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10 Aug

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DMA Chamber Recital Program Notes

August 10, 2012 | By |

May 2nd 2012 Jessen Auditorium, University of Texas at Austin
with Chia-Jung Lee- flute, Elizabeth Lher- bass, Joseph Palmer- guitar, Caleb Polashek- violin and the Texas Guitar Quartet.

The first half of this program is made up of compositions derived from popular music.

Argentinian composer, Astor Piazzolla, was introduced to jazz, tango and classical music at an early age and began his musical career as a child prodigy on the bandoneón (a button accordion). In the 1940’s he performed in Anibal Troilo’s band, one of the great tango ensembles of the century. Concurrently, he studied composition with the Alberto Ginastera in Buenos Aires, and later with Nadia Boulanger in France in the 1950’s. Despite his dedicated efforts in classical composition, Boulanger famously counseled him to pursue the tango as his principal art form. This urging was the impetus for him to fully embrace tango music and develop what he called Nuevo Tango, a modern style of tango infused with elements of jazz harmony and rhythm as well as techniques from classical composition.

L’histoire du Tango was written in 1986, during a period when he was financially independent and able to write freely. The piece catalogues the history of tango in 30 year intervals. The four movements are entitled Bordel 1900, Café 1930, Nightclub 1960 and Concert d’aujourd’hui. Bordel 1900 playfully recalls the tango in its original setting: the brothels of Buenos Aires. The duple meter (2/4) is characteristic of tangos until 1915 with dotted habanera and a syncopated milonga rhythm. The Café 1930 is the tango for the smoky cafes where it was it was created for listening rather than dancing. It is filled with melancholic harmonies and flexibility of tempo. The Nightclub 1960 is the tango performed in venues much like contemporaneous jazz. This piece exemplifies exemplifies many of Piazzolla’s mature tangos in its striking changes of tempo and aggressive rhythms and in its form (fast-fast-slow-coda).

Tom Waits (b. 1949) is an American songwriter, composer, actor and performance artist. He is frequently described as one of the last beatniks of contemporary music with a voice sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car” (Daniel Durchholz, critic). He is a self-described maker of “adventure songs and Halloween music” and his lyrics explore a fantastical underworld on seedy, sentimental, grotesque and sometimes maudlin subject matter. His first nine albums (recorded from 1973-1983) are mainly written in the style Tin Pan Alley over a jazz and blues framework and instrumentation. Beginning with Swordfishtrombones (1983), his music starkly departs from this style and he developed a new orchestration and evolving sound palette that continues to the present. He employs accordions, organs, bagpipes, rare instruments, instruments of his own design and some invented by composer Harry Partch. Furthermore, he has created concept albums developed and presented in theatrical productions (Franks Wild Years, Black Rider, Alice, and Blood Money) and explores forms that are rarely present in popular music (vaudeville, rumba, polka, tango, spoken word).

Homage to Tom Waits (2012) is dedicated to this second period of his music. The titles of each movement are taken from Tom Waits songs: Deal out jacks or better from Tango til they’re sore; The fields are soft and green from Innocent when you dream; and Step right up from the song of the same name. Each movement paraphrases musical motives from Tom Waits works. The first and second movement draw their material from their respective songs and the final movement’s material is a re-imagining of the main theme from Knife Chase. The first and second movements are in simple forms (ABA, three verse song) and the last movement is a carnival dance which organically develops its material in a through-composed form. The first version of Homage to Tom Waits was scored for bassoon, guitar, and double bass and has since been through many manifestations. The current version has been thoroughly reworked and was completed in 2012.

The second half of this program are compositions in abstract forms.

John Mayrose is an American composer as well as active performer of new music. He is is an Assistant Professor of Music at the Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University South Bend. He holds the Ph.D. in music composition from Duke University and a B.M. degree from the University of South Carolina Honors College. Mayrose’s musical compositions have been played throughout North America, Europe, and Australia and frequently employ electronic media within a minimalist framework. He is the recipient of the first place prize in the Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest (2009), the 2010 ASCAP Plus Award, the Aliénor Harpsichord Composition Prize (2008), and the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award (2004).

On Trigger (2005), the composer states:
“Trigger is my first work to incorporate elements of interactive electronic music in an acoustic composition. Instead of treating the duo as two independent musicians, I envisioned a single performer using one instrument to trigger events in another. This approach is extremely applicable to guitar and violin, both string instruments with similar left hand techniques, but with drastically different methods of producing sound: the pluck of the guitar is percussive, but lacks sustain, while the bowing of the violin provides sustain with a nuance of timbre. By writing essentially the same music for both instruments, my goal was to create what sounds like a violin/guitar hybrid, a combinatorial timbre of the two instruments. After a brief solo introduction, the violin leads the first half of Trigger. Any deviation in the guitar’s incessant, pulsing drones is triggered the violin’s disjunct melodic interjections. With a slightly more relaxed tone, the guitar begins the second half of the work directing the violin through a reworking of previous material. The melodic fragments begin to smooth out and extend, and Trigger ends with both performers working in conjunction.”

Red (2011) is a multi-movement work inspired by the string quartet genre. The individual movements evoke three very different, but interrelated, perspectives on life and death. Try not to die is the most complex and varied movement and abstractly depicts the myriad qualities of an individual’s life. At the core of our existence, beyond daily experience (such as work, having sex, reading books, wine, traffic, advertisements, success, failure, the internet, backflips…) we manage to live despite certain death. The second movement is dedicated to the birth of my niece, Juliana Williams. It explores the innocence of a newborn, the imposing task set before each parent, and the simultaneous bewildering and joyful uncertainty of a Birth day. The final movement is life from the perspective of microbiology. At the smallest level, cells continue to make cells without regard for our hopes, dreams or desires. Fortunately, life continues at a cellular level long after our triumphs and failures in a raucous and swirling torrent of cellular growth.