Below are a few photos from the May 29th debut performance of my new piece for men's choir and percussion ensemble, Cutting Word, at Seattle Pacific University. Cutting Word was performed again on June 1st, which is where the recording below comes from. Overall I feel really pleased with the performance - director Ken Pendergrass did an excellent job preparing the ensembles and shaping the conversations about performance decisions.
Just before my May 5th concert at The Chapel, the Seattle Times published a short preview that noted that I am, "clearly obsessed with bringing found natural sounds into the concert hall, " and two concerts at Seattle Pacific University this week featuring my new work Cutting Word would seem to back up this statement. Cutting Word - for men's choir and percussion ensemble - is based around three haikus that I wrote:
dead possum in road
face already eaten by
a flock of ravens
parallel jet streams
coming together at dusk
pink clouds to the east
a thousand mushrooms
covered in a soft cold mist
quivering in the wind
The concept of a 'cutting word' comes from haiku practice - the cutting word being the word that links two juxtaposing ideas together. So, within my new piece Cutting Word there are haikus that are sung (except movement two, which is simply an expression of the second haiku above), there is the slightly unusual combination of men's choir and percussion ensemble, and the choir and percussionists alike are required to play natural objects at different times. Since the singers are sitting out the second movement, they become a shifting series of textures by waving branches in the air, and the percussionists will each play a tray of natural objects that they are instructed to manipulate in order to create the sound of someone moving through the woods. All in all after sitting in on the rehearsals last week I'm feeling really excited about the debut this week - and you can hear it twice - May 29th and June 1st. Detailed information about the performances is below...between the performances, continuing to write this big site-specific piece for 100 Acres, and preparing a talk on some experiences in Zen that I'm giving on Sunday, it should be a very full week.
May 29th - Debut of Cutting Word, for Men's Choir and Percussion Ensemble at Seattle Pacific University - 7:30pm, Bach Theater (on campus of SPU), Seattle.
June 1st - Performance of Cutting Word Men's Choir and Percussion Ensemble at Seattle Pacific University - 7:30pm, 1st Free Methodist Church (on campus of SPU), Seattle.
I couldn't be more pleased that on Saturday, December 10th Jeremiah Cawley of The Box Is Empty will be conducting my piece Kugami, which is for men's choir and soprano with piano, cello and bass clarinet. The event will be at 3:00pm in Brechemin Recital Hall on the campus of the University of Washington. This piece was originally debuted at Seattle Pacific University under the direction of Ken Pendergrass. Jeremiah's ensemble, The Box Is Empty is a project-based New Music ensemble that is interested not only in playing the hits from contemporary repertoire, but also in expanding undeveloped areas of New Music such as the choral realm. If the amazing performances at the all-Andriessen concert earlier this year is any indication, this new ensemble will be an exceptional addition to New Music...don't miss their next concert on January 21 at The Chapel here in Seattle.
At long last, the Yellow Foot Chanterelle (left) has made an appearance here in Seattle. A week ago I went mushrooming for Chanterelles - slightly unusual for this time of year - usually they're either A. giant and soggy or B. it's become too cold and they've gone to sleep for the year - but it was so incredibly dry in late summer/early fall that their season was pushed back a bit and it hasn't been too rainy yet thus far. All in all it was a good haul (see below). However, this unusual season also meant that the Yellow Foot Chanterelles weren't out yet, yet last year in early November (the very end of usual Chanterelle season) they were out in droves. But...they must be out now as the foragers at the market had a soggy basketful.
Wandering in the woods causes one to reexamine listening in our daily lives - the thick moss beds covering everything creating a completely different way of not only hearing sound, but interacting and moving through it and realizing one's own participation in the creation of sound. These ideas show up in my own work all the time - mainly in abstract ways - but recently I finished a piece for men's choir and percussion ensemble for Ken Pendergrass at SPU, and the work requires the percussionists to improvise at the end of the work using a tray full of natural objects they've collected to create the sound of moving through the woods. The singers are also required to play natural objects - rustling branches to create additional textures. Listening in new contexts seems to be happening all over - when I embarked upon the Sunset + Music tour over the summer I met a number of interesting people doing similar things, among them Tom Peyton. He and his group at DoTank do listening experiments like this one quite regularly. Technology has surely changed how we listen to music and media in general; hopefully positive contributions like that will be a counterbalance to the potential for sound to become less consequential in these strange times of fear and loathing.
11/21 listening list
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Open Graves with Stuart Dempster - flight patterns
Smog - dress sexy at my funeral
Django Reinhardt - All Star Sessions
F. Couperin - Harpsichord Suites
Tom Baker - Hunger
Django Reinhardt - Souvenirs