CNM Concert Season 40

David Gompper, Director
Luke Dahn, Research Asst



2005-06
CNM Concert VI


Notes & Bios
   Stephen DEMBSKI 

 Luke DAHN 

 Alban BERG 
 

   SEASON: 
   CONCERT: 


 PROGRAM NOTES & BIOS



Guest Composer, Stephen Dembski

Clapp Recital Hall
Sunday, April 9, 2006, 8:00 p.m.










Out of My System (1995) Stephen DEMBSKI
Scott Conklin*, violin
Yasmin Flores, clarinet
Ken Ishii, violoncello
Ginny Armstrong, percussion
David Gompper, conductor

Stacked Deck (1979) Stephen DEMBSKI
Sara Haack, flute
Mark Fitkin, oboe
Yasmin Flores, clarinet
Jeffrey Tilghman, bassoon
Brian Umlah, trumpet
Sean Truelove, trombone
Brody Ross, timpani
Ginny Armstrong & Christopher Sande, percussion
Liang-fang Chang, piano
Gabrielle Harvey, violin
Ken Ishii, violoncello
David Gompper, conductor

Edges (2006) Luke DAHN
Sara Haack, flute
Mark Fitkin, oboe
Amy Turnbull, E-flat clarinet
Tasondra Huyck, B-flat clarinet
Yasmin Flores, bass clarinet
Jeff Tilghman, bassoon
Brian Umlah, trumpet
Matthew Hellenbrand, horn
Nathan LeFeber, trombone
Liang-fang Chang, piano
Pam Weest-Carrasco, harp
Ginny Armstrong, percussion
Christopher Sande, percussion
Scott Conklin*, violin
Christine Rutledge*, viola
Tony Arnone*, violoncello
Volkan Orhon*, contrabass
David Gompper, conductor


Intermission

Chamber Concerto (1925)
      I. Thema scherzoso con variazioni
     II. Adagio
    III. Rondo ritmico con introduzione (cadenza)
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Katie Wolfe, violin
Kazuo Murakami, piano

Tammy Thweat*, piccolo
Sara Haack, flute
Mark Fitkin, oboe
Mark Weiger*, english horn
Amy Turnbull, E-flat clarinet
Tasondra Huyck, B-flat clarinet
Yasmin Flores, bass clarinet
Michele Bowen, bassoon
Jeff Tilghman, contrabassoon
Brian Umlah, trumpet
Patrick Creel, horn 1
Matthew Hellenbrand, horn 2
Nathan LeFeber, trombone
David Gompper, conductor

*faculty


 




 
STEPHEN DEMBSKI
Out of My System

Less than a quarter hour long, Out of My System is a miniature chamber concerto for violin. Chasing a few unruly ghosts of concerti past, it plays with these spirits and eventually makes them its own. Even its network of scales and harmonies is in the spirit of the tonal system that encouraged the friendly ghosts of so many old musics. "Going to other times and places to see what's worth taking" is how Walter Becker of Steely Dan characterizes what he calls this "culturally colonialistic period." Whatever you call it, with this piece, commissioned by the Network for New Music with support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, this composer may finally have written such cultural colonialism out of his system.

Stacked Deck

Stacked Deck was written for the inaugural season of conductor Efrain Guigui's ensemble Vox Nova, which played it for the first time in May 1979 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Back then, I wrote: "The piece can be divided into two parts, articulated by the dead spot after the tutti flurry about three minutes in: the second part re-combines the various tunes and chords of the first. Sometimes the offspring of these new combinations are born quite easily and seem well-behaved; in other cases their inherited qualities may seem to cause them to break apart at unstable, explosive moments. For these, an autopsy is difficult, and Identification of next-of-kin, nearly impossible; more than a few, however, do survive."

A few years later, I was writing about it with Robert Black, the conductor who recorded it, and we took a different tone: "Quirky and discontinuous, Stacked Deck is made mostly of musical ideas that are thwarted before they have the chance to come to term. As it moves rapidly through many different musics, unconcerned with superficial developmental continuity, the music will reward a listener whose attention is directed behind the textures towards the sonorities from which they are woven. It is at this level that its form is clearly of a piece."

Now, decades later, Stacked Deck's musical language marks for me the penultimate step of my search for a robust and comprehensible harmonic framework -- a then-covert in-progress project only implicit in the quotations above. But re-reading those old words, I am struck by how the world has changed, and how both metaphors -- the rather violent one to which I innocently resorted more than a quarter- century ago, and the other, invoking gestational development -- now seem to me shockingly inappropriate in a straightforward program note: each now seems way too loaded, too resonant of the day's events in which, however we might wish otherwise, we may well find ourselves implicated. If its cultural context has changed anywhere near so much as the political context has, how, I wonder, will this old music sound after so many years? Just as each listener makes individual compositions out of sound heard in the air, so will each era, or even moment, with its peculiar circumstances, make that music new?
Stephen Dembski has been composing music for public performance for more than three decades; by now, his catalog includes orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo instrumental and vocal music, as well as compositions for electronically- and digitally-synthesized sound, and long-form compositions for ensembles of improvising musicians; as an improvising conductor of extended modular works for instrumental improvisors he also designs compositions in real time. A broad variety of these musics can be heard on about a dozen recordings; his work has also represented the United States at international festivals in France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, and England, and in Italy was recognized by the Premio Musicale Citta di Trieste. At home, his honors include three commission-fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, and the Goddard Lieberson Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Among Dembski's current compositional projects is an operatic setting of a libretto, Crow Soup, written for him by the classic surrealist artist and novelist Leonora Carrington. Other ongoing work includes the development of a compositional theory -- including its realization in software -- and a series of verbal publications to document, defend, and disseminate the work of other composers. He continues to serve on the boards of directors of a wide range of music service organizations and foundations, both regional and national, and is a frequent juror for competitions held by a variety of arts-oriented groups. Educated at Antioch, StonyBrook, and Princeton, he has been responsible for the composition program at the University of Wisconsin - Madison for twenty-five years.

 

LUKE DAHN
Edges

The title comes from two paintings that share a common title, Edge. The paintings, by Phillip Guston and Adolph Gottlieb, face one another on opposing walls in the American Abstractionists room of the University of Iowa Art Museum. (A huge Pollock dominates the space.) I would often go sit in front of these paintings while working on my own Edges. I found the space to be quiet, yet fertile, teeming with creativity. While Edges is not strictly based on either of these paintings, many of the musical ideas came to me while sitting amid, contemplating these fine works of art.
Luke Dahn (b.1976) is in his final year of doctoral studies in composition at the University of Iowa. He holds a bachelor degree in music theory and composition from Houston Baptist University (2000), and a masters degree in composition from Western Michigan University (2003). His principal teachers have included David Gompper, C. Curtis-Smith and Ann K. Gebuhr. He has also studied electroacoustic music with Larry Fritts. In addition to three performances during the Center for New Music tour, Edges will be recorded by the CNM later this spring.
 

ALBAN BERG
Chamber Concerto

Dedicated to his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg's Chamber Concerto for violin, piano and 13 winds was written between 1923 and 1925, receiving its first performance in 1927. While Berg's previous works (Wozzeck, for instance) had been highly expressionistic, the Chamber Concerto moves decisively towards a more classical style, a scoring suggesting a response to recent work by Stravinsky. The concerto also represented the continuation of a new direction of employing the ordered twelve-tone set. The work relies on the consistent usage of the basic transformation operations of the twelve-tone system -- prime, inversion, retrograde-inversion, and retrograde.

In the "motto", Berg introduces the letters of the names of himself, Schoenberg, and Webern (ArnolD SCHoenBErG, Anton wEBErn, and AlBAn BErG). In fact, threaded through each movement are musical ciphers and numerical analogies that celebrate this partnership. The number three figures prominently in the construction of the piece -- three movements, three principal motives, total number of instruments divisible by three, three principal motives based on the three friends, etc.

The three movements are played without a break--the first movement features the piano, the second the violin, and the third both soloists. The opening movement comprises five variations on a "Thema scherzoso", each of which corresponds to various personalities of Schoenberg's circle, celebrating the idea of friendship. The second movement is dedicated to love: to Arnold Schoenberg's love for his wife Mathilde, who had died in 1923 after a painful illness. The motif of the sequence A-H-D-E permeates the moving Adagio, divided into two halves, the second of which is the retrograde of the first. This juncture is signaled by twelve "bell strokes" sounded on the piano, which in this movement is otherwise silent. The third movement, marked Rondo ritmico, is a recapitulation of the two preceding movements simultaneously. Explained Berg: "It was bringing all these dissimilar components and characteristics together, and finding within them a new movement with a tone completely of its own, that gave the Rondo ritmico its form."
Berg, Alban (Maria Johannes) (b Vienna, 1885; d Vienna, 1935). Austrian composer whose output is among the most influential and important of the 20th century. In 1904 he began private composition lessons with Schoenberg. With his friend and fellow-pupil Webern, he entered the avant-garde artistic life of Vienna.

In May 1914 Berg attended a performance of Buechner's play Woyzeck and determined to make an opera of it. Military service delayed work, but the music was eventually finished in 1922 and was performed in Berlin, December 1925. It caused a scandal but its success with the public was never in doubt, despite critical polemics. By the end of the decade, Berg completed the Chamber Concerto (1925), the Lyric Suite for string quartet (1926), and the concert aria Der Wein (1929). In 1929 began the adaptation of two Wedekind plays as an opera libetto called Lulu. By 1934 he had completed the music in short score and begun full instrumentation. In the spring of 1935 began a violin concerto commissioned by Louis Krasner. Driven by news of the death of the beautiful 18-year-old Manon Gropius, daughter of Mahler's widow by her 2nd marriage, he finished the work in August of 1935, dedicating it 'to the memory of an angel'. Four months later he too died, through blood poisoning from an insect-bite. It has been established that several of Berg's works, including the Lyric Suite, Lulu, and the Violin Concerto, contain musical cryptograms referring to his love for Frau Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (and others). Furthermore, there is recent scholarship that suggests a Berg- Mathilde affair might have existed, and that the second movement is suggestive of such a dalliance.

Berg is still considered the most successful of the so-called dodecaphonic composers. His work is nearer to the Mahler idiom than to the Schoenbergian. In Wozzeck atonality is very freely used and applied to a highly formal structure. From the Lyric Suite onwards, Berg used 12-note procedures nearer to, but still significantly different from, the Schoenberg method. Technical methods notwithstanding, however, it is the emotional content of Berg's music which has awoken a ready response in listeners, particularly the Violin Concerto, which quotes the Bach chorale Es ist genug at its climax.