Unless Acted Upon is a sound representation of Newton's First Law of Motion: A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external, unbalanced force. A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external, unbalanced force.
This piece explores several ways in which forces can affect a body in motion: friction slows a moving object, gravity makes something fall, pushing makes objects go faster, bouncing objects bounce, and a magnetic force draws objects together. The first section, Newton's Cradle, serves as a prelude. A Newton's Cradle consists of an odd number of spheres; when one ball is pulled backward and released, the ball on the opposite side moves upon impact.
Trivia was written for and is dedicated to the Weilerstein Trio, which is comprised of my two New England Conservatory colleagues, Vivian and Donald Weilerstein and their daughter Alisa. The title Trivia derives from its Latin roots: tri- three, via - road or path. It is an obvious reference to the many 'threes' of the piece (i.e., the piano trio, the Weilerstein family, the three-movement form, etc.) as well as the branching pathways that form the arc of the entire work. The first movement, Multiverse, was inspired by my reading of Richard Wolfson's book 'Simply Einstein' in which a fascinating chapter is written about our universe being "but one small branch of a possibly infinite Multiverse. What we think of as the Big Bang origin and evolution of the Universe is ...simply the budding and subsequent expansion of a new branch from a pre-existing cosmos." In this scenario, the universe is self-replicating and inflationary. This concept is reflected in the movement's formal design; a recurring (but modulating) slow theme serves as the origin for several active and contrapuntal 'multiverses' or branching sections, each of which derives from similar source materials that unfold in dissimilar ways.
The second movement, Time Traveler, was also inspired by readings in Wolfson's book in which Einstein's 'reference frames,' time dilation concepts and time travel are explained. Time Traveler similarly manipulates musical time (actual and historical). A complex polyrhythmical structure (15 against 12 against 10) is expressed at the outset of the movement. It is subsequently and periodically interrupted by quotes from Guillaume de Machaut's isorhythmic motet, S'il Estoit Nulz, that are tethered to the 12-strand of thepolyrhythm. (The quotes are sometimes presented in an unadorned manner, evoking the 14th century. Other treatments are harmonized in ways that are reminiscent of more recent times.) Ultimately the quotes migrate to the 10-strand which allows the motet to be heard in its proper tempo. This occurs while the full polyrhythmical grid is sounding, resulting in a merging of both worlds (old and new, isorhythmic and polyrhythmic) and a completion of this time-travel episode.
Coursing, the final movement, as implied by the title, is a fast-paced finale. Its overall rustic character is complemented by a prominent, recurring pentatonic melody that is presented in the piano part. A short and playful development section in the middle of the movement temporally reinterprets the opening motives of the piece. This initiates a recapitulation that brings both temporal realizations together and completes the harmonic path inherent in opening materials of the movement.
– Michael Gandolfi
Light Dances is a three-movement chamber concerto composed in 2009-10. The work takes its title from Brian Peterson's phrase "my whole creative life is a dance around the light."
These are not dances per se. Instead the movements reflect dance and light in different ways. The music is of widely varying emotional scope, departing in one movement from the lightness of dance, and from spiritual light in another. Peterson's phrase captures the creative dance. And the rhythmic body.
Steps, the first movement, features a kind of lightish dance rhythm exuberantly proposed by the upper instruments, and answered with rough rock beats by the piano. These transform in due course; there is an electric energy coursing throughout, like Whitman's celebration of Electric Body, referenced in Brian's recent photographs. The second movement, Incipit, opens up a different space. It takes flight from Thomas Tallis' choral setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, whose first word gave me the title ("Incipit lamentationem Ieremiae…"). More than borrowing the text, or very much of Tallis' music, this movement invokes the falling melodic fourth, outlining the lament mode which was the basis of Tallis' somber and humble music. Incipit's sonic tapestry features the non-percussionists playing crotales, snapping fingers, and shuffling. Spatially, it reminds me of the solemnity of light flowing into a sacred space ("the whole thing becomes a prayer"). A dance around the light uses the basic melodic interval--again, the perfect fourth--of the first and second movements and weaves it into textures wherein groups of instruments dance with one another. Near the end, a jangling and persistent drone is introduced, a ringing which in idle moments is quite loud; a dance with a silent partner, "the sound of the raindrops dripping from the eaves outside my window."
Light Dances lasts roughly 23 minutes and was commissioned by Network for New Music, Philadelphia.
Quotations from Brian Peterson's book, "The Smile at the Heart of Things: Essays and Life Stories" (Tell Me Press and James M. Michener Art Museum, 2009) used with kind permission of the author.
"Subtilior, Lamento is a piece that draws inspiration from the Ars Subtilior style of the fourteenth century in its complicated rhythms and closely woven canons," says Hannah Lash. She continues, "The first movement, Subtilior, is of lively and exuberant character, varying and developing a single block of material. Lamento contrasts the high energy of the first movement with longer drawn out lines, expressive gestures, and lingering solo voices."
– Hannah Lash
Dan Visconti states, "The Clear Light is a state of being described in the Bardo Thodol or Tibetan "Book of the Dead", a manual on what to expect on the way to the afterlife. According to these ancient writings, a soul on its journey to a new rebirth must hold onto the "clear light" of being through an assault of thoughts and emotions which arise during this interval between life and death, and so too is this composition--which opens with great simplicity--a journey in which the soprano voice spins a seemingly endless and constantly evolving melody through increasing torrents of feeling. The vocal part unravels into songlike lyricism and ultimately wilder flights of expression inspired by the phenomenon of glossalalia, or "speaking in tongues" that many cultures view as a conduit to the realm of the ineffable and sacred. The piece is an exploration of the expressive potential of nonsense, and a celebration of the sonic potential of the human voice, unfettered from linguistic meaning. Beginning from the moment of death (or similar calamity, in which we are rendered speechless), the primal cadence of breathing is gradually transfigured into ever-wilder flights of psychedelicized sound, all over a sustained drone that functions as the guiding light illuminating the path to the undiscovered."
Caroline Mallonée is among the most sought-after composers of her generation. Her work has been performed in New York City at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Tenri Cultural Center, and Tonic, as well as at the Tribeca New Music Festival, Long Leaf Opera Festival, Carlsbad Music Festival, Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, Chapel Hill Arts Festival, 21st Century Schizoid Music, Durham Downtown Music Festival, on the New Music New Haven series and at Boston's Jordan Hall. Her music has been performed in the U.S., the Netherlands, Wales, England, Iceland, Japan, Italy and Mexico, and has been broadcast several times over National Public Radio on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." Several of her choral pieces, including The Carolers At My Door, are published by Boosey and hawkes.
Recent commissions include new works for Firebird Ensemble (Boston), Present Music (Wisconsin), Ethos Percussion Group (New York), Friends School of Baltimore, pianist John McDonald (Boston) and Monadnock Music (New Hampshire). An octet for voice, six instruments, electronics and video inspired by the paintings of Paul Signac written for the Wet Ink Ensemble was premiered in July 2009. Last season also saw the premiere of Shadow Rings, a new quartet commissioned by Antares and Tomorrow Sharpened for marimba and piano, which was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Foundation. Tomorrow Sharpened was written for Haruka Fujii and Eric Huebner; they premiered the work in Tokyo in July.
Ms. Mallonée's quartet, Throwing Mountains, received an ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composers prize in 2004 and has been performed numerous times by the New York-based group counter)induction as well as by the Da Capo Chamber Players and the Washington Square Contemporary Chamber Players. Another chamber work, 'stain, composed in 2002 for pulsoptional, is featured on their debut CD and has been performed throughout the United States by Flexible Music.
Ms. Mallonée holds a Ph.D. from Duke University, a Master's degree from the Yale School of Music and a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University. A Fulbright award recipient, she spent a year in The Netherlands studying with Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and has also studied with Mario Davidovsky, Joseph Schwantner, Stephen Jaffe, Scott Lindroth, Evan Ziporyn and Pamela Layman Quist.
This season includes performances of Mallonée's music by the ANA Trio, the UB Percussion Ensemble, the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Florilegium Chamber Choir.
Ms. Mallonée is the director of The Walden School Creative Musicians Retreat, a week-long workshop at Smith College for composers, improvisers and performers. She teaches at The Walden School Young Musicians Program in Dublin, NH every summer.
Composer Stephen Jaffe's works include Concertos for Cello and Orchestra (2004) and Violin and Orchestra (2000), as well as numerous chamber and orchestral compositions which have been performed at major concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, by ensembles including The National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, conducting; the Nottingham, Tanglewood, and Oregon Bach Festivals; Berlin's Spectrum Concerts, the San Francisco and New Jersey Symphonies, R.A.I. of Rome, and many others. In addition to the two concertos, both recorded on the Bridge label, recent premieres have included Cut Time (2005), also by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony; Designs for flute, guitar and percussion, introduced at the National Arts Center of Taiwan; and Homage to the Breath: Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten Instruments, with a text by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduced at the Hirschorn Museum, Washington. The composer's recently completed works are String Quartet No. 2 ("Aeolian and Sylvan Figures") commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for the Miami Quartet, and two orchestral works written for the North Carolina Symphony: Poetry of The Piedmont, and Cithara mea (Evocations): Spanish Music Notebook for Orchestra, based on Spanish Renaissance music.
Recognized as a significant voice in contemporary composition, Stephen Jaffe has been the recipient of numerous awards for his compositions, including the Rome Prize, Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, American Academy of Arts & Letters Prize, Koussevitsky International Recording Award (KIRA), Brandeis Creative Arts Citation, and fellowships from Tanglewood, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was named Composer of the Year by the Classical Recording Foundation in 2005 and a Master Artist in Residence at Florida's Atlantic Center for the Arts in 2007. A native of Washington, D.C., Jaffe lives in Durham North Carolina. He is Mary and James H. Semans Professor of Music at Duke University, where he has taught since 1981.
Hannah Lash's music has been performed at Le Poisson Rouge, the Chelsea Art Museum, Harvard University, Tanglewood Music Center, the Times Center, and the Chicago Art Institute. Commissions include from The Fromm Foundation, The Naumburg Foundation, The Orpheus Duo, The Howard Hanson Foundation, Case Western Reserve's University Circle Wind Ensemble, MAYA, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. She has received the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fromm Foundation Commission, a fellowship from Yaddo Artist Colony, the Naumburg Prize, the Barnard Rogers Prize, the Bernard and Rose Sernoffsky Prize, and numerous academic awards. Furthermore was selected by the American Composers Orchestra for the 2010 Underwood New Music Readings. Ms. Lash's chamber opera, Blood Rose, was presented by NYC Opera's VOX in the spring of 2011. God Music Bug Music was selected by the Minnesota Orchestra for performance in January 2012 as part of the Minnesota Composers Institute. Hannah Lash obtained a bachelor's degree in composition from the Eastman School of music, her PhD from Harvard University, a performance degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music. Her teachers include Martin Bresnick, Bernard Rands, Julian Anderson, and Robert Morris.
Dan Visconti's (b. 1982) compositions often explore the rough timbres, propulsive rhythms, and improvisational energy characteristic of jazz, bluegrass, and rock—elements that tend to collide in unexpected ways with Visconti's experience as a classically-trained violinist. Upcoming concert seasons will feature premieres from the Jupiter Quartet for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's international string quartet series; an extended work for cellist Joshua Roman and pianist Helen Huang commissioned by Town Hall Seattle; and a consortium commission for the Gryphon, Deseret, and Triple Helix piano trios. Other recent commissions include from the Kronos Quartet, the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Annapolis Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, Antares, the Bakken Trio, the Corigliano Quartet, the Janaki String Trio, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dan Visconti's music has been performed by eighth blackbird, Brave New Works, Vox Novus, the Sybarite5 and Washington DC's Contemporary Music Forum; in recent seasons the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the American Composers Orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Spokane Symphony, and the South Carolina Philharmonic have also given his orchestral works repeated hearings. His compositions have been honored with the Berlin Prize, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the performing arts, and the Cleveland Arts Prize; awards from BMI and ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Society of Composers, and the National Association of Composers USA; and grants from the Naumburg Foundation, the American Music Center, the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bascom Little Fund, and Chamber Music America. He has also been the recipient of artist fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, the Lucas Artists Program at Villa Montalvo, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Currently, Dan Visconti is engaged in a multi-year residency with opera companies including Seattle Opera, Opera Theatre St. Louis, New York City Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera as recipient of the Douglas Moore Fellowship in American Opera. He studied composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music with Margaret Brouwer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and Zhou Long.
Stephen Jaffe's music has been featured at major concerts and festivals including the Nottingham, Tanglewood, and Oregon Bach Festivals, and performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and China by ensembles including the R.A.I. of Rome, Slovenska Filharmonija (Slovenian Philharmonic), the National Symphony, the San Francisco, North Carolina and New Jersey Symphonies, Berlin's Spectrum Concerts, London's Lontano, and many others. Bridge Records has issued three discs of the composer's music.
In addition to the concertos for cello and orchestra (2004) and violin and orchestra (2000), Stephen Jaffe's newest completed compositions include Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2), written for Philadelphia's Network for New Music, and String Quartet No. 2 (Aeolian and Sylvan Figures) commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for the Miami Quartet, as well as two orchestral works written for the North Carolina Symphony: Poetry of the Piedmont, and Cithara mea (Evocations): Spanish Music Notebook for Orchestra, based on Spanish Renaissance music. Homage to the Breath: Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo- soprano and Ten Instruments, with a text by Thich Nhat Hanh, was introduced at the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
Jaffe has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rome Prize, the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Prize, Brandeis Creative Arts Citation, and fellowships from Tanglewood, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Jaffe studied composition at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, and continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Professor of Music at Duke University, where he has taught since 1981. Together with Scott Lindroth, Jaffe directs Duke's contemporary music concert series Encounters: with the Music of Our Time, and works with a inventive and gifted group of young composers.
Soprano Lucy Shelton enjoys an international career singing repertoire of all periods, with a primary focus on contemporary music. Winner of two Naumburg Awards – chamber musician as well as solo recitalist – among her notable world premieres are works by Carter, Knussen, Davidovsky, Del Tredici, Grisey, Ruders, Schwantner, Albert and Wuorinen. An avid chamber musician, Shelton has been a guest artist with ensembles such as the Emerson, Brentano, and Guarnieri string quartets, the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Speculum Musicae, Sospeso, New York New Music Ensemble, Boston Musica Viva, eighth blackbird, the Nash Ensemble, Klangform Wien, Schoenberg-Asko, and Ensemble Moderne. Highlights of recent seasons include her Zankel Hall debut with the Met Chamber Orchestra and Maestro James Levine in Carter's A Mirror On Which To Dwell; numerous performances of Pierrot lunaire; A Cabaret Opera in collaboration with eighth blackbird and Blair Thomas Puppets; and the release of six new CD's with works by Alberto Ginastera, Anne Le Baron, Virko Baley, Louis Karchin, Chinary Ung and Charles Wuorinen. She joined the resident artist faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center in 1996 and in the fall of 2007 she joined the Manhattan School of Music's
Contemporary Performance faculty.
Matthew Gold is a principal player in the multi-media chamber group Sequitur, the Glass Farm Ensemble, the IFCP ensemble, and a co-director of the TimeTable percussion trio. An advocate of new music, he has commissioned and premiered numerous new works and has performed frequently with the Da Capo Chamber Players, New York New Music Ensemble, Argento Chamber Ensemble, Washington Square Ensemble, ISCM Chamber Players, Ahn Trio, SEM Ensemble, New Juilliard Ensemble, and has been a member of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. He appears regularly with the Mark Morris Dance Group, the New York City Ballet, and was the percussionist for the Lincoln Center Theater production, The Light in the Piazza.