Texts by Ursula K. Le Guin, music by Elinor Armer, Le Guin and Armer narrators; various soloists and conductors; San Francisco Girls Chorus / Elizabeth Appling; San Francisco Boys Chorus; San Francisco Chamber Singers; the Women's Philharmonic / JoAnn Falletta
KOCH International Classics is proud to announce the release of Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts, an ambitious and adventurous collaboration between award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin and composer Elinor Armer, chair of the composition department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Uses of Music chronicles Armer and Le Guin's fantasy exploration through a mythical archipelago where imagined cultures utilize music in extraordinary ways: as food, water, weather, roads, walls, love potion, even as a means of survival.
More than 200 of the San Francisco Bay Area's finest musicians are featured on this recording, including the Women's Philharmonic led by JoAnn Falletta, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the University of California-Berkeley Chamber Chorus, the San Francisco Chamber Singers, the San Francisco Boys Chorus, and prominent instrumental soloists. Four of the eight recorded works feature narration by Le Guin.
The culmination of a ten-year collaboration, Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts emerged out of playful brainstorms between the composer and librettist. "We sat around in old iron lawn chairs in the Napa Valley and made outrageous suggestions to each other," reminisces Le Guin. "Some of them got very silly. I think it was Elinor who said, 'What about different uses for music from the usual ones?'" The synergy of these creative women's minds resulted in no less than eight individual works.
The Uses of Music series began in 1985 with Eating with the Hoi, scored for chamber chorus, soprano soloist and percussion. On the island of Hoi, inhabitants feast on the nourishing music emanating from a fascinating creature called the lyrovus. Music became water and weather in The Seasons of Oling, composed for chamber ensemble and narrator. In 1987, JoAnn Falletta and the Women's Philharmonic commissioned and introduced The Great Instrument of the Geggerets. The island of Gegge is a vast musical instrument that is kept afloat by the constant playing of its 70,000 small, seven-legged inhabitants -- "if they don't keep playing / they're sunk."
Anithaca was commissioned by the San Francisco Girls Chorus with support from the Gerbode Foundation's New Music Composition Award. Here "the fabric of music is precisely that. The island is populated by charming young women who spend half their time weaving words and harmonies intricately together, and the other half inweaving them distinctly apart." Open and Shut, for chamber ensemble and narrator, describes the island of Rohas, where tunes are roads, and Barhabel, where music is used for architectural material. Harp, guitar and percussion evoke music as an airborne aphrodisiac in Sailing Among the Pheromones. The series finale, Island Earth for symphony orchestra, chamber chorus and boys chorus, is described by Le Guin as the sound of the "world's ongoing self-creation, its molten core, its restless tectonic plates, the birth of its islands, the upraising and downfall of its mountains, its shining out among the other worlds and stars -- [this] is perhaps the most fundamental and permanent of all the uses of music."
One of America's most beloved writers, Ursula Le Guin is the winner of many literary accolades including the National Book Award, five Hugos, four Nebulas and the Harold D. Vursell Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. A novelist, poet, short story writer and essayist, Le Guin has written books that have sold millions of copies worldwide. She has also written children's books, screenplays and voice texts. Among her best known works are The Left Hand of Darkness, Always Coming Home and the Earthsea tetralogy. Her most recent books are the poetry collection Going Out with Peacocks and two short story collections, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea and Four Ways to Forgiveness.
Elinor Armer is the chair of the composition department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships and commissions. An active advocate for new music, Armer is a founding member of Composers, Inc., one of the leading new music presenters in the United States. She has also served on the board of the Djerassi Foundation and on the steering committee for the San Francisco Bay Area Conference on Women in Music. Armer is a lecturer, panelist and contributor to several music publications.
Armer describes Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts as a mixture of "documentary, fantasy, whimsy and poetry. We set out to create something serious and thought-provoking, as well as entertaining. We hope that each work might illuminate the very nature and meaning of music in our lives."