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Other Minds 7 Composers, outdoors at Djerassi Resident Artists Program

The American poet Hayden Carruth, writing in 1956, asserted that there had been altogether too much unnecessary speculation over what Ezra Pound’s daunting “Cantos,” were about. “They are about the good life and the bad life, the good society and the bad society . . . For Pound the good society is simply that which is just and reasonable, and this in turn means the society in which the arts play a prominent and generative role. Conversely the bad is the society in which the arts and the values they afford are smothered or distorted by a materialist culture.”

This years Other Minds composers have spent lifetimes in choosing artistic exploration over financially more lucrative paths; they have “made it new,” adapting revolutionary strategies where necessary while adopting the best of past learning. Jim Tenney, Andrew Hill, Chris Brown, Gavin Bryars, or Alvin Curran, are masters of experimental genres, if such an appellation doesn’t beg credibility. Hi Kyung Kim, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and Glen Velez, along with William Winant, often allude to music of non-Western cultures in their work. They bring us new looks at modern music through more traditional filters. All have worked outside the mainstream, landing them squarely into the orbit of Other Minds.

Our thanks also to the exceptional guest performers: Tammy Jenkins, soprano; David Cox, bass-baritone; and boy soprano Michael Bannett. From Toronto we welcome pianist Eve Egoyan as well as the Sabat/Clarke Duo for their San Francisco debuts, and from Seoul, Eun-Ha Park, whose dancing prowess is a Korean national treasure.

This year the Other Minds Festival departs from tradition by honoring it: March 8th, the opening evening, would have been Alan Hovhaness‘ 90th birthday. The Other Minds Ensemble performed one of his most touching works, the Khaldis  Concerto, as a memorial tribute, under the direction of the distinguished conductor, composer, Linda Bouchard. We also looked back to the nearly unknown music of poet Ezra Pound. The scholars Robert Hughes and Margaret Fisher, both of whom have forthcoming books on the subject, gave generously of their time and expertise to prepare our concert and panel presentations. Special thanks to the poet’s daughter Mary de Rachewiltz, Pound’s publisher, New Directions, and Jennifer Wilson of the Ezra Pound Society for their cooperation.

As in the past, the festival’s guest composers spent the past week prior to the festival in a four-day retreat in the inspiring landscape of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. This time at the 700-acre ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains provides a time for our composers to make or renew contact and share music and discussion free from the usual public foray. 

Artist Bios

Grammy award-winning percussionist Glen Velez is often globe-trotting on an international touring schedule which has taken him to six continents. Recently voted “Best World Beat Percussionist” with a 1999 Drummies award by DRUM! Magazine, Velez has emerged as an international soloist and seminal figure in the history of the frame drum. Over two decades ago he brought a new genre of drumming into the Western music world by creating his own compositional style inspired by years of drumming studies from various cultures. He introduced Remo Belli and the Remo Drum Company to the world of frame drums and initiated what has become a whole line of drums from world cultures.

After fifteen years of performing and recording with Steve Reich (1973-1988) and Paul Winter (1983-1998), Velez is working as a soloist while continuing to collaborate with a variety of top-notch professionals in many genres. Twentieth century music guru John Cage wrote a piece especially for Glen in 1989. Velez has also played with notables such as Pat Metheny, Richard Stoltzman, Suzanne Vega, Howard Levy, Zakir Hussain, and Oregon. His own compositions have been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and John Schaefer’s “New Sounds” and have been commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Reader’s Digest. He has written music for theater and dance and has recorded hundreds of albums on ECM, CBS, RCA, GRP, Warner Brothers, Deutsche Gramophone, Geffen, Nonesuch, Capital, and Sony. In addition, he has several instructional videos and ten recordings of his own music on CMP, Music of the World, Sounds True, Interworld, and Ellipsis Arts. As a master teacher who conducts workshops worldwide, Velez developed his own teaching method called Handance. It incorporates voice and body movement into the process of learning to play the frame drum and has proven to be of great benefit to professionals and beginners alike. Velez has also designed his own signature series of frame drums for the REMO Drum company.

Aleksandra Vrebalov was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, on September 22, 1970. She studied composition with Miroslav Statkic at Novi Sad University for her B.M. (1987-1992), Zoran Erich at Belgrade University (1993-1994), Elinor Armer at the San Francisco Conservatory (1995-1996), and Ivana Loudova at the Prague Academy of Music (1997).

Her compositions have been performed in Yugoslavia, Holland (The Ijsbreker, Amsterdam and Gigant, Apeldoorn), Poland, Bulgaria, Russia (Chaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow), USA (Herbst Theater and Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; Frederic Lowe Theater, Merkin Hall, New York, Tanglewood), Czech Republic (Moravian Symphony Hall, Olomouc, Lichstenstein Palace, Obecny Dum, Prague), Austria (Staatsoper Vienna), France (Theâtre de la Ville, Paris), Great Britain (Barbican Centre, London), Turkey, and Greece.

Her compositions have also been played by the Kronos Quartet (USA), Jorge Caballero (USA), Sausalito String Quartet (USA), Utrect String Quartet (Holland), Tanglewood Music Center Fellow (USA), Moravian Philharmonic (Czech Republic), Robert Aitken (Canada), San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra (USA), Ad Lbitum Ensemble (Yugoslavia), and Jeunesse Musicale Choir (Yugoslavia).

She has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Merkin Concert Hall Zoom Series, Ad Libitum Ensemble, and Jancic Fund. Her compositions have been recorded for Nonesuch, TRV Novi Sad, TRV Belgrade, Croatian Radio, Macedonian TV, Novi Sad Academy of Arts Sound Series, and Vienna Modern Masters. She has received the Vienna Modern Masters Recording Award (1997), and an award for the Highsmith Composition Competition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She was a Mac Dowell Fellow in 1998, a Tanglewood Fellow in 1999, and a Rockefeller Bellagio Center Fellow in 2000.

Alvin Curran’s music-making embraces all the contradictions (composed/improvised, tonal/atonal, maximal/minimal…) in a serene dialectical encounter. His nearly 100 works feature taped/sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion and chorus. Whether in the intimate form of his well-known solo performances, or pure chamber music, experimental radio works or large-scale site-specific sound environments and installations, all forge a very personal language through recombinant invention.

Curran was born December 13, 1938, in Providence, Rhode Island. From age five he was involved in piano lessons, trombone, marching bands, synagogue chants, jazz, and his father’s dance bands. He studied composition with Ron Nelson (B.A. Brown University 1960) and with Elliott Carter and Mel Powell (M.Mus., Yale School of Music 1963).

In the MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA years (1966 -1971, Rome), Curran performed in over 200 concerts in Europe and the USA with Teitelbaum and Rzewski, Carol Plantamura, Ivan Vandor, Alan Bryant and Jon Phetteplace; and makes significant artistic encounters with: Giuseppe Chiari, Edith Schloss, AMM, Cornelius Cardew, Steve Lacy, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Steve ben Israel, Anthony Braxton, Simone Forti, Steve Reich, Joan LaBarbara, Michael Nyman, La Monte Young, Trisha Brown, Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Larry Austin, Bill Smith, Ketoff, Robert Moog, Nuova Consonanza, MEV2, Meme Perlini, Mario Ricci, Maria Monti, Prima Materia, Ron Bunzl, Phil Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Riley, George Lewis, Evan Parker, Gregory Reeves, Serge Tcherepnin, Kosugi, Pulsa, Maryanne Amacher, John Cage, David Tudor, and Morton Feldman.

From 1975-80, Curran taught vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica (Rome) and since 1991 has been the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Andrew Hill was born June 30, 1931 in Chicago and started playing jazz at age 13, copying the playing of Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk, and Art Tatum. His early gigs were with Von Freeman, Wilbur Ware, Johnny Griffin, and later with Miles Davis. After a period of woodshedding he formed a trio which backed vocalist Dinah Washington, taking him to New York. From there he worked with the Johnny Griffin-Lockjaw Davis Quintet, Al Hibbler, fellow Chicagoan Clifford Jordan, Roland Kirk at The Five Spot, Jackie McLean, and Kenny Dorham, before signing an exclusive contract with Blue Note. Andrew appeared on two Blue Note sessions, first with Joe Henderson, then Hank Mobley. Andrew then lead his own date, featuring Henderson on tenor, released as the album Black Fire. A succession of dates as a leader for Blue Note followed until 1971. He then concentrated on composing and gave concert tours throughout the USA under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institute. In 1974, he recorded again on Steeplechase and through his work with Michael Cuscuna, Andrew did a pair of recordings for the Freedom label. He also recorded three albums for East Wind. In 1978, Andrew recorded an album for the Artists House label. Andrew recorded two more albums in 1980 and two in 1986 for Italy’s Soul Note label before he returned to Blue Note for an album in 1989. It was late in that year that his wife died from cancer. Another Blue Note session followed in 1990. Since then Andrew has recorded some sideman dates including a session for Reggie Workman that saw him working with former Blue Note labelmate Sam Rivers. 1995 saw the release of a box set of Andrew’s Blue Note albums which has re-vitalized interest in his recordings. Andrew was widely considered a most important jazz pianist and composer.

Andrew Hill died at 4 a.m. April 20, 2007, several years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 75 years old and lived in Jersey City, NJ.

James Tenney was born in 1934 in Silver City, New Mexico, and grew up in Arizona and Colorado, where he received his early training as a pianist and composer. He attended the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College (B.A. 1958), and the University of Illinois (M.A. 1961). His teachers and mentors have included Eduard Steuermann, Chou Wen-Chung, Lionel Nowak, Carl Ruggles, Lejaren Hiller, Kenneth Gaburo, Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch, and John Cage. A performer as well as a composer and theorist, he was co-founder and conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City (1963-70). He was a pioneer in the field of electronic and computer music, working with Max Mathews and others at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition. He wrote works for a variety of media, both instrumental and electronic, many of them using alternative tuning systems. He was the author of several articles on musical acoustics, computer music, and musical form and perception, as well as two books: META / HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form (1961; Frog Peak, 1988) and A History of ‘Consonance’ and ‘Dissonance’ (Excelsior, 1988).

He received grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and the Jean A. Chalmers Foundation. He taught at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California, and at York University in Toronto, where he was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1994. He was appointed to the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at the California Institute of the Arts. His music is published by Sonic Art Editions (Baltimore) and the Canadian Music Centre, and is distributed by them and by Frog Peak (Lebanon, New Hampshire). Recordings are available from Artifact, col legno, CRI, Hat[now]ART, Koch International, Mode, Musicworks, Nexus, oodiscs, SYR and Toshiba EMI, among others.

Tenney died on August 24, 2006 in Valencia, California, after a relapse with lung cancer.

Hi Kyung Kim (born in 1954), a native of Korea, received a B.A. in composition from Seoul National University, and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she received an Eisner prize in Creative Arts and two Di Lorenzo Composition Prizes. As a recipient of the U.C. Berkeley’s George C. Ladd Prix de Paris, she worked at Institut de Rechérche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), and École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1988-1990. Her composition teachers were Andrew Imbrie, Olly Wilson, Gérald Grisey, and Sung-Jae Lee. She is an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Her honors/awards include the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress Commission, Commissioning USA grant from Meet the Composer, awards from the Tanglewood Music Center, MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Cleveland Dodge Foundation, American Music Center, a grant from the University of California InterCampus Arts Program, which made possible the Pacific Rim Festival of Contemporary Music (1996), at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and others. Her works have been performed by the San Francisco Symphony, Cabrillo Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Rohnert Park Symphony, U.C. Berkeley Symphony, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Earplay, Empyrean Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, and many others. Her interest in Korean Traditional Music took her back to Korea in 1985 and 1998 for study. Her research on the music of Elliot Carter was done at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, Switzerland.

Ms. Kim completed a piece commissioned by Meet the Composer and the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota with Yo-Yo Ma, under the direction of Myung-Hun Chung, for a special project, Commemorating World War II. This event has been performed throughout the Asia, the US, and Canada. Her recent works include a piece for string quartet written for the Alexander String Quartet; a piece for two pianos, commissioned by Aki Takahashi and Rae Imamura, and a piece for percussion duo for the New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Other projects include a commission by the Koussevitzky Foundation and Chamber Music Society of Minnesota for voice and chamber ensemble in collaboration with the noted Korean poet Ko Un, and a “Requiem” for chamber ensemble and chamber choir for the California Ensemble Parallèle, New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of California Santa Cruz Chamber Choir conducted by Nicole Paiement. Her music is published by C.F. Peters Edition and American Composers Edition and her music is recorded on the Capstone and Centaur labels.

Gavin Bryars was born in Yorkshire, Great Britain in 1943. His first musical reputation was as a jazz bassist working in the early sixties with improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He abandoned improvisation in 1966 and worked for a time in the United States with John Cage. Subsequently he collaborated closely with composers such as Cornelius Cardew and John White. From 1969 to 1978 he taught in departments of Fine Art in Portsmouth and Leicester, and during his time at Portsmouth College of Art, he was instrumental in founding the legendary Portsmouth Sinfonia. His first major work as a composer was The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) originally released on Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975 and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), both famously released in new versions in the 1990s on Point Music label, selling over a quarter of a million copies. The original 1970s recordings have recently been re-released on CD by Virgin Records.

He has composed prolifically for theater and dance as well as for the concert hall, two full-length operas, and is currently working on a third. His first opera, Medea, was first staged by the director Robert Wilson in Opéra de Lyon and Opéra de Paris in 1984. Following the success of the original production, a revised version was given in concert in 1995 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. His second opera, Doctor Ox’s Experiment (based on a story by Jules Vernes and with a libretto by Blake Morrison) was staged by the Canadian film director Atom Egoyan for English National Opera in 1998. A separate production of Doctor Ox’s Experiment appeared in 1999 in Dortmund, Germany. The third opera, G, was commissioned by Mainz Opera and premiered in 2002 in the newly refurbished Mainz Opera House.

Among Gavin Bryars’ other works are three string quartets, a series of vocal works for The Hilliard Ensemble including Glorious Hill (1988), Incipit Vita Nova (1989), Cadman Requiem (1989, revised 1998), and The First Book of Madrigals (1998-2000); works for the opening of the Tate Gallery in Liverpool (1988); Chateau d’Oiron, Poitiers French Ministry of Culture Commission (1993); the Tate Gallery, St Ives (1997). Other works include commissions for Charlie Haden (1987), John Harle (1991), Nexus (1994), Lawrence Cherney (1994), Fretwork (1995), Maggie Cole (1995), Julian Lloyd Webber (1995), Valdine Anderson (1995/6) Holly Cole (1998), Orlando Consort (2000). Orchestral commissions include Bournemouth Sinfonietta (The Green Ray, 1991), BBC Symphony Orchestra (The War in Heaven, 1993), Primavera Chamber Orchestra (The Porazzi Fragment, 1999). Other commissions include a concerto for violin and string orchestra for Primavera, a percussion concert for Nexus with orchestra, and a marimba concerto for Pedro Carneiro and London Sinfonietta premiered as part of the inauguration season of Oporto’s new concert hall designed by Rem Koolhaas for the city’s Cultural Capital of Europe celebration in 2002.

Bay Area composer and performer Chris Brown has spent many years pursuing music in the cracks between many traditions and styles. Beginning as a classical pianist, he was influenced by studies of Indonesian, Indian, and Afro-American and Cuban musics, and then took off on branches provided by the American Experimentalists in inventing and building a personal electronic instrumentation. He has been active as a pianist in performing and recording the music of composers such as James Tenney, Henry Cowell, Christian Wolff, William Brooks, David Rosenboom, Luc Ferrari, and Terry Riley.

Collaboration and improvisation have been primary in the development of Chris Brown’s music for various traditional instruments and interactive electronics. He has had commissions for such pieces from the Rova Saxophone Quartet, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was a member with percussionist William Winant, saxophonist Larry Ochs, and electronic musician Scot Gresham-Lancaster of the pioneering group “Room”, which explored the intersection of composition, improvisation, and electronics. Between 1986-97 he was also a member of “The Hub,” an ensemble of computer musicians who developed “Computer Network Music,” a genre whose sound arises from the interdependency of multiple computer-music systems. Recordings of his music and performances can be found on the Tzadik, Artifact Recordings, Music and Arts, Sound Aspects, Centaur, New Albion, Black Saint Records, and Elektra/Musician labels.

Since 1985 he has also been active as an educator, first at the San Francisco Art Institute, and since 1990 as a faculty member at Mills College in Oakland, where he is Co-Director of the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM) and Associate Professor of Music.

Chris Brown’s most recent works involve extending the Computer Network Music into new performance venues. An installation called Talking Drum, which involves networked computers spread throughout a large space that are programmed as interactive drum-machines, has been produced in Montréal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in Groningen, Holland. This piece was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Prix Ars Electronica in 1996. A new series of concert works named Inventions have emerged from the polyrhythm generating software used in Talking Drum. He has also worked with music programmer Mike Berry in supporting the development of the “Grainwave” live synthesis software for the Macintosh. A live interactive piece using Grainwave that linked performers from the U.S. and Germany called “Eternal Network Music” was performed in November, 1999 as part of the “net_condition” exhibition at ZKM, Karlsruhe.

Festival Program

Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
Thursday, March 8, 2001, 8:00 p.m.

Glen Velez
Ancient World hand drumming (2001)
Solos for frame drum and voice:
1) Bendir (Moroccan frame drum)
2) Bodhran (Irish frame drum)
3) Voice overtones
4) Riq (Egyptian Tambourine)
Glen Velez, bendir, bodhran, voice and riq

Alan Hovhaness
Khaldis Concerto for Piano, Four Trumpets & Percussion (1951)
1) Overture (Noble & Majestic)
2) Transmutation
3) Three Tones
4) Bhajana (Adoration)
5) Jhala with Drum
6) Processional
7) Finale (Allegro)
(In honor of the 90th birth anniversary of the composer)
Eve Egoyan, piano; William Winant, percussion; Linda Bouchard, conductor, Other Minds Ensemble

Aleksandra Vrebalov
String Quartet No. 2 (1996-7)
The Onyx Quartet
Anna Presler, violin
Phyllis Kamrin, violin
Kurt Rohde, viola
Leighton Fong, cello

Gavin Bryars
Adnan Songbook (1996), on poems by Etel Adnan
I had a gypsy…
The sun came in…
You are a white cloud…

Tammy Jenkins, soprano
Other Minds Ensemble with Gavid Bryars, contrabass
Linda Bouchard, conductor

Friday, March 9, 2001, 8:00 p.m.

Ezra Pound
Fiddle Music First Suite, in six movements (1923-24) for violin solo
World premiere
Nathan Rubin, violin solo

Ezra Pound
Cavalcanti, excerpts from the opera:
1) Overture, solo violin
2) “Poi ché di doglia,” bass-baritone, flute, bassoon, trombone, violin, cello and contrabass
3) “Tos temps serai,” soprano, flute, bassoon, trombone, violin, cello and contrabass
4) “Ailas,” soprano and violin
5) “Quando di morte,” bass-baritone, violin, cello, contrabass, and timpani
6) “Perch’io non spero,” boy soprano, bass-baritone, flute, English horn, violin, cello, contrabass, percussion
7) Frottola, solo violin

Other Minds Ensemble
Nathan Rubin, violin; Emil Miland, cello
Michael Burr, contrabass; Mark Veregge, percussion
Michelle Caimotto, flute; Thomas Nugent, English horn
Carla Wilson, bassoon; Donald Benham, trombone
David Cox, bass-baritone; Tammy Jenkins, soprano
Michael Bannett, boy soprano
Robert Hughes, conductor

George Antheil
Sonata No. 1 for Violin & Piano (1923)
Allegro moderato
Andante moderato
Funèbre, lento expressivo
Finale: Allegretto frenetico

Sabat/Clarke Duo: Marc Sabat, violin and Stephen Clarke, piano

James Tenney
Chorale (1974)
Diaphonic Toccata (1997)
3 Pages in the Shape of a Pear (1995)*
Diaphonic Trio
for Violin & Piano (1997)*

Sabat/Clarke Duo: Marc Sabat, violin and Stephen Clarke, piano
*piano in just intonation

Hi Kyung Kim
Rituel, for violin, cello, clarinet, percussion and Korean shamanistic dancer-drummer (2000)
World premiere
to the memory of Ok-koo Kang, poet, and Marnie Dilling, ethnomusicologist

Other Minds Ensemble
Eun-Ha Park, percussion/dancer
William Winant, percussion
William Barbini, violin
Jean-Michel Fonteneau, cello
John Sackett, clarinet

Saturday, March 10, 2002, 8:00 p.m.

Chris Brown
Invention No. 7 (2001)
world premiere
Willie Winant, percussion
Eddie Def, turntablist
Chris Brown, Yamaha Disklavier piano and computer

Andrew Hill
“Bellezza Appasita” from Pinocchio (2001)
World premiere
Andrew Hill, piano

Alvin Curran
Inner Cities 8 (2000)
World premiere
Eve Egoyan, piano

Gavin Bryars:
One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing (1994)
Reddrum: Michael Crane, Justin DeHart, Ryan Goodpaster, Mike McCurdy, and Matt Spiva, percussion


Click here to download a PDF copy of the Other Minds Festival 7 program.

Selected Festival Audio

Photos by John Fago

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