Notes (2005/02/23)

Wednesday, February 23 at 8:00 PM

MANLY ROMERO Blanco, Azul, Rojo (2005)
Romero was born in 1966, in San Francisco, California.
He now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Blanco, Azul, Rojo is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (3rd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings. Performance time is approximately 17 minutes.

Blanco, Azul, Rojo was commissioned by ACO with the support of the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.

Manly Romero is the recipient of the Helen F. Whitaker Emerging Composer Commission. He has served as associate artist with the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music and Concerts for Kids programs. Among other honors, he counts an Artist Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and grants from Meet the Composer and the American Music Center. Romero’s one-act opera Dreaming of Wonderland (based on the stories of Lewis Carroll) was presented as part of New York City Opera’s Showcasing American Composers series in 2001. A recording of his piano concerto Spirals can be found on the Klavier Gold label. Mr. Romero is completing a doctorate in composition from the University of Michigan.

Recent performances include The Rape of the Lock at Dixon Place Festival (NYC), Snowfall on Long Island Sound by New Music Works, Spirals by the Memphis Symphony, and Spring by the University of Michigan Chamber Chorus.

About this piece the composer writes:

Blanco, Azul, Rojo describes attitudes I hold regarding heritage. The title, Spanish renderings of the colors of the American flag, mirrors my own mixed Latino/Caucasian background, in which the Latino culture of my father’s lineage is subsumed within a greater American (English speaking) culture.  Blanco (white) represents purity, and, in this work, an uneasy innocence; azul (blue) represents perseverence and the heavens; rojo (red) represents hardiness and valor, blood, and conflict.

I. Bolero This movement is inspired by Trio Los Panchos (the kings of the Mexican romanza from the late 30s to the 60s). I imagine a mariachi ensemble performing a romanza that nostalgically tells of life on the hacienda. There is a subtle irony: life on the hacienda would have been harder than the one the mariachis lead. The idea is based on Pedro Infante’s (and others’) appearances in Mexican films of the 30s and 40s in which exactly this paradox is found. “Bolero” is a questioning of the sentimentality and disproportionate value I am inclined to give the Latino side of my heritage—a tendency that Blanco, Azul, Rojo demonstrates throughout via insistent borrowing from Hispanic musical traditions.

II. El Gardín del Eden This movement portrays a pastoral vision in which two sides of myself act in harmony, like the two Biblical progenitors of mankind in Eden. There are also references to the film El Gardín del Eden (directed by Maria Novaro), in which individuals of different backgrounds travel to Tijuana, Mexico, seeking in one case, a link with her past, and in another, a connection to the exotic. Melodic ideas are drawn from Spanish zarzuela repertoire and Flamenco. The third movement proceeds without pause.

III. Balajú (“Warrior”) This movement comments on historically popular representations of individuals of mixed heritage as being conflicted and weak—or as being extradurable “cross-bred” specimens.  “Balajú” begins with a continuation of the harp solo from the previous movement, as the harp launches into the repeating compás of the son jarocho “Balajú,” a Mexican song probably dating from the 18th century, about a warrior who sails to battle.  I, as composer, then don the garb of the conflicted, rapacious warrior (of mixed heritage?), transforming the son, musically pulling it apart, and thereby in a sense, enacting its destruction. But this act of destruction is part of a larger form, as a forest fire is part of an ecological cycle of life and death. The vitality of the opening son jarocho is inextinguishable, and continues on in everchanging forms.

INGRAM MARSHALL Dark Florescence: Variations for Two Guitars and Orchestra (2005)
Marshall was born in 1942, in Mount Vernon, New York.
He currrently resides in Hamden , CT.

Dark Florescence is scored for 2 flutes (doubling piccolo & alto flute), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets (2nd doubling piccolo trumpet), trombone, bass trombone, timpani, percussion, piano, and strings.
Performance time is approximately 20 minutes.

Dark Florescence was commissioned by the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale
University in celebration of the library’s fifth anniversary.

As a student in the mid sixties, Ingram Marshall was attracted to the possibilities of the electronic music studio.  In 1968 he worked as a member of the NYU Media Arts studio and studied with Morton Subotnick at California Institute of the Arts.  He became entranced with the Javanese gamelan installed there and traveled to immerse himself in both Javanese and Balinese modes of traditional gamelan music.

In the late seventies, Marshall began experimenting with combining live instrumental work with tape and/or electronic processing.  His best known work, Fog Tropes, was premiered by John Adams and the San Francisco New Music Ensemble in 1981.  Marshall’s first solo recording for Nonesuch was released in 1992, the result of a commission for a work loosely connected to Eastern European themes.  Hidden Voices is paired on the recording with Three Penitential Visions, which is actually Eberbach incognito.

In 1996, American Composers Orchestra commissioned Kingdom Come, which combines orchestra and tape.  Nonesuch recorded this along with Hymnodic Delays and Fog Tropes II (a new string-quartet version for the Kronos Quartet) in 2001.  Ingram Marshall’s music has received numerous awards, notably the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; a Guggenheim fellowship; and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Aaron Copland Fund.  More recent works include Muddy Waters for the Bang on a Can All- Stars; a new work for orchestra and tape, Bright Kingdoms, for a consortium of California orchestras; and an amplified chamber work for the Paul Dresher Ensemble.

Mr. Marshall has been a guest teacher in composition at Yale School of Music and the Hartt
School, where he currently is an adjunct professor.

About this piece the composer writes:

Dark Florescence was commissioned by the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University in celebration of the library’s fifth anniversary. This unusual commission came about through the offices of Benjamin Verdery, long-time professor of guitar at Yale, and Kendall Crilly, the Music Librarian.

Ben, for whom I had written SOE-PA for solo guitar with electronic processing, is not one to shy away from overstepping boundaries and conventions.  His idea that I should write a double concerto for both classical and electric guitars was happily embraced by Ken Crilly, and the commission was proffered, even though I had my doubts about the combination. That the other guitarist would be the well-known Andy Summers (formerly of the band The Police) made the offer tempting but a little scary as, after all, I wasn’t familiar with his prowess as a soloist. Yet upon hearing Ben and Andy improvise together and work out their own collaborative pieces, I was convinced of the rightness of the partnering.  I also looked forward to giving them a relatively free hand in an improvisatory section.

At first I imagined the music as a kind of concerto, a pitting of the two dissimilar entities against each other and the orchestra, with moments of contrast and coming together—the true concertante style—but as I worked on it, the concerto idea never really took hold.  Instead, a kind of variations idea came to permeate the music. It wasn’t a theme on which the variations were based, but a series of hemitonic modes derived from Balinese gamelan music.

I spend part of each summer in the Sierra Nevada of California. It was there, last July, that I sketched out the first ideas for the piece. That year the wildflower bloom was particularly effusive, and it was a memorable delight to take it all in, this savage, montane florescence. But I didn’t realize until later, when I was thinking of possible titles, how influenced my composing had been by that abundance of bloom. The name “Sierra Florescence” worked for a while, but I saw it as too particular as to place, so opted for the more mysterious “Dark Florescence,” because, after all, the music is not all about bright, shining meadows.

As in much of my music, there is a darkness or twilight that prevails. And in the sad, tragic environment of the present world wherein a senseless war has cast a pall over our country, there is little excuse for boundless optimism and joy. But darkness is balanced by light, and I see
much of my music as being a kind of sonic chiaroscuro.

The piece is continuous with no breaks, although there are distinct sections which could
have names, in which case the last one might be called “Bagdhad Blues.”

DANNY ELFMAN Serenada Schizophrana (2005)
Elfman was born in 1953, in Los Angeles, California, where he currently resides.

Serenada Schizophrana is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling English horn), 3 clarinets (doubling E-flat, bass clarinet and alto saxophone), 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 6 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones (3rd doubling bass trombone), bass/contrabass trombone, tuba (doubling cimbassa), timpani, percussion, 2 pianos, synthesizers, harps, strings and small female chorus.

Performance time is approximately 37 minutes. Orchestrations by Steve Bartek and Edgardo Simone. Spanish lyrics by Claudia Brant.

Over the last 20 years, Danny Elfman has established himself as one of Hollywood’s leading film composers and has written close to 50 film scores including Batman, Spider-man, Men in Black, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. His range has covered such diverse scores as Big Fish, Good Will Hunting, Dolores Claiborne, Midnight Run, To Die For, Dead Presidents, Sommersby, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Chicago. For television he has created the themes to The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and has won a Grammy.

Elfman’s first performing and composing was for a French theatrical troupe, “Le Grand Magic Circus,” at the age of 18.  He continued a year later in California in collaboration with his brother Richard doing musical street theater until finally moving indoors doing a “surrealistic musical cabaret” for another six years. It was during this time Elfman began exploring different musical genres. He then formed a rock band, Oingo Boingo, for which he wrote and performed for almost 17 years with such hits as “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party.”

Elfman is currently working with longtime collaborator Tim Burton on the highly anticipated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as the stop-motion animated musical, Corpse Bride. Elfman will also be scoring the Disney CGI animated feature, A Day in the Life of Wilbur Robinson as well as Paramount’s adaptation of Charlotte’s Web. He is creating the music for a full-scale ballet of Edward Scissorhands for the director/choreographer Matthew Bourne.

Elfman is self-taught and has had no formal musical training. This is his first orchestral composition written specifically for the concert hall.

About this work the composer writes:

Serenada Schizophrana is a completely new experience for me. Except for my early music/theater work, I’ve always had visuals to drive my orchestral music. Beginning was quite daunting. I began composing several dozen short, freeform compositions, none of them related. Some of them began to develop themselves until I had six separate movements that, in some abstract, absurd way, felt connected.  I really let myself wander into a musical stream of consciousness, which, in my case, is the way my brain works. It is not necessarily a very smooth ride.

Many of my musical influences come from mid-century film composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota, and Alex North. In terms of classical music, I was hugely influenced by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Orff, and Bartók. Early Duke Ellington also had a major role. I consider myself to be a musical throwback.  With the exception of a few more recent influences like Harry Partch and Philip Glass, I am forever attached to the music of the early 20th century when, for me, orchestral music flourished alongside the creation of jazz in a unique and remarkable way. I suppose this piece mixes up all my influences in a kind of musical “gumbo.” I hope it’s interesting
and perhaps even entertaining.