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Program Notes May 5, 2017
What.Power.Art.Thou (Henry Purcell [1659 - 1695]; arr. James Young [b. 1984]: a cover of the Purcell aria about a snow wizard (The Cold Genius) who is awakened by a spring nymph and then just wants to go back to sleep and be sad. Michael Nyman also stole this track for his score to The Cook The Thief His Wife Her Lover...
It's a favorite of mine (the aria and the score yeah) so I used it for a very simple remix applying some thoughts on musical memory and time studied and diffused by such theorists like Jonathan Kramer and Erik Christensen (and many others). The brain divides up and connects verbal (and musical) phonemes based off of temporal proximity. So I've put some space between each chord of the aria, ~3 sec, in order to stretch the audience's sense of gesture toward limit - perhaps increasing both tension and stillness simultaneously.
Cascadia (Allison Clendaniel [b. 1990] and Ruby Fulton [b. 1981]; arr. James Young):
I am ill today but i am not too ill
I’m not ill at all
It’s the perfect day warm for winter
It’s the perfect day cool for fall
I am tired today but I am not too tired
I’m not tired at all
There is light enough to see into the future
And it’s not so dark at all
I am leaving for a while for the mountains
I am leaving for a while soon
But I still got this home
The reasons I wanted to orchestrate it are easy: the counterpoint, harmony, structure, and text move me, deftly.
Drink Me (Amy Beth Kirsten [b. 1972]): New Englander ABK's work is often fascinated with literature, fairy tales, and myth. And Drink Me is particularly saturated with these influences. From the composer: "Lately, I've been thinking about stories that were the most unsettling to me as a kid and I noticed that each of these stories was loosely connected by a poison motif." So here we have three movements exploring three stories with three poisons: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; and Alice in Wonderland.
Furtive Movements (Ted Hearne [b. 1982]): prone to political music, this is maybe one of Hearne's more purely musical works, featuring a frenetic interplay between the cello and drum kit. Yes the title is structurally representative, in that this work is divided into movements, and each feature energized, ominous gestures... Ted took narrative inspiration specifically from the phrase "A Furtive Movement Can Get You Killed," which applies to law enforcement taking action (at times deadly) against those who they deem suspicious making perceived suspicious gestures.
HAMMER so much it CRACKS (James Young; text. Francois Villon [1431-1463]): Maybe it would be best to just include the text here (found here), and leave that as the program note. But... I wrote Hammer to seek the limitations of my counterpoint and also the limitations of the ensemble. Everything in Hammer breaks down... The volume of the ensemble is pushed to breaking, the speed of the soprano is pushed to breaking, the structure breaks out of metered into unmetered sections. Counterpoint loosens and slips. Harmony smashes together into one omni-chord. Everything is about seeking the outer limitations of the musicians and structure... With the hope that in so doing the notated music (verging on impossible) melts away and the individual human artist is left, expressing their individual voice.
How to Breathe Underwater (Chris Cerrone [b. 1984]): As Rome-prize recipient Cerrone puts it: "How to Breathe Underwater is a Portrait of Depression." It is, as composed, a character piece, but muted and saturated in quiet dark-color. It's interesting, perhaps in a way, that Cerrone originally called the work "All Depth and no Breadth," taken from a line regarding the literal character he wished to represent... But then he settled on the current title because he wanted to suggest optimism.
Les Moutons de Panurge (Fred Rzewski [b. 1938]): The famed, Greek historic character of Panurge, a shepherd who threw his sheep into the sea... But here Rzewski uses the French idiom, which is used to describe individuals who blindly follow authority. This is an open score work, built of one, 65 note line which proceeds as follows: 1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, etc. Then upon playing the entire 65 notes, the player becomes reductive: 1-2-3...64-65, 2-3...64-65, 3...64-65, etc. until only the last pitch is held and a big improv session begins. For any number of players, musicians are asked to play together all at the same tempo but... as Rzewski indicates "if you get lost, stay lost."