eighth blackbird will be in San Francisco on Friday, February 4th at the Jewish Community Center. Via the new Amazon Yellow Pages, the picture to the left is probably the JCCSF. Similarly, San Francisco Performances does not list the precise works to be played:
The program will include five works selected from music by FITZELL, LERDAHL, HIGDON, RZEWSKI, SHEFSKY, CRUMB and BERMEL.
Based on recent blackbird concerts (via Steve Layton's NetNewMusic and notes by Jay Weitz), the program may include Jennifer Higdon's Zaka, George Crumb's Vox Balaenae, the Canadian George Fitzell's violence, Derek Bermel's Tied Shifts, Fred Lerdahl's Fantasy Etudes (streamed on an Art of the States page), and Frederic Rzewski's Les Moutons de Panurge
In his work with MEV, Rzewski emphasized the concept of collective improvisation, leading both to a penchant for socialist political compositions and a style that often combined notated and improvised passages...To this day, the phrase ‘sheep of Panurge’ implies a person who blindly follows the lead of another.”
Is "Shefsky" a mistakenly inserted phonetic pronunciation of Rzewski? I couldn't find any composer with that name. I did find some Marx Brothers dialogue, including a mythical Shefsky:
Lucille : You can't stay in that closet.
Groucho : Oh, I can't, can I? That's what they said to Thomas Edison, mighty inventor; Thomas Lindbergh, mighty flier; and Thomas Shefsky, mighty like a rose. Just remember, my little cabbage, that if there weren't any closets, there wouldn't be any hooks, and if there weren't any hooks, there wouldn't be any fish, and that would suit me fine.
In commemoration of the 50th year since Ives's death, pianist Heather O'Donnell has organized a project ("Responses to Charles Ives") to commission seven composers to write a piano work reflecting on Ives's influence on their own musical thought.
Sunday July 4 14h00 (Part 1) 16h00 (Part 2) Beethoven Room
HEATHER O'DONNELL PLAYS IVES
Part 1: The Concord
Charles Ives Second Piano Sonata (Concord, Mass., 1840 -1860)
Part 2: Essays After a Sonata
Michael Finnissy Song of Myself **
George Flynn Remembering **
Oliver Schneller New work for piano and electronics **
Walter Zimmerman Groll und Dank for piano and toy piano **
James Tenney New work for inside-piano **
Sidney Corbett Celestial Potato fields**
Frederic Rzewski Johnny has Gone for a Soldier **
...all of my conversations keep coming back to one central theme; all people need is to cross paths with someone that already has an appreciation for classical music. The more people they can come into contact with, the more their appreciation will grow. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to start learning and there aren’t any prerequisites needed to facilitate enjoyment, but there is a need for a convergence of minds...
While I don't attend concerts particularly for social reasons, I do end up being influenced by other listeners--case in point, my current exercise of immersing myself in five CDs from the library. In this exercise, the composers I've ended up being most interested to the point of not just listening to but doing some extracurricular reading about have been Conlon Nancarrow and Frederic Rzewski. I was already familiar with their work and roughly knew their biographical background and yet I wanted to pursue it more. I'd like to say it was the music itself that got my attention but it was also due to some fresh interaction with Angus at I Feel Love (on Nancarrow) and Pete Dako (on Rzweski).
In contrast, I bought the current Fanfare magazine today ("The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors") and while there are topics of intellectual interest (ads for new American CDs, the usual contentious letters to the editor, a review of Antheil's "lost" sonatas, and a review of Walter Simmons' book on American neo-romantic composers), given that I have no personal contact with any of the writers, it's harder for me to engage in what they have to say due to the abstractness of the information, sophisticated as it may be. Of course, it is not an either/or situation; I'll continue to read blogs and read Fanfare and listen to random CDs with no prior knowledge and (when I can) attend concerts and out of all that, I'll find music worth hearing and re-hearing. I'm just surprised the influence blogs and their social approach already have on my attention. And I suspect I am not alone e.g. I just ran across this thread on LiveJournal about people trying to guess which American composer should be considered an impressionist. I see people of presumably varying levels of musical knowledge interacting, to everyone's benefit, which leads back to the Drew McManus article mentioned at the beginning.
Ok, finally back to the music of Frederic Rzewski. North American Ballads is a work for piano in four movements:
• Dreadful Memories
• Which side are you on?
• Down by the Riverside
• Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
I'll quote Fanfare's Paul Ingram from a review of a recording by David Jalbert, on the last movement:
...a long, transcendent movement that manages to be both entertaining and magnificent, before vanishing like smoke up a chimney.
And after a week of listening to the piano music of George Antheil, the work doesn't sound contaminated by the brashness of "modernity." To paraphrase Fanfare terminology: recommended, if not deserving of the highest recommendation.
Frederic Rzewski has written not one, but two works based on letters written by controversial prisoners. Instantly, I thought Coming Together a great work. Based on a letter from prison by Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, De Profundis is also an interesting work but on first listen, the various parts--Wilde's text, the piano interludes, the post-modern vocalisms--did not fuse into any emotional impact. On second listen, I found it moving, especially as I came to realize Lisa Moore's vocal and piano performance was refined and yet theatrical. By the way, not coincidentally, she's on the Bang on a Can CD from Cantaloupe I'm listening to this week as well as the De Profundis Cantaloupe recording.
While the text ends in an upbeat way, Wilde's life after prison was short and poverty-stricken.