1. Onyx  13:32

2. Song in High Grasses  12:05

3. Snapdragon  8:39

4. Leaning Into and Away  12:43

5. Ariadne Music  14:42


Prism Players


Total: 62:17



1. Coastal Traces Tidepools 1  10:58

2. Shenai Sky  1:50

3. Record of an Ocean Cliff  9:04

4. Crossings in a Mountain Dream  8:48

5. Glacier Track  7:57

6. Glosses/Glacier  6:34

7. Beginnings  8:34

8. Coastal Traces Tidepools 2  8:31


Libby Van Cleve, double reeds

Jack Vees, bass and guitar

Eleanor Hovda, grand piano innards


Total: 62:16



1. Borealis Music            10:29


2. Boundaries  7:11

      Ensemble: 4 flutes, 4 basses

3. Cymbalmusic: Centerflow/Trail II  9:14

      Eleanor Hovda, double-bowed cymbals,                          and audience

4. Journey Music  8:08

      Ensemble conducted by

      William McGlaughlin

5. Lemniscates  17:56

      Cassatt String Quartet

6. Regions  11:41

      California EAR Unit


Total: 64:59



1. Jo Ha Kyu  3:45

      Libby Van Cleve, oboe

2. Ikima  4:36

      Eleanor Hovda, shakuhachi

3. Breathing  13:26

      Jan Weller, solo flute, with 8 flutes

4. Music from "The Proclamation"  2:13

      David Gilbert, flute

5. Dancing in Place  3:27

      Elizabeth Panzer, harp

6. Spring Music with Wind  11:38

      Lee Humphries, piano

7. 40 Million Gallons of Music  31:02

      Eleanor Hovda, Jeannine Wagar, Dan Coody


Total: 70:31


Principal funding provided by the Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation,

in memory of Nancy F. Epstein. This release is also dedicated to

the memory of fellow pioneering composer, Harley Gaber.

Additional funding provided by the Eric Stokes Fund, “Earth’s Best in Tune.


innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Jeannine Wagar and Philip Blackburn, co-producers

Brian Heller, mastering

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations manager


Eleanor Hovda (1940-2009)


I am interested in using sound to magnify silence, and in using silence to magnify sound. My solo and ensemble works excavate songs out of metal, strings, and wood focusing on the “sound around the sound” and the juxtaposition of “breath”, “metric”, and “process” time flow. Each piece is a kind of sonic choreography, using space/time, multidimensionality, and energy shape motion as important aspects of the composition.

– Eleanor Hovda


One of the first discussions I had with Eleanor Hovda, soon after we met in 1989, concerned existential questions that had bothered her since she first began to study music as a child. She continued to ponder these questions for years. First, she wondered why no one ever worried about whether the birds were singing in tune or not, and why no one was concerned about the cicadas being on the beat. She also didn’t understand why we had only twelve tones in the octave and why certain chords were supposed to follow others. These were pretty heady questions for a young child studying piano, but they stayed with her throughout her life and influenced the ways in which she thought about music and composed music.


Her studies in music composition began in a traditional trajectory, studying piano with Esther Williamson Ballou and then beginning music composition with Gordon Smith at American University in Washington DC. Smith, himself an under-recognized teacher, encouraged Eleanor not to worry about composing in any given style. She told me many times that his influence concerning the importance of finding her own voice and not worrying about current styles was the defining factor that freed her to follow her true vocation, music composition.


After graduating with a BA in Music from American University, she moved on to graduate school to work with Mel Powell at Yale University, Kenneth Gaburo at the University of Illinois at Urbana, and Stockhausen at the Kölner Kurse fur neue Musik. When she returned from Europe she moved, with her husband at the time, flutist/conductor, David Gilbert, to New York City. She began surrounding herself with composers and musicians of great stature and exposed herself to practically every musical “school” of thought and position about the current new music: “Though I respected and was very influenced by my teachers and composers like George Crumb, Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage and others, I never got stuck in one point of view about what made good composition and what was bad.” 


Another important factor in her development was her association with David Gilbert. David is a phenomenal flutist, composer, and conductor, and when they were married, Eleanor and he talked for hours about their shared musical aesthetics. She considers the piece for solo flute, Music from the Proclamation, written for him in 1966, to be her first professional work.  When he won the esteemed Metropolis Conducting Competition, a few years later, he was given the opportunity to be Assistant Conductor to both Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez with the New York Philharmonic. Gilbert later became the Music Director of American Ballet Theater where Eleanor spent hundreds of hours watching rehearsals and concerts while socializing with Bernstein, Boulez and other major musical luminaries. 


In spite, or because of, these privileged artistic circumstances, Eleanor began to blaze her own way through many diverse paths. Her intellectual curiosity and the “day jobs” she took for financial support (or to “support her habit, music composition” as she put it) led her to immerse herself in many different fields other than music. Since she was naturally an explorer and visionary, she began to incorporate concepts into her music from these jobs, friendships and other interests. For instance, while attending American University she got a top security clearance job at the ACF Electro-Physics in Maryland where she charted wavelengths of sound waves sent into the ionosphere to detect radioactivity in the atmosphere.


In New York, she started playing piano classes for serious modern dance companies such as Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Nancy Meehan and The Laura Pawal Dance Company. That led her to discover Rudolph van Laban and his books Space Harmony and Effort/Shape in the art of choreography. She became so passionate about dance that she decided to get her MFA in choreography and dance at Sarah Lawrence instead of in music composition. She always claimed that dance was one of the main influences in her compositional style. She said that it gave her the freedom to investigate ideas other kinds of contemporary art music didn’t consider very often. Dance led her to explore breath-time, process-time, and effort as a musical artistic parameter. How long did it take a dancer to do a certain type of movement across the floor or how much effort/breath was necessary for that movement?  She remained actively involved in composing music for dance her entire life. One of many high point was a commission from Mikhail Baryshinikov for his White Oaks Project founded in 2002. Her music for Baryshinikov’s company was performed internationally, hundreds of times.


Another interest was Japanese music and when she received an NEH scholarship to study Japanese Theater Music and Zen artistic aesthetics with Dr. William Malm at the University of Michigan, she discovered that many theories she had been working on by herself were already present in Japanese musical culture. She immersed herself in Japanese theater and music, and her compositional style began to boldly incorporate many of the concepts, though she was actually expanding on ideas she had used before intuitively.


At one point, Eleanor felt she needed a break from the intensity of New York and decided to take a position in Duluth, MN (her birth place) as Executive Director of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. To her surprise, she loved the job and ended up staying for 12 years. She continued to compose and perform internationally while making a major impact on arts funding that affected the entire state’s policies. When she moved to the Twin Cities in 1989, she became the Production Manager for the Minnesota [now American-] Composers Forum where she continued to influence the musical community with her programming and ideas for the Forum’s concert series at the Walker Art Center. For Eleanor, Minnesota, was always a healing place, filled with opportunities for artists because of the openness of the society, and the enormous philanthropic support for artists and art. In 1991, she moved back to New York, though she always spoke of her experiences in Minnesota and her position in Duluth as a seminal break-through in her personal view of herself as a composer.


Eleanor spoke of her music in ways that incorporate vocabulary and metaphors from the diverse disciplines she studied. One quote from a grant asking her to describe her music is the following:

I work from images of transparent, multidimensional structures within which energy shapes and weight, focus and time evolve sculpturally as well as linearly. Concepts from theories of space/time (Japanese “ma”)…., modern dance topology, chaos and fractal geometry influence my work. The work does not fall into any specific “school” though I have been influenced by many disciplines. The craft of choreography has been integral to my work as well as some of the theories of Rudolph van Laban. Other spatial and energy theories, including those from visionary architecture, physics and mathematics, are currently important, as are the aesthetics and concepts embodied in Japanese Noh theater and the art of shakuhachi playing. I studied modern dance technique and composition to access conceptual areas that were not, at the time of my studies, dealt with very often, in music composition. These areas include the investigation of “process” or “breath” time as well as pulse and metric time; spatial considerations and movement. Quality concepts for music also include timbre, energy shapes, sonic weights, microtonal shadings and densities. 

She spoke of the importance of what she called the sound around the sound. For Eleanor, sound around the sound, meant the harmonic overtone series that is produced by any fundamental pitch and how the series surrounded and affected other pitches in multidimensional ways. She had an innate sense of listening to these harmonics and gave them the space and time to emerge from her music. She forged her own brand of Spectralism that had its origins in electroacoustic techniques and in certain French composers. With the use of exotic, non-traditional performance practices she asked musicians to reach into extended regions of their instruments. New techniques produced harmonics that could be almost inaudible to deafening, emerging as the music progressed.  Robert Carl from Fanfare magazine describes her music well. “Hovda seems able to listen very intently to the sounds she creates, to hear their long-term developmental implications the way another more traditional composer would hear the harmonic possibilities in a particular chord or short progressions. She has a true sense of how a series of sounds combines to create a harmonic entity whose whole is far more than the sum of its parts. In short, Hovda creates “resonant spaces” in her music, which she then has the gift of animating. In Hovda, we have a wonderful example of that “X” factor that makes certain artists transcendent and musical theorists sputter in frustration at the challenge of the evanescent perfection of art (much in the way that Debussy remains far more resistant to definitive musical analysis than many other 20th century composers).

Eleanor also used the analogy of excavating sound. This concept came to her when she was on a trip to Egypt and was standing by the great pyramids. She had this strong realization at the time: “Every type of sound and music has already been created. It’s up to me to excavate through all of this material to find my own voice”. The manner in which she “excavated” was usually working one on one with a musician and his/her instrument. She talked about the similarity of a choreographer working with one dancer to develop a certain movement. By analogy, working alone with one musician at a time (her favorite way to work), Eleanor was able to “excavate” the sounds she heard that might be possible on a musician’s instrument. Hovda also purchased student versions of the instruments she was working with so that she could play and experiment on them herself while working with the professional musicians that had been trained traditionally. 


She used the word lemniscate frequently (a figure-eight pattern found in physics as well as a concept emphasized in Kenneth Gaburo’s teachings) as metaphor for many of her works. The following quote comes from a grant application for a musical composition IKIMA (two Japanese words combined, meaning “breath/space-time”):

This piece will contain excavations in sonorous space and “alternating currents” which will use lemniscates as important metaphors in the piece. These figures-of-eight lemniscates articulate “inside out” to “outside in” energies on continua, as well as the essences of continually modulating and intersecting energies of time, space, size and dynamics. The shape of the work is multidimensional rather than linear.



Eleanor was very prolific and the works on these CD’s represent only a fraction of her compositions. Through a multitude of performances and reviews, combined with teaching positions at Princeton, Yale and Bard, she was  beginning to be recognized at the top of her profession. The influence she had on her students, the dance world and on other composers was profound. Then sadly, she became very ill, though she continued to compose until six months before her death in 2009.


The following comes from a 1982 interview by Bob Ashenmacher taken in Duluth.

BA: Do you hope to be remembered?”

EH: I don’t care about when I’m dead and gone. I’m concerned with getting to make music while I’m alive.

BA: What do you think you might be remembered for?

EH: Well, if I am, it’ll be for exploring the qualities of sound, the different mixtures of plump and dry sounds, very brittle and very sonorous sounds. And I’ve looked into using natural time, breathing time, as opposed to metric time. It’s important especially in writing for dance.  It’s like the opening of a flower.  It can’t be measured in increments, but only in its totality. I’m trying to work in that totality, with that totality.


She looks out the window and smiles.


EH:  “All I feel is that it’s a life priority.”


– Jeannine Wagar, April 2011




Prism Players


1. Onyx (1991)   13:32

      Jayn Rosenfeld, flute; Marcia Butler, oboe; Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Dan Grabois, horn; Josef Burgstaller, trumpet; Renee Jolles, Roger Zahab, violins; David Cerutti, cello; Ted Mook, cello; Gail Kruvand, double bass; Jeannine Wagar, conductor


2. Song in High Grasses (1986)     12:05

      Charlotte Regni, voice; Jayn Rosenfeld, flute;

      Ted Mook, cello; C. Bryan Rulon, piano


3. Snapdragon (1993)       8:39

      Jayn Rosenfeld, flute; Marcia Butler, Richard Dallessio, oboes; Jean Kopperud, Miriam Lockhart, clarinets; Ako Sato, Marc Goldberg, bassoons; Dan Grabois, Dave Smith, horns; Jeannine Wagar, conductor


4. Leaning Into and Away (1994) 12:43

      Jayn Rosenfeld, flute; Marcia Butler, oboe; Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Renee Jolles, Roger Zahab, violins; David Cerutti, viola; Ted Mook, cello; Dominic Donato, percussion I; David Cossin, percussion II/piano; Jeannine Wagar, conductor


5. Ariadne Music (1984)   14:42

      Jayn Rosenfeld, flute; Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Renee Jolles, violin; Ted Mook, cello; Gail Kruvand, double bass; C. Bryan Rulon, piano; Dominic Donato, percussion; Jeannine Wagar, conductor


Total: 62:17




Notes by Eleanor Hovda except where indicated

1. ONYX (1991) was written for the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, Warren Friesen, Music Director, and first performed in July, 1991, in Superior, Wisconsin. The piece on this disc is performed in its Chamber Ensemble version (fl, ob, hn, trp, vln 1, vln 2, vla, vc, db.) 


An onyx is a variety of agate with alternating layers or ribbons of color. I have used the idea of sound-color ribbons as a way to layer sonic textures and energies in a chamber orchestra piece. I’ve also enjoyed the memories of finding agates on the Lake Superior shore and viewing them from all angles, wet and dry, and in many kinds of light. 


2. SONG IN HIGH GRASSES (1986) was written for Charlotte Regni, and is made around a yodel-like call which she learned as a child living in Zaire, Africa. The piece is a sonic visualization of an imaginary outdoor space with tall grasses, large plants, warm winds and somnolent insects, birds and beasts. The call-song floats and dances in the ambience of wind, rustling grasses and creature sounds.


3. SNAPDRAGON (1993) was commissioned by the Holland Festival for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and was first performed in Amsterdam, in June, 1993. The title refers both to the flower whose petals open and close like “dragon jaws” and to an English children’s game, where raisins are snatched from burning flames. I wanted to work with extremes of energy (from relaxed to intense-but-inward to the most extraverted, flung energy). I also wanted to work with the idea of excavating sounds from the bone and sinew of wind instruments: the expansions of single pitches, either fingered or other wise altered, which can happen when extremes of breath control, addition of auxiliary keys and alternative fingerings are used. I imagine the energy of watching the flames and then swiftly snatching at the raisins. I imagine the energy of both participating in the game and watching the action.


4. LEANING INTO AND AWAY (1994) was written for the Cuicani Project and commissioned by the US/Mexican Fund for Culture. I use the title Leaning Into and Away because the piece grew out of many thoughts about and experiences of dancing and making music for dancers. I found myself focusing particularly on the energy shapes of running on the ground, leaping into space, and the energy flow involved in any physical moves from balance to suspension. Just as dancers draw energy from deep inside their bodies, I tried to elicit and sculpt sounds from the depths of the piano, wind, string and percussion instruments.


5. ARIADNE MUSIC (1984) was written for the Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman, music director and conductor. The first performance was on March 13, 1984 in Jordon Hall, Boston, and was performed in collaboration with the Concert Dance Company of Boston doing Meg Harper’s choreography titled UPON DREAMING OF THE WHITE BUFFALO. According to Greek mythology, Ariadne provided a single-stroke solution to a complex problem by giving Theseus a ball of thread, so that when he was led into the Labyrinth to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, he could lay a trail for his own escape.


The music is about sound energy spun into resonant thread and uncoiled from its source. The trail is unbroken, as the sound-skein, loosened and tightened, changing texture and resonance, threads its multi-directional path.


CD1 was originally released as Ariadne Music by OO Discs, oo46.


Executive Producer:  Joseph Celli

Produced, engineered, edited and mastered by Adam Abeshouse


Partial funding for this recording was provided by the The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust with additional support from Corinne Hovda and Topher Delaney.





Libby Van Cleve, double reeds; Jack Vees, bass and guitar; Eleanor Hovda, grand piano innards


1. Coastal Traces Tidepools 1  10:58 

      Grand piano innards, waterphone


2. Shenai Sky  1:50  Shenai


3. Record of an Ocean Cliff  9:04 

      Oboe, electric guitar


4. Crossings in a Mountain Dream  8:48 

      Oboe, electric guitar


5. Glacier Track  7:57  Oboe D’amore, electric bass


6. Glosses/Glacier  6:34 

      Electric bass with superball mallet


7. Beginnings  8:34  Shenai, oboe, electric bass


8. Coastal Traces Tidepools 2  8:31 

      Bowed grand piano innards


Total: 62:16



The selections on CD2 are derived from the dance scores. We wanted the listener to hear the music from several seasons of Nancy Meehan’s dances. Eleanor, Libby Van Cleve, and Jack Vees edited the parts so that the form of each piece would be intact and make sense to the listener without the dance. Because each track is based on parts of the original music there are no program notes per se for each piece.


Ms. Meehan was raised in San Francisco and much of her work is taken from nature images found on the west coast. We asked James Pritchett to write a section on nature from the coastal shores of the east coast because that is where the Nancy Meehan Dance Company has performed for many years. 

– Jeannine Wagar


Eleanor Hovda’s scores for these pieces are completely cryptic. There are standard note heads and clefs, to be sure, but most of the notation is ad hoc, inspired by the needs of the moment. The pages are covered with a rich collection of markings: erratic lines and looping swirls; tablature-like notations showing just where to hold, bow, pluck, or strike the instrument; drawings of the dancers’ motions and arrangements (these are used as cues for the players); and, winding through all of these, a large amount of text that describes playing techniques and sound images.

The scores have this eccentric feel in part because of the nature of Hovda’s musical imagery. Her music is made up largely of ongoing sounds that fluctuate slightly, right at the edge of our hearing. She works by feel, discovering the sounds and guiding their development gently by hand. Hovda’s wild scores convey the frustration of trying to make music notation work in this context. Pitches and rhythms do her no good, so she flings words, pictures, images, lines, and anything else at hand at the music paper in an attempt to remind the performers of how to rediscover the sounds. The scores are not descriptive, they are prescriptive—much of the time their function is mnemonic.

As a writer on music, I find myself in a similar situation with Hovda’s music — how to describe it? We are language-poor in music: a few terms for timbre, almost none for pitch and loudness, and nothing at all to describe the shape of a changing tone. Perhaps this is one of her music’s greatest strengths, though: a music that stands before us unnamable.

Collaboration: dancers

The music on this disc was written to accompany dancers—specifically the Nancy Meehan Dance Company. The music is very closely tied to the dance, but there is no sense of a one-to-one correspondence between movement and music. The dance always comes first; Eleanor begins work by attending rehearsals while the dance is still in the planning stages. She watches the movements and pays attention to Meehan’s imagery. After the continuity of the dance has been settled, Eleanor goes to a rehearsal with a tape recorder. While the dancers dance, she translates the energy world of their movements through speech and song. Later, at her studio, she translates these to paper and begins working out the shape of the music. Thus her music will have the same kind of energy that the dance does, or perhaps it will provide a counterpoint to what Meehan has choreographed.

Hovda’s music thus proceeds from an exploration of the forces that make the dancers move the way they do. Rather than articulate the surface rhythms of the dance, she quietly provides a substratum upon which these rhythms move. One might say that the dancers do not so much dance to the music as they dance on the music—she says that they dance in it.

In a dance performance, Eleanor Hovda’s music seems invisible, like the floor, the light, the space around the dancers.

                        Collaboration: performers

The music on Coastal Traces is not just the result of Eleanor Hovda’s collaboration with Nancy Meehan; it is also the result of her close collaboration with Jack Vees and Libby Van Cleve. Hovda has said that, inspired by dancers, she makes her compositions “on the performer.” Rather than write out a score for some anonymous player, she sits down with Vees and Van Cleve to discover just what sounds will take place in the piece. They work out the piece together through a process that Hovda refers to as the “excavation” of sound. Thus these works are the results of the close personal relationships among the performers and the composer.

Eleanor says that she tries, as much as possible, to bring fresh sounds into each new piece. Personally, I love the way that, going from one piece to another, I noticed some of the same sounds reappearing in fresh contexts. Because Eleanor Hovda arrives at the sounds in her music by a lengthy and careful process of excavation, each sound is a treasure, a miracle. It only makes sense that a sound, once found, should be used again and again — the sound of hard rubber balls rubbed on bass strings, tapped harmonics, bowed bass notes, the powerful nasal sound of the shenai (an Indian double-reed instrument). All these sounds have associations that can be put together in different combinations. They are like mythic characters, playing out various eternal stories.


Instead of a series of events, Eleanor Hovda presents us with an ever-present force: a sound that proceeds from its own unknown premises and continues in its own elusive way. The music doesn’t so much start and stop as it emerges and recedes, phasing in and out of audibility. Listening to these pieces, I have the distinct feeling that the music is going on all the time, but that I only hear it intermittently.

[Following are descriptions of the choreography that went with the music]



                        Barnegat Inlet

Island Beach occupies the southern end of a lengthy barrier island on the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey. The island begins at Point Pleasant and extends without a break for about twenty-three miles to Barnegat Inlet. On one side is the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other is Barnegat Bay. Recently, I drove south down this island until the road disappeared under the sand dunes, then I got out and walked the remaining mile or so to Barnegat Inlet. There is a rock jetty there that extends well out into the ocean.

The ocean moves huge amounts of sand back and forth around this inlet every day. Unlike the sudden opening and closing of inlets by storms, the changes here are very slow and pass unnoticed for the most part. The coastline today is not the same as it was last week, or even yesterday, or perhaps even this morning: every tide rearranges the sand. Comparing the layout of this part of the beach with an older map, I became confused: it showed a broad area of sand south of the jetty that simply no longer exists. It probably has been pushed into the inlet or pulled out into the sea. Or perhaps it has been both pushed and pulled multiple times, back and forth. The sculpting of the coastline is the result of powerful forces, but ones that move so slowly that they are imperceptible.

Walking back up the beach, I began to pay attention to the clams thrown up on the beach by the last tide. The water deposited them high on the beach, then washed back and forth over them as the tide went out. The microcurrents around the shells dig out furrows on their seaward side, forming little pools and rivulets. The shaping force that erased the sand in Barnegat Inlet works also at the small scale around these clams. Omnipresent, it creates a continuity measured in sand and water that proceeds quietly and slowly, just at the edge of consciousness.


During the summer, the beach is full of an obvious energy and commotion. Swimmers, sunbathers, teenagers, children digging in the sand, joggers, boaters, waterskiers, boardwalkers, vendors all jostle one another and form human currents on the sand. In the off-season, the people disappear, and with them the human energy that animated the shore. Standing on the sand alone on a clear autumn day, where does the energy come from? The sun is still there, moving from one side to another, while the moon shoves the water back and forth—a slow oscillation. “Loom of the moon”, James Joyce called it.

                        The Pine Barrens

About 140 million years ago, the coastal plain of New Jersey submerged and was covered by the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next 135 million years or so, the seas rose and fell many times, and the land of south-central New Jersey was at various times above and below water. The area between what is now the Delaware River valley and the Atlantic coast was a large island, separated from the mainland.

The sea changes during this period left layer upon layer of sand and other loose soils upon this island. Because of the permeability and acidity of the soil, this area has never lent itself to human cultivation. Instead it remains an immense, flat area of mostly pines, but also oaks, huckleberries, blueberries, and other wild plants. From observation towers, all you can see from one horizon to the other is pine forest—over one million acres. Looking out over this expanse, it is easy to imagine this as a huge island, the million-year tides throwing the sand up on the shore.

                        Island Beach

Many species of water birds will follow the line of the Atlantic Coast as they head for their wintering grounds. With my binoculars, I spotted a flock of birds too far out to sea to be recognizable. Coming from the north, they became visible as their wings flashed white in the sunshine. As they turned slightly one direction or the other, their wings no longer reflected the sun, and they would become invisible against the blue sky. Turned another way, they would become dark spots—then light again, then invisible. They continued in this way, north to south, staying well away from the shore. As they moved off to the south, they became dark spots against the bright sunshine before they disappeared entirely.

Another group formed a more-or-less straight line parallel to the horizon and only very slightly above it. They, too, moved from north to south, left to right, never coming closer to land. They wavered over the horizon, dipping below it slightly at times and then moving up again. The thermal currents in the air blurred their images, so that they appeared to become part of the waves—then separate, then rejoining the sea, over and over again, flying on the edge of the visible world.

– © 1996 by James Pritchett. 

All rights reserved.


CD2 was originally released as Coastal Traces by OO Discs, oo29

Producer: Jack Vees

Recording Engineer, Arthur Bloom

Mastering, Peter Karl, Audio Services, Brooklyn

The original disc was partially funded by Thomas Buckner, The Bush Foundation, Mary Flager Cary Charitable, Topher Delaney in San Francisco and Morgan Hare in New York.


Thanks to Nancy Meehan and Patty Bryan and the entire Nancy Meehan Dance Company, Anthony Candido, Jeannine Wagar and Corinne Hovda, my mother, for all kinds of support and encouragement.

This recording was made using the Soundfield SPS422 Studio Microphone System. Each piece is performed through without edits. In other words, we took several takes of each piece and chose the best one. The sequenced DAT tape was processed digitally through the Lexicon Nuverb Processor in order to replicate, as closely as possible, the live and complex acoustics of St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, NYC, for which these pieces were designed. Eleanor Hovda and Jack Vees performed inside the piano case with friction mallets, hands, and ‘bow’ strings with violin bowhairs. The mic inside the piano captured resonances. Hovda then edited the material to eliminate performance clatter.




1. Borealis Music            10:29



2. Boundaries  7:11

      Ensemble: 4 flutes, 4 basses


3. Cymbalmusic: Centerflow/Trail II  9:14

      Eleanor Hovda, double-bowed cymbals, and audience


4. Journey Music  8:03

      Ensemble conducted by William McGlaughlin


5. Lemniscates  17:56

      Cassatt String Quartet


6. Regions  11:45

      California EAR Unit


total: 64:59




The Relache Ensemble


Laurel Wyckoff, flute, alto flute, piccolo

Lloyd Shoter, oboe, English horn

Ken Ulansy, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet

Chuck Holdeman, bassoon

Kathleen Carroll, viola

Douglas Mapp, contrabass and electric bass

John Dulik, piano and synthesizer

Helen Carnevale, percussion


BOREALIS MUSIC suggests energy that moves but doesn’t go anywhere. I see the Aurora Borealis as curtains or ribbons of active energy moving in place rather than traveling. There is also the perception of the Aurora being a series of superimposed “after images” - the idea that what is seen is the resultant of a field of reflected/refracted electrical impulses. The musical energy fields are achieved by introspective probing of the “sound around the sound” of strings and winds. Sonic ribbons emerge, and resonance fields are excavated and articulated. An important aspect of performance is the execution of very soft dynamic levels with intense concentration and energy. A theatrical metaphor is the Noh theater of Japan, where the slow unfolding of infinitesimally distilled material serves to heighten and sustain focus and attention. BOREALIS MUSIC was commissioned for the Sylmar Chamber Ensemble through the Minnesota Composers Forum Composers Commissioning Program funded by the Jerome Foundation.


Borealis Music first appeared on OO Discs, oo17


Executive Producer: Joseph Franklin

Recorded and Mastered: John Vinore

Assistant Engineer: Glen Carty


Funding provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and generous support from Thomas Buckner.






2. BOUNDARIES (1989) for four flutes and four double basses


Flutes: Janis Weller, Irene Pruzan,

Holly Clemans, Susan Morrissey

Basses: Nancy Bjork, Michael Smith,

Noel Chelberg, Greg Hippen


BOUNDARIES is about extents and limits. The piece makes use of the difference and similarities of the instruments, including variables in dynamic and pitch ranges, timbre and articulation (bowed, plucked, blown). The energy of extremes and stretched parameters contrasted to dense overlays, work with ideas of expanding and contracting sound-fields.


Performed at Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, March 1989 in a concert curated by C. Lee Humphries.

Funded by the McKnight Foundation


3. CYMBALMUSIC II: Centerflow/Trails II (1983)

for double bowed cymbals and audience. 


Eleanor Hovda, double bowed cymbals with double bass bows, humming

Audience: Humming


Cymbalmusic/Centerflow II is the second piece from a series of five pieces made for double cymbals. Centerflow II uses double bowed cymbals with double bass bows.


I was working on the “mind and body energies” that happen during the process of cross-country skiing, and began to use the cymbals during my own “bowing stride,” and continue for an extended period of time, allowing sounds to evolve, grow, dissolve in a situation where the only “controlling” factor is “bowing stride” and the freedom to make choices about the degree of energy and metric “phrasing” of “strides.” In Cymbalmusic II, the cymbal player collaborates with the audience. Long tones (hummed and/or whistled), made by the audience and performer, are folded into the cymbal sonorities.


Performed live at the Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, 1983


4. JOURNEY MUSIC  (1981)


Irene Pruzan, flute

Marlene Pauley, clarinet

Young-Nam Kim, violin

Michael Smith, bass

Susan Genaw, piano

Joe Holmquist, percussion

William McGlaughlin, conductor


Journey Music moves in “breath” or “process” timing--”the time it takes to do something” rather than in metric or clock timing. General tempo words and descriptions of quality of sound, together with the mechanics of playing plus dynamic indications create general tempo areas. Except in cases where synchrony is specifically indicated, each player (or conductor) makes internal tempo decisions based on information in score, ensemble flow and comfortableness in playing. Except when specifically indicated, relaxed, centered execution is most important in this piece. The overall spatial flow-energy shapes being flung, carved, wafted, in and out of the whole sound space-is central to the meaning of this piece. If a sequence is awkward, or a timbre quality is difficult to manage, it is perfectly acceptable to alter and/or simplify pitch structures.


The ensemble all play from the score. Total ensemble awareness by all performers is important. Timing is “on the breath” in most cases-each player will find it clearer to be aware of each other player’s process.


The conductor’s main responsibility is ensemble flow, dynamic and energy balances and non-balances, timbre projections and meshing. This also helps create an atmosphere of centeredness and flowing, upbeat interaction among the players. Conductor should breath, feel free to move expressively, and be part of the journey. 


Journey Music was commissioned by the Jerome Foundation for the Orchestra of Our Time, Joel Thome, Music Director in 1981.


Premiere, recorded May 24, 1984 at the Walker Art Center Auditorium on a Minnesota Composers Forum concert.




The Cassatt String Quartet:

Muneko Otani, Sunghae Anna Lim, violins;

Michiko Oshima, viola; Anna Cholakian, cello


LEMNISCATES was written for the Kronos Quartet and was premiered at New Music America, Miami in 1988. The piece is about excavating the “sound around the sound”, a sonic resource of stringed instruments rarely heard in an acoustical setting. 


The title “LEMNISCATES” derives from the Latin word lemniscus (“with hanging ribbons”). In mathematics, the word refers to a figure-of-eight shape, and is defined as follows: “the locus of the foot of the perpendicular from the center of a conic on its axis”.  The dance theorist, Rudolph von Laban used the word to describe figure-of-eight energy shapes drawn by the body in space. I use the word in all of the above contexts - to describe “ribbons of sound,” to indicate techniques of bowing, and to provide metaphor for the spatial motion of sound ribbons and the resulting sonic sculpture created by the string quartet. 


I am interested in magnifying stillness so that the “sounds around the sound” can be more clearly experienced. LEMNISCATES uses sounds around or caused by the fundamental “written” pitch: for example, combinations of upper partials, the timbres caused by variants of “normal” bowings, and microtonal shapings.


The ideal performance space for LEMNISCATES is enclosed, resonant and free of mechanical and other ambient sound. This allows the performers and audience to hear the sound fields created by variations in bow speeds, bow tilts and positions of the bow on the instrument as well as the pressure of the hair on the strings.

— Eleanor Hovda


Eleanor Hovda’s Lemniscates, written originally for the Kronos Quartet, is the most technically complicated work on this [New World Records] release. The conventional language of rhythm and pitches gives way to an otherworldly zone dominated by harmonics and overtones. Hovda creates a whole new bowing technique: a figure-8 in which the bow moves from the ordinary position to the fingerboard and to the bridge. (The mathematical term that gives Hovda’s work its title refers to the figure-8, and is derived from the Latin lemniscus, meaning “with hanging ribbons.”) This technique, combined with the continual use of harmonics (very light fingering, so that only overtones and not fundamental tones are produced), results in a continually shifting sound-texture composed not of notes but ghosts or “glints” of notes. At first this sonic space seems devoid of activity, inhabited only by static whispers of tone hanging in mid-air. But hints of passage work slowly intrude—trills, tremolos, little chromatic figures, and arpeggiated patterns of overtones. The work’s unexpected climax is an enormous, droning crescendo on tones of E.


Produced by the Cassatt String Quartet

Executive Producer: Joseph R. Dalton

Recorded at Crouse College Auditorium, Syracuse University School of Music, on January 18–21, 1993.

Recording Engineer: Mark Drews. Editor: Brian C. Peters.

This recording was made possible through the generous support of: The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Chamber Music America Annual New Works Fund, the Greenwall Foundation, Syracuse University, and private individuals.


P c 2007 Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc. NWCR 671.

Used by Permission.


6. REGIONS (1992)

for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano


California EAR Unit

REGIONS is about clear and hidden views and kinds of transits between these views. I have been fascinated with gradations of opaqueness to clarity; complexity to simplicity; and by how long something is recognizably one thing before it turns into something else. REGIONS is a journey of transitions with views along the way. 


REGIONS was commissioned through the Meet the Composer/Readers Digest Program for Atlanta Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, California Ear Unit and Boston Musica Viva and was completed in March, 1992.

PERFORMANCE NOTES (from the score)


REGIONS is written in one minute or 30-second increments rather than being metered. The six players work from full score. Rehearsal numbers correspond to page numbers in the score. Each score page is approximately 30 seconds or one minute long (indicated in the r.h. top corner of the score). Time is flexible in this piece, and should be dealt with in terms of breath lengths and by the Conductor’s sense of when changes should occur. There should be no awkward cueing places, no entrances “on a dime”, rarely exact unisons, because a point of the piece is to have each instrument evolve color changes by various bowing, fingering, embouchure and other changes on single “notes”.  Notation enclosed in braces with a line across the system refers to a set of repeating material to be continued until the line ends. Notation enclosed in parentheses refers to additional activity to be interspersed with the activity in braces. The parentheses occur as breaks in a line connecting braces, and is operative, ad. lib., until the end of the section.


FLUTE: It is important to use inhale as well as exhale melodically for energy flow . - ordinary manner of tone production (modo ordinario) - traverse air sound (EXHALE) - completely relaxed embouchure. Use diaphragm to articulate energy. - covered air sound (EXHALE) - mouth completely covers embouchure hole . - covered air sound (INHALE)- mouth completely covers embouchure hole . 1 2 & 3 are interchangeable in a long passage and should be used as needed. - Subtone: covered tone, ppp. finger a 1/2 step above written pitch & cover mouthpiece (lowers pitch by 1/2 step [approx.]) - Always articulate from the diaphragm rather than from the tongue or throat. Example: (> > > > >>>>> ) = use diaphragm attacks/accents ad. lib. - a e o u (vowels) - Vowels and consonants are used melodically to color air sounds. Air sounds work best when the tongue is behind the teeth, the embouchure is very relaxed and the tsch t h (consonants) attack is from the diaphragm. - use a variety of alternate fingerings whenever possible to color long passages microtonally and timbrally. Try harmonic fingerings, alteration by trill & auxiliary keys and use underblowing, overblowing and embouchure changes to adjust pitches. ( ) means use of microtones. - right hand trill keys (D, D#); left hand G# key and r.h. thumb key. These keys are used, ad lib, to color basic pitches. They may be combined, trilled, and used singly as appoggiaturas; can cause multiphonics as well as increasing the density of “air sounds” and altering pitch. The point is to use them as “sound around the sound”. It is not necessary to control exactly which pitches are produced. “Nohkan” sound - this is a very piercing, airy sound produced by overblowing and allowing surrounding partials to sound. The Nohkan is a traverse bamboo flute used in Japanese Noh Theater.


CLARINET: This piece requires the clarinet to use many alternate fingerings for a single pitch. Each player should find a set of fingerings which work well. Please experiment with some of the very unstable fingerings which allow for gradual entrances. It is very beautiful to hear the air sounds which precede the sounding of the note; entrances may take as much time as needed, and if the sound results in multiphonics, that is also beautiful. The goal is to allow the sound to continually evolve throughout a single breath. Find 3 - 5 alternate fingerings for the pitches indicated in the score. These fingerings should alter the “basic” sound microtonally and/or timbrally. Arrange these fingerings in some order which can be repeated. Ways to find these fingerings include using trill keys, auxiliary keys (such as thumb keys) and harmonic fingerings, and neighboring tones with flatted/sharped alternate fingerings (ex: “B & flat C” fingerings for written B). The notation ( ) means that pitch may be altered up and down microtonally. The rhythmic notation given in the score for alternate fingering changes is not hard and fast. In long passages of alternate fingerings, the goal is to savor the changes, which should happen more or less asymmetrically (unless noted otherwise). Never use vibrato in this piece, or bend tones with the lip. The actual fingering changes will create the changes in sound. Always maintain as soft and sheer a sound as possible in pp sections. The intensity of the sound will be greater. Niente means to literally come out of nowhere, with no discernable attack - exaggerate this quality as much as possible. NB: The following may also be used, ad lib, fleetingly, in clarinet solo passages to expand /ornament the texture: DOUBLE TRILLS - FLUTTER TONGUE - TRILL KEYS - and other AUXILIARY KEYS used as appoggiaturas



STRINGS: (Violin & Cello) Bowings: This piece is unusually concerned with articulations of harmonics and “sounds around the sound” rather than clear fundamental pitches. The intention is for players to coax the “sound around the sound” from the instruments by use of changes in bowing and pressures of fingering. During long sections of held tones or repeating patterns, each player should bow independently, having freedom to mold the sound. Bow very slowly and, using a figure-of-eight or oval motion, traverse ponticello (pont), ordinario (ord) and tasto. The following bowing variations are used, ad lib, throughout the piece: Bowing variations: - change speed, pressure and angle of bow; - use full bow/partial bow/point of bow - change part of instrument where bowing takes place (tasto - ordinario - ponticello) = move bow in figure-or-eight style and/or move back & forth through tasto-ord-pont smoothly and continually. - near the nut on the fingerboard. Usually a half-step higher than the open string - tremolo should be made from a “dangling” bow and should vary from a narrow shake to wider shakes ad. lib. - upbow and downbow strokes should also be of various lengths and have “breath” impulse to them. - Bowing should move in pontcello - ordinario areas primarily. This can be done by a figure-of-eight or oval motion.


Fingerings: The strings use “quasi harmonics” a great deal. This means that a passage which is normally fingered firmly and played as clear pitch, is touched lightly as if it were harmonics and the resulting sound is “airy” and full of overtones. - fundamental/harmonic tremolos and glisses - theses create a hollow, “dovelike” or yodel sound. They should be played very softly, allowing the “hollowing out”around the fundamental. Bow speed should be slow and pont - ord - pont should be in continuous flux. - fingers/palm moving along strings picking up harmonics ad lib. - fingers lightly “tremoloing” or making appoggiaturas of upper neighbors &/or harmonics. This is a use of “quasi-harmonics”; touching strings rather than depressing them fully. - Harmonic glisses on strings between the 8va harmonic and the end of the fingerboard are ad lib and of varying widths (very short - medium - long). - The rhythmic notation (when used on a long tone with harmonic glisses, etc.), refers to upbow/downbow changes. These should be done ad.lib.,in flexible non-symmetrical impulses. Use the written notation as a guide, not as something to adhere to literally.

GRAND PIANO - The piano is used entirely within the case (see diagram). Three kinds of techniques are used: Flexible bows (5) - each of these are made from 6-8 strands of recycled violin bowhairs bundled together by knotting both ends. Each bow is rosined with violin rosin and threaded under the string/s it will be activating. The player holds an end in each hand and slowly draws it back and forth along the string it is threaded under. It helps to label each bow end with masking tape, which can be pasted to piano bars when the bows aren’t in use. Superball friction mallet (1): this mallet is used to elicit harmonics from the strings by stroking individual strings. The sound materializes without attack. This is accomplished by drawing the mallet gently toward the keyboard on the designated string, in “string area B” (between hammers and felts). Depending on which string is designated, the mallet will elicit the 1, 2, 3 or 4 partial (8va, 5th, 8va, M3). The desired partial is noted in the score together with the string to be stroked. Plucked strings appear only once, at the end of the piece. Masking tape can be used to mark the pairs of 5ths to be plucked. This passage is very slow, and contemplative. There should be plenty of time to find each pair of strings. The strings should be plucked gently and allowed to ring.


PERCUSSION (Crotales) - Crotales are always bowed with bass bows (2 are needed). cello and violin bows are workable if necessary. The bowed Crotales are only occasionally bowed loudly. Usually they provide a ghostlike resonance and the sound appears to come from nowhere. Bow very slowly and, using a figure-of-eight or oval motion, traverse ponticello (pont), ordinario (ord) and tasto. Bowing variations: - change speed, pressure and angle of bow; - use full bow/partial bow/point of bow - change part of instrument where bowing.



1. Jo Ha Kyu  3:45

      Libby Van Cleve, oboe


2. Ikima  4:38

      Eleanor Hovda, shakuhachi


3. Breathing  13:31

      Janis Weller, solo flute, with 8 flutes


4. Music from “The Proclamation”  2:13

      David Gilbert, flute


5. Dancing in Place  3:27

      Elizabeth Panzer, harp


6. Spring Music with Wind  11:38

      Lee Humphries, piano


7. 40 Million Gallons of Music  31:02

      Eleanor Hovda, Jeannine Wagar, Dan Coody


total: 70:31

1. JO HA KYU (1990)


An ancient Buddhist proverb states that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Little did I know what was awaiting me when I first met Eleanor Hovda ­— the experience proved revelatory. It was 1981. I was fresh out of college and had moved to the Twin Cities with no professional connections but lots of energy and the kind of intensity and self-seriousness found only in the young.  Eleanor invited me to Duluth to take part in a two-week composer/choreographer workshop with several other musicians and four choreographers. We spent the mornings as a group, experimenting with sound and movement, and spent afternoons in pairs, working toward a final performance.  Eleanor’s approach was creative and playful; serious, yet also lighthearted. After years of investment and success in an educational model based on hard work, discipline, and rationality, I was energized and inspired, sensing that the work of music essentially included play. Coincidentally, at that time I had an ancient alarm clock that suddenly started going backwards, measuring time counter-clockwise, and I was reading Borges’ Labyrinths, which turned my mind inside out and upside down. What fun!


As I got to know and work with Eleanor, those first impressions only became stronger: boundless imagination, laughter, a child-like delight in exploring sounds, originality, and an extremely serious yet utterly playful approach to work. Our friendship and musical collaboration had a monumental impact on my artistic life.


We kept in touch over the years. Eventually Jack Vees, my boyfriend (now husband) joined the friendship. His virtuosity and creativity on the electric bass stimulated Eleanor, and they shared aphorisms from Mel Powell, with whom they both had studied. By the late 80s, we three had the opportunity to provide music for Nancy Meehan’s elegant and refined choreography. (Humor permeated even this high art: how we laughed over the implications of one piece which ended with the oboe cackling away like a furious shrew, followed the next season by another finale in which the bass simply turns up the volume to overpower the hysterical oboe!) This began a golden age for us: annual dance concerts preceded by periods of intensive work and exploration. Seeking time away from distractions to work together, we received a residency at Yellow Springs Artist Colony.

There Eleanor and I worked together to create Jo Ha Kyu. Its title refers to a Japanese aesthetic form that originated with the Noh drama. “Jo” means beginning; “Ha” means opening up or scattering; “Kyu” means rush to finish. Each gesture contains this form, as does the entire piece, like the concept of fractals in geometry. We spent a great deal of time excavating the sounds for this piece: days of work at Yellow Springs followed by an exchange of letters and tapes in the mail (yes, the mail! It was 1990 and before the internet revolutionized communication), with a final version completed months later. While working on the piece, Eleanor wrote, “…I think that if we work out the ‘energy choreography’, then the sound material is already there. ...the trick with the oboe …will be to design a physical flow which really uses inhale as well as exhale in a body-logical way. For the piece to work, the thing has to never, ever have a break in the energy flow (even though the actual playing of the oboe may have pauses). …” This little composition exemplifies some of the big ideas that characterize Eleanor’s work. She set this piece on me: on my body and my particular approach to the instrument, much like a choreographer would work with a dancer. (I’m not ready to make a grand statement about gender aesthetics, but it’s interesting how many female composers, even those with widely varying compositional styles, think a lot about the body and the physical act of playing instruments.) Although the sounds were chosen with a great deal of care, the particular emphasis was on the flow of energy.  Every sound was embraced, including the “sounds around the sound”, for example the almost imperceptible air sounds before a pitch begins. All phrases were notated in breath time rather than clock time—indeed, the performer’s inhalations and exhalations were ultimately emphasized and used to punctuate phrases and provide a continuous energy flow.  Finally, this gem of a piece was the product of two people enjoying a rich friendship and highly stimulating musical collaboration. How pleased and privileged I was to have worked and played with Eleanor Hovda, an extraordinarily sensitive and creative musician.  

— Libby Van Cleve






2. IKIMA (1986) for solo shakuhachi


Eleanor Hovda, shakuhachi


The title, Ikima, is taken from two Japanese words: Iki and Ma. Iki is the word for breath and appears often in Zen aesthetic writing. Ma means both space and time, and refers to the space between sounds (or movements or objects).


In writing this piece, Hovda continues sound excavations using three dimensional concepts of breath-time versus linear-time within space/time. Other concepts used to develop the work are the following: the use of breath and gesture as important models for the rhythmic flow of the work; use of asymmetry as a design principle; emphasizing the concept of “tone” as a complex event with subtle shadings, thinning and thickenings,  tensing and releasing,  tremolo, breathiness and slight variations of pitch and timbre; and focusing on “continuity” as a result of tension sustained through silences.


Ikima is through composed with non-repetitive patterns evolving as clusters of spatial lemniscates (figures of eight: 8) in contrast to linear, repetitive modes. 

— Jeannine Wagar


3. BREATHING (1983)


Janis Weller, solo flute, with 8 flutes


Breathing is made for multiple flutes, and articulates the motions and resonance of breath flow in sonorous space. “Air sounds” are shaped with vowel and consonant articulations or orchestrate “wind melodies,” and inhale as well as exhale is used melodically. Seminal work for this and much of my other music began in 1966, when I wrote Music from The Proclamation for solo flute in collaboration with composer/flutist David Gilbert who had already developed extended techniques for the flute. I began my work with “process” (or “breath”) time versus “clock” (or “pulse) time, as well as evolving notation for “energy shape” voicings and timbre and textural orchestration of the “sound around the sound.”


for solo flute, written for David Gilbert.


Music from The Proclamation was composed in 1966 as the music component of a play The Proclamation by Iva Martirano. The script called for a flutist, a man (mime) and a woman (actor). The Flute, played and acted by David Gilbert, presided over the flow of action between the Man and the Woman, and had continuous and shifting role-involvement throughout the play. It was performed at the Roundhouse, in Urbana, Illinois. It was revised, in concert version, in 1968.


I had become interested in considerations of breathing with respect to sound-production, energy shape composing and timbre painting as well as to problems of periodicity (a natural resultant of inhale/exhale cycles of wind and brass players and singers). The necessity of producing a long (ca. 25 minutes), evolving statement for the flute-character provided a “psychological form,” a theatrical context, within which some ways to foil periodicity in a flute solo could be developed and shaped.


David Gilbert, a flutist and composer, had already developed new techniques using inhale and exhale melodically, vowel and consonant sounds, and alternate methods of sound production to enlarge the timbre palette. These included “air” sounds, combination of air/pitch, pitch color and weight change by alternate fingerings, “chords”, etc. the compositional availability of “air” sounds combined with vowel and consonant articulations (which can be produced during inhale as well as exhale cycles) served to free me from the inevitability of the “sound/take-a-breath, sound/take-a-breath loop.


Factors governing the durational limits of inhales and exhales were explored. For example, the greater the “force” required to play an inhaled/exhaled segment, the shorter the possible duration of that segment. Parameters which combine to determine the total “force’ include register placement, dynamics, density (single pitches/ “chords”: flute alone/flute with humming: method of sound production (modo ordinario, pitch and “air” combinations); phonetic articulation (vowel and/or consonant sounds, simple or complex, such as Ho versus rtchu with a rolled r).

This piece has been a process, in three general stages:  First, by developing sound materials from combinations of parameters which focused on extents of time, weights and energy and flow-shapes, I hoped to avoid the natural periodicity of inhale and exhale cycles. Second, the sound material took shape and life when molded within the theatrical context/content (psychological form) of the play. Third, the flute music was revised into a concert version wherein the interaction between the performer and the material became the event, and the “meaning” is a timbral/energy flow soundscan.

— Eleanor Hovda


My first marriage was to Eleanor Hovda, and although it did not last, we remained friends. Later Eleanor and her partner, Jeannine Wagar, became quite close with me and my entire family — dear friends with my wife, Nonie, and like beloved aunts to our three children. 


Eleanor and I used to have long, speculative conversations, going far into the night, coming up with new ideas that greatly enriched us both in our creative endeavors.


Her sound-art is one of gesture, energy, and breath. It comes from the body’s impulse to move. Her motion impulses were ecstatic. She often said that all she ever really wanted to do was run and leap. The physical effort involved in expressing these joyous impulses became the tensions and the drama of her unique music. No wonder her music was so ideally suited to the dance.


Eleanor wrote Music from The Proclamation for me, utilizing breathing and singing techniques that we worked out together. The breath sounds include both audible inhaling and exhaling, allowing the music to unfold without pause. We didn’t opt for circular breathing because Eleanor wanted the breathing to be clearly heard as an integral and poetic part of the sound structure. The vocal aspects were simply singing into the flute while playing, sometimes causing multiphonics to occur. These techniques are often used now, but in the 60s they were new. So new that once when I was playing Eleanor’s piece and one of my own, a lady in the audience had to leave because she was so embarrassed for me — ”The poor man is having so much trouble getting a tone!” she said. 

Later I was invited by the West German Radio in Cologne to record a program of contemporary American flute music, and I included Music from The Proclamation. Eleanor was with me and I remember us listening intently to the playbacks. There was a moment in the first take that didn’t go too well, but was just right in the second take. Eleanor and I worked closely with the sound engineer to find the exact spot for a splice. The recording staff folks were looking at each other, trying to suppress smiles of disbelief. The music sounds so wildly improvisatory that they surely thought we were either joking or trying to appear impressive. Suddenly we both said, “There!” The exact connection in the seemingly chaotic air sounds had been found. The engineer skeptically worked the tape back and forth until we zeroed in on it. The splice was made, and we anxiously listened to the playback. It was seamless! Disbelief in the room morphed into a certain atmosphere of awe. Our German crew was mightily impressed. We parted with warm handshakes and great friendship. Eleanor’s music, sounding free and unplanned “like the wind”, as Debussy would have said, had suddenly demonstrated unequivocally its precision and care. She was a true master of her art.

— David Gilbert




Elizabeth Panzer, harp


Dancing in Place takes its name from the composer’s image of a choreographer describing a dance by using her (or his) hands as feet; likewise, the composition evokes full movements with subtle gestures. — Howard Mandel, liner notes to original OO Discs release.


I clearly remember working with Eleanor on the piece. She spoke to me about how when she was younger she had been a dancer. I don’t know if you have ever seen a dancer describe choreography, but they have a way of using their hands and arms like feet and legs to show the steps. Well, this is what she thought of when she saw me play, thus the title Dancing in Place.

We spent several sessions while she was working on the piece going over extended techniques. I was very impressed about how specific she was with every detail. Even though the score appears loose and improvisational, every time I perform it, the piece clearly has her voice.

Elizabeth Panzer, 2011


Dancing in Place originally appeared on OO Discs in 1999, oo56. Executive Producer, Joseph Celli; Producer, Elizabeth Panzer; Engineer/Co-Producer, David Merrill; Master, Bill Siegmund; Recorded at Dubway, NYC.




Lee Humphries, piano

Audience, humming


Spring Music with Wind (1973) is made for seven areas of the inside of a grand piano, played by using five different rubber mallets plus a curved glass bottle. The composer is indebted to composer Alcides Lanza who introduced her to the sound-eliciting properties of ‘superballs’ in 1968 and to composer Ed Dilello, who gave them a functional name, ‘friction mallets’, in 1972. The mallets are drawn across surfaces and strings to elicit sounds which, when combined with humming, whistling and breath sounds, result in a kind of ‘breath/impulse’ energy flow.


For this piece Hovda designed a graphic notation that integrates choreography (for example, the movement of the hand across the strings) with vocal and instrumental sounds. The notation suggests the realization of energy shape and sequence as well as the control of timbre. Hovda’s intention was to make a solo concert piece, which, while providing notational directions, did not inhibit energy flow in performance. The title, Spring Music with Wind, suggests the flow of energy and its non-quantifiable shape.


Lee Humphries – musician, theorist, and writer – holds music degrees from Indiana University and is President of Synergenesis Corporation and Thinking, an interdisciplinary think tank. He was active in Minnesota as a conductor and performer of contemporary music in the 1970s and 80s.


Spring Music with Wind first appeared on A La Carte (LP-MN104, 1986, from the Minnesota, now American-, Composers Forum, pre-innova). Steve Barnett, producer. Russ Borud, engineer.



In the late spring of 2001, the Mayor of Fayetteville, Dan Coody, gave me a call and said I had to come immediately to listen to sound within a special environment. I told Eleanor and she came with me. The “special environment” was an almost empty 40 million gallon water tank. The city was cleaning it and that process only happens every 50 years or so. We crawled into a tiny dark hole into a very muddy tank, practically the size of a football field. Dan began to chant. Eleanor and I were absolutely enthralled with the sound. The tank was circular with no angles to distort the harmonics. Any sound created within the tank had a reverberation of about 60 seconds. There were no objects inside except us, and the sound of Dan’s voice created myriads of harmonics bouncing off the circular walls of the tank.


We were extremely excited and he asked if we wanted to record some music inside when the tank was dry and completely cleaned out! “Yes”, we both said immediately. Eleanor and I returned to New York City and kept in close contact with Dan. We were planning to return to Arkansas in the middle of September to produce the project. Just before we came back the Twin Towers were hit, just a mile below where we lived. We watched in horror from a neighbor’s window as the second plane crashed into the second tower. We felt we were suddenly in the middle of a war zone with Wall Street employees running past our windows. I will never forget the terror and darkness of that time.


Eleanor and I flew back to Arkansas a few days later. We didn’t even know if we would be allowed out of NYC. The flight went as scheduled with only one other passenger besides us flying out of La Guardia. Shaken but determined to do this project, we collected some of Eleanor’s instruments that included a taxi horn from Pakistan, water gongs, flutes, percussion instruments, harmonicas, a melodica, and zithers. We hired an excellent recording engineer, Darrin Crisp, and set up inside the gigantic space.


We walked around inside the tank playing various instruments and then decided to record. Dan started chanting again and then Eleanor directed both of us silently with her hands and by pointing to the instruments she wanted played. It was an improvisation of sorts, though directed by Eleanor. It was a surreal time, approximately 10 days after 9/11. At one point a crow flew into the water tank and cawed, flew out, and then flew back in again. This was followed by an airplane flying overhead, eerily reminding us of the terrorist attack we had just experienced.


The recording is almost non-edited. Eleanor took off the harsh attacks from the taxi horn. Other than that, the composition just happened. Because Eleanor directed the improvisation, and used her own instruments, the music sounds somewhat like her composed music. This piece is her only improvisational work (without a score) and was extremely influenced by our experience in New York only days earlier. 

— Jeannine Wagar 






Principal funding provided by the Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation, in memory of Nancy F. Epstein. This release is also dedicated to the memory of fellow pioneering composer, Harley Gaber.

Additional funding provided by the Eric Stokes Fund, “Earth’s Best in Tune.


Extra thanks to: Jeffrey Brooks, Mary Ellen Childs, Greg Reierson, Libby Van Cleve,

Jack Vees, Nancy Meehan, Jean Alexis Smith, Dr. Nancy Trahms, and David Gilbert.


Jeannine Wagar and Philip Blackburn, co-producers

Brian Heller, mastering:


Also by Eleanor Hovda on innova:

If Tigers Were Clouds (innova 589) performed by Zeitgeist


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations manager