Great artists give free concerts at New England Conservatory—simply because they teach here.
John Mallia is the director of NEC's Electronic Music Studio. His faculty colleagues Katarina Miljkovic and Julia Werntz are composers who provide music theory grounding to NEC's composition majors. All three are members of the Boston Microtonal Society. In this concert, they present their own portfolios of work, along with guests John Holland, Amanda Justice, and Amber Vistein.
The notes on these works were written by the respective composers.
Amanda Justice/Amber Vistein Murmur
Amanda Justice, video
Amber Vistein, sound
Sound: Murmur is a full word. It derives from the Latin for "rustling." In its inactive form it means "a low, indistinct, continuous sound: 'the murmur of the waves.' " As an action, it commonly describes the disposition of an individual: "an indistinct, whispered, or confidential complaint." It conjures both an anonymous grouping (the crowd) and a personal disposition (through the whisper). All of the sounds you hear in this piece were created from combining signals from field recordings of starlings and very short (.25–2-second) samples of solo instruments. In its very material the piece is intensely interested in the relationship of the individual and the flock/swarm/crowd. —Amber Vistein
Video: This piece is based off of a video of starling murmurations that my mother sent me on the internet. I became fascinated with the science behind the bird’s movement—the process of stigmergy and systems poised on the brink of transition—and then, after a time, more interested with my own fixation on the images. Through this work, I hope to show, or feel, another mode of exchange and communication. I am trying to explore this desire to expand and capture our complex relationship to images of nature and create a new, alien architecture through the architecture of the projection, as both a light source and an image source.—Amanda Justice
John Holland Two Pieces for Fixed Media:
Cageiana—for the 100th anniversary of Cage’s birth
Cageiana uses sounds from Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950), No. 1, as performed by Annelie Gahl, violin; Klaus Lang, Fender Rhodes; from Music for Amplified Toy Pianos (1960), Juan Hidalgo, Walter Marchetti, Gianni-Emilio Simonetti, toy pianos (with plastic cow), hand-held percussion, nature sounds (bullfrog, yeast), and original electronic sounds (you can hear the whistling-like sounds of the yeast at about the 2-minute mark).
The sparse sounds of the violin and electric piano, written and dedicated to painter Joseph Albers and his wife Anni in 1950, were randomly mixed with samples from Music for Amplified Toy Pianos, composed in 1960. I added hand-held percussion, nature sounds, and electronic samples. There are six tracks altogether. The segments on each track were arranged independently of one another and of other tracks, and separated by silences.
Humoresque uses recorded segments from Antonin Dvorak Humoresque, Op. 101, No. 7 for Violin and Piano: Zhou Quian, violin; Edmund Battersby, piano; from Gioachino Rossini The Cat's Duet: Elisabeth Söderström and Kerstin Meyer, sopranos; Jan Eyron, piano; classic cartoon sound effects, and accompanying electronic sounds.
Two tracks of music were sampled from the standard recital repertory: Dvorak’s familiar Humoresque for violin and piano, and Rossini’s duet for two scratching, pawing (meowing) sopranos. Each of these musical tracks was separated into short musical segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were then recombined independently of one another, and of the other tracks, and separated by varied durations of silence. Another five tracks were devoted to classic cartoon sound effects along with electronic sounds. The structure of the music is designed to provide an animated "cartoon" experience.
The music is preceded by a short "complementary" text written and spoken by the composer, "The Nature of Humor."
John Mallia Peripheral Gain
Rita Wang, violin
Zehoe Sun, viola
Daniel Parker, cello
John Mallia, electronics
Peripheral Gain explores the softening of boundaries erected to direct and protect, through cautious limitations, a given sphere of existence such as a path of life or an artwork's formal narrative. The trio, aided by live electronic processing, allows that which exists outside the perimeter of a given musical space to bleed in, entering not only at the edges of a sonic field but at a tolerant central node capable of radiating, more evenly, the effects of the external. The appearance of foreign elements, at the surface, threatens the stability of regions grounded in musical treatment perceived as primary. As the persistent intrusion of this outer “debris” is intensified, its effects are absorbed into the work’s basic fabric and the form is rendered “open.”
Katarina Miljkovic White City
Diamanda La Berge Dramm, violin
Katarina Miljkovic, laptop, video
Milan Popovic, video editing
White City is dedicated to the city of Belgrade (Bel = white, grad = city). The backbone of the piece is an uninterrupted, 12-minute live documentary recording of Terazije, Belgrade's downtown, taken from the balcony of my apartment, late night in the summer of 2007. The form of the piece follows a non-directional, random flow of street sounds including traffic, speech, clapping, bells. Noise from the street blends with pre-recorded sounds exploring violin extended technique. The soundscape transforms with the entrance of live violin part and live electronic sound layer from a laptop. Video runs two different simultaneous transformations of the short documentary that meet in the final, identical frame.
Julia Werntz Group Dance
Jessi Rosinski, flute
Jay Hutchinson, clarinet
Robert Anemone, violin
Christine Lamprea, cello
David Tarantino, percussion
James Bergin, conductor
Group Dance has a kind of rondo structure, with dance-like sections in odd meters, led by a strong clarinet theme, alternating with unmetered, more speech-like solo and duo sections in-between. The idea of the metric patterns in the dance-like sections was inspired in part by the metric patterns, the "usul," of Turkish classical music. Although I was not attempting to simulate the sound of Turkish music, I was excited by the elegant feeling of long metric groups and phrases that seem to really take their time to unfold.
The percussion features two homemade instruments: a microtonal metallophone forming a two-octave, quartertonal scale, and an instrument made from wooden slabs to create a “stick dragged along a picket fence” sound. The string and woodwind instrument parts are all written in 72-equal temperament.
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