Paul Elwood: a forty-four smokeless

a forty-four smokeless

a forty-four smokeless was commissioned by Zeitgeist with funds from the American Composers Forum Jerome Commissioning Program in 2007. The ensemble requested a composition with five-string banjo; composer Paul Elwood wrote the banjo part for himself, and the piece is based on the Appalachian folk tune Little Sadie. Little is known about the factual events in the song about a man named Lee Brown who dispassionately murders a woman named Little Sadie. It is thought the events occurred in North Carolina because that is the only place where a town named Thomasville is only 60 miles from a town named Jericho, where Brown, in the song, says he ran after the murder. It is a curious tune in which the murderer expresses no remorse – and no reason for the killing is given. One verse of the song, not used in this composition, says “ Forty one days, forty one nights, forty one years to wear the ball and the stripes; I’ll be here for the rest of my life, and all I done was kill my wife.” In spite of the dark nature of the text, as is the case with many folk songs, the tune has entered the common repertoire of many bluegrass and old-time bands. Some melodic and harmonic material in the composition is derived from Little Sadie, but the piece also wanders freely amongst other musical material exploring the coloristic and harmonic combinations of the diverse instruments in the ensemble. The composition is dedicated to Zeitgeist.

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Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mikrophonie I

Mikrophonie I (1964) by Karlheinz Stockhausen

Performed by Zeitgeist: Heather Barringer, Pat O’Keefe, Patti Cudd, and Nicola Melville
with Mike Duffy and Brett Wartchow, electronics
Produced by Andrew Rindfleisch

“After finishing the score of MIXTUR for orchestra and ring modulators, I searched for ways to compose – flexibly – also the process of microphone recording. The microphone, used until now as a rigid, passive recording device to reproduce sounds as faithfully as possible, would have to be come a musical instrument and, through its manipulation, influence all the characteristics of the sounds. In other words, it would have to participate in forming the pitches – according to composed indications – harmonically and melodically, as well as the rhythm, dynamic level, timbre and spatial projection of the sounds.

In 1961, I had purchased a large tam-tam for the composition MOMENTE and set it up on the balcony and later in the garden. Time and again I would make experiments in which I excited the tam-tam using a great variety of implements – of glass, cardboard, metal, wood, rubber, plastic – which I had collected from around the house. One day I took some equipment from the WDR Studio for Electronic Music home with me. My collaborator Jaap Spek helped me. I played on the tam-tam with every possible utensil and during this, moved the microphone above the surface of the tam-tam. The microphone was connected to an electrical filter whose out put was connected to a volume control (potentiometer), and this in turn, was connected to amplifier and loudspeaker. During this, Jaap Spek changed the filter settings and dynamic levels, improvising. At the same time, we recorded the result on tape. This work was the genesis of a live electronic music with unconventional music instruments.

On the basis of this experiment I wrote the score of MIKROPHONIE I. Two players excite the tam-tam using a great variety of implements, two further players scan the tam-tam with microphones; and an appropriate notation prescribes the distance between the microphone and the tam-tam, the relative distance of the microphone from the point of excitation, and the rhythm of the movements of the microphone. Two further players– seated in the auditorium–each operate an electrical filter and two potentiometers. They, in turn, reshape the timbre and pitch, dynamic level, spatial effect, and the rhythm of the structures. In this way three mutually dependent, mutually interacting and simultaneously autonomous processes of sound-structuring are connected with each other. These were composed to be synchronous or temporally independent, homophonic or polyphonic layers.”
—Karlheinz Stockhausen

Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) started composing in the early 1950s. Already the first compositions of “Point Music” such as KREUZSPIEL (CROSS-PLAY) in 1951, SPIEL (PLAY) for orchestra in 1952, and KONTRA-PUNKTE (COUNTER-POINTS) in 1952/53, brought Stockhausen international fame. Fundamental achievements in music since 1950 are indelibly imprinted through his compositions: The “Serial Music”, the “Point Music”, the “Electronic Music”, the “New Percussion Music”, the “Variable Music”, the “New Piano Music”, the “Space Music”, “Statistical Music”, “Aleatoric Music”, “Live Electronic Music”; new syntheses of “Music and Speech”, of a “Musical Theatre”, of a “Ritual Music”, “Scenic Music”; the “Group Composition”, polyphonic “Process Composition”, ” Moment Composition”, “Formula Composition” to “Multi-Formula Composition”; the integration of “found objects” (national anthems, folklore of all countries, short-wave events, “sound scenes”, etc.) into a “World Music” and a “Universal Music”; the synthesis of European, African, Latin American and Asian music into a “Telemusic”; the vertical ” Octophonic Music”.

Stockhausen’s entire oeuvre can be classified as “Spiritual Music”; this becomes more and more evident not only in the compositions with spiritual texts, but also in the other works of “Overtone Music”, “Intuitive Music”, “Mantric Music”, reaching “Cosmic Music” such as STIMMUNG (TUNING), AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN (FROM THE SEVEN DAYS), MANTRA, STERNKLANG (STAR SOUND), INORI, ATMEN GIBT DAS LEBEN (BREATHING GIVES LIFE), SIRIUS, LICHT (LIGHT), KLANG (SOUND).

From 1977 to 2003 he composed the cycle of operas LICHT (LIGHT), The Seven Days of the Week, which comprises about 29 hours of music. All of the seven parts of this music-theatre work have had their staged world premières: DONNERSTAG (THURSDAY) in 1981, SAMSTAG (SATURDAY) in 1984, and MONTAG (MONDAY) in 1988, all three produced by the Teatro alla Scala in Milan; DIENSTAG (TUESDAY) in 1993 and FREITAG (FRIDAY) in 1996, both at the Leipzig Opera, SONNTAG (SUNDAY) in 2011, at the Cologne Opera. With MITTWOCH (WEDNESDAY), the Birmingham Opera Company presented the last day of the LICHT heptalogy on Wednesday, August 22nd 2012. After LICHT, Stockhausen intended to compose the hours of the day, the minute and the second. He began the cycle KLANG (SOUND), The 24 Hours of the Day, and until his death in December 2007, he composed the 1st Hour HIMMELFAHRT (ASCENSION) to the 21st Hour PARADIES (PARADISE).

Tom Williams: A Shadow That Falls

A Shadow That Falls (2019) for percussion and fixed media
by Tom Williams
performed by Patti Cudd

‘I’m going to Flicker for a moment
And tell you the tale of a shadow
That falls at dusk…’   (Alice Oswald)

A Shadow that Falls was composed for the French percussionist Thierry Miroglio and is for unpitched percussion and electroacoustic fixed media. The fixed media is composed from sample recordings of Miroglio playing. There is no conventional written score for the performer, instead there is a ‘listening score’.  The percussionist improvises to the fixed media, stereo track that accompanies the player and to the listening score that only they hear on a third, private track.  To shape and inspire their performance the percussionist hears lines and words taken from the poem Shadow (2015) by the English contemporary poet Alice Oswald. There is a sense of revealing and unfolding, of emptiness, of mindfulness in the performance.  The work requires no music stand and, where possible, asks for special low lighting to generate silhouettes (shadows) around the performer.

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Frederic Rzewski: A Decade

Frederic Rzewski: A Decade

American ex-patriot Frederic Rzewksi has written several works for Zeitgeist; this CD features all of them. Rzewski’s music draws its inspiration from literature and is imbued with Rzewski’s political leanings. He writes for acoustic forces, employs exotic additive melodies, and takes advantage of Zeitgeist’s prowess as an improvising ensemble. Contains Frederic Rzewski’s Wails (1985), Spots (1987), The Lost Melody (1989), and Crusoe (1993).

Performers: Heather Barringer, Jay Johnson, Tom Linker, Bob Samarotto, Joe Holmquist.

Julie Johnson: Crocus Hill Ghost Story

Crocus Hill Ghost Story
Music by Julie Johnson • Story by Cheri Johnson
Sound Design by Eric M.C. Gonzalez 

A macabre tale of a house possessed that is accompanied by a wildly evocative and colorful score, Crocus Hill Ghost Story explores the complex relationship between two longtime friends and the evolution of their relationship as they experience a haunting. Suitable for teenagers through adults.

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Morton Feldman: Bass Clarinet and Percussion

Performed by Zeitgeist in 2016 during Early Music Festival: The Music of Morton Feldman. Heather Barringer & Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds.

Zeitgeist’s 2016 Early Music Festival explored the powerful contributions of our musical pioneers with a celebration of composer Morton Feldman. One of the 20th century’s great visionaries, Feldman’s innovations in music notation and his free-flowing indeterminate music embraced new artistic possibilities and made a lasting impact that continues to shape new music today.  Continue reading “Morton Feldman: Bass Clarinet and Percussion”

Victor Zupanc & Kevin Kling: For the Birds

Co-written in 2010 by Victor Zupanc and Kevin Kling, For the Birds is a concert length work that, on the surface, seems to be about birds. It features a series of musical pieces extolling the nature of each particular bird (sparrows, roosters, woodpeckers, Canadian geese, hawks), drawing parallels with our own human nature. Interspersed between, is insightful storytelling created by Kling reflecting on childhood memories, immigration, illness, accidents, and healing. However, just below the surface (but discernible to those that look), For the Birds is a work about that part of our human nature that compels us to reach beyond ourselves for more —more opportunity for our family, more money, more fun, more speed, more knowledge, more love. When all goes well, we call that need aspiration. When it doesn’t, and we plunge to the earth with melting wings, we call it hubris. Through utterly delightful music and a worldview only Kevin Kling can provide, For the Birds gives us the space to contemplate our nature, laugh at ourselves, and heal.  Continue reading “Victor Zupanc & Kevin Kling: For the Birds”