Everything happens twice in Spam. The music constantly brings itself back, repeating ideas two times, always changing it the second time. In the beginning, the piano plays two whole steps a minor third apart (the other important element), two times. After the other instruments echo, the piece gradually unfolds, with the musical material always being played twice, and always being varied. For example, a minor third between the flute and clarinet may sound twice, back to back. The first chord might have flute playing the upper note, and then clarinet might play the higher note. This same music will reappear again in the next measure, this time with the instrumentalists role's reversed. The piano might double this music with single pitches of the very same minor third, the first time ascending, the second time descending. The opening "echo", which is nearly the same music happening twice but varied, turns into a raucous play between the piano and the other instruments in the middle of the work. This constant shift and play between everything happening twice continues until the very last measure of the piece.
Buskers was commissioned by Robert Aiken for performance on a new music concert in Toronto in 1986. Just at the time the commission came I was engaged in completing work on Patria 3: The Greatest Show, and decided to write the piece in such a way that it could be incorporated into that work with its outdoor carnival-like setting. Buskers is therefore suitable for indoor or outdoor performance; but since it is a theatre piece it must be memorized and the performers could benefit by working with a stage director.
The three buskers are Man (the violin), Life (the flute), and Death (the viola). They should be costumed to suggest the roles they are playing. Man wears a tattered tuxedo and a top hat; Life wears a green and springlike costume which may include leaves and flowers pinned to both it and the flute; Death wears tails and a skull mask. Each character has its own musical material but it will be observed that the material often circulates from one player to another, suggesting oscillation of forces between life and death with humanity at the centre.
The behavior of sound in space has concerned me for a long time and so I have made use of the change of tone quality which results when the performer actually moves the sound throughout space rather than relying exclusively on the theatrical convention of variation in dynamics.
–R. Murray Schafer
Coming Together is a quintessential Bermel work: humorous, gesture-based and demonstrating a keen ear for invoking the human voice. Commissioned by the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center and Merkin Hall for Bermel and Fred Sherry, this short duo consists entirely of glissandi. Says Bermel, "I wanted to write a piece without any straight pitches, one which relied solely on gestural development, yet which would still be convincing and emotional. " Bermel achieves this by specifying exactly where each pitch starts and ends and where each glissando occurs in time; this careful placement of tonal areas defines the structure and carries the piece forward.
The playing field is defined in the first gesture: a low cello moan-uhhhh. The cello catches the clarinet's attention with bold pizzicati, the clarinet squawks in protest, the cellist petulantly drops his bow and lets it bounce on the strings (col legno battuto). At first distant in pitch and gesture, the two partners slowly converge, moving closer in range and rhythmic intensity. They seem to unconsciously mimic each other. Intense stroking by the cello incites the clarinet to high shrieks. The intimacy becomes disarming, like enduring the sound of cats in heat in the yard next door or overhearing a frisky couple in an adjoining hotel room.
By the end, the instruments have indeed come together disparate lines have converged to a single point, and they groan in rhythmic unison. A husky-voiced clarinet produces a ripping multiphonic; dif ference tones emerge from the combined growl of the two instruments. The tryst ends with another col legno battuto.
Chamber Concerto #2 is written in homage to Charles Ives to whom one or two ideas can easily be traced. In the opening section two alternating ideas are the basis for the whole work: a series of five softly built up chords, and interweaving them, short (at first, very short) 'free', cadenza-like passages. In the latter, a method of writing is evolved which can give great rhythmic complexity, using relatively simple means.
The second section is a lively scherzo, interrupted by lyrical 'free' passages, and culminating in a virtuosic cadenza. One for the piano then leads to the slow third section where the alto flute and bass clarinet have important solos.
The fourth section is mainly dominated by another piano cadenza, and it is at this point that the viola enters impersonating Rollo (a character invented by Ives to represent the typical Victorian conservative). Rollo is a disruptive element, for his particular association of ideas is hardly in keeping with the general style of the piece! However the others interrupt him and introduce a Presto Misterioso (the fifth section). Again Rollo joins in. The others interrupt more vigorously, but this time Rollo's motive is not so easily forgotten. A cello cadenza leads to the sixth section where it is accompanied by tolling bell-like figures. Once more Rollo makes his comment. The others no longer interrupt, but during this last section obsessively repeat fragments from all of Rollo's themes; brief hints from the other sections are also woven into the texture making a wild climax. Then "like stepping from a crowded street into a quiet church" there is a sudden, soft, slow cadence.
My Enchanted Lake follows the evocative tone poem, Enchanted Lake-A Fairy Picture for Orchestra, Op. 62 by Anatoly Konstantinovich Lyadov (1855-1914), written in 1909. In the Lyadov score the phrase, "a century later", appears under the title. Now more than a hundred years later, I composed my Enchanted Lake hoping to capture the same magical space, the same magical forces found in the muted and subtle symphonic textures created by Lyadov. I wrote my piece without re-listening to Lyadov's work and the fairy-tale hero has now been altered by the passage of time.
– Dmitri Riabtsev
R. MURRAY SCHAFER, eminent Canadian composer, is known throughout the world. In an era of specialization, R. Murray Schafer has shown himself to be a true renaissance man.
Born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1933, Murray Schafer has won national and international acclaim not only for his achievement as a composer but also as an educator, environmentalist, literary scholar, visual artist and provocateur. After receiving a Licentiate in piano through the Royal Schools of Music (England) in 1952, he pursued further studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, followed by periods of autodidactic study in Austria and England which encompassed literature, philosophy, music and journalism. A prolific composer, he has written works ranging from orchestral compositions to choral music as well as musical theatre and multi-media ritual.
His diversity of interests is reflected by the enormous range and depth of such works as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Flute Concerto (1984), and the World Soundscape Project, as well as his 12-part Patria music theatre cycle. His most important book, The Tuning of the World (1977), documents the findings of his World Soundscape Project, which united the social, scientific and artistic aspects of sound and introduced the concept of acoustic ecology. The concept of soundscape unifies most of his musical and dramatic work, as well as his educational and cultural theories.
His other major books include E.T.A. Hoffmann and Music (1975), Ezra Pound and his Music (1977), On Canadian Music (1984), Voices of Tyranny: Temples of Silence (1993), and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education (1986). He has received commissions from numerous organizations as well as several prizes. He was the first winner of the Glenn Gould Prize for Music and Communication as well as the Molson Award for distinctive service to the arts.
DEREK BERMEL's musical passions can best be described as omnivorous. He is active as a composer of concert music, a classical clarinetist, conductor, jazz and rock keyboard player and vocalist, and music director of TONK, a Dutch-American ensemble whose performances meld poetry, music, visual arts, and dance. He has been awarded many of today's most important prizes, including a Guggenheim award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and residencies at Tanglewood, Banff, Yaddo, and the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.
Still in his early 30's, he has been hailed by colleagues, critics, and audiences across the globe for his creativity and theatricality as a composer of chamber, symphonic, dance, theater, and pop works, and his versatility and virtuosity as a clarinetist, conductor, and jazz and rock musician. He has received many of today's most important awards, including the 2001 Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, a Millennium Prize by Faber Music (UK), and several ASCAP Awards, as well as residencies at the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Tanglewood, Bowdoin, Banff, and Yaddo.
His hands-on experience with music of cultures around the world has become part of the fabric of Bermel's compositional language. He studied ethnomusicology and orchestration in Jerusalem, and later traveled to Bulgaria to study the Thracian folk style, Dublin to study uillean pipes, and Ghana to study the Lobi xylophone. Well-versed in the classical and jazz repertoire on clarinet and piano, he trained at Yale University and the University of Michigan, and later in Amsterdam, studying composition with William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, and Michael Tenzer.
Rich and powerful musical language and a strong sense of drama have made Scottish-American composer THEA MUSGRAVE one of the most respected and exciting contemporary composers in the Western world.
Her compositions were first performed under the auspices of the British Broadcasting Corporation and at the Edinburgh International Festival. Her works have been widely performed in Britain, Europe and the USA, and at the major music festivals. From time to time she conducts her own works, with major orchestras world-wide. It is a measure of her talent and determination that Thea Musgrave has earned great respect for her work both as a composer and conductor at a time when these were still rather uncommon professions for a woman.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 27 May 1928, she studied first at the University of Edinburgh and later at the Conservatoire in Paris. In 1974 she received the Koussevitzky Award, resulting in the composition of Space Play, which after its London premier was performed in New York by the Lincoln Center Chamber Players. She has also been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, in 1974-75, and again in 1982-83, several honorary degrees, and was awarded a C.B.E. on the Queen's New Year's Honour List in January 2002.
Musgrave has consistently explored new means of projecting essentially dramatic situations in her music, frequently altering and extending the conventional boundaries of instrumental performance by physicalizing their musical and dramatic impact. As she once put it, she wanted to explore dramatic musical forms.
With such a large and varied career and catalogue, Thea Musgrave is frequently interviewed and questioned about being a "woman" composer, to which she has replied; "Yes, I am a woman; and I am a composer. But rarely at the same time."
DMITRI RIABTSEV (b. 1969) is one of six Russian composers commissioned by the Da Capo Chamber Players for our Russian projects, in 2006. Riabtsev studied composition at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow (he finished his postgraduate studies in 1998). As a musician he has done a lot of different things: he was a pianist in jazz and quasi-folk styles, modern music (including taking part in Kyle Gann's opera when it was performed in Moscow); he has been a teacher in music school (composition, music theory), piano tune master, editor and proof-reader of music scores. He has made a lot of arrangements for jazz-ensembles, big-band orchestra, symphonic orchestra (including Orchestra of Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow), chamber orchestra (including Yuri Bashmet's orchestra), for orchestra of Russian instruments (including Ossipov Orchestra, Moscow). He worked a lot with some popular Russian singers (in pop, rock, jazz, Russian and gipsy folk styles). He is an author of music for dozens of theatre plays (mostly in Moscow, but also in Belgorod, Novosibirsk, Jaroslavl (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia)), for several films (including "IKON" by Greg Walsh (Seattle, 2002), music for TV shows, reklama-clips (?) and so on. He is facile with most important computer technologies. Several times he took part in writing music collectively (opera "Tzar' Demian", oratorium "Prelesta"). In his music Dmitriy Riabtsev combines different composer's techniques, but always tries to hide them deeply in the matter ("technique is not the goal"). For example in the piece for piano and string orchestra "...for Benjamin and Peter" there are three sections: Preludium (with complicated polyphonic development on a theme with unstable measure size), Fuga (of 4 voices that "just accompany" the expressive melody of the solo violin) and Variations on 24-tones theme ostinato. All together sounds like romantic or minimalistic piece, and as a result it is easy for non musicians to listen to this music (of course it isn't a goal - it is just a result). Dmitriy Riabtsev has taken part in festivals and his music was performed in Moscow, St. Peterburg, Novgorod, Novosibirsk; USA, Finland, Israel, Estonia and other venues.