In Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, a distinctive musical style has developed–a rich vein of experimentalism that has a personality all its own. Other Minds Festival 17 opened with the first American visit of a Norwegian sextet, palindromically named asamisimasa, playing the music of their countryman, Øyvind Torvund, and Danish composer Simon Steen-Andersen. 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.
The American tradition was also well represented by 3 preeminent composers.
Harold Budd, a modern poet of the piano, 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 the work of this genial Californian 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. As the 70s began, Budd ground to an 18-month halt: “I really minimalized myself out of a career,” he says now. The turning point came with Madrigals of the Rose Angel in 1972, a gently hypnotic work for harp, electric piano, celeste, percussion, and wordless chorus. Brian Eno heard “Madrigals” and offered to record this and other pieces from the Pavilion of Dreams cycle. In 1980, the two collaborated on The Plateaux of Mirror, the second record in Eno’s Ambient series. In 1986, Budd garnered attention for his collaboration with The Cocteau Twins on The Moon and the Melodies. With By the Dawn’s Early Light in 1991, Budd introduced spoken poetry into his music. While 1992’s Music for 3 Pianos was again only instrumental, 1994’s She Is a Phantom continued the music and poetry direction of “Dawn’s” and marked a return to composing for ensemble.
Gloria Coates began composing and experimenting with overtones and clusters at the age of nine. She considers both Alexander Tcherepnin (who from age 16 encouraged her composing) 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 where she has promoted American music by organizing a German-American Music Series (1971–1984), 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. She has written 15 symphonies and other orchestral pieces, nine string quartets, chamber music, numerous songs, solo pieces, electronic music, and music for the theater.
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 American premieres of orchestra works by John Cage, Jonny Greenwood, Toshio Hosokawa, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and Somei Satoh. From 1988 to 2001, he led the New York ensemble Essential Music in a broad cross section of historic and contemporary experimental American music, working with Robert Ashley, John Cage, Kyle Gann, Peter Garland, Lou Harrison, James Tenney, and many others. At the behest of Merce Cunningham, Kennedy directed Cage’s memorial musical event/composition in New York, Musiccircus. Since 2001, he has lived in New Mexico and is Artistic Director of Santa Fe New Music.
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. Other new music luminaries included Japanese-American drummer and composer Ikue Mori and Tyshawn Sorey, an active composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across an extensive range of musical idioms. 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.