The Annual Magazine of the Philadelphia Music Project 2007 | 08
Improvisation: Charting the Unknown by David Adler Around Philadelphia, the World Beckons by Anastasia Tsioulcas George Crumb’s Autobiography by Daniel Webster Michael Brecker, a Tribute by Tom Moon I Dwell in Possibility: Emerging Composers on Composing by Willa Rohrer Music as Memory: Composing American Life by Alyssa Timin
Contents 2007 | 08
Improvisation: Charting the Unknown by David Adler Around Philadelphia, the World Beckons by Anastasia Tsioulcas George Crumb’s Autobiography by Daniel Webster Michael Brecker, a Tribute by Tom Moon “I Dwell in Possibility”: Emerging Composers on Composing by Willa Rohrer Music as Memory: Composing American Life by Alyssa Timin
02 14 18 20 22 30
06 10 34 34 35 35 36 36 37 38
21 Reasons to Tap Your Feet: PMP Announces 2007 Grants 2007-2008 Calendar of Funded Events Crossing Over: Interdisciplinary Professional Development Grants, Year Two Field Trip: Vienna 2006 PMP Professional Development Grants Pew Fellows in Music Composition Welcoming Willa Welcoming Roy Warmth for Winter: PMP’s Annual Holiday Party News Corner: In the Community
BUILDING CAPACITY/ developing audiences
40 42 43 44
Straight Talk: Q&A with Nello McDaniel of Arts Action Research Excerpts from An Elegant Process by Nello McDaniel and George Thorn The Marketing Innovation Program, a new project of the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative Straight Talk: Q&A with Roy Wilbur of the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative
New Frontiers in Music: Composer Symposium by Peter Burwasser One on One with Olga Neuwirth Japanese Instruments in New Music by Peter Burwasser Thoughts on Classical Music Criticism by Bernard Holland Meet the Press: Journalists on Music by Willa Rohrer Artist-Friendly Record Labels/ Distribution Outlets by Willa Rohrer Field Trips: Runouts: The First Emperor; Pocket Concertos Lincoln Center Festival 2007
Philadelphia Folklore Project by Emily Sweeney Ars Nova Workshop by Emily Sweeney
46 48 50 51 52 54
Message from the Director
Message from The director
In his article for this year’s PMP magazine, Bernard Holland of The New York Times likens music to an oak tree: you shouldn’t need an advanced degree in botany to appreciate it; “You just like to sit under it.” And yet for organizations presenting programs of adventurous and rarely performed works—the very programs that PMP seeks to support—the problem of how to reach new audiences is a pertinent one. Can young listeners with a limited frame of musicological reference find personal meaning in work they perceive as seriously disconnected from their everyday lives? With this question in mind, PMP offers articles from a bevy of gifted journalists that are intent on portraying the relevance of the 21 projects PMP funded in 2007, and more. David Adler leads with “Improvisation: Charting the Unknown.” He draws connections between seemingly disparate musical traditions, from big band to Baroque orchestra, Carnatic to klezmer music, highlighting PMP-funded projects that feature improvisation, an elemental, electrifying form of human expression whose practitioners come from a range of cultural and historical origins but share “striking commonalities.” Alyssa Timin’s article, “Music as Memory: Composing American Life,” considers PMP-funded projects that commemorate American socio-historical experience, offering insights into the ways these projects harness the cathartic power of music and illuminate our common humanity by commemorating our collective triumphs and tragedies. At the core of many composers’ work, one can often find the reflection of personal experiences that may resonate with audiences, providing a point of entry into the music. Articles by Dan Webster and Tom Moon sketch portraits of Pulitzer Prize-winner George Crumb and the late tenor sax icon Michael Brecker, both composers with deep ties to Philadelphia; and PMP’s own Willa Rohrer interviews emerging composers Richard Belcastro, Stratis Minakakis, Michael Holober, and Yevgeniy Sharlat, all of whom were commissioned with PMP funds in 2007. You’ll also find updates on what’s happening at the Philadelphia Center for Arts & Heritage, valuable advice from PMP consultants, and coverage of this year’s New Frontiers in Music events, which featured composers Augusta Read Thomas, Tristan Murail, Roberto Sierra, and Olga Neuwirth. As I am reminded each year when I flip through the pages of PMP magazine, Philadelphia is a city brimming with music, and PMP is honored to serve this community as it embarks upon yet another promising year. These articles pay homage to the hard work and expansive talent of Philadelphia’s nonprofit music community, and I am pleased to share them with you. But don’t just read about the music that’s sounding throughout the city—go out and enjoy the oak trees all around.
Front cover: Michael Brecker, photo by Jan Landau. www.landau.be PMP 1
It’s easy to agree with Nietzsche’s maxim from Twilight of the Idols: “Without music life would be a mistake.” But what would music be without improvisation? Though today it is chiefly associated with jazz, improvisation crosses all boundaries, informing many of the world’s musical traditions. The Philadelphia Music Project’s 2007 grantees include artists working in a range of disciplines, employing improvisation in various proportions and with vastly different results. Peruse the season’s offerings and one will find big bands, jazz encounters with classical orchestra, avant-garde experimentalists, virtuosi of Carnatic (South Indian) music, keepers of the klezmer heritage, and interpreters of Renaissance and Baroque masterworks. These performers would seem to share little in common. But a close look at some of the skills and practices involved can reveal striking commonalities. Improvisation is something that bridges oceans, cultures, aesthetic temperaments and even historical periods.
Improvisation: Charting the Unknown
concert, on October 21, placed the new music in historical context by including an innovative Charles Mingus work from 1957, “Revelations.” Uri Caine’s piece, premiering in Philadelphia on February 10, will be close in spirit to his bluesy, radical 2002 treatment of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations. He sees that effort, and his multi-genre reading of the Bach Goldberg Variations (2000), as “an extension of the jazz idea of having an underlying structure that then gets amplified, commented on, violated or what have you.” In the new piece, as yet untitled, “the orchestra is either creating motifs to play against, or textures to play with, or sometimes it’s functioning like a really big rhythm section.” Caine has taken a similarly unorthodox approach to Mahler, Wagner, Schumann and Mozart as well. In his essay “Theme and Variation” (from Arcana II: Musicians on Music, edited by John Zorn), he describes the titular concept as a “metaphor for the coexistence of structure and freedom in music.” Steve Coleman comes to concert music from another angle. For roughly two decades, he has pioneered a musical concept he calls MBase (macro-basic array of structured extemporization), described on his Web site as “a non-western conception of how to use music to
developed cohesion among a small circle of initiated players. With limited rehearsal time, an orchestra reading can be more of a seat-ofthe-pants affair than a jazz gig. According to Bermel, even the most polished classical performance can brush up against the unknown. “Tuning, dynamics, attack—all these elements are unpredictable in the concert experience,” he says. “So there’s always a factor of improvisation, the question is how much. The tension is, where does a composer ask for that improvisation, and where don’t they.” That tension lies at the very heart of the jazz big band tradition, from Ellington through Mingus and up to such current composers as Mike Holober and Maria Schneider. Holober, a pianist and leader of the Gotham Jazz Orchestra, will perform his newly commissioned piece “Hiding Out” in February at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His expansive, hard-swinging music involves a delicate balance between form and freedom; soloists may dazzle the audience, but they serve a higher purpose as well. “When I conceive a solo section,” Holober explains, “I’m turning over responsibility for the development of the form to the improviser. I feel strongly as a writer that when you improvise, you’re sharing the compositional duties.”
Page 2: : Pianist and composer Uri Caine will premiere a new work at Annenberg this season Page 3: Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg, photo by Francesca Patella
by David R. Adler
Almost all music involves a give and take between the prescribed and the spontaneous. In the music known as “free jazz,” of course, the role of the latter could hardly be more pronounced. But while it often steers clear of fixed tempos, harmonies and forms, free jazz can nonetheless follow a subtle compositional logic. In a five-concert series called “Out There,” International House, in conjunction with Ars Nova Workshop, will present several major figures in the field. Trumpeter Bill Dixon, who spearheaded the October Revolution in Jazz in New York in 1964, will play a spring 2008 duo concert with drummer Tony Oxley, a pivotal member of the circle known as the London Improvisers. From the Netherlands, pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, cofounders of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra and colleagues for well over 30 years, will lead an irreverent quartet in January featuring the noted trumpeter Dave Douglas. John Zorn, the dean of New York’s “downtown” scene from the early ’80s to the present, will duet on February 29 with the veteran free drummer Milford Graves, whose concept of improvisation extends to back flips and even promenading around the hall with an audience member on his shoulders. “Music is motion; it is life itself,” Graves has written. At the Annenberg Center, the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) will explore another branch of jazz’s family tree via the “Orchestra Underground” series, curated by composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel. Major jazz instrumentalists, including pianist Uri Caine, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman and drummer/percussionist Susie Ibarra, will premiere new concertos, bringing their jazz artistry into an orchestral environment. The phenomenon is not new: Since the rise of the Third Stream movement of the 1950s and even well before, jazz musicians have contended with long-form composition and various jazz/classical hybrids. The first ACO PMP 2
express experience… There is no limitation on the kind of structures or the type of improvisation, or the style of the music.” Though he burst onto the scene in the late ’80s with a complex, funk-inflected take on jazz, his sound-world has grown ever broader. At the ACO’s October concert he premiered a work titled “The Illusion of the Body.” “Improvisation is at the base of everything I do, including composition,” Coleman offers. “The Eurocentric idea is you take a pencil and paper and go away for five months and come back with a symphony. I call improvisation ‘spontaneous composition,’ and for me both processes are the same. It’s just that one is more deliberate.” In Coleman’s score, the non-improvising players of the ACO may encounter a rhythmic vocabulary that is rather unfamiliar. “At one point in the piece I improvise a cadenza,” Coleman says. “Then I start playing parts of the composition to bring the orchestra back in. Now, with my band [Five Elements], that’s a very simple thing. I can even play a form without a melody and they’ll know where I am. But that’s not something you can do overnight.” And therein lies the paradox of the jazz-meets-classical exchange. There is an image of jazz as loose, a perpetual jam session. At its highest levels, in fact, it can require highly
For Maria Schneider, who will bring her celebrated large ensemble to the Museum in January, the input of improvisers “changes the music from night to night. Each piece becomes a personality that behaves in different ways. And what we create belongs to all of us. The joy is everybody’s.” Infusing her recent work with Brazilian, flamenco and Peruvian lando rhythms, Schneider throws curves at her musicians, expanding their palette and prompting them to “figure out what to do, how to stretch. It gives them something to work with other than the usual.” Needless to say, jazz’s globalizing instinct is as old as the music itself. Susie Ibarra, drawing on her Filipina heritage, has made extensive use of kulintang (tuned gongs) and other East Asian elements. Her ACO commission, “Pintado’s (The Painted’s) Dream,” is inspired by the tattooing, or “painting,” of indigenous tribes in the Philippines and northern Japan. Bass clarinetist/composer Gene Coleman (no relation to Steve) also merges Asian instruments and improvisational concepts in his Ensemble N_JP, which performed on September 20 as part of the Slought Foundation’s Soundfield@Slought series. Coleman, Slought’s music curator, has developed special notational systems for such inPMP 3
Top to bottom:
Charting the Unknown
Klezmer trumpeter Susan Hoffman Watts, photo by James Wasserman Polweschsel Composer Maria Schneider, photo by David Korchin
Reaching back centuries and even millennia,
struments as the sho, shamisen and koto. The players, including Ko Ishikawa and Ryuko Mizutani, are “very special performers with all the traditional training, who have chosen to go over into the area of experimentation,” Coleman says. Other Slought projects this season involve Coleman’s Ensemble Noamnesia, a chamber group that uses Western instrumentation but is no less unconventional. On October 21 they joined violist Vincent Royer to play music by the experimental composer Luc Ferrari (1929-2005). On March 20 they meet the Rome-based ensemble Ossatura to realize compositions by Anthony Braxton (b. 1945), among others. And on February 26, the Austrian/British-based Polwechsel arrives at Slought’s West Philly venue to perform original electro-acoustic works. Inspired by Braxton and other ’60s leaders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Coleman represents a generation that doesn’t so much blend jazz and classical music as deconstruct the categories altogether. His work employs open-form structures, defying any firm distinction between the notated and the improvised. “The improvisation I do is very linked to the music I want to write,” Coleman says. “The old idea is that these are completely different musics, with completely different hierarchies, and these worlds never connect. We don’t even study them in the same space or talk about them as being related. That’s slowly gone by the wayside.” If hybridization and modernization are becoming the norm, traditional forms are flourishing as well. This concert season will include a “Mosaic of South Indian Classical PMP 4
Music” presented by SRUTI: The India Music and Dance Society. Veenai Jayanthi Kumaresh, master of the veena (a lute-like string instrument), will be among the featured performers. “There are two important branches in Indian classical music, the creative and the recreative,” says Jayanthi. The former entails raga alapana, or scalar improvisation; swaraprastharas, in which, “solfa syllables of the raga are performed in as many permutations as possible within the meter;” and nereval, “wherein any one line of the composition is taken and interpreted.” In the “recreative” portion, krithies, or “compositions by great legends of the past, are recreated each time according to the style and individuality of the performer.” Carnatic music is in many ways a world unto itself, but it has had a considerable impact on Western improvisers, including Steve Coleman. Jayanthi’s account of a typical concert should sound familiar to jazz players: “So much of the music depends on the atmosphere, time, day, audience, acoustics and the performer’s mood.” Like Indian music, klezmer—the folkloric idiom of European Jewry—has its modernizers and its purists. John Zorn, never a klezmer player per se, has created a new zeitgeist through his Radical Jewish Culture series, presented on his record label Tzadik (Hebrew for “righteous one”). “Just as jazz music has progressed from Dixieland to free jazz and beyond in a few short decades … the same kind of growth should be possible—and is perhaps essential—for Jewish music,” Zorn has written. On March 1, International House and Ars Nova will present works from Zorn’s still-unfolding series “Masada (Book Two): Book of Angels,” performed by the electric
groups Asmodeus and Secret Chiefs 3. In Europe, klezmer was all but obliterated in the Holocaust; in the U.S. it faded along with the jazz big bands. To play it today, on some level, is to reinvent it. But for drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, matriarch of the Hoffman Watts family and heir to an illustrious line of Philadelphia klezmer artists, talk of the music’s “revival” rings false. “It never went away,” she declares. “I cut my baby teeth on it, I drank my bottle to it. My daddy used to take me down to the basement and he would practice his xylophone and show me the beats to play.” With support from the Philadelphia Folklore Project, she and her daughter, trumpeter Susan Watts, are preparing a spring 2008 concert featuring rare melodies from the early 20th century written by Joseph Hoffman (Susan’s great-grandfather). There are notated elements in klezmer, but spontaneous group interplay is essential. Melodic ornamentation, so evident in the crying klezmer clarinet sound, is what gives the music its character. According to Dan Blacksberg, a jazz trombonist who plays frequently with Susan Watts, “there are accompanying parts that also involve a lot of improvisation. The middle voice has a lot of freedom. I play everything from harmonized melody to rhythmic phrases, where I’m outlining the harmonic progression. At a klezmer gig you don’t really tell me anything—we just start playing.” Renaissance and Baroque ensembles may go about it less casually, but they too are intimately familiar with ornamentation and middle-voice improvisation. Two periodinstrument groups, Piffaro and Tempesta di Mare, are among this year’s PMP grantees, with unique early music programs on the
the practice of improvisation evolves anew in every age
docket (in early January and early March, respectively). Hearing them, one can appreciate changes in improvisational practice that accompanied the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque period. Renaissance ornamentation involves “division,” or the practice of “taking long notes and turning them into a melodic contour of shorter notes,” according to Piffaro’s woodwind player Robert Wiemken, who likens the practice to learning “licks” in jazz. In Baroque music, says recorder player/flutist Gwyn Roberts of Tempesta, “ornamentation is much more about grand gestures and swoops and swirls” than about manipulating cadences on the micro-level. Another major change in the Baroque, says Wiemken, involved “the vertical harmonic conception of a piece with a figured bass line.” What emerged was the practice of continuo, which Roberts describes as “essentially a jazz chart upside down. Rather than having a melody and chords, you’re looking at a bass line and chords.” A series of numbers above the bass line serve to “describe what the harmonies are,” Roberts explains. “It doesn’t mean you have to play a chord at every point. Primarily, continuo players create a rhythm track, deciding on the emphasis and size of the chords in a way that highlights both the metric structure and the musical interest.” While the overall arc of the piece is written, in other words, many of the specifics are “performer-determined.” What distinguishes Piffaro and Tempesta is their application of antique disciplines to new performance settings. Piffaro’s program, “A 21st-Century Epiphany Vespers,” will include contemporary motets by the Philadelphia composer Kile Smith—“new work based on old tradition,” Wiemken says. Tempesta’s “No Strings Attached: Love and Death with Music and Puppets,” will involve, yes, puppets: lifesize inanimate characters acting out mythic stories of love to pieces by Monteverdi and Handel. Reaching back centuries and even millennia, the practice of improvisation evolves anew in every age, in ways that are both culturally specific and all-embracing. Bernard Holland of The New York Times paid great tribute to the spirit of improvisation when he recently included Count Basie on a list of important Minimalists. In a Basie piano solo, Holland wrote, “Chords [do] the work of a jazz-music continuo and fragments of melody … point at things present but unsaid.” Indeed, if music is the universal language, improvisation is its alphabet. Elementally human, heightening expression, it electrifies audiences and performers alike with the charge of the unexpected. David R. Adler writes regularly for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, Jazz Times and Down Beat. His work on music, politics and culture has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic Online, Slate, Democratiya and many other publications. He blogs at lerterland.blogspot.com.
Left to right: Percussionist and composer Susie Ibarra; pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, photo by Paul Cox; So Percussion, photo by Ian Fry; Composer Terry Riley, photo by C. Felver
21 Reasons to Tap Your Feet: PMP’s 2007 Grantees
Area music lovers can look forward to a season of adventurous, inspired programs thanks to the Philadelphia Music Project’s 2007 grantees. Twenty-one local music organizations received awards ranging from $10,000 to $120,000—totaling in $838,000 of grants for music projects. Philadelphia audiences can anticipate 115 concerts and residency programs, ranging from traditional and contemporary forms of classical, jazz, world, and folk music. Top, right: Composer Maria Schneider, photo by Takehiko Tokiwa Left to right: James Freeman, artistic director of Orchestra 2001 Robert Weimkin, co-artistic director of Piffaro, photo by Zane Williams Clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, photo by Vanessa Briceño-Scherzer Relâche Composer Paul Epstein Soprano Carmen Balthrop
This season, PMP grants will be used to commission new works by some of the world’s most distinguished composers, including George Crumb, Terry Riley, Paul Schoenfield, Sir John Tavener, and Christian Wolff. PMP-funded projects will also feature world premieres of works by talented emerging composers Richard Belcastro, Mike Holober, Stratis Minakakis, and Yevgeniy Sharlat. All in all, Philadelphia audiences will be treated to the world premiere performances of 21 new works. The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia was awarded $120,000 over two years to commission and premiere new works by Terry Riley and Sir John Tavener in partnership with San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra. Riley’s new work, part of his Abbeyozzud project (a series of 26 pieces for guitar), will feature the composer on piano, guitarists David Tanenbaum and Gyan Riley, and violinist Krista Bennion Feeney. Tavener’s new work, inspired by the poetry of Jean Biès, will be scored for voice, timpani, and string orchestra, and feature mezzosoprano Sarah Connolly. Philadelphia performances will take place at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Relâche received $30,000 in support of its Future Sounds series to commission and premiere new works by composers Christian Wolff, Galen Brown, and Randall Woolf. The pieces will explore a range of aesthetics, including aleatory music, minimalism, alternative pop/ electronica, and avant-bop. Orchestra 2001 received $30,000 to produce Radical
Exoticism, a series featuring six 20th- and 21st-century musical works that explore modernist musical exoticism across several cultures. The project features a world premiere of George Crumb’s American Songbook V; the world premiere of a new work by Valerie Coleman featuring the Imani Winds; a French set comprising area premieres of works by Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, and Henri Dutilleux; and a 1920s concert-jazz classic by Darius Milhaud. Artistic Director James Freeman will conduct Orchestra 2001 with guest artists Gilbert Kalish (piano), Freda Herseth (mezzo-soprano), Jamie Van Eyck (mezzosoprano), and Patrick Mason (baritone). Astral Artistic Services received $30,000 to commission and present Future Directions: New Music for Emerging Artists, featuring world premiere performances of new chamber works by established composer Paul Schoenfield and emerging composer Yevgeniy Sharlat. The programs will celebrate Astral’s 15th anniversary, and will feature resident Astral artists Jose Franch-Ballester (clarinet), Andrius Zlabys (piano), and guest artists Pavel Ilyashov (violin), Anton Jivaev (viola), and Wendy Warner (cello). Chamber Music Now was awarded $10,000 to present Spoken, pairing four Philadelphia authors and composers to create new works for chamber ensemble, electronics, video projection, and narrator. The collaborating pairs are: Paul Epstein (composer) and Tony Olsen (author); Richard Belcastro (composer) and Carla Spataro (author); Stratis Minakakis (composer) and Sandy Crim-
mins (author); and Gene Coleman (composer) and Tom Teti (author). The resulting works will be premiered by Josh Kovach (clarinet), Hanna Khoury (violin), Miguel Rojas (cello), and Tom Teti (actor). The Philadelphia Museum of Art received $30,000 to present the Philadelphia debuts of Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra and the Maria Schneider Orchestra as part of the Museum’s Art After 5 series. The Museum will commission and present the world premiere of a new work by Gotham Artistic Director Mike Holober and present regional premieres of recent works by Grammy Award-winning composer Maria Schneider. The Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia received $30,000 to produce a concert titled A Baroque Festival of Lights. The program will feature the music of Salamone Rossi, the first Jewish composer to write polyphonic settings of the Sacred Service, and a newly commissioned Cantata for Hanukkah by Philadelphia composer David Ludwig. The Choral Arts Society will be led by conductor Matthew Glandorf and accompanied by an ensemble of period instruments. Opera North was awarded $30,000 to present An African American Triptych, featuring concert productions of three operas by African American composers: A Bayou Legend by William Grant Still, Blake by H. Leslie Adams, and the world premiere of Egypt’s Nights by Leslie Savoy Burrs and librettist Barbara Chase-Ribaud. “An African American Triptych” will feature soloists Car-
men Balthrop (soprano), Issachah Savage (tenor), Takesha Meshe Kizart (soprano), N. Cameron Chandler (bass/baritone), Lisa Edwards-Burrs (soprano), and guest artists Diane Monroe (violin), Gerald Veasley (bass), Mogauwane Mahoele (percussion), George Burton (piano), and the Voices of Gwynedd under the baton of Dr. Kay George Roberts. Piffaro, The Renaissance Band received $30,000 to present a Vespers program for Epiphany that combines 16th-century hymns, chants, and chorale settings by Johann Walther, Michael Praetorius, and Jacob Regnart with newly commissioned psalm settings, a Magnificat, and instrumental motets by Philadelphia composer Kile Smith, bringing the Renaissance tradition of wind playing in liturgical settings into the 21st-century. The Crossing, a 20-voice ensemble directed by Donald Nally, will join Piffaro’s eight wind players. In addition to world premieres, Philadelphia music lovers can also anticipate regional premieres of significant works. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts received $80,000 to engage the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) in a residency that will bring ACO’s acclaimed Orchestra Underground programs to the Annenberg Center for a series of three new music concerts and accompanying educational and outreach activities. The concerts will feature compositions by Susie Ibarra, Terry Riley, Michael Tenzer, Ken Thomson, Uri Caine, Fred Ho, Steve Coleman, and Scott Johnson.
Guest artists include Makoto Fujimura (visual artist), and Gutbucket (Ken Thomson’s punkjazz-rock ensemble). The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society received $60,000 to produce Voices of Our Time, a special series of concerts featuring Philadelphia premieres of recent works by Lera Auerbach, George Benjamin, Elliott Carter, Gabriela Frank, Kevin Puts, Kaija Saariaha, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Joan Tower, Erkki-Sven Tüür, and John Zorn. Performing artists include the Brentano, Emerson, Johannes, Miro, Mendelssohn, and Tokyo Quartets; pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Jonathan Biss; and violinists Timothy Fain and Leila Josefowicz. Kimmel Center Presents received $60,000 in support of its Fresh Ink series, designed to spotlight the work of artists and composers in the avant-garde of contemporary classical music. The series will feature the Philadelphia debut of So Percussion, a program by Ethel (string quartet), and an evening of music by Phil Kline including the Philadelphia premieres of two song cycles, Zippo Songs and Fear and Loathing, with guest artists Todd Reynolds (violin), Dave Cossin (percussion), Theo Bleckman (vocals), and Wilbur Pauley (vocals). A rich array of vocal projects is also part of this season’s line-up. The Curtis Institute of Music was awarded $60,000 in support of the Curtis Opera Theatre’s Philadelphia premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s debut opera Ainadamar, which is based on the life of Margarita Xirgu, the Catalan actress who colPMP 7
laborated frequently with Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca. The production will feature Curtis Institute students Layla Claire (soprano), Katherine Lerner (mezzo-soprano), Amanda Majeski (soprano), Brian Porter (tenor), and Evan Hughes (bass-baritone). Guest artists will include Chas Rader-Shieber (director), Corrado Rovaris (conductor), Mark Barton (lighting designer), and David Zinn (set and costume designer). Five performances will be presented at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia received $30,000 to present a concert featuring the Philadelphia premieres of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls and Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, as well as a performance of James Primosch’s Fire-Memory/River-Memory. Conducted by Artistic Director Alan Harler and accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Mendelssohn Club was joined by guest artists Bel Canto Children’s Chorus, Karen Slack (soprano), Meredith Arwady (contralto), and Jonathan Beyer (baritone). Philadelphia Baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare received $30,000 to perform No Strings Attached: Love and Death with Music and Puppets, an evening of narrative works for vocalists and chamber ensemble with original puppet staging by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. Monteverdi’s Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Handel’s Tra le fiamme are two of the works that will be performed with guests Marguerite Krull (soprano), Aaron Sheehan (tenor), and David Newman (baritone). The concert will be broadcast on WHYY-91FM. Projects exploring the traditions of jazz, folk, and world music will also grace area stages. SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society received $15,000 to present Mosaic of South Indian Classical Music, a series of concerts representing the tapestry of various forms, schools, and styles of vocal and instrumental music found in southern India. The artists featured include Veenai Jayanthi Kumaresh, a veena player, and Nithyasree Mahadevan and the Malladi Brothers, who are Carnatic music vocalists. The Philadelphia Folklore Project received $30,000 in support of its Musicians-in-Residence program, which will explore the distinctive Ukrainian-
Jewish klezmer repertoire of the Hoffman Watts family, music popularized in Philadelphia from the 1920s through the 1950s. The project will culminate in a concert featuring Elaine and her trumpeter daughter Susan Hoffman Watts, Andy Statman, Hankus Netsky, Henry Sapoznik, Rachel Lemisch, Jim Guttmann, and Josh Dolgin; among them, descendants of three of the most prominent Philadelphia klezmer families. The ensemble will perform arrangements from the “Dead Sea Scrolls” of klezmer: hand-written folios of music scored by Joseph Hoffman (c.1910) and newly arranged by Susan Watts. A documentary of the project will be broadcast on WHYY-TV12. The Mann Center for the Performing Arts was awarded $80,000 to present Congo Square, a crosscultural musical collaboration between Wynton Marsalis and the Ghanaian drum master Yacub Addy. Presented as part of Mann’s 2007 Summer Series, “Congo Square” honors and explores the memory of the public square in New Orleans where, from the mid-1700’s to the late 1800’s, slaves gathered on Sunday afternoons to perform African songs and dances, heralding the birth of American jazz at the turn of the century. “Congo Square” features Wynton Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Yacub Addy with his ensemble Odadaa! Other projects will treat Philadelphia audiences to a diverse selection of experimental music from around the world. Slought Foundation, a first-time PMP grantee, was awarded $10,000 to present Soundfield@Slought in collaboration with Soundfield, NFP. A four-part concert and educational series exploring international experimen-
encouraging dialogue about culture and representation in American society. The series will feature John Zorn’s Electric Masada; the Otomo Yoshihide Ensemble; Huntsville with Ivar Grydeland; Tonny Kluften; Ingar Zach; the Misha Mengelberg/ Han Bennink Quartet; and the Tony Oxley Ensemble. When all’s said and done, the projects of PMP’s 2007 grantees will result in 115 events, including the world premiere performances of 21 new works, 16 of which will be commissioned with support from PMP, U.S. premieres of nine works, and regional premieres of 52 works; 76 public concerts encompassing 31 chamber music, 15 orchestral music, three choral music, 59 new music, seven world/folk music, 11 jazz, four early music, eight opera, five electronic/electro-acoustic, and three multi-media performances; 39 residency and educational activities; 429 local artists and 468 guest artists supported, including 29 guest ensembles; 29,323 live audience members in the five-county region; 60,000 television audience members through broadcasts on WHYY-TV12; and 12,000 radio audience members through broadcasts on Philadelphia’s WRTI-FM and WHYY-FM. Philadelphia Music Project grants are awarded on a competitive basis and are selected by a panel of internationally recognized artists, scholars, and administrators with a broad knowledge of the field. The distinguished eight-member panel that reviewed this year’s applications was comprised of Martin Bresnick, Professor of Composition, Yale University; Charles Calmer, Artistic Administrator, Oregon Symphony; Kip Lornell, Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology, George Washington University; Robert Porco, Director of Choruses, The Cleveland Orchestra; Janet See, Baroque flautist, Philharmonia Baroque, and EMI recording artist; George Shirley, Professor of Voice and Director of Vocal Arts Division, University of Michigan; Limor Tomer, Adjunct Curator of Performing Arts, Whitney Museum, and Executive Producer, Music Department, WNYC Public Radio; and Steve Wilson, saxophonist/ composer, professor at Manhattan School of Music, Columbia University. Page 8, clockwise from top left: Ikue Mori and Zeena Parkins; Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, photo by Clay Patrick McBride; Mendelssohn Club with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, photo by John L. Shipman
[ PMP ANNOUNCEs 2007 GRANTS ]
tal music, “Soundfield@Slought” features French violist Vincent Royer and Philadelphia’s Ensemble Noamnesia performing music by Luc Ferrari; Rome’s Ossatura with Ensemble Noamnesia realizing graphic scores by Anthony Braxton; Europe’s Polwechsel performing electro-acoustic compositions; and Ensemble N_JP with American and Japanese musicians playing music and video compositions by Gene Coleman. Also a first-time PMP grantee, Ars Nova Workshop (ANW) was awarded $13,000 to present Le poeme de la femme, a five-program concert series intended to explore issues of gender, ethnicity, history, contemporary politics, and experimental musical practices. “Le poeme de la femme” will showcase divergent musical traditions and provide independent female voices with a forum for cultural discourse. The series will feature the Susie Ibarra Ensemble; the Marilyn Crispell Trio; Jenny Scheinman’s Ensemble; the Min Xio-Fen Trio; and the Zeena Parkins Trio performing improvised and composed works. International House Philadelphia received $30,000 to produce Out There, a new five-concert series showcasing radical and exploratory music from around the globe. Presented in collaboration with Ars Nova Workshop, each program will offer a representative look into the progressive musical legacy of a specific ethnicity or country, PMP 8
Page 9 top: Elaine Hoffman Watts, photo by James Wasserman Huntsville, photo by Ola Flat Vad
Page 9 bottom, clockwise from top left: Neyveli Narayanan, performing with Malladi Brothers in a Carnatic vocal concert Layla Claire and Dominic Armstrong, photo by David Swans Rome-based ensemble Ossatura Doug Roysdon of Mock Turtle Marionette Theater
Calendar of Funded Events
2007 – 2008
6.15.2007 “Congo Square” A cross-cultural musical collaboration between Wynton Marsalis and the Ghanaian drum master Yacub Addy Mann Center for the Performing Arts; www.manncenter.org Mann Center for the Performing Arts
10.6.2007 “Exotic Birds, Kurt Weill, and Gilbert Kalish” Area premiere of Steven Mackey’s “No Two Breaths,” Igor Szwec performs Weill’s Violin Concerto, and pianist Gilbert Kalish performs Messiaen’s “Oiseaux exotiques” Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing
11.2.2007 Timothy Fain, violin and Benjamin Hochman, piano, perform the Philadelphia premiere of Kevin Puts’ “Arches” Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Philadelphia Museum of Art
September 2007 9.15.2007 “Crumb and Tchaikovsky: Three Premieres” World premiere of George Crumb’s “American Songbook V,” and area premieres of Crumb’s “Otherworldly Resonances” and Tchaikovsky’s “Concert Piece for Flute and Strings” Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College
10.6.2007 “Le poeme de la femme” Marilyn Crispell, Mark Helias, and Andrew Cyrille Trio Ars Nova Workshop; www.arsnovaworkshop.com Rose Recital Hall, University of Pennsylvania
11.3.2007 “On the Transmigration of Souls” Philadelphia premieres of John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” and Karol Szymanowski’s “Stabat Mater,” and an encore performance of James Primosch’s “Fire-Memory/River-Memory” Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia; www.mcchorus.org Girard College Chapel
December 2007 12.1.2007 “RELÂCHE: Bits, Bytes, and Pieces” All new Relâche Ensemble music from Galen Brown, Duncan Nielson, and others Relâche; www.relache.org International House Philadelphia 12.11.2007 “A Baroque Festival of Lights” World premiere of David Ludwig’s Hanukkah Oratorio, and the music of Salamone Rossi Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia; www.choralarts.com Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia
11.3.2007 “Imani Winds Joins Orchestra 2001” World premiere by Valerie Coleman Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing
12.12.2007 “A Baroque Festival of Lights” World premiere of David Ludwig’s Hanukkah Oratorio, and the music of Salamone Rossi Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia; www.choralarts.com Temple Sinai of Dresher, Dresher, PA
10.13.2007 Ethel (string quartet) Kimmel Center Presents; www.kimmelcenter.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
11.3.2007 Çudamani performs Odalan Bali: An Offering of Music and Dance Painted Bride Art Center; www.paintedbride.org Painted Bride Art Center
12.14.2007 “Out There: Radical Musical Cultures” Huntsville + Frode Gjerstad Trios International House; http://www.ihousephilly.org/ International House Philadelphia
9.20.2007 “Soundfield@Slought: Transonic” Ko Ishikawa, Ryuko Mizutani, and Kazuhisa Uchihashi with Ensemble N_JP Slought Foundation; www.slought.org Slought Foundation
10.15.2007 Emerson Quartet performs the Philadelphia premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s “Terra” Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
11.4.2007 “Imani Winds Joins Orchestra 2001” World premiere by Valerie Coleman Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College
9.23.2007 “Variously Indeterminate: Works by Wolff, Cage, and Brown” Featuring a premiere by Christian Wolff and special guests the Zs from NYC Relâche; www.relache.org Fleisher Art Memorial
10.18.2007 “Soundfield@Slought: ‘Et tournment les sons dans la garrigue’” The music of Luc Ferrari, featuring Vincent Royer, viola, with Ensemble Noamnesia Slought Foundation; www.slought.org Slought Foundation
11.4.2007 “Le poeme de la femme” Min Xiao-Fen Asian Trio Ars Nova Workshop; www.arsnovaworkshop.com Fleisher Art Memorial
9.16.2007 “Crumb and Tchaikovsky: Three Premieres” World premiere of George Crumb’s “American Songbook V,” and area premieres of Crumb’s “Otherworldly Resonances” and Tchaikovsky’s “Concert Piece for Flute and Strings” Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
10.7.2007 “Exotic Birds, Kurt Weill, and Gilbert Kalish” Igor Szwec performs Weill’s Violin Concerto, the area premiere of Steven Mackey’s “No Two Breaths,” and pianist Gilbert Kalish performs Messiaen’s “Oiseaux exotiques” Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College
10.21.2007 “American Composers Orchestra: Hybridity” Philadelphia premieres by Steve Coleman, Susie Ibarra, Scott Johnson, and Ken Thomson Penn Presents; www.pennpresents.org Harold Prince Theater, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
11.15.2007 Miro Quartet performs the Philadelphia premiere of John Zorn’s “Necronomicon” Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 11.17.2007 South Indian Classical Vocal Concert: Malladi Brothers and Party SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society; www.sruti.org Calvary Vision Center, Blue Bell, PA
January 2008 1.5.2008 “An Epiphany Vespers: Reformation Then and Now” World premiere by Kile Smith and the music of Johann Walther, Michael Praetorius, and Jacob Regnart Piffaro, the Renaissance Band; www.piffaro.com Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion 1.5.2008 “An African American Triptych: ‘A Bayou Legend’” Area premiere by William Grant Still Opera North; www.operanorth.com Centennial Hall at the Haverford School, Haverford, PA 1.6.2008 “An Epiphany Vespers: Reformation Then and Now” World premiere by Kile Smith, and the music of Johann Walther, Michael Praetorius, and Jacob Regnart Piffaro, the Renaissance Band; www.piffaro.com Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill 1.11.2008 Art After 5 presents the Maria Schneider Orchestra Philadelphia Museum of Art; http://philamuseum.org/artafter5/ Philadelphia Museum of Art
Calendar of Funded Events
1.17.2008 Tokyo Quartet performs the Philadelphia premiere of Auerbach’s Quartet No. 2, Primera Luz with Anthony McGill, clarinet Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 1.26.2008 “A Boulez Masterwork: A Philadelphia Premiere!” Area premiere of Boulez’s “Le marteau sans maître” with Freda Herseth, mezzo-soprano, and Jason Vieaux, guitar Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing 1.27.2008 “A Boulez Masterwork: A Philadelphia Premiere!” Area premiere of Boulez’s “Le marteau sans maître” with Freda Herseth, mezzo-soprano, and Jason Vieaux, guitar Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College 1.29.2008 Mendelssohn String Quartet with Jonathan Biss, piano Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
February 2008 2.2.08 So Percussion Kimmel Center Presents; www.kimmelcenter.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
2007 – 2008
2.13.2008 Johannes Quartet performs the Philadelphia premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Quartet Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing
3.14.2008, 3.15.2008, 3.16.2008 “Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears)” Philadelphia premiere by Osvaldo Golijov Curtis Institute of Music; www.curtis.edu Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
2.17.2008 “Clarinetist José Franch-Ballester & Friends” World premiere by Paul Schoenfield Astral Artistic Services; www.astralartisticservices.org Trinity Center for Urban Life
3.15.2008 Philip Hamilton’s “Voices” Painted Bride Art Center; www.paintedbride.org Painted Bride Art Center
2.26.2008 “Soundfield@Slought: Polwechsel | Archives of the North” Featuring Werner Dafeldecker, Martin Brandylmayr, John Butcher, Michael Moser, and Burkhard Beins Slought Foundation; www.slought.org Slought Foundation 2.29.2008 “Out There: Radical Musical Cultures” John Zorn + Milford Graves International House; http://www.ihousephilly.org/ International House Philadelphia 2.29.2008 “Relâche: The Wonderful Sound” World premieres by Randall Woolf and Bobby Zankel Relâche; www.relache.org Location TBA
2.4.2008 Brentano Quartet with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, piano, perform a Philadelphia premiere by Gabriela Frank Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Pennsylvania Convention Center Auditorium, room 114
3.1.2008 “Relâche: The Wonderful Sound” World premieres by Randall Woolf and Bobby Zankel Relâche; www.relache.org Location TBA
2.8.2008 Art After 5 presents Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra World premiere of Mike Holober’s “Hiding Out” Philadelphia Museum of Art; http://philamuseum.org/artafter5/ Philadelphia Museum of Art
3.4.2008 Leila Josefowicz, violin & John Novacek, piano, perform the Philadelphia premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s “Conversio” Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
2.8.2008 “Le poeme de la femme: Susie Ibarra: New and Recent Works” World premiere of the newly commissioned “Kit: Music for 4 Pianists,” “These Trees That Speak” for percussion quartet, and duets from Electric Kulintang Ars Nova Workshop; www.arsnovaworkshop.com Settlement Music School, 416 Queen Street
3.6.2008 “Le poeme de la femme” Phantom Orchard with Zeena Parkins and Ikue Mori Ars Nova Workshop; www.arsnovaworkshop.com Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia
3.18.2008 Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano, performs the Philadelphia premieres of Elliott Carter’s “Caténaires” and George Benjamin’s Piano Figures Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; www.pcmsconcerts.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 3.20.2008 “Soundfield@Slought: Ossatura + Ensemble Noamnesia” Graphic scores by Anthony Braxton and Franco Evangelisti Slought Foundation; www.slought.org Slought Foundation 3.30.2008 Pianist Andrius Zlabys & Friends perform the world premiere of Yevgeniy Sharlat’s Piano Quartet Astral Artistic Services; www.astralartisticservices.org Trinity Center for Urban Life 3.30.208, 3.31.2008 “Terry Riley Meets Maurice Ravel” World premiere of Terry Riley’s Triple Concerto, with David Tannenbaum and Gyan Riley, guitar, Krista Bennion Feeney, violin, and Terry Riley, piano The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia; www.chamberorchestra.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
2.10.2008 “American Composers Orchestra: Culture Shock” Philadelphia premieres by Uri Caine, Fred Ho, Michael Tenzer, and Terry Riley Penn Presents; www.pennpresents.org Harold Prince Theater, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts PMP 12
3.7.2008, 3.8.2008, 3.9.2008 “No Strings Attached: love and death with music and puppets” Marguerite Krull, soprano, David Newman, baritone, and Aaron Sheehan, tenor, with Mock Turtle Marionette Theater Tempesta di Mare; www.tempestadimare.org Plays and Players Theater
4.5.08 “Fear & Loathing: The Music of Phil Kline” Todd Reynolds, violin, Wilbur Pauley and Theo Bleckmann, vocals Kimmel Center Presents; www.kimmelcenter.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 4.11.2008, 4.12.2008 “Spoken” World premieres by Paul Epstein, Richard Belcastro, Stratis Minakakis, and Gene Coleman Chamber Music Now!; www.chambermusicnow.org The Philadelphia Ethical Society 4.12.2008 “An African American Triptych: ‘Blake’” World premiere by H. Leslie Adams Opera North; www.operanorth.com Trinity Center for Urban Life
4.12.2008 “Mysteries for Orchestra: Le raccordement français!” World premiere of Jay Reise’s Violin Concerto with Maria Bachmann, violin Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 4.13.2008 “Mysteries for Orchestra: Le raccordement français!” World premiere of Jay Reise’s Violin Concerto with Maria Bachmann, violin Orchestra 2001; www.orchestra2001.org Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College 4.26.2008 Veenai Jayanthi Kumaresh SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society; www.sruti.org Location TBA 4.27.2008 “American Composers Orchestra: Playing it UNsafe” World premieres of works by American composers Penn Presents; www.pennpresents.org Iron Gate Theater, 3700 Chestnut Street 4.27.2008 “Spring on the Square” World premieres by Sebastian Currier, Shulmanit Ran, and George Tsontakis Network for New Music; www.networkfornewmusic.com The Philadelphia Ethical Society
May 2008 5.11.2008 Philadelphia Klezmer: The Hoffman Watts Family Tradition Philadelphia Folklore Project; www.folkloreproject.org World Café Live
June 2008 6.7.2008 “An African American Triptych: ‘Egypt’s Nights’” World premiere by Leslie Savoy Burrs Opera North; www.operanorth.com Trinity Center for Urban Life TBA “Le poeme de la femme” An Evening with Jenny Scheinman Ars Nova Workshop; www.arsnovaworkshop.com
Around Philadelphia, the World Beckons
by Anastasia Tsioulcas
Musicians and dancers from all over the world have found a home in Philadelphia, and it’s no wonder—the city has welcomed a diverse array of new arrivals ever since its founding.
Page 14: Gypsy jazz guitarist Kruno Spisic Page 15: Klezmer drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, photo by James Wasserman Klezmer trumpeter Susan Hoffman Watts, photo by James Wasserman
According to research published by the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies at the Historical Society of Philadelphia and the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, the city has experienced a decline in immigration in the 20th century and into the 21st; it’s a pattern unlike other major American cities, which have seen continued immigrant growth. Nonetheless, many vibrant ethnic communities have made the Philadelphia area their new home, including Central Europeans in the period immediately following World War II, Cubans, Greeks, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Koreans. Today, the communities in Philadelphia with the largest number of foreign-born members are from Vietnam, Ukraine, China, India, and Jamaica, while groups from other nations such as Mexico are becoming larger and having an ever-increasing presence in the city. All these groups, and so many more, have contributed their own traditions, talents, and experiences to the area’s cultural mosaic. Together, along with practitioners of entirely
homegrown musical forms such as bluegrass and country (not to mention such singularly America-rooted genres like jazz and blues), musicians from these ethnic communities are piecing together a wonderfully diverse and fantastically rich musical scene of their own that at once pays homage to their respective ethnic heritages and asserts a uniquely American identity. (A word about words: what to call this genre is a matter highly contested and heartily argued over in industry and academic circles. For one thing, it encompasses hundreds of disparate traditions, so even referring to it as a single entity is deeply troublesome. “Folk” music is problematic, in that many traditions from around the world that fall into this category are “high” or “art” music traditions analogous to Western classical music, such as the elaborate and rigorously structured customs of Indian classical music. The label “world music” defines it by what it is emphatically not rather than what it is—not Europeancentered classical music, and not the American- or UK-produced pop sung in English and targeted to appeal to a mass audience. “World music” also intimates that the musicians are living and working primarily abroad and not within this country, when in fact many musicians in this category either currently live in the West or—as is increasingly the case—were born in North America and are as American as anyone else. Similarly, dubbing this genre “international” music ignores the extraordinary contributions and activities of artists living and working in the United States. Using the term “traditional” music belies the dy-
namic innovations and contributions current artists are making today, and “ethnic” is imprecise, as everyone is in some way ethnic, even if they come from a cultural or racial majority population. Nevertheless, convenience dictates the use of a single term, however imprecise. This writer is using the term currently preferred within the music business: world music.) No matter how large or small each individual ethnic community is, however, they all contribute to the artistic panoply of the Philadelphia area. In fact, many of the most vibrant and committed contributors to the live arts and dance scene in Philadelphia are individual artists from around the globe, as well as small and specialized presenting organizations that focus on the artistic traditions of particular regions or even countries, ranging from the Philadelphia Chinese Opera Society to the Association de Musicos y Artistas Latino Americanos to the Kule Mele African American Dance Ensemble. One such artist is Kruno Spisic, a Canadian guitarist of Croatian descent who now calls Philadelphia home. Just 30 years old, his sophisticated music blends jazz manouche—the hot Gypsy jazz perfected by such legends as Django Reinhart—with the sounds of Balkan music with which he was surrounded growing up, even though he played rock and blues guitar as a teenager. “During college, a friend introduced me to manouche via a cassette of the Rosenberg Trio, one of the great Romani [Gypsy] groups,” Spisic explains. “I just couldn’t get enough of it. I think a lot of this style was sweet to my ears already, since I had grown up with Balkan music. But manouche just got under my skin.” The guitarist describes his style as Gypsy jazz with some Balkan flavor and even a little swing thrown into the mix. “Because my music crosses a lot of genres, we attract a really mixed audience,” he notes. “Swing lovers, Balkan music fans… a lot of people show up not knowing what to expect, but my hope is that they leave with smiles on their faces and tapping toes.” Certainly, audiences are taking note of his brilliant technique and dazzling style: performances this season include dates at Chicago’s Symphony Hall (playing alongside one of his idols, Angelo Debarre), New York’s famed Birdland jazz club, and—even further afield—a Gypsy guitar festival in New Caledonia (islands about 1500 miles east of Australia). Much nearer home: performances at the Kimmel Center and World Café Live. Svitanya, a group of female singers ranging in age from their early twenties into their mid-sixties, performs music from all over Eastern
Europe. The group’s current membership of nine includes a mother-daughter set. “That’s a point of special pride for us,” says Svitanya vocalist Mary Kalyna, “because so much of what we sing is women’s music, and we perform many songs that have traditionally been passed along from generation to generation, mother to daughter.” The ensemble, whose programs usually encompass a wide variety of diverse songs from across the region, sees its mission as multifold. “One of our main goals,” says Svitanya vocalist Mary Kalyna, “is to take this wonderful material to a wider audience. Artists have worked so hard, and often under great duress, to preserve these kinds of music and traditions in their native lands. We feel a great duty to help share it and honor their efforts and one way to do that is to make sure that we offer a context for each song before we perform it—maybe by giving a translation, or telling a story about it, or talking about the vocal style of that particular tradition. But other times, we perform for ethnic audiences at an ethnic venue; for example, we might sing mostly Ukrainian music for a Ukrainian audience at a Ukrainian church festival. And that can result in some really emotional moments—people come up to us, wiping tears from their eyes, and say they haven’t heard these songs since they were children. That is so gratifying.” Small presenters are also an important part of the Philly world music scene. One such organization is SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society. (The word sruti, pronounced “shroo-tee,” literally means “what is heard.”) Founded 21 years ago by a group of Indian immigrants to the greater Delaware Valley area, SRUTI’s mission is to promote an appreciation and awareness of Indian classical music and dance. “When we began,” says Ramana Kanumalla, SRUTI’s president, “the organization was catering primarily to the Indian immigrant community in our area. Now, we are reaching out to a much wider audience base.” The group presents about 10 concerts per year, including two to three performances of Indian classical dance. While at least one event each season showcases north Indian classical (Hindustani) music, most performances
Left: Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra
the World Beckons
Right: Svitanya Eastern European women’s vocal ensemble
are geared to south Indian classical music, a style known as Carnatic music which is a style less known in the West than its Hindustani sister. (Indian classical artists best known to American audiences, such as sitarist Ravi Shankar, come from the Hindustani side of Indian classical music.) The primary reason for SRUTI’s southern emphasis is because the majority of its membership comes from various regions of southern India. “Coming from these home states,” Kanumalla confirms, “our members created a real demand for access to specifically Carnatic music.” SRUTI has been host to many of the most popular and prominent Indian artists of our time,
seeking out artists and art forms that fall through the cracks in terms of getting visibility from more mainstream organizations,” she observes. “One way of accomplishing that is to help artists and ensembles navigate grant opportunities, and another is creating broader visibility and appreciation for these artists and their forms through presentations and exhibitions.” Along with helping to sustain folk and ethnic traditions long established in Philadelphia, the Folklore Project is also assisting more recent arrivals to the area to nurture their own artistic traditions. “For example,” notes Shapiro-Phim, “within the past few years we have seen an influx of Mexican immigrants to our city, and we have assisted a group that specializes in pre-Aztec, indigenous music and dance form their own 501(c)(3).” The Folklore Project also helps connect artists to other members of
including the vocalist Yesudas, violinist L. Shankar, mandolin player U. Srinivas, sitarists Shujaat Khan and Anoushka Shankar, saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath, and the Nrityagram dance ensemble, among many others. “We have also introduced a very popular new chamber concert series,” observes Kanumalla, “for younger and second-tier artists to present concerts in very cozy settings like private homes, small halls, and temples and churches.” Another organization that seeks to create deeper bonds between artists from around the world and audiences around the area is the Philadelphia Folklore Project, founded in 1987 by Director and Folklorist Debora Kodish. According to Toni Shapiro-Phim, the Folklore Project’s associate director, a primary goal is to identify outstanding artists and artistic traditions. Another important aspect of their work, says Shapiro-Phim, is to help give a boost in profile to such performers. “We are really
their ethnic communities. “Often,” says Shapiro-Phim, “immigrant musicians, dancers, and visual artists are isolated not just from their home countries, but also from each other. For example, the highest-caliber musicians would have played together in government-sponsored ensembles in their home nations. But once they emigrate to the United States or elsewhere, they lose those connections to their artistic peers. Part of what we do is to help them reestablish those bonds.” For example, for programming in a project called “African Song: New Context” last April, the Folklore Project brought together Liberian artists now living in cities and communities all over the United States to convene in Philadelphia for an emotional reunion. The Folklore Project strives to provide background material and resources so that audiences can better understand and appreciate the artists they support and their traditions; as she points out, the “African Song” series, which received funding from the Philadelphia Music Project and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, also included scholarly discussions of Liberian music and post-concert talks. Along with their live programming and exhibitions, another increasingly important facet of the Folklore Project is to create mini-
documentaries of about three to five minutes in length for public television, a form which Shapiro-Phim calls “video postcards.” The first such documentary to be shown on WHYY showcased the work of klezmer musicians Elaine Hoffman Watts and her daughter Susan Hoffman Watts from Philadelphia Klezmer, who play traditional Eastern European Jewish music; Elaine was recently given the prestigious title of National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. “We’re currently working on another such video postcard about Liberian singers,” notes Shapiro-Phim. Another of this season’s performances features the Flamenco del Encuentro, performing traditional Spanish flamenco, in a performance pairing them with the jazz-tap artists Germaine Ingram and Ensemble co-presented by The Painted Bride. In addition, there are exciting groups based around Philadelphia whose artistic mission is not strictly tied to one ethnic tradition. One such ensemble is the Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra, who binds together four of the world’s most energetic and exciting drum traditions—Afro-Cuban bata (a sacred drumming which originated in Yoruban religious ritual), Brazilian samba (another cross-cultural hybrid, this time from the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, which probably has its roots in the Congo and Angola), the North Indian tabla, and the West African djembe. Other local ensembles seek to underscore the ties that transcend categories of culture, religion, and political boundary. One such ensemble is Atzilut, which brings together Jewish and Arab musicians to explore commonalities in their respective musical traditions as well as music from around the region. Another area group that explores cross-cultural ties is the Prophecy Music Project, led by Osubi Craig, who in performances and residencies explores music and its functions across the African Diaspora, from West Africa to the Caribbean to South America to the United States. In addition, many of the largest arts institutions in the Philadelphia area do present world music artists as part of their regular programming. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a leader in this area; their 2007-08 schedule ranges from Belize’s Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective (this year’s winners of the WOMEX Award, a prestigious world music industry prize) to the mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul to the regal and extraordinarily talented singer Angelique Kidjo from Benin. This season’s Kimmel Center offerings embrace some of the globe’s most popular and prestigious artists, including Senegal’s Grammywinner and pop legend, Youssou N’Dour and Ireland’s evergreen favorites The Chieftains. The Kimmel is also bringing to the fore less well known but highly accomplished and marvelous artists including the Afro-Peruvian singer now based in Mexico, Tania Libertad, as well as the Shoghaken troupe from Armenia. Over at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an eclectic roster of world music artists are appearing at the Friday evening “Art After 5” programs this fall and winter, including Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda, new klezmer artists Klingon Klez, and the jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa (who significantly incorporates aspects of south Indian classical music into his own work). Last season, the renowned Painted Bride Art Center launched the new “XL Series” with a grant from the Philadelphia Music Project. The series showcases large ensembles from across the globe, beginning with
a November program that featured Gamelan Cudamani, a 26-member dance and music ensemble from Bali performing an Odalan, the visually and musically dazzling Balinese temple festival ritual. World dance also figures prominently at the Painted Bride this season, including performances by the Courtyard Dancers, who combine the dance vocabulary of Indian kathak and other regional forms with everyday gestures to formulate sharp social commentary. What all this diverse and exciting activity demonstrates is that Philadelphia’s world music scene is vividly alive, deeply interesting to a wide audience—one that goes far beyond the relative
confines of individual ethnic groups—and very much part of the city’s own ethnic fabric. Undoubtedly, as Philadelphia’s profile continues to shift, the artists, groups, and organizations who work tirelessly to present the best musical and dance traditions from across that varied landscape will find even more exciting and innovative ways to bring those rich inheritances to a broad public. Anastasia Tsioulcas is a New York City-based writer and critic specializing in classical and world music. She has written for Billboard Magazine, Gramophone Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out New York, Travel & Leisure, Songlines in the UK; O, The Oprah Magazine, Jazz Times and Down Beat.
George Crumb’s Autobiography George Crumb is finishing his autobiography. Not in so many words, but in “American Songbook,” the six books of folk song settings he finished, after five years’ work, in summer 2007. The final two books, “Voices from a Forgotten World,” and Book VI will be premiered over the next two seasons by Orchestra 2001. It’s a complicated undertaking, for the 78-year-old composer finds deeply personal meaning and reference is almost every note of the songs he has so carefully set. He is equally enthralled by the vast field of percussion instruments with which he has surrounded the pristine songs.
by Dan Webster
Imagine George Crumb, explorer among clouds of percussion, transformer of fragmented bits of poetry by Garcia Lorca, inventor of ceremonial pieces for orchestra and who has been long an icon of the far-reaching new, writing settings of “Down in the Valley,” and “Give Me that Old Time Religion?” It’s his autobiography. The 52 songs were written in his genetic code, part of his growing up in West Virginia. He heard them from his parents and grandparents, and after marrying Elizabeth, sang them to their children. What a complex narrator in this autobiography! That folk song heritage was hardly apparent as he found his voice as a composer. His music was thorny, requiring players of exacting virtuosity—and soul. Even reading the scores required a new approach for players, for many were works of graphic art, inviting instead of commanding entrances or nuance, and asking a new understanding of musical connections. Then, almost 40 years ago, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his orchestra work, “Echoes of Time and the River” which sent players on ceremonial processions on stage. He wrote chamber music for masked players, he incorporated amplified piano, whale song and a widening circle of instruments, sonorities—and pitches—drawn from other cultures. This wasn’t the voice of Appalachia, it was the embrace of virtually all music. His autobiography reminds listeners of a sweep of emotion and power of theatricality in his earlier works. It all started when his daughter, Ann, asked for some Appalachian songs, something she could incorporate in recitals and concerts. The plea sent him headlong into years of work. “It took all of my time,” he recalled one afternoon at his home in Media. “I’m just finishing Book VI and then I’ll be done with the whole darned thing,” “I was obsessive. These were songs from my formative years. I just had to set them. I find something mythical in them. I use only percussion with them. (I count the piano as a percussion instrument.) I know percussion. It’s sort of the underside of music and much underused.” Not underused in this group of songs. Listeners will hear gongs and bells from Japan, Cambodia, China, India and Thailand, rattles from Egypt, whistles, tuned water goblets and several other instruments played in water—even a water cannon—wood blocks, stones, and a toy piano. The four percussionists playing in Book V will each have more than 20 different instruments to play. The songs remain in pure form, but the percussion paints large with swaths of anger, loss, serenity, laughter. The entire set will have been recorded on the Bridge label; “Unto the Hills” and “The River of Life” have been released. His unique situation is clear to him. “These are my Esterháza years,” he says, comparing his immersion in the life of Orchestra 2001 with Haydn’s all-consuming musical life with Prince Esterházy at his castle in Hungary. Conductor James Freeman has made the orchestra the voice of George Crumb, and the composer works closely with the players in rehearsal. “It’s a workshop situation,” he says. “I can hear what works and I can change things and suggest to the players ways to get the sounds I want. Jim knows my style, and the players are extraordinary. Jim and I talk all the time. They have already performed the first book at the
Salzburg Festival. Jim plans big tours in two years—my 80th birthday—and I’m realizing that I haven’t been very practical in writing these songs. The cost of carrying all these percussion instruments is immense. But I know my job is not to be practical. If I hear a sound in my head, I have to reach out to create it.” Whether the closeness of the orchestra and Freeman is responsible, or whether this is a late season flood of inspiration, the fact is that Crumb’s life buzzes with productivity. At the concert in September, Freeman and Marcantonio Barone played a new two-piano work, “Otherworldly Resonances.” “I have more things in mind,” he says. “I want to write for orchestra again, and I want to write for chamber orchestra, I’ve never done that before. And I have a piano work in my head…” It’s a drive few composers can sustain, yet Crumb thrives. He’s early in bed, early up. He makes time to read. “I’ve collected some nice books with leather bindings. I love to read, mostly classics, and I enjoy beautiful books.” He doesn’t live in walled-off silence. His wife has been an active musical partner. The five dogs his daughter has rescued from pounds in New York compete for his affection. Will the final book of songs include dogs barking? His music and his work are in the present. When he looks back over his catalog he says perspective is hard to maintain “You know, some of these were written a third of a century ago, or more. You forget what you were thinking then.” Audiences knew what he was thinking when his Book V was premiered in September. That set included “Bringing in the Sheaves.” His new piano duet also has that tune embedded in the texture. He is harvesting now, not planting. Dan Webster was music critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1964 to 1999.
In the middle of “Hijera” on her 1980 live album Shadows And Light, Joni Mitchell asks her audience to listen for “shades of Michael Brecker coming through the snow and the pinewood trees.” On cue, the Philadelphia-born saxophonist saunters in, and in just a few measures, his soprano saxophone steers Mitchell’s restless ode in a new direction. There’s nothing unusual about the break—Brecker, who died in January 2007 after a struggle with a rare blood disorder, routinely laced apt and idiomatically astute magic into the tiniest crevices of pop tunes. What’s unusual is Mitchell’s name-dropping. It’s like she’s lifting the curtain on what she once famously termed the “star-maker machinery behind the popular song” long enough to reveal one of her secret weapons—Brecker’s fiery saxophonistics, which was also an X-factor on records by James Taylor, Paul Simon, Funkadelic, John Lennon and countless others.
by Tom Moon
Brecker’s unmistakable saxophone sound—wily, agitated and bursting with life—routinely lit up pop records through the ‘70s and ‘80s. But he remained largely anonymous, a sultan of the studio, a hotshot hired-gun. Not many who heard his brief solos knew about the Brecker Brothers, the pioneering jazz-funk-fusion band he co-led with his brother Randy, a trumpet player. Fewer knew about his contributions to jazz records—among them Pat Metheny’s expansive 80/81, Chick Corea’s Three Quartets and the projects of the band called Steps Ahead. Several years after the Shadows and Light tour, Brecker began to change that: In 1986 he recorded his first solo album, and began touring with a small jazz group. Though he continued to take studio work, Brecker quickly developed a compelling “jazz” voice; over the next two decades, he created nine smartly arranged and forward-looking albums that deftly update jazz tradition while sidestepping the ongoing semantic debates about the music’s provenance/heritage. These projects reflect his wide interests—some contain reworkings of standards (the best of these is The Nearness of You: The Ballad Book, an understated set of torch songs in the tradition of John Coltrane’s classic Ballads), others veer into rumbling African polyrhythmic vamps or elaborate progressive rock development sections. These showcase Brecker’s thrillingly succinct, cut-to-the-chase improvisations (a byproduct of those eight-bar solo cameos), and benefit from the spirited contributions of such highprofile associates as Metheny and Herbie Hancock. As jazz albums go, Brecker’s were extraordinarily successful: not only did they sell well, but they brought him 11 Grammy Awards. In a sense, Brecker was groomed for the jazz-soloist role from a young age. His father, a lawyer, played piano at home, and encouraged his children to take up music. Brecker once told the New York Times that his father took the family to “jazz concerts the way other kids went to ball games.” Throughout his childhood and during his years at Cheltenham high, Brecker and his siblings went to concerts by many of the legends of jazz, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Brecker recalled a 1965 Coltrane performance at Temple University as pivotal—the moment he knew he wanted to dedicate his life to music. Though the elder Brecker loved jazz, he made sure his kids had solid grounding in the fundamentals of music. Michael Brecker began playing clarinet at age seven, switched to alto sax in high school and by tenth
grade was playing mostly tenor. For much of that time, he was taught by Philadelphia Orchestra principal clarinetist Leon Lester. Brecker attended Indiana University, and though he intended to study medicine, he wound up focusing on music. He left for New York after his freshman year, and by 1969 was involved in one of the great early jazz-rock fusion bands, Dreams, led by Billy Cobham. At that time, a distinguishing characteristic of Brecker’s playing was his mind-boggling technical command—he could play faster, higher and at greater levels of intensity than any other saxophonist on the planet. The Brecker Brothers provided a suitable platform for those pyrotechnics; the group’s best late ‘70s works are machine-gun funk studded with dizzyingly complex run-on-sentence lines that sometimes resemble Coltrane’s “sheets of sound.” As he matured, Brecker became less concerned with displays of scissoring virtuosity, and more interested in cultivating expansive melodies. He began to truly sing on the horn. This approach, in evidence on The Nearness of You and Two Blocks From The Edge, sent the young saxophonists who’d emulated his early style back to the drawing board: Suddenly Brecker’s whiplash inducing riffs were replaced by a highly idiosyncratic personal language of heartfelt slurps and squiggles. He’d always had his own sound, but now, in an evolution experienced by many older jazz musicians, Brecker acquired his own vocabulary to match. Where once he’d specialized in improvisations with a high gee-whiz factor, Brecker became less assertive and more thoughtful. His notes could be transcribed, but the thought process behind them was impossible to cop, the work of a stealth genius as elusive as the wind through the trees. Formerly a music critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Moon’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Harp, Vibe, and Spin, as well as NPR’s All Things Considered. Moon is at work on his first book, 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, to be published in 2007.
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“I Dwell in Possibility”: Emerging Composers on Composing by willa rohrer
The slipperiness of the term suggests something about the current climate of “serious” music in America—and, more specifically, about its audience. Unlike emerging Hollywood starlets, Top Chefs, or hedge fund managers, emerging composers are not discussed on television, occupy no clear-cut economic class, and have no unified audience or single professional association to evaluate or comment on their progress. It isn’t necessarily burgeoning fame and prestige that marks one as “emerging,” nor the number or size of grants, prizes, and commissions one receives. (In fact, Meet the Composer’s Basic Guide to Commissioning includes this ominoussounding coda: “All fees are negotiable. There is a composer for every budget.”) But before we can understand what it means for Belcastro, Minakakis, Holober, and Sharlat to be “emerging composers,” we must first understand their stories. Where do they come from? And more important: where do they hope to go?
Richard Belcastro grew up in a small farming town north of Sacramento. From an early age, he was drawn to many kinds of music. “My first concert experiences were Guns N’ Roses and MC Hammer,” he laughs, “so it was already varied back then.” As a child he also enjoyed early do-wop, Elvis, and Buddy Holly. One grandfather loved playing Chopin for Belcastro; on the other side of the family, his grandparents “were into Italian folk songs.” Belcastro began writing rock music in junior high, but he didn’t begin to compose seriously until he was an undergraduate at UC Davis, where he received a B.A. in music. Belcastro’s intention then was “to learn to write a better rock song,” but he “veered off course and ended up doing a lot more interesting stuff.” He went on to receive a Master’s degree in composition from Brandeis University, working with a group of teachers that was “about as eclectic” as his musical tastes. He moved to Philadelphia to pursue a PhD in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania, but a year later realized that he and Penn were ill-suited for each other, and decided to leave school altogether. In 2002, he and another young composer, David Laganella, founded Chamber Music Now!, a new music organization that presents contemporary (and unconventional) chamber works, often by relatively unknown composers—including Laganella and Belcastro themselves. In addition to freelance composing—and composing, presenting, and producing for Chamber Music Now!—Belcastro has a day job: assistant director for Education & Community Partnerships at the Philadelphia Orchestra. His professional experiences have taught him how difficult it can be for other young or obscure composers to have their music heard. “A specific challenge for me,” says Belcastro “is that I did not end up taking the academic route.” And thus, the benefits that come with being part of a university—time off, networking opportunities, access to guest artists who would perform his work—were not available to him. “I had to figure out how to make [those benefits] on my own, which is very difficult when you don’t have the connections. I think that is sort of what Chamber Music Now! was for me—it gave me those opportunities that being in an institution, like any university, would have.” Time to focus only on composition is what Belcastro does not have, however. “I’m always jealous when I talk to my friends who are in academia and they have their two to three months off in the summer and they’re composing away every day.” He mock-whimpers, “I long for that!” But working outside of the academy has advantages, too. “The freedom that comes with this is that I’m not tied as an artist to any kind of school of thought... it won’t effect my job if I do something funky,” he says. “If I write something crappy, that’s a whole other issue—but trying something new, I feel very free to do it, and to just have fun writing music.” Fun is indeed one of the governing principles of Belcastro’s writing. His music, which fuses elements of rock, jazz, pop, and classical, can seem at once structured and antic, thoughtful and free-wheeling. Belcastro began experimenting with genre partly for the thrill of getting away with it; as a student, he “loved fighting” with “certain professors who were very strict on what you do and don’t do where genre crossing is there.” But more than the desire to push boundaries, the way in which he employs genre comes out of a deep respect for and love of music, whether it is “silly, complex, playful or serious.” And there
(b. 1976, California) Commissioned by Chamber Music Now! for “Spoken,” a project that pairs four composers with four poets
is nothing haphazard about the end result: “Though you may start in one place and end some place very different, along the way you didn’t feel that you were being pulled. You were just being led,” he says. The process of deciding where to go in a piece is, for Belcastro, more important than where he begins. “I’ve always been a firm believer that composition is not about what the idea is, but how you work with it. And that one of the more fun challenges in writing is taking the most odd, the most difficult idea you’ve got, and making it work.” But how does one convince other people that those ideas are worth listening to? In regards to self-promotion, Belcastro says, “I think everybody’s in the same kind of situation: you have your product; if it’s quality, someone will see that, [but] is there a way to expedite this process? I don’t know, but I’m trying everything that I can for myself.” For Belcastro, technology is a part of that effort: he broadcasts his music via podcast and makes samples available for download on his Web site. “I have a podcast that takes 15 minutes to put together, and probably another hour to post into enough directories to get people to listen to it, and I think last month I had about 3,000 hits on it. And it’s like, ‘All right, well last month 3,000 people listened to my music. I don’t know if they liked it, but at least they listened.’” PMP 23
“I Dwell in Possibility”: Emerging Composers on Composing
When Stratis Minakakis was seven or eight years old, he began writing music in secret. “I was studying piano at the time,” recalls Minakakis, “and I must say I wasn’t liking it very much.” His father, Dmitris Minakakis, was a “strict theory teacher” who wanted Stratis to master the basics of performance and theory before attempting to create his own work. “Finally around the age of 11,” he says, “my dad and I had an argument about some Rossini pieces that [he] loved and I hated. And I said that I can write better than that... that’s how little I knew at the time.” Minakakis showed his father what he had been working on, “and from then on he was encouraging”—so encouraging that they began to study composition together, despite the fact that Dmitris Minakakis “did not believe in
teaching composition” in the way that one teaches other disciplines. While in high school, Minakakis enrolled in the Atheneum conservatory in Athens, where he continued his piano and theory training. He came to the United States to attend Princeton University, studied at Julliard with Claudio Spies (“a tremendous influence, a wonderful man, a wonderful musician”), and then received a Master’s degree in Composition from the New England Conservatory. He is currently completing his PhD in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania—but after that, the future is uncertain. “I’ve never been more in love with being a composer,” he says. “I wish the day had 48 hours, because [there’s]
Stratis Minakakis (b. 1979, Athens, Greece) Commissioned by Chamber Music Now!
Above: fragment of a sketch by Stratis Minakakis, courtesy of the composer
just not enough time to do all the things—you know, write, read new things, play the piano, go to the library. But I’m also very preoccupied about how to make a living as a composer doing composition. So it’s a balance between the two, and my biggest challenge now is the fact that I’m 28 years old, I’ve been financially independent for a number of years, but it’s close to the time where I need to have a real job, and I’m trying to figure that out. So that’s a kind of anxiety that I think a lot of my colleagues share.” And yet, for Minakakis, success as a composer has little to do with how much recognition he gets, or how widely his music is performed. “I want to write one piece that’s extraordinary and have it performed by the best ensemble, and that’s that.” Having been busy with commissions since the age of 17, his main focus has been artistic growth rather than self-promotion. “I write music that will allow me to develop, music that will open for me a window into the future. In this respect, all of my works are kind of anticipating the next work, and never recycling the previous work.” During his two years at the New England Conservatory, Minakakis worked 50 hours a week to support himself. Though it was challenging, he calls this time “the most productive of my life so far,” because it forced him to learn to make the most out of every spare moment. He wrote on trains and between lessons, simply because he could not imagine doing anything else. “That’s the basis of what I do: this enormous love for this thing,” he says. Although some of his pieces seem to reflect an interest in Greek traditions—“Ek Vatheon” for example, is inspired by the tradition of Northwestern Greek lamentations—Minakakis is ardently committed to his position as a contemporary composer writing contemporary music. “This is 2007,” he says, “and I belong in 2007.” For Minakakis, live arts must engage the modern world rather than piously regurgitate the past. “This super conservative, super apologetic music cannot be the only thing that is out there. Composers of my generation cannot just say that. We cannot apologize to the public that
wants to go to classical music to digest a wonderful meal that they’ve had before.” As for his own work, he says, “I like musical lines that defy gravity… Through structure, through very detailed, very carefully planned out structure, I can give an idea of freedom, of complete plasticity in sound and form.” Minakakis compares his forms to the image of a boat approaching an island shrouded in morning mist: first only the outline is visible, but as the boat gets closer, the shape becomes—or appears to become—clearer. “It seems that the object comes closer and closer and closer to you, and either you land there or you kind of elude it. And this eluding I find more attractive.” While he was beginning his piece for Chamber Music Now!, a sudden tragedy occurred: the poet with whom he was collaborating, Sandy Crimmins, died of a heart attack just a few days after delivering her final text to Minakakis. He and the Philadelphia arts community are still recovering from her loss. But Minakakis considers the poem, called “Philadelphia Fire,” to be “a wonderful work,” and plans to use Crimmins’ text to explore “the dialectical relationship of the ensemble to the narrator.” At the same time, Minakakis is also interested in examining the political and aesthetic dimensions of silence in this piece, a preoccupation that he feels marks a “fundamental difference” from his other works. “There is nothing more terrifying than silence, or things that happen at the margins of sound, where it’s between noise and sound… in this work, and in this last year, I find for myself that shouting and whispering are more expressive than singing.... These quiet moments are so much pregnant with meaning.” At the time of our interview, Minakakis is unsure of whether he will remain in America or return to Europe after completing his PhD, but suggests that to some degree, artists are foreigners wherever they reside; emigration is also a kind of creative act. “Iannis Xenakis, an important Greek composer who lived in France, said that we the composers are all immigrants, and I like this idea of emigrating. I try to emigrate in my own work, too, from one place to another.”
“I Dwell in Possibility”: Emerging Composers on Composing
the record came out, and we’ve been playing since then.” His small group debut was Canyon (2003); Thought Trains (2004) was the first Gotham Jazz Orchestra album. A new GoJo record, Quake, was in production at the time of our interview. When asked what kind of experience he hopes to create for someone listening to a Gotham Jazz Orchestra performance, Holober reflects on what it felt like to be in junior high when “you get a new Beatles record... and you listened to this same thing like 60 times, and you’re still not bored with it. And whatever that thing is about it, that it makes you feel good, that you get something out of the music—without analyzing what you’re listening to, or knowing anything about what you’re listening to.”
In some regards, jazz composer and pianist Mike Holober is the most “established” of the emerging composers represented here. He belongs to a different generation than Belcastro, Minakakis, and Sharlat. He also appears to be in a different stage of career—he is a 20 year veteran of the New York City jazz scene, directs and writes for his band The Gotham Jazz Orchestra, and is about to release his fourth commercial recording. At the same time, it seems that he has just begun to gain wider recognition as a composer; one review of Thought Trains, the Gotham Jazz Orchestra’s debut album (recorded in 1996 but not released until 2004), called Holober “a dominant new force on the New York scene.” In Holober’s view, the term “emerging composer” is particularly difficult to assign to someone working in jazz. “In the jazz world a lot of people might not know who you are, and some other people that know a lot about the jazz orchestra scene might say ‘You’re one of my favorite 10 composers anywhere!’ And then other people in a totally different part of the jazz orchestra scene might be like ‘Who is that?’” Holober began studying classical piano at the age of six. In junior high, he developed a taste for rock and jazz and took up the saxophone. Holober continued with his piano training as an undergraduate music student at SUNY Oneonta, where he “met one really great teacher,” the conductor Charles Schneider. Schneider
Mike Holober (b. in New York, 1957) Commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the project “Philadelphia Premieres,” part of the Museum’s Art after 5 jazz series
was Holober’s piano teacher, but functioned “kind of like a music coach.” He recalls, “I learned a lot about rehearsal technique and just being in music from him.” During this time, he began to write tunes for the jazz group in which he was playing saxophone. He also worked frequently as an accompanist for Schneider, and spent summers as a rehearsal pianist for the Glimmerglass Opera Company. In 1983, he received a Master’s in Music from Binghamton University, where he also conducted the jazz band. There he met Al Hamme, the head of the jazz program and “another person that I truly owe a lot to. He just stuck me in a jazz quartet and said ‘Figure it out.’” Holober did just that. In 1986 he moved to New York City and began an informal but rigorous apprenticeship in the city’s jazz scene. “It was just a slow process of meeting people, going to sessions, practicing, word of mouth,” he says. Evidence of this process can be heard on over 30 recordings that feature Holober as a sideman. During those formative years, he met musicians who would later become members of the Gotham Jazz Orchestra, the 17-member big band that he directs, plays in, and writes for, and who will perform his Philadelphia Museum of Art-commissioned piece, “Hiding Out.” His love and respect for these musicians has served as a major source of inspiration for his composition. Holober explains, “If I don’t know who I’m writing for, then in my head I’m writing for the Gotham Jazz Orchestra. Like if there’s a piece that’s commissioned for a group and I don’t know the people in that group, I’m just thinking about the guys in the Gotham Jazz Orchestra. And that’s very specific to the orchestration and the mood and just motivation, too: to kind of put a face—and a personality—with the notes, because most of the guys in that band, I’ve known most of them for like 18 or 19 years.” The idea to form a band came about during the early ‘90s, when Holober was a student at the BMI Jazz Composers workshop (where he now teaches with Jim McNeely and Mike Abene). Holober said that “I was getting a bunch of my music played by bands in New York, and a few people said, ‘You should get it together and record this music!’… And then I just asked a bunch of my friends, we played a couple of gigs, and then PMP 26
Though part of what makes Holober’s music so powerful—and what has garnered it acclaim—is its harmonic and structural sophistication, Holober feels that music must contain more than “just a list of good ingredients.” Instead of trying to prove how knowledgeable he is in his writing, he says, “I’m just thinking about ‘what’s someone that doesn’t know what they’re listening to gonna get out of this?’ Is it going to make them want to listen to it again because it just vibed them well?” At the same time, however, he stresses the importance of understanding how jazz works and what its history means. Holober has been teaching for 25 years; 17 of those have been spent at the City College of New York, where he is currently an assistant professor. “It’s been a blessing… [Having] a full-time job in New York City in a jazz department is just an amazing blessing, but it’s really motivational, too... The student level at City College is very high.” One of Holober’s difficulties is “having a lot of interests and being spread thin. I tend to go in waves of being a piano player and being a composer and being a teacher.” Because Holober’s identity as a composer is bound up with his identity as a musician, finding time to devote himself fully to both is important. When discussing how he balances playing and writing, he says self-deprecatingly, “Well, I always keep one thing in a shambles. I’m either like, ‘can’t write’ or ‘can’t play.’ Which isn’t quite true, but I definitely feel better at the piano when I’m practicing every day.” Artist residency programs have been vital to Holober’s productivity as a composer. He wrote “Hiding Out,” his Philadelphia Museum of Art-commissioned piece, while a resident at the UCross Foundation. He also considers himself fortunate to have been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony four times and the Corporation of Yaddo twice. During those residencies, he says, “I wrote two entire [pieces for]
large ensemble groups, like 70 minutes for big band, 60 minutes for a slightly smaller band, and then a couple of other commissions for jazz ensemble… those dedicated 11 weeks could easily have taken six or seven years of normal life at home.” Looking back on all of the music he’s written, Holober notes, “some of that was commissioned for a pretty good fee, and some of that was commissioned for almost nothing— but I’m glad I wrote all of it.” He adds, “A lot of big band writers, we’re doing it almost just to keep on the scene and be involved in some of the bands that we write for.” “In jazz it’s like, ‘Hey, can you write us a chart? It pays 500 bucks!’ Yeah, cool, if you guys are playing it!”
“I Dwell in Possibility”: Emerging Composers on Composing
“I have many misgivings about my musical education,” laughs Yevgeniy Sharlat. His first serious attempts at composition took place at the Academy of Moscow conservatory, but he began his intensive—and in his mind, “irrelevant”—musical training at the age of six, when he took up violin, piano, and music theory. Though Americans often assume that the Russian system of musical education is superior, Sharlat feels that his true “musical awakening” did not occur until after he left Moscow to attend the Curtis Institute of Music, where his composition career began in earnest. What made him decide to leave? “It seemed like there was very little interest in what I was doing among my peers, among my teachers.” In fact, he adds, “my violin teacher tried her best to hinder all of my efforts in composition as much as she could. And my theory teacher plainly told me that I should just stop doing it right there. And I think that they were really doing me a favor by saying that, because there was not a chance that I could become a composer
orchestra’s performance one of the best of his work to date. If Sharlat had been at a more advanced stage of his career, it might never have happened—as a professional composer, Danielpour couldn’t afford to write the piece for free, but as an unknown student composer, Sharlat couldn’t afford not to write it for free. In this extraordinary opportunity also lies an extraordinary irony: it would appear that the only way for Sharlat to have his music played in his native Russia was to move 4,754 miles away. Sharlat received his M.M. and M.M.A. from Yale, where he is currently a PhD candidate. He feels fortunate to be in a Composition program that awards degrees based on professional rather than academic work. “I see a lot of composers lose touch with reality in doctoral programs, doing academic work and losing focus and falling into obscurity.” This fall, Sharlat makes the transition from being an adjunct instructor to a tenure-track professor at the University of Texas at Austin, which he calls the “ideal place for composition.” When an adjunct professor, he found dividing his time between teaching and composition almost impossible. The quality of his students, however, made up for some of the difficulty. “They stimulate my work. They fuel my creativity, just as I try to fuel theirs.”
Yevgeniy Sharlat (b. 1977, Moscow)
Commissioned by Astral Artistic Services for their 15th Anniversary Concert Series, which premieres works by Sharlat and Paul Schoenfield
Yevgeniiy Sharlat, photo by Andrius Zlabys
with any degree of renown or getting performances or being even acknowledged by anybody in Russia.” Sharlat attributes this in part to the extraordinarily elitist musical climate in his home country, where Great Russian Composers are regarded with a quasi-religious fervor. In Sharlat’s experience, the Russian classical music establishment doesn’t “want to see many composers—they just want to see a god, two gods, three gods.” When he arrived in the United States at the age of 16, however, he found “rich opportunities” awaiting him. At Curtis, those opportunities included working with supremely talented music students. Curtis also provided Sharlat with an unforgettable commission: to write a piece for the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Pavanne for 18 Strings, which the orchestra premiered in the Great Hall of St. Petersburg. The conductor of the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin had originally asked Richard Danielpour, one of Sharlat’s teachers, but Danielpour instead recommended Sharlat, who agreed to write it pro bono. (“Every opportunity arises out of some kind of contact,” Sharlat notes, a statement that Belcastro, Minakakis, and Holober echo.) When Sharlat found out about the project, he says, “I was overjoyed. And I consider it to be my first really important request to write music.” He also considers the
Sharlat is optimistic that finding time to compose will get easier this year, when he will have a lighter course load. Given the two-pronged path for composers in America— teach or don’t—he considers the choice to make a living as a professor to be the best for his creative development. He explains, “One of the goals of mine is to try not to create many works, to be very prolific. And if I were to freelance, it would be necessary for me to become prolific.” He says that instead of having to settle on a method of writing in order to produce many works, “I want to discover a new world with each new composition.” Though he respects and admires those who seek to support themselves entirely with their writing, “that takes a lot of effort and work and stamina and resistance and tenacity, some of which I think that I lack. I prefer not to have to work on many projects, but just devote my attention to one.” Sharlat calls his commissioned piece for Astral Artistic Services, Piano Quartet, “one of the most genuine works I’ve done.” He is particularly eager to hear his piece played by the “intimidating performers” from Astral, including his Curtis classmates Andrius Zlabys, Pavel Ilyashov, and Anton Jivaev, for whom he enjoyed writing music while a student. When asked about whether the classical music tradi-
tion informs his work, Sharlat sighs, “Well, everything I do is derivative. I’m so in love with the music of the past, much more than with the music of the present. It seems that there is no shortage of composers that I supposedly emulate… I used to be ashamed of that. But I’m not anymore, because ultimately I believe that all work is derivative, even the most avant-garde of avant-garde.” One of his goals is “to clarify what I’m trying to do to the audience and to the performers,” which he feels “takes the greatest effort.” Ultimately, he says, “I’m concerned in creating a structure, a building, that doesn’t fall down, doesn’t lean” and can “be contemplated with pleasure.” Sometimes those structures come purely from his imagination, what he calls “abstract” works. But sometimes he finds inspiration in extra-musical materials: drama (while a student at Yale, Sharlat worked as a composer and music director on several theater productions) and literature (such as the work of German author, composer and music critic E.T.A. Hoffman, one of Sharlat’s “gods”). “In a way, in my idealistic reality, I believe that music is about communication. And I must factor in the audience in this situation: what is it that I want the audience to hear?” But because the message that he delivers is ambiguous (“since I myself don’t really understand the
out that he is, of course, incapable of saying whether or not he is truly emerging because “that would suggest that I stand outside myself.” Mike Holober paraphrased a John Corigliano interview in which Corigliano asserted that everyone is emerging until they win a Pulitzer, even if they’re 70 years old when they win it. Yevgeniy Sharlat offered a helpful interpretation of the phrase (composers “who are being heard but have not yet found their niche”), but added gently, “I try not to concern myself with labels that are applied to me.” Richard Belcastro pronounced the term “cute,” and believes that it legitimately describes a stage in his career. But he also asked a series of pertinent questions about where the boundary between “established” and “emerging” begins: “Is an emerging composer a talented student who’s just about to leave academia and start trying to have a career? Is an emerging composer someone who has had five or less major performances? Is an emerging composer someone whose commission price hasn’t exceeded $2,000 yet? Is a faculty member at a university who is 60 years old, had five major commissions still emerging? Or is it an age thing that changes it?” Considering his own career, Belcastro said, “All I know is that [there are] a lot of opportunities and things that I
Perhaps rather than merely describing a state of striving, “emerging” is an approach worth striving for in its own right. message”), Sharlat says, the endeavor is reminiscent of Ionesco’s play “The Chairs”: an old man wishes to deliver a message to the audience, a message which he has been preparing his entire life, but doesn’t feel up to the task, and instead hires an orator to deliver the message on his behalf. Unfortunately, the orator is mute, and resorts to scribbling incomprehensible marks on a chalkboard in front of the audience. Sharlat says, “That’s how I hear sometimes, that’s how I feel sometimes as a composer.” But Sharlat contends that despite these difficulties, “Ultimately there is something that is communicated, even through these mutterings and strange symbols on the chalkboard. Something gets communicated nevertheless, because people come to me and say that they’ve been touched, and that they want to come back and hear it again, even though what I heard was far from what I originally intended.” ··· If an emerging composer composes in a forest... All of the composers featured in this article were pleased to be considered “emerging,” but understandably reluctant to indulge my (most) inane question: what, if anything, does the term mean to you? Stratis Minakakis finds the term flattering but pointed
would love to have happen that far outweigh what has happened so far. So I consider that to be very much emerging.” But can “emerging composer” refer to more than the state of one’s career? What if “emerging” also suggests an attitude toward creation: a need to evolve, to never grow complacent, to be always, in Minakakis’ words, “emigrating” from one place to another in one’s work, in search of new sounds? Or to commit, like Sharlat, to writing less music so that one can “discover a new world” in each piece; or, like Belcastro, to refuse to stop having fun composing; or to never forget how it feels to love a song so much that you listen to it 60 times in a row, like Holober? Perhaps rather than merely describing a state of striving, “emerging” is an approach worth striving for in its own right. Minakakis adds, “I’d like to write music until the day I die… the only promise I can give to anyone, especially myself, is that next year will be different, hopefully better than this year. So, in that way I am looking forward to being continuously emerging.” Willa Rohrer is PMP’s Program Assistant.
Left: Wynton Marsalis, photo by Clay Patrick McBride Right: John Adams, photo by Deborah O’Grady
Music as Memory: Composing American Life by Alyssa Timin
Among the many reasons that people make music, one is to remember a social experience. This year, the Philadelphia Music Project provides support for four programs that commemorate collective moments in very different ways. At the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in collaboration with Yacub Addy and Odadaa!, celebrated one of the birth sites of American music; Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performed John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls,” composed in memory of September 11th; the Kimmel Center will host Phil Kline’s “Zippo Songs,” which honor American soldiers in Vietnam, and Orchestra 2001 premiered the fifth volume of George Crumb’s “American Songbook,” in which he re-envisions turn-of-the-century popular music. Spanning several centuries of political misdeeds, cultural contestation, and artistic invention, these projects highlight the role of memory itself in social change. On June 15th, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts jumpstarted the summer with a collaborative concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Ghanaian percussion ensemble Odadaa!, both based in New York. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, put down his trumpet to conduct the sprawling ensemble, which performed his jubilant composition, “Congo Square.” Beginning from Yacub Addy’s traditional rhythms, driven by the cowbell, Marsalis built a raucous mélange of African, Caribbean, and Latin grooves that sought both to allow each ensemble to shine separately and bring them together in adventurous new hybrids. The 14-movement suite commemorates the public square in New Orleans where, from the mid-1700s until the late 1800s, slaves collected freely on Sunday afternoons to sing, dance, and conduct open-air markets. These weekly gatherings allowed slaves to celebrate their community and produce their own art, fostering a creative climate that grew strong under the French colonial government. Despite suppression under the United States government prior to the Civil War, vibrant musical forms continued to develop among the populations of African and French Creole descent. Famously, at the beginning of the 20th century, these groups brought forth jazz. To Marsalis, Congo Square encapsulates the history of lively cultural fermentation for which New Orleans, his hometown, is known all over the world. “The history of New Orleans people,” he affirms, “is that we’ve always been a resilient people, so it was important that ‘Congo Square’ took on that feeling of a celebration—even in the face of adversity.” Sadly, the image of adversity was forcefully renewed as Marsalis composed the piece, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Delta in August 2005. The disaster, of course, had a major effect on the piece and its premiere performance at the site of its namesake—
now part of Louis Armstrong Park—in April 2006. Ever the optimist and defender of the elevating, democratic spirit of jazz, Marsalis chose to focus on how Katrina brought people together and elicited, as he states, “… so much support from the private sectors in America and help from all over the world.” The two ensembles capitalized on their size and performed the piece as a parade through the city, involving as many people in the occasion as they could. The collaboration culminates with Marsalis’s “sanctified blues,” a playful, “country-type of tune” that does what the blues do best—get us through the darkest moods and harshest moments with a tune that keeps us afloat and a beat that propels us on. Despite its uplifting swing, however, “Congo Square” also voices protest, inviting shame on the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the poor quality of aid that residents received after the storm. Even now, Marsalis notes, “It’s very important to remember that the city still needs support and that there is a great amount of work to be done.” Touring with “Congo Square” has allowed Odadaa! and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to remind the world that New Orleans still needs rebuilding and that it was among the city’s poorest residents that one of America’s most important art forms was born. The project commemorates both the slave communities in which African and French musical traditions fused to become jazz and the recent trial that Hurricane Katrina has posed for American solidarity. Whether the creativity of Congo Square can inspire triumph over the destruction of Katrina remains to be seen. Marsalis is hardly alone in his desire to honor and, to a certain extent, redeem historical tragedies through music. This season will feature works by three additional American composers that similarly commemorate significant moments in the life of the nation. On November 3rd, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performed a major choral work by John Adams, “On the Transmigration of Souls,” which he wrote as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Adams has long been known for his complicated attitude toward the political sphere. His operas, including “The Death of Klinghoffer,” “Nixon in China,” and “Doctor Atomic,” unfailingly explore charged events but pointedly resist taking sides and in fact strive to point out how the individuals at the heart of these events do not fit easily into the absolute attitudes toward which politics tend. For “On the Transmigration of Souls,” Adams likewise avoided any partisan commentary. The piece came about in early 2002. The New York Philharmonic had planned a concert of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for September 19th of that year. However, as Adams explains, “[T]he Philharmonic felt that these concerts needed something that would directly respond to the emotional nature of that an-
niversary” (see http://www.earbox.com/W-transmigration. html). The Philharmonic cut the Stravinsky and, with Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, co-commissioned Adams. “I didn’t require any time at all to decide whether or not to do it,” the composer states. “I knew immediately that I very much wanted to do this piece—in fact I needed to do it.” Looking for a point of entry, he visited Ground Zero in March and observed remnants of “the many little shrines and spontaneous memorials and handwritten messages” that the victims’ family and friends had left. He chose some of these eulogies as his text, as well as a single sentence from a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, “I see water and buildings…” He scored the piece for choir, children’s chorus, and orchestra and recorded sounds of the city—traffic, voices, and footsteps. Again focusing on the individuals caught up by destructive social forces, he aimed not to compose a direct memorial or requiem for 9/11. These terms, he argues, “… too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn’t share.” Instead, Adams refers to “On the Transmigration of Souls” as “a ‘memory space’… a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions.” He compares the large work to a cathedral. In these sacred buildings, he comments, “You feel you are in the presence of many souls, generations upon generations of them, and you sense their collected energy as if they were all congregated or clustered in that one spot.” Carefully subduing both the national outrage that 9/11 has inspired and the specific religious context of the cathedral, his guiding metaphor, Adams evokes the tragically grand scale necessary for thousands of people to mourn the deaths of thousands of others. This is the sense that the composer intends the word PMP 31
Music as Memory: Composing American Life
“transmigration” to take in his title, “the movement of the soul from one state to another.” He explains, “And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then they come away from that experience transformed.” His piece attempts to speak directly to the inner transformation that grieving people undergo. Adams suggests that death and grief form two equal, comparable motions, as though feeling and its expression in music can contain trauma and obviate the dangerous entry into politics. Alan Harler, the artistic director of Mendelssohn Club, heard Adams’ piece soon after its premiere and immediately wanted to perform it. November 3rd, 2007 marked
his first chance. “After this amount of time [since 9/11],” he remarks, “it’s important that people start to hear the piece as music.” As the United States begins to move on from its “post-9/11” mentality, listeners can dissociate “On the Transmigration of Souls” from its cathartic function and begin to appreciate it purely for its beauty, perhaps as good a sign of social healing as any. While Adams deemphasized the political aspects of the subject he commemorated, New York composer Phil Kline is responsible for some of the most incisive commentary to hit Philadelphia’s concert halls this season. Instead of Adams’s humanist austerity, much in line with his minimalist roots, Kline favors black humor. Having begun his music career as a guitarist in the 1980s downtown rock scene, he retains the informal stance and rough edges of an experimental musician. On April 5, 2008, the Kimmel Center’s “Fresh Ink” series presents Kline’s “Zippo Songs,” as well as a new song cycle based on writings by Hunter S. Thompson. The PMP 32
seven “Zippo Songs” also use expressive primary texts from American history; here, short poems that soldiers in Vietnam inscribed on their lighters. Sleek with anger or tender with thoughts of home, the songs are unflinching portraits of men who faced death daily: “Let me win your heart and mind or I’ll burn your hut down.” The “Zippo Songs” cycle also features a setting of David Shapiro’s poem, “The Funeral of Jan Palach” and Kline’s three “Rumsfeld Songs,” with texts from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon briefings. Rumsfeld’s statements make for dizzying found poetry, hopelessly circular while nonetheless entrancing. In “Near-Perfect Clarity,” he intones: I think what you’ll find I think what you’ll find is, Whatever it is we do substantively, There will be near-perfect clarity As to what it is.
Kline has a keen ear for Rumsfeld’s poetics but cuts him no slack for speaking in such pseudo-mystical riddles. “Rumsfeld is such a closet case,” Kline says. “He missed his calling. He should have been a chorus boy in an offBroadway show about Gertrude Stein. Of course, he said all that fanciful gibberish to amuse the press and distract everyone from the truly tragic lies he was endorsing.” Kline doesn’t shy from putting his opinions on the line. When asked whether he set out to be provocative with his recent songs, he responds, “In that my feelings and beliefs are always running like a spring beneath everything I do, and that some might find those beliefs provocative, I guess the answer is yes.” By way of conclusion, he adds, “It seems like a time when if you don’t act upon your beliefs, overtly or covertly, you’re an idiot.” Kline has decidedly lost patience with the past four decades of fatal evasions and invasions. “Zippo Songs” pay bleak homage to the experience of American G.I.’s while calling out the current administration for getting us into
the same war all over again. Unlike the highly charged subjects that Kline, Adams, and Marsalis confront with their compositions, octogenarian George Crumb has been at work on a rather different project, which he calls his “American Songbook.” Long recognized as one of the country’s most brilliant and idiosyncratic composers, Crumb has spent the past five years setting a variety of his favorite folk tunes in his signature style, which emphasizes extended technique, unusual timbres, and amplified instruments, especially piano. Regarding the fifth “book,” “Voices from a Forgotten World,” which Orchestra 2001 premiered on September 15th and 16th, the composer himself admits that he set songs that seem distant to most people and that have lost most of their cultural cache. Like “Congo Square,” in fact, the project makes a long-past musical moment vivid once again. The songs all spring from the decades when popular music, as we now know it, was in its infancy and no one yet knew how thoroughly these little ditties would permeate the airwaves. This ghostly quality seems to appeal to Crumb; he obviously enjoys cultivating the atmospheric potential of these old tunes, eerily pregnant with the era of radio. “Voices from a Forgotten World” comprises an astonishing breadth of moods. Crumb says that he has always been drawn to extreme contrast in all levels of music. “It’s something I picked up from the composers I love… Bartok, Mahler, Debussy, and Charles Ives.” For the spiritual, “Somebody Got Lost in a Storm,”—“a real storm of a piece,” he affirms—he makes heavy use of percussion, as well as a wind machine. The comic “Hallelujah I’m a Bum” is sung “as if through an alcoholic fog,” and his setting of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” should be “barely audible, almost subliminal” at five pianissimos. The current volume came as a surprise to Orchestra 2001 and its artistic director, James Freeman, who in 2005 premiered “The Winds of Destiny” as the project’s final installment. Crumb, however, soldiered on, finding two more books worth of songs that sparked his imagination. After Book VI, he says, he will have used all the songs he was in love with. The surprise, at least, was pleasant for Freeman. “Naturally,” he says, “we’re honored to be so involved in this music.” He adds, “There are very few instances of a composer writing so much for a particular ensemble.” Crumb speaks enthusiastically about the orchestra and his project. His style, he notes, requires “lots of fine tuning and adjustments,” so that working closely with Orchestra 2001 has meant a great deal to the success of the Songbook. For the premiere in September, the composer collected over 150 percussion instruments, keeping Freeman’s performers busy with endless drums, bells, and blocks. Looking over his list, he names some of his more curious choices: steel drums, Native American rattles, a “lion’s roar” made by pulling a rope through a drum membrane, Tibetan prayer stones, Southeast Asian ankle bells, a wooden buffalo bell, the Appalachian jug, kabuki blocks, a surf drum, and Japan’s kokiriko, which, Crumb explains, sounds like dominos falling over. In the midst of this wonderful spectrum of sound,
Left: Composer Phil Kline Right: George Crumb, photo by Becky Starobin, courtesy of www.bridgerecords.com
scored with all the dissonant and atonal resources of contemporary composition, Crumb shelters the old American melodies. His aim has been to “leave the songs intact,” to preserve them in a way that, as he puts it, “their innocence isn’t violated.” He adds, “These tunes are beautiful in their own right, as good as a Beethoven symphony.” He thinks of his settings as a way “to explore psychologically certain depths and clues in the poetry, to bring out the beauty of text in the melody, and to make them truly orchestral in weight.” Peering deeply into the musical capacities of these fragile melodies, the Songbooks are his version of a crossover, just as, he says, “Yo-Yo Ma can play country music on his cello.” Crumb’s project pays a profound compliment to the
early popular music of the United States, revealing how even the most idiosyncratic contemporary composers are willing to look beyond superficial distinctions toward formative moments of their culture. “Voices from a Forgotten World,” “Congo Square,” “On the Transmigration of Souls,” and “Zippo Songs” all commemorate these moments, whether the poetic roots of pop, the creative milieu of Louisiana slaves, or the many recent traumas that have tested the mettle of our nation. They ask us to remember the terrible losses and tremendous gains we have all undergone, as well as the subtle powers of recollection itself. Alyssa Timin lives in New York and is a freelance journalist. She has contributed to the Finnish Music Quarterly, NewMusicBox. com, Sequenza21.com, The Crier, and the Visual Arts Journal.
PMP Professional Development grants
Interdisciplinary Professional Development Grants, Year Two
During the second year of its run, the Interdisciplinary Professional Development Grant (IPDG) program at the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, co-directed by Philadelphia Music Project Director Matt Levy and Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative/ Heritage Philadelphia Program Director Paula Marincola, supported seven new projects. These funds are provided to enable grantees to conduct research and develop new working relationships with artists from outside their principal areas of practice. The Rosenbach Museum and Library received support to research inventive approaches to historic house tours through a series of consultations with artists and scholars spanning multiple disciplines. Video artist Nadia Hironaka received support for a research and development retreat at Fermilab in Batavia, IL, during which she and her collaborators created a comprehensive structure for the project “Principles of Uncertainty,” a large-scale multimedia performance incorporating Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Craft artist Jan Yager received support to attend the 2007 Botany-Plant Biology Joint Congress to further her knowledge of botany and allow her to incorporate accurate and current scientific content into her work. Theater artist Geoffrey Sobelle received support for travel to Forkbeard’s Waterslade Studios in Devon, England to participate in the Forkbeard Fantasy Summer School, a film/video/animation workshop. He also participated in a seven-day mentorship with animator Steven Dufala. The Eastern State Penitentiary received support to engage curator Julie Courtney to research a potential on-site collaboration with musician Vijay Iyer, filmmaker Bill Morrison, and music therapist Tony Meadows. Theater artist Dan Rothenberg received support toward the creation of a “Guideby-Cell” audio guide for painter Alexandra Grant’s first exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA. Ars Nova Workshop received support to initiate a collaborative project with Screening gallery in Philadelphia, including travel to Berlin to meet with and view the work of film artist Anri Sala with an aim towards commissioning a film based on a Philadelphia musician.—E.S.
Field Trip: Vienna 2006 Left: Theater artist Geoffrey Sobelle Right: Principles of Uncertainty performance, photo by Aaron Igler
In November 2006, the Interdisciplinary Professional Development Program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage sponsored a five-night trip to the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna. Directed by Peter Sellars, the Festival celebrated the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, examining his legacy with a series of newly commissioned productions in the fields of music, film, architecture, and the visual arts. Philadelphia Music Project Director Matt Levy and Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative/Heritage Philadelphia Program Director Paula Marincola were joined by nine leaders from the Philadelphia arts community. Together they attended a genre-bending series of performing and visual arts events, including “A Flowering Tree,” a new opera by John Adams, directed by Mr. Sellars; “Showdown at Musikverein 2006 Percussion-Marathon” featuring Martin Grubinger, in which performers played over 200 different percussion instruments for four consecutive hours; “AG Indexical with a little help from H.M.,” a postmodern re-staging of the Balanchine/Stravinksy ballet classic “Agon” by choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer; and a tour of the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) led by curator Achim Hachdoerfer.—W.R.
This year, the Philadelphia Music Project funded eight professional development grants, helping leaders of nonprofit music organizations take advantage of opportunities to expand their knowledge and gain insight into new practices in their field. PMP provided support for local representatives to attend the 2007 World Music Exposition in Seville, Spain; the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture conference in San Antonio, Texas; the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; the Bard Music Festival in Avondale, New York; the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in Cooperstown, New York; the Aspen Music Festival; Midori’s Center for Community Engagement in Los Angeles; Chamber Music America’s national conference in New York City;
the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway; the San Francisco Jazz Festival; and the Festival Beyond Innocence, a festival of experimental and improvisational music in Osaka, Japan. PMP also supported an independent research project to Dresden and Berlin, Germany to examine and transcribe damaged, rare, and newly discovered manuscripts of music by Baroque composers Johann Fasch and Johann Janitsch.—E.S.
Pew Fellows in Music Composition Left to right: King Britt, photo by Eileen Neff Gerald Levinson, photo by Ari Valen Levinson Peter Paulsen, photo by Eileen Neff Jamey Robinson, photo by Eileen Neff
In June, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts , a program of pcah directed by Melissa Franklin, announced its newest crop of fellows, each of whom received a $50,000 award, the largest of its kind in the country. Pew Fellowships are awarded to outstanding artists who live and work in the five-county Philadelphia area, who have a demonstrated commitment and professional accomplishment within their field, and who will continue their artistic growth locally. The program aims to provide support at moments in artists’ careers when a concentration on artistic growth and exploration is most likely to have the greatest impact on their long-term personal and professional development. Of this year’s 12 awards, four went to artists working in the area of music composition: King Britt, Gerald Levinson, Peter Paulsen, and Jamey Robinson. King Britt (38) envisions his work as a journey through the rhythmic textures of urban dance music. He grew up in Philadelphia, and was DJ for the Grammy award-winning hip-hop/soul group Digable Planets. Recently, he wrote original scores for the films Never Lose Sight of Freedom and Miami Vice. Britt’s multimedia live rock project, “King Britt Presents Sister Gertrude Morgan,” was performed around the world, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Nuspirit Festival in Helsinki, Finland. Gerald Levinson’s (55) most recent work, “Toward Light,” for organ and orchestra, was commissioned and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra for the dedication of the new Dobson pipe organ in Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. In 1990, he received the Music Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which cited his “sensitive poetic spirit,” and, “imaginative treatment of texture and color.” He has also received the Prix International Arthur Honegger de Composition Musicale, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Peter Paulsen (55) performs classical music and jazz, both of which influence his compositional style. Three of his CDs, Tri-Cycle, Useful Music, and Three-Stranded Cord, have received international airplay and Top 10 ratings. Paulsen has received three fellowships from the
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, is an active member of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, and is principal bass of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. He is also a freelance jazz bassist and performs regularly with his own trio, as well as many of Philadelphia’s top jazz artists. His most recent release, Change of Scenery, features original compositions for jazz sextet. Jamey Robinson (34) has most recently composed and performed “Buffalo Stance,” musical vignettes about dreams he has had or the elusive revelations that occur right before sleep. He is currently composing a work about marriage called “You are Caught within a Radiant Light.” Robinson studied at the Berkley College of Music and the California Institute of the Arts. He recorded and toured in the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy with the musical art collective Need New Body. The collective was also joined by Marshall Allen and Tyrone Hill of the Sun Ra Arkestra to record “Outer Space,” a piece Robinson wrote in homage to his local hero, Sun Ra. 2007 marks the 16th year of the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and brings the total amount awarded to some of the region’s most gifted artists to $10.4 million. To date, 213 artists have been honored with the distinction of receiving the highly competitive Fellowships. —E.S.
Welcoming Willa Willa Rohrer joined PMP as Program Assistant in May 2007. A Philadelphia native, she has worked as a research and production assistant for documentary filmmaker (and 1997 Pew Fellow) Glenn Holsten, and as a freelance writer and editorial assistant. She has written about books, live arts, and the perils (and pleasures) of riding public transportation for Philadelphia Weekly. She once had a “really embarrassing play” produced by Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and is currently working on a screenplay for an experimental film. Some of her fondest adolescent musical memories took place in Bob & Barbara’s Lounge, where she would sneak in to hear Nate Wiley & the Crowd Pleasers. Willa holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.—E.S.
Warmth for Winter: Philadelphia area music professionals came out in force for PMP’s annual holiday party, held on Tuesday, December 12, 2006. The windows of the Ethical Society of Philadelphia were lit by the glow of 80 eager merrymakers who gathered to celebrate another exciting musical year in Philadelphia.
PMP Holiday Party 2006
Welcoming Roy In May 2007, the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage welcomed Roy Wilbur as project manager for the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative’s new Marketing Innovation Program (see page 41). Roy was most recently associate managing director for Public Engagement at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and has been involved in arts marketing in Philadelphia for over 25 years, holding positions at The Academy of Vocal Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, The Grand Opera House, The Philadelphia Singers, and the Philadelphia Drama Guild. Roy has also taught Technology and Marketing in the Arts as an adjunct professor with Drexel University’s Arts Administration program. His professional experiences, spanning many artistic genres, make him particularly suited to his new position. “I’ve had the opportunity to work in all these disciplines before (music, theater, dance, and visual art), with the exception of heritage/historical… What my current position allows me to do is to think creatively about crossover and cross-cultivation.” Roy also has a rich knowledge of the artistic process from within; he came to Philadelphia in 1979 to study at The Academy of Vocal Arts, and went on to perform professionally with numerous opera companies across the United States, including Michigan Opera Theatre, Florida Grand Opera, and Chautauqua Opera. Happily, the vast experience Roy brings to his position is being returned in kind, and this longtime Philadelphian is experiencing some of the city’s hidden treasures for the first time. “I went to Bartram’s Garden and Stenton in Germantown, these oases where you walk in and it’s like a breath of fresh air. I had never been to those places!” He feels fortunate that his current position sets him the task of helping organizations reveal Philadelphia’s arts and culture landscape to new audiences, natives and newcomers alike. — E.S PMP 36
Even more nourishing than the good food and drink was an exhilarating performance by jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran, who previewed a new work in which he improvised a duet with a recording of Thelonious Monk’s 1959 performance at New York City’s Town Hall, which only he heard on an iPod. Jason captivated the audience with this experiment, bringing to life the sounds streaming through his headphones, his body rocking and swaying as his fingers coaxed graceful responses to Monk’s music. This idea has since evolved into “IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall 1959,” a multi-media performance that will begin touring in late 2007. Jason was the recipient of the 2005 Pianist of the Year Award by the Jazz Journalists Association and was chosen as the winner of the Rising Star Jazz Artist, Rising Star Composer, and Rising Star Acoustic Piano Awards by the Down Beat Critics Poll for three years running (2003-2005). He has recorded seven CDs for Blue Note featuring guest artists Greg Osby, Eric Harland, Stefon Harris, Lonnie Plaxico, Tarus Mateen, Nasheet Waits, and Sam Rivers. Jason has also performed with Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter, and received commissions from the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Chamber Music America, and Lincoln Center. — E.S
Top: Willa Rohrer
Top and bottom: Pianist and composer Jason Moran
Bottom: Roy Wilbur as Rosina Rubylips in Hansel and Gretel, and as himself
Grants, Awards, and Accolades
Orchestra 2001 received a 2006-2007 ASCAP/American Symphony League Award in Adventurous Programming, as well as a $20,000 Florence Gould Foundation grant for its 2007-2008 season, “La saison francaise.” In January 2007, the Philadelphia Orchestra won a Met Life Award from the American Symphony Orchestra League for its Camden Community Partnership Initiative, which included a free neighborhood concert, the Camden Music Workshop, and a School Partnership Program. Philadephia Folklore Project klezmer musician Elaine Hoffman Watts was one of 12 artists to win the prestigious 2007 NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award. The Bach Festival of Philadelphia’s productions under Maestro Jonathan Sternberg received a 2007 NEA grant. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts was awarded a 2007 NEA Presenting Grant of $20,000 for its Philadelphia Presenting Project, which enables local performing artists and arts organizations to create new work as well as receive technical, marketing, and production assistance. Astral Artistic Services’ roster artists, both past and present, continue to earn distinction in the world of classical music: Astral graduate soprano Karen Slack was recently awarded $50,000 as the first-prize winner of the inaugural José Iturbi International Music Competition, and graduate pianist Simone Dinnerstein released a critically acclaimed recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for Telarc International. As for current artists, violinist Yura Lee received an Avery Fisher Career
In May 2007, WHYY launched its Y Arts Van, the nation’s first state-of-the-art mobile studio devoted solely to the arts. The vehicle consists of a portable, digital, van-based, four-camera, robotic recording and switching system that travels the length and breadth of the Delaware Valley. The Y Arts Van allows WHYY to build up a content library of programming that will provide the public and the cultural community with a regular presence on the Y Arts channel, video on demand, and the Internet.
In the 2007-08 season, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet releases three recordings on innova: Music for Saxophones by William Albright with the University of Michigan Symphony Band, H. Robert Reynolds conducting, pianists Marilyn Nonken and Matthew Herskowitz, and bass clarinetist Michael Lowenstern as guest artists; Pitch Black: Music for Saxophones and Ghettoblaster by Jacob TV; and a CD of Saxophone Quartet Concerti by William Bolcom and Steven Mackey, commissioned by PRISM and featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra Project as guest artists. For Orchestra 2001, February 2007 marked the release of two CDs: George Crumb’s The River of Life/Unto the Hills (Bridge Records) and Orchestra 2001’s self-produced Music of Alec Wilder (with Marian McPartland).
Top to bottom: Astral Artist Simone Dinnerstein, photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco Executive Director of Astral Artistic Services Stuart Adair
In the Community
Kimmel Center, photo by Jeff Goldberg
Grant, and Jonathan Vinocour was appointed as the principal violist of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Sopranos Angela Meade and Dísella Làrusdóttir were both national finalists at the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, in which Angela went on to be named a National Grand Winner; Angela also captured First Prize and additional special prizes in the 2007 Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition. Flutist Jasmine Choi recently released a CD of Mozart’s flute concerti for Sony/BGM, with the Mozart Collegium Vienna.
Business, Administration, and New Initiatives
Astral Artistic Services is delighted to welcome Stuart Adair, formerly of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia and Your Part-Time Controller, as its new Executive Director. Kimmel Center, Inc. raised $10 million for its endowment in FY 2007 as part of its five-year Pew Annenberg Lenfest challenge grant. The Kimmel Center Endowment now stands at approximately $40 million in confirmed gifts and pledges. The economic impact of the Kimmel Center during its 2006-2007 season was measured to be approximately $45 million; for the 2005-2006 season the figure was $41 million. In total, over the course of five performance seasons, the Kimmel Center has contributed more that $407 million to the local economy. On opening night of the 2006-2007 season, the Philadelphia Orchestra launched its own Online Music Store (www.thephiladelphiaorchestra.com), where customers can download its recent and archival recordings and purchase the Orchestra’s newest CDs on the Odine label. In April 2006, the Orchestra became the first major orchestra to multi-cast a concert to large-screen venues using the Internet2 network and DVTS technology. Stay tuned for more multi-casts this season. PMP 38
In June 2006, The Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale had a successful concert tour to Greece and Istanbul, Turkey. In March 2007, SIORA received a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour to travel to Quito, Ecuador to headline the Quito Jazz Festival at the Teatro Sucre, a theatre in the historic downtown district of Quito. As part of the event, they gave a residency at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito. During the 2007-2008 season, Piffaro, the Renaissance Band’s busy touring schedule will include a performance at one of Europe’s most prestigious early music festivals, Tage Alter Musik Regensburg, as well as the Berkley Early Music Festival in California. The ensemble will also perform a program of 16th century Spanish music with the Folger Consort at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
2006-2007 marked the 20th anniversary season of composer and pianist Andrea Clearfield’s Salon concert series. The Salon, inspired by 19th century European musical soirees, is held monthly in Clearfield’s Center City loft and features classical, contemporary, jazz, electronic, multi-media, dance, and world music, with a special emphasis on presenting new works by area composers. During the 2007-2008 season, Astral Artistic Services commemorates its 15th anniversary by uniting current, graduate, and special guest artists (including violinists Midori and Ida Kavafian, and members of The Philadelphia Orchestra). Meanwhile, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, established in 1874, celebrates Alan Harler’s 20th season as Music Director, and the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale celebrates its 40th anniversary. For its 60th anniversary season Singing City is planning an extensive series of concerts and events, including the premiere of a film about the Choir, school and community outreach, and a tour of Brazil.—W.R. PMP 39
BUILDING CAPACITY/developing audiences
Straight Talk: Nello McDaniel of Arts Action Research
Nello McDaniel, photo by Anne Ellen Geiger
Arts Action Research (AAR) is an arts consulting and action research group founded and co-directed by Nello McDaniel and George Thorn. AAR is committed to discovering, understanding, and creating the systems, processes, vocabulary, and culture of a healthy arts community—one that is artistcentered, led and directed by arts professionals. Widely recognized for their groundbreaking work in redefining the role, relationships, and operation of arts organizations in today’s challenging arts environment, AAR is an extension of McDaniel and Thorn’s 15-year collaboration in arts management consulting. They have worked with hundreds of arts organizations of all disciplines, sizes, and situations, nationally and internationally. AAR’s clients range from the Arena Stage in Washington, DC and the Atlanta Ballet, to hundreds of small groups through arts service organizations such as the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, Theatre LA, and the Atlanta Dance Initiative. They have conducted action research projects for institutions such as the Kennedy Center, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
PMP Director Matt Levy sat down with Nello McDaniel to discuss his consulting work with PMP constituents, now in its sixth year. Matt Levy: In your PMP consultancy, you typically work with music organizations over a two or three year period. I wonder if you could talk me through a cycle. How do you begin the process? Nello McDaniel: We always begin with what an organization is doing right and we allow that to inform the rest of their operations. In most cases, if participating organizations are doing anything right, it’s producing or presenting art. From the very outset, we try to find those areas where they have the greatest amount of confidence, and use that as a way to inform their relationships and approaches to problem-solving, how they make decisions and how they plan. Especially how they plan! The artistic process gives us a framework to move ahead. Usually the first cycle is getting to some depth of understanding about how each individual organization is working and what makes it unique. We ask each organiza-
tion not only to talk about what they do and how they do it, but to write about it in a form that they can share with their artistic and community partners. In a sense, they’re codifying their operations. I think that where a lot of this comes from, broadly speaking, a sense of “Gee, if I could just get this organization thing right, the way it’s supposed to be—the right kind of board, and right kind of marketing plan, with the right kind of staff, then we’d be just fine.” What they fail to understand is that there’s no model out there that’s going to address the very particular situation of any one group or organization at a given time. Organizations have to be adaptable; they have to be able to respond fast to changes that are coming at them. And here again, the artistic process is constantly in movement. No artist says and does exactly the same thing over and over and over again. For most artists, there’s a constant process of challenging and moving forward and taking those next steps. That’s the way the whole organization needs to function. What comes next? We really begin to focus on how this process translates to the way the organization operates. What kind of relationships do we need to forge to get the board that we really need, not just the board we’re supposed to have? What are the appropriate kinds of internal systems, especially given their work, what is the right kind of organizational equation, what kind of resources will really balance what we’re trying to do with what we’re able to do? How do we work within that balance so that the organization oper-
ates in a healthy, productive way, not over-extending, and not forcing themselves into a situation they can’t sustain? Can you talk more about the principle of using the organization’s artistic work to inform its managerial work? I mean, can’t an organization be great at its art but not be good at marketing or development, accounting, fundraising, and so forth? Can you always make connections between what seem to be very different skill sets? Well, I think that, much like the case with the artistic process, every project requires a certain amount of learning and new resources and access to new information, and sometimes new players or guests. Every organization absolutely needs an effective plan for generating contributed income, for developing audiences, some fundamental communications skills; all those things are needed, but should be positioned within the framework of how do we best position this work? How do we talk about this work to the community? Where does this particular project fit within the organization and field’s larger body of work? It’s a matter of finding the right kinds of tools and expertise and skills and putting those in the right place so that they really support the work and we don’t end up with the work inadvertently supporting the tools. There is this notion, and we’ve heard it over and over again for years, that if you could just find someone who was a really good business person and get them on board, they can learn the art, that’s easy. It’s exactly the opposite. What’s really challenging is understanding what the organization is really about: what do we really care about, what are we really trying to say, how are we trying to have impact? That’s the hard part. There are so many resources in the community in terms of how to acquire skills, how to outsource, how to find people to take on certain jobs and tasks on a short term basis. We want to avoid individuals coming to arts organizations heavy on skills and not nearly as deeply committed to the work. What kinds of issues do you address in the final phase of your work with organizations? We’re well into aspects of planning and especially some of the strategic and resource areas of planning. Planning is the centerpiece of everything we do. We’re really concentrating on how each organization is generating audiences and earning income, developing contributed income, and how they’re building the board and other human resources from the community. The emphasis on planning for us is a means to get from point to point. I think way too much planning ends up being a symbolic gesture, or is all about the ‘what we’re going to do’ instead of how we’re going to accomplish our goals. Whenever we complete our work with an organization, there’s a really clear sense of how they’re operating and how they can sustain themselves over a long period of time. If an organization can achieve a balanced operating equation, then they’ve achieved nirvana? I think for many organizations, that is as good as it gets. We’ve really shifted our focus so much towards organizations developing internal systems, acknowledging the fact that, except for the artists who are deeply dedicated to the work and provide the continuity, a lot of people come and go. Management staff and board members, there are a lot of partners that will come into the equation, hopefully contribute very fully, but then they do move on. So, I think that more and more, the emphasis in our planning areas is that there are clear systems and really clear communication about not just how we function, but about systems, so that when somebody leaves, we’re not replacing a system, we’re replacing somebody. What have you found to be the most common challenges that you’ve addressed with clients in Philadelphia? The confusion about board and professional relationships, and the lack of understanding that the professional leadership must lead and
direct and that we really need board members in an appropriate partnership role. There’s an awful lot of information being shoved at art professionals and boards that really misrepresents the relationship and very often creates conflict. There needs to be absolute collaboration and a strong working relationship between these partners. Historically, a great deal of what has been brought to arts organizations has come from other not-for-profit arenas that are really very different. I think that even now, we’re still working through an awful lot of theory, myth, and misconception about the roles and relationships of professional leadership and board leadership. So, the workings of a board in non-arts organizations have been imposed onto cultural organizations with the hope that it would help them to function in a more healthy fashion, but in reality, may cause dysfunction and undermine programming? Exactly. A common phrase we’re hearing a lot these days is “if you just get a board.” I mean, this is what’s often said to arts leadership, “Just get a board. Get some important people from the community and put together a board, the right structure, the right look, and then that will take care of everything you need.” Well, it’s magical thinking. It’s a notion that these symbolic gestures will result in all the support you need. In my view, the board’s role is not to make artistic decisions. Many organizations have struggled when arts professionals are really in a subservient role to the board, when the board takes on inappropriate leadership responsibility. It absolutely turns the organization on its head. How did you get into this field and come to your views? I got into this field as a dancer. I’m trained as a dancer. I worked for a very short time with a company in both artistic and administrative capacities. I’ve come to understand in a variety of jobs, working with the Reese Foundation, Western States Arts Foundation, four years with the National Endowment for the Arts, and in my collaboration with (Arts Action Research co-founder) George Thorne, that the most important lessons I’ve learned were indeed in the studio and what’s involved with making art, with producing art, with collaborating on art. So I have just really found my way into this arena, not so much with full intention. I just love doing the work and constantly being challenged and driven to understand more and more. It’s one of the great things about the work I do with music, dance, and theatre groups in Philadelphia. Everybody I meet with, they’re passionate, they have extraordinary ideas, and they’re deeply committed to what they’re doing. It keeps me going.
BUILDING CAPACITY/developing audiences
Excerpts from An Elegant Process The Artistic Process/The Planning Process by Nello McDaniel and George Thorn, ARTS Action Research
The Marketing Innovation Program, a new project of the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative by Emily Sweeney
©2007 ARTS Action Issues Publications, all rights reserved
If an arts organization of any kind is successful, it is because of what occurs on stage when the curtain goes up, or in the gallery when the doors open. Not really such a revelation—except for the fact that the curtain going up is the result of an extraordinary series and sequence of actions, interactions, decisions, inventions, revisions, solutions, discoveries, and resolutions. All of these are shaped and driven by a disparate group of arts professionals with shared vision, passion, commitment, trust, discipline, craft, precision, acute attention to time, money and detail, and a degree and intensity of collaboration that business gurus endlessly talk about, rarely achieve and never fully understand. This amazing amalgam of activity that we broadly refer to as the artistic process is the reason that any artist, or arts organization, or program or body of work, works. The artistic process is a unique combination of vision, creativity, intuition, and collaboration balanced with craft, technique, accountability, discipline, and use of time and resources. In a highly relative world, the artistic process is one of the few absolutes irrespective of artistic discipline, style, size, age, locale or working format. The artistic process is, without qualification or quantification, the most effective planning, problem-solving, decision-making, relationship-building process available to any arts organization. It may be the most effective process available to anyone. But because the role and work of artists is so devalued in our society, and the artistic process is not understood outside artists’ arenas, it lacks recognition, validity and value. No two artistic visions are the same, and likewise no two artistic processes are the same. The thing that makes the artistic process so rich and elegant is that each artist and each arts entity understands why and how its own process works. Even if they have not fully conceptualized or articulated the process, on some level, if only instinctively, each artist or
group of artists understands the critical elements of constancy and continuity that allow the work to emerge. The challenge is how the professional arts leadership of each arts entity can bring the artistic process, in all of its richness, complexity and effectiveness, to the center of the organization. How do you help all of your partners, both professional and community, understand your particular process and how to use it to best advantage? How do you transfer something so organic, ephemeral and instinctive in the studio to practical application throughout the organization? When we suggest bringing the artistic process to the center of each organization and everything it does, we are speaking quite literally. Often when working with an arts organization’s professional leadership on a problem, we ask them how they would approach the problem if they were in rehearsal. Or, if it is a big and complex problem, we ask how they would make a work about the problem. The artistic process is more than a metaphor. It is the clearest and most effective way that most arts professionals work. By its nature it is healthy and it is balanced. It can and must inform and transform every aspect of the organization’s life. This is where we begin.
In the spring of 2006, the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative (PCMI), a sister program of PMP, with a shared interest in garnering public and media attention to the arts, housed in the Philadelphia Center for Arts & Heritage (PCAH), began research for a new endeavor, the Marketing Innovation Program (MIP). As Martin Cohen, PCMI’s director, explains, “We saw a consistent lack of resources for organizations to invest beyond a very simple and normal push strategy, which is what we do mostly in the arts. We create something, and then we say ‘Oh, we have to go find an audience.’ It began to raise questions like, ‘What is marketing capacity?’ I don’t think any of us have an easy answer to that, but I think this was our way of beginning to address it.” The first step was to hire Roy Wilbur, former associate managing director for Public Engagement at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, as project manager for the new venture. Ten organizations have been invited to participate, as determined by adjudication panels early in 2007 in the various artistic initiatives, which identified projects of high artistic quality that could most benefit from additional marketing and public engagement resources. “We’re in a pilot or a test phase,” Cohen says, “asking ‘What can we do in order to enhance the way organizations think about audiences and communicate with them?’ We’re even beginning to look at changing the internal communication about where marketing is brought into the picture, asking, ‘How can marketing, or the question of audience be folded in at a much earlier stage?’” Helping an organization balance the weight of consumer-driven tactics, which could risk compromising its mission, with questions of relevance is a subtle dance. With audiences changing due to generational and demographic shifts nationwide, arts and heritage organizations everywhere are examining their marketing toolboxes, trying to pinpoint what makes their work relevant to constituents, and how they might broaden their base. The demographic shifts are substantial: 70% of Americans over the age of 45 are Caucasian; 70% of Americans under the age of 16 are non-Caucasian. And, as Cohen points out, “Young people have integrated technology in a way that older adults don’t even realize.” Soon, the adult consuming audience will look vastly different than it does now. How are organizations to address this? “I’m not sure it always takes a huge amount of resources to respond,” says Cohen. “It does take an open mind, however.” Cohen believes MIP will gain perspective by engaging with multiple disciplines. “Roy is in a unique position, with his particular experience, to be a wonderful observer, and to know how to respond and tie it all together. Similarly, PCMI is in a great place because we talk to a lot of people and have a lot of information.” “There are extraordinary environments in Philadelphia for the arts, culture, and heritage community that don’t exist in other parts of this country,” Cohen points out. “I think in that sense Philadelphia is very privileged and on the cutting edge. The existence of PCAH, which is not even two years old yet—I think that will begin to resonate over time in this community when we begin to look at the collective effect in a way that I’m not sure I can predict.”
Q BUILDING CAPACITY/developing audiences
Straight Talk: Roy Wilbur, Project Director for the Marketing Innovation Program
Emily Sweeney: What sorts of marketing challenges are Philadelphia’s arts and heritage nonprofits facing right now? Roy Wilbur: I think there are new challenges that arts and culture organizations face in developing and sustaining new audiences, and this is a critical time, not only in Philadelphia but nationwide, as subscriptions decline, as we see last-minute ticket buying purchases, as we see greater competition and lack of time on the part of the public. There has been research that has shown that the number one reason people don’t go to arts and culture events is lack of time, between their work and family and everything else that’s going on. So there are a lot of challenges—there’s no one particular reason. I mean, money is always an issue. I was just reading today that almost a quarter of the people living in Philadelphia are living in poverty. I’ve been doing marketing with arts and culture organizations for over 25 years, and it used to be that you could get your season brochure out there and develop your subscription audience. You’d sell a few single tickets, you would make your goals and
have a great audience, but that’s not the case anymore. There are a lot of new approaches to marketing simply because of new technologies, but also because we live very much in an experiential environment where people are seeking experiences that are up and above looking at a painting on a wall, or hearing a concert. They want to know how those experiences can be tied to their values as an individual. I think a lot of what we’re trying to do is foster more connection between the public and the artists first hand, which is extremely important. Because of competition with all the different offerings out there—and I’m not talking about just the performing and visual arts, I’m talking about all the online options, video, movies, TV—a lot of people just get sedentary and want to stay home and not partake of the arts or culture. Through these projects, we’re really helping organizations establish their niche in the arts marketplace in terms of what they provide that’s going to make it worthwhile for a person to get out of their house and take advantage of all the great arts and culture that’s going on in the city. What types of projects are currently under development in the Marketing Innovation Program? One project with Philadanco is along the lines of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” The working title is “Celebrating Dance in the Black Tradition,” a series to be held in the company’s studios, where an audience will interact with dancers and choreographers, including Hinton Battle when he’s in Philadelphia creating a work that Philadanco has commissioned for its concert in the spring of 2008. We will videotape these sessions
and make them available on Philadanco’s newly designed Web site. We’re also in discussions with a local television station about airing the series. Our hope is that this will serve as a way to connect the public with the artists in new ways. Looking at new music, a project we’re doing with the Kimmel Center’s “Fresh Ink” series is a CD that includes music samples and interviews with the composers whose works will be performed. This makes people more aware and provides them with information about the content; contextualization is very important. I think people really want to have a better understanding of what it is they’re going to see and hear, so we’re looking at ways to enhance the audience’s experience. An online program we’re doing at Bartram’s Garden with Mark Dion, who will be exhibiting there, is to have his partner Dana Sherwood document him collecting pieces for the show while traveling in Florida. She’s going to be videotaping and photographing him and the people he visits with as he travels, so you will actually get to see what it is an artist goes through while creating an exhibition, which is really cool. The online content, including video chats, video of daily travels, photo galleries and blogs will be updated approximately three times a week and people will be able to comment on it like they do on YouTube, so there will be this online conversation going on. We’re hoping that people will go online and become engaged in this whole process then come to Philadelphia to see the exhibition. And what’s also interesting is the curator for the Mark Dion exhibition, Julie Courtney, wants to create knowledge among artists about the opportunities that are available at Bartram’s for them to present their work, whether it’s dance, visual arts, music or theater. This will also help to introduce new audiences to Bartram’s.
Are you aware of any other marketing specialists that work across disciplines like this, other than those affiliated with presenting organizations? No. And what’s great is I’ve had the opportunity to work in all these disciplines before, with the exception of heritage and historical. I’m working on projects with the American Philosophical Society and the Historic Germantown Preserve. What I’m finding as I’m working with these organizations is that each of them faces its own challenges. What is difficult for one organization is not the same for another. Some have had the opportunity to do marketing on a big scale; some don’t even have marketing directors or anyone on their staff doing marketing. In that case, I come in and act almost as a consultant, helping them to decide what would be the best way to use the dollars available to them through this program to their benefit based on their needs at this time, and based on the particular artistic project that has been funded. That’s what I really love about this job. Even when I was affiliated with any one organization, I was very much involved on the side working with a number of different arts and cultural organizations as a volunteer. What this job affords me is the opportunity to look at all of them as a whole, and it helps me to see the possibilities in terms of cross-cultivation of audiences and artistic programs in a way that someone working in any one particular genre might not.
Left to right: Handwritten scores by Augusta Read Thomas, courtesy of the composer: www.augustareadthomas.com; Augusta Read Thomas, photo by Dan Rest; Tristan Murail; Roberto Sierra, photo by Eduardo Torres
New Frontiers in Music: PMP Composer Symposium by Peter Burwasser
The chances are very good that if you randomly select three contemporary composers and compare their work, you will find three distinct ways of creating music and no discernable overall trend. The three composers who participated in PMP’s “Composer Symposium, New Frontiers in Music” this past April were not chosen with a throw of the dice, but they certainly represent specific and stylistically unique approaches to the art of composition. As models for young composers, all three—Tristan Murail, Roberto Sierra, and Augusta Read Thomas—have developed successful careers while presenting powerful models of musical innovation. The symposium, held at the Curtis Institute of Music, was moderated by Settlement Music School’s Executive Director Robert Capanna, himself a distinguished composer. Each composer was allotted a segment to discuss their work and philosophies, as well as playing some examples of their music. Certainly the most exotic of the trio was Murail, French born and trained (he was a student of Olivier Messiaen) and now teaching at Columbia University. He is the leading proponent of what is known as spectral music, which emphasizes the sheer physicality of music; color, sound, even sensuality. Murail is an eloquent PMP 46
advocate for his school of composition, which he describes with a very Gallic combination of intellectualism and concern for the visceral impact of sound. In a review of an album of his solo piano music several years ago, I quoted the composer: “the piano [is] undoubtedly a percussion instrument, but above all a collection of vibrating strings, a vast reverberant chamber.” I also noted at that time, although Murail himself did not mention it then nor in his comments at the symposium, that there is a clear debt to the French impressionist masters in the world of spectral music. Perhaps Murail omits this lineage in his discussions about spectral music because it was born out of a reaction to the prevailing academic style of the 1970s, conceived by Murail and his colleagues as a break from a new kind of tradition. “The ’70s in Paris was dominated by the Boulez clique. I have nothing against Boulez, but I do have something against the clique.” The musical excerpts of Murail’s work gave but a clue to what this imposing artist is trying to express. “It was hard for me to find a short extract. My music is about time. How can you cut out a piece of time?” The audience could not help, nevertheless, get a good sense of a composer with a strong grasp of sonic shape, intense coloristic sensibility, and large dramatic vision. Roberto Sierra makes no excuses for the influence of his personal history on his music. He was born in Puerto Rico, and received his musical training in England and Germany. His worldliness finds its way into his body of work, but he has never abandoned his roots. “My formative influence is there always, like my accent. This is true for all composers.” The musical examples he presented reflected a variety of sources. His spiky, rather cacophonous Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra certainly exhibits the adventuresome spirit of his teacher György Ligeti. In
a chamber music piece dominated by winds from his Turner Suite, he attempts to conjure the aura expressed in the great, glowing oils of the British painter Turner (he cites Kandinsky and Bosch as other painters that deeply affect him). Finally, there was a selection from the Songs from the Diaspora, sung hauntingly by soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, based on Sephardic melodies. This song seemed to belong to a time long ago, channeling the plaintive sounds of ancient synagogues. There is a certain style of post-Stravinsky, post be-bop, polytonal American eclecticism that is nicely represented by the music of Augusta Read Thomas. Thomas, now in her early forties, was something of a wunderkind, and is today one of those rare creatures who makes a living almost solely from commissions for new music. She has taught extensively, and was the composer in residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2006. There are many influences on her artistry, but above all, it is an almost giddy love for music that inspires her, blissfully detached from any stylistic agenda. “I just keep going on my journey and see what happens.” This is not to say that she is naïve. “I know the history and the boxes people are put into. As a listener, teacher and programmer, I actually like to hear each piece in its own universe. I don’t like categories. We composers listen to a huge body of work and digest it, and hopefully, find a way to make something personal.” Thomas has never really struggled with this concept, growing up in a house filled with music of various stripes, including plenty of jazz (“I listen to it everyday. It is the great American music.”) As a practical matter, however, she had some interesting comments regarding her relationship with her publishers. Her first official connection was with Theodor Presser, beginning in her teens. A few years ago, Thomas was presented with the opportunity to engage with the major American
publishing house, G. Schirmer, and in doing so, had to cede crucial artistic decisions to the new owner of the music copyrights. But she did not transfer her entire Presser collection to Schirmer. “I’ve been totally focused on composition for 27 years. My music has sounded like me the whole time.” But any self-respecting artist is also self-critical. “I don’t like to listen to some of the things I wrote at the age of 19, so why should anybody else? As you go on, you get refined.” She is always seeking, she says, an evolution of her craft, or more specifically, “the beautiful relationship between content and craft.” As different as each of these three composers came across, there is one quality that they have in common, and that is the drive to be individual and original. This may seem like a statement of the obvious, but as Tristan Murail’s description of the Paris music scene a generation ago illustrates, it was not always a state of affairs to be taken for granted. This simple truism, the freeing up of the artist’s stylistic and creative possibilities, might be the single most important lesson to be drawn from this symposium. Peter Burwasser is the classical music critic for the Philadelphia City Paper and a regular contributor to Fanfare magazine and Philadelphia Music Makers. As a freelance writer, he has also contributed articles and reviews to The Philadelphia Inquirer, WRTI Program Guide, and Carnegie Hall Playbill.
On April 13, 2007 PMP hosted a one-on-one discussion with Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth and NewMusicBox.org editor Frank J. Oteri. Neuwirth was visiting the United States to attend performances of her opera “Lost Highway,” produced by the Oberlin Conservatory at New York’s Miller Theatre. She shared samples of her work and discussed the new music scene across the Atlantic.
In 1991, at the age of 22, Neuwirth first came into the international limelight during the performance of her two quick-witted mini-operas at the Viennese Festival. She likes to compare her work with early daguerreotypes: centered on a sharply defined opening motif, the remainder is presented in a frayed and over-exposed fashion. The use of twisted enlargements, and the succession of what are sometimes strongly contrasting impressions and viewpoints could be likened to the skills of a film producer. Besides an affinity for film, one also notices a strong passion for literature, from Charles Baudelaire to Elfriede Jelinek, from Goethe to Gertrude Stein. Olga Neuwirth has studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, at the Elektroakustisches Institut in Vienna and the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco. Inspiring encounters with Adriana Hölzsky, Tristan Murail, and Luigi Nono definitively steered her towards composition. In 1996 she was a guest in Berlin with a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and in 1998, the Salzburg Festival dedicated two concerts to her set in the “Next Generation” series. In September 2000, she succeeded Magnus Lindberg as In-House Composer at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders.
New Frontiers in Music: One on One with Olga Neuwirth Frank J. Oteri: The piece that brought me to your music and that brought a lot of people to your music has been “Lost Highway.” There’s something so all-consuming about “Lost Highway,” your opera, and certainly the film that inspired it. But before we even get into that, I thought it would be a good time to say something about the word ‘opera’ and how you see this opera as a piece. Olga Neuwirth: Well, I don’t call it opera because the word ‘opera’ is so much loaded with history. It’s about the singing voice. For me, music theater was always interesting, how to use the spoken voice from theater. I also bring in something from radio plays. So that’s why in “Lost Highway,” I have chosen 45 minutes in the first act only speaking and if it changes into an unreal part, that’s when the singing starts. It’s so interesting to compare them. In a music theater work and opera, one thing that you can’t get is the close-up, so in one way the music becomes the close-up. Music is the way you can invoke fear or passion, or any kind of emotion.
Composer Olga Neuwirth, photo by Priska Ketterer
I especially made “Lost Highway’s” mystery man more frightening because he’s the alter ego. In his eye is the camera. He is the one who is watching everything. He’s sort of the maestro that’s playing with everybody. He is a countertenor, and that is why I wanted this kind of voice, which is kind of like you don’t know where he fits to. He doesn’t fit anywhere. This film is a masterpiece, so I had to do everything with a means of music, because it gives these possibilities and layers of darkness and creepiness and the unearthly. I’m very curious: when this had its premiere in Europe, what was the reaction of the audience? The David Lynch film was popular with European audiences as well, I’d imagine. The only difference was that people didn’t just always speak of the film. Why this film, why this film? I mean, why did Verdi choose Shakespeare? Why did Alban Berg choose Buchner? You take something that you’re interested in. The only thing I don’t understand was that in Austria, the director tried to stay too close to the film, and that’s the problem. And I wrote these big marks in the score and in the libretto that there should be no reference at all because you can’t imitate something that is two-dimensional, with all the possibilities of close-ups and flash backs and wonderful actors. I mean the singers can be good actors, but not great actors. So you have to do something else. And even if a director tries to use little things from the film, you are already on the wrong track because it’s a masterpiece and you will fail with the means of theater. What made you decide to set the opera in English? Because the words and sentences are very short, which is very good for opera already, and we used the original language, the screenplay, as the basis. So why should we translate it into another language if the language is perfect? It’s a very reduced language. In German you wouldn’t get that. Were the people in the original production all native English speaking, fluent in English? That’s what I wanted, because if something has to be read in a language, even if they practice a long time, something is still wrong with the affectations and the color. So if I do something in English, they have to be English speaking from the Motherland. Otherwise it sounds stupid. When did you get the idea to do “Lost Highway?” When you saw the movie did you say, “Oh, I have to turn this into music?” How did this whole thing evolve? I am a prudent composer; I am dependent on commissions. I don’t start an opera, which is the biggest work for years, just like, “Oh, I’m going to write an opera.” When Graz became the capital of Europe (I was born there), I was asked to do one of the four operas for a commission. So this was in 2000, and Graz became the cultural capital of Europe in 2003. When I do this big stuff, it has to be a recent topic that is important and very close to me. When I was thinking of content which pleases me, it’s always recollection; it’s memory, the pressure of a human being in a society which is kind of brutal, and it is always
about what is real and what is fake. I kept on thinking of, “What do I really like?” And then I came back to David Lynch, a filmmaker. When I first saw Elephant Man, I was eight years old and I was very struck. It was very human, and I was like “Oh yeah.” So I was thinking Eraserhead or Mulholland Drive, or Lost Highway. So then I asked, “Well it’s an opera, what is the one that is the most like a chamber play?” And Lost Highway is the most chamber play because it all takes place in just the room of this couple, except in the second part, but it all really takes part in the brain, all these outside shootings and other movements. And it loops, like a musical term, so I thought, “It will be Lost Highway.” Because everything comes back and you can’t escape, so just sort of working with these ritornelli. The last area that I wanted to talk about with you is this whole question of working with electronics. We’re living in a very highly technological age, but there’s always a human element. I thought it would be interesting for you to speak something to that. And why you use electronics, and how you use them. I was always interested in electronics as a provocation of the traditional instrument; they widen the means and the colors of the traditional instruments. In my work, we are taking the rough and uncertainty that comes from human beings and then transforming it with the live electronics, and sometimes even prepared electronics. But still, I believe in the interaction of both. It’s something between a machine and a human being, and I don’t like only the machine. The other thing is that I don’t write my scores with a computer because it changes the way of composing. I don’t want to be fixed to the rules of the computer. So, I’m still writing it by hand and then the publisher puts it into computers, and I don’t recognize my own scores. It’s very weird because your own handwriting is sort of tactile in a way, and it is more precise and detailed and shows, again, the personality of each composer. The computer reduces the personality of the composer to a nice layout.
Bernard Holland was scheduled to participate in PMP’s spring 2007 panel discussion, Meet the Press: Journalists on Music (see pages 50 and 51 for coverage), but was unable to attend at the last minute. Below are some reflections offered in absentia.
New Frontiers in Music: Japanese Instruments in New Music
by Peter Burwasser
The central subject explored in the PMP symposium “Traditional Japanese Instruments in New Music” is not a new one. There has been a delicate and beautiful dance going on between the musical cultures of Asia and the West for well over a century, jumpstarted, legendarily, with the Paris Exposition of 1889, when Debussy was first exposed to the gamelan. We are now at a point, as was revealed in musical examples and insightful comments by bass clarinetist/composer Gene Coleman, where the influences have become circular. Westerners such as Ravel, Messaien and Cage have produced Asian inspired work that, in turn, inspired contemporary composers in Japan to create a new synthesis. It was Cage who encouraged the late Japanese master Toru Takemitsu to bring traditional instruments into his works. Coleman’s own work takes yet another turn around the circle. Coleman was joined by two musical guests, Ko Ishikawa, who plays the sho, and Ryuko Mizutani, on koto. These are beautiful handmade instruments of ancient origin. The sho, a bamboo mouth organ consisting of bundled pipes of different sizes, was probably a novelty for most of the well informed audience. The sound Ishikawa produced during his demonstration was extraordinarily detailed and richly toned. The koto, a stringed instrument of the zither family, might have seemed somewhat less exotic. Mizutani’s playing showed off a surprisingly gutsy sound, almost vocal, with seemingly infinite harmonic variation PMP 50
via micro tonality. All three musicians were brought together under the auspices of an NEA sponsored organization called the JapanUS Friendship Commission, when Coleman visited Japan as one of their musical guests in 2001. They have recently been reunited by the Argosy Foundation and Soundfield, Coleman’s presenting organization. Coleman describes his challenge in a way that directs him to new ways of imagining music. He has wondered “how to bring disparate elements together.” The divide, in many ways, remains wide. For example, western technology has strongly influenced instrumental development here. He cites the saxophone as an example of factory derived technology. Japanese wind instruments, which he also writes for, are essentially unchanged in 1,000 years. One of the pieces he played selections from is a work scored for saxophone quartet, three Japanese wind instruments, and electronics. This could be a recipe for senseless cacophony. Coleman simply avoids the potential, perhaps inevitable conflicts between harmony and scale construction. “My approach is to work with noise.” The ingenious structure of the music starts the players on an even ground, with no discernable cultural guideposts, just unpitched noise. Pitched tones then emerge from the soundscape, and then it all reverses back into a pitchless world. Improvisation is included in the mix, but within the context of the composer’s larger architecture. Musicians are allowed, even encouraged to
contribute culture-specific sounds, especially during improvisatory sections. Electrification, computer assistance and video are all an important part of the overall construction. Coleman’s music is a kind of blueprint for what he calls “global exchange.” His guests are “the people you can work with. There is an openness, a willingness to step outside of tradition. This is the basis for new language.” Certainly, when Ishikawa and Mizutani play, there is an immediate sense of possibilities; the sound is vibrant, even wildly beautiful, while at once hewed to a traditional way of making music. What emerges is something new; it sounds like they are stretching well beyond their traditional background. Coleman’s vision, it would seem, is that these disciples of ancient tradition will interact with Westerners of relative artistic daring to point towards a fresh synthesis. The event included frequent question and answer sessions, which included exchanges that must have gladdened Coleman’s heart. The audience was filled with composers and musicians who immediately latched onto the broader implications for his cross-cultural ideas. One man heard echoes of African music in what he heard, another questioner wondered about attaching an electronic distortion pedal to the koto (a handful of players do use electronics). It reflects a natural vision of music without borders.
Sorry to have missed your event but let me add a few thoughts from a distance and after the fact. Classical music has classical music as its own worst enemy—to begin with, how it presents itself. Old folks still love the ritual—people sitting in the dark, musicians onstage wearing funny suits, listeners clapping at the right time and keeping quiet otherwise. Young folks find this ridiculous, and there are a lot more young folks listening to music and increasingly fewer old ones. Through the Internet, videos and the like, the music business is looking for alternative formats with urgency if not desperation. It’s good to hear a string quartet in a Williamsburg saloon or Schoenberg in the round at an ex-synagogue on the Lower East Side. Indeed, lines of communication are being looked for and occasionally established. The Cleveland Orchestra, losing its subscription base at home, is trolling for an audience in Florida. Has it a choice? But dated mannerisms are a side issue. The larger questions are what classical music thinks of the public and what the public thinks of it. Don’t assume, as many do, that classical music cannot sell its products because of uneducated listeners. Audiences 200 years ago didn’t go to hear old music; they expected premieres. This generation is the same: Brahms is not about their lives. It’s a hard sell. And what about today’s Brahmses? They may be around but their attitudes are bad. When composers abandon and estrange their audience as so many in the 20th century did, they can’t convincingly claim ignorance and cultural deficiency as reasons for their unloved state. Those in the music business who roll their eyes at the “short attention spans” of current youth are perhaps shifting the blame from their own inability to hold that attention. Give the public something good, give it a little time and the public will respond. Exposure? By all means. Listen, listen, listen. Education? I wonder. To educate, to make people “understand,” implies a superior educator and an unwashed audience in need of soap and water. If I intellectually know more about it, I’ll like it better. If I can parse sonata form or see how tone rows work, my heart will open. Truly interested listeners have been swindled out of honest reactions to music they don’t like for fear that they don’t “understand” it. You don’t understand an oak tree; you just like to sit under it. Haydn waited before writing his “London” symphonies so that he could learn what English audiences wanted. Giving the audience what it wants has always resulted in very little that approaches these amazing pieces. On the other hand,
on Classical Music by Bernard Holland
classical music that does not address head-on the needs of the public will continue to shrivel up and die. Britten’s statement that “After Beethoven came the rot” examines the harm to music done by images of lonely, misunderstood creators writing for posterity. “Art for art’s sake” implies that an ignorant present will give way to an enlightened future. Schoenberg’s String Trio is brilliant music, but after 62 years does anyone really like it? The great puzzle to me is how we are somehow going to preserve the Schubert G-Major Piano Sonata from extinction and yet admit that classical music doesn’t work anymore. German musicology has told us that only music with sophisticated structure can be great, but I ask you this question: which has had the more profound impact on world culture—Wolfgang Rihm or “Jailhouse Rock?” Music is not going to survive by asking the public to come to it. It, like the Cleveland Orchestra, is going to have to go out and find the public. Bernard Holland was educated at the University of Virginia, the Vienna Academy of Music, and The Paris Conservatory. He came to The New York Times in 1981 where he has served both as chief and national music critic.
Page 48, left to right: Ryuko Mizutani Ko Ishikawa Gene Coleman The sho, a traditional Japanese instrument The koto, a traditional Japanese instrument
Meet the Press: Journalists on Music (and Surviving the 21st Century) by Willa Rohrer
Sandow introduced the topic for discussion as “changes in culture over the last couple of decades and their effect on music and on criticism,” noting that one could spend an entire day (“and get into a lot of fights”) merely attempting to describe those changes. But a humorous comment by Daniel Webster, who wrote for the Inquirer from 1964 to 1999, cut right to the heart of the matter. “Since I was only a classical reviewer/critic,” he confessed jokingly, “I was a little worried when I came in because there was an enormous dumpster put on the street right in front of Curtis, and I wondered if it had my name on it.” Turning serious, he added, “Because I certainly worry about the future of criticism in this field. As the field has its own problems, so do the critics who are writing about it.” Despite the somber tone of this statement, Webster described in optimistic terms two recent pieces (each about an interdisciplinary, experimental classical performance) by the Inquirer’s two remaining classical critics, calling the articles “an interesting effort to broaden the field, to find perhaps the crack in the wall that will lead them into the next step in classical music.” He added, “Because I still believe that classical music has an enormous future as well as a glorious past. I hope the dumpster is only for me and not for the music itself.” Webster’s hypothetical dumpster dive raised a question that would recur throughout the discussion: what is the relationship between the critic and his or her public? If the wider culture marginalizes (or “trashes”) certain forms of music, does the critic have the obligation—or the ability—to change public perception? Ben Ratliff, who has been a jazz critic at the Times since 1996, noted that advocacy is something certain readers expect: “I hear all the time from people who are essentially saying, ‘You gotta help jazz! Jazz is like a baby seal dying on the beach!
On May 21st, 2007, PMP convened four prominent music journalists for a panel discussion about recent trends in arts criticism. On stage, former Philadelphia Inquirer classical music critic Dan Webster, Associated Press editor and critic Nekesa Moody, and New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff were joined by moderator Greg Sandow, a composer and former critic who has written about classical and pop music for The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and the Village Voice. Do something about it!’” He continued, “I understand the need for advocacy, and definitely sometimes I function that way. But on the other hand, I’m conflicted about it, because I don’t trust a critic who comes across to me as a blind advocate. I feel that the critic really has to have some room to say, ‘Well, you know, I support that in theory, I’m really glad it’s happening, but yeesh, I don’t like it.’ “And yet at the same time, I really do believe in how important it is to have a kind of community around jazz, or around other kinds of improvised music. Stadium rock will take care of itself; I’m not talking about that. But the community is important and worth fostering. I’m just not sure if it’s my job to always stand up and wave the flag…” Ratliff said that jazz music itself is doing fine—he is continually encouraged by what he hears being played—but agreed with Sandow’s suggestion that its audience needs to be replenished. Ratliff attributed New York jazz’s “audience problem” to the way the city’s demographics have shifted in the past several years: “Entire neighborhoods are changing rapidly because normal people are being priced out. That gives a whole new crowd of New Yorkers who may or may not be interested in going to see jazz, right? They can certainly afford the cover charges, but are they going to go? And this is where we’re running into trouble.” This crowd, said Ratliff, would be willing to go see Jazz at Lincoln Center, but is probably not likely to spontaneously “catch the second set” at a club. Of course, as Sandow pointed out, the cultural changes discussed by Webster and Ratliff have affected more than music: in the digital era, newspapers themselves are facing an audience crisis. Leaner revenue means leaner mastheads, particularly PMP 52
Left to right: Dan Webster; Ben Ratliff; Nekesa Moody; Greg Sandow
05.21.07 in Arts & Entertainment sections; there seems not only to be less and less space for arts criticism, but fewer staff critics to write it. For Nekesa Moody—who first joined the Associated Press as a general assignment reporter in 1992 and is now its music editor and writer—space is not in short supply. Nor does her beat (pop) have the same “audience problem” as Ratliff and Webster’s. However, she observed a certain reluctance on the part of her editors to take chances on independent artists, or to provide more nuanced coverage of musical genres with a “specialized” audience. For instance, though Moody knew her focus would be pop, she had also hoped to do a greater variety of classical music features. But she noted that most of the classical stories she finds herself writing have an obligatory “human interest” angle, and are geared just as much towards Oprah viewers as classical fans (The 5 Browns, whom Moody profiled, were indeed featured on Oprah). AP’s Internet division is growing rapidly—and along with it, editorial demand for stories with multi-media components. Moody expressed concern about how the shift in focus from print to Internet changes the way we read, and the kind of expectations that we bring to bear on a piece of writing. “I’m a little bit worried. For journalists these days I think there’s going to be more of a push, first of all to do it all—to do the audio, do the video part—but also I think that especially as we move more online things are becoming shorter, less in-depth.” Moody noted that her short pieces get many more hits on the Internet than her thousand-word features, which leads her to wonder, “as newspapers shift and space becomes smaller, and people have more of an online shift, are they going to want the thousand-word feature on even, let’s say, a 50 Cent or a Michael Brecker?” Sandow agreed that the issue of depth represents a “major sea-change” in the way the arts are covered. But is something besides depth and length being lost? As communities of listeners become more fragmented, are communities of readers, too? Reflecting upon his career, Webster said, “I think that I left when classical music was still an essential part of life in the city, and part of the intellectual conversation. And I think the joy of my writing was that I was part of a very active daily conversation about the meaning of music in the community. We had space, we had time. I wrote every day. And I thought we were simply laying another stone every day in this mosaic that would show what classical music meant in a city and a country.” And yet on the whole, the panel seemed wary of engaging in any histrionic hand-wringing about the death of serious music and serious writing, the disintegration of America’s collective attention-span, the corrupting influence of the iPod Shuffle. Though the discussion revealed certain anxieties about the future of music and criticism, the panelists seemed to agree there is also
something to be gained from these changes. In Ratliff’s mind, “There is one sense in which criticism is dying or whatever. But there’s another sense in which there’s so much of it that we can’t keep track of it. And my feeling, especially with jazz and pop criticism is, it’s gotten to a point where I often read a review of a new record or a concert or something and think, ‘Yeah, that looks pretty much like a jazz review.’ And I’m instantly bored and I just want to move on. And I feel like this is the lesson that we should all be learning: that there’s got to be something new that we can do. Either just in prose and the way we’re hearing music and translating it through our fingertips, or conceptually, in how do we cover something, asking different questions of it… coming at it from a different angle. I think that’s all useful and good and… inevitable.” “Maybe the Holy Grail,” mused Sandow, “is to be able to do the fast hot stuff and the slow cool thoughtful stuff together. And the Web certainly ought to make that possible.” In short: do not go gentle into that good dumpster, Mr. Webster.
The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
by Willa Rohrer
PMP’s November 2006 panel discussion, “Artist-Friendly Record Labels/Distribution Outlets” featured representatives from four organizations that are innovators in developing artist-centered methods for producing and distributing music: Philip Blackburn, director of innova records, the label of the American Composers Forum; Rick Reed, label relations manager with Emusic; Jane Ira Bloom, a recording artist with the label ArtistShare; and Lyn Liston, director of New Music Information Services at the American Music Center. Much of the discussion revolved around the question of how artists can use new methods of distribution and promotion—particularly the Internet—to their benefit. But this also raised some broader questions about the Internet itself: how has it changed the ways in which people discover, consume, and understand the value of music? How does technology affect the way that artists, audiences, and the media interact with one another? What implications does this have for the music industry (and its discontents)?
Artistshare Recording Artist Jane Ira Bloom, photo by Kristine Larsen
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For Philip Blackburn, the panel’s only record company executive, the Internet is a place where independent artists can empower themselves, and in this regard, can be the ally rather than the enemy of a record label such as innova. Even the phenomenon of illegal downloading, Blackburn suggested, is worth considering in a positive light. “Stealing is at least a foot in the door,” he observed wryly. “I think that’s one of the mental switches we need to take. We’ve heard so much negative propaganda about how if you download a track you’re an evildoer who must be clapped in irons. However, if you ask someone who habitually downloads tracks, they’ll say, ‘Well, this year I bought more albums than I ever have in the past because I’ve been introduced to more things.’” Rick Reed, label manager for Emusic, finds the same hunger for discovery in listeners who download music legally. A subscription music download service, Emusic is the largest independent digital music provider and the second largest digital music provider in the world overall. Among Emusic subscribers—primarily 25-62 year-old males—the genres with the fastest growing sales are classical, jazz, and Latin music. Speaking enthusiastically about his belief that Internet distribution levels the playing field for independent artists, Reed remarked that “some things that would never work in retail work perfectly online.” In Reed’s view, the Internet provides a different kind of environment for purchasing music by encouraging consumers to be adventurous in their selections. “The nature of Emusic is that folks want to find music they’ve never, ever heard before,” Reed noted. “Stuff you wouldn’t imagine would ever sell, sells really well.” And according to Reed’s data, visitors to Emusic.com tend to stay on the site longer than they do on other music download sites. Much of Emusic’s appeal lies in its format, which allows users to share information about music they’ve discovered with each other—and, in turn, allows artists to promote their work through a personal chain of contacts. Emusic also cross-references and offers recommendations based on a site visitor’s past purchases, which is the primary way that most people discover new music online. The online record label ArtistShare does more than enable people to discover new music online: it also puts the public directly in touch with individual artists. ArtistShare was founded by Brian Camelio, a musician and computer consultant who, like Blackburn and Reed, sees potential for independent artists to thrive in the digital age. When formulating his vision of ArtistShare, Camelio asked himself, “What is the value of the CD as an object now that anyone can copy it?” What truly excites people, Camelio realized, is not the myriad packages in which we receive music, but something more elusive: the spark that illuminates a creative imagination. And although ArtistShare makes CDs, podcasts, photographs, and other products available for purchase, if the site can be said to deal in one particular thing, it’s the creative process itself.
For ArtistShare recording artist Jane Ira Bloom, this suggests that the music industry is becoming less like a brick and mortar business and more like a service industry. Bloom pointed out that in the ArtistShare model, each individual artist fashions and maintains control of his or her own Web site and has sole contact with fans. In addition to CDs, Bloom’s site sells access to bimonthly podcasts in which she interviews artist friends, and signed prints of her original photography paired with descriptions of how the photos relate to her music. “It’s creating a whole new idea about why people should even be interested in a musician,” said Bloom. While it would appear that ArtistShare represents the dawning of a new digital utopia—one in which artists own their work in perpetuity and sell CDs directly to their fan base—there are also some potential pitfalls. One is that artists must invest a lot of time and energy in their sites to make them successful, and the learning curve can be steep if one is not computer savvy. There is also the difficulty (or the impossibility) of connecting with fans online in the same way one does on stage. In Bloom’s words, “You have to push to portray what it is that a musician does through technology in order [for technology] to come anywhere close to having the impact that you know about when you perform for people. You know about that because it’s what you do face to face. The thing is how to make the technology work for that. I think we’re still in a very transitional stage, and I think ArtistShare, even the concept of it, is a very transitional one… Musicians are changing; our lives are going to change dramatically.” Philip Blackburn added, “We are all global now. We’re competing [online] with people who are involved in labors of love, offering free art and opinion, and it’s a challenge to say, ‘This information is valuable and people will pay to have access to it.’” Although the panel agreed that we’ll never say goodbye to a physical product, they predicted that the way people receive information and make purchases will become increasingly specialized. PMP 55
The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
Top right: Tan Dun, photo by Nan Watanabe Bottom left: Jennifer Koh
For the creators of the American Music Center’s Web site, the question of how best to provide information to its users is an important one. As Lyn Liston, AMC’s director of New Music Information Services, explained, NewMusicJukebox (now called the AMC Online Library) was originally meant to be an online radio station, but developed into something more like a library of scores and sound clips. In essence, AMC Online Library is a nonprofit information center (instead of selling scores and recordings directly, it allows composers and publishers to provide links to rent or buy them). Visitors to the library can research a piece from several angles, such as duration, date of composition, and where the piece fits into a composer’s career. They can also listen to clips of many selections, including jazz tracks. AMC’s goal is to make the site a central online clearinghouse for musical organizations searching for music by American composers. In March 2007, AMC successfully launched Counterstream, an online radio station that plays music by American composers around the clock. At the time of the panel discussion, however, assembling the station was proving difficult. Liston shared some of the challenges: because of the range of work written in the 20th and 21st centuries, the labeling process required by radio software in order to create a proper variety and rotation of music is extremely complex. Striking a balance between accessible music and more challenging pieces has also taken considerable effort, but it’s a crucial part of the project since, as Liston pointed out, she’s not sure who the station’s audience will be. Copyright law and FCC regulations were also posing problems for Liston. Much of the songs with which AMC is concerned are, unlike the average pop song, comprised of sequential movements, some long enough to be separate CD tracks. But if according to U.S. regulations, one isn’t legally allowed to play multiple “tracks” by the same artist within a given amount of time, how are multiple movements to be represented? Liston made the case that FCC laws will need to change if classical, jazz, and other long-form music is to be represented accurately online. Despite these challenges, Liston was, like the other panelists, optimistic about the rich possibilities offered by the Internet to independent artists, composers, and their listeners. By the end of the discussion, this optimism had spread to members of the audience, who seemed inspired by those possibilities—and ready for the work ahead.
Advice from Philip Blackburn, director of innova records :
The first question to ask yourself is whether you want to take a DIY (Do-It-Yourself ) approach or find a label. Before choosing any label, research it to see whether it’s a good fit. Some useful questions to use as guidelines for thinking about what kind of partner you’re looking for in a label are: Who will own the rights? Who will keep the income? What is the goal of the label—are they looking to make a profit? For innova, the answer is “no:” the approximately 200 artists in innova’s catalogue own the rights and keep 100% of the profits from their album (after paying an administrative and production fee up front). While major labels spend 10 times on marketing what they spend on production, innova only spends about 1/10th on marketing what it spends on production. Another crucial issue to consider is why you might want to make a recording and what you hope to achieve by it—whether your goal is to reach a broader audience, preserve an artistic legacy, or both. Be proactive about getting the best possible recording. An independent artist’s album must be competitive with commercial recordings. Creating a buzz about an album is one of the most important steps after creating the recording. Make certain that the CD stands out on the shelf. Design matters, especially for obscure or experimental artists. Three essential tips on self-promotion: 1) Make a “one-sheet,” or a condensed press release that delivers the maximum amount of information in the most concise way possible. 2) Don’t be shy about asking the media, including online publications, for reviews. When possible, work with writers directly, as they may be able to push a story through their editors without ad money being spent. 3) Empower yourself. If the media won’t take notice of you, then create the media yourself. Podcasts, Myspace, YouTube, and Gather.com pages are all accessible and free, and they’re controlled by the artist.
Philip Blackburn, director of innova records
Runout: “Pocket Concertos” at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre On Saturday, April 14, 2007, eight leaders and artists from Philadelphia’s nonprofit music community joined PMP staff in New York City at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre for the second installment in their “Pocket Concerto” commissioning project. Inspired by the example of such masterpieces as György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, the project aims to commission 12 new works for soloist and sinfonietta over three years. For this concert, the Perspectives Ensemble, conducted by Brad Lubman, was joined by some of New York’s most exhilarating soloists. The audience was treated to Jennifer Koh playing “Spin 5,” a violin concerto by Charles Wuorinen; Emma Tahmizian performing a piano concerto by Sebastian Currier; Huang Ruo’s cello concerto, “People Mountain People Sea,” performed by Jian Wang; and Anthony Davis’ “You Have the Right to Remain Silent,” a clarinet concerto played by J. D. Parran. This concert was received enthusiastically by PMP attendees, who enjoyed the multiple textures and voices in the works premiered, as well as the unassuming atmosphere in which they were presented.—E.S.
Runout: Tan Dun’s “The First Emperor” at the Metropolitan Opera
On Monday, January 22, 2007, PMP staff and 11 leaders of the Philadelphia music community traveled to New York City to attend the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The First Emperor,” the latest work by celebrated Chinese composer Tan Dun, who is known for uniting Asian musical traditions with the avant-garde. “Emperor” is set in the ancient court of Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor of China (247-221 BC), as he battles to unite China and build the Great Wall. Huangdi was sung by Plácido Domingo, in the first role he has created during his 38 years at the Met. Paul Groves was Gao Jianli, the court composer who defies him and seduces Yueyang, the Emperor’s daughter, sung by Elizabeth Futral. Co-produced with the Los Angeles Opera, this elaborate production cost $2 million and was 10 years in the making. Its creative team featured China’s leading film director, Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers and Hero), Academy Award®winning costume designer Emi Wada (Akira Kurosawa’s Ran), and National Book Award-winning novelist Ha Jin. Domingo’s performance was powerful, and the production featured striking images, including 12 large drums struck by drummers using stones, hitting the drums and banging the stones together with highly stylized movements, creating what Alex Ross called “perhaps the most far-out music that has ever been heard at the Met” in his New Yorker review. While most who attended this PMP runout agreed with The New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini, who wrote, “Mr. Tan’s score is an enormous disappointment, all the more so because whole stretches of it, and many arresting musical strokes, confirm his gifts,” all were glad for the opportunity to see and hear such an ambitious production featuring some of opera’s major artists.—E.S. PMP 57
Field Trip: Lincoln Center Festival 2007
Twenty-six members of Philadelphia’s nonprofit arts community joined PMP staff and representatives from The Pew Charitable Trusts for this year’s professional development trip to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. These included leaders of music institutions and performing ensembles, as well as guests from other disciplines, including visual arts and dance. From July 26 – 29, trip participants attended six symposia on a broad spectrum of artistic and administrative topics; five performances encompassing multiple disciplines; and took a tour of Richard Serra’s sculptures at the Museum of Modern Art.
Two of the artistic symposia attended by the group were curated by the Lincoln Center Festival: a discussion between choreographer Frédéric Flamand and architect Liz Diller (of Diller Scofidio + Renfro) about intersecting aesthetics in dance and architecture, as explored in Flamand’s “Metapolis II;” and George Benjamin, composer of “Into the Little Hill,” discussing the process of bringing his first opera to the stage.
In addition, PMP curated two artistic panels for trip participants. These were moderated by Limor Tomer, adjunct curator of performing arts at the Whitney Museum and executive producer in the music department at WNYC Public Radio. The first featured three New York music curators: George Steel, executive director at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre; Ronen Givony, who directs a relatively new chamber series called Wordless Music; and Neal Goren, founding artistic director of Gotham Chamber Opera. The panelists responded to questions about audience engagement, and how to create programming of contemporary work with broad appeal. George Steel stated simply: “I think if you put arresting, startling music in front of an audience—that is engagement. Everything else is fake and peripheral—the great art, that’s the real thing.” Along similar lines, Ronen Givony shared that he doesn’t run program notes for his concerts because he thinks that “there’s a feeling that classical music is something that people need to be brought into—that it’s not something a person off the street can just walk into a room and start listening to. The intention is good—to bring people into music and to educate them. But I think it actually ends up mystifying people more than not when you open up a program book and there are three pages about a Beethoven sonata. People are smart, and I think there’s a lot of hidden condescension in the way that concerts are presented. I really think that less is more.” Limor Tomer mused about her first eight months at WNYC and her quest to introduce new music programming there. “The first thing I did was I lost the word ‘classical.’ It’s not that we’re abandoning the 19th or 18th centuries—in fact, we’re having monthly commitment ceremonies with The Great Music. But we’re losing what I call ‘classicoid,’ you know, that kind of sound.” Tomer explained that WNYC hired her precisely because she offered them an outsider’s perspective—her background is not in radio, but in music presenting. “I was in the trenches for so long I’m used to fatigues and fighting the system. Now I am the system, so it’s an interesting way to be in New York, and it’s an opportunity for the New York cultural scene to speak with the press from a different kind of view.” The second PMP-curated panel featured three New York music artists: Michael Cain,
jazz pianist and composer and teacher at the New England Conservatory; Matt Moran, percussionist, composer, and leader of the band Slavic Soul Party; and Marilyn Nonken, pianist and director of piano performance studies at New York University. Marilyn Nonken told the story of her experiences starting out as a new music pianist when many around her were skeptical that this was a career path she should pursue. “At Eastman (School of Music), she recalled, “I fell in with a group of composer friends who were at this school with all sorts of talented, great players, but they couldn’t find anyone to play their music because people just wanted to play ‘the classical music.’ So I thought, ‘There’s a need for me to be playing this music—this is a way I can use my talent.’ It seemed very obvious to me that this made me valuable as a player.” Michael Cain narrated his journey from classical piano to jazz improvisation, and how he realized at a certain point that he wasn’t enjoying a lot of the music he was making, and he wanted to know why. “We like music that’s funky. In a lot of the musical communities I work with, whether we say it or not, the Holy Grail is to be funky.” A technically trained dancer, Cain mused on the role played by dance in the music that inspires him and that he wants to perform: “There’s a larger beat that includes the whole room. I want to know how people dance
Left to right: “Second Visit to the Empress”; “Mongolia”; “The Full Monteverdi,” photos by Stephanie Berger, www.stephaniebergerphoto.com
Lincoln Center Festival 2007
to the music.” He then pointed out: “If it’s dance music, chances are it’s not in the Academy, and I want to know why that is.” Attendees were also treated to developmentfocused presentations by Susan Shiroma, senior librarian at the Foundation Center, and Kelly Cooper-Kordylewski, program associate at the MAP Fund (Multi-Arts Production Fund), a program of Creative Capital, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, both of whom suggested new avenues for arts funding. Ms. Shiroma informed attendees that the Free Library of Philadelphia is a Regional Foundation Center, offering the region’s largest public information collection on all aspects of fundraising, institutional advancement, and general philanthropy. In addition, Doug Bohr, senior program associate in Culture at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Martin Cohen, director of the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, and PMP Director Matt Levy shared updates on new initiatives at Pew, PCMI, and PMP, and asked constituents for feedback on ways that Pew and its initiatives can further strengthen the music community. Much of the trip participants’ time was spent
in performances. These included “The Full Monteverdi,” a site-specific performance by Britain’s I Fagiolini vocal ensemble of Claudio Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals. The performance felt at times like a series of private conversations on which the audience was eavesdropping, as six couples seated at tables around the audience sang an intimate sequence of breakups, make ups, and quarrels. The Ballet National de Marseille’s “Metapolis II,” featuring choreography by Frédéric Flamand, hinged on a convergence of ballet, film, video, and architecture. Set on a futuristic landscape, the ballet synthesized live film with the dancers’ movements and a set of interconnected silver sculptures. “Mongolia: Dance, Music and Ballad,” a concert intended to mimic the rhythms of community gatherings and entertainment in Mongolia, featured seven artists from different areas of the country. The energetic performance offered melodies from traditional popular songs performed on various lutes, fiddles, flutes, and a two-stringed horse-head violin (morin khuur), as well as indigenous dance (biyelgee), epic song (tuul), long chant (urtyn duu), and overtone singing (khöömii). British composer George Benjamin’s chamber opera, “Into the Little Hill,” created in collaboration with playwright Martin Crimp, was written in two parts specifically for soprano Anu Komsi and contralto Hilary Summers, each of whom played multiple roles. A retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story, this “lyric tale” revealed the classic not as a children’s story, but as a terrible allegory of betrayal, deception, and the power of music. “Second Visit to the Empress,” the first production of the classic Chinese Opera repertory piece in over 200 years, was conceived and directed by choreographer Shen Wei of Shen Wei Dance Arts. Sourcing 10 years of high-level opera training in his native China, Shen Wei incorporated four traditional Beijing Opera luminaries—Ms. Zhang Jing, Mr. Deng Mu Wei, Mr. He Wei, and Ms. Song Yang—into this, his first opera production. Experiencing and discussing art with such intensity over the course of four days proved fertile ground for participating members of PMP’s music and arts community, spurring new ideas for collaboration. “I was truly inspired by so much of what I saw,” wrote one attendee upon returning to Philadelphia.—E.S.
Left to right: “The Full Monteverdi” and “Into the Little Hill,” photos by Stephanie Berger; www.stephaniebergerphoto.com
Cambodian dancer Thavro Phim, photo by Toni Shapiro-Phim
Spotlight: Philadelphia Folklore Project
Founded in 1987, the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) originated as a coalition of folklorists wanting to consider how best to mark the 100th anniversary of the American Folklore Society. Folklorist Debora Kodish and others established an office in a third floor room at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, and began by conducting fieldwork to familiarize themselves with the current state of folk traditions around the city. From the beginning, PFP’s mission has been defined by a commitment to sustaining cultural heritage in Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods. PFP’s approach of learning from—and with—communities makes a lot of sense when one begins to examine what folklore is, and what it means for life in Philadelphia. The term “folklore” was coined in 19th century England by scholars who began to study and document rapid changes in daily community life resulting from the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Kodish explains, “There have been many other names for this kind of attention to the arts and culture of everyday life, and the origins of the field of folklore can be pushed back even further, and to other places.” But, she adds, “overall, folklore represents a movement of scholars and activists from around the world interested in the costs of modernization, progress, and particularly in the arts and practices—handmade, community-rooted, vernacular—created by ordinary people, as part of everyday life.” Folklore’s origins seem particularly salient today, as the influence of American mass-produced culture reaches more places around the globe than ever before. Contrary to the common perception that folklorists are engaged in the romantic pursuit of remnants from a time past, they are more often seeking to document living traditions, to understand how they are created, evolve, and how they help their communities make meaning out of daily life or strengthen common bonds.
by Emily Sweeney
Support for cultural diversity can take many different forms at PFP, from long-term collaborative projects culminating in concerts and exhibitions to professional development for individual folk artists, grant writing workshops, educational programs in public schools and community centers, and strategizing around broader political issues of resource allocation and city planning. “Biodiversity gets respect these days,” wrote Kodish in an email she circulated in April of 2001 reflecting on the success of Philadelphia’s Chinatown in resisting plans for a new Phillies stadium. “We need to begin to think about cultural diversity in the same way. Rather than erasing community differences, we should be preserving those neighborhoods that serve important and unique functions in our cultural ecosystem.” To that end, PFP began in its own backyard, creating programs focused on the folklife of family businesses and Italian folk arts, traditions from the South Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding the Fleisher Art Memorial. During those first years, PFP also established the Philadelphia Folklife Archive; in 2007, the Archive houses more than 65,000 items, including photographic materiPMP 61
Spotlight: Philadelphia Folklore Project
als, audio and video recordings, material objects, and ephemera. The young PFP began publishing its magazine, Works in Progress, as well as a Guide to Philadelphia Folklife Resources, as a means to create a public record of the work of significant traditional artists in the region. In October 1989, Kodish and her fellow folklorists produced Philadelphia Folklore Month, a city-wide celebration that brought more than 1,000 folklorists to Philadelphia and featured 121 events offered by 70 organizations. The scale of the celebration was both a testament to Philadelphia’s thriving folklife, and the drive of PFP to ensure its recognition and prosperity. Over the past 20 years, the Folklore Project has developed a number of programs to help artists and the communities they serve fulfill their cultural goals. Indeed, PFP grew alongside its constituents, in some of those early years leveraging more in grant funding for resident artists than for its own annual budget. Although the scope of its programs has continued to broaden, the organizational structure remains small and responsive, consisting
of three full-time employees: Founder and Director Debora Kodish, Associate Director Toni Shapiro-Phim, and Members’ Services Coordinator Roko Kawai. Despite the obvious challenges of a limited staff, PFP’s scale and flexible approach enables them to interact effectively with the many different communities they serve. Perhaps most important, PFP has built community and relationships out of these years of service: the small staff is balanced by the large community of people working in folk and traditional arts who have found a home, a platform, and the possibility of mutual support, at PFP. PFP has been particularly skilled at both helping individual artists to realize artistic dreams, and in connecting diverse artists and community organizations with common cultural interests. Recognizing that artistic “excellence” is often a matter of access to resources, PFP has worked consistently to increase the kinds of practical, financial, and intellectual resources available to community-based traditional artists. PFP staff will also work with external scholars in order to gain insight into particular community practices and better understand an artist’s work relative to his or her tradition. Toni Shapiro-Phim reflects, “We never want to be presenting ‘stuff’—it’s peoples’ lives, with values and meaning deeply embedded in this artistry. It’s critical that we value the great art—we wouldn’t be doing this if the art weren’t great—and at the same time also value the cultural/ historical context.” In the interest of facilitating a contextual understanding of cultural practices, PFP develops programs to help educators integrate folk arts into their lesson plans, working with a core of teaching artists to provide resources for children to learn about their own and other folk cultures through residencies and concerts. A giant step for PFP’s support of folklore in education was the 2005 opening of the Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures (FACT) Charter School in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a collaborative project with Asian Americans United. FACT is a K-8 charter school that’s free and open to any child in Pennsylvania. The school fulfills its mission through programs that pair teachers with teaching artists to design school-wide arts, humanities, and social science units; they also teach Mandarin to all their students. Other initiatives include traveling photo exhibitions like the current documentary show “All that we do: contemporary women, traditional arts,” about nine local artists and their lives, as well as other exhibitions exploring and displaying local folk arts—from Hmong textiles to “Folk Arts of Social Change.” Full-length and short-form documentaries (called “video postcards”), aired regionally on WHYY and WYBE, have provided means for artist and community members to articulate the meaning of local cultures and traditions, including Look forward and carry on the past: stories from Philadelphia’s Chinatown and I choose to stay here, which examines the impact of gentrification on a Philadelphia neighborhood. In Kodish’s words, “For the past 20 years, the Philadelphia Folklore project has worked close to the ground, outside much public notice, shoulder to shoulder with artists and community members around the region, like them finding continuing relevance in particular local and vernacular traditions.”
Top left: tapdancer Germaine Ingram; Right: trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith
Spotlight: Ars Nova Workshop
by Emily Sweeney
When Mark Christman founded Ars Nova Workshop in 2000, he knew there was already at least a small Philadelphia audience for the music he would be presenting. “I was traveling with a fairly substantial group of friends to New York very often to go to the Knitting Factory and some of the other places that were presenting the music frequently,” remembers Christman. “I’ve always been a live music junkie, I guess.” Though the leap from junkie to impresario may seem a long one, in Christman’s case it was a natural step. “I had a personal investment and interest in the music. I thought it was totally exciting and it blew me away… to create more opportunities for these people was really exciting.” Ars Nova began as a weekly series at the Plays and Players Theater in their third floor cabaret space. Christman reached out to artists in New York’s “downtown” scene, which he defines by naming musicians like William Parker, Tim Berne, and other people who were doing significant work at the Knitting Factory and Tonic. He found them to be very receptive, and news traveled fast about the new presenter in Philadelphia. “There are different communities and there are lots of players involved, but word does get out quickly when you’re doing something consistently and showing a lot of respect for the work, the musicians, and the space that they’re occupying.” Over the next few years, Ars Nova began to occupy more and more spaces. Christman formed a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania that led to a free concert series in Houston Hall, which continues to this day. He also began to book avant-garde jazz shows at the Tritone when the venue was just establishing itself, as well as at the Slought Foundation, the Rotunda, The Cinema (now closed), and the Community Education Center in West Philadelphia. A more recent and very fruitful ongoing collaboration with International House provided a home for “Seraphic Light” in 2006, an ambitious festival celebrating John Coltrane’s 80th birthday with concerts featuring many of his contemporaries, including Dave Burrell, Reggie Workman, Rashied Ali, Cecil Taylor, and Marshall Allen. Christman seeks venues that provide a sense of intimacy, as well as the potential for artistic and organizational collaboration. Brand new spaces for Ars Nova concerts in 2007-08 include Vox Populi, Fleisher Art Memorial, and Settlement Music School. Despite all this branching out, Christman keeps PMP 63
Spotlight: ARS NOVA WORKSHOP
Left to right: Scandinavian quintet Atomic; Ned Rothenberg and Evan Parker; David S. Ware Unit featuring Mat Maneri, photos by Alan Lankin
his marketing strategy simple, relying heavily on an extensive email list and Myspace. He doesn’t underestimate the influence of word of mouth, and stays well-connected with musicians around Philadelphia. Achieving nonprofit status in 2004 enabled Ars Nova to begin applying for foundation support, but its operational infrastructure remains skeletal; Christman continues to hold down a day job. He has developed an active board, with some board members helping to curate the series, and partnerships with other organizations fill in administrative gaps. Since 2000, Ars Nova has presented more than 200 programs of highly progressive music, which,
allows free play to individual subjective associations.” Subjectivity plays a big part in Christman’s curatorial style. “These are the concerts I would be going to if Ars Nova were not presenting the stuff,” he explains, “But my sense is that Philadelphia would not have these concerts.” It is Christman’s relationship with the music that makes him such an effective presenter; he approaches the musicians as a collaborator, providing a space and an audience for artists often working in the avant-garde to realize their visions. “The touring circuit has diminished since the 1960s; the spaces that can really accommodate and appreciate these musicians have fallen off the map,” notes Christman. Christman’s dreams for the future of Ars Nova include finding a permanent space in Philadelphia to host educational programs and concerts, foster collaboration among musicians, and possibly house an archive. He is also interested in developing a record label, as Ars Nova has already amassed
in no small part, led to a coveted Chamber Music America ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in Jazz in 2005. Christman speaks in vague terms about his curatorial vision, seeming reluctant to assign a simple formula to his decision making. But how does he select the composers and musicians he wants to present? Ars Nova’s programming spans many genres, featuring artists from the worlds of jazz, free jazz, experimental, electro-acoustic, improvised, and progressive music. Much of this music incites a move away from category and description (tools developed for discussing shared experiences of music) and towards fostering the audience’s individual perception and experience. The quote from Austrian writer Ernst Fischer at the top of Ars Nova’s Webpage is telling: “It is essential to distinguish between music the sole purpose of which is to produce a uniform and deliberate effect, thus stimulating a collective action of an intended kind, and music whose meaning is, in itself, expressing feelings, ideas, sensations, or experiences, and which, far from welding people into a homogenous mass with identical reactions,
quite an archive of live concert recordings. “We’re interested in facilitating the continuation of the experimentation,” says Christman, “to present collaborations that are unique or even unheard of, and to experiment curatorially. I think organizations should push the boundaries just as much as the artists they support.” “This is entirely a learning experience,” Christman muses. “I don’t think it would be as exciting to me if I wasn’t learning something every day. But this music is sort of all about that, you know? It’s about wanting to hear something that may have never been heard before—something really unique.” Despite its connections with New York City’s creative music scene, Ars Nova is hardly a transplant. The city of Philadelphia has been integral to Ars Nova’s development, from the extensive community of free jazz fans in West Philadelphia to the more recent influx of young experimental musicians lured by Philadelphia’s relatively cheap studio spaces. When asked how Philadelphia has helped support Ars Nova, Christman replied, “I think that there’s a really excellent sort of independent thing going on here where folks are presenting, performing, and organizing on a real grassroots level. I think that really helps strengthen communities because of personal relationships and word of mouth, and mutual respect and admiration across many different disciplines here. I think that Philadelphia has something pretty special.”
Editor Matthew Levy, PMP Director Managing Editor Emily Sweeney, PMP Senior Program Associate Assistant Editor Willa Rohrer, PMP Program Assistant Design fluxism.com
The Philadelphia Music Project (PMP) was initiated by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1989 to foster artistic excellence and innovation in the region’s nonprofit music community. PMP meets this objective by supporting commissions and productions of new works, presentations of large-scale or long-neglected works, interdisciplinary collaborations, and similar programmatic enhancements. PMP maintains a comprehensive professional development program, producing seminars, conferences, and field trips; providing consulting services in strategic planning, public relations, and audience development; and offering modest grants for professional development to the leadership of local music organizations. PMP is a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts. www.philadelphiamusicproject.org
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A Program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Administered by The University of the Arts
About the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage
Opened in November 2005, the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage (PCAH) houses seven existing initiatives of The Pew Charitable Trusts that are dedicated to assisting cultural organizations in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region develop high-quality public programs and effective management practices. PCAH is the home of Dance Advance, Heritage Philadelphia Program, Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Music Project, and Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. Each year these programs support dozens of performances, exhibitions and other public programs in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region. They also seek to encourage high levels of artistic and management capacity through seminars, publications, and other activities designed to develop and sustain a rich array of world-class cultural programs for audiences in the Philadelphia region. The Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and is administered by The University of the Arts. www.pcah.us About The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. We partner with a diverse range of donors, public and private organizations and concerned citizens who share our commitment to fact-based solutions and goal-driven investments to improve society. www.pewtrusts.org About The University of the Arts
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