A musical preamble by Spacepants
Karlheinz Stockhausen, arr. Jason Barabba: Tierkreis
Each Zodiac-inspired movement of Tierkreis will precede a companion piece by a local composer.
“Aquarius” from Tierkreis
Sean Heim: there is no such thing as time
“Pisces” from Tierkreis
Derek Tywoniuk: water’s edge
“Aries” from Tierkreis
Dante De Silva: Nameless
“Taurus” from Tierkreis
Ethan Braun: Read Me
“Gemini” from Tierkreis
Vicki Ray: Perpendicular Twins
“Cancer” from Tierkreis
Gabrielle Rosse: Signs
“Leo” from Tierkreis
Jason Barabba: Let Your Roar Be Heard or Do Aliens Have Astrology?
“Virgo” from Tierkreis
Molly Pease: Lost-Searching
“Libra” from Tierkreis
David García Saldaña: Libra by Section
“Scorpio” from Tierkreis
Adam Borecki: S¢ø®¶πº
“Sagittarius” from Tierkreis
Vera Ivanova: Sagittarius
“Capricorn” from Tierkreis
Carolyn Chen: Birria*
In the early 1970s, German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen created tunes for twelve music boxes, each representing a sign of the Zodiac, or Tierkreis. These became so popular that each day at noon the current sign’s melody is performed on the carillon of Cologne’s Town Hall tower. For these performances, Synchromy reenvisioned Stockhausen’s compositions for The Brightwork Ensemble and commissioned twelve local composers to write Zodiac-inspired pieces of their own.
This tapestry of musical invention will be accompanied by artist Erik Ruin’s cut paper projections. His work oscillates between apocalyptic anxieties and utopian yearnings. Erik’s visions will meld with the music, creating a live performance embracing the mortal and ethereal.
there is no such thing as time was written for the Synchromy Tierkreis L.A. project as a companion piece to Stockhausen’s Aquarius movement. The work focuses on the element of water, which is capable of remaining molecularly unchanged while existing in numerous states and phase transitions; liquid, vapor, ice, vaporization, condensation, freezing, melting, sublimation, and deposition. The material in the piece, which is based on four simple clusters, is continually reimagined as it passes through and is transformed by a series of musical fields, each informed by various aspects of water’s multiple states/transitions. The work gets its title from a seminal moment in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha when Siddhartha asks Vasudeva the ferryman the question, ‘Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?’ To which Vasudeva responds, ‘Is this what you mean? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future?’
water’s edge was commissioned by Synchromy for its Tierkreis project, in which twelve composers wrote works to be presented alongside Stockhausen’s Tierkreis. In composing this work in response to the Zodiac sign of Pisces, my mind kept returning to the image that frequently represents the sign, that of two fish swimming in opposition to one another. A similar idea unfolds in this piece, in which disparate things (rhythms, harmonies, registers) exist as a sort of dialectic.
Nameless is a companion piece to the Aries movement from Stockhausen’s Tierkreis. Instead of using the original text for the Aries movement, which uses metaphor to describe adolescence, I chose a more direct text that s hares the same spirit of the original. Nameless uses a section adapted from John Cleland’s Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure – a popular erotic novel from 1749 that epitomizes euphemism.In this piece, the text describes a romantic encounter between the narrator, a sexually experienced woman, and a nameless, inexperienced young man whose physical attributes are overly exceptional. I imagined this story being told from one adolescent to that person’s adolescent friends, where the story, with its novel and audacious imagery, is met with amazement, as well as snickering and other awkward reactions.
Read Me slowly reads a melody forwards and backwards writing a new melody while it does. In one ear out another. Read Me’s ensemble harmonizes Stockhausen’s melody from “Taurus” of the Tierkreis, they rearrange it, reshaping it, straightening out its angles and it becomes less a melody than a straight line. The music isolates the melody within some kind of sterile environment, so it can study it through observational, linear, scientistic methods–cold, calculated, distant, meant to assist the music feeling the melody in all its parts.
Perpendicular Twins pairs like-sounding timbres in a 90 degree spatial relationship to each other. The harp of the piano is horizontal while the cello is vertical etc. The form of the piece is an homage to another work based on twins: Castor and Pollux by Harry Partch.
In homage to Stockhausen’s setting of “Cancer” as a crab canon – the same music forward and backwards in two (or more) voices intersecting at a midpoint – my offering titled Signs, is built on palindromes that generate both the overarching form and internal motivic ideas. The piece is inspired rhythmically by fractals, harmonically by a perpetually expanding universe, and texturally by the reflection of the Tuscan moon over the Mediterranean Sea – where I first heard of Synchromy’s labor of love for Stockhausen and instinctively gravitated toward his setting of Cancer, the zodiac sign of water, the moon, and symmetry.
I didn’t pick Leo. Leo picked me. It’s always interesting when I end up working on a project that is related to something I don’t actually know much about. For instance… astrology. I know my sign (Gemini) and I know that this is important information to some people. It has never really seemed important to me, but that’s never bothered me. At least, it seems like a way to spark a discussion.
So… Leo. It’s a lion, I get that. There are a number of lion roars in this piece (made with superball mallets on drums and inside the piano. You may think it’s a little on the nose to include lion roar sounds in a piece about Leo, to which I say “and?” I don’t have to be mysterious if I don’t want to. My saving grace was commissioning a new text from the consistently awesome Spacepants. I knew that this was very much in their bailiwick and that the meeting to discuss it would be both fun and easy. They got it immediately. Of course.
So, I sit down to start setting this text with the line “Look, personal problems start at birth,” I think “this text is mocking me,” and we’re off. My musical language is largely taken from the Stockhausen original. Since I’m now quite well versed in all the movements of Tierkreis, having arranged them all, I can honestly say I’m glad I ended up with Leo. It’s got a nice pulse to it. The rhythms really gave me a lot to play around with.
And play around I did. I had a lot of fun and I genuinely hope you enjoy it. This project has been floating around in the Synchromy-verse for many years now, and I’m tickled to have had a chance to write one of these companion pieces. If you feel like roaring during the (presumably rapturous) applause, I don’t think anyone would mind… you weirdo.
Stockhausen’s “Virgo” feels to me like a puzzle with misshapen pieces that don’t fit together and leave the listener confused. Virgos seek to create order from chaos and find patterns that others don’t recognize. Lost-Searching tells the story of a Virgo’s journey trying to piece together a in life – their attempts, animated by the flute, clarinet and cello, continuously try to organize themselves into something cohesive but cannot. Eventually, the voice joins the chaos, dancing and playing with their ideas, and ultimately accepts that their journey never ends. They will always be searching for perfection, but life is unpredictable and that is okay.
Libra by Section is rooted in two musical ideas: the sections of the form follow the measure bars that Stockhausen wrote into his original melody, and a melodic framework containing characteristic ascending and descending motives dictates the development of lines. In these ways, Libra by Section pays homage to process composition, albeit, without using the same processes as the original.
Scorpio. Strengths: Loyal, Passionate, Resourceful, Observant, Independent. Weaknesses: Suspicious, Jealous, Manipulative, Obsessive, Unyielding. (source)
My interpretation of “Scorpio” from Stockhausen’s Tierkreis is based on two aspects of the original melody. The first comes strictly from the given pitch material. I elaborate and expand on the implied polyphony (outlining multiple voices or chords from a single line) and the melody’s characteristic use of glissandi. The second aspect of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis that inspired me was the instrumentation of the original. In my arrangement, the musicians double on melodicas as a reference to the simple yet unique nature of Stockhausen’s original instrumentation (music boxes).
The title, S¢ø®¶πº, is a hodgepodge of special characters on a computer keyboard that roughly spell out “Scorpio”. I arrived at this name for two reasons: First, technology was integral in the creation of this version. In 2016, the first version of “Scorpio” for Flute, Violin, Percussion, and Piano was premiered by Brightwork newmusic. Back then, the piece was written by hand then later engraved using computer software. This 2021 version is for the full ensemble and now bears the name S¢ø®¶πº. It was arranged entirely within digital technology, thus the title reflects how integral technology has become to my compositional process, even though the work is entirely acoustic. Second, the similarity of “S¢ø®¶πº” and “Scorpio” is representative of the nature of this derivative composition. The foundation of my piece remains closely tied to his original despite the layers of complexity I’ve added and the multiple of directions in which Stockhausen’s melody has been reimagined.
The Sagittarius was commissioned by 2015 Sound Ways Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is in essence variations on Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Sagittarius” from his Tierkreis, an open-instrumentation work that can be played in any version by any ensemble or soloist. When I was asked to write a piece based on “Sagittarius”, I had an idea to use as a framework for its form and instrumentation the pattern of alternating meters found in the original piece (5/4, 6/4, 7/4, 4/4, 3/4, 1/4, 2/4, 8/4). This metric pattern is retained in each variation (except for the aleatoric one), and the instrumentation/density of chords in each variation matches the upper number of the meter.
In considering the idea of an “Angeleno” companion piece to the Capricorn movement of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis, I thought about what goats have to do with life in L.A. I live in Highland Park, a largely Mexican-American neighborhood since the white flight of the mid-1960s. Despite the rapid gentrification of the 2000s, this neighborhood is still home to numerous purveyors of Mexican cuisine, who sometimes offer bírria, a stew from Jalisco traditionally made with chili-pepper based goat meat adobo. In Spanish, “bírria” describes things without value or quality. The dish’s name originates with the Conquistadors who, facing an overpopulation of tough goats that they did not know how to eat, gave them to native people in Mexico, who marinated the meat in indigenous styles and cooked it underground, with delicious results.
This piece takes inspiration from this origin story and the cooking process of bírria presented in YouTube videos – introducing dry ingredients, blending the salsa, marinating, and pressure-cooking. The gradually unwinding music box spins into the whirling of a blender. I also had in mind ‘La Negra’ and other examples of son jalisciense, and some songs by Lila Downs, Natalia LaFourcade, and Mexican Institute of Sound. Though the setting and ensemble here is very different, I was looking for that sense of joy.
A founding Director of Synchromy, composer Jason Barabba is a native of Los Angeles. His recent work emphasizes story-telling through traditional genres like opera and song as well as incorporating narration and other texts into his music. He’s inspired by unexpected and varied source materials ranging from business philosophy textbooks to classic orchestration texts to essays about society and even the occasional poem.
Jason recently finished an opera based on Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. In 2019 the Adzel Duo premiered his double concerto, Dreams of the Recovery Period, based on Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz’s dream diaries. In 2021, Hex vocal ensemble released a video recording of his We The People, a choral setting of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Jason’s music can be heard on many CDs, most recently AdZel Duo’s debut album featuring Catawampus, which they commissioned from Jason in 2011.
During the 2020 pandemic, Jason made the unexpected decision to leave Los Angeles and start a new chapter of his life by splitting his time between California and his ancestral home country of Italy. He continues to work with Synchromy as an Artistic Director and plans to continue to meddle in the affairs of the new music community in Los Angeles indefinitely. He is currently collaborating on a new opera about the myths surrounding the character and corporate icon Aunt Jemima with librettist June Carryl.
Adam Borecki is a music technology specialist based in Los Angeles. He works as the Director of Music Technology at Chapman University, manages his live concert recording business Recording Dot LA (recording.LA), and creates music as a composer & guitarist.
As a composer, Adam specializes in electro-acoustic concert music. His recent works include collaborations with Mark Menzies, Spacepants, Nadia Shpachenko, and more. In addition to acoustic works, Adam has composed multi-media works with live projection, real-time animation, audio effects pedals, integrated LED lights, and live sound processing. Adam studied composition at USC with Stephen Hartke, Donald Crockett, and Sean Friar, and at Chapman University with Vera Ivanova, Sean Heim, and Jeffery Holmes. His music has been performed at the Hear Now Festival, across southern California, across the United States, in Italy (at the Cortona Sessions) and in Paris (European American Musical Alliance).
The music of LA-based composer Ethan Braun has been described as a “diaphonous haze,” offering “a heady taste of pure weightlessness,” (New York Times), “a sound that these ears – raised on Thurston, Lee et al. – find irresistible” (The Johnson Rambler). Braun has written music for such ensembles as the Shanghai, Albany, and New York Youth Symphonies, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble, and Ensemble Klang (Netherlands). Upcoming projects include an opera commissioned by the city of Berlin with visual artist/choreographer Adam Linder, and an opera with Contemporaneous (NYC), in addition to commissions for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ensemble Klang, and the Aaron Copland House CULTIVATE program. Braun penned theses on spirituality in the music of John Coltrane, and self-presentation and aesthetics in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Trans, and has presented on the intersection of pedagogy at NYU and in the Harvard University community. He achieved doctoral candidacy at the Yale School of music in 2017.
Carolyn Chen has made music for supermarket, demolition district, and the dark. Her work reconfigures the everyday to retune habits of our ears through sound, text, light, and movement. Her studies of the guqin, a Chinese zither traditionally played for private meditation in nature, have informed her thinking on listening in social spaces. Recent projects include an audio essay on a scream and commissions for Klangforum Wien and the LA Phil New Music Group. Described by The New York Times as “the evening’s most consistently alluring … a quiet but lush meditation,” her work has been presented in 25 countries and supported by the Berlin Prize, the Fulbright Program, and ASCAP’s Fred Ho Award. Writing and recordings are available in MusikTexte, Experimental Music Yearbook, New Centennial Review, Leonardo Music Journal, Quakebasket, and the wulf. Chen earned a Ph.D. in music from UC San Diego, and a M.A. in Modern Thought and Literature and B.A. in music from Stanford University. She lives in Los Angeles.
Dante De Silva is a Los Angeles-based composer. He holds degrees from UCLA (Ph.D.), UC Santa Cruz (M.A.), and Humboldt State University (B.A.), and he is currently teaching at UCLA. Recent works have been premiered by soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon, the CSU Bakersfield Concert Band, and pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough. His string quartet, Hungry, written for Lyris Quartet, is the 2019 winner of the American Prize (instrumental chamber music – larger ensembles).
David García Saldaña is a Southern California-based singer and composer from the San Gabriel Valley. His work spans from the traditional, to the interactive and interdisciplinary. He collaborates frequently with artists in both dance and theater, focusing on developing new interactive methods of music making and the creation of electronic controllers using primarily Max MSP/Jitter and Arduino microcontrollers
Sean Heim’s work as a composer, which frequently involves interdisciplinary elements, reflects the techniques and aesthetic of his own western tradition as well as principles and musical elements from numerous cultures. His most recent works explore human interconnectedness with environment/place by means of a musical language that aims to reflect the intrinsic voice of nature.
Heim has received numerous awards, honors, and commissions from such prestigious institutions as the Fromm Music Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the American Composers Forum, and the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize. His discography includes releases on Sono Luminus, Eine Klang, and Capstone Records. He is currently Professor of Music and Director of Music Composition/Theory at Chapman University.
Vera Ivanova is a Russian-born composer currently based in Los Angeles and Orange County, where she teaches at Chapman University and The Colburn Academy for Young Artists. She graduated from the Moscow Special Central Music School, Moscow Conservatory, Guildhall School in London (M.M.), Eastman School (Ph.D.). Her works have been performed worldwide and released on five different CDs.
Ms. Ivanova is a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards at 28th Bourges Electro-Acoustic Competition, 8th International Mozart Competition, International Contest of Acousmatic Compositions Métamorphoses 2004, ASCAP Morton Gould Award, 8th International Piano Competition at Orleans.
Molly Pease is a versatile, experimental and collaborative LA-based vocal artist and composer whose singing has been described as “sonically mesmerizing” (LA Weekly) and “amazing” (LADC), and whose compositions defy genre. Whether performing an aria in The Industry’s critically acclaimed experimental opera Sweet Land, improvising with a jazz orchestra at Blue Whale, or belting out pop vocals with indie band Hello Forever, Molly is known for passionate originality. She has performed solos with Tune-Yards at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2020, WildUp at The Grand LA in 2019, and David Rosenboom’s Battle Hymn for Insurgent Arts at REDCAT in 2018. TV credits include vocals for Hulu’s Castle Rock in 2019 and CBS’s Strange Angel in 2018. Ongoing performance projects include C3LA, HEX, Tonality, and First Congregational Church of LA’s Laude.
As a performer-composer, Molly uses improvisation and extended vocal sounds, merging music, movement and visuals in solo projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. Examples include her new album Inner Astronomy, a project her combining father’s poetry with original music, fashion design and collage, and Score for the Near Future, a 2019 collaboration with sculptor Jimena Sarno. Molly is currently composing an opera called Hysteria, which was selected for Overtone Industries’ Original Vision development program and 2021 showcase. Her 2018 experimental rock album ACKLAND was pegged as “not of this world” (Emerging Indie Bands), and her original song Transform was featured on critically acclaimed vocalist Alicia Olatuja’s 2019 album. Molly’s music has been performed at Blue Note Tokyo, The Jazz Bakery, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Monk Space, among others. She was a 2019 composer fellow at N.E.O. Voice Festival.
Molly completed her MFA in Jazz Studies at California Institute of the Arts in 2017, and received her BFA at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.
Described as “phenomenal and fearless” Vicki Ray is a pianist, improviser and composer. She has commissioned and premiered countless new works by today’s leading composers. Ray is a founding member of Piano Spheres and head of keyboard studies at the California Institute of the Arts where she was named the first recipient of the Hal Blaine Chair in Musical Performance. She has appeared on numerous international festivals and was a regular member of the faculty at the Bang On a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA. Ray has been featured on the Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella Series as soloist and collaborative artist. Her widely varied performing and recording career covers the gamut of new and old music: from Boulez to Reich, Wadada Leo Smith to Beethoven. Notable recordings include the first Canadian disc of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the Blue Rider Ensemble, the premiere recordings of Steve Reich’s You Are (Variations) and the Daniel Variations with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the first recording of John Cage’s Europeras 3 and 4. Her recording of Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things on Microfest Records received a 2013 Grammy nomination. Recent recordings include the premiere recording of Andrew Norman’s Sonnets with Eighth Blackbird’s Nick Photinos on the New Amsterdam label and YAR – a duo recording on the Orenda label with slide guitarist Scot Ray. Her recent recording of Daniel Lentz’s River of 1000 Streams – was named by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as one of the top 20 recordings of 2017.
Composer and singer deemed “an extraordinary soprano” (Broad Street Review), Gabrielle Rosse has had her music performed by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, Salastina Music Society, Lyris Quartet, Carpe Diem Quartet, soprano Hila Plitmann, pianist José Menor, and cellist Armen Ksajikian. Upcoming projects include both libretto and music for Cristina Doesn’t Need Saving, a one-act opera which addresses the effects of human trafficking on the survivor family, and works for West Edge Opera, Earplay, the Diotima Quartet, violinist Kevin Kumar, and guitarist Elliot Fisk.
Derek Tywoniuk (b. 1988) is a Grammy-nominated percussionist and composer based in Los Angeles. Derek’s compositions have been performed internationally by acclaimed musicians and ensembles such as Aperture Duo, HOCKET, Spectrum Ensemble, Nancy Zeltsman, Beverley Johnston, Fumito Nunoya, Wild Up, Brandon Ilaw, Trio Céleste, the Smoke and Mirrors Ensemble, Beyond Borders Percussion Group, and the Colburn Contemporary Players. As a winner of the Zeltsman Marimba Festival New Music for Marimba competition in 2009, his work For Dean Primmer was published by Edition Peters and recorded on the Bridge Records label. His music has also been recorded on the Yarlung Records label.
The Brightwork Ensemble are among the best chamber musicians in the world. The ensemble strives to find new and exciting ways to connect with audiences in the United States and abroad by presenting friendly and exciting concerts in both traditional and non-traditional spaces. Through our educational outreach program, Project Beacon, we work closely with young musicians and composers across Southern California. Our goal is to empower the next generation of artists through residencies with youth orchestras and universities, student composer readings, masterclasses, and workshops.
While singing (Jen) and playing viola (Diana) at a music festival in Vermont, we met, realized we shared a life-long dream of wearing as many sparkles as possible, and ran joyfully out into a field to celebrate. Our enthusiasm attracted the attention of some rad aliens who invited us to party and jam with them. As luck would have it, they were having a full-on sparkle party. When we woke up the next day, groggy and disoriented, we discovered the rad aliens had left us three parting gifts: a 25-foot long tube, a mission, and several pairs of spacepants. The tube would of course become a central focus of our music-making. The mission, which we accepted, is to wear spacepants while bringing both our own and other earth-bound beings’ works of music, poetry, multi-media, storytelling and art to life. Look, we don’t know if we’re doing crystals right, but we sure try.
This performance is made possible in part by the City of Culver City and its Cultural Affairs Commission, with support from Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Culver City Arts Foundation.