Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Musical Feast: 60th Birthday Gala Concert for Composer David Felder

David Felder (far left) watches son Zach's approach
 into 18 green at the Kiawah Ocean Course, April, 2011
The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is very happy to announce: A Musical Feast, 60th birthday concert for SUNY Distinguished Birge-Cary Professor in Music Composition, Dr. David Felder. The gala will take place at 8 pm on Friday, November 8 in the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo. 

Please join us for an evening of Felderian splendor, and help us launch David into his seventh earthly decade!


David Felder – Another Face (1987), for solo violin, Yuki Numata Resnick

David Felder – TweenerB (1991, 2013), world premiere; Tom Kolor, percussion

David Felder – November Sky (1992), for flute doubling piccolo, alto, and bass flutes; Emi Ferguson, flutes

David Felder – BoxMan (1986, 2013)world premiere for horn, Adam Unsworth


David Felder – Three Songs from Three Watches (2013), preview performance; Emi Ferguson, flutes; Jean Kopperud, clarinets; Yuki Numata Resnick, violin; Virginia Barron, viola; Lauren Radnofsky, cello; Tom Kolor, percussion; Daniel Pesca, piano/celeste; Ethan Herschenfeld, bass voice; Dan Bassin, conductor

Insomnia, poem by Dana Gioia
Buffalo Evening, poem by Robert Creeley

David Felder – Shamayim (2006-8), image by Elliot Caplan; Nicholas Isherwood, bass voice; JT Rinker, Olivier Pasquet, Ben Thigpen, electronics

Chashmal (Speaking Silence) (2006-7)
Sa’arah (Stormy Wind) (2007-8)
Black Fire / White Fire (2007-8)

A Musical Feast and The Center for 21st Century Music extend a heartfelt thanks to the Burchfield Penney Art Center's associate director Don Metz and lighting/sound engineer John Malinowski, and technical director of the UB Department of Music's Chris Jacobs for their all their help. Also many thanks to M+T Bank , videographer Marty McGee, and Holiday Inn/Hart Hotels, Inc. for their generous support. Special thanks to Dr. JT Rinker.

Program Notes

Another Face (1987)

Another Face was written in 1987 for the violinist Janos Negyesy and was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. The work is the second piece composed in the “Crossfire” series of four works, some with electronics and optional video wall projection.

Another Face is a musical ‘response’ to the extraordinary novel by the great Japanese writer Kobo Abe, “The Face of Another”. Abe has created a set of circumstances in his novel that confront us with profound questions concerning identity; these prompted a composition which proposes small musical modules juxtaposed in coded sequences as the small building blocks contained within extended lines. Each of the small modules consists of a pair—two pitches, and two distinct rhythmic values, which are repeated locally (for memory’s sake), and transformed formally through four passes through the sequence.

And yet...the entire focus of the work is the emergence during the unfolding of the piece of an unnamed ‘third force’, a certain lyrical something that is contained within the somewhat more fiercely deterministic materials. The transformed reconciling materials appear very prominently at the end of the work. The work is a fiendishly difficult virtuoso piece and without the work, spirit and dedication of such virtuosi as Janos Negyesy, Karen Bentley, and Movses Pogossian, it would not have been possible to compose it. Thus it is dedicated to them with all admiration and gratitude.

© David Felder

About Another Face, for solo violin, former UB faculty member and virtuoso violinist Movses Pogossian, who recorded the piece, says, “It truly tests the performer to the extreme in a ‘take-no-prisoner’ style—in a sort of emotional tornado. A hellishly difficult and intensely beautiful solo violin piece.”

Luckily, violinist Yuki Numata Resnick, one of the UB Music Department’s new faculty members, has already proved that she has the chops to make the most challenging music come to life.

© Jan Jezioro

TweenerB (1991, 2013)

Like a versatile athlete who can play more than one position in a game, the percussion soloist in TweenerB fulfills many roles, and, in the course of the piece, goes from being a team member of the ensemble to becoming the featured protagonist. The relationship between soloist and group is volatile and constantly changing in this one-movement work: the soloist may be seen as a “catalyst,” igniting musical processes within the group. and also as a “mediator,” engaging in an ongoing “give-and-take” with his recorded image. Either way, the basic idea of the piece is the energetic exchange and metamorphosis of communication, but it is a communication of a mercurial sort, taking many unpredictable turns as it unfolds.

Yet this is not the only sense in which this work is a true “tweener:” it moves between the extremes of simplicity and complexity, in terms of both instrumental technique and musical structure. Instrumentally, the soloist can play simple pairs of notes on the marimba, alternating between left and right mallets, or highly involved passages with two mallets in each hand. Structurally as well, TweenerB alternates between two states of mind: it is part mysterious and introverted, part energetic and full of drama. In the course of the sixteen-minute work, two large cycles of slow-fast are completed, with many subtle nuances of speed within each basic tempo.

The piece was originally written for solo percussion, orchestra and electronics. TweenerB is a different version of the work where the soloist is joined only by electronics. The soloist uses a KAT mallet controller system—an electronic percussion instrument triggering a computer. The piece opens with what seems primeval “mist,” out of which a number of short motifs gradually emerge, each centering around a certain interval such as a second, a third, a tritone or a seventh. It is striking that, if the motif consists of three notes, the middle note is often emphasized either by dynamics, by rhythmic elongation, or by a melodic leap, in another manifestation of the “tweener” idea.

The first fast tempo, marked “Dramatic,” arrives suddenly with insistent ostinatos leading into a brief jazzy passage marked “Sardonic.” The next section, “Lava-like,” introduces some fundamental types of motion in the piece, first spreading material inexorably in a linear (horizontal) fashion, and later erupting like a volcano in a “hyper-aggressive” outburst.

But then the tempo slows down again (“Lyric”); it is as though the music were succumbing to intense gravity and passing through a “black hole” into another dimension before the piece enters another high-energy phase. There is a cadenza where the soloist is instructed to improvise freely using materials suggested by the composer. The final measures see a last explosion of energy—a musical “exhalation,” as it were, where the soloist comes across somewhat like an Olympic running champion who winds down his gallop around the arena after passing the finish line.

Special thanks to JT Rinker and Matt Sargent for their work on the electronics and mixing, and to Jon Nelson, Tom Kolor, Eric Huebner, Ben Herrington, Adam Unswurth, Jim Daniels, Tony Marino, and Zane Merritt for their contributions!

© Adrienne Elisha and Peter Laki

TweenerB is a new, solo version of Tweener, a concerto for percussion and orchestra. UB professor of percussion Tom Kolor says, “It uses only the KAT mallet instrument, an electronic instrument configured like a marimba and played with mallets in the normal fashion, from the instrumentation of the original piece. It is run through a computer, allowing me to trigger a whole universe of sounds, and David indeed employs a vast timbral arsenal. I’ve been a big fan of David’s music for many years. He can do just about anything; his structures are really coherent without being predictable, he can bowl you over with hair-raising orchestral textures, but he can also break your heart in lyrical adagios.”

© Jan Jezioro

November Sky (1992)

November Sky was composed in 1990-92 for flutist Rachel Rudich. The work is the third in the “Crossfire” series, but the last composed, in the series of works featuring a virtuoso soloist and his (or her) electronically altered image. In this work, NeXT computers were used to process a huge library of archetypal flute materials made by the soloist and to create the four channels of computer-processed flute sounds. The acoustic flute is the sole source.

All of the musical materials were derived from a single melodic line that is played about halfway through the piece. The large-scale form is roughly articulated by four sections approximately coordinated with the changes of instrument from piccolo through bass flute. Each section offers increasingly reflective and distant perspectives on the musical material in the manner of ever-deepening meditation. The title refers obliquely to the psychologically shifting perspectives that accompany seasonal change; particularly the affect surrounding the inexorably failing light as fall gives way to winter. The work was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. Rick Bidlack and Scott Thomas assisted the composer in the realization of the computer portion of the work.

© David Felder

Flutist Emi Ferguson, another new UB faculty member, will perform November Sky, a work that utilizes solo flute, doubling piccolo, alto and bass flutes and the soloists’ electronically altered sounds. The composer writes, “The title refers obliquely to the psychologically shifting perspectives that accompany seasonal change; particularly the affect surrounding the inexorably failing light as fall gives way to winter.

© Jan Jezioro

BoxMan (1986, 2013)

BoxMan was composed for trombonist Miles Anderson originally in 1985-87 and was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, and the La Jolla Museum for Contemporary Art. It is the final work (but the first composed) in the composer’s “Crossfire” series of works for soloist and his electronic image in both audio and video domains. The work is inspired by Japanese novelist Kobo Abe’s novel “The Box Man”, wherein the lead character is a thoroughly disenfranchised and nameless street person, living out a bizarre existence in a wholly alienating urban environment (Tokyo, circa 1960).

Musically speaking, five types of “behavior” were selected for the soloist: manic, threatening, introverted, aggressive, and lyrical, and these are juxtaposed throughout the work. On the technical level, all sounds are made by the performer; live, on the computer part, and through live electronic sound manipulation. The original electronics (outboard, stand-alone, rack-mounted, commercial ‘boxes’) were re-made, with programming by Erik Oña and David Kim-Boyle, with even more fixes and updates by Brett Masteller, and JT Rinker from 1999-2004, utilizing MAX/MSP and Macintosh machines to replace the outdated outboard signal processing boxes. The ‘vintage’ quality of that older processing is deliberately retained with limited elaboration made in MSP. BoxMan is a fiercely virtuosic piece challenging the performer in every way imaginable--technically, (range, speed, articulation, dynamics, endurance, synchronization with live and pre-recorded electronics, etc.), and perhaps more importantly, expressively.

© David Felder

“Boxman is an extraordinary work originally written for the incomparable trombonist Miles Anderson,” says horn player Adam Unsworth, who asked Felder to consider adapting Boxman for horn. “I am greatly looking forward to this performance, as one of my goals as a musician is to expand the boundaries of the horn, an instrument largely pigeonholed into a strictly orchestral role. The solo horn part to Boxman, which covers the entire range of the horn in rapid fashion and calls upon every color one could imagine, coming out of a brass instrument, is one of the most challenging pieces I have encountered.”

© Jan Jezioro

Three Songs from Three Watches (2003-14)

Norrbotten NEO, a new music ensemble based in North-Eastern Sweden that has visited UB twice in recent years, commissioned Three Songs from Three Watches, the newest work on the program. “It is an independent work,” says conductor Daniel Bassin, “that is inextricably linked with David Felder’s recent large-scale masterpiece, Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux. The poems by Robert Creeley and Dana Gioia, set in that large-scale work, are now set as chamber pieces for solo bass voice, chamber ensemble and electronics. We’ll be performing a preliminary version of the work for Norrbotten, which includes two of the three poems for the final version: Creeley’s ‘Buffalo Evening’ and Gioia’s ‘Insomnia.’”

Bass Ethan Herschenfeld, who offered an outstanding interpretation of these texts in the earlier version, returns for this performance.

Bassin says, “The world-class caliber of performers and performances brought in by the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, in complement with that of UB’s outstanding performance faculty, many of whom have recently expanded their roles in our community from outstanding instrumentalists to superb concert promoters—like Eric Huebner, Jon Nelson—and the composers and performers who come to UB each year to study have all been part of the inspiring backdrop for Felder’s recent, important output.”

© Jan Jezioro

These three songs incorporate poems that present complementary images of the times of day; particularly dusk, the deep middle of the night, and early morning. Thus, Felder used two poems by Robert Creeley (1926-2005) and one by Dana Gioia (b. 1950); the poems can also be heard, as read by the poets (and manipulated in various ways by the composer), in the electronic layer of the work. These are the three movements; we are going to hear the first two tonight, as a preview, and as a work-in-progress for the full premiere next May in Sweden.

© Peter Laki

Shamayim (2006-08)

Shamayim began as a music work commissioned in three separate parts by various European festivals and the Project Isherwood, an initiative to create new works for bass singer Nicholas Isherwood. Commissioning funds were also provided by the Grame Center in France, the Argosy Fund for Contemporary Music, the New York State Music Fund, as well as the Birge-Cary Chair in Music, the UB2020 Scholar’s Fund, and the Morris Creative Arts Fund (image realization), all at the University at Buffalo.

Shamayim is a work for solo bass voice, 8 channels of electronic sound made or modeled upon Isherwood’s vocal instrument, with video created by Elliot Caplan. The work is an extended meditation inspired in part by the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah), the writings of 13th-century mystic Abraham Abulafia, and descriptions of states of consciousness that accompany prophetic experiences, as in Ezekiel. The work is in three sections titled respectively:

Chashmal (Speaking Silence), 2006-7
Sa’arah (Stormy Wind), 2007-8
Black Fire / White Fire, 2008-9

Isherwood’s unique talents and abilities were the primary sources for all of the sounds in the piece, with accompanying natural sounds and selected ringing metals.

This work is designed to exist in three complementary versions: the first, is a conventional live performance, with image, in concert halls with live amplification, processing, and 8 channels of sound; the second, a version for installation, concert hall/large cinema with 8 channels, or thirdly, as a home theater presentation in surround 5.1 and with a specially prepared image presentation. The latter was commercially released in October, 2009 by Albany Records. Spatial distribution of musical elements is a critical component in the composition. The DVD/DTS may be played through a DVD multi-channel audio player by connecting the output to a surround receiver and a system that has a 5.1 setup as a prepared reduction of the original 8 channels.

© David Felder

Felder composed his multi-media work Shamayim—the title refers to the Hebrew word for heavens—between 2006 and 2008 in collaboration with the noted independent American filmmaker Eliot Caplan, best known for his collaborations with John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Structural principles are derived from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, letters that contain both a numeric value and imply a sense of movement and direction. The computer generated sound throughout draws on the virtuosity of the bass vocalist. Caplan’s accompanying video effectively makes use of images from nature, such as a lake, trees and clouds, along with video processed images of hexagons that mirror the abstract nature of the music.

© Jan Jezioro

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