third angle mixes words and music this weekend

It’s my third season with Third Angle New Music, and it seems that every single concert I play involves me doing something entirely new and different to me than anything I’ve ever done before. And that also involves it being one of the most difficult things I’ve done! Playing a memorized hour-long piece in complete darkness, playing insanely complicated rhythms, playing pieces comprised of only harmonics and played off tiny iPad screens – it’s always an adventure with Third Angle!

Our first concert of the season, Frozen Music, examined Finnish music in the context of an acclaimed Alvar Aalto library. This weekend’s Hearing Voices 4.0 concert comes to grips with three distinct ways of setting spoken words to music.

LJ White‘s “Wilder Shores” (a Third Angle commission, which we premiered at the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York last June), which is set on a text of Portland poets Matthew and Michael Dickman, uses a time-based approach to synchronizing the music and text. Each section of the work takes a set duration – everyone is working off a stopwatch, ensuring that each line of text is lined up with its musical accompaniment. For example, an opening introduction might be given 30 seconds to unfold, which tells the instrumentalists the pacing of the section, and tells the reciter(s) that at the 30 second mark, they start their lines, etc.

Jay Derderian‘s “Frozen Smolder” (also a Third Angle commission, and a world premiere), is set on a poem by Sandra Stone. It uses a cue-based system instead of a time-based one. There are sections in the score which give cues for where each line is begun, and the way they are spaced over the instrumental lines shows the pacing of the reading. If the reciter does not read music, this still enables one of the instrumentalists to give cues to the reader, and also to keep pace with their reading.

Lee Hyla‘s “Howl” is set on Allan Ginsberg’s eponymous epic beat poem. Hyla uses arguably the most challenging, but perhaps the most precise, way of matching text to music. He used a recording of Ginsberg reading his poem to establish the pace of the text. The beat patterns and tempos of the music then are based entirely upon the spoken rhythm of the poetry. This works relatively well if the ensemble (in this case a string quartet) plays with an audio recording of the original reading – if the ensemble follows the tempos closely, adjusting slightly to the audio cues, it is possible to achieve a close alignment. If a live reader is used, then it becomes a bit more complicated. If the reciter reads music fluently, then they can keep their pace adjusted to the music, and get a sense of the pacing of the text by following the score. If the reader does not read music, then it becomes a bit more of a puzzle to fit the parts together. In essence, the quartet must strive to stick very closely to the score, while at the same time establishing meeting points for the text and music to come together should things come out of sync during performance.

With these three diverse pieces, there is also a bit of alignment, too. LJ White studied composition with Lee Hyla. The Dickman brothers spent time with Allan Ginsberg. Ginsberg’s first recorded reading of Howl took place in Portland in 1956. Ginsberg’s poem is a lament for a lost artistic generation of the 1950’s, while Stone’s is about another lost generation, that lost to the insanity of the newly-mechanized warfare of World War I. It will be a fascinating concert, and I hope you can make it!

Fri & Sat, Nov 13 & 14, 2015 @ 7:30pm
Studio 2@Zoomtopia
810 SE Belmont

Click here for details and tickets.

One Reply to “third angle mixes words and music this weekend”

  1. Dang, yet another brave program by you Anglers that i somehow missed. But, thanx to your detailed comments here & Jeff Winslow’s fascinating review of the concert over @ Oregon Arts Watch, i feel somewhat like i was there.
    Bravo!

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