PROGRAM NOTES FOR RECENT PIECES
Jeu de Téléphone, for two alto saxophones, piano, and cellphones (optional)
“I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone; I do not understand why champagne is always chilled and why on the other hand telephones, which are habitually so frightfully warm and disagreeably sticky to the touch, are not also put in silver buckets with crushed ice around them. Telephone frappé, mint-coloured telephone, aphrodisiac telephone, lobster-telephone, telephone sheathed in sable for the boudoirs of sirens with fingernails protected with ermine, Edgar Allen Poe telephones with a dead rat concealed within, Boecklin telephones installed inside a cypress tree (and with an allegory of death in inlayed silver on their backs), telephones on the leash which would walk about, screwed to the back of a living turtle ... telephones ... telephones ... telephones ...
from The Secret Life of Salvador Dali
Jeu de Téléphone is a non-linear version of the children’s game of “Telephone”, whereby a phrase or idea is passed from one participant to the other, successively more varied and distorted until it is (potentially) barely recognizable from its original form. One of the sources being transformed is material derived from an anlysis of the ringing of an old French telephone. The telephone sound is the structural basis of the piece, while at the same time, paraphrased and mutated references to standard saxophone repertoire slip like ghosts into the piece – mostly in subtle forms, but at times overt. These allusions are identified in the score with similarly playful but incorrect names of pieces like Fanta scene, Dubois: Len’s toe, not Alun’s toe, Création du mom, More rice, Creatine demon, Desenclone, and Salamander glasses off. Eventually, once the listening is tuned to these devices, other layers emerge, where the telephone ringing sound and saxophone repertoire resonate with one another, and one begins to sound like the other, despite there being no material connection at all.
First performed by William H. Street, Charles B. Stolte, and Roger Admiral. Commissioned by William H. Street, Charles B. Stolte, and Roger Admiral with the support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
Like a Pathway in Autumn, for soprano (or mezzo-soprano), violin, and piano
The points of departure for “like a pathway in autumn” come from György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments (1985-86), a large-scale work consisting of forty highly concentrated musical units. While “like a pathway in autumn” (named after the second song of Kurtág’s piece) can be viewed as a companion piece to his, more accurately it focusses and elaborates on just a few of the many themes introduced in Kafka Fragments, such as loneliness and wandering in the season of decay. Through this lens, Kurtág’s work also points to Schubert’s Winterreise (A Winter’s Journey). Kurtág uses only brief texts by Kafka, while “like a pathway in autumn” takes the primary thematic resources and brings in other authors, drawing on their complementary ideas and sentiments. In addition to texts selected from the Kafka Fragments (Part I, Fragment 2 (Wie Eing Weg Im Herbst), Fragment 16 (Keine Rückkehr), Part II (Der Wahre Weg), and Part III, Fragment 7 (Ziel, Weg, Zügern)), “like a pathway in autumn” employs texts extracted from poems by Octavio Paz (1914-1998), Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), Paul Celan (1920-1970), Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī (1207-1273), and Wilhelm Müller (poet of the Winterreise texts (1794-1827)), universalizing and weaving them together into more continuous musical textures that paraphrase gestures taken from small sections of Kurtág’s piece. Like the texts, the borrowed musical materials are juxtaposed and superimposed quite differently from their initial context, and are treated to broadly proliferate while resonating with their distant origins.
TEXTS (translated into English and in order of appearance):
It is preferred that the texts not be printed in the concert program.
No one behind, no one ahead,
Beyond myself, somewhere, I wait for my arrival. Octavio Paz
The path the ancients cleared has closed.
And the other path, everyone’s path,
Easy and wide, goes nowhere.
I am alone and find my way. (Octavio Paz)
Another day. I follow another path,
Enter the leafing woodland, visit the spring
Or the rocks where the roses bloom
Or search from a look-out, but nowhere... (Friedrich Holderlin)
Like a pathway in autumn,
hardly has it been swept clean,
it is covered again with dry leaves. (Franz Kafka)
There is a destination, but no path to it. (Franz Kafka)
Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand. (Paul Celan)
I wander (from place to place)
hunting for the diamond necklace
that is already around my neck. (Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī)
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk. (Paul Celan)
There is a destination, but no... Franz Kafka
I see a guidepost standing…
It points me to a path,
One no wanderer can retrace. (Wilhelm Müller)
From a certain point onward there is no going back.
That is the point that must be reached. (Franz Kafka)
Green Tara, for soprano and piano
According to legend, the Buddha of Compassion (Chenrezig) vowed that he would not rest until he had liberated all sentient beings from samsara, the continual cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth. Having witnessed seemingly insurmountable hardships, his resolve waned, and he became despondent, weeping tears so plentiful that they formed a lake. From this lake of tears, a lotus flower grew, and when it bloomed, the goddess Tara was revealed.
Tara (Sanskrit for “star”) is the goddess of universal compassion, representing virtuous, enlightened action. She comes to our aid to relieve us of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. There are twenty-one emanations of her, embodied in different colours and poses, each fulfilling a different premise. Because of her essential goodness, Tara was granted the right to assume her human form as a man, but declined, vowing to remain a woman for all of her liftetimes, and to work for the welfare of all.
The Green Tara (Ārya Tārā) is the main deity of the twenty-one Taras. Known as the Noble Liberator, she is a star by which to navigate, and it is believed she helps to overcome dangers, fears, and anxieties. Her icon is depicted in a posture of ease and readiness, with her green colour symbolizing air, action, and protection. Her left leg is folded in the contemplation position, while her right leg is outstretched, ready to spring into action. She holds her left hand in a gesture granting refuge, and her right hand is held in a giving way. She also holds in her hands closed blue lotuses (utpalas), symbolizing power and purity.
Musically, the piece Green Tara is in three sections that aim to express profound aspects of her character. The first part of the work is an interpretation of Green Tara’s Mantra Praise Om tāre tuttāre ture sohā, which can be understood as a statement of devotion to Tara. By reciting the mantra, one liberates the heart from samsara, the eight fears, disease, disturbing thoughts, and other sufferings. Through transferrance to sound, the ongoing cycle of birth, death, and rebirth in samsara is reflected in the onset, decay, and repetition of structurally significant notes played by the piano.
The second section of the music is a setting of text written by the first Dalai Lama (Gyalwa Gendun Drubpa, 1391-1475), which describes the Eight Dangers from which Green Tara protects us. These are The Lion of Pride, The Elephant of Ignorance, The Fire of Anger, The Snake of Jealousy, The Thieves of Distorted Views, The Chain of Miserliness, The Flood of Attachment, and The Carnivorous Demon of Doubt. Through Markov chains (Andrey Markov – 14 June, 1856 to 20 July, 1922), the same primary material is reiterated in related forms, each in a sense a different incarnation of the same source. The second section dovetails with the third, which is a varied reprise of the opening Mantra Praise. Multiple instances of the mantra accumulate and are absorbed into a unified, yet expansive, pensive piano texture that vibrates with direct connection to the sound of a Tibetan Tingsha Bell, from which all basic material in the piece is derived.
Green Tara was commissioned by Kathleen Corcoran and Roger Admiral with the support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. It was inspired by a trip to the province of Sikkim, India, and is dedicated to Arya Tara Steenhuisen Narwani (born 14 June, 2012).
Om tāre tuttāre ture sohā
THE EIGHT DANGERS
1. The Lion of Pride
Dwelling in the mountains of ego
Puffed up and holding itself superior
It claws other beings with contempt
The Lion of Pride
2. The Elephant of Ignorance
Not tamed by the sharp hooks of mindfulness and vigilance
Dulled by the maddening liquor of sensual pleasures
It enters false paths and shows its harmful tusks
The Elephant of Ignorance
3. The Fire of Anger
Driven by the wind of unseemly attention
Billowing forth swirling clouds of delinquency
It has the power to burn down forests of goodness
The Fire of Anger
4. The Snake of Jealousy
Lurking in the pit of ignorance
Unable to bear the excellence of others
It swiftly injects them with its cruel poison
The Snake of Jealousy
5. The Thieves of Distorted Views
Roaming the fearful wilds and the barren wastes
Of nihilism and absolutism
They sack the towns and hermitages of benefit and bliss
The Thieves of Distorted Views
6. The Chain of Miserliness
Binding embodied beings
In the unbearable prison of cyclic existence
It locks them in craving’ s tight embrace
The Chain of Miserliness
7. The Flood of Attachment
Sweeping us in the torrent of cyclic existence so hard to cross
Conditioned by the propelling winds of karma
Tossed in the waves of birth, aging, sickness and death
The Flood of Attachment
8. The Carnivorous Demons of Doubt
Roaming in the space of darkest confusion
Tormenting those who strive for the ultimate aims
It’s viciously lethal to liberation
The Carnivorous Demons of Doubt
MANTRA PRAISE VIBRATIONS
Please protect us from these dangers