1 Gupta Sloka Chand by John Bergamo (14:49)
2-4 Sleep and Waking (3 mvts) by Ben Johnston (3:27 / 4:15 /4:06)
5 The Floating Bubble by Ron George (20:23)
Performers: Ron George (soloist/leader on all tracks);Erik Forrester (all trks; conductor on trks 2-4); David Johnson (trks 1 &5); Amy Knowles(trk 1); Robert Slack (trk 1); John Bergamo (conductor on trk 1); Steven Schmidt, KeithHiggins, Brian Etheridge, Jeremy Reinbolt, and Gabe Kader (trks 2-4).
Ron George (1937-2006), a highlyregarded percussionist, composer, instrument builder, and educator, was born in Escondido, CA,and died in Los Angeles. He studied composition with Robert Erickson andPauline Oliveros, theory with Kenneth Gaburo, and percussion with George Gaberand earned degrees from Indiana University and the University of California,San Diego. He was also an ordained Zen Buddhist priest.
Untiringlycreative, George designed and built many unique percussion instruments,including the Loops Console, the Super Vibe, and the modular Tambellan(pictured in the booklet), developed a variable microtonal tuning system, and created a notation system forboth traditional and his self-designed percussion instruments. As acomposer-performer, George toured nationally and internationally. Hisprofessional performing affiliations were extensive: He was a member of symphony orchestras, including the San Diego andMilwaukee symphonies. He was co-founder and co-director of the MilwaukeeContemporary Chamber Music Ensemble.A featured performer at numerous new music festivals and percussionconferences, many works were writtenspecifically for George and his instruments by such composers as RobertErickson, Dary John Mizelle, Netty Simons, Ben Johnston, and John Bergamo.
A deeply committed educator, George conducted workshopsthroughout the United States and taught at the California Institute of theArts, the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, and the Los Angeles CountyHigh School for the Arts. He also taught his interactive "Creative MusicProgram" to both youths and other educators through the Inner-City Artsorganization in Los Angelesand worked in an interdisciplinary arts program atthe Poseidon School for at-risk students. His joy in imagining, creating, andperformingmusic was a great gift that he brought to his teaching, making a difference inthe lives of countless children. A central figure in the American ComposersForum/LA., George founded the ACF/LA Education Committee and consulted on allof the ACF/LA's community programs involving children.
John Bergamo’s Gupta Sloka Chanda was written for Ron George in 1978. Thepiece is dedicated to Bergamo’s first teacher of North Indian tabla drumming,Mahaparush Misra. There are three movements, “Peshkar,” or introduction,“Khyal,” a lyrical style, and “Jhala,” a fast-paced piece. Scored for fivemallet instruments and one soloist, the vibraphone, xylophone, and marimbaparts are written out, but the soloist is free to chose as many instruments asdesired, and the solo part is entirely improvised. In the Khyal movement, thevibraphonists use bows, as specified by the composer.
Though not indicated in thescore, Gupta Sloka Chanda was intended to permit Ron to use theConsole, a multiple percussion device that he invented. —JB
John Bergamo discovered the classical music of NorthIndia before graduating from the Manhattan School of Music. Much of his workfor the last 40 years shows the influence of the styles and techniques of thatmusic, both during his years as founder of the Percussion Department at theCalifornia Institute of the Arts’ School of Music, and his participation insuch groups as the Repercussion Unit, Bracha, and the HandsOnsemble.
While many ofBergamo’s compositions were intended for performance during his 35 years atCalArts, or for one of the ensembles he co-founded with friends, colleagues andstudents at that institute, some, like Gupta Sloka Chanda, have grown fromother friendships, such as his long association with Ron George.
Ben Johnston’s Sleep and Waking: “Ron and I agreed that this would be an improvisation in which eachcontrolled only certain elements. I would control the pitch content. He wouldcontrol every other element. I asked what idiom he preferred and he suggestedthe gamelan since I was interested in pitched percussion. He made theinstruments as we went along. We divided them—pitched and unpitched. He allowed me to play them, saying, ‘Itwill sound like this, only controlled in pitch.’ The title comes from a statement by the Greek mystic G. I.Gurdjieff: ‘If you begin to think about it, you will see that, whatever you do,you will do it better when you are awake than when you are asleep.’” —BJ
BenJohnston,described by Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed as “our gentlest persuader ... a composer able to make both radicalthinking and avant-garde techniques sound invariably gracious,” was born in 1926 in Macon, Georgia. He attended theCollege of William and Mary and Cincinnati Conservatory, later studying withHarry Partch, Darius Milhaud, and John Cage. Johnston taught composition andtheory at the University of Illinois from 1951 to 1983. His works include Quintet for Groups, Sonnets ofDesolation, Carmilla, Sonata for Microtonal Piano, andSuite for Microtonal Piano,and ten string quartets to date. All ten quartets will soon be released in aseries of three recordings by the Kepler Quartet (New World Recordings). Hisawards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a grant from the National Council onthe Arts and the Humanities, and two commissions from the SmithsonianInstitute. In 2006, Johnston moved to Wisconsin in order to better care for hiswife, Betty Hall Johnston, who was seriously ill, and to continue his work withthe Kepler Quartet. He is a member of ASCAP.
RonGeorge’s The Floating Bubble (1995) is the first work composed for the Tambellan,his unique American gamelan. Scored for a Tambellan ensemble of sevenpercussionists, and a soloist (George), the work is based on a very slowlyevolving rhythmic/timbral structure that culminates in a loud climax. Followingthis climax is a short solo, which allows improvisation, and a section playedon bamboo keyboards. Then the slowly evolving rhythmic/timbral structurereturns and continues to the end of the work.
The Floating Bubble is a process piece where only a very basicrhythmic structure is given. The composer simply demonstrates for theperformers what is to be played in each section. It is not possible to play awrong note as the microtonal scale used is a homogenous one. Every note is partof the timbral/harmonic structure of the work. For the performers, the mostdifficult aspect of the piece is learning where to go within the Tambellanensemble and what to play when you get there. —RG
CD produced by RonGeorge, Judy Liggett, Scott Fraser, and Jim Fox
Recordedby Scott Fraser, Architecture, Los Angeles, CA; California Institute of theArts, Santa Clarita, CA; and Ron George’s studio, Los Angeles, CA .
Sleepand Waking © Smith Publications; score available from the publisher.
GuptaSloka Chand © John Bergamo. The Floating Bubble © Ron George.
Fundingfor this CD was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, The AaronCopland Fund for Music, Scott Fraser, and Jim Fox.
CDp 2008 innovaRecordings. innova is supported bythe McKnight Foundation.
PhilipBlackburn: Director. Chris Campbell: Operations Manager. www.innova.mu