Martian Anthropology began as a thought experiment, a game that I would play with my students. The premise, set in the future, is as follows:
Humankind has obliterated itself in a nuclear apocalypse. Everyone and everything was instantly and thoroughly annihilated. All records of our ever having been here—buildings, artifacts, the tiniest scraps of evidence—have disappeared. Martian archeologists later visit the Earth and discover three exceptions, three exclusive objects. From these three objects their anthropologist colleagues will speculate on our culture, our values, traditions, and customs, leisure activities, intellectual disciplines, artistic and scientific accomplishments, and so forth. In the same way that we construct “daily life” museum exhibits of early and prehistoric cultures on the basis of a few cave paintings, shards of Minoan pottery, or stone tools, so too must the Martian anthropologists create an “Earth Museum” solely on the basis of these three found objects.
The game invites the players to choose the three objects and to imagine—with delight and horror—what these objects would tell alien observers. For example: the objects might be a copy of the Gettysburg Address, a recording of the Abba song Mama Mia, and an unopened can of clam chowder. Or instead it could be a deck of tarot cards, the owner’s manual for a toaster oven, and a tube of Chapstick. It might be a partly erased hard drive, a business card for an escort service, and a wheelchair. It might be an angry e-mail message you once sent, a cancelled check that you wrote for a purchase long ago, and the last voice mail message you left a friend. Perhaps it could even be the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, a city map of Atlantis, and the Holy Grail. Or perhaps it will be simply someone’s wedding planner album, a needlepoint pillow, and decorative comedy/tragedy masks.
The three objects form a surreal triangle. They tell a peculiar story, individually and through collective synergies.
The things we do, make, and consume leave a record of who we are. For the artist this game suggests a special meaning about making works of art. It invites us to assume or ignore a weighty, if conceptual, responsibility about what our work might say, not only to our present audience, but also to ones that are distant and almost unimaginable.
Martian Anthropology 1•2•3 is a piece of music that reminisces on this game with some amusement and wonder. Its three movements are a kind of surreal triangle, a web of disparate, idiosyncratic objects. These objects say something about their source, but they paint a kind of incomplete picture.
The first movement is an energetic, expressionist romp for full orchestra comprised of alternating mercurial and bucolic sections, including grotesque, eccentric passages (such as a lyrical cello melody set to a septet of percussionists hammering nails, the evocation of a construction site). The second movement is for string orchestra alone, a simple, expressively sincere elegy in memory of my sister, Carolyn Applebaum, who died in October 2003 suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure at the age of 28. The third movement is once again for full orchestra, but this time the orchestra serves as an accompaniment to an improvised solo on an original electroacoustic sound-sculpture (the Mouseketier) with live electronics; the conductor improvises the accompaniment in response to the solo, using a system of hand gestures to initiate 24 different materials, some of which allow for individual players to reorder their internal events or adjust temporal particularities.
Instead of worrying about the coherence of this multi-movement work, I obsessed over creating a kind of meaningful incoherence. The music aspires always to delight, baffle, and engage the audience. If successful, the experience of its diverse juxtapositions will be slightly weird (“what the hell was that?”) but also one of fascination (“can I hear more?”).
Martian Anthropology 1•2•3 was composed for Jindong Cai and the Stanford Symphony Orchestra with special thanks to Akiko Fujimoto.
Skumfiduser! is a single-movement piece for orchestra and computer-generated tape that opens with a rhythmic, techno-like dance groove and ends with a plaintive, nostalgic, lyrical melody passed among the orchestra and set against a backdrop of vinyl record surface noise. Along the way is an arresting hocket of pyrotechnic sparring between the tape and orchestra, each one trying to outdo the other. The piece was started in 1999 while living in Mississippi, set aside for some time, and later completed in California.
Titles for pieces usually occur to me quite early in the compositional process and as the result of a particular musical or extra-musical agenda that defines the core of the artistic statement. A work’s title will often describe the music in some way, serving either as a transparent and public emblem or as a hermetic and private code. By contrast, this finished orchestral piece went in search of a title, I suspect because it was simply a through-composed sound object without a specific program or agenda, a straightforward attempt to write an orchestral work with tape. (Despite the generic and elastic character of the task I did abide by one particular self-imposed limitation: to generate all of the electronic tape sounds by composing pictures first and later transforming them into sound using the software platform MetaSynth.) Fortunately I remembered that “skumfiduser” is the Danish word for marshmallows, and, more important, that this is the finest sounding word—in any language. So it is with great joy and fascination that I offer this piece as an excuse to use this unlikely word.
Dead White Males (Lunching in the Perspectival Cafeteria) was composed in 1993 during residencies in San Diego, Copenhagen, and while traveling throughout Southeast Asia. It is the sixth work of the Janus Cycle (1992-1996), eleven solo, chamber, orchestral, and choral works whose bipartite formal design comprises a dense kaleidoscope of short materials which constantly interrupt one another in a mercurial orgy, and an atmospheric monolith of texturally unified, laconic material whose narrative progresses in a linear, causal manner. Deliberately schizophrenic, the pieces weld together two sections that are distinct in character, notational approach, and compositional intent.
Janus was a Roman god whose two faces, one on each side of his head, invariably looked in opposite directions, toward different landscapes. However, while the two musical landscapes in Dead White Males are oppositional, they are not antithetical. Instead they are obliquely related. As in all eleven Janus pieces, the point of intersection between parts raises questions about similarity and polarity without providing an easy reconciliation.
The first section is constituted by rapid, kaleidoscopic juxtapositions of short materials that are recycled, each time returning in altered, mutated manifestations. This section is marked exigent, paroxysmic, acerbic, fractal, insane, and corrosive. The second and final section is largely mono-thematic, linear, and organic in development. It is marked delicate, atmospheric, monolithic, pensive, laconic, and antidotal.
It became apparent to me that the Janus structure is a useful model for describing many issues. In this piece they are, generally, the relationship of established and marginalized values, and, specifically, issues of gender and race. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of the masculine and the feminine as problematic but handy social constructions, mythic sub-genders tenuously fused into a single androgynous composition.
The title suggests—albeit sarcastically—the important dialogue in which we acknowledge our inherited and sustained cultural beliefs and subject them to critical examination. Dead White Males ends with individual members of the orchestra whispering the names of forgotten people, places, events, and ideas that they value, and although the audience is not to comprehend these words individually, they function as the sonic evocation of culture vaporizing.
Dead White Males was commissioned for the Carleton College Orchestra by the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the Margaret Fairbank Jory Copying Assistance Program of the American Music Center. The work is dedicated to my friend and mentor, the conductor Jeannine Wagar who first suggested the piece and strongly encouraged its realization.
Like Dead White Males, the Triple Concerto belongs to the Janus Cycle. It is the cycle’s eleventh and final work. And like Dead White Males (and roughly half of the pieces in the cycle), a busy, non-linear kaleidoscope occurs first, followed by a sedate and evolving monolith. The piano is the sole force that articulates the Triple Concerto’s opening kaleidoscope; the percussion and contrabass soli, a concertante of two percussion, guitar, and harp, and a large choir follow in the monolith.
In all eleven Janus pieces—except the Triple Concerto—one specific algorithm is used to construct the kaleidoscope, albeit with different treatments such as durational scaling and superimposition. In the Triple Concerto, this algorithm is forsaken. Its kaleidoscope is instead constituted by four continuous sections, each with a similar but expanding terminal cadence. Every one of the first three sections may be heard as an exposition of thirteen materials. Together they make 39 short, contrasting bits, sometimes only one measure in length and described by markings such as excited, panicked, erratic… legato, elegant, lyrical… detached, ephemeral… gregarious, garrulous… empty, paralyzed… frigid, rigid, stupid… etc. A fourth and final section is a rereading of the first three sections in a hectic, fractional superimposition, a layered recapitulation. While composing this kaleidoscope I remember staring absorbedly at a quilt that my wife and I purchased in Rajasthan. It is an intricate patchwork of near symmetries (a crippled symmetry?), a gorgeous jumble of recycled fragments rescued from fantastic but worn out dresses. Its beauty seems to reside in the complex, improvised elision of disparate neighbors, every relationship surprising but balanced according to its maker’s subtle intuition.
The listener may notice seven striking features in the whole piece, all noteworthy ironies or absurdities. First, after its virtuosic opening solo cadenza, the piano is unheard from again. In performance the player remains at attention, as if he or she might enter into the “contention” at any time. Second, the piano is “prepared” (objects are placed among the strings to change its conventional timbre), but unlike most prepared piano pieces, only six of the piano’s 88 notes are prepared, all of them with pitch class D: the three Ds below middle D and the three above middle D. Third, in contrast to the piano, the contrabass and percussion soli are exceptionally “anti-virtuosic” in the conventional sense of virtuosity. Given that the contrabass plays only eleven laconic notes, all of them pizzicati, and the percussion soloist plays only six, one wonders why they share the same status as the pianist. Fourth, the percussion soloist has five drums arrayed on stage but plays only three of them. The decision regarding which of the five drums are finally employed is improvised. Fifth, a concertante of two percussion, guitar, and harp can be grouped as two duos, each forming an instrumental backdrop to a corresponding soloist: the two percussion accompany the percussion soloist, the guitar and harp accompany the contrabass soloist. But while the concertante parts are quieter than those of the soli, they are far more active and demanding. Sixth, a large choir replaces the concerto’s typical orchestral instrumentation. And lastly, the choir’s text is not given by the composer, but instead determined by each individual singer, based on a dream or nightmare (real or imagined), and set to the given pitches and rhythms.
The result of the choir’s strange approach to text is a dense layering of competing phonemes whose conventional musical parameters are focused but whose linguistic meaning is obscure. This choral muttering is a response to a particular affinity: sitting in a busy public place, such as a cafeteria, bar, or airport terminal, and soaking up the massive totality of the many simultaneous but disconnected conversations. It is complicated, rich, and mostly impenetrable. On occasion a few identifiable words can be gleaned, an unpredictable polyphony coming from different directions. These sporadic words signify the narrative meaning, lexical significance, and transmission agenda that engender communication within each local conversation. But together they are spectacularly opaque. Or put a different way, they form a clear but new antiphonal concatenation, one that suggests a beauty of voyeuristic alienation in place of an invitation to partake in individual meanings.
Triple Concerto was composed for Aleck Karis at the request of the UCSD Singers and is dedicated to Brian Ferneyhough.
Every time that I get to hear my music played by a large ensemble (that is, two or more persons—or even one person who is not me) I am overwhelmed by the feeling that surely this is the last time anyone will ever bother. And then, somehow, a new opportunity arises to compose for another group. These miracles are always surprises. But they happen because extraordinary individuals make it possible through their support, energy, generosity, hard work, and encouragement.
I am particularly grateful to Stanford Symphony Orchestra conductors Karla Lemon, Ann Krinitsky, and Jindong Cai, and to Akiko Fujimoto (who rehearsed Martian Anthropology before the arrival of Cai); Jackson State University Symphony Orchestra conductor London Branch (who encouraged Skumfiduser!) and the American Composers Orchestra and Dennis Russell Davies (who read it); Carleton College Orchestra conductor Jeanine Wagar (who requested Dead White Males) and Philip Blackburn and the American Composers Forum (who commissioned it); and Philip Larson (director of the UCSD Singers who generously leant his group for Triple Concerto), Brian Ferneyhough (who coached its composition), and virtuoso Aleck Karis (who had the most demanding notes to learn on this entire disc). But I also offer a heartfelt thanks to the other soloists and especially to the many instrumentalists and singers who constituted these large ensembles, who worked so hard on this music, and whose patience, good will and open minds made it both possible and fun. While the expression of my gratitude is broad, it is indeed sincere.
Mark Applebaum (b. 1967, Chicago) is assistant professor of composition and theory at Stanford University, where he received the 2003 Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in teaching. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at San Diego where he studied with Brian Ferneyhough, Joji Yuasa, Rand Steiger, and Roger Reynolds. His solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia with notable performances at the Darmstadt summer sessions, the Bourges Festival in France, ICMC in Beijing and Singapore, Italy’s Festival Spaziomusica, the Young Nordic Music Festival in Sweden, Sonic Circuits in Hong Kong, Amsterdam’s Great Virtuoso Slugfest, SEAMUS, strictly Ballroom series at Stanford University’s CCRMA, the Woodstockhausen Festival in Santa Cruz, the College Music Society, the Southeastern Composers League, NWEAMO, the Florida Electro-Acoustic Music Festival, the Northwestern University New Music Marathon, the Kansas City Electronic Music Festival, Piano Spheres, SIGGRAPH, the North American Saxophone Alliance, the American Composers Orchestra’s OrchestraTech, UC Berkeley’s CNMAT, Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center, the Essl Museum in Austria, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at Electronic Music Midwest where he served as the 2002 visiting artist.
He has received commissions from Betty Freeman, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Vienna Modern Festival, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, Zeitgeist, MANUFACTURE (Tokyo), the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Harmida Trio, Belgium’s Champ D’Action, the Jerome Foundation, and the American Composers Forum, among others. His music has been played by the Arditti String Quartet, Speculum Musicae, Musica Nova, Zeitgeist, newEar, red fish blue fish percussion ensemble, the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble, the University of Illinois New Music Ensemble, the NYU New Music Ensemble, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, the Callithumpian Consort, Skin & Bones, MANUFACTURE, players under the direction of Harvey Sollberger and Dennis Russell Davies, and some of the finest solo artists of our time, including Steven Schick, Irvine Arditti, Gloria Cheng, Craig Hultgren, Helen Bledsoe, and Bertram Turetzky. Performances of his chamber music can be heard on his recent CD Catfish on Tzadik.
In 1997 Applebaum received the American Music Center’s Stephen Albert Award and an artist residency fellowship at the Villa Montalvo artist colony in Northern California. He has engaged in numerous intermedia collaborations, including That Brainwave Chick (with neural artist Paras Kaul), Archittetura Redux (with film-maker Iara Lee, Caipirinha Productions), Concerto for Florist and Ensemble (with florist James DelPrince), Aphoristic Fragment (with animator Anna Chupa), Interactive Sound Pavilion (with architect David Perkes), Spring Migration (with choreographer Brittany Brown), and projects with the laptop DJ ensembles Digital Cutup Lounge (Hong Kong) and Tricky OL (Japan).
Since 1990 Applebaum has built electroacoustic instruments out of junk, hardware, and found objects for use as both compositional and improvisational tools. His latest instrument—the Mouseketier—is a musical Frankenstein consisting of threaded rods, nails, combs, doorstops, springs, squeaky wheels, ratchets, a toilet tank flotation bulb, and other unlikely objects which are plucked, scratched, bowed, and modified by a battery of live electronics; it is the featured solo instrument on the final movement of Martian Anthropology 1•2•3. Mousetrap Music, a CD of sound-sculpture improvisations can be heard on the Innova label. Also on Innova is The Janus ReMixes: Exercises in Auto-Plundering, a CD of eleven electronic works whose source material corresponds exclusively to recordings of the eleven acoustic compositions that constitute his Janus Cycle (1992-1996). And hybrid pieces featuring both acoustic and electronic instrumentation can be heard on the 2003 Innova CD Intellectual Property.
Applebaum is also active as a jazz pianist. He has concertized from Sumatra to the Czech Republic, most recently performing a solo recital in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso sponsored by the American Embassy. In 1994 he received the jazz prize of the Southern California Jazz Society and in 1999 the Mark Applebaum Trio performed in the first Mississippi arts event broadcast live over the World Wide Web. At present he performs with his father, Bob Applebaum of Chicago, in the Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo. Their first recording, The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree, is available on Innova.
Prior to his current appointment, Applebaum taught at UCSD, Mississippi State University, and Carleton College where he served as Dayton-Hudson Visiting Artist. He has been invited to give lectures and master classes at various institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Brooklyn College, the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, Hong Kong University, the JML/Irino Foundation in Tokyo, the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, Austria, the College of Santa Fe, the Universities of Toronto, Michigan, Illinois, North Texas, Oregon, California at San Diego, California at Berkeley, San Francisco State, Lawrence University, the Janacek Akademie, Czech Republic, and at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. Additional information and announcements of upcoming performances may be found at www.markapplebaum.com.
Born in Beijing, Jindong Cai received his early musical training in China. He came to the United States in 1985 to pursue graduate studies, first at the New England Conservatory of Music and later at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where he was chief assistant to Gerhard Samuel.
Cai is the Gretchen B. Kimball Director of Orchestral Studies at Stanford University. He served previously on the faculties of Louisiana State University, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Cincinnati, and held conducting positions with the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cincinnati Pops, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestras, and the Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra. He made his opera debut at Lincoln Center’s Mozart Bicentennial Festival and has received critical acclaim in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Cai maintains a professional relationship with several top orchestras in China including the China National Symphony, the National Broadcasting Symphony, the Shanghai Symphony, and the National Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Ann Krinitsky has served as Interim Director of Orchestras at Stanford University, Assistant Conductor of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, and Music Director of the Berkeley Youth Orchestra, the Acalanes Chamber Orchestra, and the Community Women’s Orchestra. She is the recipient of the the 2000-01 JoAnn Falletta Conducting Award given by The Women’s Philharmonic and funded by the Stein Foundation for the Arts and Sciences.
Krinitsky has appeared as guest conductor with the Maui Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Women’s Philharmonic, the Nova Vista Symphony, the Camellia Symphony, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, the Marin Chamber Orchestra, and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra. She has also served on the faculty at Laney College in Oakland and performed as a full-time violinist in the Honolulu Symphony. Her conducting is informed by her diverse instrumental background which includes violin, saxophone, and jazz piano. She currently divides her time between Hawaii, California, and New York.
Karla Lemon has conducted and recorded throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. She has given numerous premiere performances, including works by Joan Tower, Philip Glass, Chen Yi, Eric Moe, and Libby Larsen. Her guest conducting engagements include the Santa Rosa Symphony, Women’s Philharmonic, Santa Barbara Symphony, and Spokane Symphony. At present she is Resident Conductor of the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles.
Lemon has worked in collaboration with Bobby McFerrin and the Oberlin Dance Collective, the San Francisco Ballet, appeared as guest conductor at the Scotia Festival in Halifax, the Works and Process Series at the Guggenheim in New York, and with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and conducted the inaugural Fresh Ink series sponsored by the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Recent collaborations include artists Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Christine Brandes, Fred Sherry, Maria Bachmann, Richard Todd, Hubert Laws, and John Corigliano. She has recorded for Koch International, Albany, Vienna Modern Masters, and Dorian Records.
At home with both contemporary and classical works, pianist Aleck Karis has performed internationally in recital, with orchestra, and as a chamber musician, including festivals in Bath, Geneva, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Miami, Caramoor, and the Warsaw Autumn Festival. He is the pianist of the League—ISCM Chamber Players and New York ensemble Speculum Musicae.
Karis has recorded for Nonesuch, New World, Neuma, Centaur, Roméo, Tzadik, and CRI Records. His solo debut album for Bridge Records of music by Chopin, Carter and Schumann was nominated as “Best Recording of the Year” by OPUS Magazine (1987). Since then he has recorded solo piano music by Mozart, Stravinsky, Cage (“Critic’s Choice”, Gramophone 1999), Davidovsky, Babbitt, Glass, Anderson, Reynolds, Krieger, Yuasa, and Primosch.
Karis studied with Artur Balsam, Beveridge Webster, and William Daghlian. Karis is Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego.
Vanessa Tomlinson is a contributor to the fields of solo percussion, contemporary chamber music, improvisation, and performance art. Her work involves hybrid forms, combining improvisation and composition, percussion and voice, cross-disciplinary collaborations with dancers and visual artists, and cross-cultural collaborations. As a soloist she has worked closely with influential European composers Vinko Globokar and Brian Ferneyhough and commissioned numerous works from emerging Australian and American composers.
Tomlinson performs frequently with a wide array of contemporary chamber and improvisation ensembles, including Australian Art Orchestra, Elision, Intergalactic Contemporary Ensemble and Clocked Out Duo, was an original member of the “red fish blue fish” percussion ensemble, and has more recently founded the Australian percussion quartet Playing Fields. She studied at the University of Adelaide, the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, and completed her Doctorate at the University of California, San Diego with Steven Schick. Tomlinson is Head of Percussion at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane.
Bassist and pianist Scott Walton has collaborated with musicians, dancers, performance artists, filmmakers, visual artists, and poets. He has performed with George Lewis, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Davis, Quincy Troupe, John Carter, Bobby Bradford, Clifford Jordan, Ray Anderson, John Abercrombie, Al Cohn, Vinny Golia, Jeff Kaiser, Chris Chafe, and Frank Wess.
Walton has toured with the Octagon Ensemble for New Music, has presented his work at the International Computer Music Conference, and has served on the staffs of the San Francisco Ballet and the American College Dance Festival. He has recorded for Soul Note, Albany, Nine Winds, JazzHalo, Circumvention, pfMentum, Koch, Centaur, and Revelation records, and released CDs with the improvisational ensembles Cosmologic, Unbalancing Act, and O’Keefe/Stanyek/Walton/Whitehead.
In memory of Carolyn Tara Applebaum (1975-2003).
1.-3. Martian Anthropology 1•2•3 (2004) 12:15
for orchestra with electroacoustic solo instrument
Mark Applebaum, mouseketier sound-sculpture and live electronics
Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Jindong Cai, conductor
4. Skumfiduser! (2001) 9:27*
for orchestra & two-channel tape
Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Ann Krinitsky, conductor
5. Dead White Males (1993) 17:00*
Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Karla Lemon, conductor
6. Triple Concerto (1996) 16:20
for piano, percussion, and contrabass soli, concertante of two percussion, guitar and harp, & large choir
Aleck Karis, piano soloist
Vanessa Tomlinson, percussion soloist
Scott Walton, contrabass soloist
Terry Longshore, percussion
Brett Reed, percussion
Sylvia Re, harp
Josh Levine, guitar
UCSD Singers, Philip Larson, director
Mark Applebaum, conductor
CD Total Time: 55:03
Inside booklet stuff:
Requested by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. Dedicated to Jindong Cai with thanks to Akiko Fujimoto.
Recorded at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University, May 20, 2004
Mark Dalrymple & Mark Applebaum, engineers
Mark Applebaum, editing
Recorded at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University, May 29, 31, & June 1, 2003
Pam Bergmann, engineer
Mark Applebaum, editing
Commissioned by the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. Dedicated to Jeanine Wagar.
Recorded at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University, February 22 & 23, 2001
Mark Dalrymple, engineer
Mark Applebaum, editing
Requested by the UCSD Singers. Dedicated to Brian Ferneyhough.
Recorded at Warren Studio A, UCSD, June 5, 1996
Joe Kucera, engineer
Tom Ozanich, editing