Point of View notes

In advance of "Point of View", here are two sets of notes on the music for you to enjoy - some musings from the co-curators, and Kathryn Bacasmot's always enlightening program notes. See you this weekend! 

A note from Karl and Liesl: 

Steve Reich's "Clapping Music" is a pure experience-based humanistic approach to music and and world - no instruments, no music, just Criers clapping. 

Haydn's Symphony no. 22 "The Philosopher" gives us the time and space to celebrate the value of the human intellect to ponder the questions of the universe. 

Feel the overwhelming beauty of nature - close your eyes and be transported by Ayano Ninomiya's musical painting of "The Lark Ascending."

 Norman Dello Joio’s "Meditations on Ecclesiastes" reminds us both to have a plan and have faith. Truth is everywhere and everything has a time. 

Kip Jones' Long Distance Motorcycle Transit (LDMT) takes us on a journey, where human contact, contemplation, nature, faith, and celebration join together.

Whenever we can look with a different point of view we learn something - we're given new experiences.

Karl and Liesl Doty, co-curators

Steve Reich (b. 1936) :: Clapping Music

In the mid 1960s, after completing a degree in Philosophy at Cornell, and composition studies at Juilliard and Mills College, Steve Reich composed It’s Gonna Rain. The work is a recording of a street preacher, and features a technique Reich called “phasing,” a phenomenon he explored after realizing that two tape decks were moving in and out of sync with each other. Phasing became a cornerstone in Reich’s output, and one of the simplest expressions of it is Clapping Music, from 1972.

Clapping Music’s origin was at a nightclub in Brussels where Reich and some friends saw and heard a flamenco performance. At some point the performers added palmas, traditional flamenco clapping patterns, which caught the attention of the all the percussionists in the group. As Reich recalls, “We went out into the foggy Belgian night and started clapping at each other, and a light bulb just went on in my head—what if there’s a power failure in a gig, what if everything goes off? And that was it: ‘This is it, EUREKA!’ I got the inspiration to write Clapping Music.

There are two parts to Clapping Music, and both use the same rhythmic pattern. The piece evolves out of the phasing that occurs when one part shifts off one beat every eight repetitions. This shifting every eight bars continues until the two parts arrive back in unison, just as they started.

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Symphony No. 22 in E-flat major, The Philosopher

We refer to Haydn as the “father” of the symphony, not because he invented the genre, but because he helped (along with Mozart, and Beethoven, his later contemporaries and successors) bring the form to its fullest potential and maturity. This was, in part, the privilege of being born at the right time in history. The widespread establishment of equal temperament in the 18th century—tuning instruments so all pitches were equally spaced—was leading to broader possibilities of modulation between tonal centers, and as a result the sonata form was blossoming. As a master of form and structure, Haydn saw the possibilities, and furthermore, had an excellent group of musicians at his constant disposal for experimentation. It was in 1761 he went to work for the Esterházy family at their private estate that boasted an orchestra with some of the best instrumentalists in the region. Haydn composed music at an astonishing rate for the  Esterházy’s personal use, or private entertainment. His Symphony No. 22 was written in 1764. The first symphony he composed at the estate, just three years prior, was No. 6. 

Charles Rosen notes in his book The Classical Style that “what is most exceptional, not what is most usual, has often the greatest claim on our interest.” What made Haydn remarkable, and why we remember him, was his ability to explore the exceptions to the “rules” of form and style that were prevalent during his lifetime. He was constantly finding a way to modulate to a key that was unexpected, for example, and a sense of drama, humor, and dialogue, seems to pervade his works even though the music is completely abstract. The nickname “The philosopher” seems to have been attached to the piece during Haydn’s lifetime, but was not selected by the composer. One theory is that the slow opening of the symphony suggested a kind of pensiveness, but the true origin is unknown.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) :: The Lark Ascending

For English poets, nature has long been a source of inspiration for poetry, but acquired a new significance in reaction to the increased mechanization and urbanization that was the result of the ongoing industrial revolution. To this day we are concerned with the effects on nature that those changes brought about. We still worry about working conditions in factories, and consider the industrial impact on the environment, and how technology and food influence our bodily health. Time and again when we are confronted with the implications of our inventions we turn to nature.

Ralph Vaughan Williams began orchestrating The Lark Ascending after he returned to England from serving in World War I in the Medical Corps. It isn’t hard to imagine that this project might have been a balm for the scars of war. He had begun the piece (originally for violin and piano) in 1914, as a response to George Meredith’s poem of the same name, written in 1881. An article by Edwin Evans in The Musical Times from April 1, 1920 observes that Vaughan Williams was “one of the very few composers of whom it may be truthfully said that he has never set a bad poem or even one that was merely innocuous.” Though there are no lyrics here—the work is more of a tone poem—the composer did include a few lines from the poem in the preface to the score. Interestingly, the text in the preface is not simply an excerpt from the poem. Instead, Vaughan Williams compiles portions of the opening stanza, the second stanza, and the conclusion.

He rises and begins to round,                                 

He drops the silver chain of sound,                         

Of many links without a break,                             

In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.                      

For singing till his heaven fills,                           

‘Tis love of earth that he instils,                   

And ever winging up and up,

Our valley is his golden cup

And he the wine which overflows

to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aërial rings

In light, and then the fancy sings.

Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008) :: Meditations on Ecclesiastes

Dello Joio was born into a musical family and went on to study music formally at The Juilliard School, and with the German composer Paul Hindemith.

In 1957 Dello Joio won the Pulitzer Prize in music for Meditations on Ecclesiastes, a set of variations on a theme inspired the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, verses 1-8 (also used by Pete Seeger for his song, made famous by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn!”). Each portion of the music corresponds to a verse of the text:

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,  [Introduction]

A time to be born,  [Theme]

And a time to die;  [Solenne]

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  [Soave, e leggiero]

A time to kill, And a time to heal;  [Grave, con rividezza Larghetto, con leggerezza]

A time to break down, and a time to build up;  [Animato]

A time to weep, and to mourn,  [Adagio con intensità]

A time to dance, and to laugh;  [Spumante]

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  [Adagio liberamente]

A time of hate, and of war,  [Con brio, molto deciso]

A time to love, and a time of peace.  [Semplice]

Kip Jones :: LDMT

Kip Jones is a violinist and composer from Duluth, Minnesota. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, he performs full-time in ETHEL, a modern string quartet based in New York City. He highly values community, challenge, and groove, viewing the music of the Aka tribes as the high-water mark of human musical endeavor. In performance, he aspires to a direct and facile style that displays clarity of form and breadth of variation, like Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande; in composition, he aspires to crystalline structures like those of Borges and Dante, lately experienced in the music of Steve Reich and the Branford Marsalis Quartet. An enthusiast of long-distance motorcycling, Jones speaks four languages with varying degrees of fluency following years of nomadic overland travel to 26 countries. His music, described by the New York Times as “buoyantly songful”, has been heard at BAM Harvey, Merkin Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Grand Canyon Music Festival, Chom Ong Tai cave (Laos), Tsetserleg valley (Mongolia), and the Jordan Nisja school of music (Albania). He is married to an equally adventurous teacher/photographer; together they are currently renovating an old house two blocks from the Mississippi river in Minneapolis.

“LDMT (Long distance motorcycle transit) is a lane of pavement cut and pressed into the mountains: the fresh and oily stuff, the cracked and bumpy stuff, and especially the curvy stuff. LDMT was originally commissioned as a recording for a biker patron's trip to Sturgis. It's a jaunty and idiosyncratic machine, with more midrange pull than low end torque, but it delivers predictably, allowing the rider to roll on the throttle and focus on the road.