Saturday, March 31, 2012

David Felder discusses his work-in-progress, "Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux," his work as the Center's Director, and his many other projects as a composer.

We recently caught up with the many activities of the Director of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, David Felder, who follows a very demanding schedule as Director of the June in Buffalo Festival, Artistic Director of the Slee Sinfonietta, and University at Buffalo Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition. As a SUNY Distinguished Professor, David maintains a very active and highly regarded composition studio and keeps up a very impressive output of works as a composer. He has recently completed new works – Funfares, which was written for the inauguration of UB's President and premiered last September, and Nomina Sunt Consequentia Rerum, written for Harold Rosenbaum's New York Virtuoso Singers.  

We asked David about his recent projects, “I’ve been working very hard on a vocal cycle commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, my second Koussevitsky I'm happy to say, which will feature bass singer Ethan Herschenfeld and soprano Laura Aikin, who starred as Lulu in the recent production of Lulu at La Scala. Joining them will be a good-size chamber orchestra of about 30 musicians from SIGNAL, as well as ten channels of electronics. Co-commissioners are the Slee Sinfonietta, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, who will also program the work in subsequent seasons and record it as well. The entire cycle is built on a central poem by RenĂ© Daumal, Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux (The Four Cardinal Seasons), which is a seemingly simple unpublished poem Daumal composed late in his life that has to do with the seasons, the times of the day, nature, and the life cycle. I’m using other poems to complement the central poem that are of a more personal nature and are more located in a specific place and time than the Daumal verses, which are more transpersonal. Two of the more specific poems, Spring Light and Buffalo Evening, are by Robert Creeley who was a greatly admired former colleague here at UB. Also in the cycle will be a poem from a terrific poet named Dana Gioia, who used to be the head of the National Endowment for the Arts and is now a distinguished chair at USC. His work is entitled Insomnia, which will be one of the companion poems linked to various times of the day. I also include Full Powers, a poem from one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda.

David Felder

“An interesting aspect of the piece is that I have audio recordings of the poets reading their poems, and can use their voices as source material. Most of the readings will be substantially electronically transformed, though you’ll definitely be able to hear Dana Gioia’s voice. Often the phonemes from the spoken poems will be translated into instrumental analogues, or processed into bell sounds or other timbres. The texts will also be carried, to a large degree, by the singers. It’s been a really big project – projecting to be about 40-45 minutes and it’s about halfway done now in draft, with a lot of provisionary electronic cues and processing engines already made. I’ll be doing a substantial amount of work on it during the summer, as the premiere will be April 23rd, 2013. 

“Many other projects are due soon: a piece for painter Alfred DiCredico, and one for the John Cage Centennial Observation in Washington DC. As well, I’ve got a handful of other commissions to work on from NEO Norbotten, and the Norwegian contrabass clarinetist Rolph Borch, which will feature electronics and must be done by the end of 2013 – and the New York New Music Ensemble, and Talujon too. So lots to do...

“This year has been particularly complicated because I had been asked to co-chair the University at Buffalo Provost search, which required a lot of time and energy. Plus, my composition studio is fuller than it has ever been with 13 Ph.D. students. I’m extraordinarily busy. It’s a very exciting time though. The Center is doing very well and we’re happy to have all of our major donors renewing their commitments. We’ve gotten to the point where we have to plan our activities about three years in advance, and we’re on the air in a very real way. Now it’s time to expand and formalize our activities and to broadcast more effectively what we do." 

You can stay abreast of David Felder’s latest recordings by checking in with Albany Records, who will be releasing a 90-minute portrait disc, on blu ray and in surround sound, by the summer of 2012. High quality audio samples of David Felder’s work can also be found here, and many of his scores have been made available online by the Theodore Presser Company, as well as the new score-publishing intitiative, Project Schott New York .

Below is a strikingly beautiful excerpt from David Felder’s Chasmal, from Shamayim, a recent three-part music/video collaboration with video artist Elliot Caplan, featuring the virtuosic bassist Nicholas Isherwood.

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