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11th Other Minds Music Festival
February 24-26, 2005
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

   

 

The 11th Other Minds Music Festival (OM11) ended Saturday evening, February 26, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theatre with a smashing performance by Billy Bang's quintet, performing a suite of works from his Vietnam series. The 2005 festival also included a centennial tribute to a gifted but forgotten American composer, Marc Blitzstein, known for his legendary 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock. In addition, OM11 presented a 60th-birthday salute to composer and Other Minds founding artistic director Charles Amirkhanian, featuring a San Francisco premiere.

The annual Other Minds Music Festival is known for featuring unconventional programs that are cross-cultural, multigenerational, and reflect the most creative voices in contemporary music. The composers and performers participating in the 11th Other Minds Music Festival represent all points of the musical spectrum, yet share a common trait: they push the boundaries and creative possibilities of their respective disciplines.

The festival follows a unique format in which composers come together for a four-day private residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California, prior to the festival’s three days of performances and other public programs in San Francisco. Since 1993, the Other Minds Music Festival has presented some of the world’s leading composers and musicians, including Laurie Anderson, Gavin Bryars, Tan Dun, Philip Glass, Evelyn Glennie, Lou Harrison, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Sam Rivers, Ned Rorem, Trimpin, and LaMonte Young. They have been featured alongside some of today’s most gifted emerging composers, such as Ellen Fullman, Annie Gosfield, Hanna Kulenty, David Lang, Errollyn Wallen, and Pamela Z.

The 11th Other Minds Music Festival is presented in cooperation with the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Composers and musicians appearing at Other Minds 11 included:

Composer Phill Niblock presents the West Coast premiere of Sethwork, featuring guitarist Seth Josel and two simultaneously projected films by Niblock, whose music is always accompanied by motion pictures of his own making. Using an e-bow, Josel, an American living in Germany, will create a series of overlaid sustained guitar pitches, filling the hall with a rich texture of sound projected through an array of sophisticated speakers, immersing the audience in an overpowering audio illusion. A long-time New Yorker, Niblock, 71, travels frequently to present his work abroad and has composed drone works for clarinet, tympani, tuba, and sousaphone, as well as combinations of two or more instruments.

  Seth Josel
     

Composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain presents the world premiere of his String Quartet No. 4, “Angelou,” featuring the composer on electric violin with Bay Area string quartet Del Sol, and DJ Scientific sampling poetry by Maya Angelou. Based in New York and known to some as the “dread violinist,” this young African-American composer is as at home with unaccompanied Bach as he is with be-bop improvisation, and cuts a unique figure in the cross-over classical world. He has composed for various American orchestras and arranged for Cassandra Wilson's big band, and his Lincoln Center workshops challenge young composers to write classical music with hip-hop beats.

  Daniel Bernard Roumain
     

English composer Michael Nyman performs his piano accompaniment to the silent film Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1920) along with selections from The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993). Nyman’s intensely moving String Quartet No. 3, composed in Armenia and redolent of the sadness of the music of that oppressed people, will be performed by the Del Sol String Quartet. The quartet also will introduce the American concert premiere of The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi for soprano and string quartet, with a text by visual artist Mary Kelly, whose installation of a room-sized lint sculpture was the inspiration for the composition. Nyman, 60, came to prominence as a Minimalist composer in the 1970s. He composed the music for several films by Peter Greenaway: The Draughtman's Contract; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; and perhaps most touchingly, Prospero's Books. This will be his first appearance in San Francisco since 1994.

  Michael Nyman
     

OM11 presents a 60th-birthday tribute to Other Minds founding artistic director Charles Amirkhanian (b. 19 January 1945), featuring the San Francisco concert premiere of his radiophonic tape piece, Son of Metropolis San Francisco. The work is a part-abstract, part-representational audio snapshot of idiosyncratic Bay Area sounds, ranging from barking elephant seals at Año Nuevo Beach to a runaway overflow valve next to a hot tub at Harbin Hot Springs. In between, listeners hear Tongan gardeners, a Chinese sitcom, and conga drummers at Ocean Beach, manipulated on a Synclavier digital synthesizer and ultimately offset by a hypnotic and meditative organ chorale. Originally commissioned by Studio 3 Hörspiel of the West German Radio in Cologne and New American Radio for the NPR satellite system, the work has been broadcast internationally, but is best heard in a concert hall.  Composed in 1986 in the Oakland studio of Henry Kaiser and with his assistance, the music will be performed over a surround-sound array of state-of-the-art loudspeakers from the noted Berkeley firm Meyer Sound. This condensed 26-minute version of the original 55-minute work (Metropolis San Francisco) was made in 1997.

  Charles Amirkhanian
     

Legendary experimental guitarist Fred Frith will premiere improvisations both as a soloist and as a member of the duo Normal, alongside Sudhu Tewari, a Bay Area resident of Indian descent whose remarkable music is performed on homemade acoustic instruments. Since recording Guitar Solos in 1974, Frith has been regarded as one of a handful of radical innovators on the instrument. He has collaborated with such luminaries as guitarist Derek Bailey, Bill Laswell, Miya Masaoka, Hans Reichel, Heiner Goebbels, John Zorn, Han Bennink, and Christian Marclay. A co-founder of the English rock group Henry Cow, Frith also has composed a significant body of chamber music for such groups as the ASKO Ensemble, Rova Saxophone Quartet, and Ensemble Modern.

  Fred Frith
     

Composer Maria de Alvear presents the world premiere of a new trio work, which she will perform (voice and keyboards) with San Francisco cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, and Italian vocalist Amelia Cuni, master of the classical Indian Dhrupad style of singing. Born in Spain in 1960 and now living in Cologne, Alvear studied “new music theater” with Mauricio Kagel, one of the great figures in European music, and has worked extensively with musicians from Native American tribes in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. With melodic patterns that are almost Mahlerian in their reach, Alvear’s Libertad, Sexo, Thinking, Vagina, Fuerzas, and World are intricately constructed evening-length works that are thoroughly notated and written for the talents of specific performers.

  Maria de Alvear
     

Composer John Luther Adams presents the West Coast premiere of five movements from Strange and Sacred Noise, an evening-length suite for percussion quartet in which Adams devotes each movement to various combinations of like instruments: “…dust unto dust…” is for snare drums; “clusters on a quadrilateral grid” invites the players to strike hair-raising simultaneous chords on multiple vibraphones; and “solitary and time-breaking waves” is scored for a battery of tom-toms. Living in the boreal forest near Fairbanks, Alaska, Adams has created a unique musical world grounded in the elemental landscapes and indigenous cultures of the North, exploring natural phenomena from the songs of birds to the complex nature of chaos, fractal geometry, and elemental noise. His book Winter Music: Composing the North was released by Wesleyan University Press in 2004.

  John Luther Adams
     

Clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn presents Melody Competition, an electrifying piece incorporating the sounds and techniques of Balinese gamelan music and inspired by the west Balinese mebarung, a raucous “battle of the bands.” A co-founder of New York’s widely hailed Bang on a Can Festival, Ziporyn has written for Kronos Quartet, pianist Sarah Cahill, the California EAR Unit, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, and Orkest de Volharding. His collaborations include work with DJ Spooky, Paul Simon, pianist Matthew Shipp, and Trichy Sankaran. As a bass clarinetist, he has developed a distinctive set of extended techniques, which he has used in his own solo works and in works by David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Martin Bresnick.

Adams’ and Ziporyn’s works will be performed by members of So Percussion from New Haven, Connecticut— Douglas Perkins, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Lawson White—augmented by Dan Kennedy and Robert Esler, in the group’s premiere appearance in San Francisco. So Percussion (“so” is a form of the Japanese verb “to play”) has been turning heads with concerts performed with high-flying abandon and fully memorized scores.

  Evan Ziporyn
     

Composer, violinist, and Vietnam veteran Billy Bang and his New York-based quintet present the world premiere of new selections from his ongoing Vietnam Trilogy, an intensely direct and heart-rending portrayal of war from the perspective of a soldier on the ground. Hailing from Mobile, Alabama, with a musical lineage based in an appreciation of John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and Jackie McLean, Bang (a.k.a. William Vincent Walker) was a member of the String Trio of New York with James Emery and John Lindberg, and has played with pianist Marilyn Crispell, the Sun Ra Orchestra, and guitarist Sonny Sharrock, among others. Vietnam: The Aftermath was released on Justin Time Records in 2002; the second release in the trilogy, Vietnam Reflections, will be out in January, 2005.

  Billy Bang
     

The Centenary Celebration of Marc Blitzstein begins with a screening of Tim Robbins’ film Cradle Will Rock (1999). The day continues with a mixed survey of Blitzstein’s output of concert and film music, highlighted by the West Coast premiere of an unpublished piano work from 1929, Piano Percussion Music, in which the performer, Sarah Cahill, is required to slam the keyboard cover for emphasis. Audiences can also hear Blitzstein perform on the piano in the sound accompaniment for the outstanding German experimental film Hände (Hands, Albrecht Viktor Blum, 1927), and his orchestral score for Valley Town (Willard Van Dyke, 1940), an emotional documentary set in a Pennsylvania steel town. In addition, a short selection of Blitzstein’s concert and theatrical songs will be performed by Amy X Neuburg and other singers.

Marc Blitzstein, born March 2, 1905, in Philadelphia to a comfortably bourgeois family, spent his life as a progressive activist. He was the only American to study composition with both Arnold Schoenberg and Nadia Boulanger and was an accomplished concert pianist. His collaboration with Orson Welles on the 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock, a powerful pro-labor cry against corporate greed, brought him to national prominence as an American counterpart to German political composers Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler. In the music community of New York, Blitzstein also was an openly gay man whose song settings of Whitman and his own texts touched on erotic themes. He was tragically murdered in 1964 in Martinique while completing an opera on the subject of Sacco and Vanzetti for the Met.

  Marc Blitzstein