SAARIAHO — Vent Nocturne (2006)
The idea for Vent nocturne (‘Night Wind’) first occurred to me while I was reading a bilingual edition on the poems of Georg Trakl. This synchronicity of the two languages—German and French—led me to muse on the relationship between the viola and electronics.
The work is in two parts: Sombres mirroirs (‘Dark Mirrors’) and Soupirs de l'obscur (‘Breaths of the Obscure’). These, as their names suggest, focus first on symmetrical thinking and then on the variation of the glissando, not unlike a sigh, that rounds off the phrases.
To me the sound of the viola has always suggested that of breathing, which, along with the wind, became a major element of the electronic part.
Notes by Saariaho
UENO — Vedananupassana (2016/18)
In Buddhism, there are four ways of attending to mindfulness: the contemplation of the body, contemplation of feelings, contemplation of the mind, and the nature of things. Each of these further breaks down in relation to the self, others, and the self with others. Vedananupassana is the contemplation of feelings. Ueno writes:
Vedananupassana was originally composed as the first movement of a larger work, Four Contemplations, an evening-long site-specific installation performance for the various spaces of the Asian art galleries in the RISD Museum. My installations are proxies for my own breath, as an extended vocalist in which custom software algorithmically “re-perform” my vocalisms to articulate space. In a similar way, my compositions for classical instruments from the past five years, orchestrate aspects of my vocalisms and breathing. Breathing is important to me as it is the portal into mindfulness and is not only central to singing and meditation, but also life itself. Four Contemplations is an instrumental meditation on breath. Much of my what I composed for the string instruments involves techniques that evoke different kinds of breath.
Ueno’s Vedananupassana is therefore a meditation on feelings: the sound of the viola and how it is processed through the six-channel set up is the means for contemplation. The performer contemplates the sound related to the source/self, related to others in the room as it reaches the listener, related to the source and others as it is misdirected through different channels, and finally, hopefully more aware, returns to the sound of breathing.
Notes by Lanzilotti
LANZILOTTI — Gray (2017)
This work was originally developed with choreographer Wendell Gray II as a part of Periapsis Music & Dance’s First Emerging Artist Residency. The specific sound of each unit was defined, but the rhythm and overall timing of each section was determined by the dancers. The dancers became a part of the score, determining the rhythm and pacing of the work with their physicality.
The percussion instruments used are temple bowls, snare drum, and pū‘ili. As with many words in the Hawaiian language, pū‘ili has multiple meanings that interact with each other not only as homonyms but as metaphor. In this live version for viola and electronics, the fixed media acts as a memory of the interaction.
pū‘ili. 1. n. Bamboo rattles, as used for dancing. 2. vt. To clasp, hold fast in the hand, embrace, grasp firmly. Pū‘ili mai ‘oe ā pa‘a, hold tight. 3. n. A type of tapa-beater pattern: tips of zigzag ridges in adjacent surfaces meet and form sunken lozenges. Cf. ko‘eau, in which the ridges are parallel. — Hawaiian Dictionary. Edited by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.
Notes by Lanzilotti
HARVEY — Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco (1980)
This work is a reflection of my experiences at Winchester Cathedral where my son Dominic was a chorister from 1975-1980. It is based on his voice and that of the great tenor bell. This enormous black bell of superhuman power has inscribed upon it: HORAS AVOLANTES NUMERO MORTUOS PLANO: VIVOS AD PRECES VOCO (I count the fleeing hours, I lament the dead: I call the living to prayers). This serves as the boy’s text. The pitch and time structure of my work is entirely based on the bell’s rich, irregular harmonic spectrum, a structure neither tonal nor dodecaphonic nor modal in any western or oriental sense, but unique to itself. The eight sections are each based on one of the principal eight lowest partials. Chords are constructed from the repertoire of 33 partials; modulations from one area of the spectrum to another are effected by glissandi. Constant transformations between the spectrum of a vocal vowel and that of the bell are made by internal manipulation of the two sounds’ components. The walls of the concert hall are conceived as the sides of the bell inside which is the audience, and around which (especially in the original 8-channel version) flies the free spirit of the boy. The work was commissioned for IRCAM by the Centre Georges Pompidou and first performed at the IRCAM day in the Lille Festival on 30 November 1980. It was made at IRCAM with the helpful assistance of Stanley Haynes in July-August 1980.
Notes by Harvey
YOUNG — Sun Propeller (2012)
The title, Sun Propeller, refers to the propeller-like rays of light that occur when sunbeams pierce through openings in the clouds. Scientifically, these columns of light that radiate from a single point in the sky are known as crepuscular rays. The actual phrase "sun propeller" is a literal translation of the Tuvan word for these sunbeams: Huun-Huur-Tu (also the name of a famous Tuvan folk singing group).
The ideas for this piece come from my interest in Tuvan music. Their music, particularly the practice of throat sining, is a vocal imitation of natural surroundings (the sounds of babbling brooks, wind resonating against mountains, etc.) and is used to pay respects to the spirits of nature. This type of Tuvan music is built upon a low drone-tone with overtones floating above. The music values timbre and vertical relationships over traditional western melodic and harmonic principles, and melodies are generated through vocal filtering techniques. In Sun Propeller, the [viola]’s sonic characteristics are altered through a G-G-D-G scordatura tuning, making for an instrument that resonates in G (the drone tone). Different bowing techniques filter the drone to create a rich tapestry of timbre and melody. The electronics, live processing and pre-recorded sounds, are diffused through six speakers.
Notes by Young
David POISSONNIER graduated from the Centre PRIMUS at the University of Strasbourg with a degree in ‘Directeur du son’. In 1994, he joined IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique in Paris). Here he was responsible for the sound engineer’s department from 2003 to 2010. He worked with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho, Philippe Manoury, Jonathan Harvey, Michael Jarrell, Martin Matalon and Georges Aperghis.
David Poissonnier works at prestigious venues in Europe and the US for sound projection and the creation of many concerts and operas. The recording of L'amour de loin for which he was responsible for the mixing of the electronics, was awarded with a Grammy Award for best opera recording.
Since 2010 he has been working at the Centre for Electroacoustic Music (CME) at the Geneva High School of Music in association with the composition class of Michael Jarrell, and also works as a freelance sound engineer at various festivals (Lucerne Festival Academy, Archipel, …) and recordings.
Recently, he is in charge of sound projection for the new Saariaho’s opera Only the Sound Remains (Amsterdam, Helsinki, Paris). He is invited by Sibelius Academy to take part at the workshop “Creative Dialogue” with the cellist Anssi Karttunen and Kaija Saariaho (Finland 2017) and with Magnus Lindberg (Santa Fe 2018).
Anne Leilehua LANZILOTTI is a performer, composer, scholar, and educator focused on music of our time. For a complete bio, see the ABOUT page.