October 15 2000 at 3pm
the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged
Born January 19, 1962 in Da Nang, Vietnam
Now living in Bloomington, IN
Composer P.Q. PHAN, born in 1962 in Vietnam, became interested in music while studying architecture. He taught himself to play the piano, compose, and orchestrate. In 1982 Mr. Phan immigrated to the United States and began his formal musical training. He earned his BM from University of Southern California and his DMA in Composition from University of Michigan, and has studied with Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, William Albright, and Barney Childs.
Mr. Phan's music has been performed throughout the world by the Kronos Quartet, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Radio France, Ensemble Modern, the Cincinnati Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Sinfonia da Camera, and Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, among others. Mr. Phan has received the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, an ASCAP Standard Award, Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, Charles Ives Center for American Music fellowship, and residency at the MacDowell Colony. Currently Mr. Phan is concluding a Music Alive Residency, a program of Meet The Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League, with American Composers Orchestra. Mr. Phan is an Associate Professor in composition at Indiana University at Bloomington.
Mr. Phan's recent works have focused on music that integrates the musical aesthetics of Southeast-Asia and the West. About When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged, the composer writes:
The memories and experiences that I gathered during my time growing up in Vietnam and establishing myself in the United States are the foundation of my compositions. I believe music reflects a good deal of cultural and ethnological philosophies and aesthetics; thus, elements derived from Southeast Asian, Euro-centric, and American traditions inspire my music. Among these, aspects of social communication and interaction have influenced my music immensely. In fact, most of my musical compositions are created in conjunction with social issue(s). These issues derive from the conflicts when cultures and ethnicity mix and merge.
In early 1998 when the American Composers Orchestra asked me to write a new work for its celebration of the new millennium, my mind was immediately filled with ideas of musical triumphs. Like others, I was absolutely cheerful and excited for the sensations and experiences of the new millennium. I originally planned to compose a series of musical celebrations derived from my origin, Vietnam, to express my appreciation for a fruitful life in my new adopted home, the United States. In that same year, I started to sketch many ideas derived from Vietnamese traditional music. My main concern laid on finding ways to integrate these ideas to those of American vernacular music. This process took an unexpected turn in the summer of 1999. In the Midwest, Benjamin Smith purposely and outrageously murdered people (in "execution style") of different races and beliefs on the 4th of July to "celebrate" the Independence Day of the United States. I was absolutely terrified by it, for it happened so close to home. My newly adopted peaceful and sweet Midwest suddenly became doubtful. The Heartland of America, where life is supposed to be simple, friendly, and easygoing, turned to be the land of doubts and terrors. This incident trembled the foundation I had built over the previous fifteen years, to love and believe in my adopted country and its people. The sense of "being lost" returned to me once again. This unfortunate event caused me to have some pessimistic and skeptical feelings toward the new millennium. When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged reflects feelings of celebration, confusion, chaos, struggle, and hope, telling how an innocent past emerged and adapted a different and challenging future.
When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged starts with an overture of metal and membrane percussion instruments, followed by a descending scale of shrill sounds. It is believed that this "overture" will clear out evil spirits in preparation for a morning ceremonial inauguration at a traditional Vietnamese court. Immediately following are variations of a Vietnamese traditional outdoor court dance to accompany the King's procession to his throne. These segments use my past to welcome and prepare for celebration of the new millennium. Then a sharp musical contrast immediately interrupts, evoking incidents from summer 1999. The structure is comparable to the complexity of the contemporary melting pot, heterogeneous society of the United States. The disjunctive motives and rhythms create a sense of chaotic dance, which is triggered by violence, angst, and confusion; like a feeling of someone who really wants to believe in something, but also has skeptical thoughts on the issue. The next section is a broad musical atmosphere where the musical ideas of celebrated moods return. However, it is intermingled with poignant, disturbing thoughts. The work ends with a broad and powerful anticipation for a bright future.
Born May 14, 1917 in Portland, OR
Now living in Aptos, CA
Lou Harrison lived his first nine years in Portland, Oregon; residences since then include San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, North Carolina, Oaxaca, New Zealand, and the Monterey Bay region where he has made his permanent home for the past forty years.
Mr. Harrison's musical style was shaped by the San Francisco of the 1930's. There he studied composition with Henry Cowell; accompanied such dancer/choreographers as Carol Beals, Bonnie Bird, Bella Lewitsky and Lester Horton; and staged high profile percussion concerts with John Cage. Harrison and Cage spent hours rummaging through junkyards seeking out found "instruments" that would ring, or resonate with various musical qualities.
By the time he left San Francisco in 1942, Lou Harrison had composed over 175 works, including several 12-tone compositions and even some quartertone pieces. He spent the year 1942-43 in Los Angeles where he studied with Arnold Schoenberg. He then followed Lester Horton and his dance troupe to New York, reviving his association with Cage and Cowell, and developing a close friendship with Virgil Thomson. Through Mr. Thomson, Lou Harrison would ultimately contribute over 300 music reviews to the New York Herald Tribune. He also wrote articles for Modern Music, Listen, and View, and published an extended essay About Carl Ruggles.
Mr. Harrison was elected to the National institute of Arts and Letters in 1973 and has, over the years, received numerous awards and commissions including two Guggenheims, two Rockefeller grants, a Fulbright fellowship, and two honorary doctorates. Residencies for teaching and composing include Reed College, University of Hawaii, Black Mountain College, University of New Mexico, The Music Academy of Basel, The Mozart Academy in the Czech Republic, and Dartington Hall in England. Mr. Harrison has taught at San Jose State University, Mills College, Greenwich House Music School, and on a Fulbright scholarship at the four main Universities of New Zealand.
In addition to teaching and composing Harrison has worked as a music critic, an animal nurse, florist, dance accompanist, and forestry firefighter. He is also a calligraphist and poet (his poetry anthology "Joys and Perplexities" is printed in one of his original fonts), painter, and writer. In 1993, his book "Music Primer" was republished in Tokyo in both English and Japanese. Mr. Harrison has helped introduce the Indonesian Gamelan to the United States and, with William Colvig, constructed two large gamelans, now in use at San Jose State University and Mills College. Mr. Harrison is currently completing a new book, Poems and Pieces, with recent poetry and gamelan pieces, and this past August received the MacDowell Medal of Honor at the MacDowell Colony.
About the work, the composer writes:
My Piano Concerto with Selected Orchestra is so called for the reason that it is composed in my favorite keyboard temperament - Kirnberger's No. Two, and this meant that I wanted to use only the orchestral instruments as could correctly play the tones of this tuning. Thus, I had to forgo the woodwinds and the valved brass. To my pleasure, it turns out that the three slide Trombones used, because of the majesty of their tones, actually give a rich, full - orchestra sound to the ensemble, and indeed the reduced orchestra has made the piece accessible to community orchestras, at least to those which can gather a few extra percussion players. I composed the piece for Keith Jarrett and Dennis Russell Davies (who introduced the two of us) and who first introduced the work in Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra. The well temperament heard has on the white keys an almost perfect C Major in just intonation - (when the "a" is very slightly high) and then the whole lovely opalescence of intervals reaches out to more remote keys. I have exploited this range of tones in many ways throughout the piece. In the second movement I have made use of an "octave bar " which will produce all of the tones of a full octave at once, while slightly emphasizing the octave interval. I have left the two-octave clusters to the forearm, as did Henry Cowell.