You Are So Stingingly Demure: Last year I had the ear-opening experience of studying traditional Ghanian music with Sowah Mensah at the University of Minnesota. I noticed a similarity in beat pattern and cyclic duration between a time-line we had been working with called Agbaja, and the opening rhythmic motif played by the cello in Demure (an earlier version of which I had recorded with my band The Aphid Bloodbath Consort). hr this recording I rewrote the tune, juxtaposing the Agbaja time-line and its resulting drumming pattern and improvisations against the cello motif. Sometimes this merger turns into rhythm from another planet and sometimes it grooves and sometimes both. I limited instrumentation to 2 of the 3 instruments that rule the world—cellos and drums. (Where are the saxes?) And thanks to the Minnesota State Arts Board I was able to work with my cello hero, Tom Cora.* Special thanks to Pete Linman and Steve McKinstry for production assistance.—Michelle Kinney
This activity was made possible in pan by a "Orant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board The Minnesota State Arts Board received additional funds to support this activity from the National Endowment for the Arts.
MICHELLE KINNEY (b. 1959) is an improviser, cellist and composer. She is co-founder of the Minneapolis-based improvising orchestra, IMP ORK, which performs works by its members and has hosted guest conductor-composers Butch Morris and Roscoe Mitchell. She is also a founding member of a rock-new music group, The Aphid Bloodbath Consort, which performs when necessary, and is featured on the soundtrack for a new film by Chris Sullivan called "Rumes." Michelle is currently a graduate student in Performance Studies at New York University, and misses her pals in the Twin Cities. TOM CORA was born in Yencey Mills, VA. Reared on the gospel, blues, and country music of Appalachia, he began his career as a guitarist. He later took up the cello, studying formally with Casals' student Louis Garcia-Renart. By 1979, Tom had moved to New York where he began an extended working relationship with guitarist Eugene Chadbourne winning acceptance for the cello in the honky-tonk circuits of North America. A founding member of the performing groups Skeleton Crew and Curlew, Cora is currently performing solo cello concerts throughout the U.S., Japan and the Soviet Union. MARC ANDERSON was born in Austin, MN and came to the Twin Cities about 12 years ago. Since that time he has played with various rock, jazz, funk, pop, and ethnic music ensembles. In addition to his performing career he is also a composer and has recorded five albums with Steve Tibbetts for ECM records in Munich. SOWAH MENSAH a native of Ghana has been performing all his life. Co-founder and director of Sankofah FolkLore and Dance Ensemble in the Twin Cities, Mensah has also performed with Roscoe Mitchell, IMP ORK, and the Pat Moriarty Ensemble. A graduate student in ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota, Mensah directs a Ghanian flute and drum ensemble there in addition to teaching African music and drumming at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.
Ballet Suite #1: This ballet suite came about through a rather unusual request from choreographer Linda Shapiro, who asked me to provide music for choreography that was already completed and videotaped. With headphones on and a TV screen in front of me, I recorded improvisations on violin and keyboard while viewing the dancers, adding melody and counterpoint through over-dubbing. The vioelectra is actually a violin strung with thicker strings, and sounds an octave lower than a standard violin. The DX-7 and its counterpart, the TX-81 synthesizer, provided a varied palette of sound colors, including Krystal Choir Amazon Flute, and Grand Piano. An occasional plunk of mandolin can be heard in the second piece.—James R. Price
JAMES R. PRICE (b. 1953) is a freelance performer and composer living in Minneapolis, MN. His first public performance at age nine drew a rave response from the local PTA, and he has since tried to outdo himself. College studies at the University of Minnesota and Indiana University, along with jazz, country and ethnic music pursuits have helped him develop a "pan-stylistic" approach to violin playing. Jim has been a guest on many recording projects and is a 1986 McKnight Fellowship recipient.
Vignettes for Piano is a tone poem depicting the metamorphosis of a butterfly Vignette I. depicts the undulating unpredictability of a caterpillar and is characterized by polymetric structure and synthetic scalar materials. Vignette II. "Cocoon imagery" is derived from the B section of I and also uses synthetic scalar resources in a polymetric context. I've created a 5/8 heartbeat-like ostinato pattern, which threads its way above and below the melody. Vignette 111. Depicts the kaleidoscopic explosion of a newly formed butterfly It explores the upper range of the keyboard with virtuosic flashes of impressionistic techniques. Vignette IV. Allows considerable extemporary freedom while maintaining melodic and harmonic continuity. The improvised embellishments are intended to enhance the rebirth/ resurrection concept of this piece. I used functional harmony, a singable melody, and an overall accessible context to facilitate the spirit of improvisation. ViL'nene V. is an energetic virtuosic contrapuntal piece employing two interweaving themes: the butterfly in 3/4 and the bees in 4/4.—Thomas J. Wegren
THOMAS J. WEGREN (b. 1946) is a Chicago native whose versatility has been produced under the guidance of such world-renowned musicians as Nadia Boulanger, Aaron Copland Alexander Therepnin, and Van Cliburn. He received his bachelor of music degree from De Paul University and his doctorate from Ohio State University. A professor of piano, composition and theory at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Wegren's awards have included a Senior Fulbright Scholarship to Korea, grants from Exxon, the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Minnesota Graduate School, the Minnesota Composers Forum and the McKnight Foundation
String Quartet Studies: Clouds lil: began with spontaneously invented rhythms, followed by pitches drawn from a path in and around the magic square of my "Clouds" 12-tone row. (The first "Clouds" was "Clouds do not always veil the skies," for an acappella chorus. which sets part of an ode by Horace, as translated by Samuel Johnson). I wrote most of the first draft during Christmas 1981 while in St. Louis, surrounded by niece Sheila, her mother Mary, and extended family. From the first sketches, this string quartet took off on its own stealing bits of me and taking detours I'd never before imagined. It stole the famous hymn tune from an obscure wild Buxtehude chorale prelude. The blues crept in at one point, and non-retrogradable rhythms hid in the canon. Like children, pieces of music become themselves.—Jim Phillips
JIM PHILLIPS (b. 1951, Atlanta GA) is the son of Methodist missionaries and grew up mainly in Taiwan. He reviews music books for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he is a library researcher' and teaches English at Lakewood Community College. He is married and has two children. Phillips best likes music which contains both compassion and counterpoint. Two of several favorite works are the Brahms "Clarinet Quintet" and the Britten "Hymn to St. Cecilia." Currently his musical life centers around playing the violin a little while every morning with his son, Tim. THE LARK QUARTET, founded in 1985, is establishing a reputation as one of the most promising young string quartets in this country. The quartet has performed at the Caramoor Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Taos Music Festival, and the British Festival of Minnesota, hosted by Sir Neville Marriner. As a top prizewinner of the 1986 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the quartet has been heard throughout North America and Europe over the CBC Radio Network. It has appeared on American Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor' and on the nationally broadcast series "Saint Paul Sunday Morning." Other important debuts have included performances in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as a major recital in New York's 92nd Street Y. In 1988 the quartet made an extensive tour of the Far East' which included concerts and teaching in Hong Kong' Taiwan and mainland China.
Highland Dances: Though it contains no actual folk melodies, "Highland Dances" was the first in a series of my works influenced by Scottish music. I wanted to write hummable, singing-in the-shower-type tunes, but my music lacked the simple tunefulness I sought. Capitalizing on my passion for Scottish culture I decided to build a bridge into the melodic realm using elements of Scottish music as building blocks: modal scales, drone accompaniments, dance rhythms, and grace notes. Nevertheless, while introducing traditional concepts of melody I strove to revitalize my formal approach. Thus each movement of "Highland Dances" consists of movable segments positioned by the performer according to certain guidelines rendering form an interpretive element along with dynamics tempo and phrasing.
"Highland Dances" was written for and is dedicated to pianist Alan Johnson.—Michael
M/CHAEL KOSCH (b. 1959) cites contemporary painting sculpture, and dance as strong influences, along with the music of Burt Bacharach and Scottish folk culture. A recipient of fellowships and grants from the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Minnesota Composers Forum, he has been awarded commissions from the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble, the American Dance Festival, the Bach Society of Minnesota, and the University of Illinois Experimental Music Studios. His music has been heard on programs of Dance Theater Workshop New York; MoMing Dance and Arts Center, Chicago and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. ALAN JOHNSON, in addition to giving frequent performances of solo piano music by contemporary composers, specializes as a vocal coach and accompanist in new opera and song. He has been involved with premieres at the Brooklyn Academy Next Wave Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Circle Rep Theater in New York, and the Minnesota Composers Forum. Mr. Johnson currently resides in New York City.