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Program notes for this concert

Related Concert:
"Pacifica Mix" October 11 at Japan Society

Essay
P.Q. Phan: Reborn in the U.S.A.

Essay
How should we listen to music by Asian-American composers?

 

Sunday, October 15, 2000 at 3pm

20th Century Snapshots - A Millennium CelebrationPacifica

Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Ursula Oppens, piano

MELISSA HUI Common Ground (U.S. Premiere)

CHINARY UNG Inner Voices

P.Q. PHAN When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged (World Premiere-Commissioned by ACO with funds provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust)

LOU HARRISON Piano Concerto
  I. Allegro
  II. Stampede, Allegro
  III. Largo

Tickets are $46, $33 & $16. Call CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

A pre-concert discussion with the composers takes place on the Carnegie Hall stage at 1:45 and is free to ticket-holders.


"Pacifica" Opens American Composers Orchestra Season at Carnegie Hall Sunday, October 15 at 3pm

Multi-generational exploration of the Asian-American musical experience with music by P.Q. Phan, Melissa Hui, Chinary Ung and Lou Harrison, featuring Pianist Ursula Oppens and led by Dennis Russell Davies

The Asian-American dynamic is currently the strongest trend in geopolitical and creative culture. There is no coincidence between the struggle to normalize political relations with countries such as China, Vietnam and North Korea and the simultaneous explosion in the area of Asian-American music, film, dance and visual arts. At the conclusion of the 20th Century and dawning of the 21st, Asia is the next geopolitical and creative frontier.

"Pacifica"

The American Composers Orchestra opens its Carnegie Hall season and continues its multi-year "20th Century Snapshots" Millennium celebration with a concert that celebrates America as the meeting ground where Western musical tradition blends and sometimes clashes with the musical heritages of the East. The program features a world premiere by Vietnamese-American composer P.Q. Phan; a U.S. premiere by Hong Kong-born Melissa Hui; a performance of Cambodian-émigré Chinary Ung's 1989 Grawemeyer Award-winning Inner Voices; and the Piano Concerto of American iconoclast Lou Harrison, with Ursula Oppens as soloist.

The three Asian-born composers and the Oregon-born Lou Harrison have found their creative spirits in the dynamic area where East meets West. From unique angles, each comes from native music traditions that have collided with new cultural discoveries, and like atom smashing, their music becomes entirely new and different matter.

ACO commissioned P.Q. Phan's When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged with the support of the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust for ACO's Millennium series, 20th Century Snapshots. The piece was written in reaction to the July 4, 1999 shooting spree by Benjamin Smith, a member of a white supremacist group, who gunned-down non-whites and then took his own life, in a murderous rampage that extended from Illinois to Indiana. In the words of the composer who lives in Indiana, "the 'heartland,' where life is supposed to be simple, friendly, and promising, became a land of doubts and terrors to me." The work acknowledges the tension between America's boundless idealism and the recurring symptoms of its violent pioneering past. P.Q. Phan left Vietnam in 1982 after six months in a Vietnamese jail cell for his political beliefs. He now teaches composition at Indiana University's School of Music at Bloomington, and last year won a coveted Prix de Rome. This fall, Phan is ACO's Music Alive Composer-in-Residence, participating in ACO's educational and community outreach programs. Phan also programmed "Pacifica Mix" a concert of chamber music by emerging Asian-American composers October 11 at 8pm at the Japan Society.

Both composers Melissa Hui and Chinary Ung view their compositions as "musical quilt work." Hui's Common Ground was commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 1994. In her words, "It is a loud, hyper-kinetic fanfare, full of boisterous 'sound objects' that jostle for attention and elbow for 'air time.' In using materials that sound, in turn, primal and urbane, I aimed to create a musical quilt, a patchwork of inviolable musical entities whose diverse natures are united, and by juxtaposition, strengthened, in a single integrated whole." Hui was born in 1966 in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver, British Columbia and is currently an Assistant Professor of composition and theory at Stanford University.

Composer Chinary Ung's composition Inner Voices was similarly inspired by the work of an old Cambodian woman who made quilts from collected scraps of cloth in all shapes and colors. The artistry of the old woman's work became Inner Voices' organizing principle. With overlapping colors, ensemble groupings and superimposed musical ideas, the piece forms a "quilt of sound fragments," juxtaposing melodic lines, abstract sounds, and original material with Cambodian folk and dance music. Ung was born in Cambodia in 1942 and was one of the first graduates of Cambodia's National Music Conservatory. Steeped in the tradition of Cambodian music by his father-an interest that was later reaffirmed after many members of his family perished under the brutal Pol Pot regime-Ung came to New York in 1964 determined to explore the Western music that fascinated him.

Currently one of the wise elders of American composition, Lou Harrison was one of the first native-born American musical pioneers to discover the creative point where West meets East. Fascinated by gamelan music, Asian rhythmic and tuning systems, and endowed with a musical sense of adventure and experimentation like no other, Lou Harrison has written some of the most innovative music of the century: long before it became an innovation in cuisine, Lou Harrison embraced "Pacific Fusion." Harrison's Piano Concerto was written for and first performed by Keith Jarrett with the ACO and Davies in 1985. The specially tuned piano (all the white keys are tuned to "just intonation" and the black keys to fourth and fifth intervals) opens up a new melodic world in the first movement that is reminiscent of the Indonesian gamelan. The second, third, and fourth movements are riotous, meditative, and elegant, respectively. One of the great heroes of contemporary composers, pianist Ursula Oppens, is the soloist.

Major support of the American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., Mr. Thomas Buckner, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, Citigroup Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Fidelity Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, J.P. Morgan & Co., Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The residency of composer P.Q. Phan is made possible through Music Alive, a program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet The Composer. This national program is designed to provide orchestras with resources and tools to support their presentation of new music to the public and build support for new music within their institutions. Funding for Music Alive is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music. ACO's "Coming to America: Immigrant Sounds/Immigrant Voices" project is supported by the Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts funded by the Ford Foundation.


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