Paola Prestini is a contemporary composer who I am very fond of. Her music cannot be pigeonholed and her output is extremely varied with all sorts of collaborations, including many multimedia works and installations. Possibly her greatest effort, the album "Body Maps" was recorded some years back on John Zorn's wonderful and inexhaustible Tzadik Records. I will post it soon.
"Listen, Quiet" is a 15 minute long composition and multimedia work scored for percussion (including a 'prepared' water set), amplified cello, voice and electronics (with backing tracks, drum set etc.) It was written for cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and percussionist Pablo Rieppi. It begins with percussive effects that may bring to mind Lou Harrison, the African marimba, but also Latin American music (especially salsa, Latin jazz and cuban music) with the sound of the Latin American instrument called the claves (which was either used or its woodsy clicks recreated electronically..I do not know for sure). Quite striking (and a bit alarming) are the sounds of a woman crying or speaking in some unintelligible tongue which is first heard at 0:40' into the piece. I was baffled and intrigued when I first heard this, and somehow these sounds seemed to feel like genuine distress. Sometime later I read what the composer had to say about this; my intuition was correct (what she says I have added below..) "Listen, Quiet" has it's "quieter" moments with the cello singing in an almost twisted plainchant paired down with just a few instruments, as well as a most beautiful section (starting around 7:55) where the cello flows, lyrically and mournfully, with the addition of minimal percussion and what appears to be hushed vocals/humming that keeps fading away mysteriously.
About 4 minutes later, a one-sided conversation can be heard along with pizzicato cello, evoking for me some sort of gypsy language or chatter. At the same time, one can audibly hear that there's actually English in the mix, although it's rather hard to make out. The music continues with passages that are "quiet", and then loud (lively cello, ceremonial or dance-like percussion..), and then quiet once again. An unusual piece this, but one that I thoroughly enjoy!
"Listen, Quiet" premiered March 17th, 2010 at the Willson Theater (The Juilliard School's state of the art multimedia theater). It was then premiered with choreography by Kate Skarpetowska at Capture and Release, at the 2013 River to River Festival.
**I am curious to know what you think about this work-love it or hate it. Please comment,
it would also be very nice to hear from some of you who never have commented-especially
if you are a fan of contemporary music!**
The composer writes:
This commission celebrated the 10th anniversary of Beyond the Machine, A Festival of Electro-Acoustic and Multi-Media Art. "Listen, Quiet" explores the way I feel about water in my life: it nurtures, heals, separates. The work is based on recorded private conversations that struggle with live performance. The piece was inspired by the third panel in "Going Forth By Day" a multi-channel work by Bill Viola. In this specific video panel, water accumulates throughout the thirty minute cycle, and eventually, washes out an entire home, its memories, delusions, stories. The work is divided in two halves.
Listen: I had recorded an artist’s voice this past summer who was dealing with a great deal of pain, thinking that this work would eventually ease her pain, and illuminate her vicious cycle. The work assigns roles to each player: the cellist narrates, the percussionist is the perpetrator and symbolizes the indifference, at times, of life; the manipulated voices recount her story, and the natural elements eventually wash away her voices, leaving only sounds of nature. Perhaps easing the pain, perhaps narrating that these stories are in fact, the everyday, and they are cyclical.
Quiet: is a hymn to voices from my childhood, of my mother. They tell a story of magic, and of the memories that shaped us both.
-This is also a file hosting "test" post..since share is giving me grief I sent this mp3 file to sendspace, which I never used before. -It's under 30mb but please tell me what you think of sendspace..