28.8.2019, 20:30, BrickHouse, Hlubina Coal Mine
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Frederic Rzewski, Piano
Daan Vandewalle, Piano
Miroslav Beinhauer, Piano
Conrad Harris, Violin
Alvin Curran, Yemenite Kudu Horn
Petr Kotík: Spontano (for Frederic Rzewski; 1964)
Frederic Rzewski: Satires (2015)
Frederic Rzewski: 6 Movements (2019) *world premiere
Petr Bakla: No. 4 (2013)
Alvin Curran: Shofar Rags (2019) *world premiere
This concert is devoted to the music of Federic Rzewski, Alvin Curran and Petr Kotík, complemented by a composition by Petr Bakla. It could be noted that all four of these composers create music that is outside of the mainstream. Kotík and Rzewski met in the early 60s. Kotík composed Spontano for solo piano and 10 instruments around this time and dedicated it to Rzewski. This will be Rzewski’s first performance of the piece. Rzewski will also perform his piano composition 6 Movements, while his piece Satires will be performed by violinist Conrad Harris from New York, and pianist Daan Vadewalle from Gent. Curran and Rzewski met in Rome in the mid 60s in Rome as fellows of the American Academy in Rome. There, they formed the group Musica Elettronica Viva with mostly other fellows. Petr Bakla was added to the program as an example of a younger generation of musical outsider. The evening will conclude with a new work by Alvin Curran, who will perform on the Yemeni kudu horn with electronics.
Subject to change.
Petr Kotík (born in Prague in 1942) has been an independent composer and musician throughout his professional life. A flautist and conductor, he performs both his own music and works by composers whom he regards as relevant to his own musical concerns. Kotík’s activities have always been guided by his sense of contextual issues within today’s art and music. Kotík’s abilities as a performer have enabled him to realize projects often thought to be unrealistic. The projects Kotík has undertaken succeed partly thanks to his association with outstanding musicians. Kotík has founded and dircted many music groups (Musica viva Pragensis and QUaX Ensemble in Prague, the S.E.M. Ensemble and Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in New York, Ostravská banda and ONO Orchestra in Ostrava), and numerous projects (The festival of “Music of Extended Duration” in Prague, Ostrava Days, New Opera Days Ostrava, and Beyond Cage Festival in New York). Although Kotík can be identified as a self-taught composer, he studied composition privately in Prague with Vladimír Šrámek and mainly with Jan Rychlík (1960–1963), and later studied at the Akademie für Musik in Vienna with Karl Schiske and Hanns Jelinek (1963–1966). Since the early stages of his career, Kotík has been influenced by the ideas and concepts of John Cage and later by the texts of Gertrude Stein, R. Buckminster Fuller, and Ezra Pound. His work spans symphonic compositions, chamber works and opera. Kotík is the artistic director of Ostrava Center for New Music and lives and works in New York City and Ostrava.
After the completion of Music for 3 in Memorian Jan Rychlík in the Spring of 1964, I began composing Spontano; I finished the piece sometime in the summer, while on vacation in Prague from my studies in Vienna. Its austerity in terms of sound material was perhaps a reaction to Music for 3 where I utilized all the sonic possibilities for each instrument. At the time I had been planning a large-scale event in Prague, which was to involve also Frederic Rzewski, who was in Berlin on a DAAD grant. Spontanowas to be part of the event and the solo part was composed for Rzewski. The title makes a reference to the composition process, in which for the first time I spontaneously and intuitively altered the material after I had derived it from my compositional method. Up until Spontano, I had adhered strictly to this first method, from the point of making the concept to the resulting score.
Frederic Rzewski (1938) is among the major figures of the American musical avant-garde to emerge in the 1960s, and has been highly influential as a composer and performer. In 1966, he founded the famous ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV), with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum. MEV combined free improvisation with written music and electronics. These experimentations led directly to the creation of Rzewski’s first important compositions, pieces such as Les Moutons de Panurge, a so-called “process piece”, which combines elements of spontaneous improvisation with notated material and instructions. Rzewski’s “improv-classical hybrids” are some of the most successful of their kind to have been produced, thanks to the fervent energy at the core of his music. Rzewski‘s music is among the repertoire of pieces that define postwar American new music. He has consistently showcased the exuberant boyish pleasures of a composer like Aaron Copland within the rigorously experimental framework of a composer like John Cage. Often unapologetically tonal and fun, Rzewski’s music cuts right through the frequent churlishness of avant-garde music.
Six Movements was originally supposed to be Songs Without Words, until I realized this title belonged to Mendelssohn. Of course there are words in No. 1, but I won’t tell you what they were. No. 2 is based on the song This Little Light of Mine, and was written for the pianist Carl Patrick Bolleia. No. 3 is based on a famous nigun, the Nigun Shamil, by Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, around the time that Mendelssohn was writing his Songs Without Words. No. 4 also contains some references to Jewish themes, such as the song Yidl Mitn Fidl. No. 5 is indeed a song without words, with vocal nonsense sounds, perhaps evoking some Caucasian language such as Shamil may have spoken. It was inspired by my visit to the Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin, where I saw the famous bust of Nefertiti by the sculptor Thutmose. No. 6, written for the Serbian pianist Nataša Penezić, is simply “furious”.
Satires – There seems to be little, if any, agreement on what satire is. It seems to be best described by stating what it is not. It belongs to no particular category or style. It is neither poetry nor prose; neither art nor ordinary, vulgar speech; not serious, but not trivial either. It is a little like comedy, but is not necessarily funny. It is “realistic” in that it follows an impulsive logic like that of everyday life, in which anything can happen at any time. It is unpretentious, unlike “serious” art, but at the same time tries to be witty and entertaining. When successful, it is like a good conversation, spontaneous and unpremeditated, with no other purpose than to provide pleasure while also trying to be useful. If you look at Horace’s Satires, you can see he is both funny and serious at the same time… The titles of these Satires are self-explanatory, except for No. 4, Southern Breeze, which alludes to Abel Meeropol’s great song, made famous by Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit. No. 1, A Serious Business, is just what its title says, announcing that we are going to hear some music that is not to be taken lightly, haha! No. 2, One Damn Thing After Another, is a kind of footnote to Hegel’s Philosophy of History. The title of No. 3, Wig Bubble, is an expression that my old friend from the Living Theatre, Steve Ben Israel, used to use to describe ideas that came under the influence of hallucinogenic substances; it is probably taken from Lord Buckley, who was one of his heroes. No. 5, Life is a Riddle, is probably the most serious of them all. It may have some relation to Georges Perec’s novel La Vie Mode d’Emploi, which is, however, a masterpiece, while my piece is just a piddling thing. I’m not sure myself if I understand what it is or what it means, but if I did, it wouldn’t be a riddle, would it?
Born in Prague in 1980, Petr Bakla often employs basic pitch-based material (typically the chromatic and the whole-tone scales) in his compositions. He is interested in constructing situations and structural contexts in which these frugal musical elements can acquire a unique expressiveness and energy. A frequent feature of Bakla’s work is the simultaneous course of two musical/sound layers which, although usually markedly differing in dynamics to allow for a sense of “figure and background”, are not mutually subordinating – they are of equal importance, their “friction” creating specific tension and ambiguity. Bakla’s music has been performed in the Czech Republic, Armenia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Armenia, Ukraine, and the USA (Boston, NYC, San Diego), in many cases commissioned and/or performed by distinguished musicians. His collaboration with the Ostrava Center for New Music has been of special importance.
No. 4 (2013) was my fourth composition for solo piano, hence the title. It seemed to be somewhat of a culmination of things that I had been interested in and had been exploring at the time. Today, as I write this commentary exactly 6 years after its completion, I know that this was not quite true – No. 4came from somewhere and led to something else, it does not round off anything. Yet, I understand the feeling of heightened importance I ascribed to it even now (unperformed compositions hurt similarly to unsettled scores). Therefore, I am grateful to Miroslav Beinhauer forplunging into the study of the piece for its premiere performance.
Alvin Curran makes music with anything, anybody, anywhere, anytime and has been doing so since 1965 as co-founder of the group Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV), creator of the Maritime Ritesproject (music on and around water), radio-art work Crystal Psalms (live from 6 nations), composer of the 6 hour piano piece Inner Cities, installation artist for Floor Plan / Notes from Underground (Ars Electronica 1990), Gardening with John,A Banda Larga(2018, in the streets of the city of Bologna), and Omnia Fluvium Romam Ducunt (2018–2019, installation at the Baths of Caracalla) and through numerous collaborations with prominent composers, improvisers, dancers, and ensembles. To name a few: Cornelius Cardew, Joan La Barbara, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, Frederic Rzewski, Daan Vandewalle, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, etc., and has also collaborated with numerous brass bands, free-improvisers and radio-producers from ‘round the world.
SHOFAR, the musical,has a long history: it was first commissioned for the Musik der Zeit series of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne in 1990. SHOFARopened the festival with a bang and a scandal. Some Israeli composers present were outraged that I could use such a holy instrument outside of the prescribed conventions. Yet all I wanted to do was to blow my horn into a computer – conceptually fusing all time and space (how contemporary) – which commandeered an early MAX program to create accompanying structures (melodies, chords etc.) to the instruments measley range of only a few tones. It never occured to me that I was breaching rabbinical law… This is music, right? Hot existential lava, by definition beyond the Law, and an act as guiltless as planting rice…
This work has always begged for a definitive version – what I play here tonight, SHOFAR XXL,is close but as you see this piece was never thought to be a stand-alone reproduceable composition, but a lifelong project of continuing invention… Electronically, it has become a MAX/LIVE/KONTAKT invention of mine and Angelo Maria Farro, who for several years has been my most imaginative technical collaborator. The 5–8 pitch tones, spits and noises, which this primitive instrument can emit, are the simple limited inputs to an extremely complex system of “patches,” which ultimately transform these archaic sounds into layers and layers of stable and unstable long tones, clusters, warped and granulated structures, as well as sequential like improvisational melodies.