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9 Preludes
Ruth Crawford (1901-1953)
9 Preludes
Study in Mixed Accents

Johanna Beyer (1888-1944)
Dissonant Counterpoints

Ruth Crawford and Johanna Beyer knew each other well. Crawford called Beyer "Hannah." Beyer's music clearly shows the influence of the younger Crawford who, ironically, stopped composing at the same time that Beyer began. Both were closely associated with Henry Cowell, who brought Crawford to New York, and to whom Beyer became a kind of de facto personal secretary in the late 1930s. Crawford and her husband Charles Seeger devised a theory of "dissonant counterpoint" which elegantly describes much of America's modernist music of the 1930s (Crawford's, Ruggles', a few others). Beyer, as far as we know, was the only composer to actually name a piece Dissonant Counterpoint. Both women favored clear, monothematic forms (like Crawford's towering Study in Mixed Accents, and Beyer's extraordinary solo clarinet suites). Crawford's work shines with an almost brutal formal clarity (her stepson Pete referred to her as "the most honest person he had ever met"); Beyer's music is tinged with a personal, quirky humor which we may not yet understand.

Clearly a student of Crawford's music, and the senior of the two by over a decade, Beyer transported Crawford's ideas to a new, sometimes strange aesthetic terrain. Beyer's musical transformation was often a softening one—the ferocity of Crawford Seeger's Sacco, Vanzetti becoming the introspective ellipiticality of Beyer's landmark mid-1930s percussion music. Of all the early percussion music composers, Beyer is unique in approaching the ensemble quietly, as in the almost mystical IV and the Three Movements. While Crawford's music declares itself — unabashedly, forthrightly, honestly — Beyer's work whispers, alludes, suggests.

This recording was made possible in part by Other Minds with support from the Thendara Foundation.

I'll buy it!  

Photo © David Casteel 

Sarah Cahill
Pianist Sarah Cahill has been instrumental in the renascence of all this music. One of the first contemporary pianists to perform Beyer's Bees, Gehrauchs-Musik and Dissonant Counterpoint, she also arranged for what may have been the premiere of Movement... (on her Henry Cowell Festival, in Berkeley, a few years ago). She has made her mark on this music not just as a performer but as an editor (working closely with Frog Peak on all of the editions) and advocate. lt is rare to find a pianist with the courage to take on difficult, obscure music with little or no public relations " hook," and even rarer for that pianist to play it so well and with such commitment. Sarah has, as Ruth Crawford might say, ensured that the "breath" of a previously unheard composer is heard.

In fact it takes a pianist like Sarah Cahill, devoted to both of these composers' music, to be the bridge not only between two radically different (but in some ways, remarkably similar) contemporaries, but also, between our ears and their imaginations. This CD, where these two composers' works are played together for the first time (so beautifully), allows us to visit a new world of idea. We hear both the young Crawford and the two composers at their modernist peak. This CD should (must!) make us rethink what we thought we understood about American avant-garde music in the 1930s, and about our compositional heritage.

—notes by Larry Polansky
Click on Tracks 1 & 8 to hear them in RealAudio (if needed, you can download RealAudio here.)
Ruth Crawford
9 Preludes
Johanna Beyer
Dissonant Counterpoint

1 ~ Andante tranquillo
2 ~ Allegro giocoso
3 ~ Semplice
4 ~ Grave, mesto
5 ~ Lento
6 ~ Andante mystico
7 ~ Intensivo
8 ~ Leggiero
9 ~ Tranquillo

Piano Study in Mexed Accents
10 ~ 1:17



11 ~ 1:10
12 ~ 2:05
13 ~ 3:54
14 ~ 2:13
15 ~ 2:02
16 ~ 3:00
17 ~ 2:29
18 ~ 3:54

19 ~ 3:13
20 ~ 1:52
21 ~ 2:51
22 ~ 1:53
23 ~ 3:54



This recording was made possible in part by Non Sequitur, and the Thendara Foundation, in conjunction with Other Minds.
New Albion Records NA 114 CD