This Thursday, we’ll be singing a program of music by living American composers at Roulette. I’m especially excited to be presenting a few short pieces by Ben Johnston, a composer whose music fits our mission of performing music that would otherwise go unperformed. Despite being earlier works in Ben Johnston’s exploration of just intonation, both his I’m goin’ away and Rose present special difficulties to the performer. In rejecting the equal tempered tuning of the piano as an acoustical falsehood, Johnston expands both the consonances and dissonances available. The 3-limit consonances of 3:2 perfect fifths, and 5-limit consonances of 5:4 major and 6:5 minor thirds are familiar to the ear of a seasoned choral performer, but Johnston’s systematic exploration of pitch space requires a specificity and fidelity to exact intonation that eclipses most music. To complicate matters, both of the works we will be performing include 7-limit intervals, including the 7:4 or ‘natural’ minor seventh, and the septimal 7:6 third. Whereas tuning compromises are made quickly and in passing in most music—especially unaccompanied vocal music—Johnston has accounted for every pitch relationship and every adjustment to be made. It’s a dramatic raising of the stakes, requiring a new kind of precision from performers who need to sing or play not just an F, but the F. In this way, Ben Johnston is a most uncompromising composer, a composer of absolutes. You can hear a sample of his vocal writing below in his Sonnets of Desolation, sung by the Swingle Singers.
Ekmeles performs on the Music Mondays series, in a program of modern and medieval works around the theme of visually intriguing scores and Augenmusik. Scores will be projected, and in one case, unfurled into the space, for your simultaneous visual and auditory enjoyment.
- Liza Lim – 3 Angels (US Premiere)
- Baude Cordier – Belle bonne sage
- Mark Barden – Chamber (US Premiere)
- Jacob de Senleches – La harpe de melodie
- Evan Johnson – A general interrupter to ongoing activity (US Premiere)
- Baude Cordier – Tout par compas suy composés
- Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf – void – un delitto italiano (US Premiere)
Personnel for concert
- Jane Sheldon, soprano
- Sarah Brailey, soprano
- Rachel Calloway, mezzo soprano
- Patrick Fennig, countertenor
- Eric Dudley, tenor
- Jeffrey Gavett, baritone
- Steven Hrycelak, bass
Augenmusik is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Augenmusik is made possible in part by the Harry and Alice Eiler Foundation.
I’m very excited to have another chance to sing Aaron Cassidy‘s wonderful I, purples, spat blood, laugh of beautiful lips at our upcoming concert this January 24th at Roulette.
If you don’t know his work, I think the piece is an excellent introduction! Here it speaks (and shouts and burbles) for itself, in my performance from the very first Ekmeles concert.
After that, you might also be interested to read his paper, I am an experimental composer , now available on his website.
And would be remiss if I didn’t post the incredible JACK Quartet‘s inspiring performance of Cassidy’s Second String Quartet, which is referenced in the above paper.