In Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, a distinctive musical style has developed–a rich vein of experimentalism that has a personality and musical vocabulary all its own. Scandinavia was well represented at Other Minds Festival 17 by the composers Øyvind Torvund, Norway; Simon Steen-Andersen, Denmark; and Lotta Wennäkoski, Finland.
OM 17 opened with the American debut of the featured Norwegian sextet, palindromically named asamisimasa. Newly invented instruments, aerosol cans and bullhorns, alongside conventional orchestral instruments, mirror the diversity of musical influences and quotations, ranging from Scandinavian folk music to Henry Purcell to Black Flag.
Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund (b. 1976) not only studied at Oslo’s Norwegian Academy of Music and Berlin’s Universität der Künste, but also worked for years as a guitarist in rock and improvising groups. Jazz becomes a point of reference in his Giants of Jazz (1999–2000). From Denmark came Simon Steen-Anderson whose works “approach the human behind the instrument, because then music can be about everything that is most important: communication, being, fragility, and intimacy.” In his most recent works this takes the form of amplifying barely audible sounds at extreme levels, opening up a rich micro-world of new sounds. Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski presented work that explores the landscape of memory and nostalgia: “In trying to establish a sound of my very own, I’ve had the feeling I’ll find it on the borders of silence.”
The American tradition was also well represented by several preeminent composer/performers.
Harold Budd, a modern poet of the piano true voice as a composer in his late 30s. He has been playing music since his teens, yet it was not until his late 30s that he found his true voice as a composer. In 1978 with the release of The Pavilion of Dreams that his work began to find an international audience. In the early 60s, under the spell of John Cage and Morton Feldman. As the decade progressed, he moved to an indeterminate, improvisatory music, and a much more spare and minimalistic style: pieces consisted of quiet drones or simple instructions to the performers. . With Madrigals of the Rose Angel (1972), returned refreshed. A gently hypnotic work for harp, electric piano, celeste, percussion, and wordless chorus, Brian Eno heard “Madrigals” and offered to record this and future work on his other pieces from the Pavilion of Dreams cycle, returning Budd to a position of prominence.
Gloria Coates began composing and experimenting with overtones and clusters at the age of nine. She considers both Alexander Tcherepnin and Otto Luening to have been her “gurus.” Her studies took her from Chicago and Louisiana (with an MA in composition), to New York’s Cooper Union Art School, and Columbia University for postgraduate studies. Gloria Coates has lived in Munich since 1969, producing broadcasts for the radio stations of Munich, Cologne, and Bremen. From 1975 to 1983 she taught for the University of Wisconsin’s International Programs, initiating the first music programs in London and Munich. As an orchestral composer, Coates’ works have been hailed as “the spirit of an expressionistic-apocalyptic-mystical world view.” Coates’s breakthrough came with the 1978 premiere of Music on Open Strings, at the Warsaw Autumn Festival, a work for string orchestra in which the strings are retuned. It proved to be the most discussed work at the festival; in 1986 it was a finalist for the KIRA Koussevitzsky International Award as one of the most important recorded works that year.
John Kennedy’s works have been performed worldwide and featured at major festivals including the Paris Festival d’Automne, Singapore Arts Festival, Kanagawa Arts Festival, Melbourne Arts Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Colorado Music Festival, and ISCM World New Music Days. He has been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, Sarasota Opera, Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland and many others. As Resident Conductor of Spoleto Festival USA, Kennedy leads the Festival’s orchestra program and has conducted the American premieres of operas by Kaija Saariaho, Wolfgang Rihm, and Pascal Dusapin. At Spoleto he conducted the American premiere of Philip Glass’ opera Kepler as well as premieres of orchestral works by John Cage, Jonny Greenwood, and Somei Satoh. At the behest of Merce Cunningham, Kennedy directed Cage’s memorial musical event/composition in New York, Musiccircus.
Making his OM debut was Ken Ueno, winner of the 2006-2007 Rome Prize and the 2010-2011 Berlin Prize. Ueno is a composer, vocalist, improviser, and cross-disciplinary artist. whose music coalesces diverse influences into a democratic sonic landscape. In addition to Heavy Metal sub-tone singing and Tuvan throat singing, he is also informed by European avant-garde instrumental techniques, American experimentalism, and sawari or beautiful noise, an aesthetic in traditional Japanese music. Ueno’s artistic mission is to champion sounds that have been overlooked or denied so that audiences reevaluate their musical potential.
Drummer and composer Ikue Mori moved from Tokyo to New York in 1977 and shortly thereafter formed the seminal No Wave band DNA with Arto Lindsay and Tim Wright. When the group disbanded in 1982, she began performing improvisations and collaborating with artists such as Fred Frith, Kato Kideki, Marc Ribot, Tom Cora, and John Zorn. In 1990, she received an NEA grant to work with filmmaker Abigail Child, marking the beginning of several soundtrack projects for Mori. After winning the Prix Ars Electronics award in Digital Music in 1999, Mori began using laptop computers to create not only sounds but visual materials as well. This fascination with mixed media has more recently led Mori to incorporate animated cutouts from Japanese woodblock prints into her presentations.
Tyshawn Sorey is an active composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across an extensive range of musical idioms. A percussionist, trombonist, and pianist, Sorey has performed and/ or recorded with his own ensembles and with those led by Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, among many others. His recordings as a leader—That/Not (2007), Koan (2009), and Oblique-I (2011) – have received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Wire, NPR’s Fresh Air, and Down Beat. After completing his undergraduate studies at William Paterson University, Sorey received a Master of Arts in composition from Wesleyan University, and Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition at Columbia University. As of Fall 2017 he has held the role of Assistant Professor of Composition and Creative Music at Wesleyan University.
Lastly, on OM’s Fellowship Program a group of younger composers, D. Edward Davis, John P. Hastings, Peter V. Swendsen, and Jen Wang was introduced.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center, San Francisco
Featuring the Norwegian ensemble asamisimasa
Neon Forest Space (2009)
for clarinet, cello, guitar/radio, percussion, and pre-recorded media
Willibald Motor Landscape (2011)
Study for String Instrument #2 (2009)
for cello and whammy pedal
Half a Bit of Nothing Integrated (2007-2015)
amplified objects and live video
On and Off and To and Fro (2008)
for clarinet, vibraphone, cello, and 3 players with megaphones
Study for String Instrument #3 (2001)
cello and video
Janne Berglund, soprano; Rolf Borch, clarinet; Håkon Mørch Stene, percussion;
Anders Førisdal, guitar; Ellen Ugelvik, piano; Tanja Orning, cello
Friday, March 2, 2012
Jewish Community Center, San Francisco, CA
String Quartet No. 5 (1988)
Del Sol String Quartet: Kate Stenberg and Rick Shinozaki, violins; Charlton Lee, viola; Kathryn Bates, cello
It’s Only a Daydream (2011)
Budd, piano; Keith Lowe, bass
improvisations for percussion and electronics
also featuring Tyshawn Sorey, drums; Ken Ueno, voice
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center, San Francisco
Magik*Magik Orchestra; John Kennedy, conductor
First Deconstruction (in Plastic) (2005)
Ryder Shelley and Andrew Meyerson, percussion duo with recycled materials
Island in Time (2012) World Premiere
commissioned by Other Minds with support from Mrs. Ralph I. Dorfman
Anna-Christina Phillips, clarinet; Justin Lee, flutes; Hannah Addario-Berry, cello; Ryder Shelley, percussion
improvisations for percussion
Peradam (2011) World Premiere
commissioned by Other Minds with support from the San Francisco Foundation, the Jebediah Foundation, Mrs. Ralph I. Dorfman, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts
Del Sol String Quartet; Johnny Dekam, live video
Concert Media: Video
Peradam (2011) World Premiere (excerpt)
World premiere performance of Peradam, by Ken Ueno. Commissioned by Other Minds, the piece was recorded live at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Saturday, March 3, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17. Played by the Del Sol String Quartet, with live video by Johnny Dekam.
Half a Bit of Nothing Integrated (excerpt)
Recorded live at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Thursday, March 1, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17. The piece is written for amplified objects, live video, and performed by the composer.
Study for String Instrument #3 (2001) (excerpt)
Recorded live at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Thursday, March 1, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17. The piece is written for cello and video.
Concert Media: Audio
First Deconstruction (In Plastic)
Recorded live on Saturday, March 3, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The piece, by John Kennedy, is written for a percussion duo using recycled materials, and played by Ryder Shelley and Andrew Meyerson.
It’s Only A Daydream
Recorded live on Friday, March 2, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. With the composer at the piano and with Keith Lowe, bass.
Neon Forest Space
Recorded live on Thursday, March 1, 2012, during Other Minds Festival 17 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The piece, by Øyvind Torvund, is written for clarinet, cello, guitar/radio, percussion, and pre-recorded media.