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Friday, January 1, 2010

Two New Reviews

Of Mordake, not yet released:
The music is convoluted and tumultuous yet well ordered in its own fractal logics, the lyrics sung in English in Duykers' heroic exhortations ever attempting domination of the reedlike insinuations and madnesses of his sister, snakily evoked through Korporate Marionettes' devices to produce a mocking hectoring from Duykers' own vocal chords (remember, this is a solo opera!), the result effecting a personality split and schizophrenias effective on more than one level. On top, to the side, and underneath, Wold crafted a welter of environments leaping from harsh urgency to ambient tranquility shot through with muted echolalia—the bridge from Go Get Our Supper! to What Have You Done? being a great example.

This daring purveyor of far horizons favors nightmare and the disturbing undermatrix of consciousness in his work, and Mordake is his most impressive evocation of that since Taking the Veil, to my mind stunningly high art…
and the Missa, in the online review journal FAME:
The voices are largely female and angelic in the extreme, male counterpoints recessed, with the cathedral's echo providing an expansive golden warmth to the massed encantings, a palpable feel of heavenly dimensions ... There are effulgent passages of Godly sentimentality but also the turbulence of the states between [Him] and man, reminders of our fall from Grace.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Missa fictus Missa ficta

Jay Cloidt and I have been editing together the two nights' recordings of the Missa. It's tremendously thrilling to create such a fiction, something that never was, weaving the different performances, different microphones, different audiences together into one. We've added a few synthetic overlays where a few notes were missing, even recreating one whole section of the postlude. We've discovered once again the joy of reverb in absolving the recording of a great many sins confessed to us under the harsh scrutiny of his monitors, reverb that Jay had foresworn ever since hearing Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

One interesting set of audio interjections comes from a large belled clock in the sanctuary, which goes off from time to time during the recording, especially during the Sanctus, a highly synchronistic event, as the use of bells during the Sanctus goes back almost a millenium. Bells and the Bible go hand-in-hand, like love and glove, and the union produces such poetic gems as those found in Exodus 28:
And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:

A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.

And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This year's CDs

The compact disc of my Missa, although wholly encapsulating a sad and dying medium of auditory exchange, is at least visually luminous and beguiling thanks to Karen and should be available quite soon, as soon as I can bring myself to go through all the recordings of both performances in some detail and make a final determination of what is the best and what is not. The chalice awaits the thick nectar of the reverb-heavy-laden music decanted, then held to the lips to succor those in spiritual need. Although I have attempted to interest a few of the typical classical music vendors in the product, it will be a vanity press item, made simply for the delight of my fans and so that I can continue to gaze longingly at my own reflection.

The Mordake CD, on the other hand, is mixed and packaged and has obtained the all-important record deal, only now awaiting approval from a thousand bureaucrats, dressed each identically in their identical indigo Mao costumery, soon to be unfettered, alive and on its own in the uncaring world.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

23rd Psalm

In the very glorious baroque Cathedral of St Gallen. 

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Popular Demand, the Gloria

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Agnus Dei, Jona Switzerland

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tune of the day

Agnus Dei

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ode to the Shy Monk

Review of the Missa came out today in the St. Gallen Tagblatt.  Google's automatic translator produces this, which is a bit poetic, viz "Major outbreaks searches in vain."  Listening to the recording from Sunday in the clear but jet-lagged light of day today, which I've put up here, I realize that they did do a beautiful job.  

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rhythms, Bells, St Gallus and the Bear

After four years hanging over my head, the Mass finally premiered last night, and hanging over my head was the above: St Gallus in the company of the bear with whom he traded sandwiches for firewood, and, to continue this trope past the point of enjoyment, I woke up hung over after the free-flowing alcohol-laced VIP reception, where, just like Scrappy and his friend, we decided in our stupor to ring the doorbells and wake up the bishop but succeeded in waking only his sister as he was out "on assignment." Thank God for Europe where they still seem to sell out houses - and a mighty big House o' God in this case - for brand spanking new music and where they seem to applaud and applaud and applaud to the point of embarrassment (although this discomfort is one with which my vanitas can well live). Kim Brockman was the soloist and stole the show with her effortless navigation of the 23rd Psalm which, I have to say, is really just more or less in a simple 3/4, but the accompaniment tends to confuse. 

Speaking of confusion, even though over in Kyle Gann's heaven of stratospheric beauty, present concerns are partial tuplets and non-power-of-two-denominator time signatures, down here wallowing in the mud of the temporal world, I would be just a little bit happier in my insignificant existence if I could be assured of accurate non-partial tuplets and power-of-two-denominator time signatures and reliable groupings of 8ths and 16ths at moderate tempi that don't quite hit the downbeats. But the performance was lovely, and the circle of communication from composer to performer to audience and back again was closed very nicely, and I was overjoyed just to experience it all in such an over-the-top goopy-rococo environment. 

The performance was in the choir - which you can see here - using one of the two mechanically connected baroque organs. The stiff action necessitated a simplification of the faster parts of the Credo. I wrote a quick Postlude as a bit of espresso or maybe dolce to wake up the audience after a long period of contemplation of our insignificance and the certain oncoming freight train of death, etc, but it turned out that even my delightful insouciance was a bit beyond the very limited rehearsal time for Willibald, so we had to cut the (as I call it) Terry Riley section, that with one meter for each limb (although really two are in the right hand and one is split between the feet), but as to the remainder, as Duncan put it, Willibald hit it.

The best part of performing in the Dom Kathedral is that, every fifteen minutes, there is a small but very clear bell part added to the piece, almost always in just the perfect place, so much better than the added ambulance sirens of my mostly urban performances, and in fact I herewith formally add the instruction to the score: play a clock chime or two or maybe even a few more every fifteen minutes starting at a random time offset (well, actually at five minutes before the quarter hour marks as we need to give the brothers time to dust off the knees of their robes and get themselves to tend the radish garden or whatever) and please don't be stopped by the fact that the soprano is just now putting herself in the proper mood for her emotive solo or the fact that the music is really really really quiet, OK?

(photo by Lynne)

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Me in a funny hat

How I am perceived by the Swiss press.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When and Where

Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi

Samstag, 12. April 2008
19.15 Uhr
Kathedrale St. Gallen

Sonntag, 13. April 2008
17.00 Uhr
Kath. Pfarrkirche Jona


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ilaria, director

My friend Ilaria has been on my mind because she asked me to write a meditation on Jon Jost and our work over the years.  Also, we'll probably be seeing her in Milan next month on the way to Sankt Gallen.  She used The Whistling Note from I Weep (as well as a few other tunes of mine) in a film of hers titled il volo.  Here's an excerpt.  

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Hot off the presses

The San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra played the Mordake Suite #1 on Saturday. After a bit of studio magic I have a pretty good recording of it here. I was originally supposed to be in Europe for the premiere of the Notker Balbulus Mass on Saturday, but sadly it was delayed until next year, the cruelest month of next year that is. Fortunately my friend Robert Wechsler had the foresight to call the Kappelmeister before heading on the train to St Gallen. And, in related news, several key collaborations for the San Francisco Arts Festival next year have been announced and note my name in print. Smallish print maybe but ah, for this we live.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Flag of Appenzell

Faithful readers know that my Mass is premiering this fall in St Gallen, Switzerland. But they may not know that to the south of the city is the canton of Appenzell, represented by the flag above. In heraldry-speak: Argent, a bear rampant sable, armed langued and priapic in his virility gules. Translated: on a silvery white field, a bear is represented standing on one hind foot with its forefeet in the air, in profile, facing the dexter side, with right hind foot raised, in black, with red claws and erect penis of red tincture.

The bear on the flag is in fact that same bear previously discussed, shown in the above bas-relief befriending Gallus. Appenzell was a vassal state of the Abbot of St Gallen until 1403 when it threw off the yoke of the bear-loving abbey, retaining however a fondness for the bear, putting it in their flag but adding the bold red erection as a touch of defiance. The story goes that, in 1579, a printer in St Gallen removed the bear's hard-on from a collectible calendar, almost plunging the two sides into war until he toadied to the Appenzellers and the city agreed to destroy every copy it could find.

After writing the ordinary of the Mass, I decided to add an organ postlude. The Dom Cathedral has three organs, including two smaller baroque instruments in the choir, but the large organ is very beautiful, visually and aurally. It's a typical postlude, with a flamboyant opening, a memory from my youth listening to Norberto Guinaldo's florid improvisations, my own attempt a poor imitation. In the middle, it ventures into a more static territory, another poor imitation, this time reminiscent of Terry Riley's Shri Camel. Let's part with just a glimpse of it.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi

My Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi will be performed at the beautiful Abbey of St Gall in Switzerland on the Day of Repentance and Prayer (15 September). The Abbey was the commissioner of the piece, and it is thus named after one of their most famous, the musician and poet Notker Balbulus, aka Notker the Stammerer (840-912, beatified 1512). He is known as the first ethnically German composer of music and for publishing the first collection of Sequences, mnemonic poems for remembering the series of pitches sung during a melisma in plainchant, many composed by him. The stammering little monk "was so much loved by the monks of his abbey that for a long time after his death, they could not speak of him without shedding tears."

Some selections from the Mass were performed last Summer by the SFCCO and Schola Cantorum San Francisco. Here's a bit of it.

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