Earplay
P.O Box 192125
San Francisco, CA 94119-2125
earplay@earplay-sf.org

Program Notes and Composer Biographies

March 18 , 2002

The Green Room at the War Memorial Performing Arts Center
401 Van Ness Avenue, 2nd floor, San Francisco

Mary Chun, conductor


Steven Ricks, Piece for Violin and Piano (in three movements)

Terrie Baune, violin
Marja Mutru, piano

NOTES:

When I wrote Piece for Violin and Piano, a work in three movements, I was preoccupied with the chamber music of Brahms, including an analysis of his music that employed concepts from Schenkerian Analysis and Schoenberg's theory of Developing Variation. This piece is my attempt to explore these ideas in a modern harmonic language and context. The basic motives and ideas presented in the opening bars of the piece are spun out and transformed throughout the rest of it. I also seem to have been obsessed with other aspects of tonal music: Sonata Form in general, and recapitulation in particular. The three movements refer to and repeat material from each of the other movements, and have a sort of "interconnected-ness" that I feel exists between the movements in the Brahms pieces I was studying.

This piece was premiered in July 1997 by the New York New Music Ensemble at the California State University Summer Arts Program at Long Beach State, California. It has undergone some minor revisions since then in preparation for tonight's performance by Earplay.

BIO:

Steven Ricks (b. 1969) grew up in Mesa, AZ, where he received his early musical training as a trombonist. He received a B.M. in music composition from Brigham Young University, a M.M. in composition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Utah. Mr. Ricks received a 1999 University of Utah Graduate Research Fellowship that allowed him to complete a year of compositional studies with Sir Harrison Birtwistle in London, England, where he received the Certificate of Advanced Musical Studies from King's College London. His awards and commissions include First Prize in the 1999 SCI/ASCAP Student Composition Competition and a commission from the Barlow Endowment.

Mr. Ricks has composed pieces for various solo instruments, chamber ensembles, chamber orchestra, and choir, and his works have been performed by Speculum Musicae, the New York New Music Ensemble, the SUNY Purchase Contemporary Ensemble, and Talujon Percussion Quartet, among others. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University where he directs the Electronic Music Studio, and he is also an Associate Instructor at Westminster College of Salt Lake City.

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Hans Wener Henze, San Biagio 9 Agosto ore 1207

Ricahrd Worn, double-bass

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James Carr, Seven Utopias (Earplay Commission)

I. Bruderhof
II. Iona
III. Ephrata
IV. Roycroft
V. Irenia
VI. Zoar
VII. New Harmony

Tod Brody, flute
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Terrie Baune, violin
Thalia Moore, cello

NOTES:

The word Utopia was fashioned by Thomas More from the Greek meaning “no place.” Yet there have been many utopias. Each movement of my Seven Utopias: Bruderhof, Iona, Ephrata, Roycroft, Irenia, Zoar, and New Harmony, bear names borrowed from actual intentional communities, two of which, Bruderhof and Iona, still exist. These names seem appropriate, in that each movement was composed using what were for me, radically new types of harmonic organization. Metaphorically, they are my harmonic utopias.

From the 17th until the 19th century, daily life in American utopias, whose religious beliefs or social structures are now dismissed as radical or impractical, actually differed minimally from surrounding society. Most settlers in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania were farmers or craftspersons in largely self-sufficient communities, not now identified as utopian.

For their harmonic language, my Seven Utopias rely on my understanding of the pioneering theoretical work done by my teacher, American composer George Perle. George has discovered a vast and beautiful universe of harmonic relations. This harmonic system is based on a radical reinterpretation of that most fundamental of post-tonal objects, the chromatic scale. Unlike the twelve-tone system, Perle’s language does not rely on serial ordering of the twelve tones.

Instead, arrays formed by alignments of four interval cycles in interwoven pairs yield symmetrically related pairs of notes. The relations between these dyads form a hierarchy which composer Paul Lansky describes as, “...predicated on the idea that a dyad is located in a series of hierarchically ordered classes. First, the dyad is a member of an interval class—and at the same time it is a member of a sum-class, determined by the mod 12 sum of its 2 pitch-class numbers. Next, dyads, as sums and intervals, are situated in a multi-dimensional array of sum and interval cycles. Chords are constructed…[and] classified by the sums and intervals of their component dyads.”

While I have endeavored to understand and use Perle’s formidable harmonic system, with its 144 keys, 144 modes, and 3 tonalities, my Seven Utopias should not be used to judge the power and possibilities of George’s discoveries, just as one would not judge diatonic tonality based on the work of a single composer. Yet I feel certain that, like the real utopias inspiring me, these Seven “harmonic” Utopias, while not radically different from their (musical) surroundings, are formed from ideals which are practical, powerful, and indeed revolutionary.

BIO:

Composer James Harold Carr was a pupil of that generation of American composers most deeply influenced by Schönberg, Berg, and Webern. His musical language has been described by Charles Passey of New York Newsday as, “at turns, strident and angular, reflective and elegiac, but thoroughly distinct and definitely of its day.” Jim has taught theory, music history, and composition and at San Francisco State University, Stanford, and Columbia University. He received his Doctorate from Columbia University in 1992.

Carr’s Four Aztec Songs, premiered in Europe at the Festival d’Aix en Provence in 1993, was given its second European performance last summer in Krakow, Poland at the “Music in old Krakow” festival. In 1998, his trio for clarinet, violin and piano, …a reed in the arms of the wind…, was commissioned by New York’s Ensemble21 and premiered in New York at Merkin Hall. In 1999, Jim became a Resident Fellow at Stanford University, and in June 2000, his String Quartet, Cenotaph, was premiered at the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival in East Aurora, New York. Also in 2000, he taught a summer course at Stanford entitled “The String Quartet: Hearing Voices of Transparent Fire.” Jim is currently translating a 19th century German counterpoint textbook, and thinking of going hiking.

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David Schiff, Scenes From Adolescence

Tod Brody, flute and piccolo
Peter Josheff, clarinet and bass clarinet
Terrie Baune, violin
Thalia Moore, cello
Marja Mutru, piano

NOTES:

I composed Scenes from Adolescence in 1987 for a commission from Chamber Music Northwest, who later recorded the work for Delos. It is a twenty-five minute work in several continuous sections, most of them very fast. In retrospect it was a turning point in my style. I wanted to bring my music closer to jazz and rock, not only to make it more propulsive, but to intensify its expression and lyricism. Parts of the work are influenced by the styles of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, Bud Powell and Sidney Bechet (in the one slow section, a clarinet solo), and even Chuck Berry, but I like to think to think that the biggest overall influence comes from Charles Mingus who I was fortunate to hear live many times when I was in high school and college.

Ever since the premiere in 1987 the piece has become known for its intensity, which is very demanding on all concerned. After the first performance in Portland a listener told me that if this was my adolescence it was clear that I had not grown up in Oregon. True enough—like most of my music, Scenes is very New York.

BIO:

David Schiff, born in New York in 1945, is the R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He studied composition with John Corigliano and Ursula Mamlok at the Manhattan School of Music, and with Elliott Carter at the Juilliard School. His major works include the opera Gimpel the Fool, with libretto by I. B. Singer, the Sacred Service, written for the 125th anniversary of Congregation Beth Israel of Portland, Slow Dance, commissioned by the Oregon Symphony, Stomp, commissioned by Marin Alsop for Concordia, and recorded by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by David Zinman, Solus Rex, for bass trombone and chamber ensemble commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and premiered by David Taylor, Speaking in Drums, a concerto for timpani and string orchestra commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra for its timpanist, Peter Kogan, Vashti, a retelling of the Book of Esther for mezzo-soprano, clarinet and piano, commissioned by the Gold Coast Chamber Music Festival and 4 Sisters, a concerto for jazz violin and orchestra, which premiered in Cambridge England in 1997. Recent works include New York Nocturnes, a piano trio written for Chamber Music Northwest, Pepper Pieces, arrangements of songs by Jim Pepper for jazz violinist Hollis Taylor and strings, and Canti di Davide, a concerto for clarinet and orchestra premiered by David Shifrin and the Virginia Symphony in October 2001. Three of his compositions, Divertimento from Gimpel the Fool, Suite from the Sacred Service, and Scenes from Adolescence, may be heard on Delos CD #3058 performed by artists of Chamber Music Northwest and the composer's wife Cantor Judith Schiff. Shtik, written for David Taylor, appears on the album "Past Tells" on the New World label.

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