Saturday, December 3, 2016

Historic Works for Percussion Ensemble (1931-1942) Edgard Varése, Ionisation - Johanna Beyer, "IV" - Henry Cowell, Ostinato Pianissimo - Carlos Chavez, Toccata Alan Hovhaness, October Mountain - Lou Harrison, Canticle No. 3 - Thomas Siwe, Conductor - Equilibrium 2002

Hello everyone. Since I am currently albeit briefly home I'm uploading this superb album in the background whilst doing other things - still my only option unless I'm visiting family (visiting their computers!).  So, I just might have to take a drive over to 'family headquarters' tonight or tomorrow in fact; I am really itching to share magnificent tunes. I miss the days of posting music regularly/several times a week so very very much :(   Needless to say I'd love to be posting for you my fellow musical explorers, every day, now that would be my (non-profit ;) dream job. Add to that an actual career in classical music broadcasting/programming etc. and I would probably be willing to confess bouts of happiness every once in a while! I dunnoo if I mentioned this but I was a candidate finalist for a full-time radio host job at WQXR New York just short of a year ago, which blew my mind; *this* has been one of my dream jobs (and top day dream, I should add) for over 20 years now! At least I still have a well-produced demo to attach to my CV in the future if I ever get the extremely unlikely opportunity.

What the above flapdoodle has to do with this 1 hour offering of exciting and important percussion music from the early 20th century.....I do not know. See if you all were here I'd tell you many a' dull and occasionally interesting things in person. Then again - have you ever seen the Marx Bros hilarious "A Night at the Opera"? The famous cabin/stateroom scene?? If I invited over say, the top commenting visitors here, we would have not music wine or cheese, but this:

Is that Mr. Driftwood falling for a dame, or is it scraps??

Another shot of my studio apartment-blogfriends-meetup gala.

So, on to the disc. In the booklet each composition lists the varied musicians involved yet it is unclear if they are all part of one unified group (my guess is the University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble?) 

So, change of plans. I just looked at the time. I shall add info on this release very late tonight or tomorrow - more likely. For now have fun exploring these percussion masterworks (likely unfamiliar to some will be the Beyer piece - it is a shame that the innovative composer Johanna Beyer < 1888-1944 > is not better known!)

*Sunday afternoon and I am now home.

Edgard Varèse began Ionisation in Paris in 1929 and completed it on November 13th, 1931. This landmark composition was written for 13 players utilizing 40 percussion instruments, including crash cymbal, bass drums, concerros (muffled cow bells struck with a drum stick), high and low tam-tams, gong, bongos, side drum, high and low sirens, slapstick, güiros, Chinese woodblocks, claves, triangles, snare drums, maracas, tarole (a high pitched drum), suspended cymbals, sleigh bells, tubular chimes, cymbals, castanets, celesta, tambourine, anvils, piano, glockenspiel (with resonators), and others that I am simply forgetting. As the very first of many all percussion scores written in this century, "Ionisation" is remarkably subtle in its use of those instruments. The form is articulated by changing sonorities - a passage scored only for metal instruments; a fleeting duet for drums and maracas; a hair-raising moment (the first sustained loud point in the score) when several players have the same triplet figure (a rhythmic unison); the first high, Morse-code clanging of the anvils, more than midway through. The grand and sonorous coda is marked by the entrance of the piano, celesta, and chimes--the three instruments of definite pitch. Varèse once defined his mission as the "liberation of sound" (just as Schoenberg promised the "emancipation of dissonance.") Ionisation is the purest demonstration of Varése's success, and his eventual influence. It is the work of both a pioneer and a

The life of Johanna Magdelena Meyer is somewhat of a mystery. She was born July 11th, 1888 in Leipzig, Germany, studied music and at the age of 35 immigrated to the States, making her home in New York City. She continued her studies with Dane Rudhyar, Ruth Crawford and Henry Cowell. She was enrolled in Cowell's percussion class at the New School in 1935 when she composed "IV", the only work published during her lifetime. To help support herself, she worked as Cowell's assistant at his publishing firm, New Music, doing office work and translations of German texts. Described as very shy, Beyer, it appears, was reluctant to promote her own works. However Cowell's wife, Sidney Robertson revealed in a phone interview that Beyer would would sometimes include her manuscripts with New Music scores to prominent conductors. Beyer died January 9th, 1944 after after a long illness from ALA - Lou Gehrig's Disease. Her music (over 50 songs, symphonies, and chamber works) has languished, largely ignored, in the American Music Center Library.  The first performance of "IV" was given on March 6th 1933, in Carnegie Hall.

"IV" is composed of 9 rhythmic lines. As with John Cage's 1935 quartet, no instrumentation is indicated. The conductor must select percussion instruments that blend well, yet insure that each voice can be recognized. Four of the lines enter as in a fugue, creating inverted pyramids across the manuscript. Their accents are reinforced by the other voices with a bottom note ostinato marking the start of each 7/8 measure. A sense of movement is created as tempo and intensity levels constantly  shift. The work ends in a great crescendo with seven final beats heard by a single voice.

New World Records has recorded a decent amount of her music thankfully, so when I can locate where I have some other discs of Beyer's music, they will most certainly make an appearance on here.  

"Ostinato Pianissimo" is an example of Henry Cowell evoking the sounds of Indonesian gamelan music without truly imitating its formal structures or utilizing normal orchestration. Elements of  both Indonesian and Indian classical music can be found within its pages. Composed in 1934 and dedicated to Nicholas Slominsky, it is scored for 3 gongs, 3 drums, bongos, tambourine, guiro, 2 woodblocks, xylophone, 8 rice bowls and 2 string pianos (Cowell wrote works that asked the pianist to pluck, scrape, mute, or strike the strings inside the piano with fingers and various objects. Later on John Cage who was Cowell's student took this further with the "prepared piano"). By muting selected piano strings at various points, Cowell altered the sound making it reminiscent of gamelan metallophones. The rice bowls, to be arranged in ascending scale, shocked early audiences (similar sets of bowls called jala tarang have origins in Indian folk music). The bowls, along with the xylophone and string pianos, perform repeated ostinatos of varying lengths creating a complex heterophonic texture. The woodblocks, tambourine, guiro, and drums act as another unit whose rhythmic pattern slowly repeats itself every 10 measures. The final group, 3 gongs performs a cycle five measures in length marked by striking one of the gongs with a wooden stick. "Ostinato Pianissimo" borrows from musical structures found in Asian music yet he transforms them into something original. Definitely the most intriguing 3 minutes one can experience through sound!

*More info on the other works I will add soon; I'd like to move on so I can share one more deliriously interesting recording before it gets too late :)




Johann said...

Thank you for taking time sharing anything at all Tz I will always look forward to it :)

Anonymous said...

Do you have this recent recording?

Thanks for helping the 20th Century music fans!


expanium said...

Tzadik, aquí tu camarada expanium, porfis coloca en tu lista y

(Blogger musical & Radio me la sudas)

Tzadik, here your comrade expanium, please put in your list of blogs. y


Tzadik said...

Thank you for the nice comment Johann! Always stop by and pull up a chair :)


Tzadik said...

José unfortunately I do not have that recording. The problem is that it is *quite* recent - and while I am still buying select discs and digital files when I can, due to my lack of money my "music shopping sprees" are now but an occasional trickle of indulgence :(


Tzadik said...

Hola Expanium - gracias por el "heads-up". No he tenido la oportunidad de revisar mi correo electrónico, así que estoy agradecido de que hayas pasado por aquí. Los añadiré ahora mismo. Espero que sean capaces de sostener ambos blogs clásicos, un segundo es una elección sabia. Y si Beau está de vuelta como parece de su comentario - Hallelujah!!!! :)



Tzadik said...

Expanium Beau showed up in my list, but I cannot add yours? Maybe just a current problem with blogger?
I will try again later..


Tzadik said...

Forget my last comment Expanium, I didn't notice the *actual* name, it is in my bloglist :D


Tzadik said...

Scraps?? Where are you?? I guess you truly all still stuck in that stateroom ;) :-O


Scraps said...

I'm very depressed and in pain. But I'm catching up on your blog.

Thank you!

very very said...

thank you for this one!