Cube Calendar Articles from 1999
SPIRITS AND SHADOWS
A COLLABORATION OF CUBE
AND THE MASS ENSEMBLE (MOVEMENT AND SONIC SCULPTURE)
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
a new work by CUBE Co-Artistic Director Janice Misurell-Mitchell and Catherine Slade, professor of theatre at Columbia College
The Gift of Tongues, for spoken voice, flute/voice and cello, will explore the connection between contemporary poetry by African American women and traditional poetry and folk expressions taken from female traditions of various cultures throughout the world. It will employ a central spoken text in English, and fragments of texts in several other languages; these will be expressed through extended vocal and instrumental techniques.
BLACK HAWK SPEAKS
CUBE Co-Artistic Director Patricia Morehead's work-in-progress based on Black Hawk's 1833 autobiography
"Born at Saukenuk, the largest Sauk village, near the mouth of the Rock River in northwestern Illinois, Black Hawk grew to manhood at a time of great change for tribal people in the upper Mississippi Valley. British victory in the Seven Year's War had ousted France from North America, but French traders remained active among the Mississippi Valley peoples as they and the British and Spanish competed for Indian trade and alliances. By 1804 the Spanish had left Louisiana and the British retreated into Canada, leaving many northern Tribes at the mercy of the Americans. During his adult life Black Hawk watched with growing impatience and anger as the Sauks had their economy weakened, their mobility limited, and their lands taken by the advancing United States. In the face of these fundamental shifts he spoke for Sauk traditions; he opposed the pioneers and rejected their claims to tribal lands. His unbending resistance eventually brought disaster to his followers. Nevertheless, his life exemplified traditional Sauk values. A village war leader who hoped for better times, he helped to foster resistance to unavoidable, if painful, changes in tribal life.
In a world of rapidly changing political and economic allegiances, the Sauks suffered a continuing decline in their standard of living. As pioneers hurried west into the Mississippi Valley and south of the Great Lakes, Indians in these regions faced continuing pressures to cede part or all of their land holdings. The same population pressures forced more competition among neighboring tribes as they strove to maintain their hunting, trapping, gathering, and farming subsistence cycles. When available game diminished, the villagers had few options. They could travel farther from home to hunt, or shift to other economic activities. The Illinois Sauks rejected the latter option, and, as a result, their hunting parties met spirited resistance from the Cherokees in the south and the Osages to the west.
ÖIn 1804 the [Sauk] Indians killed several settlers. The pioneers demanded that the Sauks be punished, and when a small delegation of tribal village leaders visited St. Louis in 1804, federal officials there persuaded them to sign a treaty ceding all tribal lands east of the Mississippi River. For nearly three decades, that agreement brought continuing friction and misunderstanding between the tribe and the United States. It was a direct cause of the Black Hawk WarÖ
In 1816 Sauk and Mesquakie leaders signed treaties ending hostilities. From then until the late 1820s the villagers continued their precarious occupation of the Mississippi Valley in the face of ever-increasing numbers of settlers. By 1831 Black Hawk had come to be recognized as the spokesman for a motley grouping of Sauks, Mesquakies, and other Indians who continued to refuse to migrate west beyond the Mississippi.
The following year Black Hawk led the so-called British Band east across the Mississippi into Illinois. He and his followers hoped to establish a new village and begin farming again. This action set off loud protests from pioneers and politicians, and President Andrew Jackson ordered federal troops into action. By late April 1832, American regulars and Illinois militiamen began chasing the Indians up the Rock River valley into southern Wisconsin and then west toward the Mississippi. They overtook the exhausted band at the mouth of the Bad Axe River, slaughtering many of them. This crushing defeat persuaded other midwestern tribes to accept removal to the West and ended Black Hawk's public career. After being imprisoned in Virginia for some months, he was sent back to his tribe in disgrace. He died in 1838.
Black Hawk's career illustrates the divisions within tribal and village groups as they sought to deal effectively with the United States. Some leaders recognized the need for accommodation with the powerful Americans. Other rejected such action, turning to native religion and even denial in hopes of retaining traditional practices and locations. Black Hawk provided a powerful symbol of cultural pride for the Sauks and Mesquakies during an era of constant disruption and hardship. He based his actions on Sauk practices and beliefs, but by 1832 the crush of frontier settlement had made such ideas impossible to maintain."
Roger L. Nichols
in Encyclopedia of North American Indians (New York 1996), p. 76-78
From Black Hawk's autobiography:
Indian Agency, Rock-Island, October 16, 1833
I do hereby certify, that M¦-ka-tai-me-she-ki¦-ki¦k, or Black Hawk, did call upon me, on his return to his people in August last, and express a great desire to have a History of his Life written and published, in order, (as he said) "that the people of the United States, (among whom he had been travelling, and by whom he had been treated with great respect, friendship and hospitality,) might know the causes that had impelled him to act as he has done, and the principles by which he was governed." In accordance with his request, I acted as Interpreter; and was particularly cautious, to understand distinctly the narrative of Black Hawk throughout -- and have examined the work carefully, since its completion -- and have no hesitation in pronouncing it strictly correct, in all its particulars.
Given under my hand, at the Sac and Fox Agency, the day and date above written.
U.S. Interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes
DEDICATION TO BRIGADIER GEN'L H[enry]. ATKINSON
Sir, -- The changes of fortune, and vicissitudes of war, made you my conqueror. When my last resources were exhausted, my warriors worn down with long and toilsome marches, we yielded, and I became your prisoner.
The story of my life is told in the following pages; it is intimately connected, and in some measure, identified with a part of the history of your own: I have, therefore, dedicated it to you.
The changes of many summers, have brought old age upon me, -- and I cannot expect to survive many moons. Before I set out on my journey to the land of my fathers, I have determined to give my motives and reasons for my former hostilities to the whites, and to vindicate my character from misrepresentation. The kindness I received from you whilst a prisoner of war, assures me that you will vouch for the facts contained in my narrative, so far as they came under your observation.
I am now an obscure member of a nation, that formerly honored and respected my opinions. The path to glory is rough, and many gloomy hours obscure it. May the Great Spirit shed light on your's -- and that you may never experience the humility that the power of the American government has reduced me to, is the wish of him, who, in his native forests, was once as proud and bold as yourself.
10th Moon, 1833.
"Black Hawk was never a great Indian statesman like Tecumseh or a persuasive orator like Keokuk. He was not a hereditary chief or a medicine man. He was only a stubborn warrior brooding upon the certainty that his people must fight to survive.
The Indians used to say that a white settlement was like a spot of raccoon grease on a new blanket. When you first saw the tiny stain you did not realize how wide and how fast it would spread. Black Hawk's story is the narrative of a man who saw the vast stain of American settlement widening across the Midwest, darkening all the lands of his ancestors. Black Hawk was a bull-headed fighter who chose a bitter last stand against extinction."
Introduction to Black Hawk: an Auto-biography (U. of Illinois Press, 1955)
"We Need a Man for Solo Trombone"
Abbie Conant's Story
(Excerpted from an article in the Journal of the International Association of Women in Music)
A native of the Southwestern United States, Abbie [Conant] attended the Interlochen Arts Academy as a scholarship student. She received her undergraduate degree from Temple University. After completing a Master's Degree from the Juilliard School in 1979, Abbie won a position as the solo trombonist of the Royal Opera of Turin for the 1979-80 season. In June of 1980, invited to audition as "Herr" Abbie Conant, she won the solo trombone position of the Munich Philharmonic.
The first round of that audition was held behind a screen (the last time a screen has been used in an audition for the Munich Philharmonic), the second and third rounds were not. Abbie was clearly the superior trombonist, and the full orchestra voted to hire her. According to the orchestra chairman, the new General Music Director Sergiu Celibidache was opposed to her appointment, but perhaps because he was still new with the orchestra and immersed in negotiations with the city regarding his own contract he felt that he was not yet in a position to overrule the orchestra's selection.
Abbie played her probationary year with the orchestra without incident, and she was voted tenure by her colleagues. (In order to retain their positions in Germany, solo players must be approved by a vote of the full orchestra at the end of their first year.) However, after her probationary year was completed, she was informed that Celibidache wanted to veto the orchestra's vote, and demote her to second trombone. During her probationary year she could have been demoted or dismissed by Celibidache without difficulty, since the only thing the musicians' contract required for that were two written criticisms. But her trial year had ended without her ever having received criticism, either written or verbal, from Celibidache.
Confident of her abilities, Abbie offered to play a second probationary year for Mr. Celibidache to give him the opportunity to explain what dissatisfied him about her performance. That season she played one program for him, and although she received no criticism he did not allow her to play solo for him the rest of the year.
At the beginning of her third year with the orchestra, Abbie offered Celibidache another compromise: she would play second for him, but solo for guest conductors. He rejected her offer, stating that "You know the problem: we need a man for solo trombone."
In February of 1982 she was officially demoted to second trombone and filed a lawsuit to regain her position. Extensive court battles ensued between Abbie and the City of Munich, since the Munich Philharmonic is a municipal orchestra. For the next six years she had to play second trombone, a position with an increased workload and decreased pay. (In Germany, two "solo" trombonists are hired to split the principal trombone chair. Section trombonists are required to perform approximately one-third more services, and are paid considerably less than solo players.)
In each of the first two trials the court ruled that not enough evidence was presented to support the orchestra's position of demoting Abbie, and ordered the city's lawyers to prepare specific complaints. In response, they claimed that Abbie did not "possess the necessary strength to be a leader of the trombone section." Since in continental law the accused must supply the proof, Abbie underwent extensive medical testing to measure the capacity of her lungs and the speed at which she could inhale and exhale air. She had blood drawn from her ear to see how efficiently her body absorbed oxygen. She stripped and let a doctor examine her rib cage and chest. She also solicited forty-three testimonials of her musicianship from musicians and guest conductors. In March of 1984, after the third trial within three years, the court ruled in Abbie's favor, finding that "The suit is permissible because the change in work assignments, due to the lack of a substantiated argument, is unjustified." The city appealed.
The appeal hearings began the following year, and continued for three more years as Abbie continuing playing second trombone. At the first appeal hearing, the city used the orchestra's calendar to "reconstruct" specific accusations against Abbie. In the most preposterous example, the city claimed that her "shortness of breath was unoverhearable" in the famous trombone solo from Mozart's Requiem, which directly contradicted a glowing testimonial from Yoav Talmi, the guest conductor for those concerts, who specifically mentioned her solo.
At the second appeal hearing, the judge said he understood nothing about music, and determined that a specialist, preferably a conductor, should decide "Whether the Plaintiff for an orchestra of the quality of the Munich Philharmonic possesses unconditionally the necessary physical strength, endurance, and durability to play the most difficult passages according to the conductors' instructions for length, intensity, and loudness."
Both sides were to provide the judge with a list of candidates who were to listen to Abbie play selected orchestral excerpts and prepare a written report to the court for a fee of $2,200. Abbie provided a list of all of the conductors in Germany's ninety-five state orchestras, and a list of several German trombone professors. The city's list had no conductors, and listed only two trombone professors, both of whom were competing with Abbie for a professorship at the Munich conservatory. In spite of the fee, the court had great difficulty finding a conductor willing to judge Abbie's playing -- perhaps because all of the candidates were well aware that if they ruled in Abbie's favor they might never be invited to work with the Munich Philharmonic.
After almost a year's delay, Paul Schreckenberger, the trombone professor of the State Conservatory in Mannheim, agreed to judge Abbie in March of 1986. Three different audition dates were set and canceled by him in the next sixteen months, until finally in July of 1987 he withdrew completely, saying he did not have time. For each of these dates, Abbie had prepared extensively, only to have her chance to prove herself repeatedly withdrawn at the last moment.
At last Heinz Fadle, a professor at the State Conservatory of Music in Detmold and president of the German Trombone Association, agreed to evaluate Abbie. Three years after the court determined that a "specialist" should assess Abbie's musical abilities, she traveled to his city and played the list of orchestral excerpts he requested, observed only by Fadle, a representative from the City of Munich, and a tape recorder. She played each excerpt several times, altering her performance each time to meet his instructions to vary the style, dynamics, phrasing, and vibrato. This audition was far more demanding than any normal orchestral audition, rehearsal, or concert, yet his court report praised her playing in unequivocal terms:
The court ruled in her favor in July of 1988. After eight years in the orchestra and six years in court, Abbie was reinstated to her position of solo trombone. However, this was not the end of her battles. The Munich Philharmonic then refused to pay her as a solo trombonist, or to deliver her the back pay she was entitled to until they received the actual written judgment. It took the judge two additional years, until August of 1990, to complete a three-page judgment.
The Munich Philharmonic then placed Abbie in a lower salary group than all fifteen of her (male) solo-wind colleagues. In June of 1991, after further legal battles, Abbie won a trial against the City of Munich in order to be placed in the same pay group as her male colleagues. The City of Munich appealed.
In March of 1993 Abbie won the appeal. She had finally regained the position she'd won thirteen years earlier, receiving the same pay and seniority as her male colleagues. Vindicated, she decided to accept a prestigious tenured position at the State Conservatory of Music in Trossingen, and left the orchestra. The Munich Philharmonic hired a seventeen year-old male with no orchestral experience as her replacement.
As a tenured trombone professor in Germany, Abbie's position is comparable to an artist-in-residence position in the United States. She teaches between ten and fifteen students, and has no other teaching duties or committee assignments. She is allowed virtually unlimited paid leave, and can make up lessons at her convenience. Her salary is equal to or higher than those offered by any of the German orchestras (excluding the Berlin Philharmonic).
Brenda Parkerson's film Abbie Get Your Gun, an eighty-two minute musical burlesque and documentary, continues to acquaint people with Abbie's case. The film (in English and German, with English subtitles) intersperses footage of Abbie recounting her experiences with scenes from a grotesque cabaret-musicale, in which the actors (all women, most in outlandish drag) re-enact the unbelievable but factual story of Abbie's struggle in Munich. The film was first broadcast on national German television, and has since received subsequent screenings at theaters in Dortmund, Freiberg, Hamburg, and Berlin.
Unfortunately, sexual discrimination is neither unusual nor a thing of the past. During a recent conversation between the author and Rebecca Bower, Co-Principal Trombone of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Becky remarked upon the "striking similarity" of her situation as compared to Abbie's. Becky won her position in 1989, hired by Lorin Maazel. Despite his repeated assurances throughout her first year that he was very happy with her playing, and without her having received any criticism from him, she was denied tenure by the same conductor that had hired her a year earlier. The following year Maazel did grant her tenure, but at the same time assigned her to play primarily second trombone, despite the fact that she won and is tenured to play the Co-Principal chair. She has filed complaints of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment with the Department of Labor and the Equal Opportunity Commission. This year the Pittsburgh Symphony hired an interim Principal Trombone: a twenty-year old male with no orchestral experience.
Is it any wonder why so few of the talented and gifted women trombonists choose to pursue an orchestral career? There are just a handful of woman trombonists in major orchestras. This year marks the first season the New York Philharmonic carries a women trombonist player on its roster. Lisa Albrecht, Assistant Principal Trombone joins Rebecca Bower, Co-Principal Trombone of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Heather Buchman, Principal Trombone of the San Diego Symphony as a member of an elite minority.
There is a tremendous amount of hostility and resentment towards women in our society, and it is magnified in the back rows of the orchestra. The autocratic and hierarchical structure of the symphony orchestra permit and perhaps even encourage sexual discrimination and sexual harassment to flourish.
Unfortunately, Abbie's story reflects the rule, not the exception, for women trombonists. Her case is distinguished from so many others not by the actions she endured, but by their severity, her documentation of them, and most notably, by her eventual victory.
CUBE's June 7 concert at the Arts Club of Chicago will present the world premieres of three works. One is Imprints, a work by Timothy Bowlby commissioned by CUBE for its tenth anniversary. The composer writes about his work:
The composition of Imprints began during the fall of 1997 and was completed in the spring of 1998. It was written for the CUBE Contemporary Chamber Ensemble as a gift celebrating their tenth year together and is gratefully dedicated to Patricia Morehead, CUBE's oboist/artistic co-director and my co-national (we're both Canadian) and dear friend.
Cast in a large three-part mould that very roughly approximates a sonata-allegro design, Imprints also incorporates elements of scherzo and trio and rondo forms. In terms of pitch, the work is based on two related and highly symmetrical dodecaphonic series (and permutations thereof) which both of which were derived from a single one four-note chord; A natural and related tones, though, are at times given a higher priority in the order of things than others. The required repetition of Imprints' introduction, wherein movement from the first pitch series to the second is initially effected, performs a function similar to that of the highly developmental introduction in the first movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.
The work was inspired in part from reflections I have made on the importance of "imprinting" on key figures at various points in one's life (parents, teachers, etc.) to learn essential skills. Eventually, though, after "standing long enough in the old ways," to paraphrase Ben Jonson, one must strike out on one's own, endeavoring to make -- and being allowed to make -- progressions, departures, adaptations, elaborations, even innovations of one's own.
Therein lies the true joy and spirit of composition (and life). Soli deo gloria!
Janice Misurell-Mitchell's new work Mamiwata, for solo marimba, was commissioned by Dane Maxim Richeson as a piece which would contribute to the literature of the five-octave marimba. The title comes from the name of the goddess of wealth and good fortune found in societies of several African countries. There are melodic and rhythmic elements in the work which have a basis in African music: the a cappella singing of Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and the "Cockroach-Click Song" made popular in the late 1960's by Miriam Makeba. Some ideas have a basis in jazz, while others come from a more abstract musical style. All these elements appear and disappear, reappearing each time in a different guise.
Three distinguished artists will be joining CUBE for the "First Hearings" concert. Japanese cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Professor of Music at Indiana University will be performing works by Donald Steven, Dean of the School of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and Dr. Samuel Dolin, eminent Canadian composer on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Soprano Barbara Ann Martin, who has joined us for a number of memorable performances in recent years, will perform works by Patricia Morehead, Ralph Shapey and George Crumb. Her performance of Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children and Three Early Songs with James Freeman and Orchestra 2001 has recently been released on CRI, personally supervised by the composer.
Pianist Eileen Hutchins of the DePaul faculty will be performing with the CUBE ensemble in the newly commissioned work by Timothy Bowlby.
Chicago Composers' Consortium's June 15th concert features a work written in the manner of an "Exquisite Corpse" by the members of the consortium. "Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution. ...the game was immediately adapted to drawing, producing a series of hybrids the first reproductions of which are to be found in No. 9-10 of la Révolution surréaliste (October 1927) without identification of their creators." (William S. Rubin, Dada & Surrealist Art, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York 1968)
Chicago Chamber Musicians is presenting its second annual Music at the Millennium series of concerts exhorting us to "Celebrate the 20th Century with an Ear Toward Tomorrow," a sentiment with which we are definitely in accord. The four concerts in May at the Museum of Contemporary Art include a wide variety of 20th-century works under the topics "Folk Music and Native Rituals," "Discovery and Technology," "East Meets West," and "Pop Culture and the Minimalists." Each concert is preceded by either a prelude concert or a conversation with a composer featured on the program. The concerts are on Mondays May 3 and 10, Sunday May 16, and Friday, May 21 (see listings for more details). For information call (312) 397-4010.
CUBE pianist and conductor Philip Morehead will be conducting the Chicago 20th Century Music Ensemble, a group founded and directed by composer Craig First, a former Chicago resident who now teaches at the University of Alabama. The ensemble will be presenting a concert of works by First, Joan Tower, Luciano Berio, and others on May 8th at St. James Cathedral, Rush & Pearson, Chicago. See listings for more information.
CUBE co-artistic directors Janice Misurell-Mitchell and Patricia Morehead will both be travelling to London, England, for the Eleventh International Congress on Women in Music, "New Century Perspectives," held in joint meeting with "Feminist Theory and Music 5," an International Conference on Music in relation to Feminism, Women's Studies, and Gender Studies. Both Janice and Patricia will be performing at the congress.
CUBE percussionist Dane Richeson has just returned from a three-month musical sabbatical in Matanzas on the east coast of Cuba, where he studied Cuban drumming on a daily basis with a master teacher. Last November Dane premiered a new work for marimba and alto saxophone by David Maslanka, commissioned by Lawrence University, where Dane is Professor of Percussion. He also participated in a jazz festival in Portugal.
The Chicago String Quartet, in residence at DePaul University, will debut a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Perle, one of the university's most distinguished graduates, at the New Music DePaul concert on May 14.
The piece, Brief Encounters, Perle's ninth string quartet, was commissioned by School of Music supporter Rosemary Schnell to celebrate DePaul's centennial. The concert, part of the New Music DePaul professional contemporary music series, will feature an all-Perle program including For Piano and Winds, Critical Moments, Serenade No. 3 and Wind Quintet No. 1. The free, public event begins at 8 p.m. at the DePaul Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden Ave. Susan Cook, saxophone, Mary Stolper, flute and Bill Cernota, cello, will also perform.
A resident of New York, Perle is expected to return to Chicago to attend the New Music DePaul performance and the DePaul Symphony Orchestra's Spring Concert May 12 at Symphony Center. One of the three works the orchestra will perform is the Chicago premiere of Perle's Sinfonietta I.
A composer, educator, music theorist and scholar, Perle --who turns 84 in May -- graduated from the School of Music in 1938. Among his awards are the Pulitzer Prize, won for music composition, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, both received in 1986. He is the author of the 1990 book, The Listening Composer. His music has been performed by numerous orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco, Baltimore and BBC symphonies.
Perle began writing the new string quartet, Brief Encounters, in 1997. The 39-minute piece is unusual because it consists of 15 short movements instead of the usual four or five. "We're excited to be performing a commissioned work of an internationally known composer who is also one of the best known alumni of the School of Music," said quartet violinist Stefan Hersh. "We played his Quartet No. 5 last season and feel we have a real affinity for his work."
"George Perle has graced us with insightful essays on 20th century music as well as theory and compositional method, but most of all with his strong and elegant music that compels on a moment-to-moment basis, and satisfies on the broad architectural level," said George Flynn, Director of the New Music DePaul series. For more information about the concerts call(773) 325-7260.
A View from the Bridge
by William Bolcom
AIl my life I have worked in musical theater. Opera as it is usually understood has occupied me only in the last decade; before that I composed, always with the librettos of Arnold Weinstein, musical works for actors to sing, rather than for opera singers who were by and large incomprehensible in English, and a good many of them still are. Actors' voices were more individualized, sometimes unpretty, but often surprisingly musical.
I am glad to report that, in the last decade or so, singers who deliver English text effectively in the opera house are on the increase. No more is it universally accepted to Italianize vowels and uniformly overemphasize consonants in the interest of "diction"-- audiences won't stand for it, and a more natural, more theatrical style has resulted. What I want from singers is musicality, training, intelligence, warmth as regards text, and flexibility. What should result, after all these years of composers' and performers' slouching toward opera, is that their works speak as directly to American audiences as Italian, German, Czech, or French opera speaks to theirs. Such an opera might have to be written to offer theatrical values that share equal importance with the music.
The natural question, in the case of A View from the Bridge, is why bother to set it? If one is going to use a movie or a play or a book that gets its meaning across without "operatizing," what is the point in having it all sung, when verbal comprehensibility (even with the clearest singers) is compromised? In fact, I had to be convinced to do the piece, particularly because I worried about the necessity of adding music at all. There have been many successful revivals of View, including a fine one in New York at the Roundabout. Although the play is very much of its time (the 1950s -- there would be many period elements in my musical setting, some subtle, others overt), it seems to be as durable as Aeschylus.
Finally it hit me: In a play or a TV show or a movie, the text is "up here" -- I raise a flat palm and the subtext is "down here" -- I put my other flattened hand below it. In opera it's the reverse. Setting a poem is putting the subtextual, the emotional, above the information; the text is there to feed the feeling in the music. Even with theatrical value given equal billing, it is still the music that provides the strong line (what Wagner called the melos) that makes the evening a true opera. I eventually found that A View from the Bridge survives the reversal of the textual and subtextual better than almost any other play I knew, and suddenly it became possible to write the music.
All of the characters in the opera A View from the Bridge have strong emotional profiles taken from the play. (Arnold Weinstein, who fashioned the libretto from the play with contributions from Miller, found much singable language in the early one-act 1956 poetry-play version of View.) The longshoreman protagonist, Eddie Carbone, shares with Othello and Oedipus the status of tragic hero, a man in the grip of forces he cannot understand or control; he pulls the rest of the cast centripetally toward him. What I asked Arnold and Arthur to do, however, was find a way that the chorus -- the community of Red Hook, who are his friends and neighbors and eventually his condemners -- could be pulled into Eddie's maelstrom, too. They gave the chorus almost constant presence onstage -- another recalling of the ancient Greek roots of this story.
Smaller parts were given greater individuality. When Marco (the brother of the young illegal immigrant Rodolpho and the eventual agent of Eddie's death) needed more musical profile in the form of an aria, Arthur and Arnold duly came up with a poem inspired by Miller's brilliant, moving line "I sailed here on a ship called Hunger" (not found in any version of the play), which gives a pivotal character even more force than in the original. Elements of the play that fed the musical subtextual line were strengthened; details and characters (such as the neighboring Lipari family) that crowded the scene had to go. It was this kind of thinking that went into the sung text of View, and I am eternally grateful for the expert work from these two modern masters.
The musical idiom is even more direct and elemental than in my previous opera for Lyric, McTeague. Simple rhythms and harmonies and an overall spare texture are found throughout in View: the overall form may remind a listener of traditional opera (with extractable arias and so forth), but the underlying shape of a Broadway musical is hardly absent. The play was a theatrical vehicle; ignoring that would violate its principal intent. Extreme consonance and dissonance are found where appropriate to the drama, but also much of the sung line is actually melodic and very direct. There is a popular feel almost throughout, and again this directly connects with the ancient classicism underlying everything in View.
In Act One, Scene 5, I use the early twentieth century song hit, Johnny Black's "Paper Doll;" it is used in Miller's play (sung by Rodolpho and used as a dance record, recorded exclusively for this opera, in Scene 9). There is a brief doo-wop sequence in Act Two, Scene 1, and rock basses are used in the Scene Six finale. One of my principal melodic inspirations for View was the great songwriter Harry Warren (ne Salvatore Guaragna), but the musical "blood" of this opera must have come from the great Italian operatic tradition.
As a hitchhiking student 40 years ago, I landed one day in Naples; walking along the bay I chanced upon an old man in rags happily fishing. He was lustily singing Verdi -- perhaps he felt it would attract the fish -- and in talking with him (he turned out to be a businessman who fished in this garb because it recalled his childhood) I realized that this man owned this music, in the deepest sense of the word. Verdi was a master -- in orchestration, counterpoint, musical playcraft -- yet he gave this fisherman something to sing, too. After this century's stylistic fishing, Arnold and Arthur and I have tried to catch a similar something in the bay beneath A View from the Bridge.
excerpted with permission from the Lyric Opera study guide for A View from the Bridge
CUBE congratulates Chicago composer Julia Miller
Julia Miller was selected as a finalist in the Gaudeamus Music Festival 1999 Composition Competition for her electronic piece, bluu. bluu was created by combining digitally processed sound samples through the computer program MAX. The Gaudeamus Festival takes place from Sept. 6-13 in Amsterdam.
More about November - December Events
New Work by Janice Misurell-Mitchell
In-Finite for flute, clarinet, cello and percussion by Janice Misurell Mitchell will receive its world premiere on Friday, November 5, at 6pm and 7pm at the Northern Illinois University Art Museum Gallery in Chicago, 215 W. Superior St., Chicago. The performances will take place at the opening of the show ìForm and Measure,î which features the work of visual artist Lynda Lowe. Loweís mixed media painting In-Finite has been the basis of the musical score. The piece was created collaboratively as painter and composer developed ideas which were found in the painting and could be translated into metaphors which would work musically. CUBE percussionist Dane Richeson will join the group, led by Janice Misurell-Mitchell. The opening of ìForm and Measureî will take place from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Admission is free.
Donne in Musica
The Fourth Annual Festival of Women in Music, Donne in Musica, took place in Fiuggi, Italy, from September 6 - 13. The Festival regularly brings women composers and performing groups from around the world to a historical mountain town about an hour east of Rome for a week of music, touring, festive meals and a great deal of networking. Conceived of and directed by Patricia Adkins Chiti, mezzo soprano and musicologist, the Festival presents two or three concerts daily of music by living and historical women and also includes three days of papers and discussion sessions on topics of musicological interest as well as reports on the state of musicmaking by women in all the countries represented. CUBE member Patricia Morehead attended last year's festival, where her newly commissioned work for saxophone quartet, Event Horizon, was premiered and recorded on a Festival CD by Donne in Sax. This year Janice Misurell-Mitchell attended, hearing a performance of her work for solo guitar, Dark was the Night, performed by Maria Vittoria Jedlowski, whom several Chicagoans hope to bring to town next concert season. The performing ensembles, ranging from the Donne in Sax, from Italy, to the The Song Company, from Australia, to the Cappella Artemisia from California to the Color Quartet from Korea, were a composer's dream come true. The Festival is now working toward major performances of sacred music for the year 2000.
Pocket Opera presents two John Eaton operas
The Pocket Opera Company of Chicago will present two operas by University of Chicago composer John Eaton, in the Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library from Friday, December 9, thru Saturday, December 11 (see listings for details). The productions will be directed by Nicholas Rudall, founder and for many years the principal director of the Court Theater, who also wrote the libretto for Antigone. The conductor is Cliff Colnot, and the sets are designed by world-renowned sculptor Dimitri Hadzi. The cast includes singers Julia Bentley, Sharon Quattrin, Stacia Spenser, Ulises Solano and Ray Fellman. The instrumental musicians, who not only play for but also take part in the action, will include Janice Misurell-Mitchell, flutes, Eric Mandat, clarinets, Sebastian Huydts, piano, James Bosnos, percussion, Benjamin Sutherland, electronics, Florentina Ramniceanu, violin, and Craig Trompeter, cello. A special mission of the Pocket Opera Company is to involve the instrumentalists in such a way that their musical gestures take on a theatrical and human meaning both for them and the audience.
Happy Half-Century Salute to composers
Howard Sandroff and Frank Abbinanti
Happy 50th to Howard Sandroff, faculty member at The University of Chicago, formerly artistic director of the New Art Ensemble, which presented a wide variety of excellent new music concerts on the North Shore. On November 23rd, Alain Damiens, the clarinetist for the Ensemble Intercontemporain from IRCAM, Paris, will play Howardís Tephillah for clarinet and computer-controlled electronics (see listings). Damiens has recorded the work on his newly-released CD ìThe American Clarinetî (EMI Angel Classics) available at the CUBE online store. CUBE also extends 50th birthday greetings to Frank Abbinanti, long associated with producing concerts of new music in Chicago with the InterArts Ministry, NEMO, and the annual Halloween new music concert at the Green Mill (see listings for details of this yearís concert).
Jory Vinikour, Harpsichordist from Paris
Mostly Music brings Jory Vinikour, internationally acclaimed master of the harpsichord, Chicago-born but now based in Paris, back to Chicago to perform with Patricia Morehead, oboe díamore, and Jean Marie Minton, mezzo-soprano, on November 5th, as part of the inaugural series in the new Fine Arts Recital Hall (part of a new twenty million dollar Fine Arts complex) on the Northeastern Illinois University campus. Vinikourís program, which features seventeenth century masterworks by Bach, Rameau and Scarlatti, also offers a unique contrasting voice, that of contemporary composer Patricia Morehead. Her newest work, Fantasy Variations for solo harpsichord, will have its premiere at the concert, and the artists will comment on the music during intermission. The program will be repeated at the Feltre School in Chicago on November 10th. See listings for details.
Information on CUBE's program "Neon Conversations"
CUBE will open its 1999-2000 concert series on November 12 and 13 at Columbia College with a multimedia concert, "Neon Conversations." Part of the Transitions series of the Field Museumís Project Millennium, the concert will present various types of musical performance which developed in the middle of the century and contrasts them with similar works from the end of the century. The program is built around the question of enduring legacies: what will be kept, what will change, in the new Millennium?
Live instruments with electronics will be represented by the classic, Synchronisms No. 6, for piano and electronics, by Mario Davidovsky, and a new piece for flutes, oboes and electronics, Folding into White, by Timothy Dwight Edwards, a member of the faculty of Columbia College. The rich vocabulary taken from ideas of nature will be represented by Le merle noir, for flute and piano, by Olivier Messiaen, and in a more contemporary version, Le fou aux pattes bleues, for flute and piano, by Tristan Murail. CUBE will explore the possibilities of sound and visual art in two works created by its guest, sculptor Richard Santiago, from Tampa, Florida. The first, Neon Conversations, for ensemble with interactive neon light, has been developed by Mr. Santiago and CUBE member Janice Misurell-Mitchell. The second, A Little Light Music, will be a work for ensemble, conductor and members of the audience.
Richard Santiago first appeared with CUBE in one of the ensembleís first major concerts: ìNaked Neonî in 1991. A sculptor who specializes in neon in combination with other materials, Mr. Santiago has had numerous individual exhibitions in Miami Beach, Sarasota, and Tampa, Florida; Logan, Utah; and in Chicago. He has been commissioned by Hillsborough County, Florida for a major work, by the Regional Transit System of Gainsville, Florida, and was a finalist in the competition for a work at Atlanta International Airport. A recipient of an NEA Regional Individual Artist Fellowship, he has also received a State Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida Arts Council and has been a Master Associate at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. His work is available in numerous collections in New York, Tampa, Logan, St. Louis and Atlanta.