by Paul Dresher
by Paul Dresher
CAGE MACHINE: 1st Movement from CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC BAND
Program Notes coming soon
CHORALE TIMES TWO: 2nd Movement from CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC BAND
There are two exceptions for me in the second movement of the Concerto. Generally, I dislike chords and synthesizers and rarely use them in my own compositions, preferring to create harmony through counterpoint and electronic sounds through digital sampling and signal processing. However, in the summer of 1994, while composing Din of Iniquity, I was experimenting with a Yamaha SY-99 synthesizer and created a synthesizer timbre which intrigued me sonically and from which kept emerging a simple expanding chord progression, something which suggested the kind of core harmonic progressions embodied in Bach Chorales, which are often used as models in beginning studies of harmony and voice leading. This idea had no place at all in Din of Iniquity but kept hanging around and nagging for attention, which it finally received in the Concerto. There are two big arcs of harmonic progression, the 2nd one a permutation of the first, hence the title.
The Concerto was written for the extraordinary violinist David Abel who performs the entire work regularly with the Ensemble as part of a set of two concerti commissioned with support from the Creative Work Fund. The second by Alvin Curran will be premiered by David and the Ensemble in the 1998 season.
I have always been rather ambivalent about the concerto form, at least as it has come down to us through the heritage of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The form largely seemed to be expressed in terms of conflict and resolution between the soloist and ensemble and it was often a vehicle for technical display at the expense of other musical values. This was inherently against my basic interest in an equal-voiced or layered contrapuntal approach in forming the relationships between musicians playing together. In approaching this form I explored different possible relationships, ones that more honestly reflected both my musical and social perspectives. Thus in each of the movements, which may be performed as separate works, I have used contrasting models for the instrumental ensemble. In the first movement, Cage Machine, it is that of a rock and roll band; in the second, it is of an orchestra. In the third, it is that of a chamber ensemble.
Besides the synthesizer sound at the core of the 2nd movement, almost all the keyboard and percussion sounds used in the work are samples of pianist Julie Steinberg’s preparation for her performance of John Cage’s seminal workSonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. I am deeply indebted to Julie for the exemplary quality of her “preparation” and for her permission to use these sounds in an entirely different context. Her recording of the work is available on the Music and Arts label. My thanks also to composer Jay Cloidt, with whom I worked in recording and editing these samples.