William Kraft: Kaleidoscope
Chris Cerrone: i will learn to love a person
Shaun Naidoo: Ararat
Why Women Weep: Pamela Madsen
Internal States: Tom Flaherty
Brightwork newmusic is joined by soprano Stacey Fraser for an eclectic and high-energy concert featuring works by Southern California composers. Shaun Naidoo’s Ararat takes the story of the biblical flood as it’s starting point, morphing into a raucous backwater before reaching it’s final resting place in the warm air of the mountains. In Kaleidoscope, William Kraft plays with all the possible colors afforded by Brightwork’s diverse instrumentation. i will learn to love a person is Chris Cerrone’s stunning take on young love, millennial angst, and relationships in the 21st century. Text from author Anaïs Nin’s deeply personal and introspective diary provide a backdrop for Pamela Madsen’s stunning Why Women Weep: IT IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO REJOIN THE OCEAN, for solo cello, spoken voice, and electronics. Tom Flaherty explores three Internal States in this Brightwork commission. Doubthovers between worlds, never finding resolution. Reverie mixes cloudy textures with expressive solo threads in a darkly ambiguous soundscape. Celebration dances, a lot, in a flood of joyous enthusiasm.
As soon as I composed the first measure, I knew that the piece would be based on colors and the title would be Kaleidoscope. There was a moment of hesitation when acknowledging the debt to Debussy, in particular, the intervallic language derived from the whole tone scale.
In Composing, I do not like to predetermine structure, (as many of my colleagues do). I do like to enjoy the adventure along the way. In that way, the balancing of phrases and events reveal the form, as it is being developed. I feel the same way about program notes. Rather than describe the way the piece unfolds and develops, I would like the listeners to also enjoy the adventure along the way. —William Kraft
Chris Cerrone’s I Will Learn to Love a Person is a piece about relationships—personal, romantic, harmonic, and timbral. Like all of his music, it obsessively controls its limited musical materials in service of big emotional catharses.
There are two contrasting “types” of song in I Will Learn to Love a Person. The first, third, and fifth songs emerge from extemporaneous-sounding clouds of harmonies and words: call it text message recitative. The second and fourth songs are bright and motoric, with a candid humor that counteracts the extreme vulnerability of the slow movements. The five songs are masterfully sequenced in a harmonic palindrome, with short interludes of repeated E’s acting as pivot points. Harmonic changes are few, and withheld until they feel revelatory.
The relationship of text and music is no less painstaking. It’s a rare case in which a musical setting is more than the sum of its parts: Tao Lin’s poems, which can be difficult to pin down on the page (are they sincere, or a bit glib?) and the music, so diaphanous at times it seems in danger of evaporating—powerfully concentrate each other in combination. Both elements sound simpler than they actually are. The pianist offhandedly touches some notes, outlining a harmony, over which the singer declaims what could be a series of self-pitying text messages:
seen from a great enough distance i cannot be seen
i feel this as an extremely distinct sensation
of feeling like shit
I Will Learn… requires a wide-ranging and nuanced dramatic performance in order to work correctly; perhaps more than a song cycle, it should be thought of as a self-analytical monodrama. Its protagonist is a precocious observer of the world and other people, but also immature and wildly heartbroken; the process of the piece is the discovery that there is, of course, no set of rules that govern human relationships. —Timothy Andres
Although ararat should not be viewed as an overtly programmatic exercise, there is an undoubted connection between the flood myth and the rhetorical flow of the music. The opening is pensive, and is occupied largely with the building of the three rhythmic figures whose interactions and transformations drive the music throughout. The second section is fast, and initially seems to be the logical response to the opening, but ultimately leads up to a humorous backwater which quite suddenly changes as the spirit of the opening is revisited, in a less tentative, darker mood, and sets the stage for a collision between two of the rhythmic figures which ends abruptly – on Ararat if you like. The music dies out quietly, with a quotation from Alban Berg’s song Warm der Luft, set within an elusive reference to the opening rhythm. —Shaun Naidoo
Why Women Weep: IT IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO REJOIN THE OCEAN for solo cello, spoken voice and electronics, is from my multi-media oratorio: “There will come soft rains” for ensembles, soloists and spoken voice, about the need for water and the meaning of rain. I composed this work as a solo work for cellist, that resides in the place of “middleground” between image-music and text, neither background ambient music or foreground, solo music, but hovering at a delicate point in between the various layers of the work. The cello part is based upon “middleground” materials of masterpieces of tonal music —the resonant architecture of voice-leading analysis of works, and spectrum of overtones, so is intentionally both reminiscent and yet distant. This work is also an embedded nocturnes, so has also a secret quote of Chopin hidden within. Like Anaïs’ own discussion of her self in her diaries, which this work quotes, this work embodies three selves—the cello, the spoken voice of the performer, and the recorded voice of Anaïs Nin. Anaïs Nin (1903–77), an American writer of Cuban-Spanish and French-Danish descent, is perhaps best known for her close association with Henry Miller, and for her extensive, deeply introspective diary. Transformed by psychoanalysis and a subsequent relationship with Freud’s longtime colleague Otto Rank, Nin wrote surrealist, experimental, and deeply personal fiction derived from her own experiences. She understood these innate characteristics of texts better than most writers, and through the creation of her handmade, semiautobiographical, deeply personal books, created works of great magnetism and power. —Pamela Madsen
Internal States reflects, as all music does, inner states that we all experience.
“Doubt” hovers between two harmonic worlds. An unsettled texture breaks into consonant major/minor sonority with some frequency. Just as often it remains locked in a paralyzed isometric state, unsure of where to go. Searching solo lines sometimes find resolution, sometimes continue the search. Just when the music might blossom into a clear resolution it takes an unexpected turn and ends with a quiet truce.
“Reverie” mingles cloudy textures with expressive solo lines in an often dark but ambiguous dreamscape.
“Celebration,” dances. A lot.
Internal States was commissioned by Brightwork newmusic, whose expressive and virtuosic playing were a constant inspiration.