Louis & the Young Americans gives a compelling look at leading Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s influence on the next generation of North American composers by showcasing music by three of his former students – Michael Fiday, John Korsrud, and Missy Mazzoli. Frequent ACO collaborator Jeffrey Milarsky will conduct.
The program includes the world premiere of a new orchestration of Missy Mazzoli’s searing, pop-tinged, and bluesy These Worlds in Us, inspired by James Tate’s poem The Lost Pilot about World War II and dedicated to Mazzoli’s father, a Vietnam War veteran. It also includes the world premiere of Michael Fiday’s otherworldly homage to “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Variations – Hunter S. Thompson in memoriam; and the world premiere of John Korsrud’s brash and big band-influenced Come to the Dark Side, inspired by a single sentence Andriessen said to Korsrud during his first lesson. Come to the Dark Side features Korsud as trumpet soloist. The concert’s centerpiece will be the New York premiere of Andriessen’s Symphony for Open Strings. One of the composer’s most unusual works, it was written in 1978 for twelve string players utilizing only open strings on their instruments (no left hands). Each instrument is tuned differently, so that the chamber ensemble retains a range of four octaves.
Orchestra Underground: Louis & the Young Americans kicks off a month-long celebration of Andriessen’s music at Carnegie Hall, where he holds the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair. Recently named Musical America’s 2010 Composer of the Year, Andriessen is a central figure in the international new music scene. Influenced by Bebop and Minimalism, his works are a mirror of American music, and are eclectic, anti-establishment, and often employ American vernacular, jazz, and cinema music. In addition, his persona – his take your own path/do it your own way/take no prisoners/rules were meant to be broken attitude – speak directly to American values. As The Los Angeles Times reports, Andriessen is “a rebel with a very large cause.”
Andriessen’s compositions have become a formidable influence on many younger musicians. Students (including the three featured on this concert, and ACO’s creative advisor Derek Bermel) have flocked from all over the world – and particularly from America – to study with Andriessen at his house on the Keizersgracht and to immerse themselves in the vibrant artistic life of Amsterdam.
Louis Andriessen was born in Utrecht on June 6, 1939, into a musical family. His father Hendrik and his brother Juriaan were established composers in their own right. Andriessen studied with his father and Kees van Baaren at the Hague Conservatory, and between 1962 and 1964 undertook further studies in Milan and Berlin with Luciano Berio. Since 1974 he has combined teaching with his work as a composer and pianist.
From a background of jazz and avant-garde composition, Andriessen has evolved a style employing elemental harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic materials, heard in totally distinctive instrumentation. His acknowledged admiration for Stravinsky is illustrated by a parallel vigor, clarity of expression, and acute ear for color. The range of Andriessen’s inspiration is wide, from the music of Charles Ives, the art of Mondriaan, and medieval poetic visions, to writings on shipbuilding and atomic theory. He has tackled complex creative issues, exploring the relationship between music and politics, the nature of time and velocity, and questions of mortality.
Symphony for Open Strings is written for twelve string players, each with altered tuning, so that, as the composer explains, “the ensemble has all the chromatic tones over a range of nearly four octaves at its disposal, but for a melody of four consecutive tones, four players are required. As regards the composition technique, I employed symphonic procedures: recurring motives, a developing musical motion, and something like a recapitulation. I had not used techniques like these since the fifties, and they could be my answer to the neo-romantic movement: young composers writing once again for the symphonic orchestra. In this sense the Symphony is ambiguous, using ‘symphonic’ techniques while an open-string orchestra will never sound like a real symphony orchestra. The work has benefitted from this discrepancy.”
For more info visit: www.boosey.co/copposer/Louis+Andriessen
Michael Fiday: Gonzo
– Hunter S. Thompson in memoriam
Hailed as “pure magic” by the American Record Guide, and “clearly structured, colorful and unflaggingly compelling work” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Fiday’s music has been commissioned and performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe by a diverse range of performers such as Atlanta Symphony, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Percussion Ensemble of The Hague, pianists James Tocco and Marc-Andre Hamelin, electric guitarist Seth Josel, and violinists Carla Kihlstedt and Graeme Jennings.
Born in 1961, Fiday first began his musical training as a violinist at age 11, turning his attention to composing only a few years later. He studied with Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam under the auspices of a Fulbright Grant from 1992 to 1993. His other principal teachers have included Richard Toensing and George Crumb. Fiday is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and residencies from, among others, BMI, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. He is currently Associate Professor of Composition at the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati.
Of his new work, Gonzo Variations – Hunter S. Thompson in memoriam, Fiday says, “In the years since his death by his own hands, the final act of noted “ Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson in 2005 has assumed symbolic proportions. Colorful reminiscences from friends, adversaries, and fellow travelers followed on cue, forming a composite picture of an outrageous life lived on the perimeters. Amidst the well-known accounts of endless pranks, hard drinking, and pharmacological excess, however, I was surprised to find numerous references to Thompson as something of a ’Southern gentlemen'. I found this rupture between private and public life fascinating, and decided to compose a work in memoriam, exploring the dissonances inherent in HST’s full spectrum persona.”
Gonzo Variations is a set of double variations using two themes representing the seemingly opposite sides to Thompson’s personality: Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” and an original bass line loosely derived from Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic anthem of 1967, “White Rabbit.”
For more info visit: www.michaelfiday.com
John Korsrud is a composer, producer, trumpet player, and educator from Vancouver, British Columbia. Born in 1963, he graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1990, was a frequent participant at The Banff Centre between 1984 and 1994, and studied with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory of Music in the Netherlands from 1995 to 1997. In 2001, he was awarded the Canada Council’s Joseph S. Stauffer Prize for music, literature, and visual arts. In 2003 he was the second Canadian to be awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, Italy. He is the leader and principal composer of the 17-piece Hard Rubber Orchestra, a highly active jazz/new music ensemble that has toured in Europe and across Canada, released two CDs, and is the recipient of Canada’s largest arts prize, The Alcan Arts Award.
Korsrud has been commissioned by The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, The CBC Radio Orchestra, the Albany Symphony New Music Festival, Vancouver New Music, Turning Point Ensemble, The Standing Wave Ensemble, and several Dutch ensembles such as LOOS, Combustion Chamber, Tetzepi Bigtet, Zapp String Quartet, and De Ereprijs. His score for the documentary Heroines (2002) earned him Leo and Golden Sheaf Awards and a Gemini Nomination; his score for Prisoners of Age (2005) a Leo Award.
Korsrud’s new work, Come to the Dark Side, is dedicated to Louis Andriessen in his 70th birthday year. It is inspired by one sentence that Andriessen said to Korsrud during a lesson in Holland in the mid 90s. Korsrud explains, “I was very interested in making my compositions as short as possible, zigging and zagging between genres about a second before the listener could figure out what was going on. During my first lesson with Andriessen, we discussed this aesthetic, and he tried his best to convince me that I should really take my time to fully explore language and nuance, as ultimately it would be the more rewarding experience for myself and the audience. This discussion went back and forth for a while yet I still showed resistance, so he paused, looked at me and said ‘John...come to the dark side.’ That made me laugh, and no further convincing was needed.”
For more info visit: http://www.johnkorsrud.com
These Worlds in Us
Missy Mazzoli was recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (The New York Times) and “one of the new wave of scarily smart young composers” (Sequenza 21). She writes for melodicas, out-of-tune guitars and electronics as well as orchestras and string quartets to create a unique and personal sound. Her music has been performed by the Kronos Quartet, the Minnesota Orchestra, eighth blackbird, the Spokane Symphony, the South Carolina Philharmonic, Ensemble ACJW, NOW Ensemble, and many others.
Mazzoli is also active as an educator, arts advocate, and performer. She is Executive Director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York, a festival founded by Philip Glass, Lisa Bielawa, and Eleonor Sandresky devoted to young composers. Upcoming projects include commissions for the League of Composers Chamber Players, new film scores commissioned by the Whitney Museum of Art, and works for the Santa Fe Chamber Players, violist Nadia Sirota, and cellist Jody Redhage. Her work has also been featured on the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Cabrillo Festival of New Music, the MATA Festival and Kathleen Supové’s Exploding Piano series at the Flea Theater in Manhattan. In 2006 she was a featured performer at Amsterdam’s Gaudeamus Festival of New Music, where she performed with her electro-acoustic band, Hills Not Skyscrapers, and also in residence at Merkin Hall in New York City.
In 2002 Mazzoli received a Fulbright Grant and traveled to the Netherlands, where she worked with Andriessen. She has received additional grants from the American Music Center and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is the winner of the 2007, 2008, and 2009 ASCAP Young Composer Awards. In addition to performing with her groups Hills Not Skyscrapers and Victoire, she is also active as a pianist for the avant rock group Mohair Timewarp. Mazzoli is a graduate of the Yale School of Music (MM 2006), the Royal Conservatory in the Hague (2004) and Boston University (BM 2002). She has also studied with David Lang, Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis and John Harbison, among others.
The original version of Mazzoli’s These Worlds in Us was composed in 2006 and was selected for the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute and Readings that same year. It was chosen for a second performance by the Minnesota Orchestra the following year. The performance by ACO will be the world premiere of a version re-orchestrated for Orchestra Underground.
The title These Worlds in Us comes from James Tate’s poem The Lost Pilot, written about his father’s death in World War II. Of the piece, Mazzoli says, “This piece is dedicated to my father, who was himself a soldier during the Vietnam War. In talking to him it occurred to me that, as we grow older, we accumulate worlds of intense memory within us, and that grief is often not far from joy. I like the idea that music can reflect painful and blissful sentiments in a single note or gesture, and sought to create a sound palette that I hope is at once completely new and strangely familiar to the listener.”
For more info visit: http://www.missymazzoli.com
American conductor Jeffrey Milarsky is highly acclaimed worldwide for his impeccable musicianship, exhilarating presence, and innovative programming. He most recently conducted ACO in the spring and fall of 2008, leading the orchestra in the spring in its cutting-edge laboratory, Playing it UNsafe, and in the fall at the season opening concert. His wide-ranging repertoire, which spans from Bach to Xenakis, has brought him to lead ensembles such as the MET Chamber Ensemble, The Milwaukee Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York New Music Ensemble, Manhattan Sinfonietta, Speculum Musicae, Cygnus Ensemble, Fromm Players at Harvard University, and the New York Philharmonic chamber music series.
Milarsky is Professor in Music at Columbia University, where he is the music director and conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra. He is also on the faculty of The Manhattan School of Music as artistic director and conductor of the Percussion Ensemble as well as the music director of AXIOM, The Juilliard School’s critically acclaimed contemporary music ensemble. In September of 2008 he was named to the conducting faculty of the Juilliard School. He regularly conducts the Juilliard Orchestra, with which he has premiered over 150 works of Juilliard student composers over the past fifteen years.”
Tickets & Info
Tickets for the April 9 performance in Zankel Hall are $38 and $48 and can be purchased via CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, www.carnegiehall.org, or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office.