Zeitgeist

Here and Now: Celebrating Thirty Years of Zeitgeist

 

Innova 799

 

1. Ann Millikan: Kuiper Belt Wamfle 2:43

2. Douglas Geers: Tight Tie Size Try 2:11

3. Phil Fried: Itty Bitty Symphony 2:31

4. Chris Gable: Beat That Clock 2:46

5. Kathy Jackanich: But do the cranes know 4:14

6. Justin Henry Rubin: Il momento lussureggiante

per tre musicisti 3:04

7. Gao Hong: Celebration of 150/30 Year 3:12

8. Dick Hensold: Zeitgeist Anniversary Tune 2:21

9. Steve Heitzeg: American Indian Movement

(No Reservations) 3:46

10. Chris Granias: Z-Bekiko 3:37

11. Carei Thomas: Three Sides of the Issue:

Cartoon XVIa 1:55

12. David Means: Thirty for Four 1:51

13. Douglas Ewart: Spells 2:41

14. Erik Fratzke: Ruggles on Main 2:07

 

 

1. Scott Miller: And Thirty More II 2:39

2. Mark Eden: Some Kind of Virus 2:26

3. Brian Heller: Playing Back/Listening Forward 2:44

4. Matthew Smith: They’re In There Somewhere 2:26

5. Philip Blackburn: Stück 2:34

6. David Evan Thomas: Quiptych 1:34

7. Carol Barnett: Z=30; Schumann’s Excellent Extension 2:36

8. Brent Michael Davids: Something Pearl 3:07

9. Randall Davidson: Came to believe that

a power greater than ourselves could restore

us to sanity 1:50

10. Libby Larsen: Ricochet 1:59

11. Janika Vandervelde: Getting Your Z’s (Or Not) 2:54

12. Marc Jensen: Snowfall 4:21

13. Mary Ellen Childs: Faint Object Camera 3:14

14. Jeffrey Brooks: Still Life with Compressed Air 2:25

15. David Wolff: Mutagenesis 3:05

16. Mike Olson: Ineffable 2:29

 

 

Lauded for providing “a once-in-a-lifetime experience for adventurous

concertgoers,” Zeitgeist is a new music chamber ensemble comprised

of two percussion, piano and woodwinds. Always eager to explore new

artistic frontiers, Zeitgeist collaborates with composers of all types to create

imaginative new work that challenges the boundaries of traditional chamber

music. The members of Zeitgeist are: Heather Barringer, percussion; Patti

Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds; Shannon Wettstein, piano.

 

Arriving, improbably, at a thirtieth anniversary, a

new music” ensemble might reasonably indulge

in a bit of preening. But not Zeitgeist. Rather

than produce, say, a retrospective, “greatest

hits” CD, the Saint Paul-based quartet looked

forward, inviting short pieces from thirty of its

closest composer-friends, all then (2008) living in

Minnesota. To honor the concurrent sesquicentennial

of the state that had nourished them, a

duration was prescribed: 150 seconds. No invitee

declined, though some were more punctual than

others.

 

The results—a snapshot of Minnesota’s longlively

compositional scene in the first decade of

the new millennium, or simply as thirty love letters

to Zeitgeist—transcend the occasion. These

are miniatures that refuse to be confined by the

label. Ranging from neoclassic to unclassifiable,

they make one thing plain: Zeitgeist has no

house style. Intrepid midwives of the new, these

omnicompetent musicians have embraced the

untrammeled polystylism of our day. This ardent

openness has much to do, perhaps everything to

do, with the group’s longevity, keeping Zeitgeist

in tune with the zeitgeist.

 

Begin with assorted modernisms. First is restless,

jazz-rooted Ann Millikan, whose Kuiper

Belt Wamfle—to wamfle is to walk with clothes

flapping—was prompted by a woman seen walking

(wamfling?) a pig in Berkeley, Calif. Douglas

Geers’s Tight Size Tie Try, an anagram for “Zeitgeist

thirty,” incorporates serial elements. The

ghost of Webern lurks in Phil Fried’s Itty Bitty

Symphony, which showcases the bass clarinet’s

lyric side. And Chris Gable’s Beat That Clock is

a race against time by a man unafraid of major

scales and determined to compress as many

notes as he can into two-and-a-half minutes.

Continue with an even more heterogeneous

group. Ex-Californian Kathy Jackanich draws

inspiration from migratory sandhill cranes; bent

notes and sudden timbral shifts are prominent

constituents of her soundscape. Ex-New Yorker

Justin Henry Rubin’s Berg-haunted Il momento

lussureggiante (The Luxuriant Moment) is a neoromantic

aria for accompanied clarinet. Chinese

pipa virtuosa Gao Hong cleaves to C major

and C minor in her Celebration of 150/30 Year.

Northumbrian smallpiper Dick Hensold transcribes

a lush piper tune for the ensemble. And

the socially engaged Steve Heitzeg summons

the spirit of Native American resistance in his

American Indian Movement (No Reservations).

Next: the improvisors. Z-Bekiko is Chris

Granias’s creative respelling of zeibekiko,

a nine-in-the-bar Greek folk dance for men.

Carei Thomas’s Three Sides of the Issue was

developed from a series of cartoons dedicated to

Thelonious Monk. In Thirty by Four, David Means

pays homage to Zeitgeist’s minimalist roots;

in Spells, the ensemble expands on a four-line

skeleton by Douglas Ewart. And Erik Fratzke

ventures into the mind of American modernist Carl

Ruggles, who lived for a time in Winona, Minn.,

Fratzke’s hometown.

 

Now for the plugged-in. And Thirty More II, Scott

Miller’s birthday wish to the ensemble, consists

of “thirty gestures meant to be perceived as a

singular electro-acoustic event.” Marc Eden’s

Some Kind of Virus is built from spoken texts and

sound effects, as well as snippets of Zeitgeist.

Brian Heller mixes electronics with the live

Pat O’Keefe on bass clarinet; Matthew Smith

evolves an idiosyncratic, proprietary sound world

from his samples of the ensemble. And in Stück

(with umlaut or without), Philip Blackburn finds

a good use for the “auto-onomatopoeia” of public

radio’s “Car Talk.”

 

With David Evan Thomas the parade takes a

neoclassic turn. His Quiptych—“a little map for

a light-hearted road trip”—seems to know just

where it’s going. Carol Barnett plays with both

Schumann (the A-minor Piano Concerto) and

Terry Riley (Salome’s Excellent Extension, one of

Zeitgeist’s pivotal commissions and recordings).

Brent Michael Davids recalls that thirtieth anniversaries

are traditionally celebrated with pearls:

Something Pearl is suitably lustrous. Randall

Davidson finds inspiration for his gentle piece

in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous. And

in Ricochet, a wily marimba duo, Libby Larsen

thoughtfully avoids collisions between malletwielding

players.

 

The cheeky theatricality of Janika Vandervelde’s

Getting Your Z’s (Or Not) inaugurates a

final grouping. Marc Jensen’s spare Snowfall,

with its glassy sonorities, pays tribute to Minnesota’s

signature commodity. The Faint Object

Camera was an appendage of the Hubble Space

Telescope; Mary Ellen Childs, her palette

singular, evokes the far-off worlds the camera

was intended to detect. Impertinently stretching

the instrumentarium prescribed by Zeitgeist’s

percussionists, Jeffrey Brooks invents a genre:

aerosol music. In the penultimate Mutagenesis,

spiced with a pinch of Henry Mancini, David

Wolff changes one woodblock into three. Lastly,

and ineffably, Mike Olson deftly assembles

Zeitgeist samples with fragments of interviews

with its members, who were asked what makes

good music good—a question that listeners to

these thirty pieces will find themselves equipped

to debate.

– Larry Fuchsberg (Zeitgeist’s executive

co-director, 1994-95)

 

Zeitgeist is: Heather Barringer and Patti Cudd,

percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds; Shannon

Wettstein, piano.

 

And Thirty More, Playing Back/Listening Forward and

Stück feature Zeitgeist plus electronic media. Some

Kind of Virus, They’re In There Somewhere and Ineffable

are purely electronic compositions created from

samples of Zeitgeist performing and speaking.

 

This recording was made possible with funds from the

National Endowment for the Arts.

 

The creation of all works on this recording was made

possible through generous donations from the members

of the Zeitgeist Commissioning Collective.

 

Recorded by Matthew Zimmerman at Wild Sound

Studio in Minneapolis

Mixed and Edited by Scott Miller and Pat O’Keefe

Produced by Scott Miller

Mastered by Greg Reierson at Rare Form Mastering

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Graphic Design: Jessi Risch Design

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.