Barry Schrader 

Fallen Sparrow: Music for electronics and live performers

Innova 654

 

Love, In Memoriam (1989)

Frank Royon Le Mée, voice

poems by MichaĎl Glück

 Commissioned by the Groupe de musique expérimentale de Bourges

 

1.  L’Oreille coupée (Severed Ear) [2:54]  

 2.  Marmelade d’oranges (Orange Marmalade) [3:15]

 

3.  Une histoire de portrait (The Portrait's Story) [3:47]

 

4.  Fallen Sparrow (2005) [20:00]

    Mark Menzies, violin

    Final Rest I, First Spring, Final Rest II, Mystic Night, Final Rest III,

Soaring Flight, Final Rest IV

 

    Five Arabesques (1999)

    William Powell, clarinet

5.  Arabesque 1 [1:49]   

6.  Arabesque 2 [1:26]   

7.  Arabesque 3 [1:30] 

8.  Arabesque 4 [2:09]   

9.  Arabesque 5 [3:37]

 

10. Ravel (2003) [15:30]

    Vicki Ray, piano

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combining live performance with prerecorded electro-acoustic music is a tricky business.  What the roles of and relationships between the two mediums should be is always a difficult decision.  Even more important are the abilities and sensibilities of the live performers.  Not every performer is  equally comfortable or adept at integrating themselves with an invisible "orchestra" of electro-acoustic sounds.  I've been very fortunate in my career to have worked with some of the world's finest performers of contemporary music, musicians who not only are expert at this sort of thing, but who actually welcome it.  All four of the works on this album are performed by the artists for whom they were written, and with whom I worked closely in the compositional process.  There is, I think, a special relationship between these works and these performers.

 

Deciding what I should say about these works is almost as problematic as composing them.  Leonard Meyer, the great 20th century music theorist, defines two types of meaning in music:  embodied and designative.  Embodied meaning refers to the meaning of the relationship of musical materials to each other, and some works, such as a Bach fugue, has only embodied meaning. Designative meaning, on the other hand, alludes to extra-musical, programmatic, or emotional ideas.  While every listener is free to ascribe designative meaning to a given work, the composer may or may not have been concerned with this when composing the piece.  In two of the works here, Five Arabesques and Ravel, I was essentially interested in dealing with embodied meaning.  But to go into great detail on technical matters, while of possible interest to other composers, theorists, or musicologists, is probably of little use to most listeners.  I could point out that all of the music in Five Arabesques is based on the first phrase in the clarinet part of Arabesque 5 , but I'm not sure that would mean much to most people.  I could point out that  in Ravel (an homage to, not an imitation of composer Maurice Ravel) each of the three continuous movements is based upon a small amount of musical material from Ravel’s works:  the first movement is based on the first two measures of the Prélude  from Le tombeau de Couperin; the second movement is based on the second, third, and fourth measures of the second movement of the Piano Concerto in G; the third movement is based on the first measure of the “dawning” section of Daphnis et Chloé and also the last two measures of La Valse.  But most listeners may not know the references or hear the connection, and so this information, while important to me, as a composer, cannot be the main point of the music I created; the music must stand on its own apart from these technical and compositional considerations.

 

The other two works on this collection, Fallen Sparrow and Love, in Memoriam, obviously have important designative meanings implied.  The idea for Fallen Sparrow  came to me one cold winter day as I was cleaning up around the outside of my house.  In front of the dryer exhaust I found a dead sparrow that had made a little nest out of the lint that had come from the actions of this fellow wanderer had been.  As I carried the still, nesting body to its final resting place, I imagined what might have been the sparrow’s thoughts as it lay dying.  I envisioned the bird thinking of its first spring, a time of birth and great activity, all of it new and exciting to the young sparrow.  I considered the remembrance of one special evening when the fading light gave way to the sights and sounds of a mystic night.  And, of course, I speculated that the most wonderful of avian abilities, that of soaring flight, would be among the last thoughts of the dying bird.  The designative meanings in Love,  in Memoriam are even more directly expressed in the words and ideas of MichaĎl Glück's astonishing poems.  Here are frozen, abstracted moments from the lives, works, and feelings of Vincent van Gogh, Lewis Carroll, and Leonardo de Vinci.  In these songs, the term "designative" may not be strong enough to relate the import of event and emotion.

 

Perhaps, in a larger sense, there is a circle implied among these works, particularly in their arrangement in this album.  The fast and angry piano sounds that open Love, in Memoriam finally give way to the singular nature of one voice, "one note", at the end of the piece.   This connects to the individuality of the solo violin with which Fallen Sparrow   begins and ends, which, in turn, relates to the pensive, solo clarinet  line that begins Five Arabesques.  This work ends with a bouncing, metric rhythm, not totally dissimilar from the playful music at the start of Ravel .  And the lightning piano finale of Ravel  can be seen to lead back into the beginning of  Love,  in Memoriam.  Through all of this journey there is a variety of musical means and intent that I hope will keep the listener engaged, willing to take this excursion many more times.

 

~ Barry Schrader

 

 

 

 

 

Vickie Ray, pianist, performs widely as soloist and collaborative artist.  In addition to the Ear Unit, she is also a member of Xtet and the Southwest Chamber Music Society.  She has been featured on the LA Philharmonic Green Umbrella series, with the LA Chamber Orchestra, with the German ensemble Compania, and the Blue Rider ensemble of Toronto, and recently broadcast on NPR from the Kennedy Center. She has had works written for her by composers John Adams, Paul Dresher, Arthur Jarvinen and Donald Crockett. Ms. Ray is a founding artist of PianoSpheres, a concert series devoted to less familiar repertory for piano solo. Her inaugural PianoSpheres recital was hailed by the Los Angeles Times for displaying "that kind of musical thoroughness and technical panache that puts a composer's thought directly before the listener”.   In 1989 Ms. Ray was the first place winner in the NACUSA competition for performers of contemporary music. A member of the piano faculty at the California Institute of the Arts since 1991, her recordings can be found on the New World, CRI, Mode & Tzadik labels.

 

William Powell,  has been hailed by music critic Andrew Porter of The New Yorker  as  “a performer who catches a listener’s attention with the first phrase and continues to hold it, in the way great singers once did, by precision of timing, variety of attacks, and masterly, imaginative molding both of single notes and of melodic strands.”  The San Diego Union has praised Powell as “.... a virtuoso ... a master musician and technician.”  Powell has performed at major concert venues throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia, and was principal clarinetist with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra and the Las Vegas Symphony. Under a senior research grant he received from the Fulbright Commission, he lived for a year in India where he studied Carnatic music,  presented concerts of American music throughout India,  and collaborated in numerous cross-cultural programs for All India Radio. Powell received the Artist’s Diploma from the Juilliard and an MFA from CalArts. Mr. Powell served on the faculties of the UCSD, SDSU, CSULB and UNLV before joining the CalArts faculty. He has recorded for Cambria, CRI, Elektra/Asylum, and Nonesuch.

 

Frank Royon Le Mée (1953-1993) was active as a composer, vocalist, actor, director, calligrapher, and visual artist.  As a composer, he received numerous commissions from various festivals and other musical organizations in Europe.  His works span the field from solo voice to orchestra to electro-acoustic.  As a tenor and countertenor, he was in great demand for both old and new music, and he made numerous recordings, including voice tracks for film and television.  His distinctive and impressive vocal abilities allowed him to specialize in such areas as medieval and renaissance music as well as the most complex contemporary vocal music.  Royon Le Mée worked with Luciano Berio in performing Berio’s opera and also the Berio Cabaret, and he performed often at the Paris Opera.  In 1989, Royon Le Mée was awarded a large grant from the Cartier Foundation to create performance and visual art, and in 1990 he received a joint fellowship with Barry Schrader from Yellow Springs Institute to create a new computer-interactive performance work, Night.  Frank Royon Le Mée’s works are recorded on the Baillemont and CIRM labels.

 

Mark Menzies, a native of New Zealand, has resided in the United States since 1991, and has established an important, worldwide reputation as a violist and violinist.  He has been described in a Los Angeles Times review as an “extraordinary musician” and a “riveting violinist”.  His career as a viola and violin virtuoso, chamber musician, and advocate of contemporary music has seen performances in Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.  Menzies is currently viola and violin professor at the California Institute of the Arts where he also teaches chamber music. He is renowned for performing some of the most complex scores and he has been personally commended by composers such as Vinko Globokar, Elliott Carter, and Christian Wolff, for performances he has given of their music. There has been considerable international critical applause for Mark Menzies’ leadership in ensembles formed to perform contemporary and twentieth century music, such as the Los Angeles' Southwest Chamber Music, and the New York-based Ensemble Sospeso. He has recorded on the Pogus, Opus, Mode, and Innova labels.

 

Barry Schrader has been acclaimed by the Los Angeles Times as "a composer born to the electronic medium", named "a seminal composer of electro-acoustic music" by Journal SEAMUS,  and described by Gramophone  as a composer of  "approachable electronic music with a distinctive individual voice to reward the adventurous".  "There's a great sweep to Schrader's work that puts it more in line with ambitious large-scale electronic works by the likes of Stockhausen, a line that can be traced backwards to Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven." writes Dan Warburton of the Paris Transatlantic Magazine.  Schrader's compositions for electronics, dance, film, video, mixed media, live/electro-acoustic music combinations, and real-time computer performance have been presented throughout the world.  He has received recognition in the form of grants, awards, and commissions from numerous organizations  and has recently been awarded a Copland Grant through Innova Recordings.  Active in the promotion of electro-acoustic music, Schrader is the founder and the first president of SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States).  He has been involved with the inauguration and operation of several performance series such as SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music), the Currents concert series at Theatre Vanguard (the first ongoing series of electro-acoustic music concerts in the U.S.), and the CalArts Electro-Acoustic Music Marathon.  He has written for several publications including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Grolier's Encyclopedia, Contemporary Music Review, and Journal SEAMUS, and is the author of the book Introduction to Electro-Acoustic Music. He has been a member of the Composition Faculty of the California Institute of the Arts School of Music since 1971, and has also taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the California State University at Los Angeles.  His music is recorded on the Opus One, Laurel, CIRM, SEAMUS, Centaur, and Innova labels.

 

 

To Vincent van Gogh

I- L’Oreille coupée

 

L’Amour est dans ce linge ma mie

dans ce linge sanglant

qu’au lavoir vous portez

dans ce linge oĚ il dort

linge humide et foetus

que vous allez noyer

 

Mon oreille est un miroir

et j’ai trop sangloté

et mes mains sont brulés

et mes yeux sont crevés

 

Vous predrez le battoir

pour frapper dans l’eau cliare

nos linges fatigués

 

Mon Oreille coupée

pése lourd in vos mains

et let mots sont blessés

ą l’épreuve des jours

 

Nous saignons tous les deux

 

I - Severed Ear

 

Our love is like old cloth

like the bloody fabric

that you take and wash

like a newborn baby

that you drown

 

My ear is a mirror

and I am too bloody

and my hands are burning

and my eyes are bursting

 

 

 

 

 

 

You wash the worn fabric

   of our love

beating it in the clear water

 

My severed ear

weighs heavy in your hands

your painful words

making the days more unbearable

 

How we both bleed

 

 

To Lewis Carroll

II - Marmelade d’oranges

 

Dire la chute des feuillies

la cadence des cris

les terreurs enfantines

quelques gestes simples

 

Il y avait buée sur les verriŹres

Elle regardait des enluminures

il fasiat dehors un temps de             

  grenouilles

Frog ou fog je ne sais

 

Elle vers lui au British Museum

“My name is Celia and I am ten

years old”

 

II - Orange Marmalade

 

The sounds of autumn

the rhythm of cries

the childish fears

such simple motions

 

There is steam on the stained

  glass

She watches the illuminations

flicker at a frog’s tempo

Frog or fog, I don’t know

 

 

 

She moves toward him at the

    British Museum

“My name is Celia and I am

    ten years old”

 

 

To Leonardo de Vinci

III - Une histoire de portrait

 

Just a world rien qu’un mot

Just a word rein qu’un monde

Léonard brosse la Jaconde

 

Le portrait pČlit

le modŹle se meurt

 

rien qu’un chant

rien qu’un chant une note

pour tenir un visage

dans la beauté du jour

 

III - The Portrait’s Story

 

Just a world rien qu’un mot

Just a word rein qu’un monde

Leonardo paints the Mona Lisa

 

The image fades

the model is dying

 

just a song

only a song, one note

keeps the face from fading

in the beauty of the daylight

 

 

 

 

 

Poems by MichaĎl Glück

translations by Barry Schrader

 

Credits

 

Produced by Miriam Kolar

 

Engineered and mastered by Miriam Kolar (Love, In Memoriam recorded by Barry Schrader)

 

Love, In Memoriam recorded at California Institute of the Arts, Studio B308, 1990

 

Fallen Sparrow and Five Arabesques recorded at the California Institute of the Arts Dizzy Gillespie Recording Studio, 2005

 

Ravel recorded at Architecture, Los Angeles, 2005

 

Art Direction / Graphic Design:

Peter Grenader/Vision

 

Cover Image: Vernal Equinox ~ a quilt by Caryl Bryer Fallert ~ www.bryerpatch.com

 

Photo Credits:

 

Frank Royon Le Mée   ~ solo picture ~

 by Patrick Tourneboeuf

 

Frank Royon Le Mée & Barry Schrader photo by Nicholas J. Nicolaides

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Menzies photo by

Monica Valenzuela

 

William Powell photo by

Steve Gunther

 

Vicky Ray photo by

Richard Hines

 

Barry Schrader photo by

John Yu

 

Background image:  Miriam Kolar at the Roy O. Disney Music Hall, CalArts ~ photo by Patrick Vaillancourt

 

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Director of Artists and Product: Chris Strouth

Assistant: Chris Campbell

 

This recording is supported by a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program, administered by the American Music Center, New York.

 

 For more information/discography of Barry Schrader ~ go to www.barryschrader.com