Program Notes

Contemporary Music Forum

Celebrating its 35th Season

Click here to link to the Verge Ensemble Website



2002-2003 SEASON


November 18, 2002

Phaedrus by Dan Welcher

Apollo's Lyre (Invocation and Hymn)

Dionysus' Dream-Orgy (Ritual Dance)

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1948, composer-conductor Dan Welcher has been gradually creating a body of compositions in almost every imaginable genre including opera, concerto, symphony, vocal literature, piano solos, and various kinds of chamber music. With over eighty works to his credit, Welcher is one of the most-played composers of his generation.

Dan Welcher first trained as a pianist and bassoonist, earning degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. He joined the Louisville Orchestra as its Principal Bassoonist in 1972, and remained there until 1978, concurrently teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. He joined the Artist Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1976, teaching bassoon and composition, and remained there for fourteen years. He accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Texas in 1978, creating the New Music Ensemble there and serving as Assistant Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1990. It was in Texas that his career as a conductor began to flourish, and he has led the premieres of more than 120 new works in a twenty-two year period. He now holds the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professorship in Composition at the School of Music at UT/Austin, teaching Composition and Orchestration, and serving as Director of the New Music Ensemble.

In 1990, Mr. Welcher was named Composer in Residence with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra through the Meet the Composer Orchestra Residencies Program. He wrote two works for the Symphony: a work for the children's concert series entitled Haleakala: How Maui Snared the Sun for narrator and orchestra, and an ambitious 38-minute Symphony No. 1. More recent works include Bright Wings: Valediction for Large Orchestra, commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and premiered in Dallas under the baton of Music Director Andrew Litton in March 1997, and Spumante, a festive overture commissioned by the Boston Pops, premiered in Symphony Hall on May 6, 1998 under Keith Lockhart. His works for symphonic wind ensemble, notably Zion (which won the ABA/Ostwald Prize in 1996) and Symphony No. 3 ("Shaker Life") have earned him new accolades in non-orchestral venues. His most recent orchestral works are Venti Di Mare: Fantasy-Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, commissioned by the Guggenheim Foundation for the Rochester Philharmonic and premiered in February 1999; JFK: The Voice of Peace, a 55-minute oratorio for chorus, orchestra, narrator, solo cello, and soloists, premiered in March 1999 by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston; and Zion, a 10-minute tone poem commissioned by the Utah Symphony, and premiered by that orchestra under Keith Lockhart in September 1999.

Dan Welcher has won numerous awards and prizes from institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation (a Fellowship in 1997), National Endowment for the Arts, The Reader’s Digest/Lila Wallace Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The Bellagio Center, the American Music Center, and ASCAP. His orchestral music has been performed by more than fifty orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony. Welcher lives in Bastrop, Texas.

Dan Welcher writes: I became interested in the work of Plato through my friend and collaborator, the writer and philosopher Paul Woodruff. Paul's new translation, with Alexander Nehamas, of the SYMPOSIUM gave me insights into ancient Greek ways of thinking about Love, Beauty, and Wisdom--and managed to keep the earthy, and often bawdy side of it all in full view. But their new translation of Plato's later dialogue PHAEDRUS went even further: the beauty of the speeches is breathtaking, and the discourse itself is enough to keep one awake at night.

Basically, the Great Speech of Socrates in the PHAEDRUS dialogue has to do with the place of Eros in the world, and with the conflict in the soul between fleshly pleasure and philosophic discovery. I will not attempt to encapsulate this brilliant discourse in a program note: suffice it to say that reading it gave rise to my two-sided work for clarinet, violin, and piano, PHAEDRUS. The first movement represents the Philosophic life, and is thus subtitled "Apollo's Lyre (Invocation and Hymn)". It begins with an unaccompanied melody for the clarinet, which (after a pair of harp-like flourishes for the piano, expands into an accompanied canon. The voices in the dialogue (clarinet and violin) follow each other by a prescribed number of beats, but the music is totally devoid of any meter at all. The piano, representing the lyre, accompanies this lyric love-feast with repeated "strummed" chords. The canon has three large sections, and ends with the violin echoing the unaccompanied clarinet invocation as the sound of the lyre fades.

The second movement, called "Dionysus' Dream-Orgy (Ritual Dance)" presents, after a brief introduction, another kind of unmetered music. Rather than long lyric flights of philosophic song, however, this time we hear a unison dance of unbridled energy and sensual transport. The piece soon forms itself into a loose arch form, with contrasting metered dance sections divided by the unison unmetered "orgy" tune. Midway through the movement, Apollo's melody returns from the first movement, but it is a temporary reminiscence. The orgiastic dance returns, reaches a climax, and ends with a stomping of feet.

While Plato asserts that a proper balance between lust and reason is necessary in all men, he (naturally) gives the nod to Philosophy as the better choice in which to live. Not so in my music: the two sides are meant to coexist and to complement each other. No sides are taken.

PHAEDRUS was commissioned for the Verdehr Trio by Michigan State University. It is dedicated to the Verdehr Trio with great affection and admiration.

Ten Preludes by Sofia Gubaidulina

Staccato - Legato

Legato - Staccato

Con Sordino - Senza Sordino


Sul Ponticello – Ordinario – Sul Tasto


Al Taco – Da Punta D’Arco

Arco – Pizzicato

Pizzicato – Arco

Senza Arco

Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chistopol in the Tatar Republic of the Soviet Union in 1931. After instruction in piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory, she studied composition with Nikolai Peiko at the Moscow Conservatory, pursuing graduate studies there under Vissarion Shebalin. Until 1992, she lived in Moscow. Since then, she has made her primary residence in Germany, outside Hamburg. Gubaidulina's compositional interests have been stimulated by the tactile exploration and improvisation with rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and ritual instruments collected by the "Astreia" ensemble, of which she was a co-founder, by the rapid absorption and personalization of contemporary Western musical technique, and by a deep-rooted belief in the mystical properties of music. Her uncompromising dedication to a singular vision did not endear her to the Soviet musical establishment, but her music was championed in Russia by a number of devoted performers including Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips, Mark Pekarsky, and Valery Popov. The determined advocacy of Gidon Kremer, dedicatee of Gubaidulina's masterly violin concerto, Offertorium, helped bring the composer to international attention in the early 1980s. Gubaidulina is the author of symphonic and choral works, two cello concerti, a viola concerto, four string quartets, a string trio, works for percussion ensemble, and many works for nonstandard instruments and distinctive combinations of instruments.

She has been the recipient of prestigious commissions from the Berlin, Helsinki, and Holland Festivals, the Library of Congress, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many other organizations and ensembles. Gubaidulina made her first visit to North America in 1987 as a guest of Louisville's "Sound Celebration." She has returned many times since as a featured composer of festivals — Boston's "Making Music Together" (1988), Vancouver's "New Music" (1991), Tanglewood (1997) — and for other performance milestones. Gubaidulina is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg. She has been the recipient of the Prix de Monaco (1987), the Premio Franco Abbiato (1991), the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis (1991), the Russian State Prize (1992), and the SpohrPreis (1995). Her most recent awards include the prestigious Praemium Imperiale in Japan (1998), the Sonning Prize in Denmark (1999), and the Polar Music Prize in Sweden (2002). Her music is now represented on compact disc generously; Gubaidulina has been honored twice with the coveted Koussevitzky International Recording Award. Major releases have appeared on the DG, Chandos, Philips, Sony Classical, BIS, and Berlin Classics labels. Gubaidulina's music is published in North America by G. Schirmer, Inc.

Vladimir Tonha, the cellist for whom she composed a number of her works, says that Gubaidulina "discloses the mystery of the sound as the enigma of the human soul." Ten Preludes for solo cello, written in 1974, began as a group of pedagogical exercises and developed into studies which explore and experiment with the various timbres, range, and technical possibilities of the instrument. Each piece focuses on a particular technique of bowing or plucking. Calum MacDonald, wrote in his review of a recent ECM recording of the Ten Preludes in the BBC Music Magazine: "these brillant, athematic, "experimerntal" studies in various techniques of cello-playing begin to sound like one of the instrument's great solo cycles, at times so mysteriously lyrical one sorrows that Pablo Casals did not live long enough to make their acquaintance."

The Stream Flows by Bright Sheng

Proclaimed "an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries," Bright Sheng received the coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship — the so-called "Genius Award" — in November 2001. "Sheng is a fresh voice in cross-cultural music," the Foundation Committee further noted. "He will continue to be an important leader in exploring and bridging musical traditions."

Indeed, the new millennium promises to be an exciting time for Sheng. Within the 21st century's first week, he had two world premieres: Nanking! Nanking!, an orchestral work honoring those who endured the atrocities of the Rape of Nanking, commissioned and premiered on 2 January 2000 by the NDR (North German Radio) Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach; and Red Silk Dance, a piano concerto premiered on January 6th by the commissioning Boston Symphony, with soloist Emanuel Ax and conductor Robert Spano. In May-June 2000, the Spoleto USA Festival presented 8 performances of a visually stunning production of The Silver River (1997; rev. 2000), Sheng's multi-cultural, music theater tale of star-crossed lovers, set to a libretto by David Henry Hwang. He currently is working on two major commissions, both scheduled to premiere in 2003: for the Santa Fe Opera, Madame Mao, based on the story of Mao's duplicitous wife and set to a libretto by the director Colin Graham; and a quadruple concerto for the New York Philharmonic, featuring soloists Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax.

In addition to composing, Sheng is an active conductor and pianist, and frequently serves as musical advisor to leading orchestras and festivals. Since 1998, Sheng has been Artistic Advisor to the highly regarded "Silk Road Project," an international program that identifies, archives, and interprets musical traditions of the Far Eastern trade routes. He currently is Artist-in-Residence with the Washington Performing Arts Society, and will be Director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center in July 2002. From 1992 to 1994, he was resident composer with the Seattle Symphony. While serving in the same capacity for the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1989-1992), Sheng wrote The Song of Majnun (1992), a one-act opera about ill-fated lovers, in collaboration with librettist Andrew Porter. Majnun has subsequently received five other productions nationwide and was recorded by the Houston Grand Opera on the Delos label.

Born in 6 December 1955 in Shanghai, China, Bright Sheng began piano studies with his mother at the age of four. During the "Cultural Revolution," he worked for seven years as a pianist and percussionist in a folk music and dance troupe in Qinghai Province near the Tibetan border, where he also studied and collected folk music. In 1978, when universities reopened, he was one of the first students accepted by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he earned his undergraduate degree in music composition. He moved to New York in l982 and received graduate degrees at Queens College (M.A.), and Columbia University (D.M.A.). Among his important teachers were Leonard Bernstein (composition and conducting), George Perle, Hugo Weisgall, Chou Wen-Chung, and Jack Beeson.

In addition to the MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and awards received in China and Europe, Sheng has received a number of prizes in the United States from: the National Endowment for the Arts; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Naumberg, Jerome, Koussevetzky, and Copland foundations; the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Kennedy Center, and Tanglewood Music Center. In 2001, he was the recipient of the Michigan Arts Award and received a Rachham fellowship from the University of Michigan. At the invitation of President Clinton, in 1999, Sheng received a special commission from the White House; the resulting Three Songs for Pipa and Cello was premiered there by soloists Wu Man and Yo-Yo Ma at a State Dinner honoring the Chinese Premiere Zhou Rongji.

Bright Sheng's music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc. His discography includes recordings on the Sony Classical, BIS, Delos, Koch International, New World, and Naxos labels. Since 1995, Sheng has been Professor of Music in composition at the University of Michigan.

The composer writes: "This work was commissioned by the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts, for Nai-Yuan Mu, who gave the premiere performance on October 20th, 1990 at the Jordan Hall of the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. This work is dedicated to my teacher Hugo Weisgall. The first part of ‘The Stream Flows" is based on a famous Chinese folk song from the southern part of China. The freshness and the richness of the tune deeply touched me when I first heard it. Since then I have used it as basic material in several of my works. Here I hope that the resemblance of the timbre and the tone quality of a female folk singer is evoked by the solo violin. The second part is a fast country dance based on a three-note motive.

The Stream Flows

The rising moon shines brightly

It reminds me of the love in the mountains.

Like the moon, you walk in the sky,

As the crystal stream flows down the


A clear breeze blows up the hill,

My love, do you hear I am calling you?

Souvenirs by Robert Beaser

Happy Face

Lily Monroe



Cindy Redux

Ground O

Robert Beaser has emerged as one of the most accomplished creative musicians of his generation. Since 1982, when the New York Times wrote that he possessed a "lyrical gift comparable to that of the late Samuel Barber", his music has won international acclaim for its balance between dramatic sweep and architectural clarity. He is often cited as an important figure among the "New Tonalists"—composers who are adopting new tonal grammar to their own uses--and through a wide range of media has established his own language as a synthesis of Western tradition and American Vernacular. His recent Opera "The Food of Love", with a libretto by Terrence McNally, is part of the Central Park Trilogy, which opened to worldwide critical accolades at Glimmerglass and New York City Opera. It was televised nationally on the PBS Great Performances series in January 2000 and received an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Classical music program". Beaser’s orchestral CD on London/Argo has garnered considerable attention prompting Gramophone magazine to call his music "Masterly…dazzlingly colorful, fearless of gesture…beautifully fashioned and ingeniously constructed". The Baltimore Sun writes "Beaser is one of this country’s huge composing talents, with a gift for vocal writing that is perhaps unequaled".

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1954, Beaser studied literature, political philosophy and music at Yale College, graduating summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1976. He went on to earn his Master of Music, M.M.A. and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yale School of Music. His principal composition teachers have included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Toru Takemitsu, Arnold Franchetti, Yehudi Wyner and Goffredo Petrassi. In addition, he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller, Arthur Weisberg and William Steinberg at Yale, and composition with Betsy Jolas on a Crofts Fellowship at Tanglewood in 1976. From 1978-1990 he served as co-Music Director and Conductor of the innovative contemporary chamber ensemble Musical Elements at the 92nd street Y, bringing premieres of over two hundred works to Manhattan. From 1988-1993 he was the Meet the Composer/Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and has served as the ACO’s artistic director until January 2001, when he when he assumed the role of Artistic Director. Since 1993, he has been Professor and Chairman of the Composition Department at the Juilliard School in New York.

Beaser’s compositions have earned him numerous awards and honors. At the age of 16, his first orchestral work was performed by the Greater Boston Youth Symphony under his own direction at Jordan Hall in Boston. In 1977 he became the youngest composer to win the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome. In 1986, Beaser’s widely heard Mountain Songs was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Composition. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Fulbright Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Charles Ives Scholarship, an ASCAP Composers Award, a Nonesuch Commission Award and a Barlow Commission. In 1995, when the American Academy of Arts and Letters honored him with their lifetime achievement award, the Academy Award in music they wrote: "His masterful orchestrations, clear-cut structures, and logical musical discourse reveal a musical imagination of rare creativity and sensitivity… and put him in the forefront of his generation of composers."

Beaser’s music has been performed and commissioned with regularity both in America and abroad. He has received major commissions from the New York Philharmonic (150th Anniversary Commission), the Chicago Symphony (Centennial Commission), the Saint Louis Symphony, The American Composers Orchestra, The Baltimore Symphony and Dawn Upshaw, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Brucknerhaus Orchestra Linz, The American Brass Quintet, Chanticleer, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, and WNET /Great Performances. Recent major orchestral performances have come from the Chicago, Saint Louis and Baltimore Symphonies, The Minnesota Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the Marine Band, the Vienna Radio Orchestra, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, The Krakow Philharmonic, the Dutch Radio Symphony, the Gelders Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic with James Galway, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, and the Rome Radio Symphony. His music has been performed frequently by such renowned artists as Renee Fleming, Paula Robison, Dennis Russell Davies, James Galway, Dawn Upshaw, Eliot Fisk, Lauren Flanigan, Bobby McDuffie, Leonard Slatkin and David Zinman.

His principal recorded works include The Seven Deadly Sins, Chorale Variations, and Piano Concerto (London/Argo), The Heavenly Feast (Milken Archives), Song of the Bells (New World Records), Notes on a Southern Sky (EMI-Electrola), Mountain Songs (Musicmasters, Koch, Gajo, Siemens, HM Records--Venezuela), Variations for flute and piano (Musicmasters, Koch), Psalm 119, psalm 150 (New World), The Seven Deadly Sins-piano version (Albany Records), Brass Quintet, (Summit Records), Landscape With Bells (Innova). He is recorded as a conductor of Musical Elements on the CRI label. In addition to his activities as a composer and conductor, Beaser has been a guest lecturer at a number of universities and festivals, and was the co-issue editor for the Contemporary Music Review issue entitled "The New Tonality". His music is published by European American Music Corporation.

The composer writes: Souvenirs, for piccolo and piano, was commissioned by the piccolo committee of the National Flute Association, and first performed at the NFA convention in August 2002 by Carole Bean and Jeffrey Watson. I collected the ideas for Souvenirs over the past several years and finally composed the work in earnest during the summer and fall of 2001. Early in the process I understood that I wanted to write a work which continued in the path of my Mountain Songs for flute and guitar (1985)—one which explored folk elements reformatted in one way or another. In the earlier work I explicitly took extant and sometimes well-known Appalachian tunes and processed them through reinvented harmonies, materials and architectures. Souvenirs comes from more disparate sources, including Mountain Songs itself (Cindy Redux being a piano version of Cindy). Three of the six songs are completely original, two are based on folk tunes, and one is a trope on a Lorca transcription of a Spanish folk song (The Four Mules) --discovered, lost and re-remembered. The piece’s title expresses a collection of found objects that relate to each other not so much by their source or thematic unity, but largely by their attitude.

The opening Happy Face uses only the white keys of the piano. This was rather hard to do, given that I am prone to use more chromatic alterations, and fun because I got to be a seven-year-old again for a brief time. It was the last song composed in the cycle (I wrote it upon returning from Rome in July 2002), and is as light as zabaglione. Lily Monroe is based on the eponymous folk song and is treated in a Mountain Song-like fashion: strophic, alternating between light and shadow, with an implied arch form, becoming increasingly schizophrenic and finally collapsing under its own hubris. I found the tune in the extraordinary Alan Lomax collection "Folk Songs of North America"—one of my bibles. Y2K has actually nothing to do with the Millennium. It is an original Vocalise, a song without words, dedicated to a friend. I sketched it a few years back, but couldn’t find a context for it. When I finally understood how it fit in Souvenirs I was able to finish it. Spain comes from the Federico Garcia Lorca fragment based on a Spanish song "Los cuatro muleros". I was given this by the guitarist Eliot Fisk; it sat in my studio for a while and promptly disappeared. I kept trying to remember it, but, as any composer does, I kept re-imagining it differently according to my whim. The process of re-inventing allowed me to turn it into something rich and strange---until it became the longest of the six movements and the centerpiece of the work. Spain is followed jarringly without warning by Cindy Redux-- which is about as far removed from it as Granada is from Apalachicola. I had always been told that I should make a piano transcription of Cindy, (once even a reviewer from the New York Times predicted cheerfully that I could make a lot of money if I only would transcribe it). So finally I made the transcription (so far no money). Ground O (the letter O, not zero) was composed in October of 2001. It is simply impossible for anyone not to have been profoundly affected by the events of the prior month. As we all hobbled around trying to make sense of it all, many of us resorted to the only thing we knew how to do. I was, to say the least, uneasy about referring literally to the event and for the longest time left the song hanging with temporary working titles. Yet as time receded and spun its magic, I began to accept things more for what they were. And so sometime later I came to accept the present title, albeit slightly skewed, for what it was as well.


March 17, 2003

from the edge’s loom by Patrick Long

Patrick Long is a summa cum laude graduate of Syracuse University. He received both his Masters and Doctoral degrees in composition from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He has received commissions and performances by diverse artists and ensembles, including marimba soloist Andrew Harnsberger, Ned Corman of the Commission Project, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Percussion Ensemble, the Timaeus Chamber Ensemble, the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Dance Department, the Eastman School of Music and the Air de Cour Ensemble. An active percussionist as well as a composer, his current work centers around the creation and performance of music involving live electronics and improvisation.  He has performed these live electronic compositions in many venues, both as a soloist, and as a member of the Timaeus Chamber Ensemble. He has taught at the Eastman School of Music, the Syracuse University Setnor School of Music, and Susquehanna University, where he is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition, Music Technology and Music Theory. His scores and recordings are available for download from his website:
Mr. Long writes: The title of this tapestry-like piece pays homage to the venerable rock guitarist known as "The Edge".  I've always been captivated by the way the he uses rhythmic echoes to create complex and driving sonic textures, and this is what I've tried to do in this composition.

Peace Streams by Paras Kaul

Paras Kaul is a neural artist/researcher, multimedia composer, web coordinator, and educator at George Mason University. She began her art career as a photographer which experience provided a natural transition to digital graphics and animation. After completing undergraduate and graduate course studies in photography, she began MFA studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she completed a graduate program in computer graphics and animation.

While in Chicago she worked as an Apprentice Artist at Real Time Design and after graduation worked for Jeff Kleiser at Digital Effects, Inc in New York City followed by an Artist-in-Residence position at Omnibus, Inc. at Paramount Studios.

She has taught computer graphics at California State University, Los Angeles and presented lectures at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. In 1997 she became an Assistant Professor in a graduate program in Electronic Visualization at Mississippi State University (MSU). While there she studied composition with Dr. Mark Applebaum and the two collaborated on the first brain wave music composition, "That Brain Wave Chick." In 1998 they performed this composition at the Walker Art Center and in 2001 she produced a brain wave multimedia composition, "Streaming Consciousness," which was presented at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

She is currently on the faculty of George Mason University, where she teaches multimedia in the Art and Visual Technology Department, is a Coordinator for the university’s web site, Vice President of the Mac Users Group at Mason, a former Co-Chair of the DC Chapter of SIGGRAPH, and a member of the DC Chapter of the American Composer’s Forum. Kaul studies music composition with CMF Acting Chair and composer Steve Antosca at George Mason and he is the technical director for the audio in her latest brain wave multimedia composition, "Peace Streams."

Ms. Kaul writes: "Peace Streams" is a brain wave multimedia composition that addresses peace and war while questioning the twist of fate that selects one person and not another for misfortune in life. The audio includes original poetry, brain wave music, and drumming on hand made drums. The audio also includes trance tracks, which are healing visualizations spoken by a psychic healer. The composition is dedicated to Kaul's cousin, burn victim from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Seventy-seven percent of her cousin’s body was burned, and she was the next to the last person to leave the Cornell burn center.

The psychic healer was also a burn victim from an accident unrelated to September 11. Since his past mirrors Kaul's cousin's recent experience, a synergistic relationship exists between them on subtle levels. Kaul believes the psychic's words, woven into the healing visualizations, have had a healing effect on her cousin, who survived from a 10% chance for survival.

The primary music tracks were generated from Kaul's neural activity. Her brain wave signaling was input to the computer via IBVA, an Interactive Brain Wave Visual Analyzer system interface to the computer. The neural data, converted by a fast fourier algorithm, was output from the computer through a midi translator box to midi data, which was then input to a Roland keyboard synthesizer where it was produced as brain wave music. Several of these music tracks were produced during the healing session with the psychic. As a result, these tracks were influenced by special frequencies evoked in Kaul's brain wave activity during the recording session.

The brain wave tracks were output from the synthesizer to DigiDesign’s Pro Tools where they were output as Sound Designer files. These files, the poetry files, trance tracks, and drumming files were then input to Mark of the Unicorn’s Digital Performer where they were composed for the final audio composition.

While this multimedia composition was inspired by an event that occurred on September 11, 2001, its theme is universal and, therefore, not limited to the events of that day. The intent was to call attention to the need for peace and to produce a brain wave multimedia composition with the potential of evoking subtle healing processes in the body.

The animation combines layers of digital video, which include the eyes of the psychic layered with brief glimpses of Kaul’s cousin on video, taken by CNN when she left the burn center on January 29, 2002. Additional layers include nature scenes and a computer animation of fire and chaos. The layers from nature coupled with the fire and chaos layers, were intended to appear as images in the psychic's mind, juxtaposing the fear of fire with the healing spirit of nature.

Peace Streams premiered at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, August 2002.

Ayehli by Alexandra Gardner

Composer and sound artist Alexandra Gardner creates music for performance and concert settings, dance, video, radio and installations. She works with acoustic instruments, environmental field recordings and digital processing to create sonically rich landscapes of shifting rhythms and slowly unfolding aural textures. Currently Gardner is the recipient of the 2002-2003 Vassar College Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts, and is spending the year in Spain where she is also a visiting composer at Barcelona’s IUA/Phonos Foundation. She studied musical composition at Vassar College (BA ’90), the California Institute of the Arts, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music (MM ’97). Her teachers and mentors have included Annea Lockwood, Ronald Caltabiano, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, Bernard Rands, John Harbison, Augusta Read Thomas and Chen Yi.

Her compositions have been featured throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia at festivals and performance spaces including the Aspen Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Akiyoshidai International Art Village, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Joyce SOHO, Dance Place, the Florida and Santa Fe Electronic Music Festivals, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Kennedy Center. She has received honors and awards from Meet the Composer, the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, the Mid-American Arts Alliance, the MacDowell Colony and the Maryland State Arts Council and has been commissioned by groups such as the SOLI Chamber Ensemble, CrossSound Music Festival, and the Smithsonian Institution.

She has conducted residencies at the Aspen Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and the MacDowell Colony, and has been a visiting composer at Vassar College, George Washington University, the University of Virginia and the University of Utah. Also active in the recording industry, Gardner spent the past two years as the sound engineer for the radio documentary series Soundprint, which airs weekly across the U.S. on National Public Radio.

Video IV by Fred Weck

Frederick Weck began his musical career as a trombonist where his main interest was jazz and improvisation. His interest in composition was pursued at the Catholic university of America where he studied with Russell Woollen and Conrad Bernier.  He also studied composition with Nadia Boulanger, electronic music with Emerson Myers, multi-media communications at the Germain School of Photography in New York, film-making and digital video at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, and attended workshops in computer music at MIT and in electronic music at the University
of Chicago.  In the 1960s Mr. Weck served as musical director of the American Choreographers Workshop in New York.  his works, which often combine electronic music and film or video with choral or instrumental ensembles, have been performed extensively in Washington as well as throughout the United States and Europe. His awards include the Hans
Kindler Foundation Award in Composition and the Shenandoah Conservatory Medal of Excellence.

Video IV (9 1/2 minutes) is one of a series of pieces that explores the elements of color, shape, form and motion.  Each video in the series is more complex than its predecessors. Video IV is a compilation of video and audio materials from the first three.  Using these materials the images were generated in Adobe Premier using transitions, filters, and multiple layers. The audio portion was made using both analog and digital synthesizers.

for two by Steve Antosca

for two was composed in 1982 for any two performers and emphasizes aleatoric techniques and the use of musical gestures. Performers are to supply the appropriate clefs for their instrument and may use several clefs during the performance of the piece. In many instances, actual pitches are not supplied, only suggested by arrows up and down and by the shape of the line of successive arrows, aided by the use of accidentals. These techniques assure that the results of each performance will vary as to the timbres of the pair of instruments, the actual pitches and the counterpoint between the instruments. But most importantly, no matter what the instrumentation, the shape of the melodic line and the musical gestures remain the same.

for two was revised in 1999 for a performance by Washington, DC jazz saxophone player Peter Fraize to include an improvisation section. Just before the section in the score marked Cantabile, one or both players launch into an improvisation on themes presented up to that point in the piece and end the improvisation with a portent on the theme which opens the Cantabile section and concludes the performance.

This revision of the score was prompted by both Peter’s extraordinary improvisation skills and a desire to add to the improvisatory and aleatoric nature of the composition. Although precisely scored in its structure and musical gestures, for two included such performance practices as indeterminate clefs and non-specific pitches and rhythms. The improvisation section enhances the overall feeling of free play in the composition, and allows the composition to be fresh each time it is performed and demonstrates a desire by the composer to allow performers some control in the determination of the final performance of the composition.

The version of for two that you are hearing tonight was recently presented at the Gaudeamus Festival in the Netherlands by Lina Bahn and Collin Oldham. In addition to the improvisation duet they have created, both performers use instrument pick-ups and their output is run through an FX processor for real-time processing.


April 28, 2003

assages by John C. Ross

A native of New Jersey, John C. Ross received training in composition at Florida State University and the University of Iowa; his principal teachers were John Boda and D. Martin Jenni. Thanks to a Fulbright grant, he has also studied with Philippe Manoury in Lyon, France. His music has been performed at the Society of Composers, Inc. National Forums, several university music schools, and in France. His awards include the first Abraham Frost Prize from the University of Miami, several ASCAP awards (including a young composer grant), a summer residency at Yaddo, and the 2002 Rudolf Nissim Award. After a Line By Theodore Roethke, a work for soprano and orchestra, was one of three works chosen for the Sixth International Composer Readings by the Riverside Orchestra of New York City and was performed at the Mid-American Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University. His music is published by Cimarron Music and by himself. Encore, a work for cello and piano, is recorded on Innova and After a Line will be released in 2003 on Albany Records. Currently, Ross teaches aural skills, theory and composition at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Ross writes: Passages contains music taken from my ballet Requiem (1998) which was written for cello and percussion, at the request of the choreographer, Cindy Gratz. The ballet’s story was based on the life of the choreographer’s brother who had died suddenly. In telling his story, I sensed from her the need to redeem his memory from the chaotic swirl of associations that came to mind when she thought of him. And the need to say farewell. In Passages, I wanted to express similar themes, but without a specific story.

Each of us has the need for redemption and, all too often, to say farewell to a loved one. And during war time, these needs become unusually acute. In Passages, I use two small motives that become transformed as they are presented first in one context, then another. The violence of the opening and middle sections of the piece give way to a more tranquil final section. I think of these motives as a part of us, and how we pass through phases of our lives whose character is always changing. I believe that something good will come from this process.

Skye Lines by Bruce Mahin

Bruce P. Mahin is a Professor of Music, and Director of the Radford University Center for Music Technology. He received the B.Mus from West Virginia University, M.Mus from Northwestern University and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University. Mahin is a former president of the Southeastern Composers League, a former co-chair of Society of Composers Region 3, a research fellow at the University of Glasgow (Scotland), and the recipient of awards from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Meet the Composer, Annapolis Fine Arts Foundation, Res Musica, Southeastern Composers League and others. His works are available on compact disc through Capstone Recordings (CPS-8624 and CPS-8611) and published in score by Pioneer Percussion, Ltd. and in the Society of Composers Journal of Musical Scores.

Mahin writes: This piece takes its name and inspiration from the Isle of Skye, located near the western coast of Scotland. The beautiful but rugged island presents the visitor with a contrast of geological formations battered by centuries of prevailing ocean winds and sea currents. Formally, the piece is based on sections consisting of slowly changing, sustained timbres (multiphonics, bowed marimba) interrupted by rapid undercurrents of "noisy" percussive timbres which contrast with sections where rapid rhythmic motives are combined in intricate counterpoint based on the work’s pitch material. Forward motion is achieved partly through recurring timbral patterns progressing from darker to lighter timbres. The progression often features a pitch component which gradually emerges from a "pitch-less" texture.Beloved, Thou Hast Brought Me Many Flowers by Libby Larsen

Libby Larsen is one of America’s most prolific and most performed living composers. Her music has been commissioned and premiered internationally by major artists and orchestras and is prized for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Larsen’s love of the sounds and rhythms of language—both musical and verbal—prevails in her diverse catalogue of works that speak the American vernacular. Her titles encompass orchestra, dance, choral, opera, theater, chamber and solo repertory. Her commissions, honors, and awards are numerous, including multiple commissions from the King’s Singers and Benita Valente, and a 1994 Grammy as producer for the CD The Art of Arleen Auger, and acclaimed recording that features Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. She was celebrated in USA Today as "the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively."

Larsen writes: This group of six songs for mezzo-soprano, piano and cello began with Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem "Liebeslied" and grew into a cycle of songs about mature love, music, nature, and flowers. The piece was commissioned by Hella Mears Hueg and presented to her husband Bill Hueg for his 70th birthday in 1994. The title song, from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, opens the group, and is followed by an English translation of Rilke’s "Liebeslied," scored simply for mezzo-soprano and cello, as if in conversation. "Do you know" is another translated love poem by Rilke. ‘White world" is accompanied by piano alone, played entirely on white keys. Completing this cycle are Shelley’s "Music, when soft voices die" and another Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, "Go from me," both of which trace a mature, loving relationship between two people.

Duo for Piano and Percussion by Anthony D. Villa

Anthony Villa, composer and pianist, received his D.M.A. in composition from the University of Maryland, where he studied composition with Lawrence Moss.  His chamber music includes works for a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations, from works for solo performer and electronic instruments to those for chamber orchestra.  The Washington Post has praised his Quartet as "the rare piece that sounds fresh while hinting at the near past" and his Two Songs as "deserv[ing] a lasting place in the musical firmament."  Villa is also active as a jazz pianist and composer currently with Jazz Caravan, a Baltimore-based sextet.  Since 1984, he has been on the faculty of Loyola College in Maryland, where he is a Professor and Director of Music and Chair of the Department of Fine Arts, teaching theory and composition and directing the jazz program.  Villa has been a composer-member of the Contemporary Music Forum since 1991. His music is available through Ardito Music (ASCAP).

Villa writes: Duo for Piano and Percussion explores the interplay between two percussive instruments. The first three movements of this work feature the piano and vibraphone, both of which are capable of producing harmony and strong melodic lines. The final movement adds congas and thus the most definitive rhythmic statements of the piece. While each movement develops its musical material in its own way, all movements share a common harmonic/melodic vocabulary.

Movement I, entitled "catch" recalls the playful nature of that 17th century canonical musical form (although the movement is not strictly imitative). The sparse opening steadily gives way to more energetic rhythms featuring independent yet intertwined melodic lines. Movement II is moderate in tempo and darker in mood. While the opening emphasizes texture and color, momentum builds until a soft flurry of motion ushers in a more rhythmic section just before the subdued closing measures. Movement III, marked "without a strong pulse" employs delicate melodic lines that play freely against each other. Except at cadences and during the concluding section, a precise lining up of the notes in the two instruments is neither required nor desired. The final movement, marked "rhythmically" is bolder than preceding movements and is the only one to use congas. The ABA structure opens with an animated dialogue between piano and congas followed by a brief, more lyrical middle section in which the piano figures prominently. The accented rhythms of the opening return to end the movement.

2001-2002 SEASON


October 25, 2001

Welcome to the opening concert of the Contemporary Music Forum’s 28th season of chamber music performances. We hope that you will enjoy tonight’s performance and that you will consider a subscription to our 2001-02 series. This year’s programs will feature humor in music, Washington composers, electronics, and the premiere of a new work written especially for the CMF ensemble.

Notes on the Program

Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985) by John Corigliano

Commissioned for the seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition John Corigliano (b.1938 in New York) comes from a musical family. His father was concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1943 to 1966 and his mother is an accomplished pianist. Corigliano holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New York and, in 1991, was named to the faculty of the Juilliard School. Also in 1991 he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, an organization of 250 of America's most prominent artists, sculptors, architects, writers, and composers. Mr. Corigliano, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 2, is internationally celebrated as one of the leading composers of his generation. In orchestral, chamber, opera, and film work he has won global acclaim for his highly expressive and compelling compositions as well as his kaleidoscopic, ever-expanding technique. In March 2000 he won the Academy Award for "The Red Violin," his third film score. He was the second classical composer, after Aaron Copland, to be so honored. Mr. Corigliano’s first film score, for "Altered States," was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981. In May 2001 the American Ballet Theatre unveiled a new ballet set to an expanded version of Mr. Corigliano’s flute concerto, Pied Piper Fantasy. Other recent works include A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, a "memory play in the form of an oratorio." Leonard Slatkin led the work’s 1999 premiere with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and on tour at Carnegie Hall. The NSO in 1997 won its first Grammy award for its BMG Classics release of Corigliano’s Of Rage and Remembrance and Symphony No. 1.Mr. Corigliano writes of this work:Fantasia on an Ostinato is based on a famous repetitive passage by Ludwig van Beethoven (Symphony No. 7, second movement). That music is unique in Beethoven’s output because of a relentless ostinato that continues, unvaried except for a long crescendo and added accompanimental voices, for over four minutes. Beethoven’s near-minimalist use of his material and my own desire to write a piece in which the performer is responsible for decisions concerning the durations of repeated patterns led to my first experiment in so-called minimalist techniques. I approached this task with mixed feelings about the contemporary phenomenon known as minimalism, for while I admire its emphasis on attractive textures and its occasional ability to achieve a hypnotic quality (not unlike some late Beethoven), I do not care for its excessive repetition, its lack of architecture, and its overall emotional sterility.In Fantasia on an Ostinato, I attempted to combine the attractive aspects of minimalism with convincing structure and emotional expression. My method was to parallel the binary form of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony ostinato by dividing the fantasia into two parts. The first explores the rhythmic elements of the ostinato as well as the harmonic implications of its first half. The second part develops and extends the ostinato’s second half, transforming its pungent major-minor descent into a chain of harmonies over which a series of patterns grows continually more ornate. This climaxes in a return of the obsessive Beethoven rhythm and, finally, the appearance of the Beethoven theme itself.

Trio by Helmut Braunlich

Helmut Braunlich was born in 1929 in Bruenn (Moravia). He received his formal musical education at the Mozarteum in Salzburg where he studied violin with Christa Richter-Steiner, composition with Egon Kornauth, and music history with Eberhard Preussner. After his immigration to the U.S. (1951) he played with various professional orchestras and became a member of the U.S. Air Force Symphony Orchestra. The Korean G.I. Bill permitted him to pursue further studies in composition with Thaddeus Jones and Leon Kirchner. He also acquired a Ph.D. in musicology from the Catholic University of America. He has appeared as concert master, recitalist, and first violinist of the Jefferson Quartet. He contributed greatly to the development of the Contemporary Music Forum, having been a composer and performer member of the organization since its earliest years. Compositions by Helmut Braunlich have been commissioned by a variety of organizations such as The Contemporary Music Forum, The Montgomery County Youth Symphony Orchestra, The Catholic University Wind Ensemble, and the Friday Morning Music Club Foundation. In 1989 the government of Bavaria awarded him the Sudetendeutscher Kulturpreis in composition. Since then, his orchestral works have been performed in Stuttgart and Regensburg.In 1999 Dr. Braunlich retired as head of the Composition Department of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of America. He continues to teach a limited number of composition students and, besides composing, pursues various projects in research and performance. His recordings are available on Educo Records, Opus One Records, and Centaur Compact Disc.

The Horse with the Lavender Eye – Episodes for violin, clarinet, and piano (1997) by Stephen Hartke Commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Stephen Hartke was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1952, and grew up in Manhattan. Hailed by Paul Griffiths recently in the New York Times as one of America's "Young Lions," Hartke's music reflects the diversity of his musical background, from medieval and Renaissance polyphony, of which he was once quite an active performer, to very personal syntheses of diverse elements from non-Western and popular music. Since settling in California in the 1980s, his music, both chamber and orchestral, has come to circulate widely. He has enjoyed commissions from such groups as the National Symphony Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He recently received a grant from the Institute for American Music (based at the Eastman School of Music) to compose a percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie. Orchestral performances include those by the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, and the Moscow State Philharmonic. Hartke has received awards from the American Academy in Rome, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the ASCAP Foundation, among others. Much of his music is available on CD on CRI, ECM New Series, EMI Classics, and New World Records. Stephen Hartke lives in Glendale, California, with his wife, Lisa Stidham, and young son, Sandy, and is Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California.Mr. Hartke writes of his work:I've always been fascinated by non-sequiturs, and the way that sense can suddenly appear out of nonsense. I also find imagery derived from words and pictures to be a great stimulus to my musical thinking, even if the relationships between the images I seize upon are not necessarily obvious or logical. The sources for the titles of this trio are quite disparate, ranging from Carlo Goldoni to Japanese court music to the cartoonist R. Crumb, as well as 19th century Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis and Looney Tunes. A bewildering array of references, to be sure, but one that somehow whets my musical appetite. Here are examples of just how: the ancient Japanese court, borrowing from the Chinese, was divided into left and right sides with ministries and music specific to each. The image of this official Music of the Left, suggested, first, the rather ceremonial character of my trio's first movement, and also its technical quirk: all three instruments are to be played by the left hand alone. In the second movement, the title of Carlo Goldoni's play, The Servant of Two Masters, seemed to me an apt description of the performance dynamic involved in this particular combination of instruments, where the piano, in somewhat of a frenzy, serves alternately as the accompaniment to the clarinet while the violin clamors for attention, and vice versa. The third movement was suggested by a very short chapter in Machado de Assis' novel Dom Casmurro wherein the narrator, observing that his story seems to be waltzing at the abyss of final catastrophe, seeks to reassure his reader (falsely, as it turns out) by saying: "Don't worry, dear, I'll wheel about." For the finale, I had in mind a panel from one of R. Crumb's underground comics of the late 60s showing a character dashing about in an apocalyptic frenzy, shouting, among other things, "Cancel my rumba lesson!" The connective thread of all these images began to dawn on me only in the midst of composing the work: all the movements have to do in one way or another with a sense of being off-balance -- playing music with only one side of the body; being caught between insistent and conflicting demands; dancing dangerously close to a precipice, and only narrowly avoiding tumbling in; and, finally, not really being able to dance the rumba at all. Nonetheless, in the very end (the rumba lesson having been canceled, I suppose), a sense of calm and equilibrium comes to prevail.

Sonata for Solo Violoncello (1955) by George Crumb

When George Crumb appeared on the American musical scene in the 1970s, he seemed the composer many had been waiting for. In an age when complex, dissonant, cerebral works were everywhere, Crumb offered a dark brooding Romanticism and an unparalleled sensitivity to sound. He spoke of the power and expressiveness of music: "I believe that music surpasses even language in its power to mirror the innermost recesses of the human soul." His Ancient Voices of Children and Black Angels reached out to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. His scores were themselves visual works of art, with staves often swirling in circles and spirals. Crumb, a quiet, reticent man from West Virginia, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, had demonstrated a unique voice. Of course Crumb had been composing for many years prior to his successes of the 1970s and beyond. But it was only in the mid-1950s, after studying with Ross Lee Finney in Michigan and a year in Berlin, that he felt his compositions had reached a level to allow them to remain in the repertoire. The Sonata for Solo Violoncello is one of the first such pieces. Composed in Berlin and completed on return to Ann Arbor, Michigan to complete his doctorate, it is reminiscent of both Romanticism and Bela Bartok. The Sonata is in three movements, a fantasia, a set of variations, and a toccata. Crumb's sensitivity to sonority is evident in the opening of the first movement, where he juxtaposes dissonant, pizzicato chords in the bass with a haunting theme in the middle register of the cello. The theme is built around descending minor thirds. The movement intensifies to a climax in the middle on a series of harmonic sixths, after which the original theme and chords return, and the movement ends softly. The second movement is a set of variations on a Siciliano, a pastoral theme in flowing compound meter. The third and final variation (before a coda) is slower and more passionate. The final movement, a toccata, is based on a triadic theme, in which ascending C minor and A-flat major triads are mirrored by descending B minor and E-flat major triads. In the middle Crumb reprises the principal theme from the first movement, only here with a much faster and more energetic character. -Michael Broyles

Double Ikat (1988-90) by Paul Dresher

Paul Dresher is an internationally active composer noted for his ability to integrate diverse musical influences into his own personal style. He pursues many forms of musical expression including experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral composition, live instrumental electro-acoustic chamber music performances, musical instrument invention and scores for theater, dance, and film. He has received commissions from the Library of Congress, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Kronos Quartet among others. He has performed or had his works performed in North America, Asia and Europe. Venues have included the Munich State Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the Festival d'Automne in Paris. His evening-length collaboration with choreographer Margaret Jenkins, THE GATES, premiered at Jacob's Pillow and opened the 1994 Serious Fun Festival at Lincoln Center. His most recent projects include a collaboration with former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud on his cello concerto Unequal Distemperament and the music theater work Sound Stage, for which Dresher designed and constructed a stage full of large-scale invented musical instruments.Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Dresher received his BA in Music from the University of California at Berkeley and his M.A. in Composition from the University of California at San Diego where he studied with Robert Erickson, Roger Reynolds, Pauline Oliveros and Bernard Rands. He has had a long time interest in the music of Asia and Africa, studying Ghanaian drumming, Hindustani, Balinese and Javanese music. Recordings of his works are available on the Lovely Music, New World (with Ned Rothenberg), CRI, Music and Arts, O.O. Discs, BMG/Catalyst, MinMax, Starkland and New Albion labels.Mr. Dresher writes of his work, Double Ikat:For several years, percussionist William Winant had been pestering me to write a piece for a trio of Bay Area musicians he was working with, but while interested in theory, I was preoccupied with my work in music theater and it wasn't until I saw the Trio perform Lou Harrison's Varied Trio at his 70th birthday concert that I was truly inspired to create a work for Willie, David Abel and Julie Steinberg. The opportunity came in 1988 when I was commissioned by choreographer Brenda Way and her company ODC San Francisco to compose a score for their new work, Loose the Thread, whose imagery was based on material drawn from the lives of the people in the Bloomsbury Group. I took the opportunity to compose a work for both the dance and the trio. The version that resulted took its form largely from the dance and so in 1989, I took the material from that work and recomposed and edited it into an entirely different form, strictly as a concert work. The title refers to a style of weaving common in South East Asia in which both the threads of the warp and weave are dyed to create the pattern or image. For me, the title thus relates to the interrelationships of the three instruments and to the title of the choreographic work from which it sprang. I wish to thank Brenda Way for creating much of the atmosphere which infuses the work; Lou Harrison for providing the inspiration to create my most blatantly lyrical work to date; and Willie, Julie, and David for working closely with me throughout the composition, rehearsal, and revision of the piece. The last section of Part Two of the work, with the extended slow violin melody, is an homage to North Indian sitarist Nikhil Banerjee, one of the finest musicians of this century, with whom I had the honor of studying for several years and who died at far too early an age in 1986.


December 13, 2001

Welcome to the second concert of the Contemporary Music Forum’s 28th season of chamber music performances. We hope that you will enjoy tonight’s performance, which will include humor, a bit of jazz, rags, and more. Subscriptions to our 2001-02 series are still available. Join us on February 28, 2002 for our next concert, which will feature the work of Washington area composers.

Notes on the Program

Three Ghost Rags (1970-1971) by William Bolcom

Composer/pianist William Bolcom was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1938. Exhibiting early musical talent, he entered the University of Washington at age 11, studied composition with John Verrall and piano with Berthe Poncy Jacobson, and earned his B.A. there in 1958. During this time, he performed solo piano and chamber music concerts in the Seattle area as well as throughout the Northwest.

Further studies followed with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in California and in Paris at the Conservatoire de Musique. He completed his doctorate in composition at Stanford University in 1964, where he studied with Leland Smith. Returning to the Paris Conservatoire in 1964, he won the 2e Prix in composition in 1965. While in Europe he began writing stage scores for theaters in West Germany, and continued to do so at Stanford University, in Memphis, Tennessee, at Lincoln Center/New York, the Yale Repertory Theater, and others.

Compositions from every period of his life have earned him many honors including a BMI award, two Guggenheim fellowships, several Rockefeller Foundation awards, the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano, and two Koussevitzky Foundation Awards (1976 and 1993) for the First Piano Quartet and the Lyric Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, written for James Galway.

Commissions have come from orchestras, soloists, and chamber music groups worldwide. Mr. Bolcom wrote stage music for Arthur Miller’s play, Broken Glass, which was nominated for a Tony award as Best Play of 1994. In 1998 he wrote the score for John Turturro’s movie, Illuminata. Mr. Bolcom has taught composition at the University of Michigan since 1973, where he has been a full professor since 1983, and Chairman of the Composition Department since 1998. In the fall of 1994 the University of Michigan named him Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music.

William Bolcom says the following about Three Ghost Rags:

Graceful Ghost is in memory of my father who died in 1970. Poltergeist was actually composed near a graveyard in New Jersey (I was visiting a girlfriend out there) -- Paul Jacobs [who recorded the work on the album "Blues, Ballads, and Rags" (Nonesuch)] used to play it for his modern-music friends to show how many harmonic substitutions one could put into a small space. Dream Shadows was what Paul called a "white telephone" rag, referring to those Joan Crawford-type flicks where she is always picking up a white phone.

Golden Wedding by Anna Larson

Anna Larson specializes in music for theater, but her range of composition includes chamber and orchestral works. She has studied with Andre Singer at Sarah Lawrence College, Jack Jarret at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Tom Delio at the University of Maryland, where she received her doctorate.

Her theater projects include two collaborations with Joe Martin: a stylized production of Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata, in 1988 at American Showcase Theater, and a musical, The Match Girl's Snow Queen, produced at American University in 1993 by Open Theater, of which she is a founding member. With Michael Oliver she wrote 7 Faces, a theater piece based on the "seven stages of grief", performed as a song cycle in 1990 by the University of Maryland’s 20th Century Ensemble.

In her work with young people, Dr. Larson wrote in 1981 The Picnic, or Teresa and the Youfoes for Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean, VA. The play was revised in 1991 for a performance at The Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, IL, and in 1994 became the basis for The Youfoe Trilogy, written for the children of Play's the Thing!, a series of musical theater workshops at Catholic University, now in it’s ninth year, for which she serves as music director. She is president of Theater & Song, founded in 1999 to launch a new workshop series, Sky’s the Limit, for teens. She has received a grant from American Composers Forum for her work with children.

Her Dance for Orchestra was performed by the National Gallery Orchestra and was recorded for the MMC label by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Chamber works published by Arsis Press, include The Listeners, (Walter de la Mare), and Adagio for Trumpet and Strings, recorded for MMC in string orchestra version by the Moravian Philharmonic. Last March the CMF premiered Nora, a song cycle for soprano and ‘cello which was based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. She has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and she currently writes and teaches in her studio in Takoma Park, MD.

The composer writes the following about her work:

Golden Wedding was written in 1999 on a commission from Nancy Ann McGary of Harrison, Ohio, who is the great grand daughter of the couple whose 50th wedding anniversary was being celebrated. I had made Nancy’s acquaintance several years ago through a mutual artist friend, Stephen Davis, who has a real talent for instigating community projects. Nancy sent me a variety of materials relating to her family history, and my eye was caught by a newspaper article from the Harrison News, year 1900, that describes the Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebration of George Hopping and Rebecca Ireland Hopping, held in what is still the family homestead, a beautiful farm house (complete with one-room school house out front), that I was privileged to visit. It has proven impossible to trace the author of the article, but I’d like to give her a hug… along with Mrs. Edna Shatch who brought the "pair of pickle dishes"! The photo that survives must have been the work of Professor Moeller with his "picture making machine."

According to the custom of the day, it seems that a woman was mentioned by name only if she was single or widowed, for if she was married, her name was obliterated, reduced to "and wife". Even the woman for whom the great occasion was given remains nameless! And clearly this is not for lack of space, inasmuch as every last "berry spoon" and "sugar shell" was highlighted. Briefly mentioned is H.H. Roudebush, Nancy’s grandfather, a farmer and singing teacher whose wonderful old desk still graces one of the bedrooms, its contents undisturbed. Lying on top is his register of grains, raised and sold, (written in a beautiful longhand) which is generously padded out with song lyrics.

Singers of Songs—Weavers of Dreams by David Baker

David Baker is Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University and studied with a wide range of master teachers, performers and composers including J.J. Johnson, Janos Starker, and George Russell. He is an award-winning performer/composer/educator who is a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award nominee and the recipient of many honors, including Down Beat magazine’s New Star, Lifetime Achievement, and Jazz Education Hall of Fame awards; the National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame Award; the Indiana Historical Society’s Living Legend Award; and the National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Masters Award.

He is the conductor and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and has performed and taught all over the world. His compositions total more than 2,000 in number, including jazz, symphonic, and chamber works. His service in music organizations includes the National Council on the Arts, the board of the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Jazz Advisory Panel to the Kennedy Center, and the Jazz/Folk/Ethnic Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the President-Elect of the International Association of Jazz Educators, past president of the National Jazz Service Organization, and currently serves as senior consultant for music programs for the Smithsonian Institution. He has more than 65 recordings, 70 books, and 400 articles to his credit.

Mr. Baker writes the following about this work:

This suite for cello and 17 percussion instruments was written for Janos Starker and George Gaber and was premiered by them at Carnegie Hall. The work consists of seven movements, each honoring a giant of black American music. All but one, Paul Robeson, are seminal figures in the evolution of jazz. Each of the vignettes presents an abstract impression of the artist named.

"Miles," for Miles Davis, features a long, singing melodic cello line which is often presented contrapuntally via the use of double stops. The cello line sings over a percussion palette of wind chimes, haze effects on the vibraphone, and coloristic cymbal effects, all of which contribute to the ethereal, impressionistic environment.

"Rollins," for the great tenor saxophonist-composer Sonny Rollins, is a calypso-like movement which opens with the timbales playing a little repeated-note figure over which the cello enters, strummed like a guitar. The first theme appears in cello over a marimba bass line and is immediately repeated, with the cello melody now liberally sprinkled with double stops and the marimba playing a dry, pointillistic, abstract counterline. The second theme is basically cello solo with sporadic interjections from the marimba. In the return of the first theme, the roles are reversed, with the marimba playing the melody and the cello playing an ostinato accompaniment.

The development section is quite colorful, calling into play tuned drums, timbales, and marimba, over which the cello plays single-note lines, double stop melodies, and pizzicato and arco chords. The theme is tossed back and forth between the cello and various percussion instruments, often retaining only the contours and/or rhythms of the original melody. After a brief episode of rhythmic unison between cello and marimba, the first theme returns in the cello while the marimba imitates the sound of steel drums. The movement concludes with cello harmonics and a flourish in marimba.

"Yancey," for boogie woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey, opens with a characteristic boogie woogie bass line stated pizzicato by the cello and accompanied by a "shuffle" rhythm in the percussion. There follows next a guitar-like passage in cello, over which the orchestra bells play a typical Yancey melody line. This leads to a blues melody in cello, accompanied by the orchestra bells. After a pause, a section follows in which typical boogie woogie riffs are tossed between instruments, culminating in an interlude which employs harmonics in cello and a repeated-note figure in tympani. This leads directly to the climax of the movement which features an abstracted version of a characteristic boogie woogie solo. The bright, brittle sound of the xylophone over a boogie bass line in the cello and the blues riffs in cello over the xylophone triplet figure coalesce to evoke the spirit and sound of Jimmy Yancey. The opening boogie woogie bass pattern returns at a slower tempo, this time tossed between cello and tympani; then the movement ends with an unresolved blues cadence.

"Robeson" was written to honor the great singer, athlete, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson who endured so many injustices as a result of his beliefs. The movement begins with a solemn and stately drum cadence over which the cello, in very free fashion, plays the opening portion of the beautiful Negro spiritual "Go Down Moses," a song close to the heart of Robeson. The march cadence dies away, and a lyrical melody strongly reminiscent of the sorrow songs of the slave era is eloquently intoned by the cello over sporadic "amens" from the vibraphone. This melody leads into another pair of briefly hinted at spirituals, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of This World." The closing section exploits the lovely and unusual sound of vibraphone and cello in wistful remembrances of melodies used earlier in the movement.

" Trane " honors the tremendously influential saxophonist and guru of the jazz avant-garde, John Coltrane. After a brief introduction in cymbals, the cello states the opening theme. A melancholy second theme follows over a melodic tympani counterpoint. Two sharply struck notes on the cowbell signal the beginning of a musical dialogue between cello and drums (played on the rims). A brief set of exchanges between cello and tympani leads to a virtuosic cello display, and the movement ends quietly.

"Duke" is for the inimitable Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, one of America’s greatest composers. This movement is a highly coloristic musical conversation between the cello and various pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments. Cello in its various registers is delicately interwoven with bells, wind chimes, triangle, and vibraphone to create a luxurious tapestry of sound.

"Dizzy" was written in honor of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, one of the twin titans (with Charlie Parker) of the bebop era and one of the most influential musicians in the entire history of jazz. The movement opens with a series of brilliant exchanges between cello and timbales. A two-measure ostinato which recurs throughout the movement leads directly to the basic thematic material. The cello plays the blues-like themes over a typical Latin background. This entire movement is a virtuosic tour-de-force for both cello and percussion.

Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames

Six pieces de salon sur des poemes de Francois Charles Fernand d'Antin (1993) by Carter Pann

Carter Pann (b.1972) began studying piano at an early age with his grandmother. At fifteen he began lessons with Emilio Del Rosario at the North Shore School of Music in Winnetka, Illinois. With these lessons came an appreciation for performance technique and advanced musical thought. He was also studying composition with Howard Sandroff from the University of Chicago, Hyde Park. In 1994 he received his Bachelor's degree from the Eastman School of Music where he studied composition with Samuel Adler, Joseph Schwantner, Warren Benson and David Liptak. He received a Master's degree from the University of Michigan under William Bolcom, William Albright and Bright Sheng. Honors in composition include the K.Serocki Competition for his Piano Concerto (premiered by the Polish Radio Symphony in Lutoslawski Hall, Warsaw), first prizes in the Zoltan Kodaly and Frangois d'Albert Concours Internationales de Composition, a concerto commission for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman (premiered in Carnegie Hall), a Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters and four ASCAP composer awards. His works have been performed in the United States and Europe. In 1997 the Czech State Philharmonic of Brno recorded four of his orchestral works under Josi Serebrier. Naxos released it in February, 2000 on its American Classics series (Carter Pann-Piano Concerto/Dance Partita 8.559043). He recently finished a 9-minute scherzo for orchestra entitled Slalom which depicts the awesome thrill and beauty of downhill skiing at Steamboat Springs, Colorado as if it were seen in an IMAX theater. The American Composers Orchestra read the work in the summer of 1999 and later the Haddonfield Symphony gave its premiere in the winter of 2000. Love Letters was commissioned and recently completed for the Ying Quartet. As a complement to concert music he has written several TV/Radio commercial jingles.

Mr. Pann writes the following about Mots D'Heures", Gousses: Rames:

I wrote this quartet in 1993 at a time when I was accompanying many vocalstudents at the Eastman School of Music. It was during a period of performing many works by French composers such as Ravel, Faure, du Parc and Gounod. I was breaking out of a style of composition at the time (a very dark, Russian type of music) and wanted to experiment on a whole different slant. The pieces are very much what one would call "Salon Music." The text for these songs has an especially unique quality: upon translation these poems make very little sense at all. However, phonetically they sound very much like little English nursery rhymes spoken with a French accent-hence the title: pronounced very closely to "Mother Goose Rhymes."

Sonata Piccola, S. 8va by P.D.Q. Bach, aka Peter Schickele

Peter Schickele was born July 17, 1935, in Ames, Iowa. With his father, an agricultural economist, his mother, a physicist, and a younger brother, David (who is now a film maker), he grew up in Ames, Washington, DC, and Fargo, North Dakota. As a boy his main interests were theatrical. As he entered his teenage years in Fargo he became (mostly through the influence of his brother's violin/viola lessons, his parents' record collection, his own Spike Jones records, and the frequent chamber music sessions that took place in various homes) more and more interested in music, an interest which had completely overshadowed theater by the time he graduated from high school. His first studies in theory were with Sigvald Thompson, the conductor of the Fargo-Moorhead Orchestra, in which Schickele played the bassoon.

Just as he had been, at one point, Fargo's only bassoonist, Schickele went on to become Swarthmore's only music major. By the time he graduated from the college in 1957 he had written and conducted four orchestral pieces, composed and performed a great deal of chamber and piano music, spent a summer studying intensively with Roy Harris in Pittsburgh, and become fascinated by the music of Hindemith, Bartok, Stravinsky, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and the Everly Brothers—especially Stravinsky and the Everly Brothers.

Schickele completed his schooling with an M.S. from The Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where he studied composition with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma and became a teaching fellow. The three years at Juilliard were followed by a year on a Ford Foundation grant, writing music for public high schools in Los Angeles, after which, in 1961, he joined the faculty of the Extension Division at Juilliard, eventually teaching in the Regular and Pre-college divisions as well. In 1959 he and several of his friends formed Composers Circle, a group that held workshop sessions and presented concerts of their own and other composers' music for over five years.

In 1965 he took several steps that moved him into a less dogmatic, more eclectic musical world: he gave up teaching, wrote his first feature film score (Crazy Quilt), began (with her album Noel) his arranging-writing collaboration with Joan Baez, and presented the first public P.D.Q. Bach concert. Since then virtually every major symphony orchestra in the United States, (including those of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and Los Angeles), Canada and Australia, as well as the London Symphony Orchestra, has aided and abetted the good Professor in his perpetrations of P.D.Q. Bach's oeuvre. Paul Taylor's antic dance, Ab Ovo usque ad Mala ("from Soup to Nuts"), is set to portions of P.D.Q.'s Howdy Symphony and the Royal Firewater Music.

All this questionable musicological activity on the part of Prof. Schickele has not, however, deterred Mr. Schickele from continuing his activities as a serious composer. In addition to his engagements as a composer-in-residence at universities and music festivals, and his appearance as a singer/songwriter of original material in the tradition of John Sebastian and Paul Simon, he has written over one hundred compositions for chamber, choral, band, and symphonic ensembles that have been performed, and often commissioned, by organizations such as the St. Louis Symphony, the National Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Audubon and Lark String Quartets, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Schickele Mix, a weekly program syndicated by Public Radio International, began airing nationwide in January 1992, and won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1993.

He writes of the Sonata Piccola:

Most English-speaking people don’t realize what the word piccolo means; it is simply the Italian word for "small." The full Italian name for this instrument is the flauto piccolo, that is, "small flute," so that when we say that someone plays the piccolo, what we are really saying is that he or she plays the small. Piccolo players are, therefore, unique members of the orchestra, but not because they play the highest instrument nor because they play the smallest instrument but because they are the only members of a standard orchestra who play an adjective. (The author of the note does not consider pianists to be regular members of the standard orchestra.) P.D.Q. Bach actually wrote the sonata under question for an obsolete form of this instrument, the dill piccolo. The latter was, in fact, the original form of the instrument; piccolos used to be most commonly made by putting a flute into a barrel of brine for a few weeks, until it had shriveled up to one half its original size. In southern Italy, however, a different method was used; they would build a fire on the beach, put a large pan on it containing some olive oil and a little garlic and then cook the flutes until they had shriveled up to the desired size. (this even, in which the whole community participated, was called a Mediterranean flute fry). The movement headings may be translated thus: Slightly Slow, Slightly Fast, Slightly Slow Again, Slightly Fast Again.

Living Room Music (1940) by John Cage

John Cage was born on September 5, 1912 in Los Angeles, California and died in New York City on August 12, 1992. He studied liberal arts at Pomona College. Among his composition teachers were Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg. Cage was elected to the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and received innumerable awards and honors both here in the United States and in Europe. He was commissioned by a great many of the most important performing organizations both here and abroad, and maintained a very active schedule.

It would be extremely difficult to calculate the stimulating effect and ramifications that Cage's work has had on 20th century music and art. His invention of the prepared piano and his work with percussion instruments led him to imagine and explore many unique and fascinating ways of structuring the temporal dimension of music. He is universally recognized as the initiator and leading figure in the field of indeterminate composition by means of chance operations.

Cage wrote the Living Room Music while in San Francisco in 1940, for four performers who played any household objects, furniture, or parts of the architecture. The pitch range gradually drops from the first to the fourth player: the first three use the three middle fingers of both hands, the fourth uses fists. The piece is written in four movements, "To Begin," "Story," "Melody" and "End." The text of the "Story" comes from Gertrude Stein - "once upon a time the world was round and you could go on it around and around" - set to busy sixteenth note rhythms in a structure of seven by seven measures. The "Melody," written with sharps only as accidentals (he had tended to use flats), may be played on any suitable instrument. The simplicity of the piece parallels the Furniture Music of Satie, though it is not clear whether Cage knew of it at this time.


A song by Anna Larson

    The fiftieth anniversary of the wedding of George Hopping and wife was celebrated at the homestead farm near Hunt's Grove last Saturday. One hundred and forty persons were present, six children and eleven grandchildren being among the number.

        Below we give a list of presents.

    The little folks romped and played on the green grass, and the old people sat around and conversed of by gone days.

        Berry spoon, Charles Hopping.

        Berry spoon, Catherine Beard.

        Large arm chair and gold headed cane by the children.

        Berry spoon, Nick Fox and wife.

    The dinner was a very elaborate affair, conceived principally by Mrs. Frank Campbell, who knows just how to tickle the palates of a hungry multitude.

        Gold cream ladle, Joseph Haddock.

        Gold fish fork, E. R. Lake.

        Gold dessert spoon, Joseph Cilly and daughter.

        Water set, Andrew Hili and wife.

    One of the pleasant features of the occasion (pin tray Mrs. Eva Fulton) was the presence of Professor Moeller with his picture making machine, (pair of pickle dishes Mrs. Edna Shatch) who caught several views of the crowd (half dozen gold banded goblets Mr. and Mrs. George Liming).

        Pair of vases, Mrs. Sally Coleman.

        Lace handkerchief, Miss Lizzie Turner.

        Berry set, Mr. and Mrs. Will Doobterman.

        China fish dish, A. B. Kendrick and wife.

        Thirty five dollar gold piece, George Minges.

        Flower vase, Harry Bowles and wife.

        Pocket book, lamp mat, pocket knife, parlor lamp:

John Liming, Miss Susie Schroyer, Henry Hopping, John M. Schroyer and wife.

        Gold butter knife and sugar shell, D. H. Pottenger.

        One dozen berry dishes, Neil Betcher and wife.

        Gold sugar shell, H. H. Roudebush...

And it was remarked that several old widowers and widows were found in close proximity.


Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames


François Charles Fernand d’Antin

I.     Eau la quille ne colle

        Oise B mer est haulte de soles

        Aîné marié au sol, vas-y!

        Ecole vorace paille

        Pain école vorace boule

        En école vorace fille de loterie.

II.     Un petit d’un petit

        S’étonne aux Halles

        Un petit d’un petit

        Ah! degrés te fallent

        Indolent qui ne sort cesse

        Indolent qui ne se mPne

        Qu’importe un petit d’un petit

        Tout Gai de Reguennes.

III.     Interlude: HUMORESQUE

IV.     Reine, reine, gueux éveille.

        Gomme B gaine, en horreur, taie.

V.     Et qui rit des curés d’Oc?

        De Meuse raines, houp! de cloques.

        De quelles loques ce turque coin.

        Et ne d’ânes ni rennes,

        Ecuries des curés d’Oc.

VI.     Chacun Gille

        Houer ne taupe de hile

        Tôt-fait, j’appelle au boiteur

        Chaque fLle dans un broc, est-ce crosne?

        Un Gille qu’aime tant berline B fLtard.

Edited by Luis d’Antin Van Rooten, published by Penguin USA © 1967 (text in public domain)


February 28, 2002

Welcome to the third concert of the Contemporary Music Forum’s 28th season of chamber music performances. The CMF has a long tradition of performing music by composers who live in the Washington area, and each year we present at least one concert program devoted to their recent works. We invite you to join us for a reception after the concert and to meet the composers who are able to join us this evening.

Tickets are available at the door for our next two concerts:

April 4 CMF Plugged In! - music with electronic elements

May 9 - figured in the drift of stars, works by Frances Thompson McKay.

Notes on the Program

four miniatures (1999) by Steven Campbell Hilmy (World Premiere)

Steven Campbell Hilmy was born in Aberdeen Scotland, the son of an Egyptian and a Scot. Since 1992 he has been on the faculty of The George Washington University Music Department, where he is the director of the Computer Music studio. His composition teachers have included William Albright at the University of Michigan, and Jean Eichelberger Ivey and Chen Yi at the Peabody Conservatory.

Steve has won several thousand (well a few anyway) awards from such organizations as the Southeastern Composers League, ASCAP, the Peabody Conservatory, and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Recent reactions to his works include "bleaugh" and "turn it off, turn it off, PLEASE turn it off..."and "Hmmm. Uh, interesting".

He writes the following about his piece four miniatures:

The first in this set of miniatures is a rather obnoxious conversation between the clarinet and the marimba. Actually it is less like a dialog, and more like a shouting match in which, ultimately, one of the instruments has the last word (the audience member who correctly identifies that instrument, will receive a fabulous [slightly used] book of matches, autographed by the composer himself.) Miniature number two begins as a melancholy duet for flute and clarinet and ends (still as a duet for flute and clarinet) on a slightly more joyful note (two notes really.) The third is a rather odd, slightly ethnic sounding piece, in which the flute melody is offset by a maniacally regular percussion pattern, and an even more maniacally regular clarinet part. The result is either irritating or interesting depending on your point of reference. The last piece is joyful, fast, and, fortunately, over very quickly (it is, after all, a miniature.)

The quirky, upbeat, playful aspect of these miniatures was inspired by my beloved partner Jeannine Mjoseth, to whom they are dedicated.

Insect Songs (1985) by Maurice Saylor

Maurice Saylor, born in Neptune, New Jersey in 1957, graduated with a BM. and MM. in Music Composition from The Catholic University of America. His music has been performed at the Bowling Green New Music & Art Festival, the Delius Festival and throughout the United States, Central America, Europe and the Middle East with broadcasts over commercial and Public Radio.

He has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and The American Composers Forum and has received three awards from the Delius Composition Competition and an additional four awards from the Diana Barnhart American Song Competition. His other awards include the 1987 David Lloyd Kreeger Creativity Award in composition; the 1987 Church and the Artist Award; the 1985 National Capital Area Composer's Consortium Composition Competition; and the 1985 Omaha Symphony Guild New Music Competition.

Mr. Saylor has received commissions from the US Air Force, The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, the Eakins String Quartet, and from numerous instrumental and vocal soloists.

He has served on the board of the Capital Composers Alliance of Washington D.C. since 1987 and as Executive Director since 1991. He is a member of BMI and SCI (Society of Composers, Inc.).

Upcoming events include a performance of his Serenade for Orchestra (2000) by the Honduran National Symphony. In April the Moscow Conservatory will present the premiere of Myszka, a work for violin and piano written for Zorya Shikhmurzaeva, which is the first in a projected ongoing musical bestiary. Future projects include a setting of three sonnets for the Swedish mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant and American tenor Paul Groves. His music can be heard over the Internet at

Mr. Saylor writes the following about his work:

The clumsy but accurate title of this set of songs for voice and violin would be Three Insects and an Arachnid. But the titularly deprived spider keeps good company with the others as there is no single poetic theme to the songs but rather many gossamer threads, each linking to one other song, that gather together to create a web-like unity.

The text of the poems follows at the conclusion of the notes.

Three Études (2000) by Robert Gibson

Robert Gibson’s compositions have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe, China and South America. His music has also been presented on National Public Radio and by noted performers and ensembles, including bassists Bertram Turetzky and David Walter, clarinetist Esther Lamneck, the Clarion Wind Quintet, the Contemporary Music Forum, the 20th Century Consort, the Meridian String Quartet and The National Symphony Bass Quartet, who commissioned his composition Soundings (2001).

Mr. Gibson has been a composer member of the Contemporary Music Forum of Washington, DC (1987-2000), and he is also a performer of new music. As a jazz bassist and composer he has appeared leading his own groups and, during the early 1980s, as a sideman with internationally recognized artists including Mose Allison, Bob Berg, Marc Copland, Tom Harrell, Eddie Harris and Barney Kessel. Since 1985 he has worked with computer music systems, and his electronic works have been performed at national and international conferences and festivals, including The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States national conferences and the Sonic Circuits Electronic Music Festival. Mr. Gibson’s compositions have been recorded on Golden Crest (The American Music Project, Clarion Wind Quintet, 1979) and Spectrum Records (Soundscapes, 1982; Music of Robert Gibson, 1986). Chamber Music, a Capstone compact disc of chamber works by Mr. Gibson appears on Fanfare magazine’s 1996 Want List as one of critic William Zagorski’s five notable recordings of the year. Mr. Gibson is professor of music at the University of Maryland, College Park. He writes the following about his work:

My Three Études are "concert" études modeled somewhat in the tradition of the genre established by Chopin, Debussy, and more recently, Ligeti. The first is an abstraction based on corrente (Italian, "flowing"). The second is somewhat folk-like in places, although there are no actual quotations of folk music. The almost constant sound of fifths was inspired by the timbre of the organ stop quintadena, which has a very prominent twelfth above the fundamental. This organ stop seemed intriguing and appropriate to me in this context since the clarinet also has this prominent third partial that defines its distinctive timbre. The last etude is an obsession composed of a few short motives that suggest a jazz improvisation.

Duo (2001) by Anthony Villa (Washington Premiere)

Anthony Villa, composer and pianist, received his D.M.A. in composition from the University of Maryland, where he studied composition with Lawrence Moss. His chamber music includes works for a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations, from works for solo performer and electronic instruments to those for chamber orchestra. The Washington Post has praised his Quartet as "the rare piece that sounds fresh while hinting at the near past" and his Two Songs as "deserv[ing] a lasting place in the musical firmament." Villa is also active as a jazz pianist and composer currently with Jazz Caravan, a Baltimore-based sextet. Since 1984, he has been on the faculty of Loyola College in Maryland, where he is an Associate Professor and Director of Music and past chair of the Department of Fine Arts, teaching theory and composition and directing the jazz program. Villa has been a composer-member of the Contemporary Music Forum since 1991. His music is available through Ardito Music (ASCAP).

Duo, a two-movement work, received its premiere in Baltimore in October 2001. The piece, particularly the second movement, is quite demanding in both technical and expressive terms. The first movement, marked tempo rubato, opens with a violin solo centering on the pitch A and moves by steps to B. The cello follows with a brief solo of its own. After the duo begins in earnest, momentum increases as the two instruments work their way to the opposite extremes of their ranges: the violin to a high A, the cello to its lowest note, C.

The second movement opens with a melody played at the octave and in triplets (three sounds per beat) by both instruments. This melody becomes the source for much of the melodic and harmonic material of the movement. Throughout the movement there is generous use of double stops (two strings played at the same time). A section in long notes serves to break the triplet momentum leading to a section in 16th notes (4 sounds per beat). A forceful section follows where double stopped figures interrupt the flow of the melodic line. The return of the opening melodic line is followed by a brief coda in the spirit of the opening, bringing the piece to a close.

…merely circulating (1997) by Douglas Boyce

Douglas Boyce was born in 1970 in New York. After performing with a variety of punk rock bands in the greater New York metropolitan area, he attended Williams College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics and Music, with honors, in 1992; in 1996 he received a Master of Music degree from the University of Oregon. In 1998 he attended the Master-Class in Composition at the Aspen Festival. He received his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, where he was awarded the 1999 Weiss Prize in Composition for Trois Complaintes. In summer 2000, he received a residency fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and is currently serving as Visiting Professor of Music at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Mr. Boyce remains active as a scholar of medieval music, as an improviser and conductor, and has written music for theatrical productions on both coasts, including The Muslin Plays, a film and performance project developed with J Mandle Performance for the 1996 SOHO Arts Festival. In 1999, he and his works were featured on WXPN's Dystopia, in Philadelphia. Current projects include 'dogshow,' a collaborative film project with San Francisco video artist Anne Etheridge, and work for the New York trumpet and percussion duo, Endy Emby. His works have been performed in a number of cities, including Philadelphia, New York, Aspen, Frankfurt and Prague. He writes the following about this work:

Though the title of the work, via W. Stevens, refers to the cyclic nature of its harmonic organization, and to a lesser degree the closed thematic design (a common scheme surely to be referred to by future musicologist as ‘vestigial ternary’), the work now, some years after its composition, seems to me more interesting for its deeply traditional approach to ornamentation. Microtones abound, but only as inflections of 12-tone material; grace notes flutter about, but push the piece towards cadences; even the extended techniques of bow noise and percussive use of non-percussion instruments serve to clarify the underlying rhetorical structure.

I have in the past described this work as a conversation of unequal partners, given the piano’s late arrival and early departure (due in no small part to the limitations of the original pianist, me!). Perhaps a more accurate reading of the piece is as a duet with interruptions. The piano consistently perturbs the elegant ululations of the clarinet and viola with interjections and accompaniments more akin to distant artillery than to alberti basses, and even draws them into its pointillistic microbarbarism, but in the end, these are interruptions and not transformations. The initial dialogue between clarinet and viola returns, none the worse for its digressions, to close the work as it began, a love song for awkward butterflies. The piece is dedicated to, and was premiered by Jessica Meyer and Ben Fingland.

Variations 5: variation fantasy (1991) by Anthony Stark

Anthony Stark (b. 1944) is a native of Minneapolis who began piano study at age six and composition study at twelve. He was educated at the University of Minnesota, working with Eric Stokes and Pulitzer Prize winner Dominick Argento in composition and with Paul Freed in piano performance, and at Boston University where his teachers included Pulitzer laureate David Del Tredici in composition and Anthony DiBonaventura in piano. He studied privately at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, with the noted pianist Max Pirani.

Stark's awards have included the Silver Medal in the G.B. Viotti International Composition Competition (Vercelli, Italy), two First Prizes in the Delius International Composition Competition, and awards from the International Chamber Music Festival & Composition Competition of Los Alamos, the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP), the Maryland State Arts Council, and the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Stark's professional activities have included teaching posts at the University of Minnesota, Queen Mary College of London University (England), and Boston University, together with appearances as pianist, composer and music director for many legitimate stage productions. He has served in production and management positions for the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony Association, the Dumbarton Concert Series, the Washington Bach Consort, Music At Noon, the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore, and the 20th Century Consort. He has served since 1980 as a composer member of the Contemporary Music Forum, including duties as Production Director and Director of Programming. In addition, he teaches graduate and undergraduate composition and music theory at The Catholic University of America, Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, and at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland (Baltimore). He writes the following about his work:

Variations 5: variation fantasy was commissioned by James McKay, Chairman Emeritus of the Contemporary Music Forum, for his own ensemble, Caprice. He performed the world premiere with flutist Margaret Carlson at the Lyceum in Alexandria, Virginia on March 8, 1992. The work is a set of continuous variations on twelve notes heard at the outset in the piano. The music is virtuosic for both performers and requires very close coordination between them. Each variation is cast in its own small form, usually ABA, and is joined to the following variation. The idea was to have fun with the variation form and the timbres of the two instruments working together.

Insect Songs (1985)

1. A Noiseless Patient Spider (Walt Whitman)

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need to be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul., O my Soul.

2. To a Mosquito (Edward Sanford)

Thou sweet musician, that around my bed,

Dost nightly come and wind thy little horn,

By what unseen and secret influence led,

Feed’st thou my ear with music till ‘tis morn?…

Tell me the burden of thy ceaseless song --

Is it thy evening hymn of grateful prayer?

Or lay of love, thou pipest through the long

Still night? With song dost drive away dull care?

The incarnation of Queen Mab art thou,

And "Fancy’s mid-wife;"--thou dost nightly sip

With amorous proboscis bending low,

The honey-dew from many a lady’s lip—

(Though that they "straight on kisses dream," I doubt.)

On smiling faces and on eyes that weep.

Thou lightest, and oft with "sympathetic snout"

"Ticklest men’s noses as they lie asleep;"…

3. I heard a Fly buzz (Emily Dickinson)

I heard a Fly buzz--when I died--

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air--

Between the Heaves of Storm--

The Eyes around--had wrung them dry--

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset--when the King

Be witnessed--in the Room--

I willed my Keepsakes--Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable--and then it was

There interposed a Fly--


With Blue--uncertain stumbling Buzz--

Between the light--and me--

And then the Windows failed--and then

I could not see to see--

Poem used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

4. The Dragonfly (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

I wound myself in a white cocoon of singing,

All day long in the brooks uneven bed,

Measuring out my soul in a mucous thread;

Dimly now to the brook’s green bottom clinging,

Men behold me, a worm spun out and dead,

Walled in an iron house of silky singing.

Nevertheless at length, O reedy shallows,

Not as a plodding nose to the slimy stem,

But as a brazen wing with a spangled hem,

Over the jewelweed and the pink marshmallows,

Free of these and making song of them,


I shall arise, and the song of the reedy shallows

"The Dragonfly" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Text copyright 1923, 1951 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Elizabeth Barnett, literary executor


Thursday, April 4, 2002

Welcome to the Contemporary Music Forum’s 28th season of concerts. Tonight’s concert is the CMF’s annual performance of music featuring electronic elements. The works on this evening’s program incorporate some of the latest technology in chamber music, and we look forward to showcasing the creativity and inventiveness of our composers. We hope that you will enjoy the music, and we invite you to join us for a reception after the concert in the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery.

Tickets are available at the door for our last concert of the season, on May 9, which will feature works by Washington composer Frances Thompson McKay.

Notes on the Program

Pattern’s Patterns by Paul Lansky

Pattern's Patterns is one of ten tracks from a recently completed set of pieces called Alphabet Book. All of the pieces are based on the sounds of voices simply reciting letters and numbers, a kind of adult Sesame Street. This movement plays with evolving patterns of letters and numbers.

Paul Lansky is Professor of Music at Princeton University and has been specializing in computer music since the early 1970's. His works are largely recorded on Bridge Records and the main focus of his work has been on the use of the medium to heighten our sensitivity to sounds of the world about us. His most recent CD, Ride, was released in 2001, and the title piece was premiered at Alice Tully Hall in January as part of the 'Great Day in New York' festival. He was recently the subject of a film made for German television and to be released on DVD later this year.

Lansky is regarded as among the most important composers of computer music. He has made advances in purely technical areas, especially those of Linear Prediction Coding, which he developed for his own first computer-generated pieces, and Cmix (in the 1990s), a set of programs which he has made freely available. In the areas of theory and analysis, Lansky has collaborated closely with George Perle, his former teacher, in developing the latter's ideas of "twelve-tone tonality," a way of combining serial techniques with pitch-centered motion.

The metaphor most often used by Lansky to describe his use of the computer is as an "aural microscope" (sometimes a "camera"), with which he "tries to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, the unmusical, musical. [I] try to find implicit music in the worldnoise around us." Like photographs, "recordings of real-world sounds ... create a nostalgic ache in that they almost capture events which are, in reality, gone forever," and Lansky's music can be extremely affecting.

Lansky has written that "[his] goals are not mainly to achieve relative mastery of one form or another ... as they are to experiment," and his music throughout the 1980s and 1990s is quite varied. However, the pieces can generally be divided into several distinct, though related, streams, based on the subject matter used as a basis for manipulation: previously existing music, ambient urban sounds, or the spoken word (either the reading of a text or an improvised conversation). The main factors in common to his pieces are that the original sound is created by human activity, and that they "all attempt to look at ... familiar things from new vantage points, using a novel perch to gain a fresh perspective on things we may have come to take for granted." "For me," he has written, "success means creating new ways of listening and hearing."


Video III by Frederick Weck

Frederick Weck (b. 1939, Chicago) studied composition with Russell Woollen and Conrad Bernier at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated in 1960 and earned the M.M. in 1961. He also studied composition with Nadia Boulanger, electronic music with Emerson Myers, film-making and digital video at the Corcoran School of Art, multi-media communications at the Germain School of Photography in New York, and attended workshops in computer music at MIT and in electronic music at the University of Chicago. From 1962 through 1965, Mr. Weck served as musical director of the American Choreographers Workshop in New York. He lives with his wife in Great Falls, VA, where he has established an electronic music studio in his home. His works, which often combine electronic music and film with choral or instrumental ensembles, have been performed in Washington at the National Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, the Corcoran Gallery and the Kennedy Center as well as throughout the United States and in Europe. His awards include the Hans Kindler Foundation Award in composition and the Shenandoah Conservatory Medal of Excellence. Mr. Weck continues as director of the nationally recognized instrumental music program which he initiated in the schools of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1962.


Video III is one in a series of seven to eight pieces that explore the elements of color, shape, form, and motion. Each video in the series is more complex than its predecessors, and explores recent developments in the software available to makers of abstract art film. Unlike the visual artists who may display their work in theaters or museum installations, however, the composer has chosen to give his work a structure that follows standard musical forms.

As source material Video III uses original 16mm film that has been manipulated in various ways, such as scratching or painting, then recorded on videotape and digitized. The music was created using a SERG analog synthesizer, a Kurzweil 2500 digital synthesizer, and an FM synthesizer for frequency modulation.


Sachamama by Anne LeBaron

Anne LeBaron, internationally noted composer, harpist, and educator, is recognized for her work in the electronic, instrumental, and performance realms. As a Fulbright Scholar to Germany in 1980-81, LeBaron studied composition with György Ligeti, later completing her doctorate at Columbia University. Her music has been performed and broadcast throughout the U.S. and Europe, and elsewhere, with performances in Vienna, Canberra, Stuttgart, Prague, London, Talloires, Hong Kong, Sydney, Berlin, Havana, and Kyoto. She has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Fromm Foundation commission, a McKim Commission from the Library of Congress, several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the CalArts / Alpert Award in the Arts, a Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Music for the years 2000 and 2002, and a residency at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center. Her latest recording, "Sacred Theory of the Earth," was released by CRI in 2001. A recent large-scale work, "Traces of Mississippi," is featured as part of the PBS documentary "Continental Harmony," airing in cities throughout the U.S. She is currently creating a one-act absurdist opera, "The Vacuum Cleaner," with a libretto by Edward de Grazia. Also an accomplished harpist, Dr. LeBaron is renowned for pioneering extended techniques and electronic explorations of her instrument. She teaches composition and related subjects at the California Institute of the Arts.


Sachamama, a work for amplified flute, alto flute, and tape, was inspired by the painting "The Sachamama," illustrating one of many visions of Pablo Amaringo, a painter and Peruvian shaman. The Sachamama, or "mother of the jungle," lives in camouflage in the rainforest. A huge snake that rarely moves, it sometimes remains for hundreds of years in the same place. When a person notes the presence of the Sachamama, he must leave immediately to avoid being crushed by a tree or struck by lightning, as it produces severe wind and storm conditions. If a person passes in front of its head, the Sachamama magnetizes him swiftly and swallows him. Vegetalistas (mestizo shamans who derive their knowledge and personal powers from plants) invoke the Sachamama as protection during healing ceremonies. In many depictions, rainbows flow from its mouth.

The tape part to the composition "Sachamama" was constructed from sounds produced by Harry Bertoiaís sound sculptures and gongs, recorded by the composer. These tall, magnificent sculptures, which reside in a barn in Pennsylvania, were set into motion by physically brushing them, as one would brush wind chimes. The tape of the sound sculptures was edited, but not processed. To complete the tape portion of "Sachamama," music from two other sources, created with a sequencer and digital processing effects, is layered over the texture created by the Bertoia instruments: a Peruvian traditional song, and a "Gloria" by the seventeenth-century Mexican composer Manuel de Suyama. The performer, doubling the tape material at the outset, soon becomes an independent voice, sometimes interacting with the tape, and sometimes standing apart.


Medium by Bruce Pennycook

Bruce Pennycook (b. 1949, Toronto) completed a Doctor of Music Arts at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University ('78) then taught music and computer science at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario for ten years. He joined the Faculty of Music at McGill in 1987 and has since developed the Bachelor of Music (Honours Computer Applications in Music), the Master's of Arts in Computer Applications in Music and a Ph.D. program in music that merges advanced media technologies, music and sound recording. Dr. Pennycook held the position of Vice-Principal of Information Systems and Technology at McGill University (1998 – 2000). He is currently an independent composer and new media consultant living in Montreal. His compositions are performed and broadcast regularly in Canada, the US, and Europe. He has also published numerous articles on audio technology, contemporary music, and interactive performance systems. He has developed software systems and several interfaces and devices for interactive performance systems.

Dr. Pennycook writes the following about his work:

This work is a setting of the first two stanzas of the poem, "Medium," by Canadian poet Tessa McWatt, whose sensuous, highly personal language I have attempted to reflect in both the electroacoustic materials and the images. Medium is dedicated to my friend, actress-singer Meg Sheppard, whose dedication to the interpretation of new musical styles and compelling stage-presence have inspired the work. I am grateful to Meg for the vocal materials used in the audio components and to an un-named Turkish instrumentalist whose strange techniques appear briefly between the movements. All other materials were performed, processed and mixed by the composer. The photographs were taken with 35mm and digital cameras, then computer processed by the composer. The images are controlled by the audio tracks using a novel Lingo program written by Mark Ballora. Director software was developed by Ballora and Pennycook. The work is in two continuous movements: "I can be played" and "I can be moulded".


Tessa McWatt

(adapted by Bruce Pennycook)

Stanza 1:

I can be played like a lute

if you place me on your lap

and pluck my

long, stringy veins.

You can know me

like you know a song.

(continuo, basso, ritornello)


play me,

know me.


Stanza 2:

I can be moulded

sculpted like a carved naked figure.

if your hands take hold

of the curve of my hips,

and the curve of my thoughts,

you can carve me

in your medium.

(stone, stone,

ineffaceable stone)

so that you can


what you know.


invisible landscape by Steve Antosca

invisible landscape brings together the interactive dynamic between live performer and computer technology. Prepared piano sounds, inside-the-piano sounds, and piano harmonics have been sampled and then computer processed. These are stored in a sample playback device, then triggered and spatially manipulated in real time through the HECTOR infrared conducted electronics system. These create a sweeping background to the piano performance as well as a counterpoint of expressive sonorities to the piano.

Forrest Tobey’s HECTOR infrared conducted electronics system consists of two Buchla Lightning Wands, which are tracked by infrared receivers connected via Ethernet to an Apple PowerBook running Max/MSP. For invisible landscape, the software maps the conducting gestures to a sample playback device, which stores the computer processed piano samples, and to a digital mixer that receives the spatialization gestures from the system and translates this information to spatial placement in the hall.

invisible landscape was composed for the Smithsonian’s Piano 300 celebration and premiered at the "Exploring the American Piano" concert on January 26, 2001 at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

Forrest Tobey received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in 1997, along with a second Masters Degree in Computer Music performance. For his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Tobey wrote software that allowed the computer to follow his conducting gestures through the use of an infrared-emitting baton known as the Buchla Lightning. His work was presented at the International Computer Music Conferences of 1995 and 1996.

Dr. Tobey has since turned his attentions to bringing this work to the public by establishing the 21st Century Ensemble. The purpose of the Ensemble is to pave new ground in orchestral performance practice by creating and commissioning new compositions for chamber orchestra that employ the computer as a responsive, music-making instrument, and to perform such compositions alongside works from the standard repertoire.

Dr. Tobey performs as a soloist with his system, creating a "virtual orchestra" through his gestures in space. He was the featured performer for the Times Square 2000 Millennium Celebration in New York and has given several Buchla Lightning concerts in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas, as well as performing frequently at academic conferences and workshops. With the Mount Vernon Unitarian Choir and the 21st Century Ensemble, Dr. Tobey appeared on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in December, 2000, presenting the world premiere of his Magnificat pro Mundo.

Dr. Tobey also performs regularly as a classical and jazz pianist. From 1987 to 1990, he was Music Director of the Delhi Symphony Orchestra in India.

"... figured in the drift of stars ..."

Works by Frances Thompson McKay


I wish to thank the performers, composers and Board of the Contemporary Music Forum for presenting this concert. I feel deeply honored and grateful.

The Forum asked me to write an introduction to the program notes. Be warned, however, as you read on, this is not required reading though, and you do not have to read this as a prerequisite to listening to the music. I am sure that I have written a lot more than you want to know about my music.

"figured in the drift of stars" comes from T.S. Eliot's poem Burnt Norton, from the Four Quartets. The entire sentence reads:

The dance along the artery

The circulation of the lymph

Are figured in the drift of stars

When I began to consider the program of this concert, I thought there should be some link between the works. I have long loved the Four Quartets, and I think these lines came to me because they describe that link.

That link is the connection between ourselves and the environment around us, how our rhythms, the inner and external spaces in which we move, and finally, our thoughts and feelings, are a mirror of the larger world around us. As Eliot says, "The sea is within us." I am sure that this is obvious to everyone; it is not anything original. Whenever I think about it, though, I feel a sense of wonder and awe.

In many of the works I have written over years, I have come back to explore that connection and to probe the mystery and power it holds for me. I think I have tried to use musical space the way a painter uses the space on a canvas. I have tried to create a mirror of those connections with the musical spaces and connections offered by harmony, melody, rhythm, texture, dynamics and tone color.

Since I grew up in the Tidewater area of Virginia, many of my pieces are water pieces. Most pieces on this program are about what William Styron described as "the sights, sounds, smells, the lights, and shades and watery deeps and shallows of my native Virginia coast." Imagine for a moment a child sitting beneath a tall cypress tree, with a bell nearby that is sometimes chimed by the wind, watching the James River and its endless play of current, tide, wind, and light. That child was, and is, me.

This river is an unpredictable place. There are powerful currents, there are storms. The history of the James for the past four centuries is a violent one, where European settlers drove the Powhatans off their lands and brought the African American they had enslaved to work the land, land where the primordial forest was burned to make room for the cash crop tobacco. A Native American burial ground once occupied the land overlooking the bank above the tree. On every tide dead and lost things wash up on the beach. (As Eliot says of the sea: "It tosses up our losses.") This is also a place of great beauty and displays of power, and of constant change.

So here are some of the images and characteristica (a word used by musicians meaning the quotes of sounds) in the music. First of all, there is the tree, a cypress, that was my father's, my best friend's, and my own favorite place. Near the tree there was a bell, and this can be heard tolling at the end of river tree. There are also quite a few bell-like chords in the piano part.

In another of the Four Quartets, Dry Salvages, Eliot describes a bell:

And under the oppression of the silent fog

The tolling bell

Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried

Ground swell, a time

Older than the time of chronometers

It is always dangerous to be too literal about music, but I speculate that the ground swell could be the subject of some of the underlying harmonies. Above this the waves and the wind rush on, which could be the subject of some of the more rapidly changing harmonies and melodies. Styron also describes a bell and trees:

". . . the lost Virginia tidelands, the surrounding blue and brooding sweep of river's estuary and riverside and bay, nodding cedars. . . and pines in the woods, and willows at the water's edge which at each morning's tolling bell . . . let loose to the sun a flight of exultant birds."

Following this bell for a bit more, it turns up again in Bridge Lights. The bell near the tree is recorded in the tape part, and there are more bells in the piano part. The bridge itself can be seen from the spot beneath the tree., as well as Styron's "brooding sweep of the river's estuary," which is depicted in Take the Wings. The endless patterning brought about by light, wind, tide and current is one of the images in filigrane, although this piece encompasses an endless array of patterns for me, including "the drift of stars."

T.S. Eliot, T.S. Eliot Collected Poems, 1909-1962, New York: Harcourt, Brace &World, 1970

William Styron, Sophie's Choice, New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1979, p. 131

William Styron, Set This House on Fire, New York: Vintage Books, 1993, p. 73

river tree/mourning music

river tree/mourning music was composed in 1997 in memory of and tribute to my father, Frederick Nimrod Thompson (1910-1997). My father's favorite place was the site of a tall cypress tree beside the James River. A patient and majestic sentinel, home to many species, it has been crowned in many summers with a nest of bald eagles. One of the few remaining cypresses overlooking the river, its outstretched, nurturing branches have framed many flaming sunsets.

The title comes from the first Psalm, which, to me, describes the life of my father:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate both day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.

Duration: 10 minutes

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is a set of piano etudes, composed in 2001, following the year of the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano, exploring piano timbre and texture. Coincidentally, last summer I received an invitation to submit a piece to the Van Cliburn competition, which would be performed there if chosen to be played by one of the finalists. It was not. As composers are always instructed by teachers not to do by their teachers, I wrote a piece for this score call. I wrote the type of piece, I figured, if a pianist demonstrated that he or she could play it, that in spite of the breach of taste, this performance would put that person in strong contention for first prize.

The title refers to film music. I have always loved movies and have been a student of the use of music in films. On occasion I have created and performed improvised scores for silent movies (which is not very far removed from writing river music).

One important relationship between the music and the visual images in films is that between the rhythm of each. These pieces are also rhythmic etudes, employing varying rhythmic devices. These include a rhythmic ostinato in the left hand part of the first movement where the beats are subdivided into a recurring pattern of 5/5/6/5 throughout. They also include slower melodies (indicated in the score by square-headed notes) that are etched into faster melismas. There are numerous gradually accelerating and retarding passages. Jazz rhythms and other syncopations are frequent.

The piece is in three movements. I am very, very grateful to Laurie Hudicek for performing the first movement of this piece tonight, especially since she has not had the music for very long.

Duration: 4 minutes

Bridge Lights

Bridge Lights, completed in 1996, was composed in memory of Peter Brown and in celebration of the Washington community of artists, of which Peter was a cherished member.

In 1993 Peter asked me to compose a piece for him, and characteristically he wanted something "fast and difficult," which suited his vibrant personality. His sudden and untimely death filled a large church where his friends told stories of his energy, his unique wit and his charm.

Since Peter and I were both from the Hampton Roads area, I chose to write water music. The James River bridge lights became a point of departure. After completing the piece I realized that one of the many things the bridge lights had come to symbolize for me was the community of Washington artists. I was very honored when Peter's close friend and Washington flutist Karen Johnson agreed to play the first performance of the piece.

The tape part is an unprocessed recording of wave and wind sounds of the James River. There are also sounds of bells recorded on the bank of the river and at the Mariner's Museum.

I want to express my deep appreciation to: Steve Antosca, who volunteered hours to edit the tape part; James McKay, my husband, who helped record the James River sounds and ship bells at the Mariners Museum; the Mariners Museum in Newport News, for allowing me to record their bells.

Duration 10 minutes

Bridge Lights

Each night it’s different

but they always come on

tripped by the fading light

Sometimes on windy nights

they are the only light

distant and dull

stars that died

eons ago, recorded

in their silent blinking

signals in a language

whose meaning is

long since lost

On windy nights time races

like a light sloop

on a reach before the wind

and belief fails

before it reaches the shore

The bridge is five miles-

you can see it all because

of a trick in angle

It's a mirror trick necklace

above and below pitch gloaming river

and velvet sky reach endlessly

on either side

Headlights move across the span

bright spirits moving toward

destinations on the other side

Sometimes the river reflects

the tall towers

magnified in its dark polished glass

they almost reach the shore

When you go out on the pier

to touch one

the gleam moves out before you

leaving in between a narrow band of

dark water retreating from faith

Out on the mirrored surface

light and sound beckon

trust the intangible, they say

the water will hold

if you follow the reflection

if you follow

if you


Take the Wings of the Morning to the Uttermost Parts of the Sea

Take the Wings of the Morning to the Uttermost Parts of the Sea was inspired

by Psalm 139, verses 7-10:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, thou art there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

This exquisite poem of David was addressed to the chief musician of the court. I am drawn to the contrasting light and darkness in the poetry, to its flight-like rhythm, and to the tension about fleeing and homing.

These images of contrasting light and darkness surrounding, within and over water bring back early memories for me of watching the sunrises and sunsets on the James River. I am profoundly grateful to my parents for this wonderful gift they arranged for me, and this piece is dedicated to my mother, who is always up at sunrise.

Lori Barnet has performed this demanding solo a number of times. I love and admire the way she plays it, and I am very grateful for her performance of it tonight.

Duration: 6 minutes


I am trying to keep in mind that it is always a bad sign when it takes longer to read the notes than it takes to play the piece. So read on at your own risk. filigrane was composed in 1982 for Forum composer/pianist Anthony Stark and violinist John Davario. They liked improvising, and so I wrote a "open form" piece that would give them the chance to improvise.

The word filigrane refers to intricate pattern work, like filigree or cloisonné. The underlying pattern comes from the chords upon which the piece is built ten chords which are repeated throughout all the movements-just as a jazz piece, like Satin Doll, is improvised from chord changes that alt the players know.

Originally this piece was meant to be put together by the players, but I put together this version, for flute, clarinet and violin in 1998 for the Forum. The piece works like this: Imagine a game of cards. Each player is dealt four cards and then decides when to play them. Here the player is dealt four sections and asked to play five sections, so one of these four is repeated. So here is an assignment: As you listen, find a repeated section in one of the parts.

This could be a challenge though because within the sections, the players can also decide what parts to play and what parts not to play (which is something I decided for this version). So the second time around the repeated section may be different because the performer has selected to play different passages. Performers like this because they can leave out things they don't want to play. Obviously all of this has to be decided in advance so that, for instance, everyone does not stop playing at the same time.

Another "composed" version for piano and flute was performed on the Levine School of Music's Encore Series in 1999. I have performed an earlier version of this piece several times, once with former CMF flutist Katherine Hay. The work is available as sections for flute, clarinet, violin and piano, which could be combined in any fashion. I would also like to add a cello section to the mix. Any takers out there?

Duration: 10 minutes

Light Possessed

Light Possessed was composed for the Forum and is dedicated to the composers, performers and board members of the Forum, past and present, with great admiration and affection. The piece is a reflection of the colors in the text.

I am very grateful to Alan Cheuse for allowing me to set his text. I am also very grateful to his wife, my friend, the choreographer/ dancer Kristin O'Shee, who introduced me to this text, and who I hope will choreograph this piece. The text (which is used with permission) is two excerpts taken from the end of Chouse's novel The Light Possessed, a fictional biography based on the lives of several women painters from the early twentieth century: Georgia O'Keefe, Alice Neel, and Paula Modersohn Backer.

Tell me about color. Tell me all the colors you have seen within your eye and without. Tell me about blue, blue without cease, and red–tell me the nature of red: its fiery menstrual challenge, its lingering embers; tell me about the ocean depths of green, tell me green; and pearl, off-white pearl, cream of pearl; green-blue stem; and gray stone, gray, gray stone; ochre rock, tortilla earth, desert orange, slap of yellow wildflower in the eye, the come-hither look of violet, lush of purple, vermillion's odd assertion; fell me the turquoise passage of winds shaping the pliable cloth of clouds.

Show me then if color has a sound and how line creates music, and if the shape of things takes on a shade visible near darkness, . . . and if light is the old metaphor for infinity, and if color, if color is light given in terms of the world. Succor me with this knowledge; that when I awake from my dream, I may know something other than before I slept.

Alan Cheuse, The Light Possessed

Alan Cheuse is book commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and author of a memoir Fall Out of Heaven, as well as three novels, The Bohemians, The Grandmother's Club and The Light Possessed, and two story collections, Candace and The Tennessee Waltz. His stories and reviews have appeared in the New Yorker, Plough Shares and the Chicago Tribune. He teaches writing at George Mason University. He and his wife, Kristin O'Shee, a dancer and a choreographer, live in Washington, DC.

About the composer

Frances Thompson McKay (b., 1947, Newport News, VA) has received awards and grants from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Arts, the D.C. Commission on Arts (including nine Individual Artist grants), Meet the Composer, the Levine School of Music and Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Robert Hail Lewis and received the Doctor of Music Arts degree. Her piano teachers include Carl Broman, Fernando Laires and Marjorie Mitchell.

She has been an active promoter of new music in Washington, DC, where, in the past, she has founded a series which presented improvisational music as well as coordinating a series with Georgetown University and the Levine School featuring Washington area creative artists. She currently teaches at the Levine School of Music.