Retrospective by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director, Charles Amirkhanian
The seeds for Other Minds were planted in Southwest Colorado in the Summer of 1988. That was the date of the first “Composer-to-Composer” festival which featured Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, Laurie Spiegel, Peter Sculthorpe, Brian Eno, Sarah Hopkins, Kyle Gann, Paul de Marinis, and others. The conception of this cooperative festival came a few years prior when Carol Law and I attended the second annual “Ideas Festival” in Telluride, Colorado. It was curated by our old friends Pamela Zoline and John Lifton and their Telluride Institute. The goal was to bring together speakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum to confer in private for a time and then come together for a public, civil discourse on the issues. I was struck by the openness and honesty of the unfolding interpersonal and intellectual play between people so far apart ideologically.
When the festival concluded, Lifton, who was a pioneer of computer music, confided to me how much he missed his composer friends. We discussed how the Ideas Festival could be used as a model for a conference of composers. Thus, the Composer-to-Composer festival was born, and from 1988-1991 many brilliant minds met in the scenic Southwest Rockies to talk about music and share it with those brave enough to come and listen. It was a truly wonderful four years but, it was with heavy hearts that we realized in 1991 that Telluride, Colorado, just couldn’t sustain a festival of avant-garde music. We were unable to raise the necessary funds to continue on the grand scale we’d established.
After announcing my resignation from KPFA in 1992, I received a call from the legendary San Francisco art gallerist and film producer Jim Newman. He was concerned that the experimental music scene of the Bay Area was going to take a significant hit as a result. I told him about my work with the Composer-to-Composer series and we began to discuss the possibility of creating another festival that used its model. Carol and I had just become co-directors at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in the remotest area of Woodside, California, 40 miles south of San Francisco. It seemed like an ideal place to continue our cooperative musical gathering, where we were going to be able to advance the goal we set out to accomplish—to create a space where artists could come together and learn from one another—place where the usual ideological and cultural wars, that are, sadly, so common to new music festivals, were avoided.
In 1993, the Other Minds Festival became a reality. The lineup of composers was tremendous and ranged from the notorious to the relatively obscure. There were giants of 20th century music, Conlon Nancarrow, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, and Robert Ashley, sharing the stage with Jai Uttal, a little known composer of Indian inspired music, a very young Julia Wolfe, and the astute, but relatively unknown, Barbara Monk-Feldman. Together with Foday Musa Suso, the Gambian virtuoso kora player with thirteen generations of ancestors committed to memory, pianist/composer Jon Jang, sound artist Trimpin, and baritone-improviser-philanthropist Thomas Buckner, the first Other Minds festival took shape.
Together these artists spent three days together at Djerassi, sharing ideas, playing music for one another, and basking in the beautiful natural setting. After their time in private session, they all convened to the Mosser Victorian Hotel on 4th Street in downtown San Francisco in preparation for four public days of music performances.
Other Minds’ first festival was a marker of many new beginnings. It coincided with the opening of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, it was the birth of our festival that, many years later, is still going strong, and it marked the beginning of many lifelong friendships between artists and art-lovers alike. That being said, it was also marked by many endings. It was a year after the end of the great John Cage’s life. He was honored by a panel discussion on his legacy, with performances of a few of his works. It was penultimate trip that Conlon Nancarrow would ever be able to make to the United States before his death in 1997. It was profoundly heartbreaking that a case of the flu impacted his visit to an extent that he wasn’t able to make the one block walk, from the hotel to the theater, on any days other than opening night. It also felt like an appropriate time to discuss with these composers, young and old, the impending end of the 20th century and what was important to strive for with the new millennium just around the corner.
The festival turned out to be an unqualified hit. New and exciting works were presented to a large, receptive audience of new music lovers, the composers shared their perspectives in two panel discussions, and a film presentation occurred in four action packed days. It was the start of something new and exciting. The thought of having to match, year after year, such an auspicious gathering was daunting, but the excitement it generated kept us looking ahead, always always on the lookout for composers and performers who otherwise would not find a place onstage in San Francisco and who brought mind-bending new works to delight our audiences.
Below you will find archival photos and audio from the very first Other Minds Festival, which took place from November 4-7, 1993 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California.
Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, filmmaker, and director/choreographer. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Ms. Monk has created more than 60 music/theater/dance and film works since 1964. She has received numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Brandeis Creative Arts Award, three Obies (including an award for Sustained Achievement), two Villager Awards, a Bessie for Sustained Creative Achievement, the 1986 National Music Theater Award, 16 ASCAP Awards for Musical Composition, and the 1992 Dance Magazine Award. She has been awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Arts from Bard College and the University of the Arts, and was names a MacDowell Sigma Alpha Iota Fellow.
Her recordings of Dolmen Music (ECM New Series) and Our Lady of Late: The Vanguard Tapes (Wergo) were both honored with the German Critics Prize for Best Records of 1981 and 1986. Her film Ellis Island won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, was awarded prizes at the Atlanta and San Francisco Film Festivals, and was shown nationally on PBS. During a career that spans over 25 years, she has been a major creative force in the performing arts.
In 1968 Ms. Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. She formed Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble in 1978 to perform her unique vocal compositions. Ms. Monk has recorded 10 albums, most of which are with the ECM New Series; her latest releases include Atlas (1993), Facing North (1992), and Book of Days (1990). In recent years, a retrospective of her film/video work was presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Ringing Place was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival; and a duet concert with pianist Nurit Tiles was performed at Town Hall. Ms. Monk’s feature film Book of Days aired on PBS, appeared internationally at film festivals, was released theatrically, and was chosen for the 1991 Whitney Biennale. Her full-length opera, Atlas, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, The Walker Art Center, and The American Music Theater Festival, premiered in 1991. Performances at the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts completed the 1991 Atlas domestic tour, which was followed by a European tour and the New York City premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May 1992. Other recent New York performances include the 1991 premiere at St. Mark’s Church of Facing North, performed and developed in collaboration with Robert Een; a retrospective in 1991 at the World Financial Center titled Three Pivotal Works, and the revival of Education of the Girlchild at The Joyce Theater in 1993.
Conlon Nancarrow: Born in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1912, Nancarrow was active in his early years as a trumpeter, playing jazz and other types of popular music. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music from 1929-32, and later studied composition and counterpoint in Boston with Nicolas Slonimsky, Walter Piston, and Roger Sessions (1933-36). He values most his work with Sessions: “The only formal studies I did that were important were the studies I had in strict counterpoint with Roger Sessions. That was the only formal training I ever had. And they were rigid! I’d do this strict counterpoint exercise, and then I’d take a piece of my music and say to him, ‘What do you think of this?’ ‘Very interesting; where’s your counterpoint exercise?'” Nancarrow also cites Bach and Stravinsky as seminal influences.
In 1937 Nancarrow enlisted in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. On his return to the United States in 1939 he became involved in the New York new music scene, contributing several reviews to Modern Music and associating with other composers such as Elliot Carter and Aaron Copland.
Nancarrow was a dedicated socialist, which made him politically unacceptable in the United States. This was brought plainly home when he applied for a passport and was denied. Angry at such treatment, he moved to Mexico City in the early 1940s, becoming a Mexican citizen in 1956. He died there in 1997.
Nancarrow returned to the player piano partly because of Mexico’s extreme musical isolation. Another more compelling reason was his long-standing frustration at the inability of musicians to deal with even moderately difficult rhythms. He goes so far as to say that “As long as I’ve been writing music I’ve been dreaming of getting rid of the performers.” With the advent of the phonograph, the player piano has been relegated to the status of an object of nostalgia. But not so for Nancarrow, who since the late 1940s has composed almost exclusively for the instrument.
The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Nancarrow’s complete Studies for Player Piano have been released on compact disc by Wergo (Germany), produced by Charles Amirkhanian.
Born in Baltimore on January 31, 1937, Philip Glass discovered music in his father’s radio repair shop where records also were sold. When certain ones sold poorly, he would take them home and play them for his three children, trying to discover why they didn’t appeal to customers. These happened to be recordings of the great chamber works, and the future composer rapidly became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas, Shostakovich symphonies, and other music then considered “offbeat.” It was not until he was in his late teens that Glass began to encounter more “standard” classics.
Glass began study of the violin at six and became serious about music when he took up the flute at eight. But by the time he was 15, he had become frustrated with the limited flute repertory as well as with musical life in post-war Baltimore. During his second year in high school, he applied for admission to the University of Chicago, passed, and with his parents’ encouragement, moved to Chicago where he supported himself with part-time jobs waiting tables and loading airplanes at airports. He majored in mathematics and philosophy, and in off hours practiced piano and concentrated on such composers as Ives and Webern.
At 19, Glass graduated from the University of Chicago and, determined to become a composer, moved to New York and the Julliard School. By then he had abandoned the 12-tone techniques he had been using in Chicago, and preferred the works of American composers like Aaron Copland and William Schuman.
By the time he was 23, Glass had studied with Vincent Persichetti, Darius Milhaud, and William Bergsma. He had rejected serialism and preferred such maverick composers as Harry Partch, Ives, Moondog, Henry Cowell, and Virgil Thomson, but he still had not found his own voice. Still searching, he moved to Paris and undertook two years of intensive study under Nadia Boulanger.
In Paris, Glass was hired by a filmmaker to transcribe the Indian music of Ravi Shankar in notation readable by French musicians, and in the process, discovered the techniques of Indian music. Glass promptly renounced his previous music and, after researching music in North Africa, India, and the Himalayas, returned to New York and began applying Eastern techniques to his own work.
By 1974, he had composed a large collection of new music, much of it for use by the theater company Mabou Mines (Glass was one of the co-founders of that company), and most of it composed for his own performing group, the Philip Glass Ensemble. This period culminated in Music in 12 Parts, a three-hour summation of Glass’ new music, and reached its apogee in 1976 with the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson opera Einstein on the Beach, the four and one-half hour epic now seen as a landmark in 20th century music-theater.
Glass’ output since Einstein has ranged from opera (Satyagraha, Akhnaten, Hydrogen Jukebox, and others) to film (Koyaanisqatsi, Mishima, The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, and others) to dance (A Descent into the Maelstrom and In The Upper Room), to theater pieces such as The Photographer and 1000 Airplanes on the Roof. Among his more recently completed works are the Low Symphony based on music of David Bowie and Brian Eno, and The Voyage, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.
Born January 19, 1945, in Fresno, California, composer, percussionist, sound poet and radio producer Charles Amirkhanian is a leading practitioner of electroacoustic music and text-sound composition and has been instrumental in the dissemination of contemporary music through his work as Music Director of KPFA/Berkeley from 1969 to 1992. He also directed the Speaking of Music series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1983-1992) and was the founding Co-Director (with John Lifton) of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado (1988-1991). From 1993 to 1997 Amirkhanian was Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. From 1993 he has been Artistic Director of Other Minds. In May of 1998 Amirkhanian was appointed Executive Director.
In 1990 Amirkhanian completed an extended spoken word portrait of the late American composer Morton Feldman, incorporating his extant recorded speeches and conversations, on commission from Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest (Loudspeakers, 1990). This 35-minute composition was premiered at the Electronic Music Plus Festival at Mills College in Oakland, California, on April 3, 1991, and was aired nationally over the NPR Satellite in January 1992. In 1991 he composed A Berkelium Canon (with Henry Kaiser), a digital pianistic tribute to Nicolas Slonimsky, on the occasion of the latter’s 97th birthday.
In his recent works, produced with the Synclavier digital synthesizer, Amirkhanian incorporates sampled acoustic environmental sounds (which he calls “representational sounds”) and traditional musical pitched sounds (“abstract sounds”) to develop dreamscapes which act as disjunct narratives, evoking a world of memory-triggers which induce a trance like listening state. Sounds are chosen both for purposes of reference to a subject and for their sculptural and gestural beauty. His Walking Tune (A Room-Music for Percy Grainger), is perhaps the most important example of this genre, combining natural sounds recorded in Grainger’s native Australia with haunting violin melodies and fragments of a J. C. Bach aria.
His music has been recorded on Starkland Records, 1750 Arch Records, Composers Recordings, Inc., Giorno Poetry Systems, Fylkingen Records (Sweden), S Press (Germany), OU Records (England), Perspectives of New Music, and Diffusion i Média (Canada). His CD “Walking Tune”, containing five works, was released in 1998 by Starkland Records.
Jai Uttal: A native of New York, Jai embarked on his global quest after stay at Reed College in Oregon, when he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to study sarod and singing with Indian master musician Ali Akbar Khan. But it was traveling to India that awakened Jai to “a strange and unexpected sense of homecoming,” and during an extended stay in Bengal, he was strongly influenced by the legendary Bauls, a people “affected by wind” whose indigenous music is unschooled by concert hall standards but disciplined by generations of tradition. Of the many instruments in his repertoire, Jai most often turns to the Bauls’ sarod-like dotar as his vehicle for bridging the diverse cultures in his musical synthesis.
Between the release of his widely acclaimed Footprints, which featured jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, and Monkey, Jai Uttal organized a seven-member band to perform his music in concert. The septet, which includes Peter Apfelbaum and several members of his Hieroglyphics Ensemble, appeared at the 1992 Montreux Jazz Festival.
While Monkey retains Jai’s hallmark innovations of melding sampled and sequenced sounds with “real-time” instruments (including harmonium, gubgubbi, tabla, bansuri, cornet, saxophone, guitar, accordion, mandolin, and drums), it also radiates with the energy of collective interplay between Jai and Peter Apfelbaum, Will Bernard, Peck Allmond, Geoffrey Gordon, Daniel Paul Karp, Bruce Linde, Rob Vlack, Charlie Burnham, and others.
In an age of trends and fashions, movements and anti-movements, genres and sub-genres, Julia Wolfe‘s life and work defy early categorization. On the surface, she seems the quintessential composer for the ’90s –New York-based, politically aware –and, don’t forget, female –and in fact her career has been appropriately meteoric. In the last few years she has sprung into the consciousness of the musical cognoscenti through a few startlingly individual and unforgettable works for orchestra, string quartet, chorus, and chamber ensemble, and she is now rightfully regarded as one of the key musical voices of her generation. Given all this, one would ordinarily expect something befitting the “latest thing.” But when one hears her music, the catch-phrases immediately become inadequate, one-dimensional, and simplistic. The music’s simply too damn real to be described by an “ism.”
Born in Philadelphia in 1958, her resume is bedecked with dazzling degrees and prizes: doctoral work at Princeton, MM from Yale, a Fullbright Fellowship, and a generous assortment of grants from the Koussevitsky Foundation, Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest, ASCAP, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and other august bodies. Her pieces have been performed by an equally prestigious cast of characters: the San Francisco Symphony, the American Composer’s Orchestra, the Cassatt Quartet, the Lark Quartet, Orkest de Volharding, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, and the New York Youth Symphony. But while certainly impressive, the list leaves out the most important parts: her work as co-founder of New York’s Bang On A Can Festival, where she has been responsible for the presentation of hundreds of new and unknown works over the past seven years; and her studies with composer Martin Bresnick, with whom she shared a fascination and engagement with music of all stripes.
Julia Wolfe’s appetite for music is wide-ranging and voracious; her enthusiasm for late Beethoven is rivaled only by her passion for Led Zeppelin, or perhaps her love of traditional American folk music. These influences and many others can be heard subtly but clearly in her work, yet in no way is her music a pastiche of styles. Rather, disparate sounds and structures are put to new, unexpected uses, the point being not one of self-conscious reference, but rather that of finding expression for the unique way she has processed the material. There are no power chords in the breathtakingly virtuosic string quartet Early that summer, but the vibrancy of rock and roll sears through every moment. Similarly, one can sense the spirit of Stravinsky and Andriessson in On Seven-Star-Shoes and The Vermeer Room, and yet these pieces have identities that are distinct and utterly Wolfe-ian.
Trimpin, a sound sculptor, composer, inventor, is one of the most stimulating one-man forces in music today. A specialist in interfacing computers with traditional acoustic instruments, he has developed a myriad of methods for playing, trombones, cymbals, pianos, and so forth with Macintosh computers. He has collaborated frequently with Conlon Nancarrow, realizing the composer’s piano roll compositions through various media. At the 1989 Composer-to-Composer conference in Telluride, Colorado, Trimpin created a Macintosh-controlled device that allowed one of Nancarrow’s short studies for player piano to be performed by mallets striking 100 Dutch wooden shoes arranged in a horseshoe from the edge of the balcony at the Sheridan Opera House. He also prepared a performance of Nancarrow’s studies at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for New Music America in 1989.
Trimpin was born in southwestern Germany, near the Black Forest. His early musical training began at the age of eight, learning woodwinds and brass instruments. In later years he developed an allergic reaction to metal which prevented him from pursuing a career in music, so he turned to electro-mechanical engineering. Afterwards, he spent several years living and studying in Berlin where he received his Master’s Degree from the University of Berlin.
Eventually he became interested in acoustical sets while working in theater productions with Samuel Beckett and Rick Cluchey, director of the San Quentin Drama Workshop. From 1985-87 he co-chaired the Electronic Music Department of the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam.
Trimpin now resides in Seattle where numerous instruments that defy description adorn his amazing studio. In describing his work, Trimpin sums it up as “extending the traditional boundaries of instruments and the sounds they’re capable of producing by mechanically operating them. Although they’re computer-driven, they’re still real instruments making real sounds, but with another dimension added, that of spatial distribution. What I’m trying to do is go beyond human physical limitations to play instruments in such a way that no matter how complex the composition of the timing, it can be pushed over the limits.”
Foday Musa Suso is a Mandingo griot (the griot is the hereditary musician/oral historian of the Mandingo people). He is a virtuoso kora player, drummer, and composer. Suso was born in the Sarre Hamadi Village, Wuli District, in the West African nation of Gambia. Initially taught by his father, at the age of eleven Suso was sent away to study under a master kora player, Saikou Suso, of the Pasamasi Village. After undergoing seven years of rigorous study, at age eighteen he became a full-fledged griot.
He then journeyed throughout Africa singing traditional Mandingo songs, and played clubs, concerts, and radio and television programs in Germany, France, Sweden, and Finland. From 1975 through 1977 he held the post of Kora Instructor at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.
In 1977, Suso established himself in the United States, founding the Mandingo Griot Society where he taught jazz musicians to play new arrangements of Mandingo music. Their first record featured the late American jazz musician Don Cherry.
In 1984, the organizing committee of the Olympic games approached Herbie Hancock for the composition of the official theme music for the field events. Wanting to evoke the roots of man, Herbie turned to Suso. Their collaboration resulted in the rousing “Junku,” and continued with Suso composing for Herbie’s next album, “Sound System,” and later with the highly acclaimed duet album, “Village Life.”
Suso was a featured instrumentalist on the Philip Glass soundtrack for the film Powaqattsi, and collaborated with Glass on the score for the American premiere of Jean Genet’s The Screens, which opened at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater in the fall of 1989, and was recently released on Glass’ Point Music label for Philips.
Suso has toured with the Kronos String Quartet and their recordings are part of the Pieces of Africa release on the Elektra Nonesuch label.
Barbara Monk Feldman was born in Canada and studied composition with Bengt Hambraeus at McGill University in Montreal, and with Morton Feldman at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she received a Ph.D. in 1987. Her music has been performed in Canada, the United States, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and Italy by the Arditti String Quartet, the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, Roger Heaton, Yvar Mikhashoff, Frederic Rzewski, Aki Takahashi, Robyn Schulkowsky, and Marianne Schroeder. She has participated on the faculty of the International Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik at Darmstadt since 1988, and she has been commissioned to write new works from the Sonorities Festival at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Toronto New Music Concerts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, and Concerts in New York City. Her music has been recorded for radio by the BBC in Ireland, BRT in Belgium, the CBC in Canada, and WDR and HR in Germany.
Thomas Buckner (“An extraordinary baritone, a leading vocalist in any 20th century idiom” — The Village Voice) has won a special niche as a leading performer and producer of avant-garde music. A baritone with a wide range of experience in a variety of genres, he is best known for his work with contemporary composers and improvisors.
In association with composer Robert Ashley, he has performed as a lead singer in the opera Atalanta (Acts of God), which toured throughout Europe and the United States, and was recorded by Lovely Music, Ltd. He currently tours with eL/Aficionado (which was written for him by Ashley) and Improvement (Don Leaves Linda), Foreign Experiences and Now Eleanor’s Idea.
These four operas were premiered at the Avignon Festival and presented at the StrasbourgMusic Festival in France and The Next Wave Festival in New York. Mr. Buckner has also worked regularly with composer Roscoe Mitchell, recently in his Roscoe Mitchell New Chamber Ensemble, which released the criticallyacclaimed CD, Pilgrimage on the Lovely Music label. On the Knitting Factory Works label, he appears as guest vocalist on First Meeting with Roscoe Mitchell and Borah Bergman.
He appeared singing his own compositions at the Asian Contemporary Music Festival in South Korea, at the Other Minds I Festival in San Francisco and at Willow Place in Brooklyn. His two recent solo CD’s, Full Spectrum Voice, and the new Sign of the Times, both feature commissioned works and are available on the Lovely Music label.
In Berkeley, California, where he resided from 1967-1983, Buckner founded 1750 Arch Concerts, which presented over 100 events a year for eight years, and 1750 Arch Records, which released over 50 record albums. He was vocal soloist and co-director of the 23-piece Arch Ensemble, which performed and recorded the work of 20th century composers. Since 1989, he has curated the World Music Institute’s “Interpretations” series in New York.
Buckner has also worked with a veritable who’s who of established and emerging composers, including Alvin Lucier, Jin Hi Kim, Annea Lockwood, Brian Smith, Thurman Barker and Henry Threadgill, and had the lead role in David First’s new opera Manhattan Book of the Dead which premiered at LaMama in the Spring of 1995.
Recent performances include Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the world premiere of Francisco Feliciano’s opera Ashen Wings in Manila. He is a member of the improvising quartet Act of Finding, which has released a CD on O.O. Discs by the same name.
Born in Ann Arbor in 1930 and educated at the University of Michigan and the Manhattan School of Music, Robert Ashley studied composition as well as psychoacoustics and cultural speech patterns. He established and directed the ONCE Group and the ONCE Festival, music-theatre organizations that flourished in Ann Arbor during the 1960s presenting and touring most of the decade’s major artists. Relocating to California in 1969, Mr. Ashley directed Mills College’s Center for Contemporary Music, where he organized a world-renowned public access music and media facility.
Now a full-time composer based in New York, one of Ashley’s best known works is Perfect Lives, an opera for television that was produced in cooperation with Britain’s Channel Four and broadcast in 1984. Commissioned by New York’s performance venue The Kitchen, it has since been seen in Austria, Spain, and the United States. Ashley’s work Improvement, a 90-minute oratorio-like piece, premiered in New York in 1991, and has since been featured in festivals in Berlin and Paris.
Jon Jang has broken barriers and genres as a composer, pianist and artistic director of ensembles in developing original works noted for their compelling mix of different influences and sounds. As a composer, Mr. Jang has received commissions from the NEA, Rockefeller Foundation, Cal Performances, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Festival 2000 and the Kronos Quartet. His major works include: Island: the Immigrant Suite, No. 1 (1995); the score for Deborah Rogin’s dramatic adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1994); The Color of Reality (1993), performed at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium; Tianenmen! (1992), performed at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco; and Reparations Now! Concerto for Jazz Ensemble and Taiko (1988). Mr. Jang has recently composed the score for filmmaker Renée Tajima’s new road documentary about Asian Americans.
Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program awarded a grant to theWalker Art Center to commission Jon Jang and James Newton to compose Cantata for Paul Robeson and Mei Manfang, a work which features an African American baritone, Chinese soprano, jazz quartet, chember music ensemble and African and Chinese instrumentation. The Bay Area première was performed at Cal Performances—UC Berkeley in 1997. Collaborations in 1996 included: Island: the Immigrant Suite No. 2 for the Kronos Quartet; After Hours, a performance art work featuring David Mura and Kelvin Han Yee; and Take me out to the Tenderloin with the Pearl Ubungen Dancers. Two new CD recordings, Two Flowers on a Stem and Island: the Immigrant Suite No. 1, were released on Soul Note, an Italian-based label, in 1996.
In 1994, Jang was awarded a fellowship to do research on Beijing Opera in China. Mr. Jang has also been a visiting lecturer in the Asian American Studies Department at the University of California at Berkeley and Irvine. He has served as an evaluator for the Contemporary Music Division at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, artistic advisor for the Asia Society’s “Crossovers” series and on panels for the NEA and Arts International. Beginning piano lessons at the late age of 19, Mr. Jang received his B.Mus degree in Piano Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1978 with only five years of formal training.
As the artistic director and pianist of the Pan Asian Arkestra and the Jon Jang Sextet, which features David Murray and Chen Jiebing, Mr. Jang’s ensembles have toured at major jazz festivals and concerts in South Africa, Europe, Canada and the United States. He has also collaborated and performed with Max Roach, Sonia Sanchez, Genny Lim, John Santos, Victor Hernandez Cruz, and Billy Taylor. Mr. Jang has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Ensemble and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.
Center for the Arts Theater
Thursday, November 4, 1993
Contraption No. 1 (1993)
Trimpin, computer-controlled piano
Study No. 47 (1993)
For extended woodwinds and computer-controlled piano
Trimpin, modified bass clarinet and computer-controlled piano
Beth Custer, modified bass clarinet
Early that summer (1993)
The Alyeska Quartet:
Kathryn Stenberg, violin
Ellen Gronningen, violin
Phyllis Kamrin, viola
Melissa Burton, cello
Foday Musa Suso:
Foday Musa Suso, kora and voice
Philip Glass, synthesizer
Center for the Arts Theater
Friday, November 5, 1993
Woman Shaman of Alishan (1993)
Jon Jang, piano
Mad Rush (1980)
Philip Glass, piano
The Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio:
David Abel, violin
Julie Steinberg, piano
William Winant, percussion
Barbara Monk Feldman:
Duo for Piano and Percussion (1988)
Julie Steinberg, piano
William Winant, percussion
West Coast premiere
Daved Abel, violin
Julie Steinberg, piano
Music for 3 (1984)
David Abel, violin
Julie Steinberg, piano
William Winant, percussion
In a Landscape (1948)
Julie Steinberg, piano
Center for the Arts Theater
Saturday, November 6, 1993
Inner Journey (1992)
Thomas Buckner, baritone
Dynamic Crossings (1993)
Thomas Buckner, baritone and interactive electronics
David Wessell, computer realization
Light Songs (1988)
Meredith Monk, voice and piano
Charles Amirkhanian and Henry Kaiser:
A Berkelium Canon
Charles Amirkhanian and Henry Kaiser, DAT realization
Selected Studies for Player Piano
Trimpin, prepared piano
Center for the Arts Theater
Sunday, November 7, 1993
Empire for voices and tape
Robert Ashley, voice
Sam Ashley, voice
Thomas Buckner, voice
Jacqueline Humbert, voice
The Producer Speaks
Thomas Buckner, baritone
Robert Ashley, piano
Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra