When Other Minds held its first festival in 1993 it was with the intention of making the experience special not only for the audience but also the visiting composers. What would happen if we gave our guests four days of time together before our concerts without any agenda other than to bond with each other in a peaceful environment?
To that end, OM has been blessed to have the cooperation each year of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, which hosts creative individuals throughout the year and is one of the nation’s leading sites for the making of new literature, dance, music, and visual art. Each of the visiting composers, hailing this year from Cambodia, Denmark, Canada, Poland, Brazil/Germany, and the U.S., were in residence from February 28 to March 4 on the spectacular 700-acre ranch in Woodside, California, getting to know one another’s music in an isolated setting with wonderful hiking, site specific sculpture, excellent meals and “The Gift of Time” to make connections that will last a lifetime.
The results were evident in the music making and panel discussions over the three nights at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The guest composers ranging between 27 and 81 years of age were in residence, each of whom has a distinctive style and personality, most of whom have never before met each other.
OM was greatly pleased to have Ben Johnston, the legendary creator of a body of work in just intonation for string quartet and other instrumental combinations that is the most highly developed of its kind. The purity of his sound is thrilling and we matched him with two other practitioners of this angelic tuning proclivity: guitarist John Schneider, who will premiere Johnston’s The Tavern, and Michael Harrison, whose work for just piano has been expanded to include San Francisco’s Del Sol String Quartet in a world premiere extravaganza to close this year. Del Sol also performed Chinary Ung’s Spiral X for whistling and singing string players—a tour de force the group premiered in 2007 at the Library of Congress on the Stradivarius instrument collection there—as well as giving the world premiere of Toronto-based Linda Catlin Smith’s String Quartet No. 4, “Gondola,” and the American premiere of Polish composer Dobromiła Jaskot’s Linearia. The leading Danish composer of his generation, Bent Sørensen, was represented by Phantasmagoria, played by the Trio con Brio Copenhagen, and Brazilian-born Berliner Chico Mello brought us his tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that is sure to find new followers.
The youngest composer, Catherine Lamb, 27, contributed a unique blend of sonorities in her Dilations, commissioned with funds from San Francisco’s Gerbode Foundation and The Hewlett Foundation’s Emerging Composers 2007 initiative. And this year, in a bit of a departure, OM paid tribute to two composers who are not here with us in performances by the magnificent Amsterdam Cello Octet. The first work was by the late Argentinian-born Cologne-based Mauricio Kagel, and the second by Estonian Arvo Pärt. Performances by the Other Minds Ensemble, pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann, violist Susan Ung, and cellist Hannah Addario-Berry completed the musical proceedings.
Michael Harrison, composer and pianist, combines a lifelong immersion in both Western and Indian classical music to create “a new harmonic world…of vibrant sound” (The New York Times). He became a protègè of La Monte Young and a disciple of the late Pandit Pran Nath in 1979. While completing graduate studies at the University of Oregon, he traveled to New York City where he worked closely with Young, preparing all of the specialized tunings and scores for The Well-Tuned Piano. Harrison became the only other person besides Young to perform this extended work.
In 1986, Harrison designed his own “harmonic piano,” an extensively modified grand piano with the ability to alternate between two different tunings to play 24 notes per octave on a conventional keyboard. Kyle Gann from The Village Voice hailed the harmonic piano as “an indisputable landmark in the history of Western tuning.” From Ancient Worlds, Michael’s first extended work composed for the harmonic piano, was recorded in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for New Albion Records and was voted the “No. 2 Best Recording of the Year” in 1992 on WNYC-FM’s New Sounds Listener’s Poll. His latest work, Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation is a compelling 75-minute composition that showcases one of Michael’s specialized tunings for conventional piano utilizing “celestial commas” (precisely tuned intervals of 64:63).
Dobromiła Jaskot was born May 29, 1981 in Toruń (Thorn), Poland. She studied composition with Lidia Zielińska in the Music Academy in Poznań, receiving her degree with honors in 2005, and in 2007 completed the Postgraduate Study of Special, Computer, Film and Theatre Composition in the Music Academy in Wrocław. Jaskot focuses on multimedia art, especially interactive projects, and is actively engaged in the organization of interdisciplinary conferences, festivals and concerts of contemporary music. She also gives concerts as a pianist performing contemporary music.
In April of 2006, the Grand Theatre–National Opera in Warsaw presented the world premiere of Jaskot’s interactive chamber opera Fedra. This was followed by performances of her music at both the 2007 and 2008 Warsaw Autumn Festivals. Her music has been presented at numerous other festivals including the UltraSchall International Festival of New Music (Berlin), Musica Electronica Nova, Musica Polonica Nova, Poznań Music Spring, Malta Theatre Festival, Contemporary Music Week in Esbjerg, as well as other events in Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Denmark, Austria, and Portugal. Jaskot’s music has been broadcast by Deutschlandradio Kultur, Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg, Polish Radio Programme 2, Radio Bis, Radio Copernicus, and Radio Monaliza.
Ben Johnston was born in Macon, Georgia in 1926, and holds degrees from William and Mary College, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and Mills College. He taught at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1951 to 1983, and has counted among his own teachers and collaborators Harry Partch, Darius Milhaud, and John Cage.
Johnston is known as the foremost living composer using extended just intonation; his most popular work, based on the “Amazing Grace” hymn, is the fourth of ten works for string quartet he has composed to date, and has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet and the Kepler Quartet. Other works by Johnston which have been widely performed include Knocking Piece (1962) for piano interior and two percussionists, Quintet for Groups (1966) commissioned by former St. Louis Symphony conductor Eleazar de Carvalho, Sonata for Microtonal Piano (1960-64), and Suite for Microtonal Piano (1977).
Throughout the course of his career, Johnston has drawn inspiration from a wide variety of sources, creating a rich and stylistically diverse catalogue. Early on he worked with serial processes, but has also employed traditional forms, used melodies of folk and traditional music, incorporated elements of jazz and rock, all the while employing his own systems of just intonation. Johnston has received numerous accolades including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959, a grant from the National Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and commissions from the Smithsonian Institution, the Swingle Singers, the Concord Quartet and many others.
The music of Catherine Lamb (b. 1982) is both enigmatic and intimately expressive. Lamb studied at California Institute of the Arts with James Tenney, Michael Pisaro, and Stephen “Lucky” Mosko, and has also studied in depth Indian classical music, at CalArts and in a six-month residency in Pune. Her work to date exploits familiar western ideas such as harmonic progression and motif-based melodic development, but explores these materials in the unfamiliar milieu of Eastern aesthetics. Her use of drone-like tones, extended durations and silences, and gradual processes evoke an experience both meditative and ecstatic.
Lamb was recently featured with a full concert of her music at Microfest 2007 in Los Angeles. She is an active composer, violist, and teacher in Los Angeles, and has received recent commissions from ensembles including the Wholesale Orchestra, Ensemble Green, and the Guthrie and Streb Duo, as well as experimental animator Song E. Kim and violin maker Michael Fischer.
Born in Curitiba, Brazil, Chico Mello studied composition with José Penalva and Hans Joachim Koellreuter, the classical composer who also taught Tom Jobim. Mello retraced Curitiba’s immigration route back to Europe and since 1987 has been living in Berlin. In Germany he continued his composition studies with Dieter Schnebel, and studied Indian Dhrupad singing with Amélia Cuni. He is equally active in Brazil and in Europe, and his work integrates Brazilian tradition with various international avant-garde trends. He has composed for chamber ensembles as well as for orchestras such as the Berlin Symphony, the Cologne Radio Orchestra, and the Bavarian Symphony, and has worked with such diverse collaborators as Schnebel, Brazilian improvising composer/guitarist Silvia Ocougne, songwriter Carlos Careqa, and minimalist rocker Arnold Dreyblatt.
John Schneider is an internationally recognized guitarist, composer, author and broadcaster whose weekly television and radio programs have brought the sound of the guitar into millions of homes for the past thirty years. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics & Music from the University of Wales, music degrees from the University of California and the Royal College of Music [London], and is past President of the Guitar Foundation of America. A specialist in contemporary music, Schneider’s The Contemporary Guitar (University of California Press) has become the standard text in the field.
For the past two decades, the artist has performed almost exclusively on the Well-Tempered Guitar which uses different patterns of fretting according to the key or tuning system required. Recitals include Renaissance and Baroque repertoire in their original temperaments, as well as contemporary music in alternative tunings by such composers as Lou Harrison, Ben Johnston, Terry Riley and others. Since 1991, Schneider’s concerts also include vocal works of the maverick American composer Harry Partch (1901-1974), which he sings while accompanying himself on replicas of Partch’s Adapted Guitars [steel stringed instruments refretted in just intonation] & the Adapted Viola. The 1990’s also saw the creation of his chamber group Just Strings, which is devoted to the performance of music in alternative tunings. In 1995, they were invited by the Japanese Embassy to present a series of lectures and concerts throughout Japan under the auspices of the prestigious Interlink Festival which annually selects one American ensemble to represent new trends in American Music. Since 2000, Schneider has recreated many of Partch’s unique instruments to perform the composer’s singular chamber music, and in 2002 he commissioned the first Just National Steel Guitar, and now regularly performs & records the works by Lou Harrison, Terry Riley & others written for the instrument.
Linda Catlin Smith grew up in New York City and lives in Toronto. Her teachers include Allen Shawn in NY, and Rudolf Komorous, Martin Bartlett, John Celona, Michael Longton, and Jo Kondo at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She also attended lectures of Morton Feldman, by invitation, in Buffalo. Smith studied piano with Nurit Tilles and Gilbert Kalish at SUNY/Stony Brook, and with Kathleen Solose in Victoria, where she also studied harpsichord with Erich Schwandt.
Drawn to an ambiguity of harmony and narrative, Smith’s work is informed by her appreciation of the work of writers and painters, including: Marguerite Duras, Cormac McCarthy, Cy Twombly, Giorgio Morandi, Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, and Joseph Cornell, among many others. Her music often evokes “an astounding array of tension, yearning and sadness from the simplest of materials,” (The Record, Ontario, 1999), and has earned her the prestigious Hunter Foundation Award for individual artists, a Chalmers Fellowship, two-year grants from the Canada Council, and commissions from the Canada Council for the Arts; the Ontario Arts Council; the Toronto Arts Council; and the Laidlaw Foundation. She has also created several of her works in residency at the Leighton Studios of the Banff Centre for the Arts.
Bent Sørensen was born in 1958, and received his musical education from, amongst others, Per Nørgård and Ib Nørholm. His originality, imagination and technical abilities were praised long before his major breakthrough in the mid-80s. His first string quartet, Alman (1984), along with the other three quartets Adieu (1986), Angels’ Music (1988), and Schreie und Melancholie (1994), are still characterised as some of Sørensen’s most important works. During the 1990s he was very productive, focusing mostly on large-scale orchestral works. The major vocal piece The Echoing Garden (1992) for soloists, choir and orchestra unfolds as wandering weightless melodies in an echo chamber of many different simultaneous tempi. Sterbende Gärten (1993) is a violin concerto in the grand tradition, dramatic, graceful, and wild. During that decade he also wrote Symphony (1996), the piano concerto La Notte (1998), and the enchanting concerto Birds and Bells for trombone and 14 instruments (1995), written for Christian Lindberg. After this, in the composer’s own words, “everything has been about opera.” The Danish playwright Peter Asmussen was so taken by the co-existence of the past and the present in Sørensen’s violin concerto the two decided to collaborate on a commission from the Danish Royal Opera. After 5 years of intense work and collaboration, Sørensen finished the full-scale opera Under the Sky in April 2003. Sørensen received the prestigious Nordic Council Music Price in 1995 and the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize in 1999.
Chinary Ung was born November 24, 1942, in Takeo, Cambodia. At age three, living in a small village, toys were scarce. Ung recalled to the Los Angeles Times that “we would roll up banana leaves and blow in them to make a trumpet-like sound, or we would fill jars with rain water to hear the different tones they would make.” His family played traditional Cambodian instruments at home but it was not until he was a teenager that he heard western music for the first time. After studies at the University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, where he learned to play the clarinet, he moved to the U.S. in 1964 where he studied at Columbia University with Chou Wen-Chung, receiving his doctorate in 1974. Sensing the imminent disappearance of an entire musical tradition at the hands of the Cambodian dictatorship, Ung produced two LPs in 1977 of Cambodian traditional music on the Folkways label. His own compositions came to international attention in 1989 when he received the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his orchestral piece Inner Voices. He holds the position of Professor in the University of California San Diego Department of Music.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF
Spiral X: In Memoriam (2007)
Del Sol String Quartet
Shadows of Silence (2004)
Eva-Maria Zimmermann, piano
Trio con Brio Copenhagen (piano, violin, cello)
The Tavern (2008)
Paul Berkolds, voice; John Schneider, guitar
Amsterdam Cello Octet
Amsterdam Cello Octet
Friday, March 6, 2009
7:00 pm Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF
Cello & Electronics
Carl Boe, Trey Costerisan, Noah Miller (voices); Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, Thalia Moore, Gianna Abondolo (cellos); Jeff Anderle, Phil O’Connor, Jon Russell (bass clarinets)
World premiere, commissioned by Other Minds
…das árvores… (1996/2006)
Jonathan Russell, Jeff Anderle, clarinets; Peter Wahrhaftig, tuba; Eva-Maria Zimmermann, piano; Richard Worn, contrabass; Rick Sacks, percussion
Linda Catlin Smith
Through the Low Hills (1994)
Smith, piano; Gianna Abondolo, cello
String Quartet No. 4, “Gondola” (2008)
Del Sol String Quartet
Del Sol String Quartet
Saturday, March 7, 2009
7:00 pm Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF
Spiral XI: Mother and Child (2008)
Susan Ung, viola & voice
Bay Area Premiere
On Listening to Lu-Tzu (2002)
Tombeau for Lou:Jhala (2006)
John Schneider, guitar
Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales (1946)
John Schneider, solo harmonic canon, guitar & baritone
3 Songs (var. dates)
Voice & guitar, Chico Mello
Tone Clouds (2008)
Just intonation piano, Michael Harrison;
Del Sol String Quartet
World Premiere, new version