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31 March 1995, Center for the Arts, San Francisco Panel:Global Ethnicity in Music

... I would like to close this panel with a short piece of music by Lou Harrison which is A Chaconne for Violin and American Gamelan, part of his suite for those instruments. He wrote it in collaboration with Richard Dee. Is this a true chaconne?

Lou Harrison: Yes.

Charles Amirkhanian: Tell us what a chaconne is.

Lou Harrison: It's a slow three, normally with a ground bass that repeats, which it does in this piece. The piece is a "double music" with Richard Dee. And that's not normally called a double music for the simple reason that Richard Dee is not a "hyper-star" [laughter] as was John Cage. At any rate, one of the interesting things about the piece is that it is written for Bill's first gamelan.

Charles Amirkhanian: Bill Colvig?

Lou Harrison: Bill Colvig. Would you stand up, Bill? This man has actually built the largest American gamelan, has pioneered the use of aluminum, and also pioneered the use of tubes for the first gamelan. This one you will hear is tuned perfectly correctly with an oscilloscope into the D major scale which is a major mode which has been accepted in Northwest Asia very much and around the world. It was also first written down by a Greek in Alexandria in the 2nd century. So -- what's new? [laughter] And it makes use of a dance form which originated in Mexico and settled in the Spanish cathedrals and now has a French name. It's for solo violin, here played by David Abel who some of you heard last night and the gamelan is conducted by John Bergamo.


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