songs with Thomas Buckner and the orchestra; and Czech composer Petr Baklas Major Thirds with pianist Joseph Kubera and the Momenta Quartet.
The AACM composers (Abrams, Lewis and Mitchell) will also participate in the 2017 Ostrava Days (OD) festival later this summer with their orchestral and choral compositions. OD will also present Wolffs 5 Songs and Baklas Major Thirds as well as Music for 3 by Kotik. Ostrava Days takes place in Ostrava, Czech Republic from August 14 – September 2 and is one of the worlds largest summer new music programs, with 21 concerts ranging from opera and orchestral works to ensemble and solo performances.
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble concert will take place at Bohemian National Hall, located at 321 E. 73rd St, New York (between 1stand 2nd Avenues). Free admission with suggested donation at the door. For more information on the S.E.M. Ensemble, visit www.semensemble.org. Ostrava Days information is available at: www.newmusicostrava.cz/en/ostrava-days/festival-program/
George Lewis: Emergent (2014)
Flute solo (Claire Chase) and 4-channel sound
Muhal Richard Abrams: Trio Things (2016)
Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Tom Chiu (violin), Meaghan Burke (cello)
Jackson Mac Low: Is That Hat My Hat? (1980)
4 Narrators and Orchestra
Christian Wolff: 5 Songs (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Thomas Buckner (voice) and orchestra
Petr Kotik: Music for 3 (1964)
Stephanie Griffin (viola), Meaghan Burke (cello), James Ilgenfritz (bass)
Roscoe Mitchell: Distant Radio Transmission (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Roscoe Mitchell (saxophone), Thomas Buckner (voice) and orchestra
Petr Bakla: Major Thirds (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Joseph Kubera (piano), Momenta Quartet
George Lewis: Seismologic (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Dana Jessen (bassoon) and 4-channel sound
Group improvisation: Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis,
Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera, Sara Schoenbeck
George Lewis Seismologic (2017, World Premiere), scored for bassoon and electronics and written for Dana Jessen, is the third in a series of works for solo instruments and computer sound processing. The concert will also include the first work in the series, Emergent (2014), for flute and electronics, written for Claire Chase, whos performed it around the world to critical acclaim. Lewis writes: “The series explores a recombinant sensibility, using interactive digital delays, spatialization, and timbre transformation to create a musical dance of agency among multiple instrumentalists following diverse yet intersecting spatial trajectories. The electronics and the instrument blend, intersect, and ultimately diverge into multiple digital personalities that can suddenly converge into unified ensembles.” Seismologic was inspired by the musically oriented research of Columbia Universitys seismologist, Dr. Ben Holtzman.
Roscoe Mitchells Distant Radio Transmission (2017, World Premiere) will feature the composer on the saxophone and baritone Thomas Buckner improvising with the orchestra. The piece grew out of Conversations for Orchestra – a transcription of improvisations by Craig Taborn, Kikanju Baku and Mitchell from the two trio CDs, Conversations I and II.
Christian Wolffs Five Songs (2017, World Premiere) were commissioned by Mutable Music and written for Thomas Buckner. Wolff writes about the songs: “I thought of Berliozs Les Nuits dété, for solo voice and small orchestra and used modernist poets texts, but partly from an earlier generation, and all women: Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore and Marilyn Hacker. Each poem makes a song for itself, though there are some instrumental passages in between songs making continuity. The texts - these poets - are all remarkably virtuosic in their poetic procedures. This was a particular challenge for the composition.”
Momenta Quartet and pianist Joseph Kubera will premiere Petr Baklas Major Thirds (2016), a joint commission by Czech Center New York and the 2017 Ostrava Days festival. Bakla notes about the work: “The tonal component of the piece exclusively consists of major thirds that establish a continuous sound surface undulating in chromatic shifts. Each section of the piece examines the constant tonal material at a different speed, a different density of texture, and with differing degree of blurring of the interval of major third.” The work will receive its European premiere at Ostrava Days in August.
Often described as the “father of the avant-garde jazz piano,” Muhal Richard Abrams first performed Trio Things during the 2016 AACM seasonal concert series. The artistic cohesion that took place inspired him to go further with the trio, which he viewed as a new “performance horizon.” Co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Richard Abrams played an important role in the development of new concepts in jazz and its shift towards identification as “classical music.” He inspired and encouraged musicians such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago and many others, Anthony Braxton, Eddie Harris, Clifford Jordan, George Lewis, and many others.
Petr Kotiks Music for 3 (in memoriam of Jan Rychlík), was composed in 1964, while Kotik was studying composition at Viennas Music Academy. Premiered by Kotiks Musica viva pragensis at the Warsaw Autumn Festival later that year, it caused a scandal. A large part of the audience left the auditorium in protest while some others tried to disrupt the performance. The basic compositional concept combines consciously driven steps with chance that remain in Kotiks focus today, although with many changes and refinements.
Is That Wool Hat My Hat? by Jackson Mac Low (1922-2004) is a sound poem for four performers composed in April 1980. It was inspired by an incident that took place at the Sound Poetry Festival, during which both Richard Kostelanetz and Mac Low wore similar wool hats. Kostelanetz lost his and Mac Low ended up holding it. When Kostelanetz saw his hat, he asked, “Is that wool hat my hat?” The rhythm and delivery of the question inspired Mac Low to compose the piece later that night in the manner that he often described as controlled chance. Jackson Mac Low was a sound poet and composer who participated in the avant-garde downtown New York scene from its start in the 1960s. Starting in the late 70s, Mac Low frequently performed his works with the S.E.M. Ensemble.
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble
Petr Kotik, Conductor
Roberta Michel, flute
Bohdan Hilash, clarinet
Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon
Thomas Verchot, trumpet
Chris Nappi, percussion
Conrad Harris, violin
Pauline Kim Harris, violin
Jessica McJunkins, violin
Liuh-Wen Ting, viola
William Hakim, viola
Caleb van der Swaagh, cello
Meaghan Burke, cello
James Ilgenfritz, bass
Hailed by The New York Times as “the best of what is left of the experimental tradition,” S.E.M. Ensemble was founded in 1970 when Petr Kotik gathered a group of musicians from the fellows at the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, SUNY/Buffalo. Since then, S.E.M. Ensemble has established itself as one of the most distinguished ensembles for new music in the U.S., maintaining a continuous schedule of concerts in New York, touring annually in Europe, and also performing in South America and Japan. SEM has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and Merkin Hall. Recent recordings, all on the Dog w/a Bone label (New York), include Morton Feldmans For Philip Guston (4-CD set), Petr Kotiks Many Many Women (3-CD set), Music by Marcel Duchamp (1 CD) and Spoken Music —a live performance recording with John Cage, Dick Higgins, Jackson Mac Low and others. Recent recordings of The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble are also available on Asphodel Ltd. (San Francisco) and Wergo (Mainz).
Momenta Quartet (Emilie-Anne Gendron and Alex Shiozaki, Violins, Stephanie Griffin, Viola and Michael Haas, Cello) is a New York City-based string quartet that focuses on the performance of contemporary music. Founded in 2004, Momenta Quartet is today one of the most distinguished American string quartets, with concerts and residencies throughout the United States and Europe. Momenta has premiered over 100 works and collaborated with more than 120 composers. Momenta Quartet will appear several times during its residency at Ostrava Days, including an evening-length program. Among the music performed by Momenta at OD will be works by Julián Carrillo, Petr Bakla, Alex Mincek, Petr Kotik, Martin Arnold, and new compositions by Ostrava Days resident-students.
This performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble is made possible with the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Spyder Institute Praha; The Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; Rackstraw Downes; Noni Pratt; Virginia Dwan; Raymond Learsy; Martina and Milos Forman; C. Andrew Reynolds; William and Priscilla Newbury; Julian Lethbridge. Special thanks to Czech Center New York, Paula Cooper, Mark di Suvero, Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and NYC Councilmember Stephen T. Levin.