SAT JULY 18, 7pm at SPACE
Travels: Dances - Drones
by Anne LeBaron (born 1953)
STRING QUARTET NO. 3
by Pēteris Vasks (born 1946)
for string quartet
by Georgi Dimitrov (born 1989)
by Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992), arr. José Bragato
by ANNE LeBARON
Sukey, for string quartet, derives from a longer work scored for string quartet, children’s chorus, and narrator, Sukey and the Mermaid. With narration, Sukey and the Mermaid tells the story of a young girl’s encounter with a female water-spirit. Based on
a rare authenticated African-American folktale involving a mermaid, it also draws upon Caribbean folklore, hence the gentle reggae rhythms surfacing in the music.
SUKEY AND THE MERMAID SYNOPSIS
Sukey, a young girl growing up in a warm climate near the ocean, discovers that an innocent little song she sings suddenly calls forth a mermaid, named Mama Jo (derived from “Mama Dlo”---which in turn comes from “Mama de l’eau” or “Water Mother,” a term for a mermaid). Each time Sukey visits the ocean, calling up the mermaid, she returns home with a gold coin, a gift from Mama Jo. Sukey’s mother becomes curious. Secretly following her to the ocean, she discovers the girl’s friendship with the mermaid.
The next day, her ma and evil step-pa, Mr. Jones, sneak down to the shore at dawn. Mr. Jones plans to catch the mermaid and sell her for a “pile of gold.” He fails, and the mermaid now refuses to come when called by Sukey. Mr. Jones, angry that
Sukey no longer brings home gold coins, makes her work so hard that she becomes ill.
In a dream, the mermaid gives Sukey an incantation that will once again call her forth from the ocean, and invites Sukey to live with her in the sea, where she will never be scolded or harmed. Although Sukey does go to live with Mama Jo, and is happy there, she misses the company of humans, and yearns to see the sky and hear bird songs once again. Mama Jo agrees to take her back home if Sukey can ask a riddle that Mama Jo can’t answer.
Sukey succeeds in inventing a riddle that works, and Mama Jo agrees to carry her home. Because so much time has passed in the world above, Sukey has grown into a young woman. Mama Jo gives her coins and jewels for a dowry, and tells her to marry a
man named Dembo.
Some time after Sukey arrives back home, Dembo introduces himself. A wedding is planned, but Sukey’s step-pa, determined to steal her dowry of gold and jewels, kills Dembo the night before the wedding day. When Sukey discovers the crime, she runs to the shore, crying for Mama Jo. The mermaid gives her a pearl to place on Dembo’s lips. The magic pearl brings Dembo back to life. He points to her step-pa, accusing him of the wicked deed. The step-pa snatches the treasure bag of jewels and coins, jumps into his canoe and paddles away. A great storm comes up, swamping the canoe and its passenger.
The next day, after the wedding, Sukey and Dembo go to the shore together. They discover the lost treasure bag hidden in the sand, as the mermaid flashes her green scales and gold combs far out in the ocean.
ANNE LeBARON (born 1953)
Anne LeBaron’s compositions embrace an exotic array of subjects encompassing vast reaches of space and time, ranging from the mysterious Singing Dune of Kazakhstan, to probes into physical and cultural forms of extinction, to legendary figures such as Pope Joan, Eurydice, Marie Laveau, and the American Housewife. Widely recognized for her work in instrumental, electronic, and performance realms, she has earned numerous awards and prizes, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Alpert Award in the Arts, a Fulbright Full Fellowship, an award from the Rockefeller MAP Fund for her opera, Sucktion, and a 2009-2010 Cultural Exchange International Grant from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs for The Silent Steppe Cantata. Also an accomplished harpist, LeBaron is renowned for her pioneering methods of developing and implementing extended harp techniques, electronic enhancements, and notation in compositional and improvisational contexts. She currently teaches composition and related subjects, such as Concert Theater and HyperOpera, at the California Institute of the Arts.
STRING QUARTET NO. 3 (1995)
by Pēteris Vasks (born 1946)
“Most people today no longer possess beliefs, love and ideals. The spiritual dimension has been lost. My intention is to provide food for the soul and this is what I preach in my works,” writes Pēteris Vasks, the son of a preacher, with a childhood in post-war Soviet Latvia. Vasks’ Third String Quartet is a reflection on the possibility of peace on earth. The quartet begins with a theme based on a seasonal Latvian song, Christmas—Peace on Earth, and continues to incorporate aspects of traditional Latvian folk music in the second movement of the quartet. The third movement is chromatic and invites comparisons with Shostakovich, whose own musical output ranged between defiance and clarity in relation to constant Soviet censorship. The last movement's most pressing moments are very like a chorale, set against a cloaked unrest, and the question of the whole quartet is presented again with all the solemnity and terror of hope.
DRONE STUDIES for STRING QUARTET (2013)
by GEORGI DIMITROV (born 1989)
Drone Studies for String Quartet is an expedition into the rhythmic, harmonic, and dramatic implications inherent in a piece built upon four unrelenting pedal tones. Each instrument has its own drone and drone-movement as the four pedal tones are carefully chosen to delineate the form of the composition. The lowest C# of the cello morphs into the open C of the viola. Another major-seventh leap leads to the lowest B of Violin II. The same B is reinforced by its own 3rd (F#) partial to make way for the highest possible E of Violin I in the final movement. All four drones are then played together for the first time, in their original registers, in a coda that unifies the four movements and reinforces the logic that binds them together.
The four movements are also connected by the continuous appearance of syncopated quintuplets and sextuplets. A rhythm so simple on paper is incredibly rich in performance by conveying both a romantic anxiety as well as a sense of never-quite-materializing accelerando.
Drone Studies for Strung Quartet is a piece simple yet intricate in its construction. Its sound world and melodies are pregnant with allegory and full of meaning: the music calls for a multitude of poetic interpretations equal to the number of audience members.
GEORGI DIMITROV (born 1989)
Georgi writes 21st century acoustic music which explores the relationships between distinctive sound molds; how they relate, mix, and complement each other in order to create a viable sense of form. His harmonies are often enjoying the high-definition purr that results from the inclusion of intervals tuned in just intonation. His one-act, one-hour chamber opera Maximus was recently premiered at USC and performed further at Los Angeles theaters such as Monk Space and Live Arts Los Angeles. The opera, conducted by the composer, takes place in the near future and concerns a parking ticket that utterly destroys its protagonist’s life. It is scored for clarinet, violin, viola, cello; and a soprano, baritone, and bass who all portray multiple characters.
Active as a performer, Georgi is also a proficient string player who began practicing violin at the age of 6. His violin instructors include Antoine van Dongen from the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, as well as Lorenz Gamma and Mark Menzies from California Institute of the Arts. In 2013 Georgi studied baroque viola with Sue Feltman at USC. He is currently studying modern viola and is a member of Che-Yen Chen’s studio at the Thornton School of Music.
Georgi was born in 1989. At the age of fifteen he moved to Natick, Massachusetts, in order to study composition with Professor Whitman Brown at the Walnut Hill School. After graduating in 2008 he enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music Composition. His principal instructors there included Wolfgang von Schweinitz and Karen Tanaka. In May 2014 Georgi earned a Master in Music in Composition degree from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. His current composition teacher is Professor Stephen Hartke.
Georgi is currently pursing his Doctorate of Musical Arts in composition, with minors in conducting, viola performance, and theory and analysis, at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda honor societies. He also really, really likes eating at buffets.
TANGO BALLET (1956)
by ASTOR PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
The word tango has origins that can be traced to West Africa and carries various meanings, including “word, lyrics, or story,” a lively type of music, the dance to this music, and a gathering place where one dances, often to African drum music. Tango music originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, beginning as an ethnically inclusive style of music created by immigrants from Europe and Africa who were there looking for work. Despite spoken language barriers, communication was made possible through music, and a new genre developed combining diverse instruments in a new, unique style. Tango changed gradually to fit into upper class society, but still retained the profound sense of loss and longing for home and for better fortune that inhabited its roots.
In Europe, the music spread quickly through the popularity of the artists Anibal Troilo and Carlos Gardel, who brought a “Golden Age” to tango by his suave singing and styles of dress. Astor Piazzolla expanded tango even further, transforming it into a new and at first controversial style known as tango nuevo.
Piazzolla was born in Argentina around the time that tango was developing. He grew up listening to Gardel and to recordings of music by classical composers, especially Bach, and taught himself to play the bandoneon, an instrument integral to the traditional tango orchestra. Piazzolla played in Troilo’s orchestra, and later studied composition formally in Argentina with Alberto Ginastera and Paris for a year with Nadia Boulanger. All of these influences can be detected in the style of composing and playing that Piazzolla developed, in which he decided to combine the musical styles he loved rather than choose among them.
Piazzolla continued the evolution of tango into tango nuevo by including aspects of jazz and classical composition, and introducing new instruments like saxophone, electric guitar, cello, and percussion to the traditional tango instrumentation.
While he made many changes, Piazzolla retained traditional ideas of tango of rhythmic structure. An essential aspect of tango under Troilo and Gardel was the lyrics. Many singers who related lyrics, Carlos Gardel included, did not read music. The resulting form often included rhythmic and melodic distortion by the singer within phrases, creating an irregular syncopation that became a unique quality of tango. Piazzolla wrote in this style for many of his instrumental works, giving the music an improvisatory feel within a sturdy rhythmic structure.
Piazzolla originally wrote Tango Ballet to be performed by his Buenos Aires Octet for a short dance film by Enrique de Rosas featuring choreograpy by Ana Itelman. We present it tonight in an arrangement for string quartet by renowned Italian-born Argentine cellist, composer, conductor, arranger and musical archivist José Bragato.