ARIAS, INTERLUDES, AND INVENTIONS from Moran’s opera DESERT OF ROSES are five sections from various scenes in this stage work dealing with the legend of Beauty and the Beast. The two short arias are sung by soprano Jayne West, who created the leading role in the 1992 world premiere at Houston Grand Opera. Both arias are from Act II, the first in which the girl is given her request to return for a short visit to her family, the second a song over the lifeless body of the beast. The fifth and final movement, re-written, re-scored for the Argo recording, is in fact the finale of the opera, which on stage incorporates the entire cast.
I can go? I can go to my father? And I’ll keep this ring on.
I’ll promise I’ll come back.
This ring...this mirror.... and this rose I’ll plant.
I’ll plant it in my garden. I’ll come back.
I’ll go to my father and plant this rose
And I’ll never take this ring off.
I’ll come back. I promise.
Look into my eyes. See what you are. See what I see.
Look into my eyes now. Let me look into yours. It’s time to leave your prison. It’s time that you go free. Look into my eyes.
See yourself in me and forgive me. Let me love you.
Let me take your place. Let me free you. Look Love.
Let me end with you.
OPEN VEINS for amplified violin and variable chamber ensemble deals with the suicide of Petronius, the author of SATYRICON, who was ordered by Nero to take his own life for crimes for which he had been falsely accused. Petronius felt no need to dispatch himself hastily, so he severed his wrists then bound them up in beautiful material and proceeded to entertain his guests in a most lavish fashion. Before allowing himself to “move into the next stage”, he wrote out a long list of the Emperor’s orgies and sexual outrages, by naming partners, cataloguing his experiments, then signing and sealing the document and copies, all being sent off to the Emperor and his court. Premiered in 1986, this work with its individual “graphic parts” for members of the ensemble against the written out part for solo violin, is “a creation in development” as the actual live performance moves through the various sections.
32 CRYPTOGRAMS FOR DEREK JARMAN was composed in 1994, written at the request of and for Charlie Barber and his Sound Affairs Band, Cardiff, Wales. Moran writes: “When Houston Grand Opera commissioned DESERT OF ROSES, I suggested that the finest director for this work would be Derek Jarman, whose film CARAVAGGIO so impressed me. Sadly through those strange ‘twists of Fate’, this was not to be. When Charlie asked for this new work, Jarman had just appeared at the New York International Film Festival where his film BLUE was being presented, and I felt that a set of ‘cryptograms’ — or, according to the dictionary, messages in code; occult symbols — should somehow determine the structure of the piece. With 1995 being a ‘big’ year for Henry Purcell, I took and stretched the bass line of the Dido’s famous lament, and then built aggregates of pitches over each note. The thickness of each ‘cryptogram’ was determined by the I Ching. Because each short section may be repeated at the discretion of the conductor, the work is open ended.”
STIMMEN DES LETZTEN SIEGELS (Voices of the Last Seal) was commissioned by and written for Moran’s dear friend, Alexander Hermann, conductor and organist in Munich, for his wonderful chorale, Ensemble Chrismos. Besides the 20 voices, the score incorporates four celli, percussion, organ and harp. As this score was to premiere in the famous Munich Frauenkirche Cathedral with its 8 second decay of sound, Moran designed and composed the score for this specific space and its acoustics. The text is from King Ludwig II of Bavaria: two simple statements, both, according to the composer, “so beautiful and so very lonely.” The first section, “Geh’ leise, denn du gehst auf meinen Träumen” (“Go quietly, do not disturb my dreams”); the middle part is without text; the third and final section is “Ein ewig Räthsel will ich bleiben mir und anderen” (“I remain an eternal riddle to myself and all others”). From the middle section of any performance to its conclusion, Moran asks that the entire performance space, including that of the audience, be bathed in cobalt blue light.
Robert Moran has already written his place into the rich tapestry of contemporary music that has flourished in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. Whilst Glass, Reich, and Riley trod the various paths towards “minimalism”, Moran was composing and organizing “performance art” spectaculars such as THIRTY NINE MINUTES FOR THIRTY NINE AUTOS — a deceptive title for a piece which used 100,000 performers and most of downtown San Francisco — premiered in August 1969, or HALLELUJAH (April 1971) using most of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and twenty marching bands, forty church choirs, gospel groups, etc. Whilst these great multi-media events may have been a product of their time, in Moran’s case they point to an underlying philosophy which sees music as a shared experience. In terms of this shared experience with his performers, he wrote a series of graphic scores in the 1960s and 1970s which, while controlling the elements of structure, gave the performer a distinctly creative role. As art in themselves, these scores have been exhibited throughout the world, including a most important show at Berlin’s Academy of Art, and a two-year period in the Lincoln Center Library for the Arts (1980-82).
Having studied with Apostel (in Vienna) and then Berio and Milhaud, Moran co-founded the San Francisco New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the mid-1960s. His time in America’s west coast culminated in an evening of his works given by the San Francisco Symphony in August 1974.
Soon after, he moved to West Berlin as composer-in-residence as a guest of the German government. There he fulfilled many commissions including works for children and also composed his third city-piece, PACHELBEL PROMENADE, for the city of Graz in Austria. A year before Moran returned to the US as composer-in-residence at Northwestern University in 1977, he wrote WALTZ IN MEMORIAM: MAURICE RAVEL. This became the start of a collaboration with friend Robert Helps to put together a collection of twenty-five piano waltzes from twenty-five composers, including works by Babbitt, Cage, Glass, Helps, Moran and Sessions. The entire collection was premiered at Chicago’s Art Institute in May 1978 and recorded as “Waltz Project” in 1981, becoming one of the most fascinating ventures of the late ‘70s.
Moran’s work on the Waltzes eventually led to a further collaboration with Philip Glass in 1985 with the opera THE JUNIPER TREE. In the past few years, living out of Philadelphia, Moran has composed full-time but for several lecture tours, fulfilling many commissions including two operas, DESERT OF ROSES (premiered February 1992) for Houston Grand Opera, and FROM THE TOWERS OF THE MOON (premiered March 1992) for the Minnesota Opera, both to libretti by Michael John LaChiusa. Moran’s chamber opera THE DRACULA DIARY was commissioned by BMG and premiered via Houston Grand Opera (1994) using a libretto by James Skofield.
Commentators have remarked on how Moran’s style has changed to a more direct musical language. John Schaefer, in his seminal book “New Sounds,” quotes Moran as saying that the PACHELBEL PROMENADE turned out “shockingly Romantic” and, in another typical piece of Moran’s self-deprecating humor, how some of the works of the early 1980s were “disgracefully pretty.” Whilst the idea of the shared experience in his earlier works was often through the listener being an active part of the creation, he developed his musical language to bring in the “pure” listener. Indeed Moran’s music developed at the beginning of the 1980s into realms of tonality — tonality not used in a dialectical sense but as a sonority in its own right.
Notes on the composer by Andrew Cornall:
ARIAS, INTERLUDES AND INVENTIONS (from DESERT OF ROSES)
Jayne West, soprano
Piano Circus Band, conducted by Craig Smith
Text by Michael John LaChiusa
Alexander Balanescu, violin
Piano Circus Band, conducted by the composer
Both “Arias, Interludes and Inventions” from DESERT OF ROSES
and OPEN VEINS were recorded at Barbirolli Hall, St. Clement Danes School, Chorleywood, UK on 6-8 August 1991.
Producer: Andrew Cornall
Recording Engineer: Jonathan Stokes
32 CRYPTOGRAMS FOR DEREK JARMAN
Sound Affairs Band, conducted by Charlie Barber
Recorded at the Henry Wood Hall, London, on 13 December 1994
Producer: Chris Pope
Recording Engineer: Jonathan Stokes
STIMMEN DES LETZTEN SIEGELS
World premiere recording from Munich’s Frauenkirche, October 14, 2001
Ensemble Chrismos conducted by Alexander Hermann
Producer and Recording Engineer: Reinhard Drube
Moran’s scores are published by:
Charlotte Benson Music Publishers (BMI)
Philadelphia, PA 19105
Design: Philip Blackburn
Photos: Jim Caldwell (Houston Grand Opera)
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This recording first appeared on Decca Argo…
This recording made possible by a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program administered by the American Music Center.