Posts Tagged: Cassandra Miller


30
Sep 17

Control

As part of our 2017-2018 season we’re continuing to give each of our core singers a turn at the helm of the blog. The below post below comes from our baritone and director, Jeffrey Gavett.


The composers for our concert of October 7th have all notated their scores in a somewhat traditional sense. We have sheets of paper with words, notes, lines, and symbols on them, that communicate to us what we are supposed to do to realize the music. One thing that differs between the pieces is the level of control that the composer decides to exert over the performance – below are a few examples selected from the concert’s repertoire.

James Weeks’s Primo Libro exerts a level of specific control of the performance in many ways. The octave is divided into 31 equal parts, demanding a specificity of intonation from the singers, who are also following a rhythmic flow that moves on a prescribed grid, but without traditional meter. Cassandra Miller’s Guide also asks the singers to perform a difficult and specific task in memorizing, slowing down, and transposing the details of an audio recorded performance. However, the ensemble is split up into three groups, each of which must coordinate internally, but which move independently from one another. Thus the performances are rigidly controlled at the level of the individual, and small group, but the larger work is more open.

Liza Lim’s Three Angels contains a range of notational styles and levels of control. The soprano’s music is extraordinarily specific, with difficult rhythms and quarter tone inflections of melody throughout. The baritone’s solo is traditionally notated, but also includes instructions for improvisatory looping and shifting of materials. The mezzo soprano performs with a small ‘wacky whistle’ on her palate, and her music is written totally graphically. The coordination of the solos is also left slightly open, similar to how Miller’s work is more open in a larger formal sense.

Ben Johnston’s Rose, like James Weeks’s Primo Libro, is extremely specific in its pitch demands. Written in a 7-limit just intonation system, the work avoids the traditional triads of a 5-limit system and creates a new harmonic grammar for its tuning. Its rhythm and formal language however are musically very traditional, and depend on phrasing and shaping by the singers for expressive purposes.

25
Sep 17

Learning by ear

As part of our 2017-2018 season we’re continuing to give each of our core singers a turn at the helm of the blog. The below post below comes from our soprano, Charlotte Mundy.


What would it mean for classical music if the score wasn’t the definitive version of the piece, but just a guide – a starting point?

In a recent interview on the Resonant Bodies podcast, Jennifer Walshe said, “In the theatre world they understand the script is the starting place, it’s not the definitive document…. People don’t rush up to the director’s table [after a play] and look at the script, whereas after a new music concert they rush up to the stage to look at the notation because that’s where we have been told that the piece is located. It’s located in the notation, and the analysis of the piece should always lead with the score.”

I find it exciting, then, that three of the pieces on our program on October 7 require the study of non-visual material apart from the score, i.e. recordings, as part of the rehearsal process.

Primo Libro by James Weeks uses a tuning system that divides the octave into 31 notes (as opposed to the usual 12). The intervals are audible but so tiny that they’re hard to comprehend unless you’ve already heard them, preferably multiple times. They’re virtually impossible to read off the page. The only way to come close to learning this piece properly is to use a synthesizer to render Weeks’ insanely precise (and also incredibly expressive and dramatic!) melodies and vertical harmonies.

As part of the process of learning Guide, composer Cassandra Miller asks the performers to memorize the phrasing, inflection and diction in Maria Muldaur’s 1968 recording of the song, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah.”

Her Disappearance is graphically notated, and intended to be a relatively ‘open’ piece. It should, in theory, be possible without hearing the recording of the composers’, Bethany Younge and Kayleigh Butcher’s, performance. But the recording has been indispensable in helping Elisa (Ekmeles mezzo) and I understand how to approach the piece.

I think our concert on October 7th proves that re-thinking how music is written, disseminated and learned opens up space for more flexible, exciting, new sounds. It will also ultimately open up the role of ‘composer’ to people who have brilliant musical ideas but don’t feel at home between the five lines of the musical staff. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.   


8
Aug 17

Music of Longing

Ekmeles performs the World Premiere of James Weeks’s Primo Libro, the U.S. Premiere of Cassandra Miller’s Guide and other works on the theme of personal and spiritual longing.

  • James Weeks – Primo Libro (2016) World Premiere
  • Cassandra Miller – Guide (2013) U.S. Premiere
  • Liza Lim – Three Angels (2011)
  • Ben Johnston – Rose (1971)
  • Courtney Bryan – Come Away, My Beloved (2013)
  • Kayleigh Butcher and Bethany Younge – Her Disappearance (2015)

Ekmeles personnel for concert