German-Argentine composer Mauricio
Kagel is one of the most intriguing
composers of the 20th century. Many
of his diverse works contain undercurrents
of surrealism and anarchism in
an effort to shed light on—and often
confront—the musical tradition. His
film Ludwig Van refashions Beethoven
scores as furniture; his chamber work
Der Schall employs cash registers and
household appliances as its main instruments; and in his opera Staatstheater,
members of the chorus perform overlapping
solos, soloists sing in a chorus,
and non-dancers present a ballet.
The half-hour percussion trio Dressur (1977) is rooted in Kagel’s concern for
how audio recordings have altered the
tradition of audience experience. “In
the 19th century people still enjoyed
music with their eyes as well, with all
their senses,” Kagel has expressed.
“Only with the increasing dominance
of the mechanical reproduction of
music, through broadcast and records,
was this reduced to the purely acoustical
dimension. What I want is to bring
the audience back to an enjoyment of
music with all senses. That’s why my
music is a direct, exaggerated protest
against the mechanical reproduction
Like many of the other works in Kagel’s “instrumental theater” idiom, Dressur therefore combines the visual element
with the auditory, the theatrical with
the musical. Using over 50 instruments
and non-instruments, Kagel creates
sound out of theater (such as when a
percussionist slams a chair on the
ground several times), and theater out
of sound (such as when castanets mimic
the sound of a typewriter). The percussionist
is a particularly fitting conduit
for the visual-aural convergence:
even in the most traditional works, his
or her striking a variety of instruments,
often while clearly visible behind several
seated performers, seems to possess
an inherent theatricality.
Interestingly, Dressur has become some -
what of a YouTube hit lately, with a
handful of videotaped performances
(many by Yale’s own performers)
totaling several thousand hits. If technological
advances in the 20th century
resulted in audiences listening without
seeing, those in the 21st may help bring
us “back to an enjoyment of music
with all senses.”
Mauricio Kagel, born in Buenos Aires on 24 December 1931, is among the most distinctive composers of contemporary music. From the very beginning his name has been associated above all with music theatre, the genre in which he has perhaps exerted the greatest impact. Besides his radical innovations in this area, however, he has also developed a highly personal aesthetic in his absolute music.
Kagel’s creative output has been enormous. It encompasses not only stage, orchestral and chamber music in an extremely wide range of instrumental settings, but also film scores, radio plays and essays. Throughout its broad spectrum, his music reveals a breach with any and all forms of academicism as well as close ties to tradition, especially to the German tradition.
Imagination, originality and humour are the hallmarks of this multimedia artist. With inexhaustible powers of invention, Kagel makes use of a very wide array of expressive devices which, although often caustic and provocative, are always placed in the service of musical discourse.
Wikipedia: Mauricio Kagel
Composed for three percussionists who each use a table as their musical instrument. The diversity of tones is produced by striking the tables in different ways. The position of fingers and hands, the rhythmic figures are coded in a repertoire of original symbols introduced into the score. The idea of Musique de tables is to trace the link between the music and the gesture that produces the sound, and to pinpoint the demarcation line between dance and music: the visual and choreographic aspects are on the same plane of importance as the tones and the musicality of the performances.
Thierry De Mey, born in 1956, is a composer and filmmaker. An instinctive feel for movement guides his entire work, allowing him to tackle and integrate a variety of disciplines. The premise behind his musical and filmic writing is the desire for rhythm to be experienced in the body or bodies, revealing the musical meaning for the author, performer and audience. He has developed a system of musical writing for movement used in pieces where the visual and choreographic aspects are just as important as the gesture producing the sound, such as in Musique de tables (1987), Silence must be! (2002) and Light Music, which premiered at Lyon’s Musiques en Scène biennial festival in 2004.
A large part of his music production is intended for dance and cinema. He has often been more than a composer for the choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus and his sister Michèle Anne De Mey, offering his precious collaboration in the invention of "formal strategies" – to use a favourite expression of his.
|Performers: Michael Compitello, Ji Hye Jung, David Skidmore & Michael Zell
Robert Van Sice discusses a few of the compositional elements behind "Village Burial".
Here the memories are of a Hindu, princely funeral ceremony—for two months the villagers have been making
preparations—hundreds have turned out wearing their most lavish and colourful clothes, and carrying offerings of food on their heads. First, there is the noisy procession down to the river for purification of the soul, then a short ceremony, and then the vast funeral pyre is set alight. At this moment it seems as though the whole village has exploded into music and dancing—soon, some go into trance. Gradually the physical form of the pyre disintegrates, and the spirit of the deceased is formally set free to mingle with the spirit world. In the evening, when the festivities have moved on to another place, some mourners lament beside the glowing embers.
James Wood (b. 1953) studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, read music at Cambridge where he was an organ scholar, and later studied percussion and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. Today he is known for his wide ranging activities as composer, conductor and virtuoso percussionist, and for a close association with an exceptionally broad spectrum of music from the middle ages to the present day.
For further study, visit James Woods online: http://www.choroi.demon.co.uk/
|Performers: Jeff Jones, Dennis Petrunin, David Skidmore & Svet Stoyonov
Threads, written by Paul Lansky for So Percussion in 2005, is a ‘contata’ for percussion quartet in ten short movements. There are three ‘threads’ that are interwoven in the piece: Arias and Preludes that focus on the metallic pitched sounds; Choruses in which drumming predominates; and Recitatives made largely from Cage-like ‘noise’ instruments. The aims of the different threads are to highlight the wide range of qualitities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous texture.
– Paul Lansky
From his pioneering work in computer music through his fresh and engaging instrumental music of the past decade, Paul Lansky has become a leading voice in contemporary American music. Born in New York City in 1944, Lansky attended Queens College, studying composition with George Perle and Hugo Weisgall and at Princeton University, where he worked with Milton Babbitt and Earl Kim. Paul Lansky has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1969, where he is now William Shubael Conant Professor of Music.
Until the mid-1990s, the bulk of Lansky’s work was in computer music, for which he was honored in 2002 with a lifetime achievement award by SEAMUS (the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States). Lansky’s recent instrumental music eschews attempts to “break new ground,” relying instead on a fresh approach toward tonality and harmony that references musical traditions of various kinds, from Machaut to Stravinsky.
For further study, visit Paul Lansky online: http://paullansky.org/