Composer biographies and program notes

 

James Bohn has served as a guest artist at the 7-11 festival in Urbana, Illinois, and at "Most Significant Bytes 2002" in Akron, Ohio.  He has had his video works presented at "Most Significant Bytes 2000",  at the "MAXIS festival of Sound and Experimental Music", at "MEDiA CIRCU[it]S", at the "Florida Electro-Acoustic Music" Festival, and on the Los Angeles area television program "The New Composers 27 Minute Companion".  His music appears on several recording labels:  Capstone, The Experimental Music Studios, Frog Peak, me'd1.ate, and The Media Cafe.    James has received commissions from the Bonk Festival, the University of Illinois School of Music, The College of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the Boston and Chicago Chapter of the American Composer's Forum.

        

As a scholar, James is a regular reviewer for the Computer Music Journal. He has also given papers at conferences for the American Musical Instrument Society, the Association for Technology in Music Instruction, Technological Directions in Music Learning, the MAXIS festival, and the American Chemical Society.   His book on Lejaren Hiller is available on Edwin Mellen Press.  Bohn teaches Music Theory and Technology at Rhode Island College.

 

 Wormwood: "nothing left but dust and fundamentalists"- Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in "Good Omens"

 

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The CALLITHUMPIAN CONSORT is dedicated to the proposition that music is an experience. Founded by pianist and conductor Stephen Drury sometime in the1990's, we are an ensemble producing concerts of contemporary music at the highest standard.

 
The Callithumpian Consort was created in the belief that new music should be an exciting adventure shared by performers and listeners alike, and that brand new masterpieces of our day are beautiful, sensuous, challenging, delightful, provocative, and a unique joy. Our audiences bring fresh ears to sounds never heard before; they bring their experiences from rock stadiums, jazz clubs, and internet electronica to the concert hall. They hunger for the new.

 

The Consort is flexible in size and makeup, in some cases performing as a full chamber orchestra. Its members pursue parallel solo and orchestral careers as well. Each musician is a soloist, enabling the group to tackle unusual repertoire in non-standard ensembles, or to take part in experimental projects.

Our repertoire encompasses a huge stylistic spectrum, from the classics of the last 100 years to works of the avant-garde and experimental jazz and rock. Active commissioning and recording of new works is crucial to our mission. We have worked with composers John Cage, Lee Hyla, John Zorn, Michael Finnissy, Franco Donatoni, Lukas Foss, Christian Wolff and many others. Recordings are available on Tzadik and Mode records.

 

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Phyllis Chen (Oberlin Conservatory B.M, Northwestern University M.M) has been the recipient of numerous national honors, including the International Bartok/Kabalevsky Piano competition, the International Stravinsky Awards, National Coleman Chamber Music Competition, the Hoverson Piano Award, Carol Knott Piano Pedagogy Prize Marjorie Barnett Foundation Piano Competition, the Northwestern and Indiana University Concerto Competitions. Phyllis made her Chicago debut at Symphony Center's Buntrock Hall as part of the 2001 Arts and Humanities "Words and Pictures" Festival. Later that year, Phyllis was invited as a guest pianist on the Dame Myra Hess Piano Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, aired live on WFMT Chicago Public Radio.  As an avid new music lover, Phyllis is also one of the founding members of ICE, International Contemporary Ensemble, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and performing innovative new works. She has collaborated extensively with ICE tenor, Peter Tantsits, where the duo traveled to Russia and England in 2002 to perform song cycles of Benjamin Britten. As a member of ICE, Phyllis recorded George Crumb's "Vox Balaenae" for three masked players on Bridge Records for George Crumb's 70th Birthday Jubilee collection of his complete works. This past June, the ensemble was invited to perform at the International Michoacan Contemporary Music Festival and received the honor of "Ensemble-of-choice" for the year. This coming December, ICE has been invited by WFMT Chicago Public Radio for a two-hour live broadcast where Phyllis will play works by Donatoni, Xenakis, and a commissioned piece by Japanese-English composer, Dai Fujikura, entitled "Breathless"  for toy piano and violin. As part of ICE's annual festival downtown Chicago in 2004, Phyllis commissioned 12 composers from around the world to compose works for toy piano and orchestral instruments. Phyllis is currently a Chancellor Fellow and assistant instructor at Indiana University, where she is working towards a doctorate degree in piano performance under the tutelage of Andre Watts.

 

Suite for Toy Piano In 2003, I unexpectedly came upon a toy and clock store while I was taking a walk downtown Toronto. The store was full of odd old-fashioned toys, quirky gadgets and a large collection of music boxes. I was intrigued by the different sounds of the boxes, particularly the music from the "Humpty Dumpty" box I chose because of the simple counterpoint and moving cut-out figurine. I found the sounds to be similar to the toy piano and wanted to explore the possible ways the sounds could blend and collide with one another. Suite for Toy Piano began its inspiration from the childhood nursery of "Humpty Dumpty," the egg that sat on a Great Wall and fell to the ground. The piece is in three sections; the first section is the 'Genesis" or birth of the egg, second section is the "Cadenza Apocalyptica" and the third section is the "Coda."

 

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Thanos Chrysakis is a London-based composer of Greek origin. After studying Timpani & Percussion and classical music for four years and at the same time working as a musician -for a short period- in theatres in Athens, he continued his studies in Sonic Arts and electronic music, and now is an MPhil/PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College University of London. His musical output consists of microacousmatic compositions, instrumental music, and generative installations/environments. His music and sound work has appeared on various independent labels, and events such as CYNETart - Dresden,  HyperKult - Lüneburg, Complexités -Chateau de Linardie, Senouillac, Wapping Hydraulic Power Station-  60th anniversary of spnm (society of promoting new music), London. His work «Inscape 5» was amongst the selected works at the International Competition de Musique et d'Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges 2005 in the category :: Oeuvre d'art sonore électroacoustique.

 

INSCAPE 18 (2005) In this Inscape a contrast between stasis and dynamic micromovement of the same sonic timbral material, occurs in different transformations. Slow evolving spectra are contrasted to microrhythms creating a textural elusive sound-world. This is a sunken sound-world. Bells sunken at the bottom of the sea that are played by very strong streams.

 

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David Claman holds degrees from Wesleyan University where he studied the music of South India, and from the University of Colorado. He completed his Ph.D. in composition at Princeton in 2002 where his principal teachers were Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, and Claudio Spies. During the 1980s he played electric bass in rock bands in Boston. He is now an Assistant Professor at The College of The Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts. He received a fellowship from The American Institute of Indian Studies and has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. He has received commissions from The American Composers Forum, the Cygnus Ensemble, Tara Helen O'Connor, and Princeton University. Recordings can be found on the Innova, Capstone, Bridge, and Princeton labels. Along with Matt Malsky, David is co-director of The Extensible Toy Piano Festival.

 

Piece of Work (2005) is a Max/MSP patch designed for live improvisation using toy piano samples.

 

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Karlheinz Essl (b Vienna,15 Aug 1960). Austrian composer, improviser and performer. He attended the Vienna Musikhochschule (1979--87), where he studied with Friedrich Cerha and Dieter Kaufmann, among others. He also studied musicology and art history at the University of Vienna (doctorate 1989; thesis published as Das Synthese-Denken bei Anton Webern, Tutzing 1991). In 1995 he accepted a position in computer-aided composition at the Studio for Advanced Music & Media Technology (SAMT) at the Anton Bruckner Private University, Linz.

 

Essl's compositions result from confrontations between ordered, abstract models and original tonal, expressive structures. In 1997, Karlheinz Essl was featured at the Salzburg Festival with portrait concerts and sound installations. In 2003, he was artist-in-residence of the festival musik aktuell, and in 2004 he was presented with a series of portrait concerts at the Brucknerhaus Linz. In 2004, Karlheinz Essl received the cultural prize for music of the state Lower Austria.

 

Besides writing instrumental music, Karlheinz Essl also works in the field of electronic music, interactive realtime compositions and sound installations. He develops software environments for algorithmic composition and acts as a performer and improviser. Most of his compositions are published by TONOS (Darmstadt).

 

Kalimba is a piece for toy piano and CD playback which was composed in April 2005 for the pianist and toy piano performer Isabel Ettenauer. The primary aim of this piece is an attempt to break up the restricted sound world of the toy piano - not by superficial means of additional sound processing, but by the sound of the instrument itself. This is achieved by a CD which is played back by a small loudspeakers which is hidden inside the toy piano; this creates a perfect blend between the sounds of the instrument and the sounds from the loudspeaker. Furthermore, as the listeners won't notice any electronic devices, they might assume that all the music comes from the toy piano itself.

 

The piece is entirely based on an eight-tone scale which alternates whole and halftone steps. It was recorded from the Schoenhut Concert Grand Piano that Isabel uses to play in her performances.  This material was processed by a computer program which was written be Karlheinz Essl in Max/MSP using compositional algorithms from his Realtime Composition Library. It creates five layers of the same basic soundfile which are affected by very slow glissandos. The result of these operations is stunning: starting from the original scale (which is also played synchronously on the toy piano), the sound gradually transformes itself from a rich variety if sonic transformations into a "chaotic" distribution of the 8 tones  which finally fall together into chord repetitions.

 

In the adjacent part of the piece, the glissandos are expanded to a much wider range and - by forming an ambitus of 4 octaves in the end - a proportional canon of the form: 1/4 : 1/2 : 1 : 2 : 4 is created. Continuously, all layers except the (s)lowest are fading out, so that in the end only a transposition of the original recording 2 octaves lower (and 2 times slower) can be heard.

 

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Kyle Gann, born 1955 in Dallas, Texas, is associate professor of music at Bard College and has been new-music critic for the Village Voice since 1986.  His books include The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (CambridgeUniversity Press, 1995), American Music in the 20th Century (Schirmer Books,1997), and Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice (University of California Press, 2005). He has published more than 2000 articles on contemporary music, including scholarly articles on La Monte Young, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Mikel Rouse, and others, in more than 40 publications, including Perspectives of New Music, The New York Times, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Chamber Music magazine, Contemporary Music Review, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader, and Fanfare magazine.       

 

Gann studied composition with Ben Johnston, Morton Feldman, and Peter Gena. Much of his music is microtonal, using up to 31 pitches per octave, and uses a complex rhythmic language developed from study of Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo Indian musics as well as from Nancarrow and Ives. His major works include Transcendental Sonnets for chorus and orchestra; Custer and Sitting Bull, a one-man opera for voice and electronics; The Planets, a ten-movement octet; and a microtonal chamber opera trilogy with librettist Jeffrey Sichel. In 2003 the American Music Center gave him its Letter of Distinction, along with Wayne Shorter, George Crumb, and Steve Reich. 

 

I wrote most of Paris Intermezzo on a flight from Paris to New York in 1989;the scope of my tiny airline seat seemed a fitting analogue for the toy piano's limited range. The piece was requested by composer and toy pianist Wendy Chambers. A resemblance has been noted to Beethoven's "Moonlight"Sonata; it wasn't intentional, but was the result of trying to combine my usual harmonies and tempo changes within a limited range.

 

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Howard Kenty graduated Northeastern University with a BS in Music Technology and Multimedia. He has worked in different capacities with such diverse artists as Dj Spooky That Subliminal Kid (most notably on Rebirth of a Nation), composer Anthony De Ritis, pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen, conductor Jung-Ho Pak, and The Dresden Dolls. He currently resides in New York City, pursuing composition and sound design with Badbox Music, which he co-founded, and playing under the name of Hwarg with the prog/post-rock band, The Benzene Ring.

 

Confustion (Denigrate) was composed using only toy piano samples as source material. The piece makes extensive use of the MAX/MSP programming environment for generating complex sonic textures from recorded material. Confustion (Denigrate) is presented here for live electronics and tape.

 

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Konrad Kaczmarek is a composer, sound designer, and musician living in New York City.  He holds a B.A. in music from Yale University and a Masters in electronic music composition from University of London, Goldsmiths.  He works primarily in interactive sound and video performance, which he also teaches at Yale University, The New School University, and Harvestworks Studio in New York.  His own installation work has been shown at the Stanley Glasser Electronic Music Studio in London, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, Interface Culture, a conference on interactivity and globalization at Yale University, and The Stanford Museum in Stanford, CT.  He also composed the music and sound design for 130, a short film produced by Stranger Productions.  Konrad is also a jazz pianist, and has received an outstanding soloist award from Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Stanton Wheeler prize for jazz performance at Yale University.

 

Although I work primarily in the electronic medium, all of my work is firmly grounded in improvisation and interactivity, which arises from my experience as a performing musician.  The goal of the program is to bring the novel sounds and textures created on the computer into a real-time interactive performance environment that responds intuitively to various musical gestures.  I always strive to create a meaningful connection between what the performer is doing both musically and physically and the resulting sonic texture.  New modes of interaction and interplay arise once the player becomes aware of their role in shaping the surrounding soundscape and a two-way form of communication is forged.  Regardless of whether this interaction is a simple one-to-one cause and effect or a more sublime gesture-based relationship, once the connection is realized the performer is driven to explore the new sound worlds that are created.  They thus interact with the computer processing in a natural and intuitive way that is analogous to how an improvising musician plays by ear.

 

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Jeff Morris is an Assistant Lecturer in computer music and coordinator of technology facilities for the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A & M University.  He has studied at the Florida State University and the University of North Texas, where he served on the staff of the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia.

 

Jeff composes for traditional instruments, fixed electronic media, and interactive electronics.  His works have been performed internationally and include multimedia works and collaborations with dance artists.  Notable events include the Bonk Festival of New Music, Electronic Music Midwest, and the Ybor Festival of the Moving Image.  He has also given presentations at conferences including the International Computer Music Conference.

 

Portrait was composed for the eXtensible Toy Piano Project 2005. Inspired by composer Conlon Nancarrow, this work uses the classic technique of imitation, in which a single musical voice is copied and recombined with itself.  The imitation, created through digital sampling and delay lines, presents a portrait of the instrument.

 

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John McDonald, Composer and Pianist. A "fresh, inventive, urbane, and keen-witted young composer" (Boston Globe) and "a splendid pianist" "with a born pianist's command of colors, textures, dynamics" (Boston Globe), John McDonald has earned international acclaim as a musician. His compositions have been performed on four continents, and his work is frequently featured in the U.S.A. by such ensembles as Alea III, Arden Quartet, Boston Composers String Quartet, DaVinci Quartet, Hartt Contemporary Players, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra, Brave New Works, and bypianists Veronica Jochum and Andrew Rangell.

 

Currently Associate Professor of Music at Tufts University, McDonald was Music Department Chair from 2000 to 2003. His recent accomplishments have included Composer Residencies with the METYSO Youth Orchestra, the Southern Illinois University Music Department, Duke University, and Bowdoin College, commissions from American Composers Forum, the Harvard Musical Association, Brave New Works, and the Fleet Boston Celebrity Series. McDonald's recordings appear on the Albany, Archetype, Boston, Bridge, Neuma, New Ariel, and New World labels.

 

Two Formican Lullabies, Op 360, for voice and pianist (piano/toy piano) (2001)

 

1.          O Crocodile Night

2.          O Dinosaur Light

 

Composed in 2001 as songs for Barbara Grossman’s Tufts University/Arena Theater production of Contance Congdon’s play 'Tales of the Lost Formicans,”  these verses were sung initially by actors to taped accompaniment. Later, I decided they were appropriate for concert presentation.   Congdon writes the song lyrics into the ends of each of the play’s two acts. Since each character in the play has a self and an alien self (a 'Formican”?), the character Judy sings the first-act lullaby while Judy/Alien sings the last-act version. I used the toy piano (doubling piano) to give the music an alienated dreaminess. Congdon’s lyrics are:

1.

O crocodile night,

You've always been there,

In the thin air,

Or on the dune.

O crocodile night,

You're always waiting,

Tonight you're mating

With the moon. (Pause)

The song of the hamper,

The song of the screen,

The song of the dishes,

The song of the green,

The song of the streetlights,

The song of the park,

The song of the lawnchair,

The song of the dark.

 

2.

O dinosaur light,

How death becomes you,

And oozes from you,

Red as Mars.

O dinosaur light,

The sky is turning,

Each night you're burning,

With the stars.

 

The dream of the screen door,

The dream of the stoop,

The dream of the clothesline,

The dream of the hoop,

The dream of the dirt road,

The dream of the bird,

The dream of the big tree,

The dream of the word.

 

O crocodile night,

You've always been there,

In the thin air,

Or on the dune.

O crocodile night,

You're always waiting,

Tonight you're mating

With the moon.

 

Goodnight,

Goodnight,

Goodnight,

Silence—

 

Goodnight.

 

Several Lunes And A Whitney (pianist plays piano and toy piano) (2005)

Commissioned by David Claman and Matthew Malsky for the XTP Festival, this miniature 'suite” takes two minute poetic forms and explores their possibilities as musical forms. The 'several lunes” of the title are four versions of Robert Kelly’s 'American haiku” form invented in the poet’s early career (the 5-7-5 syllable count of the haiku becomes 5-3-5 in the lune, of which Kelly [born

1935] writes 'I tried trimming, and finally got to a five-three-five pattern,

concave rather than convex, thirteen syllables, number of the lunar months.”).

The lune also suggests the moon (French 'lune”) and madness (lunacy). For these reasons, it became an attractive, power-packed little form to use for the four piano/toy piano mini-duets found here: two 'Massachusetts Lunes” and two 'Maine Lunes.” The 'Massachusetts Lunes” appear first and fourth and use several sonorities from other pieces in this album, while the 'Maine Lunes,” two

acknowledgments of composer Elliott Schwartz’s seventieth birthday appearing

second and third in the sequence, borrow (recomposed) chords from Schwartz’s

piano work 'Four Maine Haiku.” The final section of the work, a 'Whitney,”

comprises a musical version of a syllabic form created by Betty Ann Whitney of

Wesley Chapel, Florida. The syllable pattern becomes a chord pattern:

3,4,3,4,3,4,7 syllables (or chords) in each line. The whitney serves as a more

substantial coda to the earlier chain of lunes.

    The innocent, fanciful qualities possible with the toy piano also suggested a

bit of lunacy. The joy I have taken in finding brief moments of sonic magic

between the smaller and larger keyboards has made the whole endeavor a pleasure for me. I hope this pleasure comes out in the music. (28.09.05)

 

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John Mallia (b. 1968) is a composer / sound artist who has written for diverse instrumental, vocal and electronic forces. Much of his recent work is electro-acoustic and has been performed internationally by organizations such as L.A. Freewaves (California), Gaudeamus (The Netherlands), International Computer Music Association, Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, Zeppelin Festival of Sound Art (Barcelona, Spain), Festival Synthese (Bourges, France), Interensemble’s Computer Arts Festival (Padova, Italy), Society for New Music (New York), CyberArts, and Medi@terra`s Travelling Mikromuseum (Greece, Bulgaria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Slovenia). He has collaborated with visual artists and poets and independently produced several multi-media installations which have been installed at the EyeDrum Art and Music Gallery in Atlanta, the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts, Southern California Institute of Architecture and, most recently, a large-scale mixed media work entitled, Donnie’s Room, at the Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater. He is currently the Director of the Electronic Music Studios at New England Conservatory in Boston. He was recently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia (CEMI) at University of North Texas and has taught electro-acoustic music and sound art at Franklin Pierce College, Northeastern University, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, College of the Holy Cross, Clark University and Brandeis University.

 

Donnie's Room Mixed media installation with animated projection, television monitors, spatialized sound and objects (2005). Donnie's Room is a shrine to the memory of my Great Aunt Mod’s daughter, Donnie, pictured in the installation’s large animated projection. The work attempts, through time-extension of a captured moment, to reflect the scale at which a person living in a debilitating condition might experience moments of peace despite their otherwise unconquerable physical and/or mental constraints.

 

During my childhood, my family made many trips to Upstate New York to visit my Great Aunt and Uncle. I slept upstairs in the old house in a room that had belonged to Donnie when she was alive. I knew nothing about her then, other than the fact that she had died at a fairly young age. I remember a strange, yet subtle presence in the space, one that has left a strong resonance in my life. Donnie was afflicted with a brain disorder and led a tortured life, dying in 1952 at age 31. She experienced painful fits that caused her limbs to extend and stiffen, sometimes on the stairs, or near the stove, leading to recurring bruises and burns. Her parents cherished her and regularly brought home gifts such as cigarettes, chewing gum, records and a television.

 

The sounds, images and objects used in the installation represent gifts to Donnie and/or symbolize comfort, entertainment, stability, perseverance and constraint. The sound of the toy piano, for example, was chosen for its inability to sustain ČŘ” a condition remedied electronically by ČŘŌstretchingČ؝ its resonance and thereby prolonging decay. The ethereal environment is a response to the resonances impressed upon a space by those who have passed through it. I like to think that Donnie was able to achieve moments of peace in her life that, because of her condition, were more precious than most people can imagine. Only recently, I was shown a photograph of Donnie on a swing that may document such a moment, one that is rendered timeless in the context of the installation. 

 

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The Last Piano: I had an epiphany recently while traveling from Worcester to Albany: John Cage’s Music of Changes is, perhaps, the most perfect driving music. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not entirely ready to give up sneering along with Elvis Costello while I careen down the highway. A pounding beat or a good goal-directed harmonic structure can keep your blood flowing and your mind alert. But, like sitting in a concert hall these days, long distance car travel really means giving your body over to cramped stasis for a period of time which is outside your immediate control, and then hoping that you’ve gotten somewhere by enduring it. It seems to me that Cage’s music matches these experience better.  Both car stereos and concert halls can offer something unique—a way of depriving ourselves of all the usual comforts and stimuli, and encouraging a kind of abstract contemplation of sound. As the last piece of the festival, my compositional goal with The Last Piano is to prepare you to get up, stretch and rejoin the world. Hope you’ve had a safe and pleasant journey.

 

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Matt Malsky drives and composes music. In between, he’s an Associate Professor of Music, and the Director of the Communication and Culture program at Clark University. Along with David Claman, he is co-director of the Extensible Toy Piano project.

 

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Nancy Newman is among the foremost interpreters of the music of Matt Malsky, having performed his works (Sonate, Putting the Devil in Hell) on  DX7 as well as toy piano (The Crowning: A Blessed Event) in major American cities such as  Chicago and Minneapolis.  Together, the two might be seen as a 21st–century Clara and Robert Schumann, advocating for new approaches to the keyboard in carefully structured concert programs.  In addition to her demanding performance schedule, Dr. Newman is an Assistant Professor in the Music Department of the University at Albany.

 

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Naoko Omuro is a Graduate Student of International Development, Community, and Environment(IDCE) at Clark University. Concentration of study is Gender
and Development. Worked at several NGOs and International Organizations such as United Nations University, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. From Kyoto, Japan.

 

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Frank J. Oteri's voracious musical appetite finds many avenues of expression, but ultimately all lead back to his musical compositions which range from full-evening stage works to chamber and solo compositions. In all of these works, Oteri (b. 1964) combines emotional directness with an obsession for formal processes incorporating techniques from styles of music as seemingly-unrelated as minimalism, serialism, Broadway show music and bluegrass. His music has been performed in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall and the Knitting Factory in New York City to the Theatre Royal in Bath, England, and the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art to a Baptist church in the middle of Emanuel County, Georgia. MACHUNAS, a "performance oratorio in four colors" created in collaboration with Lucio Pozzi and inspired by the life of Fluxus-founder George Maciunas, received its world premiere in August 2005 at the Contemporary Arts Center in Vilnius, Lithuania as part of the International Christopher Summer Festival conducted by Donatas Katkus. Other musicians who have performed Oteri's works include harpsichordists Rebecca Pechefksy and Robert Heath, pianists by Sarah Cahill, Jenny Lin and Guy Livingston, guitarist Dominic Frasca, Prism Saxophone Quartet, Pentasonic Winds, Sylvan Winds, the Roebling String Quartet and the Magellan String Quartet. In addition to composing, Oteri frequently writes about music and is the Editor of the American Music Center's web magazine NewMusicBox (www.newmusicbox.org)

 

Childish Mindgames In 1986, I bought a 30-key fully-chromatic Jaymar toy piano at a neighborhood flea market. Before that, I didn't have much context for the toy piano; I'm not even sure I had one growing up. But, after briefly toying around with it (sorry, couldn't resist), ideas began flowing. I ran it through an old Electro-Harmonix Memory Man effects unit and it got even more interesting. I envisioned creating a series of short pieces for this set up all based on rules from old table games played by children in various parts of the world. I've been obsessed with traditional board games most of my life. But I gave up after working on just two pieces, and the project never made it past my ideas notebook.  The toy piano eventually resurfaced, without any peripheral electronic gadgets, in the ensemble for my 1995 Margaret Atwood-inspired song cycle The Other Side of the Window—it was cheaper and more portable than a celesta—and later in the first act of MACHUNAS (1998-2002). And games went on to affect my music in other ways: I attribute my eventual obsession with counterpoint to studying chess combinations and my love for permutation that sounds like repetition but isn't to my love for the African board game wari. But over the years Childish Mindgames gnawed at me from time to time as most unfinished business does. The Extensible Toy Piano Project provoked some personal archeology: I dug up my 20 year old notebook and started playing around again, adding several new ideas which are the product of a misspent adulthood. It would be somewhat disingenuous to pawn this off as an old work, but the attempt was to get back into the head of where I was then, which was in part about getting back into the head of where I had been 20 years before that, long before any musical paradigm got ingrained and codified.

 

Hop-Ching. Chinese Checkers has nothing to do with checkers and it isn't Chinese. It's actually a variant of the Victorian-era game Halma, which is Greek for jump.  Hop-Ching was the name of the first Chinese Checkers set issued commercially in 1928; I bought an original set at the same flea market where I purchased the toy piano. For this music, I reduced the players from Chinese Checkers' 6 down to 2 since a soloist only has two hands. I also reduced the "game pieces" from ten down to three. While hands can accommodate up to five pitches, I decided to make the starting position, as well as the ultimate goal, a C major triad to make the process audibly discernable. Each hand begins with a major triad an octave apart. Moving toward each other from opposite directions, on the white keys only, these triads morph into a variety of diatonic trichords one note at a time with voices allowed to move only to an upper or lower neighbor or to jump over an adjacent voice up or down a third. The music ends when one hand reaches the same major triad an octave away, the unstated goal position being a return to the sound of the opening position, with hands reversed.

 

Tic-Tac-Toe, probably the world's most common pencil and paper game, can be utterly compelling to a new player, but quickly becomes totally predictable. Therefore, it seems a perfect framework for structuring music that attempts to establish tonality in a haze of chromaticism, which can either succeed or fail. To convey the two opposing players, the two hands maintain separate and distinguishable steady pulses creating relentless cross-rhythms throughout. To emulate attempts at lining up three plays in a row, each hand tries to form a contiguous major triad while preventing the other from doing so by reaching those pitches sooner. Once a pitch is used, it cannot be reused in another octave. The piece ends when either a contiguous triad is attained or all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale are in play making a contiguous triad impossible in either hand. Two solutions are presented. A "winner" with a successful tonal resolution and a "draw" which is a dense atonal cluster. Of course, since hands have only five fingers, hitting all 12 pitches is not quite possible. In a rare moment of practicality, the music ends after one hand manages to voice a six-pitch cluster thanks to adult thumbs being capable of hitting more than one small toy piano key at a time. 

 

Yoté, a capture game traditionally played by pairs of children in West Africa, consists of dropping either sticks or stones into a series of holes scooped in the dirt. Once dropped, pieces can be moved around to adjacent holes in an effort to capture those of your opponent by jumping over them vertically or horizontally. The game ends when one player runs out of pieces. Sticks and stones are easily translated into the fingers of the left and right hand playing pitches in 2 different octaves. But how can you capture a pitch? Pitch, whether monophonic or polyphonic, is inherently a horizontal line that moves through time. But a two-dimensional grid can be implied by treating each possible diatonic scale within the total chromatic as a distinct line on a different angle. By interpreting diatonic scales as lines, movement from pitch to pitch is easily regulated as movement only by scalar steps (e.g. major or minor seconds). Similarly, a capture can be effected by a pitch in one hand "jumping" over a pitch in the other hand which is a possible diatonic scalar step away to an interval that is an additional possible diatonic scalar step away from that "jumped over" pitch. The result of this interpretation of the rules is fully chromatic music that aspires to be diatonic.

 

Moksha-Patamu The ancient Hindu game moksha-patamu, known in the English speaking world as "snakes and ladders," is an extremely simple childhood racing boardgame in which players role dice to determine how far they can advance in turn. The dice-throw nature of this game might make it sound frivolous and out of place in a cycle of musical compositions inspired by mind games requiring some strategy. But, since moksha-patamu symbolizes the moral journey through life to heaven, it might actually be the ultimate mind game. Therefore it is the basis of the final movement. Since this is the only one of the pieces in Childish Mindgames based on a game whose outcome is determined largely by chance, it's the only one with an indeterminate result each time it is performed. How others move seems to have little impact on an individual's movements, so the music presents the moves of a single player. But, since we can never completely ignore those around us and engage in a symbiotic relationship of influence no matter what we do, the movement of other potential players is symbolized in the multiple lines generated by the delay unit which should be set to the maximum amount of delay, both in terms of lag time and number of repetitions. Consecutive diatonic sequences of rising pitches starting from the lowest note (C) progress upwards, unless they end on certain predetermined pitches forcing the player to begin lower again. Upon reaching the highest possible note in a C major triad the keyboardist stops playing. (In the case of the 30-key Jaymar toy piano, for which this music was originally conceived, that would be e'; but it could be a different note on another instrument.) The music is over when the repetitions emanating from the delay unit fade out.

 

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Dana Price, a senior at Tufts University, began studies in piano at four and violin at ten. In 2001 she was the winner of the Tufts University Concerto Competition, which led to her performance of the First Movement of the Barber Violin Concerto with the Tufts University Orchestra. Ms. Price made her professional debut at 17 performing on the violin with the St. Lucie Chorale. She has also participated in the Eastern Music Festival, Sewanee Music Festival, and Indiana University String Academy. A former student of Lucy Stoltzman at the New England Conservatory of Music, she is presently pursuing studies in jazz violin/improvisation with Matt Glaser.  She plans to attend Berklee for a professional diploma starting in the summer of 2006.

 

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Matthew Sansom is a musical practitioner and theorist whose work addresses improvisational practice across a number of areas. During his doctoral studies, interrogating received notions of music and musical meaning as both free improvising saxophonist and musicologist, his interest in and involvement with electronic music led to an increasingly studio-based practice. Moving between freely improvised, recorded, installation, and live electronics his work has been performed internationally including the Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow), Korean Institute of Culture (Seoul), and t-u-b-e galerie für radiophone kunst installationen und audio-performances (Munich).

 

Having led development in popular music practice at the University of Newcastle, he now teaches computer-based composition, free improvisation, and contemporary and popular electronic music history and repertoire at the University of Surrey. His theoretical work, informed by phenomenology and qualitative analytic methods, explores themes of identity, creative process, and musical meaning. This, alongside his work as an experimental artist and musician, informs his approach to the challenge of teaching creative musical practice within the formal educational systems of UK Universities. www.matthewsansom.info  

 

Rhodri Davies A versatile harpist, his experience spans solo, concerto, orchestral, chamber, session, pop, background music and West End musicals. As one of the few harpists working in the field of free improvisation Rhodri Davies is widely acclaimed for developing a new and exciting voice for the harp. He frequently performs <http://www.rhodridavies.co.uk/improvisation/gigs/> in festivals across Europe, America and Canada. He is accompanist <http://www.rhodridavies.co.uk/classical/> to the young soprano Charlotte Church, with whom he has performed across the world. Rhodri Davies has recorded numerous CDs to critical acclaim and made several appearances on television, radio and video.

 

Rhodri Davies’ improvisational work explores the contradictory and complimentary flux between composition and improvisation and he plays with many groups that reflect this interest. He is specifically interested in working within the contexts of string chamber music and is a part of a young generation of musicians who are exploring aspects of silence, texture and time. He performs regularly with, amongst others, Mark Wastell, Burkhard Beins, John Butcher, and David Toop. www.rhodridavies.co.uk  

 

Two Toy Pianos and Harp A recording of an improvised composition for laptop and electronically extended acoustic harp, using recorded Schoenhut toy piano and harp samples. This recorded improvised duo performance brings together one laptop performer, using toy piano samples and operating granular and generative MAX patches, and a harpist with electronics, using harp samples. With the harp horizontal, and a 25cm speaker cone attached to the base of the harp, the laptop output can be routed - simultaneously or alternately - to the harp’s soundboard and to the external PA. Using contact microphones, the harpist is able to extend his own acoustic and sample-based palette with a recycling of the laptop’s toy piano output, consequently realising the second toy piano. The resultant slowly moving textural soundscape represents an improvised and yet repeatable in character compositional work.

 

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Andrian Pertout was born in Santiago, Chile, 17 October, 1963, and lived in Gorizia, Northern Italy for several years before finally settling in Melbourne, Australia in 1972.  He is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree at the University of Melbourne on Tweddle Trust and Melbourne Research scholarships.  Composition awards include the Betty Amsden Award – 2005 3MBS FM National Composer Awards, First Prize in the 2004 ISU Contemporary Music Festival/Louisville Orchestra Composition Competition (USA), Judges' and Audience Prize of the 2003 Oare String Orchestra Third International ‘Music for Strings’ Composing Competition (UK), the 2002 Michelle Morrow Memorial Award for Composition, and the 2002 Zavod Jazz/Classical Fusion Award.  Andrián's music has been performed and broadcast in China, Croatia, Hong Kong, France, USA, Belgium, Chile, Italy, Slovenia, Canada, Republic of Macedonia, UK, Netherlands, Austria, Korea and Australia by orchestras that include the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, The Louisville Orchestra (USA), The Foundation Orchestra (USA), La Chapelle Musicale de Tournai (Belgium), and the Oare String Orchestra (UK).

 

Exposiciones for Sampled Microtonal Schoenhut Toy Piano is an ‘acousmatic’ work that attempts to explore the equally tempered sound world within the context of a sampled microtonal Schoenhut model 6625, 25-key toy piano and a complex polyrhythmic scheme.  All equal temperaments between 1 and 24 – essentially functioning as tuning modulations – as well as all polyrhythms (divisible only by 1 and including their inversions) between the ranges of 2 and 15 are presented.  In other words, polyrhythmic ratios 3:2 (2:3), 5:2 (2:5), 4:3 (3:4), 5:3 (3:5), and so on – 57 polyrhythmic sets in total, with the last set represented by 15:14 (14:15) – alongside two complementary scales (Indonesian pelog and slendro forms with primary and secondary scale tones, as well as primary and secondary auxiliary tones) shaped via microtonal inflections produced by sequential tuning modulations featuring the first 24 equally tempered divisions of the octave.

 

The intervallic structure of the pentatonic scales defined by the ratios of just intonation, or the 'Scale of Proportions' (The Harmonic Division of the Octave) as presented by Alain Daniélou in 'Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness' (1995) – the current edition of his 1943 monumental work 'Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales'.  The 'Scale of Proportions' is based on the harmonic series.  It is a division of the octave into 53 distinct intervals, and is a scale of just intonation, where the intervals are called pure (or just), because there are no beats between the notes or their harmonics.  The quarter tone (three-quarter tone) a result of the further division of the disjunctions of this scale (major half tone, or just diatonic semitone) giving a total of 66 unique intervals (the octave included).  In Indian musical theory this system referred to as 'The Sixty-Six Srutis'.  The notation (inspired by Alain Daniélou's work and highly illustrative of the effect of each equal temperament on the two scales and their consequential intervallic deviation from just intonation), based on approximate syntonic comma (81:80 or 21.506 cents) subdivisions of the just major tone (9:8 or 203.91 cents).

 

The Schoenhut model 6625, 25-key toy piano samples (recorded in dead studio space [96kHz/24bit] by engineer John Shirley at Clark University, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Worcester, MA, USA utilizing 2-Neumann TLM 103s [positioned front-L and back-R] and a Nuendo recorder) include 3 sets of 25 (2-octave chromatic span) forte ( f ), mezzo forte ( mf ) and piano ( p ) samples, as well as 1 corresponding set of keyboard release clicks.  All these sounds multi-sampled on an Akai S3000XL Midi Stereo Digital Sampler – tuned firstly to standard A=440 Hz 12-tone equal temperament, modified within 30 velocity cross-faded patches, and then operated via a midi sequencer.  A gong-like detuned middle C (octave down) sounding the tonal centre, as well as marking the downbeat, while another severely gated alternative providing the rhythmic pulse (downbeats and upbeats).

 

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Sunita Vatuk was a founding member, soloist, and arranger for the San Francisco Bay Area ensembles Kitka and Savina, the lead singer for Orkestra Nestinari, and performed with George Coates' Performance Works among others. Her musical career fell victim to graduate school in mathematics. She now works as and artist-mathematician in residence in a Bronx High School and occasionally collaborates with composer David Claman.

 

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Composer, Music educator, Atsushi Yoshinaka is a faculty member of Aoyama Gakuin University (Tokyo, Japan) and a chair person of the Creative Music Education Lab at Kenshin Early-Education Research.Yoshinaka received degrees from Kunitachi College of Music (Tokyo, Japan), Longy School of Music (MA. USA) and California Institute of the Arts (CA. USA). He studied with John McDonald, Mel Powell, Morton Subotnick and Fred Rzewski. Prof. Powell said, 'Atsushi Pepe Yoshinaka is a Japanese Milhaud.” Also he is a Musical director of the modern dance company Performer’s Shop in Tokyo. His composition (improvisational performances included) works with many dancers and singers all over Japan. Also Yoshinaka works for the project Don’t Panic: 60 Seconds for Piano with Guy Livingston (piano). 

 

The Footsteps in Our Lives I (Atsushi Yoshinaka) have been working as a composer (musician) in Japan since coming back from study-abroad. It has been over 10 years already. To live in Japan is so different from States and my life is back again and changed a lot. I could anticipate how this new life goes, because this is my country. But there are so many difficulties and trouble to keep profession in music here, Japan. I would like to write a letter with Toy Piano and 10-year soundscape as a part of my life and tell other composers in States about my over 10-year hustle and struggle to live as myself.