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EARPLAY 23: Unorthodox Journeys

Monday, FEBRUARY 11, 2008

7 p.m.
6:15 p.m. (pre-concert talk)
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
Ji Young Yang, soprano • Lisa Weiss, violin  •Emily Onderdonk, viola  • Dan Reiter, cello    Michael Seth Orland, piano • Eric Zivian, piano  • Daniel Kennedy, percussion
Kevin Neuhoff, percussion

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Claude Vivier
Paramirabo (1978)

Tod Brody, Lisa Weiss, Dan Reiter, Michael Seth Orland

 

Peter Maxwell Davies
Hymnos (1967)

Peter Josheff and Eric Zivian

 

Martha Callison Horst
Creature Songs (2007)
Earplay commission/World Premiere

Ji Young Yang, Terrie Baune, Ellen Ruth Rose, Thalia Moore

 

Aaron Einbond
Beside Oneself(2007)
World Premiere
Ellen Ruth Rose and electronics

 

Morton Feldman
i met heine on the rue fürstenberg (1973)
Mary Chun, Ji Young Yang, Tod Brody, Peter Josheff, Lisa Weiss, Dan Reiter, Michael Seth Orland, Kevin Neuhoff


Richard Festinger
Diary of a Journey (2003)
Mary Chun, Peter Josheff, Terrie Baune, Emily Onderdonk, Thalia Moore, Eric Zivian, Dan Kennedy


 

Program Notes

 

Claude Vivier
Paramirabo (1978)
cello and piano

Paramirabo (1978)

Claude Vivier (1949-1983) is considered by many to be the greatest composer Canada has yet produced. Murdered at the age of 34, left behind 49 compositions in a variety of genres, including opera, orchestral works, and chamber pieces. In early 1970s, he studied composition with Stockhausen in Cologne. A visit to Bali in 1976 proved pivotal, causing him to re-evaluate his ideas on the role of the artist in society. Visionary works that followed featured texts in an invented language, modal melodies harmonized by a complex overtone series, and shimmering orchestration. Called by György Ligeti “the greatest French composer of his generation.” Other advocates include Mauricio Kagel, Kent Nagano, Reinbert de Leeuw, David Robertson, and Dawn Upshaw. Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

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photo and bio of Peter Maxwell Davies

 

Peter Maxwell Davies
Hymnos (1967)
clarinet and piano


Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934) is one of the most significant figures in post-War European music. He rose to prominence in late 1960s with neo-expressionistic music-theatre pieces Eight Songs for a Mad King and Vesalii Icones, orchestra scores Worldes Blis and St Thomas Wake, and opera Taverner.  Many of his works were composed for the distinctive chamber sextet of Fires of London. Since the 1970s, his worklist includes Trumpet Concerto, 8 Symphonies, and 10 Strathclyde Concertos written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra * Many works for young performers * Active as conductor, both of his own works and standard repertoire* Appointed Master of the Queen's Music in 2004.

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Martha Callison Horst
Creature Songs (2007)
 soprano, violin, viola, cello


In this song cycle Creature Songs, I attempted to pair poems from different writers that explore the spiritual connections between living things and man. The poems I chose are by Whitman (19th century American poet), Amergin (1500 BCE Irish poet), and Sassoon (20th century British poet).  This song cycle was commissioned by Earplay and was written during the summer of 2007 at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH.

In “A Noiseless Patient Spider” from his famous poetry collection Leaves of Grass, Whitman uses the spider’s endless attempts to launch filaments into its vast surrounding as an allegory of man’s struggle to find spiritual connections with powers greater than himself.  As in much of his transcendentalist poetry, Whitman is turning to objects of nature as a way of understanding the mystic dimensions of life.

The Song of Amergin is an ancient Druid incantation from approximately 1530 BCE. According to Milesian mythology, when the first Gaelic settlers came to Ireland, they went to battle with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, who prevented them from entering Ireland with a magical storm.  Amergin sang this invocation, calling upon the spirit of all living things of Ireland to part the storm and allow them onto land.

Both poets are turning to nature’s inner spiritual powers, but to different ends.  Whereas Whitman turns to a lowly spider’s struggle to understand the workings of his inner Soul, Amergin evokes the power of all living creatures in order to capture the physical universe around him.

The final song of the set is the beautiful poem by Siegfried Sassoon called Everyone Sang.  This poem was written as a celebration of the signing of the Armistice on November, 11, 1918, which brought World War I to an end.  Sassoon images a joyous song emerging from all of humanity.  During the poem, the poet at first speaks of feeling a delight “as prison birds must find in freedom.”  By the end of the poem, the song and joy is so all consuming that, in fact, birds and man merge together: “Everyone was a bird and the song was wordless.”  This wonderful depiction of man and bird unifying in song through a celebration of peace is another vision of the connections between all living things that I wished to explore through this musical work.  --MCH

A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood, isolated,
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my Soul.
--Walt Whitman (1819-1892), first published in 1870

Song of Amergin
I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a bean of the sun,
I am the fairest plant,
I am a wild boar in valour,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance in battle,
I am the God who creates in the head the fire.
Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?
Who, if not I?
--Anonymous (circa 1530 BCE)

Everyone Sang
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark—green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

--Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), first published in 1919


Martha Horst
(b. 19--)  has taught music theory and history at San Francisco State University, East Carolina University, and University of California, Davis.  She is currently an Assistant Professor in Theory and Composition, at Illinois State University. Martha Callison Horst began her formal composition studies at Stanford University where she studied with Ross Bauer, David Rakowski, and John Chowning at CCRMA.  She has attended several national and international festivals where she has studied with composers such as Milton Babbitt, Mario Davidovsky, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Oliver Knussen.

In recent years, Ms. Horst’s music has received performances throughout the United States and Europe.  She has been commissioned by the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Earplay, Empyrean Ensemble, the Dartington International Festival, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the Left Coast Ensemble.  Her music has also been performed by such notable groups as the Fromm Players, Alea III, members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Eighth Blackbird, The Women’s Philharmonic, the New England Reed Trio, and at the Wellesley Composers Conference.  Recent accolades include winner of the 2005 Alea III International Composition Competition, winner of the Rebecca Clarke International Composition Competition, and resident at the MacDowell Colony.  In addition to her compositional activities, she is an accomplished singer, having performed regularly with the Emmy and Grammy-award winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus.

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photo and bio of aaron einbond

Aaron Einbond
Beside Oneself (2007)

viola and live electronics

Most people think what could I do, I think what shouldn't I do. What I should do perhaps is involved with the fact that I'm Jewish and what is known as Jewish paranoia. I don't feel comfortable enough to feel that everything is on my side and that it's going to work just the way I want it.  --Morton Feldman

In Beside Oneself the violist alternates obsessively among a repertoire of gestures, testing the different responses they elicit from the electronics. Not until the end can she settle on a tenor incantation that unites the other gestures and the electronics into a plaintive call.  The work takes as its point of departure Temper for bass clarinet and live electronics, written for the 2006 Festival MANCA in Nice, France.  Computer analyses of complex sounds from the viola and bass clarinet are treated as models, resculpted, and combined to produce a new environment in which their distinctions are blurred.  

Aaron Einbond (b.1978) is a Ph.D. candidate in composition at The University of California, Berkeley where his teachers include Edmund Campion, Cindy Cox, Jorge Liderman, John Thow, and Andrew Imbrie. He was born in New York and has studied with John Corigliano, at Harvard with Mario Davidovsky, at the University of Cambridge with Robin Holloway, and at the Royal College of Music, London with Julian Anderson as a British Marshall Scholar.  His works have been performed by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Empyrean Ensemble, Ensemble SurPlus, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne,  the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, and the Festival MANCA.  Awards for his compositions include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two BMI awards, two ASCAP awards, and fellowships and residencies to the Wellesley Composers Conference, Aspen Music Festival, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Yaddo, Voix Nouvelles, and Domaine Forget.  He is studying this year at IRCAM through a Fulbright Scholarship to France and Berkeley's Georges Ladd Prix de Paris.

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photo and bio of aaron einbond

Morton Feldman
i met heine on the rue fürstenberg (1973)

soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion

 

Morton Feldman (1926-1987) A key figure in modern music, Feldman's compositions went through several phases. He was a pioneer of aleatoric music and indeterminate music, and in requiring improvisation. His compositions are characterized by their quietness, slowness, and often by their extreme length, especially in his later music.

At the age of twelve he studied piano with Madame Maurina-Press, who had been a pupil of Busoni, and it was her who instilled in Feldman a vibrant musicality. At the time he was composing short Scriabin-esque pieces, until in 1941 he began to study composition with Wallingford Riegger. Three years later Stefan Wolpe became his teacher, though they spent much of their time together simply arguing about music. Then in 1949 the most significant meeting up to that time took place—Feldman met John Cage, commencing an artistic association of crucial importance to music in America in the 1950s. Cage was instrumental in encouraging Feldman to have confidence in his instincts, which resulted in totally intuitive compositions. He never worked with any systems that anyone has been able to identify, working from moment to moment, from one sound to the next. His friends during the 1950s in New York included the composers Earle Brown and Christian Wolff; painters Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg; and pianist David Tudor. The painters in particular influenced Feldman to search for his own sound world, one that was more immediate and more physical than had existed before. This resulted in his experimentation with graph notation, "Projection 2" being one of his earliest scores in this idiom. In these scores the players select their notes from within a given register and time structure. Because thee works relied so heavily on improvisation Feldman was not happy with the freedom permitted to the performer, and so abandoned graph notation between 1953 and 1958. However, the precise notation he used instead during this period he found too one dimensional and so returned to the graph with two orchestral works: "Atlantis" (1958) and "Out of Last Pieces" (1960). Soon after these, appeared a series of instrumental works called "Durations", in which the notes to be played are precisely written but the performers, beginning simultaneously, are free to choose their own durations within a given general tempo.

1967 saw the start of Feldman's association with Universal Edition with the publication of his last graphically notated score, "In Search of an Orchestration". Then followed "On Time and the Instrumental Factor" (1969) in which he once more returned to precise notation, and from then on, with only the exception of two works in the early 1970s, he maintained control over pitch, rhythm, dynamics and duration.

In 1973 the University of New York at Buffalo asked Feldman to become the Edgard Varese Professor, a post he held for the rest of his life.

From the late 1970s his compositions expanded in length to such a degree that the second string quartet can last for up to five and a half hours. The scale of these works in particular has often been the cause for the controversy surrounding his works, but he would always be happy to attempt to explain his reasoning behind them:
My whole generation was hung up on the 20 to 25 minute piece. It was our clock. We all got to know it, and how to handle it. As soon as you leave the 20-25 minute piece behind, in a one-movement work, different problems arise. 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. You have to have control of the piece - it requires a heightened kind of concentration. Before, my pieces were like objects; now, they're like evolving things.

Nine one-movement compositions by Feldman last for over one and a half hours each.
One of his last works, "Palais de Mari" from 1986, is unusual for a late composition in that it is only twenty minutes long. This came about from a request from Bunita Marcus, for whom it was written, for Feldman to sum up everything he was doing in the very long pieces and to condense that into a smaller piece. Knowing his sense of time, she asked for a ten minute work, knowing that it would probably be twice that length.

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Richard Festinger
Diary of a Journey (2003)
clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion

Diary of a Journey (2003)

The journey depicted in Diary of a Journey is an imaginary one, or, more accurately, a journey of the imagination. Of course all creative works comprehend a journey of the imagination, but the approach to mining the imagination may differ vastly. This particular journey is not the outcome of formalistic calculations, nor is it the outcome of any overtly or covertly political or utopian vision, nor of any guiding necessity to fuse, or demolish, barriers between, disparate musical eras or traditions. Based on the conviction that musical thought is inherently untranslatable to other modalities, the music chronicles a journey guided exclusively by ear and instinct in a search for an itinerary (to extend the metaphor) that leads through intuitive connections to distant, unexpected, preternatural spaces.

In the beginning the performers are asked to imbue the music with a magical quality of anticipation. As the music begins to grow, the piano suddenly bursts out in a brief extroverted display, the ensemble swells, and a sudden, dramatic transition introduces a long clarinet solo, set against a darkly luminous accompaniment of low string chords and bowed vibraphone. The reappearance of the piano incites the ensemble to turbulence, finally giving way to gentle reminiscences of earlier music, evocations that become more elaborate and expansive, culminating in an intense counterpoint between two duos, violin and viola against cello and clarinet, and setting the stage for the final toccata-like game of tag between the vibraphone and piano. -- R.F.

Richard Festinger's (b. 1948) music has been performed throughout the United States, and in Europe and Asia.  His works have been composed for innumerable ensembles, including Parnassus, Earplay, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Alexander String Quartet, the City Winds, the Laurel Trio, the Left Coast Ensemble, the Alter Ego Ensemble, the Miroglio-Aprudo Duo, the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, and the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.  His music has been performed by Griffin, the New Millennium Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, Phantom Arts, Composers Inc., the Empyrean Ensemble, the Sun String Quartet, the Alexander String Quartet, the Berkeley and Riverside Symphonies, sopranos Jane Manning and Karol Bennett, the Orchestra da Camera Italiana G.F. Ghedini, the Ensemble Italiano per la Musica Contemporanea, Ensemble Anti-Dogma, the Seoul, Korea Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music, and the Boston Chamber Ensemble.

Mr. Festinger’s works have been commissioned by the Jerome Foundation, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard, the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Barlow Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, the Music Teachers National Association, the Hoff-Bartelson School, Volti, the Ringling School of Design, and the American Composers Forum.  He has been a resident artist at the Camargo Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Cité Internationale des Arts, Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Bogliasco Foundation, the Bellagio Study Center, the Couvent des Récollets, the Aaron Copland House, the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.  He has been a fellow at the Wellesley Composers Conference and the June in Buffalo Festival, and has received both the Walter Hinrichsen Award and an Academy Recording Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 Mr. Festinger studied composition at the University of California in Berkeley with Andrew Imbrie. Before turning to composing, he led his own groups as a jazz performer, and later founded the contemporary music ensemble Earplay.  He has taught at the University of California in Berkeley and Davis, and at Dartmouth College, and since 1990 he has been a professor of music at San Francisco State University.  His music is published by C.F. Peters, and his works have been recorded for the Centaur, CRI and CRS labels.   A new CD of works performed by the New Millennium Ensemble will be released in Februaru 2008 on the Bridge label.

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Guest Artists

Ji Young Yang (soprano) made her San Francisco Opera debut this season as the Young Shepherd in Tannhäuser, also appeared as Pamina (The Magic Flute for Families) and Julia Agnes Lee (Appomattox). The Korean native is a first-year Adler Fellow who participated in the 2006 Merola Opera Program. Last spring the soprano appeared with San Francisco Opera Center as Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw at Lincoln Theater in Yountville and as Frasquita (Carmen) at the Mondavi Center at U.C. Davis. Yang began her formal studies at Seoul National University and holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music, as well as a post-graduate diploma from the New England Conservatory. She was a New England regional finalist in the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and that same year received the Frank and Carmela Pandolfi Award from the Connecticut Opera Guild.

Lisa Weiss (violin) A Bay area native, Weiss has earned international recognition as a chamber musician, including awards in the Portsmouth and Coleman competitions, and as a participant in the Marlboro Festival. She performs as concertmaster and soloist with Philharmonia Baroque, and is also a member of the American Bach Soloists, the Arcadian Academy, and BMV 2000. As a guest artist, she has appeared with many chamber ensembles including the Artaria Quartet, Musica Pacifica, American Baroque, and Philomel.

Dan Reiter (cello)is principal cellist with the Oakland East Bay Symphony (OEBS), Festival Opera Orchestra, Diablo Ballet Orchestra and Fremont Symphony.   His solo work has included Leonard Bernstein's Three Meditations (OEBS, 2000) and Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto (Fremont Symphony, 2002). Dan is also a former Earplay member (1989-90).

As a composer, Dan has written varied chamber works.  In 1999 he won an Izzy Award for is composition Raga Bach B Minor featuring dancer Robert Moses. He has had the privilege of working with India's master musician Ali Akbar Khan and has recorded two CDs (Garden of Dreams and Legacy) with Khansahib. In addition, Dan produced Cello and Harp, a CD of his own compositions for cello and harp with his wife, Natalie Cox.

A native of San Francisco, Emily Onderdonk received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Manhattan School of Music and went on to post-graduate studies at Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music. Her teachers include James Buswell, Raphael Bronstein, Arianna Bronne, Daniel Kobialka, and Karen Tuttle.

While working on her master’s degree Ms. Onderdonk toured with the New York City Opera National Company as principal violist. She has since performed as principal violist with orchestras around the country including the Santa Fe Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, the Berkeley (CA) Symphony, and the Reno Philharmonic. From 1995 to 1997 Ms. Onderdonk toured with the Lyon National Opera in France, again as principal violist, traveling to Paris, London and Vienna and recording CDs of Offenbach, Donizetti, Massenet and Puccini. She has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the New Jersey Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera and Ballet.

Michael 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, playing with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Earplay, the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, New Music Theater, Other Minds, and in the San Francisco Symphony’s New and Unusual Music series. He has performed modern works throughout California as well as at June in Buffalo, the Mendocino Music Festival, and at Kenyon College in Ohio. Orland may be heard on recordings of contemporary music released by CRI and Centaur. He has appeared often as a freelance symphony musician, and has performed many times as a pianist in vocal recitals, as well as in vocal master classes given on the Berkeley campus by Frederica von Stade and Sanford Sylvan. Orland is on the music faculty at UC Berkeley and also teaches there in the Young Musicians Program

Eric Zivian (piano) grew up in Toronto, Canada, where he attended the Royal Conservatory of Music. cAt the age of 16 he was accepted as a double major at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying composition with Ned Rorem. Since receiving his degree from Curtis in 1989, Mr. Zivian has continued his studies in both piano and composition, receiving a Master of Music for studies with Peter Serkin at The Juilliard School and a Master of Musical Arts degree from the Yale School of Music (1995), where he studied composition with Jacob Druckman and Martin Bresnick. Mr. Zivian is pianist with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and the Clavion Quartet.

Dan Kennedy (percussion) is a specialist in the music of the twentieth century, and is a member of Earplay and the Empyrean Ensemble. He received his M.F.A. degree from the California Institute of the Arts and his D. M. A. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Mr. Kennedy, who has recorded widely, is both Instructor of Percussion and former Artistic Director of the Festival of New American Music at California State University, Sacramento.

Kevin Neuhoff (percussion) is a soloist and new music chamber musician who has performed with the Cabrillo Festival, the Oakland Ballet, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Other Minds Festival, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. He holds the post of principal timpanist with the International Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra, the Western Opera Orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony, and the Fremont Symphony, and is principal percussionist with the Marin Symphony. Neuhoff is frequently invited to play with the San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento Symphonies and can be heard on recordings made on the Harmonia Mundi, Triloka, New Albion, Wide Hive, and Nonesuch labels.

 

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