If Tigers Were Clouds

Eight decades of women in experimental music








1.    Mildred Couper (1887-1974)

Xanadu 6:44


2.    Annie Gosfield (b. 1960)

Five Will Get You Seven 13:40

3.    Pauline Oliveros (b. 1932)

Sound Fishes 8:34

4.    Eleanor Hovda (b. 1940)

If Tigers were Clouds... then reverberating, they would create all songs 15:27

5.    Beth Custer (b. 1958)

Swim! (from Vinculum Symphony Twin Cities) 4:43

6. Hymn #1 (for Bertha), an improvisation on the Arthur Ferris instruments 3:52

7. Yoko Ono (b. 1933)

Pieces for Orchestra 2:57


CD Extra (Place in computer for extra tracks and detailed booklet)

1.    Mildred Couper

Dirge 7:11


2.    Ironia: an improvisation on the Arthur Ferris instruments 10:51


Johanna M. Beyer (1888-1944)

Suite No. 2 for Bb Clarinet

3. I – Giocoso 1:19

4. II – Lamentation 4:14

5. III – Contrast 1:53

6. IV – Accelerando 1:53


All works are first recordings.

Zeitgeist is Heather Barringer and Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds; Anatoly Larkin, piano; and Yuri Merzhevsky, violin. Special guests: Pauline Oliveros, Beth Custer, and many more.


1. Mildred Couper (1887-1974)

Xanadu (1930) for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. Microtonal ballet music for the Chinese-themed play Marco Millions by Eugene O’Neill.

Anatoly Larkin (right channel) and Carl Witt (left channel), pianos. Produced by Philip Blackburn. Recorded at Sundin Hall, Hamline University, St. Paul, 1.8.03


2.    Annie Gosfield (b. 1960)

Five Will Get You Seven (2001)

Heather Barringer and Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, bass clarinet. Commissioned for Zeitgeist by Headwaters Music for the Festival Dancing in Your Head, with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.  Recorded at the Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, 1.6.03

3.    Pauline Oliveros (b. 1932)

Sound Fishes (1992)

A Deep Listening group improvisation

Performed by Zeitgeist (Carl Witt, piano) with Pauline Oliveros, microtonal accordion. Recorded live at the Southern Theater, Minneapolis, 3.11.01. Fred Opie, Sound Engineer

4.    Eleanor Hovda (b. 1940)

If Tigers were Clouds... then reverberating, they would create all songs (1993)

Heather Barringer, Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, clarinets; Anatoly Larkin, piano.  Commissioned by Zeitgeist for the Music in Motion project, administered by Meet the Composer. Recorded at Sundin Hall, Hamline University, St. Paul, 1.8.03

5.    Beth Custer (b. 1958)

Swim! (from Vinculum Symphony Twin Cities) (2002)

Song and improv featuring newly-invented acoustical, mechanical, automotive, and unusual sound sculptures and instruments.

Performed by Zeitgeist and Beth Custer (clarinet, voice) with instrument builders Norman Andersen, Philip Blackburn, Celeste Cinnabar, Mike Croswell, Bob Fyfe, David Means, Jack Pavlik, Kris Peck, Steve Sandberg, and Dixie Treichel.

Created through the McKnight Visiting Composer Residency administered by the American Composers Forum.  Recorded live at the Southern Theater, Minneapolis, 9.20.02 Cody Anderson, Sound Engineer. 

6. Hymn #1 (for Bertha), an improvisation on the Arthur Ferris instruments (1872-after 1943) (2003)

Yuri Merzhevsky, Violinetta with Michelle Kinney, Mother Lap Cello Harp; Chris Cunningham, Bridal Lap Harp; Philip Blackburn, Whispering Harp.  Recorded at Cunningham Studio, 1.10.03

7. Yoko Ono (b. 1933): Pieces for Orchestra (1962)

Realization of a Fluxus event score.

Zeitgeist with Philip Blackburn.  Event scores published in Grapefruit © 1964 Yoko Ono (NY, 1970, Simon and Schuster)


CD Extra

1. Mildred Couper

Dirge (1937) 7:11

for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. Anatoly Larkin (right channel) and Carl Witt (left channel), pianos. Produced by Philip Blackburn. Recorded at Sundin Hall, Hamline University, St. Paul, 1.8.03


2. Ironia: an improvisation on the Arthur Ferris instruments (2003) 10:51

Yuri Merzhevsky, Violinetta with Michelle Kinney, Mother Lap Cello Harp; Chris Cunningham, Bridal Lap Harp; Philip Blackburn, Whispering Harp.  Recorded at Cunningham Studio, 1.10.03


Johanna M. Beyer (1888-1944)

Suite No. 2 for Bb Clarinet (1932)

3. I – Giocoso 1:19

4. II – Lamentation 4:14

5. III – Contrast 1:53

6. IV – Accelerando 1:53



The American experimental tradition in music has had repercussions all over the world. Rugged individualists, pioneers, iconoclasts that have forged their own paths, come what may. Billings, Ives, Cowell, Partch, Cage, and Nancarrow are some of the usual suspects. But what about the women? Was it really only Ruth Crawford who stepped out of the kitchen for a while?


If Tigers were Clouds… scratches the surface of that crock. Here are women who have been there all along — “Mavericas” as we have dubbed them — doing their own thing, sometimes right under men’s noses, always overshadowed. Zeitgeist knows about them; please tell your friends.




Bruce Carlson, Greta Couper, Chris Cunningham, J. Michele Edwards, Elissa Greenheart, Chris Heagle, Jon Hendricks, Georgia Lauritzen, Brad Matala, Molly Paccione, Larry Polansky, David Seubert, Dick Sorenson, David Stam, Holly Windle, Preston Wright

Photos: Norman Anderson, Philip Blackburn, Lenono Archive, Jack Pavlik, Schwabe, Dixie Treichel,

Mildred Couper papers, PA Mss 45, Department of Special

Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa


Many thanks to our funders: The Schubert Club of Minnesota, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Yvar Mikhashoff Fund for Music, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Producer: Roger Kleier

Engineer: Chris Heagle

Mastering: Bob deMaa

Executive Producer, design: Philip Blackburn

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

NEA logo

Full program details, bios, photos, and notes, with an essay by J. Michele Edwards are found at http://innova.mu or by placing this CD-ROM in your computer and opening the NOTES.PDF file with Acrobat Reader.


Three further works are also found on the CD-ROM. Open the MP3 files with any .MP3 player such as Windows Media Player, Real Player, Itunes, or Quicktime.



Mildred Couper (1887-1974), American composer and pianist, was, along with Charles Ives, one of the first musicians to experiment with quarter-tone music. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina; educated in Italy, France (where she was a student of the young Harmony teacher at the Conservetoire, Nadia Boulanger), and Germany; married to American expatriate artist Richard Hamilton Couper; she spent her early married life in Rome, Italy. At the outbreak of World War One she and her family fled to New York City. Her artist husband, Richard Couper, died of the ‘flu in 1918, leaving her with two young children. In New York she taught piano for nine years at the newly-founded David Mannes Music School (where fellow composer Johanna Beyer was a student). She moved to California in 1927 and established a studio in Santa Barbara where she started her quarter-tone experiments, the first work in this medium being a ballet, "Xanadu," (1930). She was a friend of composers Igor Stravinsky, Henry Cowell, and Harry Partch, who dubbed her the “Fairy Godmother of his Chromatic Organ.”


“The Drama Branch of the [Santa Barbara] Community Arts Association, under the direction of Irving Pichel, produced a series of plays at the Lobero Theatre, with casts selected from a wide range of social groups. For example, you might find a milkman, a plumber, a musician, an artist, and a member of a prominent family putting on a successful production together. When Pichel decided to produce Eugene O’Neill’s "Marco Millions" he asked me to compose the music. Having heard some quarter-tone music in a New York recital [in 1925 Hans Barth and Sigmund Klein premiered two of Charles Ives’s Three Quarter-Tone Pieces at Aeolian Hall, and in 1924 Dr. Montz Stoehr of New York built a single piano capable of playing quarter tones], I decided that this system would be appropriate for the Oriental setting of the play. [Produced April 24-26, 1930, at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, with stage murals painted by Scottish-Argentine artist Malcolm Thurburn].


“Let me explain how I produced quarter-tone music; the smallest interval on the piano is a half-tone. There are 12 half-tones within the octave; in order to get 24 quarter-tones I used two pianos and had the tuner raise the second piano by a quarter-tone, so that a chromatic scale played alternately, note by note, from one piano to the other produced the ultra-chromatic scale. "Marco Millions" went over with a bang and I received expressions of appreciation from many sources for the music. This encouraged me to write more music in this medium. My "Dirge" for two pianos, tuned a quarter-tone apart, was published by Henry Cowell in the New Music Magazine in 1937 and has received many performances both in the U.S. and Europe. [A manuscript version of Dirge exists, also from 1937, for violin and piano.]


“In 1951 I was asked to play my quarter-tone music in one of the "Evenings on the Roof" concerts in Los Angeles, devoted to music by California composers. Ingolf Dahl and I played my Dirge and a new work, Rumba. When I lived on Orena Street I had three pianos in my music studio. The third piano was a small upright which was placed at right angles to my Steinway and tuned a quarter-tone higher, so that I was able to experiment in this medium with a hand on each keyboard.”

— Mildred Couper, Santa Barbara, CA, 1970.



i. Largo

ii. Andante

iii. Scherzando

iv. Allegro

v. Allegro Agitato


Couper’s score for Xanadu includes names of percussion instruments (side drum, cymbals, Chinese gongs, and wood blocks) for use as incidental music during the play. These were evidently used during the several processions and dockyard scenes. The two-piano music is notated and called a “ballet,” presumably as an overture or entr’acte for costumed dancers (there being no call for a ballet during the action of the play).


While the music may not be overtly programmatic, it may relate loosely to the Samuel Taylor Coleridge opium-inspired poem of the same name:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree…the sacred river ran…a savage place!…woman wailing for her demon-lover…a mighty fountain… these dancing rocks…meandering with a mazy motion…ancestral voices prophesying war!”


Musically one can see traces of Stravinsky’s Russian folk melodies as found in Pulcinella or Les Noces, pentatonic lines surrounded by dense clusters (as often found in Henry Cowell’s piano music of the time), the muddy dissonance of parts of Charles Ives’s Three Quarter Tone Pieces, and perhaps even some of George Antheil’s Futuristic motor rhythms as found in his Ballet Mécanique (which she may have seen in New York in 1926). In this first of her quarter-tone works she favors the use of both pianos at the same time, creating dissonant clouds of sound, rather than the alternating, melodically tortuous ultra-chromaticism as found in the Dirge a few years later.


Xanadu was subsequently performed on May 15, 1932 at the YWCA in San Francisco, by the composer and Malcolm Thurburn, at one of Henry Cowell’s New Music Society concerts. The work was rather overshadowed by the other event of the program, the demonstration of his and Leon Theremin’s Rhythmicon, an instrument designed to extend the pitch ratios of the overtone series to durational cycles too.


< http://www.geocities.com/sanbarart/couper-m/>



Annie Gosfield is a New York-based composer. She divides her time between composing for chamber ensembles and performing with her own group. Her music combines traditional and non-traditional techniques, and is often inspired by unorthodox and non-musical sources. She has led ensembles performing her work at Lincoln Center as part of the yearly Bang on a Can Festival; Warsaw Autumn; Festival Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada; the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; the Taktlos Festival in Zurich and Basel; New Music Marathon in Prague; Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland; and three of the Knitting Factory’s “Radical New Jewish Culture” festivals curated by John Zorn. Ms. Gosfield studied piano with French jazz pianist Bernard Peiffer and Horowitz student Alexander Fiorillo, and studied composition at North Texas State University and the University of Southern California.


Annie’s Tzadik CD “Flying Sparks and Heavy Machinery”, features music inspired by factory sounds, including EWA7, performed by her own ensemble, and Flying Sparks and Heavy Machinery, performed by The Flux Quartet and Talujon Percussion Quartet. She received the Siemens Kultur Programm’s “Artists on Site” award to create EWA7, a work that combines music and industry, during a six-week residency in the factories of Nuremberg (1999), subsequently performed at Warsaw Autumn, Tampere Jazz Happening, Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Flying Sparks and Heavy Machinery ,an industrial-inspired double quartet for strings and percussion, was originally commissioned for the Other Minds Festival (San Francisco, 2000), and has been performed at Warsaw Autumn. Recent commissions include new works for The Miami String Quartet (as composer in residence at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival), a piece for cello and recorded machine sounds for ex-Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud; Five Will Get You Seven, premiered at the Walker Art Center by Zeitgeist (Minneapolis); Cranks and Cactus Needles commissioned by the Swedish chamber ensemble “Pearls Before Swine” and premiered at the ISCM World Music Days, Luxembourg; and a nonet for Present Music (Milwaukee). She continues to collaborate with guitarist Roger Kleier, and leads her own ensemble, performing her work on piano and sampling keyboards worldwide. Her first Tzadik CD “Burnt Ivory and Loose Wires,” features music for altered and detuned piano, performed by Gosfield, her ensemble, and the Rova Saxophone Quartet.


Ms. Gosfield’s piece The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory was recorded by the Bang on a Can AllStars for their Sony Classical CD “Cheating, Lying, Stealing”, premiered at Lincoln Center in New York, and performed at Wien Modern, The Israel Festival, The Adelaide Festival, Warsaw Autumn, Settembre Musica, and throughout the world (1995-2001). Her own performance of The Manufacture... received honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica 97. Performances also include a piece for the Harry Partch instruments premiered at Music at the Anthology (2000), In Rides the Dust was premiered by Agon Orchestra at the New Music Marathon in Prague (1996), also performed by Bang on a Can’s “Spit Orchestra” at the Kitchen, New York (1997). Lost Night, a work for chamber orchestra and sampler, was premiered by the Crosstown Ensemble (New York, 1995), and performed by the West Australia Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Ensemble conducted by Roger Smalley (2000). Brooklyn, October 5, 1941, for piano and baseballs, was composed in honor of the centenary of the five boroughs of New York, premiered at Lincoln Center in 1997, and performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and South Africa and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Shoot the Player Piano, Annie’s video work for an imaginary orchestra of aged mechanical instruments, was commissioned by The American Composers Forum (1999) and has been shown at international film festivals in England, Slovenia, and throughout the U.S.


Gosfield has performed and/or collaborated with Ikue Mori, John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Derek Bailey, Scanner, Rova Sax Quartet, David Moss, Marc Ribot, Davey Williams, and her partner Roger Kleier. Her music has been used by many dance companies worldwide, including Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, the Milwaukee Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, and Finland’s Gruppen Fyra.


Five Will Get You Seven was written for Zeitgeist, developed with the ensemble, and conceived with the group’s individual strengths and personalities in mind. Pat O’Keefe and I worked together delving deep into the realms of bass clarinet multiphonics, non-traditional fingerings, and microtonal bends. Heather Barringer told me a story about beating on pieces of metal in her backyard as a child (home-made percussion care of her metalworker father) which inspired me to incorporate assorted metal percussion into her part and her improvised solo. Patti Cudd provides the percussive engine that supports the metal and multiphonics, driving on through the din and clamor. The title, Five Will Get You Seven, refers to the extended sections of five (quintuplets on the tom toms) against seven (septuplets on the snare), and a gambler’s notion of a wager well placed. The bet’s not a long shot: Zeitgeist has made this work their own and created something more than the mere notes on paper that I wrote for them. Special thanks to the musicians, the Jerome Foundation, and Anthony Gatto for making this project happen.

                                                                                                            —Annie Gosfield

< http://www.otherminds.org/shtml/Gosfield.shtml>


Pauline Oliveros, composer, performer and humanitarian is an important pioneer in American Music. Acclaimed internationally, for four decades she has explored sound -- forging new ground for herself and others. Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation she has created a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly effects those who experience it and eludes many who try to write about it.


"On some level, music, sound consciousness and religion are all one,

and she would seem to be very close to that level."

John Rockwell


Oliveros has been honored with awards, grants and concerts internationally. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in an underground cavern, or in the studios of West German Radio, Oliveros' commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged. She can make the sound of a sweeping siren into another instrument of the ensemble. Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational skills, which are the hallmarks of Oliveros' form. In performance Oliveros uses an accordion which has been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation in addition to electronics to alter the sound of the accordion and to explore the individual characteristics of each room.


Pauline Oliveros has built a loyal following through her concerts, recordings, publications and musical compositions that she has written for soloists and ensembles in music, dance, theater and interarts companies. She has also provided leadership within the music community from her early years as the first Director of the Center for Contemporary Music (formerly the Tape Music Center at Mills), director of the Center for Music Experiment during her 14 year tenure as professor of music at the University of California at San Diego to acting in an advisory capacity for organizations such as The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council for the Arts, and many private foundations. Oliveros has been vocal about representing the needs of individual artists, about the need for diversity and experimentation in the arts, and promoting cooperation and good will among people.

Sound Fishes (1992)

Listening is the basis of sound fishing.

Listening for what has not yet sounded - like a fisherman waiting for a nibble or a bite.

Pull the sound out of the air like a fisherman catching a fish, sensing its size and energy - when you hear the sound play it.

Move to another location if there are no nibbles or bites.

There are sounds in the air like fishes in the water.

When the water is clear you might see the fish.

When the air is clear you might hear the sounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                —Pauline Oliveros


Pauline Oliveros on “Deep Listening”

Deep Listening is a practice that I have created and taught over many years of exploration and discovery. For me sound and music are never-ending sources of fascination and of connection with the world around me and inside of me. I hear sound and music with my inner ear as well as my outer ear. Listening is the heart of my profession as a musician and composer. Listening connects me with the vital spirit of being. The poems, scores and writings of my students confirm this to me.


Hearing is an involuntary physical act that happens through our primary sense organ when sound waves impinge upon the ear. Everyone with healthy ears can hear. Listening takes cultivation and evolves through one's lifetime.


Listening is noticing and directing attention and interpreting what is heard. Deep Listening is exploring the relationship among any and all sounds. Hearing is passive. We can hear without listening. This is the state of being tuned out - unaware of our acoustic ecology - unaware that the fluttering of a butterfly's wings has profound effect near and in the far reaches of the universe. We can hear sounds inwardly from memory or imagination or outwardly from nature, or from civilization. Listening is actively directing one's attention to what is heard p noticing and directing the interaction and relationships of sounds and modes of attention. We hear in order to listen. We listen in order to interpret ourselves and out world and to experience meaning.


For me, Deep Listening is a lifetime practice. The more I listen the more I learn to listen. Deep Listening involves going below the surface of what is heard and also expanding to the whole field of sound whatever one's usual focus might be. Such forms of listening are essential to the process of unlocking layer after layer of imagination, meaning, and memory down to the cellular level of human experience. Listening is the key to performance. Responses, whatever the discipline, that originate from Deep Listening are connected in resonance with being and inform the artist, art and audience in an effortless harmony.


"Babies are the best Deep Listeners."

Deep Listening™ is a registered trademark and a program of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation, Inc.



Duluth-born, New York-based Eleanor Hovda studied composition with Mel Powell, Kenneth Gaburo, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and dance with Bessie Schonberg, Erick Hawkins, and Merce Cunningham. She holds an a B.A. from the American University and an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and has pursued additional studies at Yale and the University of Illinois. She has taught at institutions including Princeton, Wesleyan, Sarah Lawrence, and the American Dance Festival, and has also served as Executive Director of the Arrowhead (Minnesota) Regional Arts Council and Composer Liaison at the Minnesota Composers Forum. Her music has been performed by such noted ensembles as the Kronos Quartet and the St. Louis Symphony, and has been heard in London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and throughout the U.S.


If Tigers were Clouds... then reverberating, they would create all songs was developed in collaboration with Zeitgeist during a Music in Motion Residency based at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. We met for two separate week-long sessions (in September and December, 1993) and during that time I was able to work with Zeitgeist in a process similar to that of a choreographer making a dance “on” a specific group of dancers. This process allowed us to make a piece that is what it is because [Zeitgeist] and I spent many hours together working, talking, eating, and playing during those times.


The title is a thought arrived at in a collaborative instant with composer David Gilbert at least 25 years ago. It suddenly came back to me as I was scoring this piece for Zeitgeist. This piece is very much about reverberation, resonances, and the sonic energy of pitches and their overtones. Tigers and clouds suggest strength, mystery, elusiveness, and can evoke magical imaginary worlds in children and adults.


                                                                                                — Eleanor Hovda


Beth Custer is a San Francisco based composer, performer, bandleader, clarinet teacher, and the proprietress of BC Records. She is a founding member of the notorious silent film soundtrack purveyors the Club Foot Orchestra, 4th world ambient ensemble Trance Mission, the quintet of esteemed clarinetists Clarinet Thing, the trip-hop duo Eighty Mile Beach, the Latin-jazz-rock influenced Doña Luz 30 Besos and she now leads The Beth Custer Ensemble. Beth has composed for the dance/theatre troupe the Joe

Goode Performance Group for over 10 years. And has composed for a season of CBS/Film Roman's cartoon "The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat" and for numerous public television, independent film and theatre productions. As a free-lance clarinetist, Beth has performed with Fred Frith, Amy Denio, Chris Cutler, Ralph Carney, Connie Champagne, Will Bernard, Jin Hi Kim, Miya Masaoka, Grassy Knoll, Violent Femmes, the late Snakefinger and many others. Beth is one of four recipients of the prestigious 2002 Meet The Composer Residency Grants.



Swim! was written for Zeitgeist during our collaboration on 'Vinculum

Symphony Twin Cities'. Vinculum Symphony is a large-scale, multi-movement,

evening length work that brings together chamber musicians with experimental

instrument builders, people who invent and perform on their own creations.

Vinculum uses musicians and inventors from the city or town it is performed

in and evolves and mutates to reflect that city. During my McKnight Composer

Residency in the Twin Cities, I spent some time gazing at and wandering

around the Mississippi River. I got alot of ideas for new pieces while

bicycling alongside her to Zeitgeists' studio. I have a great love of water,

and truly wish we could swim to get there!

                                                                                                            —Beth Custer


The following visual artists/instrument inventors/musicians performed with Zeitgeist on Swim using the listed instruments: Norman Andersen (The Dish, Vulcanusmobile, Flexichord), Philip Blackburn (3D glock, beat gongs, petrified xylophone, corn stalk fiddle, dan bau, walrus dickbone, two-man flute), Celeste Cinnabar (bicycle and saw), Mike Croswell (PVC pipes, didjeridu, snake charmer, theremin), Bob Fyfe (washtub bass, water drum, silicaphone, noneke), David Means (Foam core drum, vocals), Jack Pavlik (Sound Sculpture), Kris Peck (microtonal guitars and tubulong), Steve Sandberg (Funnel Clarinets, Serpent Sousaphone, Light Sword Trombone, Found Object Idiophone, oil-o-lin), and Dixie Treichel (glassrimba, 2X2 xylo, canophone, wind horn with attachments, horizontal moon guitar, whirly, miscellaneous percussion)


Arthur and Bertha Ferris

The visionary musical instruments of Arthur Kirk Ferris (b. 1871, Madison, Wisc., d. after 1943, New Jersey) represent one of the most extraordinary chapters of creative instrument building in America. In creative partnership with his wife of over four decades, Bertha Bell Hallock (b. 1870, d. after 1943), the Ferrises together devoted their lives to Christian ideals (of the Seventh Day Adventist variety) and to using music to spread the Word. The couple had no children, arguably a natural consequence of Arthur’s advocacy for immaculate conception.


Bertha was not a composer; she was the chief performer in his ensembles and provided her original contribution during ensemble improvisations. While hymns such as “Rock of Ages” and “Abide with Me” were played by members of the Ferris Celestial Orchestra, they also played “tunes of heavenly inspiration;” a practice followed in this recording. Ferris’s music was played on a New York radio station, featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not show, and written up in Popular Science in 1938. This is the first time they have been played in over 60 years.


Although none of his written compositions survives, the Ferris spirit is amply contained in the twenty or more string instruments made in the 1920s and ‘30s, a dozen of which are found in the Schubert Club Kugler Collection in Minnesota. Awakening the instruments’ dormant daimons took some clambering around the storage warehouse, dusting, tensioning strings, perpetual retuning, and spiritual preparation (to compensate for our lack of true “Biblical character” so important to Arthur). Yet the other-worldly sonorities and exquisite craftsmanship inspired a sense of awe and devotion, whether or not we succeeded in projecting the particular homilies inscribed inside the soundboards.


Ferris’s Big Fiddle (1924) is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest viol in the world, coming in at over 14 feet tall by 6 feet wide. The lowest tones are inaudible to the human ear (at two octaves lower than the lowest piano tones, the vibrations could only be felt when played inside a barn which acted as a giant resonator). But then humans were not the only audience for his work:


It began at 3 o’clock of an afternoon in 1924. Arthur sat by the window of the farm in Ironia (NJ). There was a mist in the field outside, but as Arthur gazed, it lifted and instead of the usual rocks and grass hummocks his eyes fell upon the strangest sight he had ever seen. Hundreds of harps and fiddles of all sizes lay on the green grass.


“Then,” Arthur’s wife recounts, “a voice spoke to him. ‘I’m Gabriel,’ it said, ‘you write this vision and make it plain that people may run and read it. You make these instruments and show these people that the word of God is true.’”


The “voice” told Arthur how to make the instruments… Arthur’s wife says he is “careful about doing what he is told by the unseen.” [The Sunday Call, Newark, NJ, July 7, 1940]


He spent the next 16 months in the Hudson River State Hospital for the mentally ill (apparently committed there after a spat with a fellow Seventh Day Adventist), and from that time on wrote down his dream visions, often between midnight and 7 am. Some were varnish formulas, some were about the future destruction of New York, a greenhouse design, or a beehive-handling machine, or the necessity of Seventh Day Adventists to dress plainly. Yet others concerned instrument design.


The angels communicated plans for 126 string instruments, many of them hybrids between the violin and the harp families, presumably common in the orchestras of heaven. Being a landscape gardener and holder of a varnish patent (was it the sniffing of varnish that led to his visions?), Ferris was familiar with the characteristics of many local trees and the qualities of their wood. Each instrument uses a combination of woods, chosen as much for the Biblical virtues they represent as for their resonating, visual and structural potential. Each instrument of his Celestial Orchestra was also intended for a particular purpose; they were to play only sacred music (although one was permitted to be played for filthy lucre): one was given to a woman who lived a 100% Christian life for one year before and after marriage, and all had their insides densely inscribed with texts (concerning the visions, the materials used, and the truths that would be manifested by playing the instrument well). Names of the instruments included: Horn of Plenty Harp, Thribble Bass, Liberty Harp, David Loot Harp, Giant Loot Harp, Obedience Harp, Prophetic Loot Harp, Baretone, and Suitcase Viol.


Four instruments are heard here: Violinetta, Mother Lap Cello Harp, Bridal Lap Harp, and Whispering Harp.


Oct. 2, 1930

The Violinetta, an instrument of ten strings. Ps 33:2,3; 92:1-5; 144:9,10, Ex.20:2-14 (Jewish). “He saveth from the sword of their mouth.” “He will deliver thee in six troubles.” ‘Thou shalt know also that thy deed shall be great and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.” Job 5:15-25 (Jewish Bible)


To be written and quoted and referred to in the Violinetta. It is No. 4 and to-day is Oct 4, 1930. And this date shall be in the instrument. The manuscript of Nov 9, 1929 is to be inserted and the article copied on ordinary common wrapping paper and presented to Loretta the first time she is permitted to play on it. She may keep this work of the Spirit of God. But the instrument is not given to her only she can play it if she wins out she will win it [Ferris devised a points system to encourage performers to practice his instruments]. Its price is not less than 300.00 as none of the angel instruments are to be valued less than $300.00.


McRoberts’ estate, Nov. 21, 1931, 5:45 am

Dear Bro and Sister Hood,

            On Nov. 24 I will complete collecting the materials for the first mother lap cello, which will all be made of native or American woods, stained where necessary to add grace and beauty. Though it will not be as beautiful as the natural wood instruments, yet it will be the most beautiful and lovely tone of all. So these natives are just as good as anything you can import; but we say, “hills are green that are far off.” If you will believe the Word of God, You will prove that the Calebs, Joshuas, Esthers, Miriams, Deborahs, were not all found in Ancient Israel. This instrument will be some smaller than a regular cello, but of such a size that can be held nicely in the lap; and will always be played in the lap one way. If you will lay aside your inborn dispositions and cultivate the little graces and attentions that you loved before you were married, and will follow the instruction given in the Bible and Testimonies, you can make music in your home that will be enjoyed by many of earth, and cause angels to rejoice. Your aim will then be higher and higher as these lines ascend; and so it will be with the instrument; it will be better and better appreciated the more it is played, until we play the harps of Gold in our Heavenly father’s presence, and your family all be united then; and those you have helped to save- and those of your own will help offer praises to our Heavenly Father. This is No. 9 instrument, 12 pattern, and will have 24 strings, 12 kinds of wood will be used, all native of the U.S.A. Nation shall rise against nation, and the bleeding hearts in the bridge will be started by a piece of Japanese Bamboo, but it will all work together for good to you all. Amen.


Nov. 23, 1931, 6:15 am

Details of construction

The following woods, in their respective places. Bridge—Tree of Heaven Wood, heart—Maple burl, cut in two so as to appear like two hearts, and to represent the mothers’ hearts bleeding by the blue beach (horn beam) dagger run into the hilt by the hand of Satan. Blood-stain— poke berry juice; also blood drops, 3 in number, representing the heart of God, bleeding by the action of ungodly husbands through lack of knowledge. Heaven will not be stained by the ungodly acts of earth.


Like Mary, who represented the right way conception will take place only by controlled, consecrated, and Bible-informed “overcomers of every wrong word and action.” Japanese bamboo pins in bridge-feet. Top— Sassafras; neck apple (?). Finger-board — Black wall-nut (boiled to make blacker); Pegs— dog-wood boiled in poke berry juice. Sides — blushing cedar and peperage. Back— poison shumack. Tail-pin— Locust, also tail-piece and gut-rest; and 4 pegs for large head.


Written on back of lap-harp

              The precious pearls of truth contained in the Scriptures can be discerned only by the eye of faith. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God… Any bride who is led by the Holy Spirit… and will prove it so…, can play this lap-harp. There is not one marriage in 100 in which God has anything to do… The living oracles are heard by wondering ears and the consciences of men are aroused into action.


The Whispering Harp was made for Bertha’s 60th birthday. It was originally known as the Prophetic Loot Harp and described by Arthur:


Feb. 15, 1929, 6-10 a.m.

The Prophetic Loot Harp shall be made of tulip, cedar, maple, thuya, ebony, and spruce woods and brass & iron; and every detail of it shall represent truths that are in the Bible concerning the 144,000 Prophetesses and Prophets. It will represent all the musical and convenience of its name. It will be displayed at Mr. Wurlitzer’s Music House and will have 53 strings; 45 in the harp part and 8 on the two fingerboards. The two combined boards will be 28 x 48 inches, but the instrument will be some smaller just as a person who is a true prophet is much smaller after he or she has been persecuted and harassed by Satan and those who are his agents.


Jan. 4, 1930, 3:00 p.m.

This will be the proof that this is the truth that has just been written. Every harp player that you let play on this harp during 1930 will admit that ‘this is the sweetest and most beautiful toned harp they have ever seen’ and you will take their testimony by their signing their name to this statement as they each play it.


In addition to the f-holes there are two “Eyes of God” and the varnish is an unusual yellow. When asked whether he liked the color Ferris replied, “I neither like nor dislike it. I simply followed instructions.” One divinely-delivered Violin varnish formula goes:


1oz Zanzibar Balsam of tolu

1oz Pine tree 1oz of Turpentine

1oz of acetone of Birds eye maple

Above and below scrape thin as deemed necessary 1/8 at edge is just right and graduate to 3/8 at center. The base bar is just right the back left as above but the top a little thinner in center to start with should weigh when finished 7oz complete. Heat 1 degree at a time then soak lining and veneer with the thinnest 1/16 Birds eye use baked lining and coat with Bull hide glue. Bake the balsam lining of tulu til cream 212ºF brown then boil in glue then glue up and make formed sides grain up violin as before.


Hollow out the fingerboard and neck til they are a shell get 3/4 size neck at Carl Fishers fingerboard 1/8" thick in center body extra large 1" wider at rear than Strad front 3/8" wider length 1" longer line inside edge and dig out reduce to 3/4 size pegs ladies viola mans size the size of Baritone violin neck and finger Board then finger board to 1 1/2 octave Limit on both be careful here Do not get to this part thinner Than mine where possible And glue 6 times to 1 time Heat to 200 for 7 days then Varnish 2 coats but reduce the Formula. Valuable do not Destroy. Bertha lovingly Arthur. Dec 25


How to Make the First Harp Strings

Take the substance represented by Judges 7:7 [water] and Isa. 33:22-24 and cover it with a substance you make a dress for a woman of and previously prepare the coating of the substance represented by the statement that “We shall be called to do service for Christ in ways that will not be in harmony with inborn inclination.” Then add an equal amount of the substance represented by Canticles 6:6 [the bark of the pomegranate]. The woman who represents the size must be in character represented by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and nothing. Then there must be represented what is left of the cow after she was struck by lightning, undressed and salted with salt. And the baptism in water. Then true up perfectly, and polish after applying the Spirit of ‘she lacks something.’

Amen. Given 3:30 a.m. July 23, 1932. A.K.Ferris



Yoko Ono (b. 1933) grew up in a well-to-do Tokyo banking family and became the first female philosophy student at Gakushuin University (Peers’ School). Disillusioned with her studies she moved to New York and attended Sarah Lawrence College where she fell in with the arts community and went to live in downtown Manhattan. She rented a 5th story loft at 112 Chambers Street where she and composer La Monte Young started a series of performance events featuring artists such as Richard Maxfield, John Cage, David Tudor, Ornette Coleman, Jackson MacLow, Henry Flynt, Terry Jennings, Dick Higgins, and Terry Riley, among others. George Maciunas reorganized the series under the name Fluxus. Apart from Fluxus itself, the events also saw the birth of other important art movements such as Minimalism and multi-media performance art. Distinctions between music, poetry, theater, movement, film, art, and life were downplayed.


Sharing John Cage’s philosophy of art as everydayness (Ono and her then husband, Toshi Ichiyanagi had attended Cage’s classes at the New School in 1958), many Fluxus performances focus attention on mundane activities or koan-like aphorisms; the purpose being not so much to manifest a traditional art-object in the usual sense, as to provide an occasion for awareness, meditation, and enlightenment. Many of the pieces (whether intended for actual performance or for exercising the imagination) employed event scores; pithy, poetic, verbal instructions for performers to realize in their own fashion (not to be confused with improvisation). Ono’s instructions are eloquent examples of simple means generating complex results; some of these were collected in her 1964 book Grapefruit.


Pieces for Orchestra

Peel, peek, take off, tear, touch, rub (1962)


Johanna M. Beyer (1888-1944) was born in Leipzig and came to New York in 1924. Her personal life remains shrouded in mystery; she seems never to have married, and signed her compositions by the gender-neutral “J. M. Beyer.” She earned degrees from the Mannes School and studied privately with Dane Rudhyar, Charles Seeger, Henry Cowell and Ruth Crawford. She helped out with organizing a variety of new music concerts in New York City and acted as Cowell’s secretary while he was in San Quentin on homosexual “morals” charges. Her friends and colleagues — John Cage, Otto Luening, Percy Grainger, Lou Harrison — found her supportive but difficult to get to know on a personal level. No photograph of her seems to be extant.


Her compositions span the years 1932 to 1943 when she was incapacitated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease. They show a peculiar sensibility in their adaptation of new techniques: serialism, metric modulation, and dissonant counterpoint. They exhibit a Teutonic rigor, verging on inscrutability, that nevertheless has poise, symmetry, motion, and logic. Her works for percussion ensemble are among the earliest examples of Western music structured according to rhythm and timbre.


Suite No. 2 for Clarinet in Bb


Beyer’s Suite No. 2, also known as Suite no. 1b, was composed (along with Suite no. 1) in 1932, and is thought to be one of Beyer’s first works The following descriptive comments for each movement appear on the original manuscript (whether or not these were the composer’s remarks or someone else’s is unclear): I. Giocoso – “Gradual growth of tied tones;” II. Lamentation – “Tones of contrary form of perpetual motion;” III. Contrast – “Contrast of phrases: skippy=steppy.” Movement four, Accelerando, utilizes a series of metric modulations to create an ever-increasing tempo structure. All four movements are written in a freely atonal style that shows an excellent awareness of the technical and expressive possibilities of the clarinet. Beyer utilizes the full range of dynamic, articulative, and registral characteristics of the instrument, resulting in music that is playful, mournful, agitated, and virtuosic.


List of Works: <http://www.frogpeak.org/fpartists/beyer.lists.html>



Ensemble History

Founded in 1977, Zeitgeist’s mission is to enliven today’s music and expand its public with performances that absorb, stimulate, and hearten. A family of musicians animated by a spirit of adventure and collaboration, Zeitgeist presents works of substance with passion and integrity, and strives to forge new links between musicians and music lovers through concerts, commissions, recordings, and dialogue with our audiences. Dedicated to contemporary music, in particular the music of the last twenty years, Zeitgeist has commissioned and performed music by both emerging composers and some of the finest established composers of our time including John Cage, Frederic Rzewski, Terry Riley, Eric Stokes, Harold Budd, La Monte Young, Annie Gosfield, Martin Bresnick, Mark Applebaum, Arthur Kreiger, Eleanor Hovda, Brent Michael Davids, Paul Dresher, Mary Ellen Childs, and Janika Vandervelde.


Zeitgeist has earned an international reputation for its superb craftsmanship and virtuosic performance of contemporary music. Our performing excellence and unique repertoire have led to invitations to perform at prestigious venues throughout the U.S.A. and Europe, including Merkin Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall and The Kitchen in New York; at the Los Angeles County Museum’s contemporary music series; The Festival of New American Music at Sacramento; several appearances at New Music America (New York, Minneapolis and Miami); and in many other U.S. cities including Seattle, Phoenix, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Durham, St. Louis, San Francisco, Helena, Des Moines and, in Minnesota, Ely, Northfield, New Ulm, Grand Rapids and Rochester, among others. The ensemble has conducted six European tours, performing in Lisbon, Bonn, London, Zagreb, Berlin, Cologne, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Finland. Zeitgeist performs frequently in the Twin Cities, and enjoys a special relationship with Walker Art Center and The Southern Theater, leading venues for new and experimental art.


Zeitgeist has released four compact discs, including She’s a Phantom, music of Harold Budd (New Albion Records); Intuitive Leaps, music of Terry Riley (Work Music London and Sony Music Entertainment); A Decade, music of Frederic Rzewski (O.O. Discs); and Eric Stokes (New World Records). We are currently awaiting the release of our newest CD, If Tigers Were Clouds (innova recordings). Individual works we have recorded can also be heard on two other discs—Earthworks, featuring the music of Steve Heitzeg (Innova), and Opere Della Musica Povera, featuring the music of Martin Bresnick (CRI).


A non-profit organization incorporated in Minnesota, Zeitgeist receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, COMPAS, the Yvar Mikhashoff Fund, the Target Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America, Meet The Composer/Arts Endowment Commissioning Music/USA, The Bush Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature.



Artistic Personnel


Percussionist/artistic co-director Heather Barringer joined Zeitgeist in 1990. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a B.Mus.Ed. in 1987 and studied at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory, studying with Allen Otte from 1988-90. In addition to performing and recording with Zeitgeist, she is a member of Mary Ellen Child’s ensemble, Crash and has worked with many Twin Cities organizations, including Nautilus Music Theater Ensemble, The Dale Warland Singers, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and Ten Thousand Things Theater.


As an active performer of the music of the Twentieth Century, Patti Cudd has given concerts and master classes throughout the United States, China, Mexico, and Europe. She has commissioned a number of new pieces from the composers of her generation and has given close to one hundred premieres. Prior to joining Zeitgeist in 1999, she received a DMA in Contemporary Musical Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Prior to that, she had received a MM from SUNY Buffalo, a BFA from UW-River Falls, and received a Fulbright to study at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music. Patti teaches percussion and new music at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and is a Yamaha Performing Artist.


Pat O’Keefe is co-artistic director and woodwind player for the contemporary music ensemble ZEITGEIST, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. An active proponent of contemporary and classical music, Pat has performed with noted new music groups around the country, including SONOR and SIRIUS in San Diego, the Cleveland New Music Associates, and Ensemble Sospeso in New York, as well as the San Diego Symphony and the Augusta Symphony in Augusta, Georgia, where he was the principal clarinetist for five seasons.

Beyond his activities in Western classical music, Pat is actively involved in other musical endeavors as well, such as free improvisation and world music. He is a founding member of the improvisation group Unbalancing Act, and has appeared in concert with such notable improvisers as George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Wadada Leo Smith, J.D. Parran, and Fred Frith. In 1996 he was awarded first prize in the EDIP International Competition for his performance of “Yeni Makam 4,” a composition based on Turkish classical music. In addition, he was also a percussionist with the Brazilian ensemble Sol e Mar in San Diego, and has appeared regularly with the group Brasamba in Minneapolis.

Pat holds a BM (with Performer’s Certificate) from Indiana University, an MM (with Distinction in Performance) from the New England Conservatory, and a DMA from the University of California, San Diego. He is currently the clarinet instructor at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He has taught previously at UCSD, Augusta State University, and Georgia College.


Anatoly Larkin was born in Russia, 1979. He received his primary musical training at the age of 5, starting piano lessons at 6. In 1992, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where he continued with his musical education studying both piano and composition. In 1996 he was accepted into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance in 2000. Later that year he moved to Minneapolis to pursue Piano Performance (Graduate Program) at the University of Minnesota, studying piano under Alexander Braginsky. Anatoly has been active as a perfomer in different fields, playing solo-,chamber-recitals, appearing with orchestras, as well as promoting new music by living composers.


Yuri Merzhevsky was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He received his training in the Leningrad Conservatory of Music, and received his Ph.D. in 1988. Subsequently, he served as a professor of violin on the faculty there. Yuri has served as concertmaster in several orchestras, such as the Leningrad Conservatory Orchestra, and the Hermitage Orchestra. In 1989, Yuri immigrated to the United States, where he has played as a soloist with the Minnesota Sinfonia, Members of the Utah Symphony, Olympia Chamber Orchestra, Plymouth Music Series, and various chamber music groups. In addition to his involvement in contemporary music, Yuri also performs jazz, klezmer, and gypsy music. He has performed with Zeitgeist since 1997.


Guest Artists

Composer and pianist Carl Witt received his DMA from the Eastman School of Music in 1988. Since moving to the Twin Cities Witt has been commissioned by and written music for Minnesota Orchestra Co-Principal Flutist Barbara Leibundguth, Wissam Boustany, bagpiper Dick Hensold, 'cellist Kirsten Whitson, Minneapolis Chamber Symphony, Zeitgeist, Corn Palace Productions, the Lyra Concert, Flying Sisters Theatre, Borrowed Bones Dance Theatre, Minnesota Ballet Theatre, Walker Art Center, Unity Church-Unitarian, Bet Shalom, United Theological Seminary, as well as writing and arranging music for records, concert performance, commercial videos, dance, and dance theater. His first solo piano CD, Quiet Mind, has received airplay nationally and in Europe, the near and far East. He has worked with choreographer Wynn Fricke on several collaborations over the past several years, including commissions by the Walker Art Center, Blacklock Nature Sanctuary, Zeitgeist, and Minnesota Dance Theatre. Their Corridors of Sleep and Two Fridas have been performed many times in the Twin Cities and in New York City. Witt is the recipient of Eastman's top composition award, the Howard Hanson Prize; the Alieanor Prize; the Quinto Maganini Award, ASCAP awards, and grants and commissions from the Jerome Foundation, the American Composers Forum, and the Dayton-Hudson Foundation. He was awarded a Composers Commissioning Project fellowship in 1998, a McKnight Composer Fellowship in 1999, and a McKnight Performing Artist Award in 2001. He was also the recipient of the 2000 Faith Partners Residency Award, working with a consortium of three diverse religious institutions in the Twin Cities. Witt has taught at the University of Saint Thomas, Hamline University, and the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and has served as organist and music director at Unity Church-Unitarian in Saint Paul.




Michelle Kinney has recorded, performed and toured throughout Europe and

the United States with some of the most respected innovators in new music

today. Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris, Myra Melford, Fast Forward, Elliot

Sharp, Brandon Ross and Bun-Ching Lam are among those artists calling on

her contributions as a cellist. As a composer she has received awards and

grants from The Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation, NEA/Rockefeller,

Harvestworks/Studio Pass, and the American Composers Forum. She composes

for dance (Laurie Van Wieren, Mark Tompkins), theater (Richard Schechner,

Chris Sullivan), and film (a highlight is Ruthie and Connie: Every Room In

The House, by director Debra Dixon, featured at the 2002 Berlin Film

Festival). Her work appears on various compilation recordings.



Christopher Cunningham

After compiling copious amounts of frequent flyer miles performing and

recording with Marianne Faithfull, Richie Havens, Marshall Crenshaw, The

Lounge Lizards, The Contortions, The Golden Paliminoes, and and a huge

international roster of recording artists, Christopher Cunningham has more

recently parked himself in front of his computers to write music for quite

a few award - winning features, documentaries, television series, and

shorts. His experience with non-western instruments and musical styles

landed him the job scoring the Israeli feature The Holy Land, which won

best feature at the 2002 Slamdance festival, and will have it's

international theatrical realease this May. Another award-winning indie

film also featuring his music and soundscapes, Kaaterskill Falls, has been

showing regularly on the Showtime Network, and will be released on DVD this

April. His1999 solo CD, Stories To Play, was nominated for a Grammy award,

and he has just completed mixing it's follow-up, Never Was.


Philip Blackburn, a native of Cambridge, England, received a doctorate from the University of Iowa, and has been Senior Program Director at the American Composers Forum since 1991. Blackburn is one of a handful of Harry Partch scholars: his 15-year project to publish Partch’s works, in a 6-part series of videos, CDs and a book—Enclosures—was given an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. Blackburn creates new instruments as a means of developing musical relationships between people; marimba benches for a park, bamboo courting flutes, junk food ensembles for the State Fair, cornstalk fiddle groups, a Sonic Playground, and a long-string installation in the Nevada desert seen by 29,000 campers. He is a singer and occasionally writes articles on things like musical sociology, Vietnamese music, and sound in public art. He runs the innova Recordings new-music CD label and co-founded the Sonic Circuits International Electronic Music Festival.