Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memphis Mea Culpa?

The Saga of the Dotted Eighth Rest from Day 2 of the Earshot Memphis Readings

Call it a flaw or tick in my personality, but unresolved issues, no matter how insignificant, manage to gnaw at me to the point of distraction. À propos of the discussion that I initiated in my typically heavy-handed way regarding the use of dotted rests in simple meters, here’s the deal, as far as I can determine after some rummaging through my personal score library. In simple meter (4/4, 3/4, etc., with the quarter note as the unit of beat) a single sixteenth-note that falls on a beat may be followed by either a dotted-eighth rest or a sixteenth rest and an eighth rest combination, in that order. Contrary to what I stated in our meeting, it is not a question of one being more correct than the other or one being used in a newer practice and the other being used in an older practice. It is also not a question of frequency of use (e.g., pieces having many instances of single sixteenth-notes on downbeats are not weighted toward the use of dotted-eighth rests, and pieces with few instances of single sixteenth-notes are not weighted toward sixteenth and eighth rest usage). One method over the other is also not a consistent publisher’s practice (the examples below confirm this) or a publisher’s practice with a single composer (compare A2 and B2 below).
A few examples to consider:

A. Use of sixteenth and eight rest combinations

1.) Arnold Schoenberg, ‘Pierrot Lunaire,’ Universal Edition, Nr. 5334, 5336, p. 5, m. 7, piano

2.) Serge Prokofieff, ‘Symphony No. 4, first version, op. 47,’ Boosey and Hawkes HPS 1366, p. 59, m. 117, clarinet parts

3.) Milton Babbitt, ‘Arie da Capo,’ C.F. Peters 66584, p. 2, m. 7, flute

4.) Béla Bartók, ‘3rd String Quartet,’ Boosey and Hawkes 9042, p. 19, four before rehearsal 29, violin 1, viola, violoncello parts

5.) György Ligeti, ‘Le Grand Macabre,’ Schott ED 8522, p. 2, rehearsal 1, bassoons and trombones parts

B. Use of dotted-eighth rests

1.) Igor Stravinsky, ‘The Rite of Spring,’ Kalmus and International scores, one after rehearsal 33 through rehearsal 34, numerous instances in the flute parts.

2.) Serge Prokofieff, ‘Symphony No. 2, op. 40,’ Boosey and Hawkes HPS 1111, pp. 160-161, numerous instances in the trumpet parts

3.) Igor Stravinsky, ‘Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in Eb,’ Schott, p. 10, rehearsal 9, violins part

4.) Elliott Carter, ‘A Mirror on Which to Dwell,’ AMP 7701, p. 33, m. 15, soprano part and violoncello part

5.) Pierre Boulez, ‘Memoriale,’ Universal Edition No. 18657, p. 20, one before rehearsal 28, violin 3 part

Clearly, publishing practice tells us that either method is acceptable. I have observed that whichever method is used, it remains constant for the duration of the piece. For your own practice, I advise that you select one way and apply it consistently. If you are ‘on the fence’ about it, I suggest using dotted-eighth rests. They produce cleaner results.

-Michael Gandolfi

P.S. As an undergraduate, I learned notation from Donald Martino, who was meticulous in every aspect of his composition. Although he practiced and preached the use of dotted-eighth rests, he also was fond of citing the Universal Edition of Berg’s ‘Wozzeck’ as the best resource for resolving notational issues. This edition uses the sixteenth and eighth rest combinations (!) Chalk-it-up to another example of the vagaries of practice and education in this wonderful art of ours!!
P.P.S. Isn’t it fitting that ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ and ‘The Rite of Spring’ employ opposing methods? Serendipity no doubt, but amusing nonetheless.

1. Christian Baldini's score.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beale Street Blues

At the close of the readings all of the participants headed downtown to get a taste of the music (and the food) in Memphis beyond the orchestra. The first stop was the famed Beale Street where the composers were finally able to relax after two intense days of readings and take in some of the local bands, including the high-energy rockabilly band The Dempseys. What a great way to close the readings!

1. The participant composers on Beale Street.
2. The Dempseys playing at the Blues City Cafe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No Wasted Time

When we met Mr. Michael Geller (executive director for ACO and staff for EarShot) after the long flight, this was the first thing he said.
"If anybody wants to go to the restroom you should do now, because you won't have time... for two days!"
He was right. Everything moved so quickly with consistent learning and inspiration. It was not just the reading, but the whole thing was a full course. Since I have to sacrifice my family whenever I travel, I like to make most of it when I am there. Indeed the sacrifice was worth it!
I thank everyone I met sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

-Jean Ahn

1. Jean Ahn with Mentor Composer Michael Gandolfi while conductor David Loebel conducts the initial read-through of her work Salt.

Wonderful Atmosphere

What a great pleasure to have been part of the first EarShot Network Readings!

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra conducted by their Music Director David Loebel did just a terrific job. Everybody in the orchestra had a wonderful approach to the music in front of them. Each of the four composers had a dramatically different approach to their work and this did not prevent the musicians from trying their very best and performing at a truly high level. Maestro Loebel knew the scores inside out and inspired the players with his professionalism.

A truly wonderful atmosphere. A great honor to have been a part of this, and I feel very grateful to have met Melinda Wagner and Michael Gandolfi. They are both great composers and
wonderful teachers. Their wise comments will be very much remembered!

A big pleasure to have met my three colleagues. All very talented composers and great people. We had fun together. To everybody involved in this: thank you so much for making this experience such a great one!

-Christian Baldini

1. Christian Baldini speaking to the orchestra during the reading of his work while Maestro Loebel listens.
2. Concertmaster Susanna Gilmore tuning the orchestra before reading Christian's piece.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Missing Memphis

Now back in Boston. What an extraordinary experience! I will never forget it. Maestro David Loebel is such an incredible musician and mentor! He was fantastic and knew the scores VERY well. The orchestra performed very well all of these incredibly different scores!

Our group was very good ( Jean, Christian and Patricio), all of us with different aesthetics and I did learn a lot from my colleagues too! We got along extremely well and got to spend some nice time together talking about many different things! The mentor composers were also very inspiring. Melinda Wagner and Michael Gandolfi gave us their support and advice. Their wisdom helped us taking the most of these experience. I will miss all these extraordinary people! Those two days seemed like...two weeks! Very intense!

-Andreia Pinto-Correia

1. Andreia Pinto-Correia with condcutor David Loebel reviewing her score before the reading.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day two in Memphis

Day two in Memphis was as action-packed as day one! Jean Ahn’s two-movment work Salt and Andreia Pinto Correia’s three movement work Acanto were the centerpieces of the day, read expertly by the Memphis Symphony. Once again maestro David Loebel was more than up-to-the-challenge of these demanding pieces. We had some repeat audience members from the readings the night before. They obviously liked what they heard!
To back up a step, Melinda Wagner and I started the day by leading a lively discussion of the first day’s readings, which, as I wrote about in my first blog entry, featured the works of Patricio Da Silva and Christian Baldini. Following that, Jean Ahn and Andreia Pinto-Correia met with maestro Loebel in preparation for their afternoon readings. After a brief lunch, the readings took place during a two and one half hour period, followed immediately by a ninety-minute discussion/critique class of these two pieces. As was the case in the morning discussion, this too was lively! Melinda and I covered many topics including issues of orchestration, notation, composition and aesthetics, as well as the practical issues of communicating with a conductor and an orchestra in a time–constrained rehearsal situation: a slice-of-life in the real world of orchestral performance.
Following that, we had a working dinner in which representatives from the orchestra (concertmaster, principal bassoon, timpanist, principal horn, etc.), along with David Loebel, gave their critiques and commentary to all four composers, drawn from comment sheets that were prepared by members of their respective sections. As with all events, Linda Golding, Michael Geller, and John Glover were present. Amy Gill, the MSO’s Director of Operations was also present. This was a great way to conclude the formal proceedings of this event. Listening to these comments was a learning experience for all of us.
After a brief rest back to the hotel, I joined the composers along with Michael, John and Linda, for a night out on Memphis town. Alas, the timing was not right for a trip to Graceland, but we had great fun unwinding on Beale Street. I got an unexpected glimpse of the Gibson guitar factory, which for an electric guitarist is like a trip to the holiest of shrines. (My first ‘real’ guitar was a 1969 Les Paul custom, purchased new in that year. I should have kept it (!), but I later traded it for a 70’s ES-175 that remains the crown jewel of my guitar line-up. Not a bad exchange, but…)

-Michael Gandolfi

1. Michael Gandolfi talks with Andreia Pinto-Correia during the reading of her work Acanto. Melinda Wagner (front) studies the score as well.
2. The group checks out a car on Beale Street.

from Memphis with love

Two exciting days, with high energy and high focus. The Memphis Symphony is a great band/organization, and their contribution (artistic and beyond) nothing less than stelar. Many thanks to ACO for their vision and their commitment to new orchestral music in the US. Looking forward to genetic cloning so we can have more of you.

First day of Earshot New Music Readings with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Yesterday was an action-packed, highly eventful day of travel, meetings, readings and discussion here in Memphis. The focus of the event, the actual readings, took place at the Clark Opera Center in Memphis. The late hour of the readings, 7:30-10:00 PM, did nothing to deter the focus and proficiency with which the Memphis Symphony read. David Loebel was terrific as well. To my surprise, an audience of about forty or so interested concert-goers was present, which gave a late-stage rehearsal feel to the event (almost like an open dress rehearsal). Patricio DaSilva's piece (in three movements) and Christian Baldini's elapsing twilight shades, a single movement work, were informed by two almost diametrically opposed aesthetic stances. The orchestra impressed with its ability to adapt to the different sets of challenges posed by these works. Today Melinda Wagner and I will give our commentary and critical assessments to Patricio and Christian and then we go straight to round two with the other two composers being read, Andreia Pinto-Correia and Jean Ahn. More on those sessions later...

-Michael Gandolfi

1. Mentor Compsoer Michael Ganfolfi (far left) speaks to the participant composers after the first readings session.

2. A view from the bass section as David Loebel (conductor) leads the orchestra through Christian Baldini's work

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Musical Chairs...

Before the first set of readings all of the participants went out to dinner to get to know each other a little better and fortify themselves with some food before diving into the music. The tables were covered in butcher paper with crayons scattered about. What composer could resist... Michael Gandolfi scribbled out a bit of a phrase and one by one throughout the evening each composer added their own little bit to the tune.

EarShot readings - behind the scenes with four emerging composers

Today begins the first day of the EarShot / Memphis Symphony New Music readings. Selected from a pool of hundreds of submissions, four emerging composers (Jean Ahn, Christian Baldini, Andreia Pinto-Correia, and Patricio DaSilva) have been selected to participate in an intensive two-day reading session with the Memphis Symphony and its music director David Loebel. Mentor composers Michael Gandolfi and Melinda Wagner will provide insight and guidance to the young composers. Check in here to get a behind-the-scenes view of what's on the participants minds as they live through the process of hearing their works realized.

1. Memphis Symphony Orchestra preparing to read the first work. The readings were held at the Clark Memphis Opera Center

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sound Off!: Orchestra Underground Season Finale

You've heard what the composers have to say for themselves, now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the concert!

Below are a few questions to get the ball rolling...

- What surprised you most about the concert?
- Do you think that composers write differently when they are the soloist? How so?

- Which piece did you think was the most convincing? Why?