Composers' Series: Richardson, Minakakis, Salfelder, & Mallia
Watch and Listen:
- Michael Gandolfi, curator
Sid Richardson: Liber Contrapunctum (2014)
II. Contrapunctus Primus
IV. Contrapunctus Secundus
VI. Contrapunctus Tertius
Liber Contrapunctum is a collection of short contrapuntal pieces that seek to reinterpret harmonic material excerpted from Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier in new and interesting ways. Like its predecessor, the movements are laid out in pairs that complement each other. Several contrapuntal techniques are explored over the course of the work, including canons in augmentation and diminution as well as a hybrid mensuration canon in the final movement.
– Sid RichardsonArtists
- Misha Vayman, violin
- Miles Walter, piano
Efstratios Minakakis: Cassandra Fragments (2018)
Cassandra Fragmentswas inspired by Euripides’ Trojan Women, the poet’s fiercest condemnation of the brutalities of war. After the fall of Troy, Cassandra, the Trojan princess, is betrothed to Agamemnon, the victor, to become his concubine. Through her prophetic gift, she foresees Agamemnon’s death upon their return to Argos, his homeland, as well as her own demise. In an ecstatic delirium, she sings praises to Hymen, god of marriage, knowing that her sacrifice will be the catalyst for the ultimate destruction of her tormentor and the house of Atreas.
Cassandra Fragmentswas composed for soprano Nina Dante and flautist Dalia Chin of Fonema Consort, whose electrifying artistry has been a constant source of inspiration.
– Stratis Minakakis
Lift your foot and shake it, strike up the dance,
Euhan! Euchoi! just as in my father’s happiest days!
The dance is holy, and you, Phoebus, lead it.
For crowned with laurels I serve in your temple.
Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen!
Raise it, bring it on, bring a light! I honor, I make gleam (see, see!)
With torch fire this holy place, Lord Hymenaeus!
Blessed is the bridegroom, blessed too am I, to a king’s bed in Argos wedded!
Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen!
Mother, crown my victorious head and rejoice at my royal marriage! Escort me on my way, and if in your eyes I do not seem eager, push me along by force! Escort me on my way, and if in your eyes I do not seem eager, push me along by force! For if Loxias lives, Agamemnon, the glorious leader of the Greeks, will win, in marrying me, a wife more disastrous than Helen!
Euripides, The Trojan Women (trans. David Kovacs)Artists
- Nina Dante, soprano
- Dalia Ching, flute
Kathryn Salfelder: Stolen from Above (2015)
A tenth-century legend depicts plainchant melodies dictated directly to the Pope by the Holy Spirit. Stolen from Above juxtaposes this idea of "heavenly" music - here, a monophonic, Salve Regina chant - with newly-composed "earthly" materials. The work begins like a chorale prelude: one saxophone performs the chant as cantus firmus while the remaining three saxophones introduce a contrasting motto, dominated by large, ascending leaps. As the work progresses, the chant – which remains present throughout – is relegated to background material as a series of new ideas assume primary roles. A wayward fugue emerges as a sanctuary of structure amidst an otherwise gently-chaotic environment. But it too dissolves; the resolute, stark, opening octaves blossom into the final restatement of the Salve Regina melody.
Stolen from Above is written for the New Thread Quartet.
– Kathryn SalfelderEnsembles
- New Thread Quartet
- Geoffrey Landman, soprano saxophone
- Kristen McKeon, alto saxophone
- Erin Rogers, teor saxophone
- Zach Herchen, baritone saxophone
John Mallia: Within (2014/15) for video/sound
The musical component ofWithin(2014/15) began as a forty-minute diptych for laptop performance, and was premiered as part of Non-Event’s concert series in Brookline. This abbreviated, fixed media version (eleven minutes) utilizes material taken from the first half of the original sound composition, and features a video component created specifically for this work by artist Nick Ruhlmann.
In creating the sound materials for Within, I spent a lot of time making rather extreme spectral reductions of speech sounds in order to uncover inner details ordinarily masked by spectral complexity, in effect, priming the sounds for processing techniques that added, or substituted, richness. These techniques included distortion techniques and convolution-based modeling of enclosures, spaces, and loudspeakers. The resulting sounds are harmonic extractions that do not retain much in the way of recognizable speech-like qualities. I was interested in exposing a more remote essence; a hidden inner harmony.
Recordings of acoustic instruments are included in the piece. The utterances of a solo cello, trumpet, and pump organ function as pseudo-speech, a kind of restorative response to the stripped down instances of skeletal pitched materials derived from
actual speech. The pump organ is the last of these real instruments to ‘speak’ — a stretched, chorale-like exhalation after an unrelenting buildup of pedal and bellows sounds. There is a feeling of exhaustion present, as if striving to free oneself from prolonged constraint. These materials are interpolated and juxtaposed with processed field recordings made at St. Paul’s cathedral in London and at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, MA. Spaces and associated energies emerge from within one another, throughout, as a formal narrative slowly unfolds.
While the starting point in preparing materials was to model, or reveal, the inner properties of speech sounds through a process of reduction and decomposition, the piece really became about relocating and transferring the presence, or essence, of the voice. I could not have said that this was my intention at any point in the process of composing the piece. As often happens, form, intuitively, flowed from material.
Nick Ruhlmann conceived of the video “as a way of visualizing sound into colors and moving forms… avoiding obvious representational imagery with zoomed macro video footage of objects.” Source imagery includes, among other things, filmed motion of motors, vibrating strings, and different fluids suspended over loudspeakers.
I am very grateful to Nick Ruhlmann for the time and creative energy he put into realizing the incredibly rich video component. Nick graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art’s Studio for Interrelated Media program in 2015.
- John MalliaArtists
- Nick Ruhlmann, video