christopher cerrone composition
doctor of musical arts recital Morse Recital Hall December 19, 2013 â€˘ Thursday at 8 pm
Robert Blocker, Dean
Doctor of Musical Arts Recital
christopher cerrone · composition Thursday, December 19, 2013 •8:oopm · Morse Recital Hall
Christopher Cerrone b. 1984
Hoyt–Schermerhorn (2010) for piano and electronics Timothy Andres, piano
Memory Palace (2012) I. Harriman II. Power Lines III. Foxhurst IV. L.I.E. V. Claremont Ian Rosenbaum, percussion
Selections from Invisible Cities (2011) Live performance (DVD)
I will learn to love a person (2013) text by Tao Lin 1. That night with the green sky 2. Eleven-page poem, page three 3. I will learn to love a person and then I will teach you and then we will know 4. When I leave this place 5. Are you okay? Mellissa Hughes, voice Mingzhe Wang, clarinet Timothy Andres, piano Ian Rosenbaum, percussion
As a courtesy to the performers and audience, silence all electronic devices.. Please do not leave the hall during selections. Photography or recording of any kind is prohibited.
Hailed as “a rising star” by The New Yorker and singled out as “the program’s highlight” by The New York Times, Christopher Cerrone (b. 1984, Huntington, NY) is a Brooklyn-based composer of works ranging from chamber music, orchestral works, and fully staged operas to multimedia projects and ambient electronic works, as well as collaborations with visual artists. His diverse catalog synthesizes modernist and minimalist influences, sound design, and evocative orchestration into a lyrical and expressive whole. Recent collaborations include performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, New York City Opera, Tulsa Opera, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Ensemble ACJW. His opera, Invisible Cities, was presented by The Industry in collaboration with the L.A. Dance Project in the fall of 2013; the interactive production,
directed by Yuval Sharon, took place in L.A.’s historic Union Station. Cerrone has received awards and grants from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Chamber Music America, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, OPERA America, the Jerome Foundation, ASCAP, and New Music USA, and holds degrees from the Yale and the Manhattan Schools of Music. For seven years, he was coartistic director of Red Light New Music and he is currently one-sixth of the Sleeping Giant composer collective. His works are published by project Schott New York.
I will learn to love a person (2013) Text by Tao Lin
because i am conventional in all situations, i’ll be right back
1. That night with the green sky
3. I will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know
It was snowing and you were kind of beautiful We were in the city and every time I looked up Someone was leaning out a window, staring at me I could tell you liked me a lot or maybe even loved me But you kept walking at this strange speed You kept going in angles and it was confusing me I think maybe you were thinking that you’d make me disappear By walking at strange speeds and in a strange, curvy way But how would that cause me to vanish from the planet Earth? And that hurts Why did you want me gone? That hurts Why? Why? I don’t know Some things can’t be explained, I guess The sky, for example, was green that night 2. Eleven-page poem, page three my favorite emotions include ‘brief calmness in good weather’ and ‘i am the only person alive’ without constant reassurance i feel terribly lonely and insane i have moved beyond meaninglessness, far beyond meaninglessness to something positive, life-affirming, and potentially best-selling i have channeled most of my anger into creating and sustaining an ‘angry face’ i have picked up a medium-size glass of coffee and used it in the conventional way
seen from a great enough distance i cannot be seen i feel this as an extremely distinct sensation of feeling like shit; the effect of small children is that they use declarative sentences and then look at your face with an expression that says, ‘you will never do enough for the people you love’; i can feel the universe expanding and it feels like no one is trying hard enough the effect of this is an extremely shitty sensation of being the only person alive; i have been alone for a very long time it will take an extreme person to make me feel less alone the effect of being alone for a very long time is that i have been thinking very hard and learning about mortality, loneliness, people, society, and love; i am afraid that i am not learning fast enough; i can feel the universe expanding and it feels like no one has ever tried hard enough; when i cried in your room it was the effect of an extremely distinct sensation that ‘i am the only person alive,’ ‘i have not learned enough,’ and ‘i can feel the universe expanding and making things be further apart and it feels like a declarative sentence whose message is that we must try harder 4. When I leave this place the distances i have described in my poems will expand to find me but they will never find me when my head touches your head
Texts, continued • Notes on the Program
your face hits my face at the speed of light holding it a little i want to cross an enormous distance with you to learn the wisdom of lonely animals with low IQs i want to remember you as a river with a flower on it i’ll be right back 5. Are you okay? i don’t think telling someone ‘don’t feel sad’ will console them you need to do whatever you can to make them feel better whenever your actions make them feel sad and not stop until they feel better read my text message and think about it you just never seem happy with me anymore even if i make you laugh i think the damage i’ve done has become irreversible i’m surrounded by endless shit i can’t move where are you i just had a dream where i came to nyc but i didn’t tell you and i took the subway to your apartment and waited for your roommate to come out so i could sneak in then i went into your room and crawled under your sheets from the end of your bed and crawled to your face and kissed you then pet and hugged you and we fell asleep happy birthday i drew you an ugly fish comic will you visit me today? i want to hold you and kiss your face i miss walking with you at night
Hoyt–Schermerhorn for piano and electronics Program note
Hoyt-Schermerhorn is a tribute to the New York nightscape. Named after a subway station in Brooklyn where I have spent many a night waiting for the train, the piece explores the myriad and contradictory feelings that often come to me late at night in my city of choice—nostalgia, anxiety, joy, panic. Originally, Hoyt-Schermerhorn was conceived as a graphic score. In the original version, the pianist was allowed to choose sonorities chosen at the beginning of the piece are at the pianist’s discretion. By doing this, I was trying to capture a kind of automatic or intuitive texture. However, eventually I decided that it was my intuition that I wanted; to create improvisatory and almost aimless texture, I actually had to work quite intensely and diligently to create what I desired to sound like effortless improvisation. This section slowly transforms into the second half of the piece, a (mostly) soft and gentle lullaby, coated with a shatter of fragmented electronics breaking the quiet haze. Hoyt-Schermerhorn is dedicated to Yegor Shevtsov, for whom I composed the work. It is my pleasure to work with him on a solo piece for the first time after all these years working together in Red Light New Music. Memory Palace (2012) Almost every object struck, plucked, or blown in Memory Palace, a 22-minute work for amplified percussion and electronics, has to be made by the percussionist. The rest—a few bars from a glockenspiel, three high-pitched crotales, and the kick from a drum set—have been disembodied from their original context.
Notes on the Program
In the first movement, “Harriman,” the performer plucks a re-strung guitar lying on its back—a kind of makeshift dulcimer. The second movement, “Power Lines,” is scored for seven slats of wood, carefully tuned by sawing them to the correct length. The third, Foxhurst, is a forest of bells: tuned metal pipes alongside the aforementioned glockenspiel bars and crotales. The fourth movement, “L.I.E.”, adds even more wooden slats, creating polyphony from the homophony of “Power Lines.” The last movement, “Claremont,” features six blown bottles, tuned to different pitches with varying amounts of water. In each movement, the percussionist also triggers a series of electronic drones using an foot pedal, a resonant background aura that enhances the live music throughout. Each movement is titled for a personally important place. Harriman, New York, is where I spent a week camping with two of the musicians who have most influenced me. Against the crickets of the woods, I imaged music of simplicity and familiarity. “Power Lines” is a hard grid of glowing, high-voltage wires, their intersecting patterns seen from a moving car. “Foxhurst” is named for the street I grew up on, and uses the wind chimes which rang throughout my childhood. “L.I.E.” (Long Island Expressway) is another automotive movement, evoking the rumble strips on the side of a highway, their rhythmic pulsing playing against steady drone of the car’s motor. “Claremont” is the street of my college— with another close friend, I had tuned two full octaves of beer bottles where we kept them as a household instrument. By stringing these places together, I wanted to create a memory palace, a virtual series of locations I can “walk” through in my head,
remember some important things from my life and how they have shaped me. Selections from Invisible Cities (2011) The music of Invisible Cities is the result of my first collision with Italo Calvino’s extraordinary novel. For years I had been unable to bridge categories of music, thinking that a work could be either lyrical or conceptually rigorous, but not both. Calvino’s novel, however, is both a tightly structured mathematical work, yet also opens with the gorgeous line: In the lives of emperors there is a moment which follows pride in the boundless extension of the territories we have conquered, and the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up any thought of knowing and understanding them. After reading that sentence—so pregnant with meaning, lyricism, mood—I immediately began composing. I imagined the sound of a unearthly resonant and gong-like prepared piano, the ringing of bells, and wind players gently blowing air through their instruments. All of this would support a lyrical and deep-voiced Kublai Khan who is slow-moving and sings with gravitas. I imagined there would be two women, two high sopranos, who always sing together in harmony: they would be the musical personification of the cities that pervade the novel. And of course, our Italian explorer would be a tenor, light and quick-moving, melismatic, and deft. As with Calvino, there are many formally derived components to my opera. The orchestra is split into two halves (left and right) which alternate melodies to create the whole. The left part is associated Marco Polo, the right with Kublai Khan. And the opera is structured as formally as the novel, always alternating Polo and the Khan’s conversations with Polo’s stories of le città.
Notes on the Program
To borrow a term from of one of Calvino’s favorite writers, Jorge Luis Borges, Invisible Cities is a garden of forking paths. As the work progresses, you might find yourself wandering back to the same place in Union Station again and again only to find new things happening each time. In the same way, the same few musical ideas of Invisible Cities are revisited again and again, just from vastly different perspectives. As we grow and evolve, the same objects in our lives can acquire such different meanings. That above else governs what Invisible Cities is about: how our memories change as we get older, how our map of the world gets larger, and how our past is always being changed by our ever-shifting present.
I will learn to love a person (2013) In setting out to write my first large vocal piece since completing my opera Invisible Cities in 2011, I wanted to work with a different kind of text from Italo Calvino’s stylized, aphoristic prose. I hoped to find something more immediate that spoke directly to my life: that of an overeducated 29-year-old Millennial—having grown up suburban, overpraised, with the Internet a constant presence. While those circumstances are at face value unremarkable, I felt that new classical music had not yet addressed the Millennial condition in a meaningful way. It seems at times that “contemporary music” is so intently backwards-looking that it misses what is truly contemporary. Around this time I read a fantastic essay by the poet Jennifer Moore, “ ‘No discernible emotion and no discernible lack of emotion’: On Tao Lin.” She discusses Lin’s poetry and the “New
Sincerity” movement, of which he is considered a part. New Sincerity poetry is—simply defined— autobiographical, direct, emotional, stripped down, and self-doubting. What I discovered in Tao Lin’s poetry fit perfectly into my compositional style. The thematic links between the poems in his book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy allowed me to create a cycle of songs that are similarly connected. The simplicity of the texts also gave me the freedom to try many compositional strategies: sometimes supporting the subject matter with the music, at other times playing against them to highlight certain ambiguities. In writing these pieces, my hope is to create a work that reflects the strange and beautiful experience of growing up at the turn of the century—and that will continue to have meaning after that moment passes.
Upcoming Events Ransom Wilson, flute Melvin Chen, piano
Benjamin Verdery, guitar
january 15 Faculty Artist Series Morse Recital Hall | Wednesday | 8 pm Music by Haydn, Schumann, Debussy, Gaubert, John Halle, and more. Free Admission
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Piano Studio Recital
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Robert Blocker, Dean