Statement by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director, Charles Amirkhanian
I remember my experience as a college-age musician encountering for the first time the ravishing songs of Ned Rorem on his legendary (and now rare) Columbia LP of songs with the striking line drawing of his face by Jean Cocteau. The way Rorem’s harmonic treatment of poetry magnified the poignancy of lines by our American icons Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman seemed so right — the prosody of his vocal lines meshed seamlessly with his piano writing that fit so well under the hands, leaving the way clear for the listener to understand the texts without reading them at the same time. Here in the heyday of Cage, Boulez, and Stockhausen was a composer who still dared to modulate from key to key for emotional and poetic effect. But there was more. I had read Rorem’s Music from Inside Out and was fascinated by his sweeping generalizations about music — perhaps modeled after the discourse of his friend Virgil Thomson, another composer (and critic) who fascinated me and who, with Lou Harrison and John Cage, famously provoked discussion whenever possible.
And so it was with pride and pleasure that I invited a brilliant — and himself highly opinionated — poetry professor of mine at Fresno State, Philip Levine, to my home to listen to Rorem’s settings of Theodore Roethke, Browning, Ben Jonson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, sung by the greatest American vocalists of the day. “No,” said Levine, after a few of the songs had been played, “I just can’t enjoy these poems set to music.” Levine felt that settings severely altered the rhythm of the line and masked such subtleties as internal rhyming so painstakingly crafted by the poet. To this day, I’ve relished an appreciation of both points of view, but in the case of Rorem, I must side with the composer. I can’t think of Dryden’s Song for a Girl or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Requiem without hearing Rorem’s music. I can’t divorce Hopkins’ Spring and Fall from Donald Gramm’s soulful rendition on that rare Columbia LP with the composer at the keyboard.
With this in mind, Other Minds re-released that 1963 album on CD in honor of Ned Rorem’s 80th birthday, one of our featured guests at this year’s Other Minds Festival 9. In the meantime, we were pleased to present his masterful 1997 song cycle Evidence of Things Not Seen in its first West Coast performance sung by the soloists of the San Francisco Opera Center. We’re grateful to Pamela Rosenberg, Shari Greenawald, and the San Francisco Opera for collaborating with Other Minds in welcoming Mr. Rorem back to San Francisco after a decade-long absence.
In addition, what a wealth of talent we assembled for Other Minds 9. Evelyn Glennie is, to my mind, one of the most electrifying presences in contemporary music. She is the first full-time percussion soloist in the classical field and has married performing virtuosity to an investigative spirit that is all too rare. Stephan Micus and Jack Body are those singular figures in new music who look deeply in the music of non-Western cultures and use their findings to powerful effect. William Parker for many years was the most trusted bassist of such distinguished soloists as Cecil Taylor and now is group leader in a diversity of settings that is daunting even to catalogue. Ge Gan-ru survived persecution during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and lives now in New Jersey where his music continues to thrive. Amy X Neuburg is Oakland’s virtuoso singer-songwriter-lyricistperformance-artist-actress-composer whose electronic songs are a striking discovery. Stephen Scott’s bowed piano music has been refined over decades and has thrilled audiences from Australia to the Canary Islands. And Daniel Lentz continues to compose works for voices and instruments that break new ground in electronic intermedia such as his new Café Desire for the Phoenix Bach Choir.
We welcome you to our festival at the original home of Other Minds, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Artistic Director, Other Minds (2003)
Jack Body (born in 1944) studied at Auckland University (1963-67). With a QEII Arts Council grant he attended the Ferien Kurse fur Neue Musik, Cologne and Institute of Sonology, Utrecht, Netherlands (1969/70). For two years (1976-77) he was a guest lecturer at the Akademi Musik Indonesia, Yogyakarta, and since 1980 he has lectured at the School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington.
His music covers almost all genres, including solo and chamber music, orchestral music, music-theater, music for dance and film, as well as electroacoustic music. A fascination with the music and cultures of Asia, particularly Indonesia, has been a strong influence on his music. His ethnomusicological recordings include Music for Sale: Street Musicians of Yogyakarta (OMCD 006, and TC HLS-91), Music of Madura (CD ODE 1381) and Jemblung: Sung Narrative Traditions (PAN 2048CD). His music has been played widely and by such performers as Lontano, Kronos Quartet, ARC, the NZ String Quartet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and so on. He also works in experimental photography and computer-controlled sound-image installations, having received commissions from several public galleries. His opera Alley was premiered to wide acclaim at the 1998 NZ International Festival of the Arts. As a promoter of New Zealand music he has organized a series of “Sonic Circuses,” simultaneous multi-venue music marathons. He is the Director of Waiteata Music Press which publishes scores of New Zealand music, and has edited numerous CDs of New Zealand music. In 1985 he received the Composers’ Association of New Zealand Citation for Services to New Zealand music and in 2001 he was honoured with an OMNZ in the New Year’s Honours. Jack Body was artistic director for the Asia-Pacific Festivals and Conferences in 1984 and 1992, which focused on the music (traditional and contemporary) of New Zealand and its Asia-Pacific neighbours. Recordings of his music include Suara (Ode CD Manu 1380), electroacoustic compositions using field recordings from Indonesia, Sacred and Profane (Ode Portal CD 1004), three large scale works for voices and Pulse (Rattle D009), a series of five works based on transcriptions from traditional music.
Ge Gan-Ru, born in 1954 in Shanghai, has been called China’s first avant-garde composer. He received degrees in both violin and composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he also served as Assistant Professor of Composition. In 1982, when China was still largely unfamiliar with 20th-century Western music, he wrote a controversial piece called Yi feng for solo cello which used unorthodox extended techniques to produce timbres simulating Chinese percussive instruments. In 1983, he was awarded a fellowship to attend Columbia University where he studied with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky.
Ge has composed music for theater, dance, and documentary and feature films as well as concert music. The New York Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, BBC Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet, and many other ensembles have performed his works. He is a board director of Meet the Composer. Ge’s music reflects his deep interest in amalgamating Eastern and Western musical aesthetics. He writes, “While in Western music, composers are deeply concerned with the relationships between pitches, in Chinese music what is important is the particular pitch and its microtonal and timbral character. I try to combine contemporary Western compositional techniques with my Chinese feeling and experience along with Chinese musical characteristics inherited from thousands of years ago, so as to set up a universal music world expressing natural and primitive beauty.”
Born in 1953 in Germany, Stephan Micus made his first journey to the Orient at the age of sixteen. Fascinated by the variety of musical cultures around the world Micus has travelled in virtually every Asian and European country as well as in Africa and the Americas. Studying with local master musicians he learned to play numerous traditional instruments, many of them unknown in the Western world. However, Micus‘s intention is not to play these instruments in a traditional manner, but rather to develop the fresh musical possibilities which he feels are inherent in them. In many of his compositions, which he performs himself, he combines instruments that have never before been played together. The resulting dialogues further reflect his vision of a transcultural music.
In addition to his exclusively acoustic instruments Micus also uses his voice, at times – with multitrack recording techniques – creating whole choral pieces by himself. The words he sings usually do not carry any known meaning. However, on Athos and Panagia he set to music ancient Greek prayers to the Virgin Mary, on Desert Poems he performed two original poems in English and on Life he has set to music an ancient Japanese Koan. Many of Europe’s leading dance companies have chosen his work for their productions. He has performed hundreds of solo concerts over the last 30 years throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Daniel Lentz was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and began studying music (piano and trumpet) at the age of six. He completed high school at the age of sixteen and entered Saint Vincent College, graduating four years later in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Lentz received a fellowship to attend Ohio University and graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Music Theory/Composition and Musicology in 1965. That same year he entered Brandeis University, receiving a National Defense Education Act Fellowship as well as a full Scholarship from Brandeis. Daniel became a composition fellow at Tanglewood in 1966. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship (in Electronic Music) to Sweden in 1967, completing research and composition at the Electronic Music Studio of Swedish Radio in Stockholm in 1968.
In 1968, Lentz accepted a visiting lectureship at the University of California at Santa Barbara, teaching classes in Music Theory, Music Composition, and Electronic Music. In 1970, he began devoting significant time to composition and performance, founding and directing the California Time Machine (CTM), a “conceptual music” ensemble based in Santa Barbara. The CTM made tours of the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. Lentz founded and directed the San Andreas Fault in 1973, an ensemble comprised of voices, keyboards and real-time electronics. This ensemble made several tours of the U.S., Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. The San Adreas Fault also recorded for European radio companies in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France from 1974 to 1980.
In Los Angeles, during 1982, Lentz founded and directed the Daniel Lentz Group. The Group made many tours of the U.S., Eastern and Western Europe and Asia. Daniel has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Interlink Festival (Japan), Xebec Corporation (Japan), Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Meet-The-Composer/Readers Digest/Lila Wallace Fund, Zeitgeist Ensemble, Present Music Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, West German Radio (WDR), San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, Cold Blue Records, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society, Mobius (Boston), Montagnana Trio, Institute for Studies in the Arts (Tempe, AZ) as well as many individuals (e.g., Betty Freeman) and individual performers.
Evelyn Glennie is a force of nature, a gift of music to the world. This young Scotswoman has carved a new place for solo percussion in the realm of classical music, and has melded traditions and instrumentation from around the world to create new ways of performing and, indeed, of hearing percussion as music in its own right. Because she has defied convention by crossing the traditionally rigid boundaries of formal, folkloric, and popular musical forms, this uncommonly versatile musician has managed to draw new audiences to the classical world. In so doing, she has collected 53 awards including a Grammy, and has won the acclaim of the world’s most venerable musicians and critics, who must stretch their vocabularies to describe this “thrilling, hyperkinetic wild woman” and the “glorious ruckus she creates.” The breadth and originality of Glennie’s talent make any attempt to define her incomplete. She appears regularly with the top orchestras and conductors of the world, and if she could perform as a soloist, Glennie would be as comfortable and accomplished playing in a rock band, a folk group, a Gamelan Orchestra (an orchestra made up of mainly tuned percussion instruments), a jazz band, an African, Middle Eastern, Latin or Asian ensemble. Her virtuosity and restless musical imagination have spawned a career that has brought her to five continents, and encompasses more than 110 concerts per season; 16 solo recordings; collaborations with musicians ranging from Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos to the Icelandic pop star Bjork, and the Japanese drummers, Kodo; a host of award-winning film and television scores; and a powerful, best-selling autobiography.
Glennie has already secured a place in music history. She was the first ever full-time solo percussionist in the field of classical music, and is unanimously credited with transforming the role of percussive instruments within this highly conservative world. She is also responsible for bringing life to the severely limited classical repertoire by commissioning more than eighty new works from some of the world’s top contemporary composers.
When she began to play professionally in 1985, and for the first ten years of her career, virtually every performance Glennie gave was in some way a first—either it was the first performance of a new percussion concerto, the first time an orchestra had performed with a solo percussionist, or the first solo percussion performance at a festival or venue. Explaining her impact, The New York Times has called Glennie “the percussion world’s Segovia or Rampal,” and stated that “her musicianship is extraordinary. One has to pause in sheer wonder at what she has accomplished. She is quite simply a phenomenon of a performer.” And in the words of Leonard Slatkin, Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, “She has done for percussion what James Galway did for the flute and Richard Stolzman for the clarinet. She has gotten young people turned on to music in a setting other than jazz or rock. I also suspect that by her ability and personality she will have inspired lots of people to go into the profession.”
Despite all of Glennie’s awards, and her designation as an Officer of the British Empire—it is extremely rare for anyone under the age of about 50 to get this title, and Glennie was 27 when she received it—the most important praise she receives comes from her public: she was voted Scots Woman of the Decade and the International Classical Music Personality of the Year (the classical music world’s equivalent of the Academy Awards), where she garnered more votes than Pavarotti.
In the context of such a vibrant and illustrious career, the fact that Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of twelve seems, at first, amazing. But for her, it is virtually irrelevant. Hearing is basically a specialized form of touch and sound is simply vibrating air which the ear picks up and converts to electrical signals which are then interpreted in the brain. Glennie can identify the notes according to the vibrations she feels through her feet and body.
Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time magazine has called him “the world’s best composer of art songs,” yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy, Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, and an array of other orchestral works; music for numerous combinations of chamber forces; ten operas; choral works of every description; ballets and other music for the theater; and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.
At age seventeen, Rorem entered the Music School of Northwestern University, and two years later receiving a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Ned Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1968). In January 2000 he was elected President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1971 for his book Critical Affairs, A Composer’s Journal, in 1975 for The Final Diary, and in 1992 for an article on American opera in Opera News. His suite Air Music won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize in music. The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles received a Grammy Award for Outstanding Orchestral Recording in 1989. In 1998 he was chosen Composer of the Year by Musical America.
William Parker is a bassist, improviser, composer, writer, and educator from New York City. He has recorded over 150 albums, published six books, and taught and mentored hundreds of young musicians and artists. He has been called “one of the most inventive bassists/leaders since [Charles] Mingus,” and “the creative heir to Jimmy Garrison and Paul Chambers…directly influenced by ‘60s avant-gardists like Sirone, Henry Grimes and Alan Silva.” The Village Voice called him, “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time” and Time Out New York named him one of the “50 Greatest New York Musicians of All Time.”
Parker’s current active bands include the large-band Little Huey Creative Orchestra, the Raining on the Moon Sextet, the In Order to Survive Quartet, Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind, the Cosmic Mountain Quintet with Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, and Cooper-Moore, as well as a deep and ongoing solo bass study. His recordings have long been documented by the AUM Fidelity record label and on his own Centering Records, among others. He also has a duo project Hope Cries For Justice with Patricia Nicholson Parker which combines music, story telling, poetry and dance
Over the decades, Parker has developed a reputation as a connector and hub of information concerning the history of creative music, recently culminating in a two hefty volumes of interviews with over 60 avant-garde and creative musicians, Conversations I & II. He is also the subject of an exhaustive 468-page “sessionography” that documents thousands of performances and recording sessions, a remarkable chronicle of his prolificness as an active artist. He has been a key figure in the New York and European creative music scenes since the 1970s, and has worked all over the world. He has performed with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Peter Brotzmann, Milford Graves, Peter Kowald, and David S. Ware, among many others.
William Parker works all over the world but he always returns to New York’s Lower East Side, where he has lived since 1975.
Amy X Neuburg (Oakland, California) has been developing her own brand of irreverently genre-crossing works for voice, live electronics and chamber ensembles for over 25 years, known for her innovative use of live looping technology with electronic percussion, her 4-octave vocal range and her colorful — often humorous — lyrics. One of the earliest performers to work with live digital looping, Amy has presented her solo “avant-cabaret” songs at such diverse venues as the Other Minds and Bang on a Can new music festivals, the Berlin International Poetry Festival, the Wellington and Christchurch Jazz Festivals (New Zealand), the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, electronic music festivals, colleges, rock clubs and concert halls throughout the U.S. and abroad.
As composer, commissions for voices and chamber ensembles — often with electronics — include Paul Dresher Ensemble, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Robin Cox Ensemble, Present Music, Solstice vocal ensemble, Pacific Mozart Ensemble chorus, Sqwonk, and Del Sol String Quartet. Her acclaimed song cycle The Secret Language of Subways for voice, cello trio and electronics has played at Yerba Buena Center, the San Francisco Symphony After Hours, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Left Coast Festival. She has also composed extensively for theater, visual media and modern dance. A classically trained vocalist, Amy has been featured in contemporary operas and recordings including works by Robert Ashley, Culture Clash and Guillermo Galindo.
Amy received degrees in linguistics and voice from Oberlin College and Conservatory and an MFA in electronic music from Mills College. Her many grants and honors include Arts International, the Gerbode Foundation, Meet the Composer, The U.S. Embassy New Zealand, SF Friends of Chamber Music, and the Alpert/Ucross prize.
Stephen Scott was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1944 to parents trained in the sciences; early study of music included tutoring in recorder in England, clarinet, and saxophone in school bands, and private study and transcription of recordings by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, and John Coltrane in high school. After studying composition with Homer Keller at the University of Oregon and Gerald Shapiro at Brown, he met and studied informally with Steve Reich in Ghana. Later he collaborated with Terry Riley, and these two composers became his most important influences outside jazz. Scott is a Emeritus Professor of Music at Colorado College. He has served on the faculty of The Evergreen State College and as visiting composer at Eastman School of Music, Aspen Music School, New England Conservatory, Princeton University, University of Southern California, Cal Arts, and at festivals and conservatories in Germany, France, Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ireland, Norway, England, Canary Islands, Bermuda, New Zealand and Australia. He was named 2008 USA Simon Fellow by United States Artists, and in 2004 he was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study and Conference Center on Lake Como, Italy.
Scott is listed in New Grove’s Dictionary of American Music and Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, and his work is discussed in several books on twentieth-century music. Awards include commissions from Meet the Composer/USA, Pacific Symphony and the Barlow Endowment, a grant from the Peter S. Reed Foundation, the New England Conservatory/Rockefeller Foundation Chamber Music Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Composer’s Fellowship. His music may be heard on the New Albion, Navona and Albany labels. Film and television credits include Traffic (DVD version), Egg: the Arts Show (PBS) and the NBC special Revenge of the Whale. Scott lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Victoria Hansen, who tours with the Bowed Piano Ensemble as soprano soloist.
Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco
Wednesday, March 5, 2003
7:00 pm: Ned Rorem in Conversation (Hosted by Charles Amirkhanian)
8:00 pm: CONCERT
Evidence of Things Not Seen (1997, West Coast premiere)
San Francisco Opera Center Singers (Elizabeth Caballero, Karen Slack, sopranos; Michelle Wrighte, mezzo-soprano; Harold Meers, tenor; Brad Alexander, Hugh Russell, baritones), Mark Morash and Monica Vanderveen, piano
Excerpt from The Open Road (text by Walt Whitman)
From New World Records 80575-2 (1999) Monique McDonald, soprano; Delores Ziegler, mezzo-soprano; Rufus Müller, tenor; Kurt Ollmann, baritone; Michael Barrett & Steven Blier, pianists
Lou Harrison (a memorial tribute)
King David’s Lament for Jonathan (1941)
Harold Meers, tenor; Jake Heggie and Mark Morash, piano;
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
Thursday, March 6, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
6:00 pm: OM Café opens. Light dining provided by Cow Hollow Catering
7:00 pm: ARTISTS’ FORUM I (Evelyn Glennie, Amy X Neuburg, Ge Gan-ru, Gloria Cheng; Charles Amirkhanian, moderator)
8:00 pm: CONCERT
Piano Quintet (2002-3, world premiere)
Gloria Cheng, piano; Onyx String Quartet
Amy X Neuburg
Six Little Stains
Neuburg, solo voice with electronics
Evelyn Glennie, A Recital for Solo Percussion
Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, Pezzo da Concerto No.1 for solo snare drum
Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic Fluctus for marimba
Toshimitsu Tanaka, Two Movements for marimba
Keiko Abe,Michi for marimba
Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, Ilijas for marimba
Askell Masson, Prim for solo snare drum
Leigh Howard Stevens, Rhythmic Caprice for marimba
Evelyn Glennie, 5-octave marimba; snare drum
Friday, March 7, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
6:00 pm: OM Café opens. Light dining provided by Cow Hollow Catering
7:00 pm: ARTISTS’ FORUM II (Daniel Lentz, Jack Body, Sarah Cahill, William Parker; Charles Amirkhanian, moderator)
8:00 pm: CONCERT
Café Desire (2002)
San Francisco premiere
Linda Childs, Britt Quentin, vocals; Brad Ellis keyboards; Phoenix Bach Choir; Other Minds Ensemble; Jeffery Kennedy, conductor
Sarajevo for piano (1996)
Sarah Cahill, piano
Three Sentimental Songs for piano and percussion trio (2000-01)
The Other Minds Ensemble
William Parker, string bass; Oluyemi Thomas, reeds; Barbara Sandidge, flugelhorn; Doctor E. Pelikan-Chalto, clarinet/recorder
Saturday, March 8, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
6:00 pm: OM Café opens. Light dining provided by Cow Hollow Catering
7:00 pm: ARTISTS’ FORUM III (Stephen Scott, Stephan Micus, Stephen Hill; Charles Amirkhanian, moderator)
8:00 pm: CONCERT
On a Silent Wing
Micus, bass duduk and other traditional instruments with pre-recorded sounds
Paisajes Audibles (Audible Landscapes) for soprano and bowed piano (2002)
Victoria Hansen, soprano; Colorado College Bowed Piano Ensemble, Stephen Scott, director