CUBE -- Articles for March and April 1998


Chicago Public Library, Chautauqua Series, presents
CUBE: Generations of Chicago Composers

with guest artist Constance Beavon, soprano
and the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble of Indiana University, Carmen Tellez, director

Chicago Premiere of Mass by John Eaton and works by John Alden Carpenter, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Margaret Bonds, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Julia Miller, Philip Morehead, Bruce Saylor, and others

Monday, March 23, 1998 at 5:30 PM
Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center
400 South State, Chicago -- Admission Free

CUBE rejoins the MASS Ensemble

during their residency at the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division, Chicago

Friday, April 10, 1998,
at 9 PM

For info call (312) 243-2366

Northeastern Illinois University Dept. of Music and Dance
in partnership with Mostly Music presents
CUBE: Electro-Acoustic Muses
Workshop: Thursday, March 12, 1998 at 1:40 PM
Concert: Friday, March 13, 1998, at 7:30 PM
Works by Pierre Boulez, Howard Sandroff, Steve Reich, Stuart Smith, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Harvey Sollberger,
with guest artists Double Dialogue (John Bruce Yeh, Chicago Symphony clarinetist, and Howard Sandroff, composer/sound artist)
Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium
5500 N. St. Louis Avenue, Chicago
Workshop free -- Concert tickets $10 and $8 (NEIU students, faculty and staff free) -- Free parking off Bryn Mawr -- (773) 794-2538

Mostly Music, CUBE and Double Dialogue: Electronic Muses

Composer/Sound Artist Howard Sandroff and clarinetist John Bruce Yeh began their collaboration in 1989 by realizing the computer-controlled pre-recorded spatialization of Dialogue de l'ombre double by Pierre Boulez. In 1992 Yeh and Sandroff were invited by Maestro Boulez and the Los Angeles Philharmonic to perform Dialogue at the Ojai Festival in California. Their numerous performances, throughout the United States and abroad, of this monumental work were the first realized outside of the Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain and the technical resources of the Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique (IRCAM).

Lauded by critics from the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Yeh and Sandroff set out to build an entire program using the complex computer controlled audio processing system required for Dialogue. The first addition to their repertoire was Sandroff's Tephillah, commissioned by Yamaha Corporation of America for John Bruce Yeh and completed in 1990. The second, Ancient Devices by Matthew Malsky, written for Sandroff and Yeh, was completed in 1993. Yeh and Sandroff have recorded Dialogue and Tephillah for Dialogues with my Shadow, a 1996 Compact Disc Release from Koch International Classics.

Interview with Augusta Read Thomas, Composer-in-Residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Advisory Board member of CUBE

Are the 1990's a good time to be a creative spirit?

When the muse strikes, it strikes and in that sense, making a piece of art is a timeless enterprise. Historically the fundamental creative process (interaction of intellect, imagination, emotion and materials) appears to have remained constant -- challenging each successive generation of individuals to respond in their own distinctive way. The act of conceiving and technically executing a musical idea of substance is no easier now -- if anything, it may be more difficult in the absence of a common practice.

Do you think these are difficult times for young composers?

To face a blank piece of manuscript paper is difficult for anybody at any time. The artistic process is complex and arduous. If one addresses the creative act in an honest and impassioned manner, it is quite terrifying to create music -- terrifying and exhilarating!

A composer's life, now as always, is a crazy balancing act between creative intensity (and the precious time needed to devote to it) and the mundane day-to-day activities of survival. Stretches of quiet, uninterrupted time are more valuable than anyone could imagine.

We live in a time when the arts are undervalued and underestimated by the masses. Art music, whose chief value is the quality of its thought, is overwhelmed by the bombastic rituals of pop culture and their commercial exploitation. Surely not the easiest context in which to work... but you asked about young composers. I have to say that despite some negatives, these are positive times for talented composers in terms of professional opportunities. When one thinks of the many composers whose distinguished contributions to the art were ignored beyond their lifetimes, one should be appreciative of today's opportunities.

How do you compose? Do you sketch?

The truly creative act springs from deep necessity. That welling up, inside, of musical ideas is so urgent. The first sensation is like a spark or lightning bolt -- like lighting a match -- and suddenly, poof, there's an illumination, an inspiration, if you will. This glitter of energy might evoke a chord, a rhythm, a motive of a tune which I will sing and ponder in relation to structure, form, synthesis, etc. From there a macro-image and plan starts to emerge and one must understand how the musical idea unfolds and where its potential must lead.

To aid in this mysterious process, yes, I do sketch. These take several forms and fulfill several functions. One is to notate and accurately preserve decisions already made. Others may be more speculative -- an exploration, a feeling-out of ideas whose role is not yet determined. Sketches help keep track of the emerging ideas when interruptions of time and mood would otherwise be disastrous. However, these are not blueprints of the final music. I do not write a short score and then orchestrate. I like to compose the full sonic event and to have the entire score in front of me.

When I give the finished score to the conductor and orchestra, I rarely change much afterward. Having already gone through so many gut-wrenching revisions, I feel quite convinced about what I have made.

What would you say are the most important influences on your music?

Music itself is probably the most vital and sobering influence. By that I mean that music of many periods and by different composers has fascinated and nurtured me since I was a child. I love deeply the music of J.S. Bach for its precision, amazing invention, its elegance and the nobility and grandeur of its emotional spectrum. The musics of Byrd, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Debussy, Webern, Stravinsky and Bartók are all important to me. Also that of many contemporary composers. I listen a lot and the accomplishments of these predecessors keep me focused and humble at the same time as they inspire me with confidence to think creatively.

Literature, especially poetry, and the visual arts are also important sources of influence.

In what way does a visual artist impact your music?

Whether one composes in the aural or visual domain, qualities such as shape, density, balance, direction, transition, synthesis, integration, flux, light and dark, form are common concerns. So, I am fascinated by how a painter or sculptor handles or employs materials toward the final effect of an art object. I make analogies between the "still" world of objects and the temporal world of sound. I have never composed a work which attempts to correspond to a specific picture, but I do see in the work of Klee and Picasso, for example, imaginative and creative decisions which can find correspondences in sound.

Of recent poets, the work of Wallace Stevens and Louis Gluck engage me deeply.

Do you consider the audience when you're working on a composition?

The desire to make music comes from very deep inside. The urge to make and share music (communicate, if you will) is like a volcanic eruption throughout one's body. Implied in this passion to express is a recipient of the expression -- someone, anyone, who is a willing listener. I write music that craves a listener and believe that if one composes music that is deeply honest, personal, human and is technically and imaginatively elegant in its articulation, it will find its audience -- whoever or wherever they may be.

What do you say when asked to describe your music? Is it easy to write verbally about your work?

I'm most articulate in music and convert exactly what I am hearing to notation. There is a smooth transmission between my ear and the manuscript paper. If asked to write a paragraph about my music, it's as if there's this huge wall between what I'm thinking, what I want to say and getting it into good prose. I am not a natural writer of words. However, communicating vocally with audiences, large or small groups and teaching about music is more immediate and comfortable for me.

Remembering the adage -- "music takes over where words cease" -- I am aware of its truth. One can, through technical vocabulary, describe musical phenomena -- but that doesn't help the curious but uninitiated. Equally unhelpful is to say "this is how it feels," since that is an attempt to describe one's own private reaction. All I can usefully say is that my music is a colorful, bold fantasy in sound, which invites any willing listener to participate in the discovery of its "meanings." I try to control logically its seductions and its aggressions; its obvious elements and its mysterious layers. I respond faithfully to my promptings and instinct and invite "the listener" to do likewise.

Used by permission of the author
and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
First published February 1998 in Notebook, the program book of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

American Composers Forum Notes

ACF Chicago Kickoff event: April 18, Chicago Cultural Center, 5 pm.Celebrate two years of the American Composers Forum in Chicago. Guests will include Linda Hoeschler, Executive Director of the Forum and Fritz Bergmann, Chapter Director. RSVP by calling chapter coordinator Keith Carpenter at 773.866.0784 or by email at

The American Composers Forum, Chicago, is sponsoring the following residency:
The Chicago Park District seeks a talented composer to assume a four week residency at a local park. This composer/musician would implement a hands-on vocal or instrumental composition program for youth between the ages of 9 - 12 three days a week between the hours of 2:30 and 6 pm.
The candidate will deliver a program which 1) incorporates a fundamental music vocabulary of composition, harmony, vocal style (if a vocal piece), instrumental timbre (if an instrumental piece) and music history; 2) Uses songs to teach elements of foreign languages and cultures; 3) Uses an original composition which illustrates the above concepts or creates an original work with the participating students. The project will culminate in a performance of the finished project.

Qualifications: Application Procedure (Deadline: 3/20/98)
Send a resume and curriculum vitae to:
	Cheryl McWorter
	Chicago Park District
	Program Services Department
	425 E. McFetridge Dr.
	Chicago, IL 60605
Send no scores or tapes at this time.

Performers Music store will offer a discount on 20th century music April 18 thru 30. The sale has been an annual event since the days of New Music Chicago. For the sale a number of publishers consign music to the store, including Schott, Universal, Boosey & Hawkes, Breitkopf, Peters, Presser, and Durand.

Performers Music is in the Fine Arts Building, Room 904, at 410 S. Michigan, Chicago. Hours are 10-7, Monday-Friday, and 9-5 Saturday. Phone (312) 987-1196.


CUBE's artistic directors congratulate CUBE conductor/pianist Philip Morehead on his conducting debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago in four performances of Anthony Davis's Amistad in January 1998.