Michael Fiday

same rivers different

innova 716


Produced by Michael Fiday

Mastered by Thomas Haines at Electronic Media Studio, College-Conservatory of Music/University of Cincinnati


1-9          9 HAIKU (2005)   14:29           

                  Bart Feller – flute, Linda Mark – piano

                  Texts by Matsuo Basho


                  Recorded and edited by Patrick Lo Re at One Soul Studios, New York, NY


10            HANDS ON! (1993)   8:29

                  Mantra Percussion Quartet: Joe Bergen, Al Cerulo, Matt Kantorski, Michael McCurdy


                  Recorded by David Kerzner at Penguin Studios, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ

                  Edited by Thomas Haines


11-21    DHARMA POPS (2006)   9:11

                  Carla Kihlstedt, Graeme Jennings – violins, Matthias Bossi – narrator

                  Texts by Jack Kerouac


                  Recorded and edited by Robert Shumaker at Bay Records, Berkeley, CA


22            SAME RIVERS DIFFERENT (1999)   8:30

                  Christopher Froh – percussion


                  Recorded and edited by Robert Shumaker at Bay Records, Berkeley, CA


23            PROTEST SONG (2002)   4:41

Soon Cho – mezzo soprano

Nicholas Naegle – violin, Brianna Goldberg – bass

Laura Sabo – bass clarinet, Shiau-uen Ding - piano

Text by Peter Gizzi


Recorded and edited by Thomas Haines


24            AUTOMOTIVE PASSACAGLIA (1988/revised 2003)   15:37

                  James Tocco – piano, Russell Burge, James Culley – percussion


Recorded and edited by Thomas Haines

Total: 61:03


Recited texts from Dharma Pops from ‘Mexico City Blues’ and ‘Book of Haikus’ by Jack Kerouac

Reprinted by permissions of SLL/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., Copyright by Jack Kerouac



Mandarins and stumblebums – the music of Michael Fiday

by John Halle


In a now notorious essay from 1966, the New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer spoke for what was probably the consensus in describing recent works by Philip Guston as those of "a mandarin pretending to be a stumblebum."  The naked light bulbs, hooded klansman, trash heaps, and beat up sedans were unwelcomed reminders of a pockmarked domestic landscape separating the American dream from a less than halcyon reality. Welcome to the real world, Guston's paintings declared; many in the art world didn't like what they had to see.


It would take composers another generation to begin to realize Guston's vision in musical form - to come to terms with the analogous characteristics of the American sonic landscape. In confessing to his friend, the composer Morton Feldman, that he was "tired of all that purity," Guston anticipated composers' rejection of the modernist fatwa on referential sounds and recognizable sonic images.  The sentiment could have served as a rallying cry for composers beginning their careers at the tail end of the 20th century.


Of the composers implicitly or explicitly influenced by the Gustonian vision, Michael Fiday's finely honed series of small masterworks stand out for their eloquence, immediacy and sophistication.


It is likely not a coincidence that the two share certain similarities in their artistic trajectories. Both hail from blue collar backgrounds, Guston, famously, a junk-dealer's son in Los Angeles, Fiday the son of a staff automobile mechanic for the city of Colorado Springs.  Both regarded the traditions of their disciplines with a respect bordering on reverence, with the unjaded eye of the outsider looking in.  Guston's childhood and teen years were devoted to the intense study of Giotto, Pierro Della Francesca, and Massacio; Fiday's were spent in violin lessons and string sections of community orchestras where he acquired by osmosis and by instruction a thorough grounding in traditional forms and orchestral sonority.  In their artistic maturity, both pursued their disciplines with a near monastic intensity and high degree of self-criticism (Guston in particular was reported to have spent months in front of a canvas without managing a single brush stroke), resulting in a small yet singular body of work. 




The similarities begin to dissolve, as they inevitably must, when artistic disciplines separated by two generations are compared. One important difference derives from a broad attitudinal shift towards what has been referred to by the musicologist Robert Fink as the post-canonic epoch: whereas Guston may have doubted the significance of his own contribution, he was never in doubt as to the chasm separating high arts from what was then universally derided as commercial art, or "kitsch."  In contrast, there is a general recognition that classical music has now become, in Fink's words, "one style among many, and by no means the most prestigious."


Fiday's generation was the first to have operated in a post-canonic climate, in which the mandarin and stumblebum inhabit the same ground. The mandarin elements of classical form, unproblematically celebrated in Guston's day, are present but only detectable as an underlying genotype in Fiday's works. The phenotypical characteristics are typically Gustonian, the scraps of a musical culture now defined by 

aurality.  The literate signifiers of concert music of previous epochs, the Alberti basses of the classical, the extravagant gestural lexicon and lush instrumental textures of the Romantic era, the disjunct melodic leaps and fractured rhythms of high modernism, are available but have no privileged status among the collection of vernacular found objects.


Thus Dharma Pops takes for granted a universal "classical" referent, but in the form of the curious trinity of beat legend Jack Kerouac, bebop jazz great Charlie Parker, and Zen Buddhism – under whose umbrellas are found Bach-like sequences, heavy metal scrapings, and Cagean silences. Amidst the various mandarin elements, stumblebums abound – most notably in Fiday’s evocation, in haiku number 7, of vaudeville entertainer Nat Wills, aka “The Happy Hobo.” The Kerouac haiku recitations commenting on each proceeding movement may recall the atmosphere of a Greenwich Village coffee shop, but this is placed before the listener at a remove.  For, unlike Parker's improvisatory flights of genius, Fiday's creations exist in the form of a primary text - a musical score conveying instructions to performers who themselves put their own interpretative stamp on the elements.  Ultimately, the effect is to encounter the beat generation as one would a prehistoric insect encased in amber.


9 Haiku, inspired by Basho's ancient texts, assembles a similarly rich, heterogeneous class of found objects but require a very different interpretive framework.  One finds, most strikingly, formal counterpoint, specifically "close" canons - the super-imposition of two melodic lines, one slightly offset from the other. The resultant phasing effect suggests not so much the baroque but rather the omnipresent digital delay unit of contemporary pop production.  Similarly, the spacious textures and open fifth harmonies suggest a Coplandian Americana, whose sprawl is arrested and directed by the imposition of dwarfish proportions musically embodying bonsai - the botanical analogue to Basho’s metered aphorisms.




Equally intriguing are Fiday's series of works for percussion, themselves the found objects of the instrumental world.  Here the boundaries between the seemingly hard wired categories of noise and sound become equally phantasmic, as non-pitched elements assume center stage supplanting pitch in dictating the structural scaffolding of the work.


"same rivers different" define two poles of the percussive spectrum: the pure timbres produced by the resonant steel bars of the vibraphone announce a minimalistic premise, simple but by no means simplistic, which is gradually combined with, challenged and then magically obliterated by the aperiodic sonic color of drums skins, wood blocks and metal plates. A well known fragment from the writings of the pre-Socractic philosopher Heraclitus – “Upon those that step into the same rivers different and different waters flow…They scatter and…gather…come together and flow away…approach and depart” – provides a springboard for the overall pulse of the piece, which Fiday describes as “like a river – sometimes straight and steady, other times with abrupt twists and turns. You hear the same music three times, followed by a slow apotheosis – but like the fabled Heraclitean stream, you can’t step back into the same music more than once.”


"Automotive Passacaglia" offers another take on a different beat era sacrament, "the road" as the domestic analog for the Dharmic spacial void. The title, taken from a Henry Miller essay of the same name, acts as a point of departure for the 12-note passacaglia theme which functions, in Fiday’s words, “as the vehicle that transports the listener through diverse musical terrain, first taking shape in the middle register before gradually branching out and gaining momentum during its course.” One imagines Dean Moriarty's Colorado sojourn having included pulling up to Fiday seniors’ garage for service, though the journey following is perhaps considerably more eventful than Taoist quiescence would seem to require.  The Passacaglia revs up the putative V-8, as the heldentenor of the percussion section, the piano, reverts to its Lisztian Romantic ancestors bursting forth with explosions of filigree, much like (in Millers’ own words) “a steam calliope playing Chopin in a tub of grease."


"Hands On" was composed for the Dutch percussion ensemble Slagwerkgroep Den Haag, who premiered it in a series of “stokkenthuis” concerts in which the players were forbidden to use drum sticks. Informed by surface features of both Indian and West African drumming, the music is almost entirely rhythm-based, the vibes contributing only, in Fiday's words, "a thin strand of a chord progression," shunted into the background by striking rhythmic motives and subtle variations in texture which serve to propel the piece forward.


Dedicated to Fiday's mentor, the distinguished Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, the work can be seen as a rejoinder to Andriessen's "Workers Union," a ur-sixties anthem in which workplace liberation is compositionally embodied by conferring on the performer unlimited freedom of choice in pitch and instrumentation.  The precise notational instructions of "Hands On" suggest a somewhat different view of the labor/management, performer/composer transaction, namely that true artistic freedom (and social liberation) consists, in Robert Frost's words, of being "easy in the harness.” The results of Fiday's success in negotiating this relationship is a combination of rhythmic aggression and hard-headed formal rigor, but with a lightness of affect - the smile on the face of the buddha, or perhaps the legendary bongo playing physicist Richard Feynmann.


Having focused its gaze on the world outside of the concert hall "Hands On" prepares us for "Protest Song," a commentary on protest in the post-political new century ushered in by Sept. 11.  Peter Gizzi's eloquent text starkly renders a society frozen in paralysis, one which has resigned itself to the futility of rousing ourselves from our slumbers.  The phantoms of the golden age of protest sleepwalk in a haze, musically embodied by Fiday's stunningly evocative orchestration of a small ensemble. The hushed string harmonics provide a canvas on which these sentiments, which we already know to be at the core of our contemporary political experience, demand attention.


Insofar as there is an ultimate subject unifying such a wide diversity of works, it is that they all make an immediate claim on our attention, demanding that they be not just heard, but actively experienced and thought about. By applying to everyday objects a faultless ear for pitch and sound, a fluent and deeply internalized awareness of rhythm, and a fertile imagination, Fiday shows that scraps of ephemera can find themselves iconized as art.  The musical canvas upon which Fiday works has a place for mandarins and stumblebums alike, and virtually everything in between.  Insofar as post canonic artistic culture has a place for what it is that composers do, Fiday's music makes about as strong a case as could be imagined for it.


Composer John Halle is Director of Studies in

Theory and Practice at the Bard Conservatory of Music




9 Haiku


Culture’s beginnings:

rice-planting songs

from the heart of the country.






Above the moor

Not attached to anything,

a skylark singing.






This bright harvest moon –

Keeps me walking

all night long

around the little pond.






As the sound fades,

the scent of the flowers comes up –

the evening bell.



The lightning flashes

And slashing through

the darkness,

a night heron’s screech.







Where’s the moon?

As the temple bell is –

sunk in the sea.




Clouds come from

time to time –

and bring to men

a chance to rest

from looking at the moon.




My eyes following

until the bird was

lost at sea

found a small island.




Sick on a journey,

Only my dreams will wander

these desolate moors.




Matsuo Basho













Dharma Pops



Snap yr finger

    stop the world!

-           Rain falls harder



Rain’s over, hammer on wood

     this cobweb

Rides the sun shine



The raindrops have plenty

     of personality –

Each one



Bach through an open

     dawn window –

the birds are silent



The strumming of the trees     

     reminded me

Of immortal afternoon



Evening coming –

    The office girl

Unloosing her scarf



Nat Wills

    - America

In 1905



Useless! useless!

    - heavy rain driving

Into the sea



The Golden Gate


With sunset rust



Three pencils arranged,

     Three minutes,

Sambaghakaya, Nirvanakaya, Dharmakaya

Jack Keroauc

from ‘Book of Haikus’

Reprinted by permissions of SLL/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Copyright by Jack Kerouac



Protest Song


This is not a declaration of love or song of war

Not a tractate, autonym, or apologia


This won’t help when the children are dying

No answer on the way to dust


Neither anthem to rally or flag flutter

Will bring back the dead, their ashes flying


This is not a bandage or hospital tent

Not relief or the rest after


Not a wreath, lilac, or laurel bough

Not a garden of earthly delights

Peter Gizzi

December 2001

‘Protest Song’ from ‘The Outernationale’ by Peter Gizzi; used by permission of the author

4) Performer bios


Bart Feller is Principal Flute of the New York City Opera and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Bargemusic and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Mr. Feller has also appeared as concerto soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Jupiter Symphony. He is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where his teachers included Julius Baker and John Krell. Mr. Feller is Professor of Flute at Rutgers University/Mason Gross School of the Arts, and teaches in the Pre-College Division of The Juilliard School.


Pianist Linda Mark is a staff accompanist at The Juilliard School.  An active soloist, chamber musician and music coach throughout the United States and Europe, she has concertized with such leading flutists as Jeffrey Khaner, Bart Feller, Jeanne Baxtresser, Bradley Garner, Carol Wincenc, Jean-Pierre Rampal and her mentor Julius Baker.  Ms. Mark teaches collaborative performing classes for Stetson University, Florida State University, and music conferences, such as the National Flute Association Convention.  She was invited by the Richard Tucker Foundation to perform for  Luciano Pavarotti.  She has recorded solo piano works for the soundtrack of the film, 'Letter Without Words.'


Joe Bergen is a percussionist active in the New York metro area.  Specializing in contemporary music, he is a founding member of several ensembles including Kyklos, Mantra Percussion Quartet, and Transit, and has performed with the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, the S.E.M Ensemble, and newband, among others. He has studied percussion with John Ferrari, Tom Kolor, and Gordon Gottlieb and was a fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute in 2006.  Mr. Bergen can be heard on Shch’k LLC and Atma Classique Labels.


Praised for his theatrical and energetic performances around the world, percussionist Al Cerulo has performed with groups such as the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, Sospeso Ensemble, and the Philadelphia Virtuoso Society in venues such as Carnegie, Zankel, and Merkin concert halls. He is one of the founding members of Mantra Percussion as well as the Beaten Paths Percussion Duo. Mr. Cerulo holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and William Paterson University, and his teachers have included Raymond DesRoches, Peter Jarvis, Tom Kolor, Chris Lamb, Duncan Patton, Jim Preiss and Steven Schick. As a recording artist, Al Cerulo can be heard on Nexus, UTF, and Bridgewater recording labels.

An advocate of contemporary music, Matt Kantorski has performed with such ensembles as the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Tactus Contemporary Ensemble, and Mantra Percussion. He has also played under world class conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Franz Welser Most, Kurt Masur, and Peter Eötvös. Mr. Kantorski has also been the recipient of numerous scholarships such as the Avedis Zildjian Percussion Scholarship, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention Music Scholarship, and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra Merit Scholarship.  He credits his musical success to his teachers at the Manhattan School of Music: Chris Lamb, Duncan Patton, Erik Charleston, and Steve Schick.


Michael McCurdy performs with many groups in the New York City area including Mantra Percussion, Passenger Fish, the Mighty Buttons, and Forecast Music. Recently he has performed at the Kulturhus in VästerĆs Sweden, the Sparks Festival of Electronic Music, the Bang on a Can Marathon, and percussion festivals around the country. In the past he has performed with, among others, Continuum Chamber Ensemble, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Albany Symphony, and Sacramento Opera. Michael completed a DMA in percussion performance at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  His teachers have included Nick Petrella, Steve Schick, Dan Kennedy, Raymond DesRoches, and Eduardo Leandro.


Carla Kihlstedt plays the violin, sings and composes in a wide variety of musical circumstances from the rich and subtle Tin Hat to the dramatic and alarming Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to the intimate and incisive 2 Foot Yard. She has been lucky enough to work with many of her favorite musicians, including Fred Frith, Satoko Fujii, Tom Waits, Ben Goldberg, and Colin Jacobsen. Recently, she has written scores for dance and theater (Flyaway Productions, inkBoat, and the Joe Goode Performance Group), and has created a staged song cycle for seven performers (Necessary Monsters) with poet Rafael Oses.


Formerly a member of the legendary Arditti String Quartet (1994-2005), Australian violinist Graeme Jennings he has toured widely throughout the world, made more than 70 CDs, given over 200 premieres and received numerous accolades including the prestigious Siemens Prize (1999) and two Gramophone awards. Graeme now lives in San Francisco where he enjoys an interesting and varied career. He performs regularly with groups such as the San Francisco Contemporary Players, Adorno Ensemble, SF Sound, New Century Chamber Orchestra and the Elision Ensemble. He currently serves on the faculties of UC Berkeley, Mills College and Stanford University.

Matthias Bossi is the drummer/orator for Rock-Against-Rock pioneers Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and was a member of NYC's Grammy-nominated rock juggernaut, Skeleton Key. As a founder of Brooklyn-based recording collective The Book of Knots, he has collaborated with Tom Waits, Mike Watt, Jon Langford, Carla Bozulich, Zeena Parkins, and author Rick Moody.  In the world of theatre and dance, he has written music for Jo Kreiter, inkBoat, and Central Works, and will collaborate with Carla Kihlstedt on an upcoming score for choreographer Deborah Slater.  He has also toured with guitarist Fred Frith, and enjoys making music with singer/songwriter's John Vanderslice and Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent.


Principally committed to influencing and expanding the repertoire for solo percussion through commissions and premiers, percussionist Christopher Froh is a core member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Empyrean Ensemble, and San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.  His many guest appearances include performances with Alarm Will Sound, the Honolulu Symphony, and Gamelan Sekar Jaya. Known for his energized performances described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “tremendous” and the San Francisco Classical Voice as “mesmerizing,” Froh’s solo appearances stretch from Rome to Tokyo to San Francisco. He is currently on the faculty at the University of California, Davis.

Hailed by Opera News for her “potent presence” and “regal in bearing, with vocal endowments to match” by Cincinnati Post, lyric mezzo-soprano Soon Cho is quickly gaining recognition for her sensitive artistry and winning execution on the concert and opera stages around the world. Cho has been under the batons of notable conductors such as Alan Gilbert, Kristjan Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Erich Kunzel, Julius Rudel, Mischa Santora, and David Zinman; and has collaborated with Jake Heggie, Michael Fiday, Warren Jones, and Scott McAllister in premieres of original works. Cho is currently a member of the voice faculty at Baylor University.

James Tocco has enjoyed a worldwide career as a soloist with orchestra, a recitalist, a chamber music performer and a renowned pedagogue. Since taking first prize at the ARD Competition in Munich in 1973, he has toured the globe with performances throughout the world, appearing with the major orchestras of Berlin, Munich, London, Chicago and Los Angeles, and performing at festivals in Salzburg, Vienna, Wolf Trap, Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, and the Hollywood Bowl. Mr. Tocco’s voluminous discography includes recordings on the Pro Arte, Gasparo, ECM, and Deutsche Harmonia Mundi labels. In addition to his international performing itinerary, Mr. Tocco is Eminent Scholar/Artist in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Concervatory of Music, professor of piano at the Manhattan School of Music, and is also the artistic director of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.


Russell Burge joined the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music faculty in 1992 as a member of Percussion Group Cincinnati, with whom he has performed extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, recorded for the Mode, Centaur, Einstein and Ars Moderno labels, and appeared with more than twenty different symphony orchestras. He was formerly principal percussionist with the West Virginia Symphony and performs regularly with the Cincinnati Symphony and Opera. He is an active jazz vibraphonist who has recorded for J Curve Records, Human Records and Telarc.  Russell Burge is currently Associate Professor of Percussion at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.   


As an original member of Percussion Group Cincinnati, James Culley has recorded with PCG for the ars moderno, CDCM, Opus One, Einstein and EMF labels, and performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Opera Orchestras, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Columbus Symphony, Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony, Columbus Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and Summit Brass. As Professor of Percussion at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he has directed CCM's Percussion Ensemble for 21 years, and in 1998 received the Ernest N. Glover Outstanding Teaching Award.


5) Composer bio

Hailed as "clearly structured, colorful and unflaggingly compelling work" (Philadelphia Inquirer), Michael Fiday's music has been commissioned and performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe by a diverse range of performers such as Atlanta Symphony, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Percussion Ensemble of The Hague, pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, and electric guitarist Seth Josel.

Born in 1961, Michael Fiday first began his musical training as a violinist at age 11, turning his attention to composing only a few years later. He studied music and philosophy at the University of Colorado, before turning his attention to graduate work in music at the University of Pennsylvania. His principal teachers in composition have included Richard Toensing, George Crumb, and Louis Andriessen, with whom he studied in Amsterdam under the auspices of a Fulbright Grant. Mr. Fiday is the recipient of numerous awards, grants and residencies from, among others, BMI, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. He is currently Assistant Professor of Composition at the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati.


6) Thanks/contact info


This recording was made possible through the generous support of the Ohio Arts Council, the University of Cincinnati Research Council, the Friends of CCM, and the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati.


Special thanks to Headlands Center for the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Philip Blackburn at Innova, John Halle, Misa Inoaka, John Rappleye, and especially to all the performers and engineers involved in this recording whose attention to the music was such an incredible inspiration. Thanks also to Richard Toensing, George Crumb and Louis Andriessen for their past guidance and continued support and encouragement. Dedicated to my mother, Marilyn Fiday, who never flinched when I asked her to take me to concerts of strange music. 





Email: [email protected]

Website: www.michaelfiday.com


9 Haiku for flute and piano is published by:

Dinsic Publicacions Musicals, S.L.

Santa Anna, 10-E3 – 08002 Barcelona

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.dinsic.com



Tray card:

1-9          9 HAIKU (2005)   14:29           

                  Bart Feller – flute, Linda Mark – piano

                  Texts by Matsuo Basho


10            HANDS ON! (1993)   8:29

                  Mantra Percussion Quartet: Joe Bergen, Al Cerulo, Matt Kantorski, Michael McCurdy


11-21    DHARMA POPS (2006)   9:11

                  Carla Kihlstedt, Graeme Jennings – violins, Matthias Bossi – narrator

                  Texts by Jack Kerouac


22            SAME RIVERS DIFFERENT (1999)   8:30

                  Christopher Froh – percussion


23            PROTEST SONG (2002)   4:41

Soon Cho – mezzo soprano

Nicholas Naegle – violin, Brianna Goldberg – bass

Laura Sabo – bass clarinet, Shiau-uen Ding - piano

Text by Peter Gizzi


24            AUTOMOTIVE PASSACAGLIA (1988/revised 2003)   15:37

                  James Tocco – piano, Russell Burge, James Culley – percussion