ITHACA COLLEGE CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE
Jorge Grossmann, director
ALVIN SINGLETON was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended New York University and Yale. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied with Goffredo Petrassi at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy. After living and working in Europe for fourteen years, Singleton returned to the United States to become Composer-in-Residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (1985-88). He subsequently served as Resident Composer at Spelman College in Atlanta (1988-91), as UNISYS Composer-in-Residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1996-97), and was the 2002–03 Composer-in-Residence with the Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, he has served as Visiting Professor of Composition at the Yale University School of Music.
Singleton has amassed numerous awards throughout his compositional life. He is the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and was commissioned by The Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation and American Composers Orchestra for the orchestral work When Given a Choice, which premiered at Carnegie Hall in April 2004. His other awards include the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis by the City of Darmstadt, Germany, twice the Musikprotokoll Kompositionpreis by the Austrian Radio, the Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts Award by the City of Atlanta, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Also in Spring 2004, Singleton joined the American Composers Orchestra as “Music Alive” Composer-in-Residence and Artistic Advisor for the IMPROVISE! Festival. His music has been published exclusively worldwide by Schott Music since 1977, and is recorded on the Albany Records, Elektra/Nonesuch, First Edition, Tzadik, and Innova labels.
Argoru VIII for snare drum is a daring, even cheeky little piece. It plays with the common notions of what snare drums are supposed to do. For example, it features absolutely deafening silences. It is also decidedly about rhythm on the one hand and about expression on the other, no less so than a popular song might be. Like some strange creature eloquent in only its own language, the snare drum gets worked up but also whispers, gripping the listener in its brutal honesty. The composer is quoted as saying of the work, “I avoided the use of drum rolls, flams and other typical things one associates with snare drumming. Rhythm was my main concentration in the writing of this work.” Argoru VIII was commissioned by Meet The Composer Commissioning Music/USA and was written for Peggy Benkeser. (Carman Moore 2009)
Argoru VII for vibraphone is the seventh in a series of solo pieces for various musical instruments. It was commissioned by the Music Teachers National Association and the Georgia Music Teachers Association, and premiered by Peggy Benkeser at DeKalb College in Clarkston, Georgia on November 4, 1994.
Argoru VI for marimba is the sixth in a series of solo pieces for various musical instruments. It was commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for John Kasica, and premiered as part of the Chamber Music St. Louis – On Stage Series on March 28, 1988.
This short piece, like all the Argoru compositions (piano, cello, flute, viola, bass clarinet, alto flute, marimba) provides a musical platform for sheer virtuosic display. The title, Argoru, comes from Twi, a language spoken in Ghana and means “to play.” (Alvin Singleton)
In Our Own House Mr. Singleton's words: "In Our Own House (1998) for soprano saxophone, trumpet, snare drum and piano was commissioned by Karen Walwyn for this recording. The work creates an opportunity for old friends and relatives to make music together."
NATHAN FROEBE is a composer of chamber, choral, orchestral, wind band, and electronic music, as well as a music educator and conductor. His works have been featured at various North American Saxophone Alliance conferences, various International Tuba-Euphonium conferences, at the 2018 Society of Composers, Inc. Region VI Conference, the 2017 National Flute Association Conference, and the 2018 International Trombone Festival, as well as being chosen for the 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Showcase. Additionally, he has been featured as both a composer and conductor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Bands, as well as the University of Wisconsin-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Recently, he was awarded the 2019 Hecksher Composition Prize for his work, "Un/Controlled," for solo alto saxophone.
Froebe’s works vary greatly in style, and nearly all contain a programmatic narrative with a heavy emphasis on creative orchestration and coloring. His music has been performed by saxophonist Steve Carmichael, mezzo-soprano Jessica Kasinski, trombonist Thomas Macaluso, trombonist Lane Weaver, and has been a featured composer for the New Muse Ensemble of Madison, WI. In particular, Froebe has a penchant for winds and percussion, and has also collaborated with dancers on electronic works. His current work focuses on exploring issues of addiction and recovery, as well as the narratives of coming out as LGBT in today’s society. His teachers include Laura Schwendinger, Stephen Dembski, Timothy Michael Rolls, Jeff Jordan, and John C. Ross. His conducting mentors are Scott Teeple and Craig Fuchs. Froebe also holds memberships in ASCAP, the Society of Composers, Inc., Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Kappa Kappa Psi (honorary)
Un/Controlled is a work of dichotomy. Narratively, the music is working towards being completely in control at all times, while simultaneously losing that control at every turn. This directly mirrors a specific period of my life where everything was happening at an accelerated pace, and all I could do was “white-knuckle” my way through the days, a feeling I’m sure that everyone can relate to. The conception and composition of this piece was partly therapeutic in that regard. The metaphor of spinning plates is rather apt in this situation if you imagine that you are spinning not just the plates, but the bowls, the cups, the cutlery, the dining table, and the next door neighbor’s cat (because why not?).
The music itself is based around the idea of heading into and coming out of multiphonics. To that end, nearly all the pitch material is based loosely around the pitches that are created in a given harmonic, both from a concert pitch and transposed pitch perspective. The piece begins fairly controlled, and highly concentrated around the alto saxophone’s G. As the work progress, however, the pitch centricity begins to rise, the rhythms become more chaotic, and the material begins to fracture and lose control. In the middle of the work, the multiphonics take over, with a slower more suspended feeling representing a relinquishment of control. The work picks back up, and a balance is struck of careening ahead while being deft in movement.
SIR HARRISON BIRTWISTLE was born in Accrington in the north of England in 1934 and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music, making contact with a highly talented group of contemporaries including Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth. In 1965 he sold his clarinets to devote all his efforts to composition, and travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch and Judy. This work, together with Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time, firmly established Birtwistle as a leading voice in British music.
The decade from 1973 to 1984 was dominated by his monumental lyric tragedy The Mask of Orpheus, staged by English National Opera in 1986, and by the series of remarkable ensemble scores now performed by the world's leading new music groups: Secret Theatre, Silbury Air and Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum. Large-scale works in the following decade included the operas Gawain and The Second Mrs Kong, the concertos Endless Parade for trumpet and Antiphonies for piano, and the orchestral score Earth Dances.
Birtwistle has received many honours, including the Grawemeyer Award in 1968 and the Siemens Prize in 1995; he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1986, awarded a British knighthood in 1988 and made a Companion of Honour in 2001. He was Henry Purcell Professor of Music at King's College, University of London (1995-2001) and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Recordings of Birtwistle's music are available on the Decca, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, Teldec, Black Box, NMC, CPO, Metronome and Soundcircus labels.
At the close of the last century, the poetry of Romanian-born Holocaust survivor Paul Celan (1920-1970) drew the interest of many composers. In the 1990s Luciano Berio, György Kurtág, John Zorn, and Peter Ruzicka composed works on the poet, the latter producing a full-length opera. It was a culmination of Celan’s lifelong association with musical imagery beginning with his famous early poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue).
In 1989 Harrison Birtwistle set “White and Light” in response to a commission from England’s Composers Ensemble. Over the next several years he would return to Celan for inspiration to fulfill both vocal and instrumental commissions. In 1996 he combined nine poems and nine movements for string quartet into an hour-long work titled Pulse Shadows. From that he excerpted a smaller collection: Three Settings of Celan.
“White and Light,” “Night,” and “Tenebrae” are poems from late in Celan’s life, when he had moved away from a traditional lyricism to a more compressed and austere style. Utilizing English translations by Michael Hamburger Birtwistle’s score offers versions in both English and the original German.
“Pulse Shadows” is an apt image to describe the music. In “White and Light” there is a shadow play between the soprano and clarinet, which closely echo and anticipate each other’s melodic lines. The tempo and texture is unsteady and fluid, a quality reflected in Celan’s text by repeated use of the word “drift.” The soprano’s highest register is on full display in “Night,” while aggressive viola strokes provide an uneasy pulsation to “Tenebrae.” Long, sustained soprano notes – particularly on the many instances of the word “Lord” – lead the work to an enigmatic conclusion.
© Copyright Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
1. White and Light
Sickle Dunes uncounted in wind shadow thousand-fold: you and the arm with which naked I grew towards you, lost one. The beams they blow us together we bear the brightness, the pain, and the name.
White what moves us, without weight, what we exchange. White and Light: let it drift. The distances, moon-near, like us. They build the cliff where the drift breaks, they build on with light froth and wave turned to foam.
The drift that beckons from cliffs. It beckons brows to come near, those brows we were lent for mirroring's sake. The brows. We roll with them there. To a shore of brows
Are you asleep? Sleep. Ocean mill turns, ice bright and unheard, in our eyes.
Pebbles and scree. And a shard note, thin, as the hour's message of comfort.
Exchange of eyes, finite, at the wrong time:
the sign of eternity.
We are near, Lord,
near and at hand.
Handled already, Lord,
clawed and clawing as though
the body of each of us were
your body, Lord.
pray to us,
we are near.
Wind-awry we went there,
went there to bend
over hollow and ditch.
To be watered we went there, Lord.
It was blood, it was
what you shed, Lord.
It cast your image into our eyes, Lord.
Our eyes and our mouths are open and empty, Lord.
We have drunk, Lord.
The blood and the image that was in the blood, Lord.
We are near.