Beth Custer: Swim!

Swim! (2002)
by Beth Custer

Swim! was written for Zeitgeist during our collaboration on Vinculum Symphony Twin
Cities. Vinculum Symphony is a large-scale, multi-movement, evening length work that
brings together chamber musicians with experimental instrument builders, people who
invent and perform on their own creations. Vinculum uses musicians and inventors from the city or town it is performed in and evolves and mutates to reflect that city. During my McKnight Composer Residency through the American Composers Forum in the Twin Cities, I spent some time gazing at and wandering around the Mississippi River. I got a lot of ideas for new pieces while bicycling alongside her to Zeitgeist’s studio. I have a great love of water, and truly wish we could swim to get there!

—Beth Custer

Continue reading “Beth Custer: Swim!”

Eleanor Hovda: If Tigers Were Clouds

If Tigers were Clouds… then reverberating, they would create all songs was developed in collaboration with Zeitgeist during a Music in Motion Residency based at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. We met for two separate week-long sessions (in September and December, 1993) and during that time I was able to work with Zeitgeist in a process similar to that of a choreographer making a dance “on” a specific group of dancers. This process allowed us to make a piece that is what it is because [Zeitgeist] and I spent many hours together working, talking, eating, and
playing during those times.

The title is a thought arrived at in a collaborative instant with composer David Gilbert at least 25 years ago. It suddenly came back to me as I was scoring this piece for Zeitgeist. This piece is very much about reverberation, resonances, and the sonic energy of pitches and their overtones. Tigers and clouds suggest strength, mystery, elusiveness, and can evoke magical imaginary worlds in children and adults.”

— Eleanor Hovda Continue reading “Eleanor Hovda: If Tigers Were Clouds”

Pauline Oliveros: Sound Fishes

Sound Fishes (1992)
by Pauline Oliveros

Listening is the basis. Listening for what has not yet sounded —
like a fisherman waiting for a nibble or a bite.
Pull the sound out of the air like a fisherman catching a fish,
sensing its size and energy —
when you hear the sound play it.
Move to another location if there are no nibbles or bites.
There are sounds in the air like fishes in the water.
When the water is clear you might see the fish.
When the air is clear you might hear the sounds.

— Pauline Oliveros

Continue reading “Pauline Oliveros: Sound Fishes”

Annie Gosfield: Five Will Get You Seven

Five Will Get You Seven (2001)
by Annie Gosfield

Five Will Get You Seven was written for Zeitgeist, developed with the ensemble, and conceived with the group’s individual strengths and personalities in mind. Pat O’Keefe and I worked together delving deep into the realms of bass clarinet multiphonics, non-traditional fingerings, and microtonal bends. Heather Barringer told me a story about beating on pieces of metal in her backyard as a child (home-made percussion care of her metalworker father) which inspired me to incorporate assorted metal percussion into her part. Patti Cudd provides the percussive engine that supports the metal and multiphonics, driving on through the din and clamor. The title, Five Will Get You Seven, refers to the extended sections of five (quintuplets on the tom toms) against seven (septuplets on the snare), and a gambler’s notion of a wager well placed. The bet’s not a long shot: Zeitgeist has made this work their own and created something more than the mere notes on paper that I wrote for them. Special thanks to the musicians, the Jerome Foundation, and Anthony Gatto for making this project happen.

—Annie Gosfield

Continue reading “Annie Gosfield: Five Will Get You Seven”

Mildred Couper: Xanadu

Xanadu (1930)
by Mildred Couper

i. Largo
ii. Andante
iii. Scherzando
iv. Allegro
v. Allegro Agitato

Couper’s score for Xanadu includes names of percussion instruments (side drum, cymbals, Chinese gongs, and wood blocks) for use as incidental music during the play. These were evidently used during the several processions and dockyard scenes. The two-piano music is notated and called a “ballet,” presumably as an overture or entr’acte for costumed dancers (there being no call for a ballet during the action of the play). While the music may not be overtly programmatic, it may relate loosely to the Samuel Taylor Coleridge opium-inspired poem of the same name:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree…
the sacred river ran… a savage place!… woman wailing for her demon-lover… a mighty fountain… these dancing rocks… meandering with a mazy motion… ancestral voices prophesying war!”

Musically one can see traces of Stravinsky’s Russian folk melodies as found in Pulcinella or Les Noces, pentatonic lines surrounded by dense clusters (as often found in Henry Cowell’s piano music of the time), the muddy dissonance of parts of Charles Ives’s Three Quarter Tone Pieces, and perhaps even some of George Antheil’s futuristic motor rhythms as found in his Ballet Mécanique (which she may have seen in New York in 1926). In this first of her quarter-tone works she favors the use of both pianos at the same time, creating dissonant clouds of sound, rather than the alternating, melodically tortuous ultra-chromaticism as found in the Dirge a few years

Xanadu was subsequently performed on May 15, 1932 at the YWCA in San Francisco, by the composer and Malcolm Thurburn, at one of Henry Cowell’s New Music Society concerts. The work was rather overshadowed by the other event of the program, the demonstration of his and Leon Theremin’s Rhythmicon, an instrument designed to extend the pitch ratios of the overtone series to durational cycles too.

Continue reading “Mildred Couper: Xanadu”

Johanna Beyer: Suite No. 2 for Bb Clarinet

Suite No. 2 (1932)
by Johanna Beyer

Beyer’s Suite No. 2, also known as Suite No. 1b, was composed (along with Suite No. 1) in 1932, and is thought to be one of Beyer’s first works. The following descriptive comments for each movement appear on the original manuscript (whether or not these were the composer’s remarks or someone else’s is unclear): I. Giocoso – “Gradual growth of tied tones;” II. Lamentation – “Tones of contrary form of perpetual motion;” III. Contrast – “Contrast of phrases: skippy=steppy.” Movement four, Accelerando, utilizes a series of metric modulations to create an ever-increasing tempo structure. All four movements are written in a freely atonal style that shows an excellent awareness of the technical and expressive possibilities of the clarinet. Beyer utilizes the full range of dynamic, articulative, and registral characteristics of the instrument, resulting in music that is playful, mournful, agitated, and virtuosic.

Continue reading “Johanna Beyer: Suite No. 2 for Bb Clarinet”