GLASS FARM ENSEMBLE

In Four

Innova 700

 

TAIMUR SULLIVAN
soprano, tenor,
and baritone saxophone

OREN FADER
electric guitar

MATTHEW GOLD
percussion, marimba, drums

YVONNE TROXLER
piano

 

1. LOUIS ANDRIESSEN: HOUT (1991)
for tenor saxophone,marimba, guitar and piano

2-4. YVONNE TROXLER : KALEIDOSKOP I-III (2005)*

for tenor saxophone, electric guitar, percussion andpiano
5. PETER HERBERT:DEAFENING SILENCE(2005)*

for soprano saxophone, electric guitar, piano andpercussion

6. ELIZABETH HOFFMAN: HOLONYMS (2005)*
for soprano saxophone,electric guitar, percussion and piano
7. WOLFGANGHEINIGER: IN FOUR(1995)*

for baritone saxophone, electric guitar, piano anddrums
* first recording
Mixed and mastered byJonathan Schultz.

Tracks 1-5 & 7 recorded at Ovation Sound,Winston-Salem, N.C.,
August 25-28, 2007.Recording and editing by Evan Richey.

Track 6 recorded at RightTrack Studio, New York, N.Y.,May 28, 2005.
Recording by SilasBrown and Elizabeth Hoffman. Editing and mixing
by Elizabeth Hoffman.

 

As each of the works on this disc speaks in theunmistakable voice of its composer, we decided to ask each of the composers tospeak directly about his or her music for the liner notes. What follows istaken from conversations and email exchanges that took place during the autumnof 2007.

LOUISANDRIESSEN: HOUT (1991)

Houtmeans wood in Dutch, and the title refers first of all to the marimba and thewoodblocks. But the word houtalso makes us think of trees, which have branches, and in Dutch the word for branchsuggests ramifications. The three instruments entering in close canon after thetenor sax are perceived as ramifications of the melody, and this is a littlelike how a tree grows.

In the late 1960s Idecided not to write for standard ensembles anymore, especially symphonyorchestras, but rather for my friends. This decision was not only a musical onebut also a political argument. I want to avoid creating a situation in whichmusicians play my music against their will. When I started building my own ensemblesin the early 70s, I was following the model of jazz and pop ensembles. Theycall their friends and say do you want to play with me, which is essentially ananarchist way of organizing your ensembles, one that for me is the idealsituation.

One of the things I didn’tlike in complex avant-garde music is that you would see three or four musicianssitting on a stage, and there would be a conductor conducting. I was quiterigid in the idea of de-hierarchization of musical material in the 70s, 80s,and into the early 90s, which essentially meant, not too many subjects in onepiece, and all of the information in all the parts. This tutti writing initially had to do with a political ideaabout knowledge that I took from the old Russian anarchist Bakunin: that youshould not know more than your neighbor.

The influence of jazz isin the articulation—not taka-taka but daba-daba. It sounds very simplebut for me, especially in the 70s, this type of articulation was the differencebetween high-class and low-class music. What we learned then from jazzmusicians is that they can do what they want and that means that they canarticulate much more loosely, and that is exactly the sound I need for mymusic.

YVONNETROXLER: KALEIDOSKOP (2005)

composed for Glass FarmEnsemble

When I started out to write a piece for the GlassFarm Ensemble, it was to write for colleagues with whom I had played for manyyears, and knew their playing extremely well. This made me want to highlightthe incredible sound qualities these instruments have by themselves andespecially in this combination.

As so often happens withme, my composition began with a visual image. In this case, colored glasswindows, like those one sees in churches, and the light that shines throughthem. From there I remembered the kaleidoscopes we used to have as children,their beautiful changing patterns and images and the big surprise when Iexplored inside and saw that it was made out of nothing really special, justsimple
little pieces of colored glass.

This is what intriguesme about composition in general: how great composers often use so littlematerial but are amazing at discovering all of the possibilities that areinherent in the material. Of course J.S.Bach comes to mind, or a much morecontemporary composer, György Ligeti.

So when I begancomposing Kaleidoskop, I used asmy material one very simple melody line. This melody is played in slow motionin the first movement by the crotales and colored and surrounded by the otherinstruments, sometimes in such close proximity that it creates a very subtle “beating.”And from there I went, freely associating with the initial images of coloredglass and a kaleidoscope. If I were to describe the second movement in visualterms, then the kaleidoscope is almost permanently rotated, creating instantharmonic and textural shifts. From that
point on I started to use all of theevolved material, which then comes together
in the last movement.

PETER HERBERT:DEAFENING SILENCE (2005)

composed for Glass FarmEnsemble

Like most of my pieces from the last five or sixyears, this work’s title, Deafening Silence, is an oxymoron. I have become fascinated by theease with which such phrases as “military intelligence,” “virtual reality,” “peaceforce,” “friendly fire,” or “pretty ugly” are used unreflectively in dailyconversation, and using them as titles
is a personal way of becoming moreconscious of how we use words, and of
their actual meanings.

The unusualinstrumentation of the Glass Farm Ensemble calls for an unusual approach towritten music.  “Deafening” and “silence”are two extremes of musical expression, and therefore my composition deals withextreme dynamics, tempos, and instrumental ranges.  It is a tour de force between fff and ppp.

I am a musician’scomposer I think.  I never studiedcomposition, have no academic background in it, but I do have a lot ofexperience in writing music.  Beinga player myself, I think one has a totally different approach tocomposition.  Sounds I haveincorporated into this piece are sounds I have experienced while playing withother musicians.  Every performancein front of an audience is a process of
finding new sounds.

Conventional notation issuch a restricted way of defining what you want to hear.  What I give the musicians who play mymusic is an approximation of the sound, but then I expect that they will findtheir own ways of dealing with these approximations.  I am not one of those composers who insist that every notebe played exactly as notated because notation the way we do it is solimited. 

Sometimes I think wehave lost the ability to concentrate and listen, and to focus on one thing forlonger than a few seconds.  If as acomposer you can pull somebody out of his brain for the twelve minutes orfourteen minutes your piece lasts, you have accomplished a lot, and you don’teven have to ask for more.

ELIZABETH HOFFMAN:HOLONYMS (2005)

composed for Glass FarmEnsemble

“Holonyms” sounds a bit like a slip of the tongue. Itmakes no sense. Still, this fabricated word is suggestive of other real words. “Hollow”and “names,” as in “pseudonym,” are immediate evocations. The title conjures up“homonyms,” too, words that share the same sound but have different meanings.There is reference here to an in-between-ness in semantic possibilities-emptysignifiers and therefore nothing signified in particular.

The title invites oneinto the experience of making sense of a word never heard before, whether realor nonsensical, or a distortion of some sort, which is analogous in a way toour experience of constructing meanings from music.

In everyday speech, the sense of words is automatic.In a similar way, I want my music to be heard very immediately. But, I am alsocommitted to writing music that invites vigorous listener interpretation. Muchlike abstract poetry that can upend conventional linguistic comprehension, mymusic usually strives to embody ambiguity and fluidity of meaning.  I am interested, in other words, ingetting away from conventional musical listening, so that sheer sounds can beheard without contextual or singular associations. But my music does not avoidconvention completely, and familiar aspects are often pulled in inexplicabledirections, resisting resolution or integration into a unified aural image.

In holonyms, I hope to prompt some supporting imagery throughthe music's distinct timbral combinations, and through its non-idiosyncraticinstrumental details. Some of my ownretrospective sensory pairings with this piece involve tactility and lightintensity. 'Stretched taffy' comes to my mind as a textural characteristic ofpart one.

Almost always, I havesounds in my head when I compose. These sounds are not abstracted notes, butare present in their instrumental timbres. I have made sounds for musical workswith a lot of different objects, including the hairbrush on a colander in holonyms. In this case, I think I moved from the kitchen(colander), to the living room, to the bathroom (toothbrush), to the bedroom(hairbrush). Finding new timbres is an exciting process because it tends toencourage one to discover not only a new ‘sound’ per se, but also a new playingtechnique.

WOLFGANG HEININGER:IN FOUR (1995)

In Fourwas commissioned by YvonneTroxler with a grant from the Fondation Nestlé. Theinstrumentation of the quartet intrigued me, especially, for its colorfulness,as well as for its heterogeneous qualities. I wanted to write something raw,with some reminiscence of my youth when I used to play in a punk band. Eventhough I’m coming from this background, In Four hasn’t much in common with rock or jazz. I don’treally have any knowledge about these styles, and punk-rock was at that time aprotest against the established jazz and rock music. In a sense it was evenanti-rock, anti-jazz. It might be surprising to hear that large sections of InFour were created with algorithmsand “academic” composition techniques. To a certain degree the composition isalso a parody. Some of the material I definitely use
 with a smile.

Whenever I write music, I write it for musicians Irespect, whose professionalism and highly defined mastering of theirinstruments I value. When I wrote In Four, in some places I left a lot of space for interpretation because I wantthe experts, the musicians to make certain choices. With notation, for me, itis like this; when I want a musician to practice a lot, I will notate everylast detail, I will be very specific; but if I want to make a musician think,then sometimes it helps not to write every detail, to leave some room forinterpretation. I don’t call these open spaces improvisations. I don’t likeimprovisation. After playing for almost 10 years in improvisation ensembles, Ido know what I’m talking about. Improvisations often bore me.

In Four is musicians’ music, written by a composer who is aperformer as well. It should be fun. I hope one can hear in my music that I don’tonly like music but that I also like to play it.
GLASS FARM ENSEMBLE

When we began playing together in pianist YvonneTroxler’s loft on the far Westside of Manhattan, the goal was to inviteaudiences into intimate contact with the cast breadth of music that interestedus, and share our passion for this music. The idea of music up-close hasanimated the group ever since, and this disc is very much a product of that.

Unlike some “new music,”the compositions here are those that challenge us to express a resonantpassion, freedom and love for making music. The ensemble’s line-up wasinitiated by Louis Andriessen’s Hout, a piece we have been performing together for years, and one whosequalities could be said to define our aesthetic: driving, rhythmic, intense,and rigorous. Besides Hout, allof the works on this program were written for the Glass Farm Ensemble, andspeak to the range of our interests. The composers are a European-American mix,and their music embraces all manner
of sounds, ideas and styles.

While each of the pieces isdistinct, and cannot be said to characterize any
one school or approach to music, theunique instrumentation of the ensemble itself gives them a strong identity.