Earplay Home Page

2010 Season

Season Overview

2011 Season
Support Us
& Donate
About Earplay

Press Release



Monday, February 8, 7:30 PM
Herbst Theatre

The Earplay Ensemble
Mary Chun, conductor
Tod Brody, flutes  •  Peter Josheff, clarinets  •  Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin  •  Ellen Ruth Rose, viola  •  Thalia Moore, cello

Guest Artists

Michael Seth Orland, piano  •  Chris Froh, percussion   

* * *

Program Notes

Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez
and of course Henry the Horse (2006)
clarinet, violin, four-hand piano

 ... and of course Henry the horse... was commissioned by Continuum with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. The composer writes:
“The source of the title for this collection of short pieces should be obvious to any Beatles fan. 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite'—a hallucinatory electronic waltz with colorful characters and an aura of decadence, nostalgia and futurism—intrigued and amazed me long before I could understand what the lyrics said.
“I'd like to think of the four little pieces that make up this collection of music for four-hand piano, clarinet and violin as proponents of some of the same qualities I like about 'Mr. Kite'. My pieces, like most circus acts, employ a menagerie of 'technological' devices (in the case of my music, these are rhythmic and structurally 'imperfect' mechanisms) that are precisely engineered; yet precariously realized. The pieces are simple and complex, as well as a bit funny and very dangerous. Each piece pays homage to, and is a commentary on a work of contemporary art.
Genghis is a wobbly, six-legged robot built in 1989 by Rodney Brooks (Director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab), which, upon being switched on, doesn't vacuum one's floors or build the newest Chevrolet. Instead, it simply 'does what is in its nature.'
Mandala Tequila was inspired by the installation piece Mandalas para la vida moderna (Mandalas for Modern Life) by Mexican artist Iván Puig, where an endless mechanical mallet weaves a mantric melody when hitting a collection of tequila bottles arranged in a circle. Thanks to a small light bulb installed on the mallet, a series of cogwheel-like shadows are projected onto the walls, creating a perpetual counterpoint of light, sound and movement.
Machine with Artichoke takes its title from one of the awesome machines built by the American artist Arthur Ganson—a self-described cross between a mechanical engineer and a choreographer. Ganson's machines are simple and profound, quiet and eloquent, high-tech and low-tech, finite and eternal.
Things that Go dreams about the world of Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, specifically their masterful film The Way Things Go, a sort of perpetual cycle where fire, air, gravity and corrosive liquids make it possible for mops, buckets, wood planks and old bottles to stage a carefully choreographed dance that is part chain-reaction, part circus-act – Being for the Benefit of Ms. Seltzer and Mr. Sachs!
Program note ©2006, Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez


The music of Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez has been described by the press as
“vigorously organized and highly visceral...neither eclectic nor post-modern nor owing
allegiance to any passing fashion”.

Carlos Sanchez-GuiterrezBorn in Mexico City in 1964, he grew up in Guadalajara, and later studied at the Peabody Conservatory, Yale University, Princeton and Tanglewood under Henri Dutilleux, Jacob Druckman, and Martin Bresnick. He is currently Associate Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Among the many awards he has received are the 2007 Barlow Prize, a Finalist Prize at the 2004 Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestral Composer Competition, as well as the
2003 Lee Ettelson Composition Award. He has also been honored in recent years with awards and fellowships from the Koussevitzky, Guggenheim, Fromm, Rockefeller and Camargo Foundations. He was the 2000-01 American Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Fellow and has received two B.M.I composition awards, the Mozart Medal from the governments of Mexico and Austria, and a Fulbright Fellowship. Sanchez-Gutierrez’s work is performed and recorded frequently in the U.S, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

In 2007 Sanchez-Gutierrez was Composer-in-Residence at the Michoacan International New Music Festival (Morelia, Mexico), the S.L.A.M. Festival in Seattle, as well as with the Binghamton Philharmonic (through a grant from the New York State Fund for Music.)

Sanchez-Gutierrez’s most recently completed works are ...Ex Machina, for marimba, piano and orchestra (NY State Music Fund for the Binghamton Philharmonic) and“[...and of course Henry the Horse...] Dances the..." (Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, New York State Council on the Arts, Continuum) and Twittering Variations (Hanson Fund for the Mexico City Woodwind Quintet. Upcoming projects include a Barlow Endowment-commissioned work for a consortium of percussion ensembles (SO, Kroumata and Nexus) and a new work for Ensamble Onyx.

Carlos' Twittering Machines, for flute and piano is on the recently released Albany Records CD "Without Borders" by Asako Arai and Cristina Valdes.

• The Bogliasco Foundation has awarded Carlos a Foundation Fellowship, as well as the Aaron Copland Fellowship . He will spend 5 weeks this winter at the Bogliasco Foundation's Liguria Center near Genoa, working on a piece for eighth blackbird (see below)

• Carlos is a recipient of a 2008 Fromm Music Foundation Commission. He will write a piece for eighth blackbird, to be premiered at the 2010 Look and Listen Festival in new York City.

• Carlos is the recipient of the 2007 Barlow Prize for Music Composition. He is writing a piece for the percussion ensembles So Percussion, Kroumata and Nexus, to be premiered in 2011.

• Carlos was Composer-in-Residence at Mexico's Festival Internacional Chihuahua in September, 2008.


*   *   *

Sam Nichols
Unnamed, Jr. (2009)
World premiere
Earplay commission

clarinet, viola, piano
Unnamed, Jr. is scored for clarinet, viola, and piano. It's the offspring of a work in progress, a chamber opera titled Unnamed (or, the Unnamed). I began work on the opera about two years ago, but once I figured out that I needed to revise the libretto I'd written, I set it aside. Part of the problem with the libretto was that I had trouble imagining exactly the kind of music I wanted to write (a chicken-and-egg situation: without the libretto, no music; without the music, no libretto). I decided that a companion piece would help me break out of this impasse. Unnamed, Jr. is a series of sketches toward the larger piece. It's a kind of holding pen for all of the melodic, harmonic, textural, gestural and dramatic ideas that have been emerging as I think about the opera. Unnamed, Jr. is dedicated, with great respect and admiration, to Mary Chun and the musicians of Earplay.

Sam Nichols photoSam Nichols is a composer who lives and works in Northern California. His music has been performed by eighth blackbird, the Empyrean Ensemble, and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, among other groups. Recent projects include Monkey Fist for cellist David Russell, and Crank for pianist Amy Briggs. New projects include pieces for several Bay Area ensembles, including Earplay and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Upcoming projects include new solo works for percussionist Chris Froh and cellist David Russell. He's also currently working on Unnamed, or, the Unnamed, a chamber opera for Guerilla Opera.

An ongoing collaboration with sculptor Robin Hill has produced two multi-media installations. One of these, Kardex, was featured at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, CA.

He attended Vassar College and Brandeis University. For the past six years he has worked as a lecturer in the UC Davis Music Department; he also teaches in collaboration with the Technocultural Studies Department.


Kaija Saariaho
Je sens  un deuxième coeur (2006)
viola, cello, piano

Je sens un deuxième coeur (Another heart beats)

1. Je dévoile ma peau (I unveil my body)
2. Ouvre-moi, vite! (Open up to me!)
3. Dans le rêve, elle l’attendait (In her dream, she was waiting)
4. Il faut que j’entre (Let me in)
5. Je sens un deuxième coeur qui bat tout près du mien (I feel a second

My original idea was to write musical portraits of the four characters in the opera, but when I began reworking the material in the context of chamber music, concentrating on developing the ideas to fit the three instruments of my trio, the piece grew further from the opera.
Compositionally, I started from concrete, high profile ideas and advanced towards abstract, purely musical concerns. So, for example, the title of the first section, Je dévoile ma peau, became a metaphor: the musical material introduced was orchestrated to reveal the individual characters of the three instruments and their interrelations. The second and fourth parts both start from ideas of physical violence.
In the context of this trio the violence has turned into two studies on instrumental energy.
Part three is a colour study in which the three identities are melded into one complex sound object.
The last section brings us to the thematic starting point of my opera, again very physical: the two hearts beating in a pregnant woman’s body. I am fascinated by the idea of the secret relationship between a mother and an unborn child. Musically, the two heartbeats and their constantly changing rhythmic polyphony have already served as an inspiration in my music; now the connections between the the two minds added another layer of communication.
These ideas guided the musical development how to share the intense dually-constructed material among the three trio instruments and to let it grow within their specific characters. Finally the title became also a metaphor for music making: isn’t it with the ‘other’ we want to communicate through our music? As written over the last movement, Doloroso, sempre con amore.
Kaija Saariaho 2004


Kaija_SaariahoKaija Saariaho is not only among the most important Finnish composers of her time, but must be ranked as one of the leading composers of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Born Kaija Anneli Laakkonen, she began studying visual arts at the University of Art and Design (then known as the University of Industrial Art). She married Markku Veikko Ilmari Saariaho in 1972, but the marriage was short lived, ending the following year. The composer, however, retained her married name.

In 1976, she began composition studies at the Sibelius Academy with Paavo Heininen. She obtained a degree in composition from the academy in 1980, but continued studies there for another year. Afterward, she enrolled at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany, to study with British composer Brian Ferneyhough and Germany's Klaus Huber. She was awarded a diploma there in 1983. By this time, Saariaho was already turning out some of her earliest works. The most noted efforts from this period include Verblendungen for Orchestra and Tape (1982-1984) and the minimalist piece Vers le blanc (1982). This latter piece was composed with the use of a computer and software developed at the Paris-based I.R.C.A.M. (L'Institut de Recherche et Coordination), where she had begun extensive studies in 1982 in computer techniques as they relate to musical composition. Saariaho had permanently relocated to Paris that same year. In 1984, she married Jean-Baptiste Barriere, also a composer, and their marriage produced two children, Alexandre (born 1989) and Aliisa (born 1995). In the mid-1980s, Saariaho's works began garnering much attention and she received many prestigious awards, such as the Kranichsteiner Prize in 1986, the Prix Italia in 1988, and the following year the Ars Electronica for her works Stilleben (1987-1988) and Io (1986-1987). She also attracted several impressive commissions, including one from the Lincoln Center, which resulted in the chamber work Nymphea (1987), which was premiered by the Kronos Quartet. By the early 1990s, her music was beginning to appear with greater frequency on the concert stage and with some regularity on record labels. Saariaho had become one of the few composers to write in a modern, though not particularly dissonant, style who has achieved a good measure of popularity. Further commissions came to her, including an important one from the Finnish National Ballet, for which she produced The Earth (1991). Many of her compositions have been written specifically for major artists or groups, as with the violin work she produced for Gidon Kremer, entitled Graal Theatre (1994), and the song cycle Chateau de l'ame (1996) for Dawn Upshaw. A 1993 trip to Japan led to a commission from Kunitachi College for which Saariaho composed a work for percussion and electronics, Six Japanese Gardens (1993-1995). The composer spent a year at the Sibelius Academy teaching composition (1997-1998), at a time when her stature could rival that of almost any other composer of the day. This pre-eminence is evidenced by the numerous major performances of her compositions, such as the 1999 Kurt Masur-led New York Philharmonic premiere of her choral work Oltra mar, and the Salzburg Festival premiere of her first opera, L'amour de loin, in August 2000, which featured Upshaw and conductor Kent Nagano. Saariaho also continues to collect prizes, including the German Kaske Prize and the Swedish Rolf Schock Prize, both in 2001. Many of her works have been made available on a variety of labels, including DG, BIS, Finlandia, and Ondine.

- Robert Cummings


*   *   *


Seymour Shifrin
The Modern Temper (1959)
Four-hand piano


Shifrin’s music tends to be very chromatic, highly dissonant, and always a model of elegant counterpoint. The Modern Temper for piano, four hands, is unusually light-hearted for Shifrin. He was commissioned by Peggy and Milton Salkind to write it for the Composers Forum in San Francisco. He completed it in 1959, during his tenure at UC Berkeley. It is a short (eight minutes) single movement which actually contains three miniature movements played without pause (fast-slow-fast). -- Karen Rosenak

Seymour ShifrinSeymour Jack Shifrin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 28, 1926. After graduating from the New York High School of Music and Art, he studied privately with the composer William Schuman, and then attended Columbia University, where he received the BA and the MA in 1947 and 1949, respectively.

His principal composition teacher at Columbia was Otto Luening. Shifrin taught at Columbia in 1949-1950 and at the City College of New York in 1950-51. The next year, he studied in Paris with Darius Milhaud. In 1952 he was appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where he remained until 1966, when he became a professor at Brandeis University. Shifrin's works have been performed by many prominent ensembles and soloists, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Juilliard, Fine Arts, and Galimir Quartets, and Alfred Brendel, Stephen Bishop, Bethany Beardslee, and Jan de Gaetani. He received numerous honors, including the Boston Symphony's Horblit Award, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Koussevitzky, Guggenheim, and Fulbright foundations. Seymour Shifrin died in Boston on September 26, 1979, at the age of 53.


*   *   *

Bruce Bennett
from the ashes(2005)

(Fromm Music Foundation/Earplay commission)

flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion

Bruce Bennett, from the ashes (2005) for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and percussion (world premiere/Earplay commission/Fromm Foundation)

from the ashes is based on an underlying structural melody that provides not only melodic profile but also form and harmonic content. This melody is not heard explicitly throughout most of the composition, though it does surface at a few key points. From this ur-melody, significant structural pitches are identified and then used to generate harmonies based on frequency modulation synthesis. This technique has proved effective in controlling the relative consonance and dissonance of the generated harmonic fields depending on the equivalent relative consonance/dissonance of the melodic intervals. The resulting series of harmonic fields creates what could be thought of as a harmonic topography, which is then navigated by the composition.

The poetic impulse for the piece is inspired by the myth of the Phoenix -- a cycle of destruction and rebirth. The composition is primarily concerned with what is born out of catastrophe. Moments of extreme violence give way to periods of calm, and this dichotomy shapes the dialectic of the piece.

from the ashes was composed for Earplay at the request of violist Ellen Ruth Rose and conductor Mary Chun, and was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation. It is dedicated to the memory of John Rush.

-- Bruce Bennett

Bruce BennettBruce Christian Bennett received his musical training at Reed College, where he was a student of David Schiff; San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying with Andrew Imbrie, David Conte, Elinor Armer, and Alden Jenks; and the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Richard Felciano and David Wessel. Dr. Bennett is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University.

Bennett is interested in electroacoustic music and compositional models based on naturally occurring acoustic and artificially generated spectra. Canciones de amor y la noche for voice, ensemble, and electronics (1998) is representative of this interest, as are Schematic Nocturne for solo piano (1997) and the demon in checkered pants for brass quintet (1997). Sketches for cello and electronics (1999/2000) was composed for cellist Hugh Livingston as an exploration of extended instrumental techniques magnified by real-time digital signal processing using MAX/MSP.

Bennett's works have been performed by the Arditti String Quartet, the Ensemble InterContemporain, Sirius, and members of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; his electroacoustic music has been presented at events such as the Electric Rainbow Coalition Festival at Dartmouth, the Pulse Field exhibition in Atlanta, Sonic Circuits II, Cultural Labyrinth in San Francisco, and EX-STATIC and Sonic Residues in Melbourne.

A member of the Earplay board of directors from 2000 to 2003, Bennett was a founding member of both the Berkeley New Music Project and the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies Users Group, a coalition of composers and engineers whose interests are in the interaction of music and technology.




Guest Artists

Michael Seth OrlandMichael Seth Orland (piano) studied with Margaret Kohn and is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Music Department, where he studied harpsichord with Davitt Moroney and composition with Gérard Grisey. He later continued his study of composition with David Sheinfeld.
Orland has appeared extensively in the Bay Area as a chamber musician. Orland is on the music faculty at UC Berkeley and also teaches there in the Young Musicians Program.

Chris FrohCHRIS FROH (percussion) is a San Francisco freelance percussionist specializing in new music written for solo and chamber settings. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Michigan and has also studied at the Eastman School of Music and the Toho Gakuen Conservatory of Music, where he was a special audit student of marimbist Keiko Abe.

Froh was a founding director of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Brave New Works ensemble, where he produced and performed in dozens of concerts. Since moving to the Bay Area in 1999, he has been heard in a variety of settings, from solo percussionist with the Berkeley Repertory Theater to marimba player for a video game about monkeys and pirates for LucasArts. He is a member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Empyrean Ensemble, new music improvisation group sfSound, and Gamelan Sekar Jaya. He has also performed with Earplay, the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, and Santa Cruz New Music Works and at the Other Minds, Berkeley EdgeFest, Festival Nuovi Spazi Musicali, and Pacific Rim music festivals. He performs abroad frequently, including regular tours of Japan with marimbists Keiko Abe and Mayumi Hama. He has taught percussion at California State University, Sacramento, and currently teaches at UC Davis.






Home | This Season | Tickets | Earplayers | Audio
Press | Support Earplay | Competitions | About Earplay