Tower of the Eight Winds

music for violin and piano by Judith Shatin

innova 770

 

ICARUS

1.  I. Majestic  (5:37)

2.    II. Delirious (3:14)

3.  III. Soaring (3:21)

4.  IV. Wild (3:35)

 

5. PENELOPE'S SONG (9:07)

 

TOWER OF THE EIGHT WINDS

6. I.  Taku (3:35)

7. II. Barber (4:55)

8. III. Caver (4:12)

9. IV. Williwaw (3:31)

 

WIDDERSHINS

10. I.  Energetic (2:49)

11. II. Tranquil (3:38)

12.  III. Savage (2:50)

 

FLEDERMAUS

13. I. Waltzing On the Edge (6:05)

14. II. I'm No Maid (3:39)

15. III. Czárdás (5:27)

16. IV. Tick-Tock Around the Clock (3:18)

 

 

Icarus The myth of Icarus offers an apt metaphor for the creative process: the attempt to transcend, and the riskiness of the endeavor. The story of the escape of Daedalus, noted for his wonderful sculptures,  together with his son Icarus is a compelling one. Imprisoned by King Minos in the labyrinth that Daedalus had designed, and the Minotaur later inhabited, Daedalus searched for a means of escape. He fashioned wings made of bird feathers and wax, and he and Icarus flew away, soaring over the Aegean Sea. But, according to the story, Icarus, heedless of his father’s warnings, flew too near the sun, the wax melted and he plunged to a watery grave.  This myth has inspired many artists: Bruegel in his Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; Matisse, in The Flight of Icarus; Auden’s Icarus; William Carlos Williams’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus;  Anne Sexton’s To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph; Nino Rota’s piano concerto,  also named Icarus. There are numerous examples, each with its own twist. My Icarus, commissioned by violinist Kevin Lawrence in 1983, and premiered at the National Gallery of Art, is cast in four movements. Each was inspired by a different aspect of the story. The first, marked Majestic, is assertive, confident, with an extended violin cadenza that soars, expressing the will to break barriers, as well as the innocence of one who has not yet had to do so. The second, Delirious, suggests the complex relationships between father and son, now in agreement, now in heated debate.  The third, Serene, hovers in the registral stratosphere, conveying the floating quality of flight, as well as its inevitable turbulence. The last movement, Wild, shivers with the violence of effort and the catharsis of the plunge.

 

Penelope’s Song is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus. It was inspired by Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, which tells of the travails of Odysseus, but the music sings from Penelope’s point of view. Odysseus was away from home for twenty years, first at war in Troy and then, due to the sea-god Poseidon’s wrath, for ten more years. Penelope, left waiting for all that time, staves off many suitors, filled with greed and arrogance, who tried to woo her in order to become king. She devised many excuses. In one, she said she would take no suitor until she finished weaving a shroud for her husband’s aged father, Laertes. But, since she unraveled at night what she wove by day, she made no progress. Instead, she actively waited for Odysseus’ return. Penelope’s Song weaves a sonic tapestry from recordings I made of local weaver Jan Russell working at her wooden looms.  The electronics were shaped using RTcmix. Penelope’s Song, originally scored for amplified viola and electronics, was premiered at the Musica Viva Festival in Portugal in 2003. The violin version was premiered by Timothy Summers in Aarhus, Denmark in 2006. Other versions exist for amplified cello, clarinet or soprano sax.

 

Tower of the Eight Winds is named for the Tower of the Winds, still standing below the Acropolis in Athens. Built more than two thousand years ago, it had an advanced water clock inside, and its octagonal walls showed sundials and mechanical hour pointers so that one could tell the time from any location.  In addition, there were eight friezes, one topping each wall, depicting the eight Greek deities of the wind. I chose this topic as my source of inspiration for several reasons. The focus on the multiple timing devices of the early structure fits both my own fascination with the movement of sound through time, and the nature of the commission from the McKim Fund of the Library of Congress, for a concert honoring the 100th birthday of Elliott Carter, on 12/11/2008.  Carter’s music focuses profoundly on temporal perception, and my choice honors that element, albeit realized in a different manner. In addition, it fits with my penchant for “ear twisters,” created by temporally displaced patterns of pitch groups which play against an underlying, constant pulse.   

 

The four movements of The Tower of the Eight Winds are named for particular winds. The wind names and definitions, attributed to The American Practical Navigator by Bowditch, were a rich source. I retroactively chose four. The first is Taku, a strong, gusty wind that occurs around Juneau, Alaska between October and March, and can attain hurricane force at the mouth of the Taku River, for which it is named. The second, Barber, is named for a wind that carries damp snow or sleet and spray that freezes instantly upon contact, for instance covering one’s hair with icicles.  The third, Caver, is named for a gentle breeze in the Hebrides, while the fourth, Williwaw, is named after a sudden blast of wind that originates in the snow and ice fields of coastal mountains, and races down to the sea in places such as the Aleutian Islands and the Straights of Magellan.

 

“Widdershins” is a little-known English word meaning contrary or counterclockwise. When I first heard the word, in conversation with my father, I was taken with its sound; when I learned its meaning, I realized how suggestive it was for musical interpretation. Commissioned by Music-at-LaGesse Foundation, and premiered under their auspices at the Kennedy Center in 1983, the three-movement piece reflects the title in motivic design, intervallic choices and contours.  The word “widdershins” also suggested the transformations of the piece’s harmonic surface, the background of which consists of three seventh chords - chords that between them use the entire twelve-note collection. The first movement, Energetic, is full of syncopated twists and turns. The second movement, Tranquil, uses the same harmonic background, but draws it out in a lush, even luxurious, manner. The third movement, Savage, whirls to the close. 

 

Fledermaus Fantasy, for violin and piano, was inspired by the sparkling tunes of Johann Strauss’s operetta, Die Fledermaus and by the delightful tradition of such pieces as Sarasate’s Carmen. The story of Die Fledermaus is one of human foibles, with masquerades and mistaken identities.  To make a long story short, the central couple, the von Eisenstein’s, betray each other.  Rosalinde flirts with an old flame, while her husband Gabriel attends a masked ball and attempts to seduce a delightful woman, who is actually his wife! Meanwhile, their chambermaid, Adele, is recognized by Gabriel at the ball, but she sings an aria that tells him he is ridiculous for thinking that she is his maid. The operetta plays with the themes of masking, of social class, and of the fine line between delight and despair. The music is edged with darkness, despite the surface froth. A series of misadventures leads to the unmasking of the couple and to a reconciliation between them.

 

I have built Fledermaus Fantasy around four numbers from the operetta: 1) Waltzing on the Edge, is based on the Introduction 2) I’m No Maid, on Adele’s aria 3) Czárdás on the song that Rosalinde sings in her disguise as an exotic Hungarian, and 4) Tick-Tock Around the Clock is based on the the tick-tock tune that accompanies Gabriel’s attempt to seduce his own wife.  Fledermaus Fantasy is filled with virtuosic extensions, compositional twists, and ironic commentary. It was composed for violinist Karen Murray, who premiered it with pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst on 10/6/00 at the University of Virginia. The expanded chamber version, for solo violin, accompanied by viola, cello, string bass and piano, was toured by the Wiener Soloisten Ensemble throughout Japan.

 

Judith Shatin is a composer, sound artist, community arts partner and educator. Called “highly inventive... on every level; hugely enjoyable and deeply involving (Washington Post), her music has been commissioned by groups such as the Barlow Foundation , Fromm Foundation, McKim Fund of the Library of Congress, the Kronos Quartet, the Dutch Hexagon Ensemble, the Charlottesville, Illinois, National and Richmond Symphonies as well as the Peninsula Women’s Chorus, San Francisco Girls’ Chorus and the Virginia Glee Club. Shatin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor at the University of Virginia, where she founded and directs the Virginia Center for Computer Music. A timbral explorer, she composes in genres ranging from chamber, choral and orchestral to digital and multimedia. Inspirations range from the sounding world to literature, the visual arts and dance. She is as likely to include the sounds of animal calls or those of a local weaver as she is to call upon acoustic instruments, using both traditional and extended techniques.  A recipient of four NEA Fellowships, Shatin has been honored with awards from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, the New Jersey State Arts Council and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, among others. A two-year retrospective of her music was sponsored by the Lila Wallace – Readers Digest Arts Partners Program, culminating with the premiere of her folk oratorio, COAL, scored for chorus, Heritage instruments, synthesizer and electronics. Her Singing the Blue Ridge (mezzo, baritone, orchestra and electronics from wild animal calls) was commissioned by Wintergreen Performing Arts through Americans for the Arts as part of a large project called Preserving the Rural Soundscape. This project reflects her ongoing interest in creating music that invites audiences to contemplate the sounding world that surrounds them.  Shatin’s music is performed worldwide and at festivals such as the Aspen, BAM Next Wave, Grand Teton, Havana in Springtime, and West Cork. Twice a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Shatin has also held residencies at Bramshaus, Casa Zia Lina, La Cité des Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Yaddo.  Her music is widely recorded, with CD’s devoted  to her music on Innova (Dreamtigers) and Capstone (Piping the Earth).

 

More at: www.judithshatin.com

 

The Borup/Ernst duo has established itself as an important advocate of contemporary American music.  Their debut CD American Fantasies (Centaur 2918) featured the collected works by Arnold Schoenberg and his American students and followers, John Cage, Gunther Schuller, Donald Harris and Leon Kirchner.  The CD was received with great enthusiasm by audiences and reviewers alike, in publications such as The Strad (London), which cited their “interpretive empathy and watertight ensemble.” Apart from their recording activities, the duo has performed at premiere venues in the US and Europe.

 

Danish violinist Hasse Borup (www.hasseborup. com) has received numerous prizes and fellowships for his musicianship, including the International Yamaha Music Prize. He was a founding member of the award-winning Coolidge Quartet, serving as the first Guarneri-Fellowship Quartet at the University of Maryland. Mr. Borup has worked extensively with members of the Guarneri Quartet and Emerson Quartet, Isaac Stern, William Preucil, Roland, and many others. He has performed live on NPR’s Performance Today, National Danish Radio, National Slovenian Radio, National Australian Radio and Radio Hong Kong. Mr. Borup is on the faculty of the University of Utah School of Music and maintains a busy performance schedule, nationally and internationally. He directed the prestigious  Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute from 2006-2009.  As an educator, he has authored articles for The Strad and American String Teacher Magazine. Previous appointments include positions at the University of Virginia and George Washington University. Mr. Borup earned degrees in violin performance from the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music and the Hartt School of Music, as well as a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Maryland. 

 

American pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst (www.marykathleenernst.com) has been lauded by critics as a pianist who “clearly rates among the best.” Among her awards are top prizes in Spain’s Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition and the National Federation of Music Clubs Competition, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Reader’s Digest, the District of Columbia, Virginia Commissions on the Arts and a United States Information Agency award for Outstanding Artistic and Human Qualities. In the US, Ms. Ernst has been presented by the Kennedy Center in Washington, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, National Public Radio and Television, Voice of America, and overseas by the United States Information Service and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. A performer of repertoire from the Baroque to the present, she has been featured at festivals such as Bar Harbor, the Carnegie Hall Composer-Pianist Concerts, Contemporary American Theater Festival Concerts, New Orleans Festival of New Music, MusicAlaskaWomen, and Wintergreen Performing Arts.  She has emerged as a major champion of contemporary American music, especially music by American women composers. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she served on the faculty of the University of Virginia and was Artist in Residence at Shepherd University in West Virginia. Her solo recordings include Two by Three and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 recorded live with the Charlottesville Symphony.

Judith Shatin Selected Discography:

Penelope’s Song (sop sax & electronics) In Two Worlds Innova 736

Spin N/S Recordings 1046

Piping the Earth (Orchestral Music) Capstone 8727

Dreamtigers (Chamber Music) Innova 613

Gabriel’s Wing, Fasting Heart and Kairos Neuma 450-95

Sea of Reeds and Three Summers Heat Centaur CRC2454

Adonai Ro’i New World 80559-2 1492; 80504-2

Hearing the Call and Fantasía sobre el Flamenco Sonora SO22591

Ignoto Numine CRI 605, Ruah; 583

 

Producer:  Blanton Alspaugh

Recording Engineer:  John Newton

Mixing and Mastering Engineer:  Jesse Lewis

Post-Production Facility:  SoundMirror, Boston

Graphic Design:  Amy L.  Hill

Cover Photo:  Deborah Shatin

 

This CD was made possible in part through research support from the

University of Virginia and by the kind assistance of Mr.  Gerald Morgan.