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AMERICANA // 12 PERFORMERS

AMERICANA // 12 PERFORMERS

A an engaging, original and highly symbolic show for the ensemble. The “American” program was the first one that Collettivo_21 brought on the stages, experimenting with teamwork and the idea of spectacle, enhancing the understanding between musicians and composers. The key composer of the program is Frederic Rzewski (which we have had opportunity to invite to hold a masterclass during our festival Incó_ntemporanea) that manifests its music both through the Spots – very short pieces made with a sax quartet, which have the same function as commercials and that don’t show up in the concert program in order to create a surprise effect – that enliven, interrupt and timbrically color the flow of the concert, and through the explosive finale, with an irreverent and charismatic song, Les moutons de Panurge, the ensemble’s workhorse, in which all the audience is involved, dragged by the rhythm, the gestures of the director and the masses of sound.

The program is built a sort of panoramic view of american music, featuring an important historical cross-section between lesser known and younger authors (Mazzoli, Torke) and composers already belonging to the american repertoire (Riley, Crumb, Rzewski), who manages to engage and amaze by his extraordinary grip on the audience.

The program has evolved over the years, to explore and learn more about a part of contemporary American music production: the latter plays a very important role, in our opinion, in the new music scene; we would like to make it travel overseas and bring it, in many cases as premieres, to our concert halls.

Program:

Missy Mazzoli (1980) – Still life with avalanche (2008) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussions
Frederic Rzewski (1938) – Winnsboro Cottonmill blues (1980) for piano
Terry Riley (1935) – Cantos Desiertos (1993) for violin and guitar
George Crumb (1929) – Makrokosmos IV, Alpha Centauri (1979) for 4 hands piano
Michael Torke (1961) – Telephone book (1985-1995) (18’) 1. The Yellow Pages, 2. The Blue Pages, 3. The white Pages for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano
Frederic Rzewski (1938) – Les moutons de Panurge (1968) for ensemble

Still Life With Avalanche (2008) was commissioned by eighth blackbird. The piece is essentially a pile of melodies collapsing in a chaotic free fall. The players layer bursts of sound over the static drones of harmonicas, sketching out a strange and evocative sonic landscape. I wrote this piece while in residence at Blue Mountain Center, a beautiful artist colony in upstate New York. Halfway through my stay there I received a phone call telling me my cousin had passed away very suddenly. There’s a moment in this piece when you can hear that phone call, when the piece changes direction, when the shock of real life works its way into the music’s joyful and exuberant exterior. This is a piece about finding beauty in chaos, and vice versa. It is dedicated to the memory (the joyful, the exuberant and the shocking) of Andrew Rose”.
Missy Mazzoli

The Yellow Pages was composed while I was a student at Yale, in the spring of 1985. I had just finished my first large piece, Ecstatic Orange, and I chose more open, diatonic harmonies as a kind of relief from the denser chords I had just used. My decision to write for two winds, two strings, and piano came from the belief that it would be a practical combination, and that I would be more likely to get performances in the future.
Ten years later, in 1995, when Present Music offered a commission to expand these musical ideas into a three-movement composition, I jumped at the opportunity. Given that the Yellow Pages are generally accompanied by the White Pages (for residential listings) and the Blue Pages (for government listings), it seemed natural to use these two other sections as models for additional movements.
Referring to the alphabetical listings found in these familiar directories, I devised a kind of musical equivalency: bars of music repeat, but I continually introduce new key signatures. The result (going through the complete cycle of fifths, but not transposing anything) is the feeling of much activity over gradual change, much like the way alphabetical order works. (It takes 133 pages of “A” entries to get to the “B’s” in my phone book, yet the ending letters of all the entries change constantly). Each movement explores a slightly different application of this treatment.
In addition, the names of the movements also refer to my synesthetic response to the keys I chose. The Yellow Pages is in G major – a key which I’ve always associated with yellow. White is A minor; blue is D major – and those are the respective keys used”.
Michael Torke

“The idea that rhythm is intrinsically human – not just primitive – that we all have hearts that beat at a steady rate and don’t stop…reminds me of life itself. In that sense my music is like certain popular music where the rhythm drives from beginning to end”.
Michael Torke

Les moutons de Panurge is a work for any number of melody instruments and “any number of performers playing anything.” The score provides a vigorous, 65-note tonal melody (each note is numbered) that everyone must try to play in unison as follows: note 1, then notes 1-2, then notes 1-2-3, and so on until the whole line, 1 – 65, has been played. After that, each player must work backwards in a similar way, playing notes 2 – 65, notes 3 – 65, 4 – 65, and so on, until everyone has again played through the whole row. At that point, the ensemble, which is best if it includes a couple dozen players, is instructed to burst into a spontaneous, anything-goes improvisation. The trick is that it is nearly impossible to maintain the unison and so the repetitions of the line get more and more out of sync as the piece goes on. Rzewski specifies: “if you get lost, stay lost,” so the music deteriorates into a glorious cacophony with Rzewski’s catchy, motorific tune slicing right through the middle of it, climaxing with the shift into improvisation. Les moutons is a brilliant hybrid of formal performance and improvisation, seminal among the works of its kind.

Performers:

violin, cello,
flute and piccolo, clarinet and bass clarinet, saxophones (4 performers)
piano (2 performers), guitar, percussions

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