Saturday, April 12, 2014

REVIEW: Maxium Minimalism, 4/8

On Tuesday, I attended the Maximum Minimalism  concert at Disney Hall, featuring Wild Up and ICE. It is a perfectly fitting concert title, being a 4+ hour concert featuring 14 pieces. To be clear, the hefty duration was a good thing. As Feldman said: "Up to one hour you think about form, but after an hour and a half it's scale. Form is easy: just the division of things into parts. But scale is another matter." That shift of thinking is something I'd imagine hermetic proto-minimalist La Monte Young might appreciate.

Photo by Chris Votek
Wandering through the pre-concert lobby, one could faintly hear the familiar ostinatos of post-minimal piano. Entering the hall, Wild Up's virtuosic pianist Richard Valitutto was already winding his way through William Duckworth's wonderful Time Curve Preludes. It was clearly going to be a good evening.

After the aural hors d'oeuvres, the concert proper began with Claire Chase's performance of Reich's Vermont Counterpoint. Her razor sharp syncopation, perfect blend with the electronics, and ability to lend the über-quantized piece an air of expressivity demonstrated one of the reasons why she received a MacArthur grant. My only complaint about this piece is regarding spatialization. Chase was in the perfect spot, standing at the pipe organ's console. However, the layered sounds came from the speaker array at the center of the hall. Sitting in the Orchestra East section, it was jarring to see the musician on my left side while the sound came from the right.

These solo performances were followed by Chris Rountree's Wild Up playing an energetic arrangement of Julius Eastman's Stay On It. Eastman is a fascinating composer whose story includes controversies with John Cage and a forceful eviction that led to the large scale loss of his scores. This arrangement accentuated the piece's dichotomy between structure and its apparent opposite, one that seemed to echo the composer's own life. Wild Up gave the piece the vibrant enthusiasm that has long been a hallmark of their performances.

The Calder Quartet then came onstage for a performance of Reich's Different Trains. This electro-acoustic string quartet was approached with the seriousness and accuracy that it deserved, and it is always a pleasure to hear live.

Though many new music concerts might call it a night after this heavy-hitting dose of minimalism, this was only the first of three sets. It was time for the first intermission, which was itself a spectacle. I somehow missed hearing Reich's Pendulum Music, but made it to the outdoor garden to hear a beautiful rendition of James Tenney's In a Large, Open Space. This piece owes more to La Monte Young's original JI steady-state music than the Riley-tinted, pulse-driven, post-Americana that we commonly refer to as minimalism. Wild Up and ICE gave the piece a beautifully delicate performance in the urban oasis of the garden, and the sounds of gentle swells had an intriguing counterpoint in the oceanic wash of the LA Freeways.

After intermission, the concert continued with a precious performance of Andrew McIntosh's Silver and White. Strings and muted brass inhabited an auster, microtonal, post-Feldman gestural space, framed by an extended snare drum roll, gently suggesting that we return to the county of Minimalism Proper.

David Lang's death speaks followed, sounding dutifully like the album. However, the most enjoyable surprise for me was hearing Wild Up's powerhouse violinist Andrew Tholl singing. Steve Reich's Radio Rewrite came after. This piece and the Lang fit together perfectly as works by older composers trying to explore what "indie classical" might mean in relation to their own body of work. An abstracted medley of two Radiohead songs, this piece did Reich as only Reich really can. However, the chord changes lent it an air of Satyagraha...

Though I missed Johanna Beyers' IV during the second intermission, I caught Tristan Perich's wonderfully streamlined Observations, for 1-bit electronics and crotales. I was reminded of his 2009 performance at the wulf of Dual Synthesis, a piece for 1-bit electronics and harpsichord.

After intermission #2, the actual L.A. Phil New Music Group took the reins for the world premieres of Mark Grey's Awake the Machine Electric and Missy Mazzoli's Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). Both pieces fully inhabited the post-Adams Copeland-icana landscape of contemporary orchestral minimalism. What was most interesting was the way that both pieces attempted to augment the aural palette of the orchestra. Grey used a keyboard sampler filled with hyper-processed digital warblings, which struggled to meld with the skeletal musical framing the orchestra was providing. Meanwhile, Mazzoli used a varied percussion setup and a double-reed array of harmonicas and melodicas to create a sonically rich and well-crafted feast.

Wild Up's arrangement of John Adams' retracted American Standard was a great closer and foil to the pieces that preceded it. It exemplified LA Phil's apparent institutional advocacy of groups like the relatively small and new Wild Up. While other classical institutions struggle and/or fold, LA Phil seems to be thriving through consistently forward-thinking programming, engaging new audiences, and by fostering the colorful community of talented musicians that LA draw to it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Anne LeBaron Portrait Concerts this weekend (pt. 2)

This Sunday at REDCAT, two arias from Bonnie and Clyde will be premiered as part of Anne LeBaron's Portrait Concerts. Bonnie and Clyde is an opera in development by Andrew McIntosh and Melinda Rice.

The following notes on Bonnie and Clyde are by Melinda Rice, the piece's librettist.

“A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.” Italo Calvino, Letters 1941-1985 
In its current stage, the opera Bonnie and Clyde (which is still being written) deals with absence and forgiveness. The title characters, infamous bank robbers, car thieves, and murderers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, never appear, never sing a word. The tale rests in the stories of those people who came close to Bonnie and Clyde, those people who lost husbands and friends, and those who met the two on a good day and heard their jokes and were taken for a joy ride over a state border and dropped off unharmed.

In truth, the story of the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde has been told so many times that as Andrew and I discussed it, we asked ourselves, why are we interested in this? Why does this feel like such a good idea? 
For me, I became hooked as I formed a picture of Bonnie and Clyde as people - ordinary, poor people, not sociopaths or psychopaths - who grew to not value their lives at all. It is my opinion that they both had strong feelings, feelings of loyalty to family and friends, feelings of protectiveness for each other, feelings of rage at unfairness, and certainly feelings of desire. Yet, even with all these feelings, they did not care. They chose to not care at all. And the lives that came close to this couple who did not care show the imprint of Bonnie and Clyde. 
The arias in this concert at RedCat are both written for women. One is written for the character Blanche Barrow, who shares Clyde’s last name because she was his sister-in-law, married to his older brother Buck. Blanche and Buck ran with Bonnie and Clyde from around March to July of 1933, when Buck was shot and killed in a gunfight with the law, and Blanche was arrested. Bonnie and Clyde escaped. During her time in Missouri State Penitentiary, Blanche wrote a memoir, which was not published until after her death. In it, she recounts how she begged her husband to not join his brother, but Buck insisted on trying to save Clyde, and Blanche felt she had no choice but to follow her husband. Blanche was the kind of woman who was able to send her own husband to jail six months after marrying him (in her account, she discovered in 1931 after they were married that he was on the run from the law, and told him that he would have to serve out the rest of his sentence so they could settle down and live regular lives, and he agreed), but when up against Buck’s need to save his brother, Blanche could only follow. 
The other aria is written for the character Marie Tullis, a 20-year-old who was engaged to marry a highway patrolman named H.D. Murphy on April 13, 1934. H.D. Murphy was on one of his first patrols on Easter, April 1, when he and his fellow patrolman, Edward Bryan Wheeler, stopped to investigate a parked Ford V8 on West Dove Road, off Highway 114 in Texas. Clyde and Bonnie, as well as a new gang member, Henry Methvin, were inside that car, taking a rest from a trip to visit family on Easter and deliver a pet rabbit. They shot and killed both officers. Marie wore the dress she had intended to be married in to her beloved’s funeral. 
There is a third collaborator for Bonnie and Clyde, Berlin-based artist Claudia Doderer. Andrew got to know her when she had a residency in LA at the Villa Aurora, and we greatly admire her work. Claudia has created the still imagery for this performance at RedCat, and we will be continuing to work with her in developing the opera.
These are the lyrics from the opera scenes: 
Blanche Barrow: Words to Buck Barrow 
Flowers drop, and rain drops, and even the moon drops,
but don’t drop me, Daddy, don’t drop me

and illusions drop, and dresses drop, and then, if you are polite, eyes drop,
but don’t drop them for me, Daddy, there’s no need

I’ve been waiting to let hints drop,
and fingers drop,
and even tears drop
let your brother drop,
and stay with me 
Marrie Tullis: On the Death of H.D. Murphy

Wait for the end
The end of the end
Easter is over
The dead are still dead

The blue on your lips
The red through your shirt
Our wedding in two weeks
But you haven’t said the vows yet

which was is east? which way is east?
it is the last road my love took,the way he walked
into the sun
hands open
ready to point out directions
ready to change a tire
his uniform new around his shoulders,
across his chest,
when he stopped to help
and they shot him point blank

Wait for the end
The end of the end
As I stop on the doorstep,
Before I go in,
Be careful, my love,
Sentiment is for the brave and the young.

Anne LeBaron Portrait Concerts this weekend (pt. 1)

Starting in 2005, I had the good fortune to study composition with Anne LeBaron, who has been a great mentor, friend, and creative advocate. This Saturday and Sunday, REDCAT will be presenting two nights of Portrait Concerts, featuring music by her and several of her former students.

The concert on Saturday, April 12 will include the premiere of my piece Comic Book by the Isaura String Quartet on Saturday! This exciting new quartet has put a lot of great work into Comic Book, and I am very excited to hear them give the piece its world premiere!
On April 12, compositions by Anne LeBaron include Creación de las Aves; a selection from Silent Steppe Cantata; Way of Light; Doggone Catact; and Breathtails, with additional compositions by Daniel Corral and James Klopfleisch. Special guests: Richard Valitutto, Timur Bekbosunov, Daniel Rosenboom, Ralph Samuelson, and the Formalist Quartet. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Full Collapse Libretto

Photo by Kellie Smith
Here is the entire libretto for COLLAPSE, written for Timur and the Dime Museum!

The lyrics for each song were posted during the weeks preceding the world premiere at REDCAT, and below are links to each of those posts. Each one includes a relevant Wikipedia link and/or online video.

Click on a song title to see the lyrics for that song.


1. INTROIT: Ecophagy

2. KYRIE: God Damn the Atlantic Salmon

3. GRADUAL: The House of Moloch

4. TRACT: Pacific Gyre Holiday

     a. Demon Chora
     b. Onkalo
     c. Yucca Flat Thistle Tea

6. CREDO: Cobalt Blues

7. OFFERTORY: Leviathan in Excelcis

8. SANCTUS: Honeybee, Come Home

9. AGNUS DEI: Fertilize My Heart

10. LUX AETERNA: The Hour of the One and Only

11. LIBERA ME: Heat, Beat, and Treat

12. IN PARADISUM: Chora, Adored

© 2014 by Daniel Corral

Hear Schönberg's pentatonic Pierrot l'Ane!

Now that Collapse has had it's earth-shaking premiere at REDCAT, the narcissism here on will exponentially decrease, I promise! Instead, we should celebrate the one-year anniversary of the re-discovery of Schoenberg's Pierrot l'Ane!

Though Arnold Schoenberg renounced his brief but fruitful pentatonic period, his remaining sketches from that time provide valuable insight into the psychological effect of Germany's larger socioeconomic transformation immediately preceding the first world war. Musicologists have recently unearthed cylinder recordings from the first reading of his initial sketches for Pierrot Lunaire (Op. 12). Originally titled Pierrot l'Ane, it is a little-known fact that the piece was composed during that discarded pentatonic period. Inspired by the incidental mistakes of the musicians' sight reading, his revised version incorporated the added chromaticism and became the Pierrot Lunaire that we know and love.

The pentatonic row
used in Pierrot et l'Ane
Schoenberg's development of the dodecaphonic system is well documented, but his transitional pentatonic period is less commonly taught. Before settling on all 12 pitch classes as his theoretical harmonic palette, he experimented with other numerical bases. In the same Francophilic spirit that inspired his use of Giraud's poetry, Schoenberg's enthusiasm for Parisian composers like Ravel and Debussy influenced his choice of pan-diatonic pentatonic and heptatonic systems based on the interface of the piano keyboard. These relatively simple harmonic schema were treated to the same sorts of row transformations that became hallmarks of later serial compositions.

For the first time, you can now listen to those original cylinder recordings of Schoenberg's Pierrot l'Ane online! Though the instrumental ensemble is unknown, the singer is Albertine Zehme, who premiered the finished piece at the Choralion-Saal. Schoenberg officially disowned the recordings once the piece was developed into Pierrot Lunaire (Op. 12), but these historically important documents offer a glimpse of the composer's then-nascent iconoclastic musical revolution.