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.Continue reading “Paul Elwood: a forty-four smokeless”
Primary Call by Nasim Khorassani
Performed by Zeitgeist: Heather Barringer, Pat O’Keefe, Patti Cudd, and Jill Dawe
“When I read Sohrab’s poems, I hear music. His words turning into colorful images of phonemes, motions, and breaths. This piece is an instrumental recitation of a part of the poem ‘Primary Call’ by Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980). The following is the text translated into English by Bahiyeh Afnan-Shahid in 2013:
‘[The] morning with break. And to this bowl of water, the sky will emigrate. I must leave tonight. I, who from the most open of windows to the people of this quarter, spoke but heard nothing about the quality of Time. No eyes were fixed on the earth with passion. No one [was] enchanted at the sight of a garden. No one took a magpie [on] some farm, seriously. [So] a gloom the size of a cloud seizes me, when from the window I see Houri, the neighbor’s young daughter reading jurisprudence, under the rarest elm tree on earth.'”
Nasim Khorassani (b. 1987) is an Iranian composer currently studying for her PhD in Music Composition at the University of California San Diego. She studied with Dr. Andrew Rindfleisch and Dr. Greg D’Alessio at Cleveland State University for her second master’s degree. In Iran, she studied composition with Mr. Mohammad Reza Tafazzoli and Mr. Arman Noroozi, as well as Mr. Siawasch Sahebnassagh and Dr. Sara Abazari.
Zeitgeist collaborated with Minnesota composer Michelle Kinney for the 2021 “Playing it Close to Home” concert featuring works by Kinney and winning songs from the Eric Stokes Song Contest.
Cocoa in the Poppies
My soulmate Cocoa (a 13 year old golden retriever-like mutt) and I drove across the country to California where we hung out for about a month together writing this song. The poppies were in full bloom. Cocoa swam in the ocean. It was pure bliss for both of us.
Frank on the Highway
Frank was really lost on the highway and all he had to eat was a coffee can filled with lard and a sack of uncooked potatoes. Composed in the 1980s for a play by Chris Sullivan, it has stood the test of time.
Echo and Narcissus
Also composed on that California trip. Again referencing a flower (and an echo and a narcissist). The true source of this piece spun out from a captured moment of a looping phrase that I saved from accompanying a dance class.
Michelle Kinney’s career began in Minneapolis, MN, when she returned home after receiving a BA in music from Northwestern University. During this early phase in her career, she was recognized and frequently funded as a composer & cellist, collaborating with Twin Cities choreographers (Laurie Van Wieren), filmmakers (Chris Sullivan, Chicago) and theater artists (Michael Sommers), in addition to composing for her own new music ensembles (IMP ORK, Aphid Bloodbath Consort). In 1989, she moved to New York City to pursue an MA in Performance Studies at New York University. Michelle lived in NYC for 13 years, recording and touring Europe and the US with several of her mentors; bridging musical genres and scenes, from art music (Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris, Myra Melford), to pop (Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant, Lou Reed); and composing for dance (Cyrus Khambatta), film (Debra Dickson) and theater (Richard Schechner).
Michelle returned to the Twin Cities in 2002 to raise her young family. In addition to again becoming very actively engaged in the community as a composer and performer, Michelle is the Musician in Residence for the Dance Program within the University of Minnesota’s Theater Arts and Dance Department. In this perfect “day job” for a musician/composer, Michelle improvises compositions in daily dance classes, with her cello played through a looping device. Each day Michelle spends hours reading bodies in motion as if they were sheet music, spontaneously creating and layering multiple cello parts, starting from a rhythmic foundation and building harmony, texture and melodic phrasing.
Plan for Spacecraft by Frederic Rzewski
Performed by Zeitgeist and guest artists: Ivan Cunningham, Dameun Strange, Douglas Ewart, Alyssa Anderson, Daisy Swimmer, Isaac Mayhew, George Cartwright, Alex Hecker, Eric M. C. Gonzalez.
PLAN FOR SPACECRAFT (1967) is a written text outlining an improvisational process that dismantles the usual rules of musical and social being and replaces them with a music that transforms space, people, and relationships.
Frederic Rzewski (April 13, 1938 – June 26, 2021) was an American composer and pianist who is considered to be one of the most important American composer-pianists of his time. His major compositions, which often incorporate social and political themes, include the minimalist Coming Together and the variation set The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, which has become a modern classic.
Rzewski studied music privately with Charles Mackey in Springfield, Massachusetts as a child and studied composition with Walter Piston, counterpoint with Randall Thompson and orchestration with Claudio Spies at Harvard University from 1954–58. He studied composition with Milton Babbitt and Roger Sessions and the music of Richard Wagner with Oliver Strunk at Princeton University from 1958–60, where he also studied literature and philosophy from Greece. In addition, he studied composition privately with Luigi Dallapiccola in Rome in 1960.
As a pianist, he frequently performed with the flautist Severino Gazzelloni in the 1960s. He then co-founded with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum the improvisational and live electronic ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva in Rome in 1966 and performed with it from 1966–71. He was thereafter active as a pianist, primarily in performances of his own pieces and music by other contemporary composers.
He taught at the Conservatoire royal de musique in Liège from 1977–2003, where he was Professeur de Composition from 1983–2003. He gave lectures in Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.
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 (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).
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.Continue reading “Tom Williams: A Shadow That Falls”
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.
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.Continue reading “Julie Johnson: Crocus Hill Ghost Story”
In Bone-Colored Light (2002), Kitzke’s second work for Zeitgeist, pays homage to the sense of clarity and healing found in the stark and pure angled light that illuminates the American landscape of a late afternoon on a cloudless day. Continue reading “Jerome Kitzke: In Bone-Colored Light at InnFest 2018”
An interview with humorist Kevin Kling and composer Victor Zupanc about the creation and CD release of For the Birds with Zeitgeist. Interview conducted by Charlie McCarron, August 2016.