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Margaret Leng Tan, Luc Ferrari, Mary Ellen Childs, Alvin Lucier, Errollyn Wallen

Retrospective by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director, Charles Amirkhanian

1998-99 marked the first year Other Minds as an organization held “a season” of events, not just a single annual festival. In October 1998 we hosted the Bang on a Can All-Stars in their first Bay Area appearance. They gave the U.S. premiere of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” over two evenings, October 21 and 22, alongside music of Pamela Z, Dan Plonsey, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Evan Ziporyn. On November 7th we co-presented with the Common Sense Composers Collective a new music marathon. Both events took place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Among those presented at the latter event were Harold Budd, Henry Brant and Ingram Marshall.

The season concluded March 25-27, 1999, with Other Minds Festival 5, presenting nine composers over three evenings at the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason, San Francisco, following a residency at the Djerassi Program for the participants.

Luc Ferrari, then in his 70th year, presided over the world premiere of Les emois d’Apohrodite, (1986) for clarinet, piano, percussion, two sampling keyboards, and tape. Alvin Lucier gave the U.S. premiere of Islands, an instrumental quintet scored for soprano saxophone, clarinet, English horn, trumpet and trombone.

Mary Ellen Childs offered the world premiere of her Sight of Hand, and Shiva, Drum Roll, Click, Talking Stick, for percussion ensemble played by CRASH, an intrepid Minneapolis-based group that played one work seated in four rolling office chairs careening wildly around the stage in inventive choreography. Linda Bouchard was represented by her septet Ductwork, performed under her direction by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

Jazz greats Julian Priester (trombone) and Sam Rivers (saxophones, flute and keyboard), played a memorable and mesmerizing series of four improvisations with electronic composer Tucker Martine.

Belize-born English composer Errollyn Wallen made her American debut with a series of jazz-inflected art songs that she herself sang, accompanying herself at the piano. The Portuguese composer-pianist António Pinho Vargas was introduced with the U.S. premiere of his solo piano work Mirrors, played by Gloria Cheng.

And toy piano specialist Margaret Leng Tan performed short sets each evening that spanned the work of John Kennedy, Wallen, Pinho Vargas, Julia Wolfe, Stephen Montague, Alvin Lucier, Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, Guy Klucevsek, and Toby Twining.

– Charles Amirkhanian

Artist Bios

The music of composer Errollyn Wallen spans numerous styles from avant-garde classical to jazz songwriting. Born in Belize City, Belize, she now resides in London where she founded Ensemble X whose motto is, “We don’t break down barriers in music . . . we don’t see any.” Wallen has written prolifically, including a Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra,commissioned by BBC Radio 3, In Our Lifetime,choreographed by Christopher Bruce for London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Horseplay,commissioned by The Royal Ballet), a second operaLook! No Hands!, a saxophone concerto for jazz virtuoso Courtney Pine, to be premiered by the Hallé Orchestra, and Mercury, for brass band and steel drums.

She also has composed extensively for chamber media, including piano solo and duet, string quartet and various mixed ensembles, often with voice. The Independent on Sunday wrote, “If Wallen was to become a household name it could only be a good thing.”

Her performances at Other Minds marks only her second U.S. appearance and her first on the West Coast. In between her work on classical composition, Wallen began in 1988 writing pop/jazz songs for a change of pace. By now she has produced numerous such selections and has recorded a demo CD, Meet Me at Harold Moore’s, in which she solos on vocals and piano with in arrangements for herself and ten other players. The results are electrifying, as she moves freely among influences ranging from Laurie Anderson to gospel, Bill Evans, blues, Schubert, and Ives.

Sam Rivers was one of the major figures in contemporary jazz: a brilliant improviser and one of the defining influences of multi-instrumentalism in jazz, performing on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, and piano. For decades the leader of his own small groups, Rivers also performed and recorded with artists of such diverse styles as Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, Andrew Hill, and J.C. Higginbotham, as well as blues masters T. Bone Walker, Jimmy Witherspoon, and B.B. King. He also performed with symphony orchestras including the San Francisco Orchestra with Serge Ozawa. He was a prolific composer of songs, melodies and compositions for large and small ensembles, jazz, and symphony orchestras.

As a catalyst for the recognition of a generation of avant-garde and free musicians, he established with the help and cooperation of his wife Bea, Studio RivBea, a workshop, rehearsal and performance space. Many of the talented creative performers have since become renown on the international scene. He was a former faculty member and visiting artist at Wesleyan University, Dartmouth College, Cornish Institute and the New School of Music in New York. Sam Rivers died of pneumonia at the age of 88 on December 26, 2011.

The career of trombone legend Julian Priester has included contributions to jazz, blues, as well as Latin jazz, over the practically the last half century. Between the early 1950s and through the 1970s, he worked with such notables as Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley. In the 1980s, he joined the faculty of Cornish College in Seattle, Washington, and during that decade his collaborators included those with Sun Ra (a second tour of duty) and Clifford Jordan. At that time he also toured extensively with Dave Holland’s Quintet, and began his own group, Quartett, whose debut recording No Secrets was critically praised.

More recently, Julian Priester has worked with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, with which he toured Europe, Lester Bowie’s New York Organ Ensemble. As a composer he has contributed to recordings by Reggie Workman, including his Summit Conference, and by Jerry Granelli. His newest release is Hints on Light and Shadow, with Sam Rivers and Tucker Martine. During his years at Cornish College, he has immeasurably enriched the Seattle music scene.

António Pinho Vargas was born in Vila Nova Gaia, Portugal, across the river from Oporto, in 1951. He graduated in History and has a degree in piano from the Oporto Conservatory. In 1974, he began to play jazz piano, and with his band he performed throughout Europe and the United States, with additional performances in South Africa and Macao. With a scholarship granted by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, he studied for three years with composer Klaas de Vries at the Rotterdam Conservatory. He also participated in composition courses and seminars with the likes of György Ligeti, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, and Harrison Birtwistle. His works have been performed throughout Europe and in the Americas.

Pinho Vargas has composed for theater, dance, and film. His 1996 score for the film Cinco Dias, Cinco Noites (“Five Days, Five Nights”), by Jose Fonseca e Costa, won best score at Festival de Gramado. His recordings include Outros Lugares(“Other Places,” 1983), Os Jogos do Mundo (“Games of the World,” 1989), and Selos e Borboletas (“Stamps and Butterflies,” 1991), among others.

Alvin Lucier was born in 1931 into a musical family. Both his mother and father were excellent amateur musicians, and he grew up in a home in which there was much music making, including four-part singing around the dinner table. He studied at Brandeis and at Yale, where he produced a large-scale work for flute, harpsichord, and string orchestra during his senior year, and spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship in the early 1960s. After returning from Rome, he joined the faculty at Brandeis and there he conducted the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, an ensemble which devoted much its time to the performance of new music. In 1966 he co-founded the Sonic Arts Union with Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma, and from 1972 to 1979 was music director of the Viola Farber Dance Company. Since 1970 he has taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Alvin Lucier has been a pioneer in many areas of composition and performance, including the use of brain waves in live performance (Music for Solo Performer), the generation of visual imagery by sound in vibrating media (The Queen of the South), and the evocation of room acoustics for musical purposes (I am Sitting in a Room). His recent works include a series of sound installations and works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra in which, by means of close tunings with pure tones, sound waves are caused to spin in space. Among these recent works are Small Waves, for trombone, piano, and string quartet with six amplified glass vases; Wave Painting Songs, for soprano and pure wave oscillators; and for five players with Lexicon Acoustic Reverberation System. A new large-scale work for three orchestras, written for the S.E.M. Ensemble, will be performed in May, 1999, in Prague. His works have been performed around the world, and he is represented on over three dozen recordings. In March, 1995, MusikTexte published a bilingual edition of his scores, interviews, and writings, Reflections/Reflexionen.

The work and aesthetics of Luc Ferrari continue to have a singular impact on several generations of American avant-garde composers. Like Alvin Lucier, Ferrari first obtained a thorough, traditional technique in composition. He took piano lessons with Alfred Cortot, composition lessons with Arthur Honegger and musical analysis with Olivier Messiaen. But he proceeded to become interested in the recording process to such a degree that he began to make tape pieces using altered ambient sounds and later incorporated electronics into his work in an effective and original manner.

In 1954, his life altered radically when he boarded a ship and traveled to New York to meet Edgard Varèse, after having been impressed by live radio broadcast of his Déserts for tape and orchestra. From Varèse, Ferrari learned to treat sound as a thing in and of itself; also to place sound objects in the right time and space, from both an audio and psychological point of view. By 1963-4 he had begun Hétérozygote, an extended tape piece in which ambient sounds unfold in narrative form, suggesting a dazzling variety of incidents, all unexplained. The composer’s program notes for these scores, themselves works of a poetic imagination, only added to the fascination.

By 1970 he had completed Presque Rien No. 1, a kind of musical photography, in which unassuming ambient sounds of a small village in Yugoslavia, recorded throughout a long day, are telescoped by means of seamless dissolves into a 21-minute narrative in which no apparent “musical” sounds are included. When the work was issued on a Deutsche Grammophon LP worldwide the response was first one of shock and then revelation. Finally, John Cage’s exhortation that “music is all around us if only we had ears,” had been taken seriously by a fellow composer.

Shortly thereafter, Ferrari appeared on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, and his interviewers, Richard Friedman and Charles Amirkhanian, decided to follow his lead and solicit ambient sound recordings from individuals all over the globe. The World Ear Project of KPFA proceeded to broadcast hundreds of such tapes, made on then-new cassette machines in the field, and numerous composers on the West Coast began to incorporate such sounds into their electronic works.

Beyond the mere acceptance of ambient sounds as musical, Ferrari found that his forays with the professional tape recorder into public places added a level of social engagement to his work. This led him to compose pieces in which the audience becomes voyeuristically involved with a kind of audio home movie. In such a state, a great deal is suggested, which is why radio remains such a powerful medium, even in the face of the wide acceptance of television. The disembodied voice of a human being in Ferrari’s work lures in the listener into an intimacy which is palpable.

Beyond his work involving technology, Ferrari has composed a large body of instrumental music, ranging from very early piano solos to works for large orchestra, such as Histoire du plaisir et de la désolation(1979-81), a towering 35-minute work in three movements which won the International Koussevitsky Prize for recordings when it was released in 1990. And among his important credits are a series of invaluable television films which he made about the rehearsal processes of Varése, Messiaen, Stockhausen and others.

Luc Ferrari died of pneumonia in Arezzo, Italy, in August 2005.

Mary Ellen Childs is a composer for whom the creation of music involves more than the notation of symbols on a page. She is involved in the creative process from conception through composition through staging, often working much like a stage director or choreographer as well as a composer to create musical pieces that incorporate visual media. Her output includes multi-monitor video pieces A Chording To and the award winning Still Life, which captured first place awards at the 1988 International Multi-Image Festival and at the 1988 American Film and Video Festival, and her electronic Standpoints, a collaboration with lighting designer Jeff Bartlett. She has created numerous “visual percussion” pieces for her company CRASH, a vibrant and energizing ensemble that embodies the concept of music in motion. CRASH’s bold, kinetic style integrates music and dance and theater in fresh and unexpected ways. The group’s repertoire includes Click, a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers and Crash, a full-evening work for 6 crash cymbal players on rollerstools and various other rolling means of transportation.

Childs’ work has received wide critical acclaim–The Village Voice called her Click “a newly born classic,” Elle Magazine says “Childs creates…a truly universal world that’s primordial in its understanding of humanity,” and MS Magazine describes her music as “a beautifully cut crystal glass that refracts the world around it.”

Childs also composes purely musical concert works and has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, and has twice been granted prestigious Lila Wallace/Meet the Composer commissions. One of her favorite instruments to write for is the accordion, and as a result of her close working association with world-renown accordionist Guy Klucevsek, she has created nearly a dozen works for the instrument.

Full evenings of her work have been presented at the Walker Art Center and The Southern Theater in Minneapolis and Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York and at SECCA in North Carolina. She has also received performances at the Bang On A Can Festival, Lincoln Center, New Music America – Miami; and elsewhere around the U.S. and in Europe and Japan. A compact disc of her work, Kilter, is available on the XI label.

In recent years she has received support from the NEA’s Composer-in-Residence program, Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, Intermedia Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Minnesota Composers Forum. She is based in the Twin Cities, where she leads her company of percussionist/performers, CRASH, and where she established WildFire, a touring roster of women performing artists. She is also the Program Director of the McKnight Theater Artists Fellowship Program at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.

French-Canadian Linda Bouchard has composed over 50 works for a number of genres, from orchestral andchamber works to dance scores, concerti, and vocal pieces. Her works have been heard extensively on both sides of the Atlantic and have been recorded by the CBC and Analekta in Canada, ECM in Germany and CRI in the USA. A new CD of orchestral works was just released in June 1998 on the Canadian Marquis Classics label.

Her works have won Prizes in Canada and the USA including four PROCAN awards, first prizes in the Princeton Composition Contest, the Indiana State Competition and the NACUSA Contest. In 1997, Ms. Bouchard won the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and was chosen “Composer of the Year” from the Conseil Quebecois de la Culture’s Prix Opus.

She lived in New York City from 1979 to 1990 where she composed, led new music ensembles and made orchestral arrangements for various organizations. From September 1992 to August 1995, Linda Bouchard held the position of Composer-in-Residence for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada. During her residency, she composed several works for the orchestra and organized 20th Century Music events such as: The First Orchestral Workshop, the Summer Music Festival and other educational activities.

As a conductor, Ms. Bouchard has led a number of orchestras and ensembles in the US and in Canada. She conducted the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in February 1998 and she conducted the premiere of her Pilgrim’s Cantata at the Oregon Bach Festival in June 1996. In 1993 she led the NAC Orchestra in an innovative Young People’s Concert dedicated to the music of this century and conducted the first Double-Take Concert of the yearly Summer Festival. In early 1994 she served as musical director and conductor for the NAC performance of Mauricio Kagel’s Varieté. During her time in the USA she led the St Luke’s Orchestra, the American Dance Festival, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the New York New Music Ensemble and the New Music Consort. She also was assistant-conductor for the New York Children’s Free Opera from 1985 to 1988. From 1990 to 1992 she was guest conductor for the Atelier de Musique Contemporaine of l’Université de Montréal, and served as artistic coordinator of FORUM 91 for le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne.

Ms. Bouchard was music director for the 20th Century Songs Integration Program at the Banff Center in 1994 and returned as guest artist to give Master Classes in composition in 1995.

Ms Bouchard just completed a Viola concerto for Kim Kashkashian which was premiered in October at the Musikprotokoll Festival in Graz, Austria. She is currently working on a music theater work based on Eduardo Galeano’s Book of Embraces and a large ensemble work for le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne.

She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her son and is working on a film score for the Toronto ensemble CONTINUUM as well as a music-theatre piece and a special project for le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne in Montréal.

Festival Program

Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
Thursday, March 25, 1999, 8:00 p.m.

John Kennedy:
from The Winged Energy of Delight (1997)
Margaret Leng Tan, toy cymbals

António Pinho Vargas:
Dinky Toys (1979)
U.S. concert premiere
arranged by the composer for Margaret Leng Tan, 1999
Margaret Leng Tan, two toy pianos

Errollyn Wallen:
Louis’ Loops (1996)
West Coast concert premiere
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano & toy boombox

Linda Bouchard:
Ductwork (1997)
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Linda Bouchard, conductor
Steven D’Amico, contrabass
Daniel Kennedy, percussion
Steven Miller, violin
Kenneth Piascik, percussion
Susan Radcliff, trumpet
Karen Rosenak, piano
William Wohlmacher, clarinet

Errollyn Wallen:
“Favorite Things” (piano solo)
“What’s Up Doc?”
“What Shall I Sing?”
“Magritte Man”
“The Lighthouse”
U.S. concert premieres
Errollyn Wallen, voice & piano


Alvin Lucier:
Islands (1998)
U.S. concert premiere
The Other Minds Ensemble
George Brooks, soprano saxophone
Larry London, clarinet
Robin May, English horn
Susan Radcliff, trumpet
Toyoji Tomita, trombone

Luc Ferrari:
Les Emois d’Aphrodite (The Emotions of Aphrodite) (1998)
World concert premiere
The MC Band (Mary Chun, music director)
Mary Chun, synthesizer
John McGinn, piano
Kevin Neuhoff, percussion
Tony Striplen, clarinet
Mike Touchi, synthesizer
Mark Grey, technical director

Friday, March 26, 1999, 8:00 p.m.

Margaret Leng Tan:
solo performance
West coast concert premieres

Stephen Montague:
Mirabella (A Tarantella) (1995)
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano

Eleanor Rigby (1966), arranged by Toby Twining
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano

Alvin Lucier:
Nothing Is Real (Strawberry Fields Forever) (1990)
Margaret Leng Tan, piano, teapot & miniature sound system

Conlon Nancarrow:
Three 2-Part Studies (1942), arranged by Margaret Leng Tan
(live studio version)
Margaret Leng Tan, two toy pianos

Errollyn Wallen:
Rapture (1998)
U.S. concert premiere
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola; Michael Orland, piano

António Pinho Vargas:
Mirrors (1989)
U.S. concert premiere
Gloria Cheng-Cochran, piano


Julian Priester & Sam Rivers:
Improvisation 1, Improvisation 2, Improvisation 3, Improvisation 4
Julian Priester, trombone; Sam Rivers, saxophones, flute; Tucker Martine, electronics

Saturday, March 27, 1999, 8:00 p.m.

Luc Ferrari:
Presque Rien No. 4, “La Remontée du village”
(Almost Nothing No. 4, “The Ascent to the Village”) (1998)
U.S. concert premiere
composition for tape alone

Margaret Leng Tan:
solo performance

John Cage:
Suite for Toy Piano (1948)
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano

António Pinho Vargas:
General Complex (1995)
U.S. concert premiere
arranged by Margaret Leng Tan
Margaret Leng Tan, two toy pianos

Guy Klucevsek:
Sweet Chinoiserie (1995)
West coast concert premiere
arranged by the composer for Margaret Leng Tan, 1996
Margaret Leng Tan, toy pianos, toy accordion, melodica, toy drums & rattles, glasses, soy sauce dishes and cat food cans

Toby Twining:
Satie Blues (1989)
West coast premiere
arranged by the composer for Margaret Leng Tan, 1995
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano & piano

Toby Twining:
Nightmare Rag (1989)
West coast concert premiere
arranged by the composer for Margaret Leng Tan, 1995
Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano & piano


Mary Ellen Childs:
Slight of Hand (1999)
World concert premiere
(commissioned by Other Minds)

Mary Ellen Childs:
Shiva, Drum Roll, Click, Talking Stick
West coast concert premieres
all performed by CRASH
Heather Barringer
Michael Holland
Peter O’Gorman
Eric A. Sundeen

Photos by John Fago

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