TheHenry Brant Collection, Volume 4
Of course itŐs mainly in the mind. The meteors are chips fromgreat galactic ice blocks of ideas. They come hurtling down from the nebulaewhere theyŐre grown, and on earth they strike human brains and impel processesto action, providing plenty of material for four separated choirs, eachpolyphonically sounding off in a different direction, each announcing itselfraucously in its own dialect and accent, abetted everywhere by multiple,sequestered brass and percussion groups in frictional collisions, both polyrhythmicand polyharmonic.
Allthis on the Great Terrestrial Meteor Farm where Meteor cows give Meteor Milk!
MeteorFarmwas first performed at Wesleyan University in Connecticut on March 6,1982. Performers included theuniversityŐs South-Indian Ensemble, Indonesian Gamelan Group, SymphonyOrchestra, Large Jazz Band, two Percussion Ensembles, West African singers anddrummers, large and small choirs. Each group had its own conductor, all proceeding in independent tempos.
Theidea of an omnibus work designed especially for the full resources, student andfaculty, of a large university Music Department, was that of Neely Bruce,professor of composition at Wesleyan University. Dr. Bruce organized thecomplex schedule and the numerous logistic administrative detailsinvolved. The premiere and thefour subsequent New York performances were all guided by the composer, HenryBrant, who conducted.
— Henry Brant, 2006
Inthe spring of 1979 Henry Brant visited Wesleyan to discuss the logistics of amajor work for chorus and orchestra. As he learned about the resources of our remarkable music department,Mr. Brant decided to design the work for the entire World Music Program [almost200 musicians and singers]. Itscompletion in 1981 made Meteor Farm a natural part of the SesquicentennialCelebration. A special grant fromthe Board of Trustees paid for copying costs, and a portion of thecommissioning fee was generously donated by Meet the Composer, New England.
Thecomposer endeavored in his work to make a musical environment in which thevarious cultures represented maintain their respective integrities. At all times one should be able todistinguish whatever music is being performed; nothing should be submerged inthe mass. In addition to SouthIndian, Indonesian, and African traditions, various Western musics arerepresented, including the synthetic: a gamelan with Western percussioninstruments, made-up languages, a drumming ensemble of timpani and steel drums,etc.
MeteorFarm is inseventeen sections; though each music has its moment, specific combinations arenot repeated. Sometimescoordinated, sometimes not, with extreme contrasts in dynamics, range, and texture,the work unfolds as an image of a culture in which the most diverse elementsremain unassimilated. Anysynthesis beyond pure juxtaposition remains the task of the audience. The final section of the piece includesvarious ŇMeteor Farm SongsÓ, sung by both choruses, with texts adapted from TheEncyclopedia Britannica, Geo Magazine, and Carl Sagan. Little of the text will be perceptible,but all of it concerns meteors. (When asked why the piece is titled Meteor Farm, the composer replied ŇThey haveto grow them someplace.Ó I havesince learned that the Meteor Farm is a Grand Universal Farm, and that the cowsthere give Meteor Milk. Promotional pictures for this event were to include a shot of thecomposer falling through space with a Rototiller, but WesleyanŐs PublicInformation Office was not given sufficient advance notice to arrange thephotography.[see over, Ed.])
Mr.Brant and I would like to thank the following faculty for their unendingsupport and cooperation in Meteor Farm: Abraham Adzenyah, Bill Barron, Bill Lowe,Ranganathan, Roger Solie, Sumarsam, and Dick Winslow. Special thanks go to graduate student Durga and alumnusDavid Nelson for their performance of the South Indian music on short notice. In many ways this composition isjointly the work of all these musicians; their tasks and good judgment havebeen indispensable, and Sumarsam has even contributed his own work to theeveningŐs entertainment, in addition to traditional Javanese pieces. Most of all, we would like to thank JonHiggins, director of the Center for the Arts, for his faith in this project,and assistance in its early stages.
— Neely Bruce, 1982
Conductors: Henry Brant,Principal Guest Conductor, with Neely Bruce and Richard Winslow
Wesleyan University Orchestra
Roger Solie, conductor
Neely Bruce, director
Wesleyan Concert Choir
Richard Winslow, director
Sumarsam with Sukanto
Sastrodarsono, musical directors
South Indian Trio
S.A.K. Durga, voice
David Nelson, mrdangam
David Claman, tambura
West African drumming ensemble
Abraham Adzenyah, master
Wesleyan Big Band
Bill Barron, director
Saxophones with the choir
Susan Kidwell, Daniel Kolbert, altos; LarryDeGarris, tenor
Phyllis Bruce, Laura Cook
Solo soprano (2); Lg Chorus (w/2 alto sax,ten sax), Sm Chorus (w/3 picc/fl); Orch: 3/2/3/2; 4/0/0/0; str Wall Brass: trp(3), trb (3) Perc I: timp, xyl, mar (2 players), steel drums (2), pno Perc II:timp, glsp, vibe, chimes, steel-drums (2), pno Jazz Grp: alto sax (2), ten sax(2), bar sax, trp (3), trb (3), tba; jazz drumset Javanese Gamelan; WestAfrican Drummers; South Indian Trio (3 conductors)
Recorded at Crowell Concert Hall, Center forthe Arts, Wesleyan University, Conn., March 6, 1982.
Engineer: Marc Grafe
Digital transfer: Russ Borud
Mastering: Preston Wright
Special thanks to Henry Brant, KathyWilkowski and Neely Bruce
Meteor Farm is published by CarlFischer Music
Innova is supported by an endowment from theMcKnight Foundation.
Series producer, director, design: PhilipBlackburn
Operations: Chris Campbell
The Henry Brant Collection is supported by a grant from theNational Endowment for the Arts.
Henry Brant is AmericaŐsforemost composer of acoustic spatial music. The planned positioning ofperformers throughout the hall, as well as on stage, is an essential factor inhis composing scheme and a point of departure for a radically expanded rangeand intensity of musical expression. BrantŐs mastery of spatial composingtechnique enables him to write textures of unprecedented polyphonic and/orpolystylistic complexity while providing maximum resonance in the hall andincreased clarity of musical detail for the listener. His catalogue nowcomprises over 100 spatial works.
Recent premieresinclude Tremors, for 4 singers and 16 instrumentalists, commissioned by the GettyResearch Institute, premiered on June 4, 2004, at the Getty Center in LosAngeles. Tremors was repeated in a Green Umbrella concert at LAŐs new Disney Hallon November 1, 2004. Ghosts & Gargoyles, a concerto forflute solo with flute orchestra, for New Music Concerts, Toronto had itspremiere on May 26, 2002. Ice Field, for large orchestral groups and organ, wascommissioned by Other Minds for a December 2001 premiere by the San FranciscoSymphony.
In the mid 1950ŐsBrant felt that Ňsingle-style musicÉcould no longer evoke the new stresses, layeredinsanities, and multi-directional assaults of contemporary life on the spirit.ÓIn keeping with BrantŐs belief that music can be as complex and contradictoryas everyday life, his larger works often employ multiple, contrastingperforming forces, as in Meteor Farm (1982) for symphony orchestra, large jazzband, two choruses, West African drum ensemble and chorus, South Indiansoloists, large Gamelan ensemble, percussion orchestra and two Western solosopranos. BrantŐs spatial experiments have convinced him that space exertsspecific influences on harmony, polyphony, texture and timbre. He regards spaceas musicŐs Ňfourth dimension,Ó (after pitch, time and timbre). Brant continuesto experiment with new combinations of acoustic timbres, even creating entireworks for instrumental family groups of a single timbre: Orbits for 80 trombones, Ghosts& Gargoyles for 9 flutes, and others for multiple trumpets and guitars. Thispredilection for ensembles of a single tone quality dates from Angels andDevils(1932). Brant does not use electronic materials or permit amplification in hismusic.
A member of theAmerican Academy of Arts & Letters, Brant was awarded the 2002 PulitzerPrize in Music for Ice Field (2001). He has received two GuggenheimFellowships and was the first America composer to win the Prix Italia. Amongother honors are Ford Foundation, Fromm Foundation, National Endowment for theArts and Koussevitzky awards and the American Music CenterŐs Letter ofDistinction. The Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel has acquired BrantŐs completearchive of original manuscripts including over 300 works (1998). In conjunctionwith BrantŐs 85th birthday concert, Wesleyan University conferred upon him thehonorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts (1998).
Bornin Montreal of American parents in 1913, Henry Brant began composing at the ageof eight. After moving to New York in 1929, he composed and conducted forradio, film, ballet, and jazz groups. Starting in the late 40s, he taught atColumbia University, Juilliard, and, for 24 years, Bennington College. Since1981, he has made his home in Santa Barbara, California.