“The spirit of the place,” Genius Loci (2008) acknowledges the existence of places particular to special hauntings and the sense we often have that a ghostly presence both special and poignant resides in a unique physical location. Here in this short work, a boisterous tune revisits; yet each time a different shadow is cast, a different angle presented -fleeting like a phantom, yet a friendly one.
Sidney Corbett's Archipel Chagall II: Le Cirque was Commissioned by the City of Remagne. US premiere given by Cygnus and Anderson/Fader /Farnum at the Society for Ethical Culture in 2005. For this little masque, Corbet assembled lines from Chagall's poetry.. FP 1998 Reutlingen Verlag Neue Musik.
Dodecadactyl, by Charles Wuorinen, was commissioned by Cygnus, 2003.
My Morphine, by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings tweaks Southern decadence in just the right directions. Another who understands American decadence is George Crumb in works like his piano fantasy on Thelonius Monk's Round Midnight, which quotes Debussy (Golliwog Cakewalk) spoofing Wagner's Tristan. Anderson likes to point out the similarities between Central European decadence and the decadence of the American South. "Both were decrepit agrarian systems that saw themselves being overtaken. Both left behind the perfume of their over-extended tenure--Schnitzler, Trakl, Faulkner; Wedekind, Tennessee Williams; Mahler, and Crumb & Gillian Welch." Anderson's treatment captures these perfumes. It is also the first and only pop song to be accompanied by a multiply partitioned 4-part array.
Bowery Haunt, by Scott Johnson (b. 1952), was commissioned by Cygnus in 2005, and premiered by William Anderson and Oren Fader Apr 23/06, Merkin Hall, NYC. Johnson states, "Before I was a composer, I was a guitarist; specifically, a teenager learning rock songs from recordings, and torturing my parents with basement rehearsals. So when I found myself in New York City a dozen years later, living on the Bowery a block and a half away from the punk Valhalla of CBGB’s, my mind was stocked with all the necessary cultural references when the Ramones appeared with their hilarious black leather nightmare about surf music. This memory provides the principle theme of Bowery Haunt, which appears after a quiet introduction. Remembered images of loud clubs, of Soho streets lined only with art galleries, of audiences lying on the floor at marathon minimalist loft concerts; all remind me of the sense of unfurling possibility in a young person’s first years in the city.
The phrases of the main theme run through rock “power chords” that touch briefly on every major triad except E, the ur-key of rock guitar, and then settles in for some shifting harmonies above that lowest and most resonant note on the instrument. This sets up the polytonal world that this piece shares with most of my recent work. Many of the evocations of the American vernacular that follow in the course of Bowery Haunt refer to the type of “progressive rock” that punk rockers hated; and of course this piece, and I, live in a musical subculture that is usually far removed from all such popular sources. But since I prefer hybridism to purity, these collisions look more like a playground than a minefield. I think of this work as an abstraction based on the reality of our own popular musics, and I want it to bear the same relationship to the rock genres that I grew up on that a painted cubist head might bear to a realistic portrait.
Warmth was commissioned by Cygnus in 2006.
Entertwined was commission by Cygnus in 1999, and we first performed at the NY Society for Ethical Culture in 2001.
The work includes tips of the hat to entertainment music. There is a constant interweaving of the two guitars through invertible counterpoint. Mostly I composed this 11 minute piece for Oren and Bill, wonderful musicians who performed in Hawai'i's Ebb & Flow Arts several years ago. Hawai'i was new for my wife and I. We loved the climate. It was a happy time. "Entertwined" is a happy romp. I remember Bill, in Hawai'i, was somewhat amazed that I wrote the piece in relatively quick order. He asked how I did it. Oren told Bill to not be so impertinent as to ask such a question. Didn't he realize that I paid someone very well to write the piece? Seriously, the honest answer is that it's not possible to tell him. As many composers experience, including Bill, it just happened.
For me, there are certain musical exigencies. Chief among them is step-wise motion. From note to note, the musical step is as basic as the human foot step. If in our pitch class consciousness, we move expressively between registers after a series of basic, closed register steps, then it is because the ordinariness/orderliness of basic, closed register steps becomes uninteresting. Yet local, note to note flight between registers forces our ear to seek that basic closed register step-wise motion over a larger time span, at a deeper, middle ground level. Either way, we cannot avoid step-wise motion.
A second musical exigency is motivic design. The concept of motive runs through all the Arts - painting, literature, dance. It is as natural as the senses themselves. We make sense of the World through common motivic connections that our senses constantly feed to us. In music, the short, rhythmic and pitch intervallic idea does many things. It unifies, leverages diversity and complexity, and makes non-related passages more coherent. In the latter case, the central, pivotal motivic idea forces us to consider the possible "motive" for non-motivic passages. No matter how seemingly non-motivic some music may be, we, as listeners, nevertheless seek a motivic design. This is not because we are not listening with the appropriate "set of ears" for the musical composition being performed. In fact, a non-motivic set of ears for a non-motivic composition, is another version of motivic design. The absence of motive is nonetheless a meta-motivic process.
A third musical exigency is harmonic coherence. Add one factor a 4th up from the top, and another factor a minor sixth from the bottom of Wagner's "Tristan Chord" (circa 1860).. What evolves is Scriabin's "Mystic Chord" 50 years later. About 60 years later, Peter Schat began composing with his Tone Clock. Here the 11 trichords that generate all 12 pitches when transposed/inverted, plus the 4-part diminished chord, show a further evolution of Harmony. For example, hour 12, the augmented triad, plus one of its "steering intervals" add a seventh factor to Mystic Chord, a tritone up from the top. My own approach coalesces an interval scale with the content of an eight factor chord. This chord extends a major sixth below the bottom. At the top this chord resolves the tritone to a major third, thereby adding an eighth factor. Regardless of the path, composers find harmonic coherence. Even more urgently and powerfully, harmony measures the composer. Harmony's inexorable evolution drives compositional achievement. As with natural selection, the aurally 'fittest' constructs survive. They adapt to the moment, force the musical moment to adjust and breathe anew.
A fundamental lyricism has been a defining characteristic of Chester Biscardi’s (b. 1948) music throughout his career, and Resisting Stillness (1996) is no exception. This is music whose rhythmic sense is extremely fluid and leisurely, which projects meaning above all through the delicate interplay of timbre and pitch. Like much of Biscardi’s work, there is an impressionistic sensitivity to the expressive power of pure sound wedded to bel canto line – the two guitars in fact become like a single dreamy meta-instrument, dropping handfuls of glistening harmonics which dapple the music’s surface like light on water. Musical images evoke memory, time, and the cyclical nature of existence. The title suggests a way of listening to the work and reflects Biscardi’s creative struggle at the time of its writing – a personal "pulling up from silence". This work was commissioned by the Cygnus Ensemble and the International Guitar Festival of Morelia (Michoacan, Mexico) for William Anderson and Oren Fader (Anderson/Fader Duo).