John Luther Adams: Red Arc/Blue Veil
Tom Flaherty: Internal States
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Virgo” from Tierkreis
Mikhail Krutik: Virgo (U.S. Premiere)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Scorpio” from Tierkreis
Adam Borecki: Scorpio (World Premiere)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Sagittarius” from Tierkreis
Vera Ivanova: Sagittarius (U.S. Premiere)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Taurus” from Tierkreis
Ethan Braun: Taurus (World Premiere)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Gemini” from Tierkreis
Vicki Ray: Perpendicular Twins (World Premiere)
Red Arc/Blue Veil (2001) is the first piece in a projected cycle exploring the geometry of time and color—what Kandinsky called “those inner sounds that are the life of the colors.”
As in all of my recent music, I imagine the entire ensemble (piano, percussion, and processed sounds) as a single instrument, and the entire piece as a single complex sonority. The processed sounds are derived directly from the acoustical instruments. … In Red Arc/Blue Veil, the electronic sounds are layered in tempo relationships of 3, 5 and 7, while the piano and mallet percussion trace a single arc, rising and falling from beginning to end.
Red Arc/Blue Veil was commissioned and premiered by Ensemble Sirius.
–John Luther Adams
Internal States reflects, as all music does, inner states that we all experience. “Doubt” hovers between two harmonic worlds. An unsettled texture breaks into consonant major/minor sonority with some frequency. Just as often it remains locked in a paralyzed isometric state, unsure of where to go. Searching solo lines sometimes find resolution, sometimes continue the search. Just when the music might blossom into a clear resolution it takes an unexpected turn and ends with a quiet truce. “Reverie” mingles cloudy textures with expressive solo lines in an often dark but ambiguous dreamscape. “Celebration,” dances. A lot.
Internal States was commissioned by Brightwork newmusic, whose expressive and virtuosic playing were a constant inspiration.
Tonight’s performance is a kind of preview of a major project Synchromy is working on for next year. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (German for “zodiac”) is a set of twelve melodies, one for each sign of the zodiac. These melodies have been arranged for a wide range of instruments. Tonight we’re performing five movements of this piece arranged by Jason Barabba for Brightwork newmusic and Scott Graff. Each movement is paired with a companion piece by a living composer inspired by the original Stockhausen. Next year, we are planning to present all twelve movements paired with companion piece by twelve living Los Angeles composers in a project called “An Angeleño Tierkreis” with theatrical and visual staging elements.
Tierkreis was originally written for music boxes as a component part of a theater piece for percussion sextet titled Musik im Bauch. When Stockhausen’s youngest daughter was two years old, he used to make her laugh by teasing her about her growling stomach and the “music” she was making there. Later this inspired him to write a performance art piece called Musik im Bauch. The dreamlike theatrics of this work come to a climax when a performer reaches into the belly of a life-size puppet and pulls out twelve music boxes. Stockhausen’s task of actually writing something these music boxes could play yielded twelve melodies, one named after each constellation of the zodiac. On the Stockhausen CD’s website you can hear them all. As the melodies are composed for music boxes, their range and duration (26–30 seconds) is limited and dynamics are absent. After laboring over the contours of these twelve almost tonal-sounding melodies so that they would symbolically depict the traditional personalities of ancient Babylonian astrology, they were published and performed separately under the title Tierkreis (work 41), to be played or sung with or without accompaniment. The twelve melodies of Tierkreis are character pieces, representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac. A complete performance begins with the melody corresponding to the zodiac sign within which the day of the performance falls, and proceeds through the twelve melodies of the cycle, ending with a return to the starting melody. Each melody is to be played at least three times through, with variations or improvisations. The melodies can also be played individually, or in smaller numbers. In addition to Musik im Bauch, Stockhausen employed the Tierkreis melodies in the central “wheel” section of Sirius (1975–77), an hour-and-a-half-long chamber opera for soprano and bass voices, trumpet, bass clarinet, and eight-channel electronic music. The latter was his last completed composition, finished on 4 December 2007, the night before he died.
Note on Tierkreis from the 2015 Stockhausen Festival at CalArts brochure.
Virgo was composed by Mikhail Krutik for the “Sound Ways” festival Tierkreis Project, dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Tierkreis. Krutik’s Virgo is a musical personification of the Zodiac sign, one of the main qualities of which is “the desire to order chaos.” Because this piece was conceived as a musical commentary to Stockhausen’s “Virgo,” it starts and ends with the same chord.
Strengths: Loyal, Passionate, Resourceful, Observant, Dynamic. Weaknesses: Jealous, Obsessive, Suspicious, Manipulative, Unyielding.
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. In my arrangement, the musicians double on melodicas as a reference to the simple yet unique nature of Stockhausen’s original instrumentation (music boxes).
Sagittarius was commissioned by 2015 Sound Ways Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is in essence variations on Karlheinz Stokhausen’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.
Stockhausen’s work, like the image he built of himself to the public, at once maintains both impossible distance and a certain immediacy. Kitsch, the ecstatic, megalomania, and psychedelia coalesce in works like Mixtur, Trans, or Inori; like Wagner, but from outer space. He wrote Tierkreis not long after Inori, and, unlike these three pieces, it is incredibly flexible. Its 12 movements are each musical experiences of a corresponding Zodiac sign. One reads any of these for their melody, sung line, their accompaniment, or any configuration thereof, so I decided to perform one by composing through it.
My little piece, written after my own sign, takes Stockhausen’s melody, and performs it three times per his directions. I took a cue from another of his works, Mantra, in which the mantric melody is played in con- and protracted versions of itself, and did the same. My piece uses only his rhythms and his melody line, harmonizes them, and transforms them, shifting their “positions” in a musical sky over a brief period. Not unlike the movement of the stars: nothing seems to happen, but something's moved.
Perpendicular Twins comprises three duos played separately and then together. The title refers to the sounds each duo makes – which are similar but not quite the same – as well as the physical relationship of each instrument to its duo partner. Many thanks to my dear friends in Brightwork for doing the dance!