I have frequently been inspired by a moving sunrise or sunset and was struck by the thought of what it might feel like to not just witness an event of such great beauty, but to be a physical part of it —as if one could become part of the air and light. This thought inspired a series of poems and stories exploring the idea of becoming a disembodied part of the atmosphere, somehow one with the day. These explorations raised the thought of how magical the various parts of the day must have been to early human observers left unburdened by scientific explanations, the incandescent light bulb, and climate controlled environments. Words suggested sounds and ultimately led to the creation of the Sun Suite depicting a single solar cycle.
Sun Suite is comprised of four sections; Sunrise, Daylight, Sunset, and Night which are in turn divided into a total of eight movements. Sun Suite begins with Invocation, starting softly with Tibetan prayer bowls and moving into a percussion and double bass improvisation that sets the mood for the composition. Invocation is followed by Habanero Sunrise. The Sunrise movement was inspired by Latin American rhythms and the text likens the dawning of a new day to sensuous images of the Sun both as a woman and as hot peppers. Sunrise segues into Fireflight, a movement featuring the bass koto, double bass and voice in a layered melody. The Fireflight movement attempts to impart sonic images of birds awakening in the early morning. Fireflight in turn segues into Daylight and Ellipse. These two short movements were written as duets for soprano and double bass. Sunset follows Ellipse and begins with an extended introduction featuring the Brazilian berimbau, adding the double bass and finally the koto. This movement features four themes which are tossed about between the instruments and the voice in an effort to give the impression of the complex colorful air found at sunset. Starshower is an instrumental movement and features the clay udu drum along with koto and double bass. The final movement of Sun Suite is the Night Parable, a whimsical children's story about the moon which ends quite softly with the opening rhythmic ostinato from Sunrise, completing the sun's cycle.
If Sun Suite is to be considered ethnic world music, then Smoke and Fire must be considered jazz inspired compositions. Written for soprano Mimmi Fulmer during the summer of 1996, Smoke and Fire do not share a unified story line in the same way as the Sun Suite. Smoke was inspired by a comic fantasy about a fictional early 19th Century lady from high society who, in attempting to escape from an after dinner smoke- filled, male-dominated living room, suddenly finds herself in the midst of a decidedly late 20th Century jazz club. After having a couple of drinks, she begins to enjoy the atmosphere and even the smoke. The work opens with a 'hip recitative' for drums and voice disparaging the smoky 19th Century living room. The lady's entrance into the 20th Century jazz club coincides with the entrance of the bass and piano. The work features marvelous improvisations by Les Thimmig on saxophone and Mike Kocour on piano. The disjunct melody to Fire was originally used in an instrumental composition entitled Quasimodal. The images for Fire's lyrics were taken from a series of poems on fiery nightmares and reworked to fit the melody's rhyme scheme. Fire is a very high energy abstract piece inspired by the work of Roscoe Mitchell, Albert Ayler, and Cecil Taylor.
I am extremely thankful to the talented artists who have contributed to this project. Since 1990 I have collaborated on numerous occasions with Elizabeth Falconer, a brilliant koto and bass koto player who received her Shihan (Master's) license from the distinguished Sawai School in Tokyo. She brings great enthusiasm and a fearless willingness to experiment to our musical explorations. She performs with great intensity and abandon throughout this recording.
I have had the great pleasure of performing with percussionist Dane Richeson on countless occasions since 1984. Mr. Richeson is a Professor of Percussion at Lawrence Conservatory. Having studied in Ghana, Cuba, and Brazil, as well as being schooled in Western percussion, he is a truly remarkable virtuosic percussionist whose talents are seemingly limitless. He demonstrates his versatility on this recording, performing on such diverse instruments as frame drum, udu drum, berimbau, and drum set. We have performed together with many wonderful improvising musicians including Joan Wildman, Roscoe Mitchell, Stanley Jordan, Eddie Daniels, Carl Michel, Scott Fields and Bob Levy. I am extremely grateful to Dane for his powerful contributions to this music.
I am likewise deeply indebted to soprano Mimmi Fulmer. Beyond having a marvelously flexible vocal instrument, she has a wonderfully innate sense of musical line. A Professor of Voice and Opera at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she contributes several outstanding sensitive and graceful improvisations to the proceedings including her exceptional melismas during Sunrise and striking improvisations during Fireflight and Daylight. She also has my profound thanks for having been extremely supportive during the entire compositional and recording process, both personally and financially.
I am honored to have had my former teachers Les Thimmig (University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Michael Kocour (Northwestern University) agree to perform on Smoke and Fire. Mr. Thimmig's performance on Fire demonstrates his exceptional bass clarinet prowess. Mr. Kocour was kind enough to take time from his busy studio and performing schedule, making a trip between dates with jazz legend James Moody, to contribute virtuosic performances; especially breathtaking is his dynamic improvisation on Fire.
Thanks also to engineer Buzz Kemper and the staff at Smart Studios in Madison. Special thanks to the Frank Fagnano for engineering the mix with assistance provided by Herb Hubel and Rolf Sturm.
Love to Douglas Earl and Margie Jean Anderson Sturm for everything they do.
— Hans Sturm
as an habanera pepper aroused
by a lover’s touch,
she arches her back across the horizon
and sends the shadows scurrying.
Slowly, she raises her head
and warms the East
as her golden hair falls to earth.
her passions now inflame the sky.
Her body shimmers at once with all the
colors of the rainbow,
Blinding those who would stare too long in disbelief,
Burning those who would woo her carelessly,
And embracing all others with dazzling
Sapphires, emeralds, rubies,
gold and silver drunk
The very earth charged
with luminous color.
All shapes and forms swirl in a dream,
dancing and changing from moment to
moment — teasing the eyes
Pay close attention,
for even as all appears surreal,
twilight is as real as
bright day or
Even more so —
for all the subtleties and possibilities of both
not only in the West,
The stars chuckled and winked at one another as the moon, tricked by the river’s reflection, considered her rippling face.
“My cheeks are waves of blubber,”
“I must have gained ten pounds.”
“My complexion is so watery,”
“I must have a very high fever.”
“No, wait, those are ripples on water,”
she cried in despair,
“I must be drowning!”
And she hung her head so low in the sky as she cried, that when the raven and owl flew past, their wings brushed the moon’s nose. With a great sneeze, the moon suddenly saw she was still in the sky after all and realizing her self centered foolishness, glowed silver in embarrassment. The stars now ashamed and in awe of her great beauty, faded deeper into the ocean of the night.
bitter — acrid — rancid
eyes water, throat burns, red, dry, harsh!
Antoinette’s cigarette hoooooolder (puff!)
(Glorifying the glowing coals and ......)
box elders up,
red wood in (or)
What the elm cloves the air
thick and stale (but .......)
just a sip (wisp) passed parched lips
the clink of ice, the clink of ice
slip sliding round the glass
and the music like the
thru ice, thru light, thru dark neon air
pulses, caresses, rises, lifts me
trembling, tumbling, twisting, turning
a swirl into
a light haze
a rosy glow
sett’ling up in down out of myself
floating clear above
thru wordless places dancing free.
Liquid orange and red course blue and sear while pulsing thru my veins.
The jagged waves of flame like hooded figures tear the veiled fabric drawn ‘cross pain.
Consumed, devoured, blackened cinders singe all conscious waking hours.
Ignites an ire that scorches blossoms blazing roses ‘round the faceless ivory tower.
Flares explode inside
the phoenix pyre.
Sunsets rage past choices chastened silent bone white dusty ash.
The furnace glowing pounding heat laughs leaping lunging whirling dervish to the last.
Footsteps fall far short imbued with lava sparks transcend the task.
To soar on wing’ed feet and shed this cloistered cloak tear off the critic’s fiery mask.
Tango in the ash
Mortal paths are forged
from inner fire.