J E S S E J O N E S: E P H E M E R A
1) A B R A X A S (2013) 12’22”
for clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, & contrabass
Argento Chamber Ensemble:
Michel Galante, conductor
Vasko Dukovski, clarinet
Nanci Belmont, bassoon
Tim McCarthy, horn
Joanna Chao, piano
Doori Na, violin
Alex Shiozaki, violin
Stephanie Griffin, viola
Serafim Smigelskiy, violoncello
Brian Ellingsen, contrabass
2) E P H E M E R A (2014) 10’54”
for solo piano
Xak Bjerken, piano
3) H A R M O N I E S P O É T I Q U E S E T R E L I G I E U S E S (2011) 22’31”
French text by Alphonse de Lamartine
for soprano, speaker, flute, clarinet, violin, & violoncello, with piano resonance
2) Tombez larmes
3) Interlude I
4) D’où me vient cette paix?
5) Interlude II
6) Voix de mon âme
Sharon Harms, soprano
Martin Fahlenbock, flute
Shizuyo Oka, clarinet
Melise Mellinger, violin
Åsa Åkerberg, violoncello
Lambert Bumiller, speaker
4) U N I S O N O (2011) 10’08”
for clarinet, violin, & piano
Joseph Eller, clarinet
Nicholas DiEugenio, violin
Xak Bjerken, piano
5) T H E M Y S T E R Y W H I C H B I N D S M E S T I L L (2016) 14’35”
English text by Edgar Allan Poe
for soprano & guitar with electronics
Sharon Harms, soprano
Kenneth Meyer, guitar
J E S S E J O N E S: E P H E M E R A (production credits)
Produced by Jesse Jones, Jeff Francis, & Moritz Bergfeld
Mastered by Jeff Francis
Edited by Jeff Francis & Moritz Bergfeld
Jeff Francis (tracks 1, 2, & 4) — University of South Carolina Recital Hall
Moritz Bergfeld (track 3) — Ensemblehaus (Freiburg, Germany)
James Abbott (track 5) — Subcat Studios (Syracuse, NY)
Artwork and wallet design: Juliet Shen
This album was made possible by support from Oberlin Conservatory and the University of South Carolina.
Special thanks to Jeff Francis for equal measure of patience and skill; to Sharon Harms for all the years and projects; to Kenneth Meyer for all the notes & jokes; to Michel Galante, and all of Argento; to Moritz Bergfeld, a true Tonmeister; to Sabine Franz, Tanja Ratzke, and all the wonderful folks at ensemble recherche; to Lambert Bumiller for lending us your voice; to Xak Bjerken for tirelessly championing my music; to Stephen Hartke for great advice; to Joseph Eller, and Nick DiEugenio for rocking so hard; to Neva Pilgrim for lodging and good company; to Cody Brookshire for invaluable help with “the mystery” electronics; to James Abbott at Subcat Studios; to Philip Blackburn and innova Recordings for all your help; to Juliet Shen for the use of your artwork; to the late Steven Stucky for support and guidance; to Erin Jones for seventeen years of encouragement.
Innova Director, booklet design: Philip Blackburn
Operations Director: Chris Campbell
Publicist: Tim Igel
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
J E S S E J O N E S : E P H E M E R A (liner notes)
The title of this piece pays homage to Herman Hesse’s novel, Demian. One passage in particular informs the formal narrative of the work: “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy the world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.” Accordingly, my piece begins with viscous microtonal chords that tug at each other and blur, gradually forming larger melodic/rhythmic structures—the harmony is derived from a 24-note quarter-tone row, meant to represent the destroying of the world. This lugubrious texture intensifies until it finally fractures, giving way to a tremulous, weightless music evocative of the bird’s godward ascent. ABRAXAS was commissioned by the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin and premiered by them at the American Academy in Rome.
Music mirrors the evanescent nature of life: it sounds for a brief period, flowers in its particular manner, and then dissipates, leaving us with only a dim memory of its identity: a ghost. However, one wonderful feature of music is that its life can be renewed, given new breath each time it is performed. When my mother died, I found myself searching for a way to embody her essence through music, to give her the type of renewed life only music can offer. My idea was to depict her symbolically through sound, harmony, and musical gesture, so that each time the piece was played, in a way, she would live again. A sonic portrait will always be insufficient, but it is the subject of this work. Ephemera was commissioned by Xak Bjerken, who gave the premiere at Cornell University.
HARMONIES POÉTIQUES ET RELIGIEUSES (2011):
Of all my compositions, this one is perhaps the most numinous. Faith and devotion are themes central to Lamartine’s beautifully symbolic text, and I wanted to convey an element of hope, of religious fervor, of the comfort and meditative calm that one gains from prayer, as in the text. However, while I was composing this piece, I was also in the throes of leaving the religion of which I had been part for thirty-plus years. My heart and thoughts seemed to vacillate, even minute to minute, between belief and disbelief, piety and apostasy. And though I wanted to address in this piece the more transcendent qualities of religious conviction, which are laden in the text itself, my inner struggle and loss of faith played an equally vital role in the creation of the work. Harmonies poétiques was commissioned and premiered by soprano Rachel Calloway and the Argento Chamber Ensemble.
This is a virtuosic barnburner of a piece, written expressly to show off the musicians involved. As its title suggests, the work explores the concept of melodic and rhythmic unison, focussing on the blend and morph of colors, timbres, and resonances possessed by the trio. The piece opens with a subtle play between piano attack, clarinet tone, and violin pizzicato, which together unveil a simple, unaccompanied melody. Gradually, this texture gives way to far-flung gestures and hard-driving virtuosity, all of which develops the melodic content divulged in the opening bars. Unisono was commissioned by Xak Bjerken for Mayfest 2011.
THE MYSTERY WHICH BINDS ME STILL (2016):
This is a song setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s doleful poem, Alone, which first entered my consciousness almost three decades ago. The text can be interpreted many ways. Indeed, at various stages in my life, these words have left vastly different yet indelible impressions on me. Most recently, I have come to read this text as an inward commentary about depression. I wanted to convey the utter solitude conveyed in the poem, as well as the latent longing for normalcy. Mystery Binds was commissioned by the Southern Exposure New Music Series and was premiered there by soprano Sharon Harms and guitarist Kenneth Meyer.
JESSE JONES — EPHEMERA — (Texts & Translations)
HARMONIES POÉTIQUES ET RELIGIEUSES
Texts by Alphonse de Lamartine — Translated by Jesse Jones
Il y a des âmes méditatives que la solitude et la contemplation élèvent invinciblement vers les idées infinies, c'est-à-dire vers la religion; toutes leurs pensées se convertissent en enthousiasme et en prière, toute leur existence est un hymne muet à la Divinité et à l'espérance. Elles cherchent en elles-mêmes, et dans la création qui les environne, des degrés pour monter à Dieu, des expressions et des images pour se le révéler à elles-mêmes, pour se révéler a lui: puissé-je leur en prêter quelques-unes!
(There are meditative souls that solitude and contemplation raise inevitably toward infinite ideas, that is toward religion: all their thoughts are converted into rapture and prayer, their entire existence is a mute hymn to the divine and to hope. They seek in themselves, and in the creation that surrounds them, steps to ascend to God, expressions and images to reveal Him to them, and to reveal themselves to Him. May I impart to them something similar!)
2. Tombez larmes
Tombez, larmes silencieuses,
Sur une terre sans pitié;
Non plus entre des mains pieuses,
Ni sur le sein de l'amitié!
Tombez comme une aride pluie
Qui rejaillit sur le rocher,
Que nul rayon du ciel n'essuie,
Que nul souffle ne vient sécher.
(Fall, silent tears,
On a soil without pity;
No longer between pious hands,
Or on the bosom of friendship!
Fall like an arid rain,
Which splashes on the rock,
Which no ray from heaven evaporates,
Which no breeze comes to dry.)
3. Instrumental Interlude
4. D’où me vient cette paix?
D'où me vient, ô mon Dieu, cette paix qui m'inonde? D'où me vient cette foi dont mon cœur surabonde, A moi qui tout à l'heure, incertain, agité, Et sur les flots du doute à tout vent ballotté, Cherchais le bien, le vrai, dans les rêves des sages, Et la paix dans des cœurs retentissants d'orages? A peine sur mon front quelques jours ont glissé, Il me semble qu'un siècle et qu'un monde ont passé; Et que, séparé d'eux par un abîme immense, Un nouvel homme en moi renaît et recommence.
(Whence comes, O God, this peace which floods over me?
Whence comes this faith that overflows my heart?
To me, who, not long ago, uncertain, restless,
And tossed on waves of doubt by every wind,
Sought the good, the true, in the dreams of worldly sages,
And peace in hearts resounding with tempests?
Only a few days have brushed past my brow,
And yet it seems a century and a world have passed away,
And that, separated from them by an immense abyss,
A new man is reborn and begins again in me.)
5. Instrumental Interlude
6. Voix de mon âme
Élevez-vous, voix de mon âme
Avec l’aurore, avec la nuit!
Élancez-vous comme la flamme,
Répandez-vous, comme le bruit!
Flottez sur l’aile des nuages,
Mêlez-vous aux vents, aux orages,
Au tonnerre, au fracas des flots!
Élevez-vous dans le silence,
A l’heure où dans l’ombre du soir
La lampe des nuits se balance,
Quand le prêtre éteint l’encensoir!
Élevez-vous aux bords des ondes
Dans les solitudes profondes,
Où Dieu se révèle à la foi.
(Rise, voice of my soul,
With the dawn, with the night!
Leap forth like flame,
Scatter like sound!
Float on the clouds’ wing,
Mingle in the winds, in the storms,
In the thunder, in the roar of the waves!
Rise in the silence,
At the hour when in the shadow of evening
The night lamp swings,
When the priest extinguishes the censer!
Rise to the edge of the waters
In the profound solitudes,
Where God reveals himself to faith!)
Il y a des cœurs brisés par la douleur, refoulés par le monde, qui se réfugient dans le monde de leurs pensées, dans la solitude de leur âme, pour pleurer, pour attendre ou pour adorer; puissent-ils se laisser visiter par une muse solitaire comme eux, trouver une sympathie dans ses accords, et dire quelquefois en l'écoutant: Nous prions avec tes paroles, nous pleurons avec tes larmes, nous invoquons avec tes chants!
(There are hearts broken by sorrow, trampled down by the world, who seek refuge in the world of their thoughts, in solitude of soul, to weep, to wait, or to worship; may they be visited by a muse, solitary like them, find grace in her affairs, and sometimes say while listening to her: We pray with your words, we weep with your tears, we entreat with your songs!)
THE MYSTERY WHICH BINDS ME STILL
Text by Edgar Allan Poe (Alone)
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
The music of Rome Prize- and Guggenheim-winning composer, Jesse Jones, has been described as “striking,…elegant and poised” (New York Times), “engaging,…eerie, and well-written” (Los Angeles Times), “fascinating,“ and possessed of “the melodic earthiness of Britten” (New York Classical Review).
Performed extensively across North America, Europe, and Asia, Jones’s music has been heard in venues such as Lincoln Center, Avery Fischer Hall, the Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam), Seiji Ozawa Hall (Tanglewood), the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), Glinka Hall (St. Petersburg), the Paul Hindemith Foundation (Switzerland), the American Academy in Rome (Italy), the St. Matthäuskirche (Berlin), and Aldeburgh Music (UK), among others.
Jones has received commissions and premieres from many of the world’s leading ensembles and soloists, including the Juilliard String Quartet, ensemble recherche (Germany), Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, cellist Jeff Zeigler, violinist Joseph Lin, the English Symphony Orchestra, Alter Ego (Italy), Duo Damiana, Cochlea (Switzerland), and from Tanglewood, Aspen, MusicX, the Barlow Endowment, and many others. Jones has been awarded the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Heckscher Foundation Prize in Composition, and an opera fellowship with Aldeburgh Music’s Jerwood Foundation.
Jones holds a DMA in music composition from Cornell University, where his primary teachers were Steven Stucky, Kevin Ernste, and Roberto Sierra. Jones currently holds a music professorship at the Oberlin Conservatory. His music is commercially available on the innova, Albany, Equilibrium, Oberlin, and New Focus record labels.