file dated feb 14 1995 received from paul dresher oct 16 1995 copyright 2042w

Starkland/Casa Vecchia CD Program Notes


"Underground" was composed in the Spring of 1982 and was the first part of a trilogy of works commissioned by choreographer Wendy Rogers for her work "Winter Green". The work was created and performed on a multi-track tape loop system designed for live performance and built by Paul Dresher and electronic technician Paul Tydelski. The only sound source was a very early four octave Casio electronic keyboard. A single 15 band graphic equalizer was extensively utilized for the alteration and transformation of the sounds originating directly from the keyboard and those keyboard sounds coming from the tape loop system. The work was recorded in a single "live" take directly to 1/2 track tape.

The tape system consists of a 4-channel tape machine with 3 playback heads located at various points in the path of a single closed loop. Record/play functions and the mixing and routing of all sounds are controlled by the performer with an array of foot pedals and switches thus leaving the performer's hands free to play their instrument without interruption. This system, built in 1979, was designed to allow a single performer to develop complex harmonic, polyphonic or polyrhythmic material without requiring the use of pre-recorded tapes. The system predated both digital sampling and computer sequencing and to a certain extent fulfilled the functions of both.


The original recording was made on analog equipment, a Revox 1/2 track machine running at 15 ips. The 1/2 track master tape of the "live performance" was digitally edited (equalization and levels) on the Digidesign Sound Tools system which produced the DAT Master.


In 1979 and 1980 I spent eight months traveling throughout South and Southeast Asia with no particular goal other than to see in their own cultural contexts the musics which I had been studying and listening to for the past twelve years. These travels took me to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan. The tape recorder was running much of the time, recording sounds of both urban and rural environments and performances ranging from concert halls to all-night shadow plays to street musicians. The tapes languished until 1984 when I received a commission from the Olympic Arts Festival for a work for radio to be broadcast during the Festival which ran concurrently with the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. This seemed an ideal context to explore the material in these tapes and it is from this material that all sounds on Other Fire are derived. There are no synthesized sounds utilized in the work.

The compositional procedure involved an audio processing patch consisting of a harmonizer, delay lines, graphic equalizers and mixer into which sounds from the recordings were fed and transformed in a variety of ways, all while being recorded on tape. I also utilized the tape loop system described above, but generally only as a mono or stereo source for sounds which could be played back at any speed and then sent into the processing patch. After twenty-five to thirty hours of these tapes were generated and catalogued, these sounds were selected and assembled on an eight channel recorder and mixed to the stereo version on the disc.

MIRRORS for Steinberger Bass and electronics Paul Dresher 1988-89, revised 1991 Commissioned by Robert Black with support from Ned Steinberger

For several years bassist Robert Black had been requesting I compose work for him. I had been reluctant to accept primarily because nearly all my works for many years had been for moderate to large ensembles or for myself as a soloist (on electric guitar) performing with electronics. After I had seen him give a virtuoso performance and when he asked me to compose a work for electric bass and electronics, I felt I could find a way to develop a piece. I was given an extended loan of a Steinberger instrument which I immediately fell in love with and I met with Robert and surveyed in detail his techniques on both the electric and acoustic bass as well as the various opportunities presented by his particular set of electronic apparatus. Early in the process, I made the decision to continue my nearly religious interdiction against utilizing pre-recorded tape and to focus entirely in creating a work that is performed "live."

I have written this piece as much as possible in the spirit of my own solo works with electronics (such as Liquid and Stellar Music or Dark Blue Circumstance). Thus the composition is a framework of harmonic, rhythmic/metrical, tumbrel and technical elements that are the basis for a certain amount of choices made in the moment of performance. I am reluctant to call this improvisation because the choices are within a narrow range. It is more like an "elastic" form in that the performer can choose to repeat or vary certain sections as long as it is holding musical interest and working in concert with the overall form and proportions of the work. The principle difference in a performance of this type is that the task of the performer is less to proceed through the score than it is to listen to the results of the performance of the score (including the performer's sense of the audience's response) and then to respond within the range of options presented by the score.

I want to give thanks to Robert Black for both his persistence and then patience with my working process and also to Ned Steinberger for creating such excellent instruments.

CASA VECCHIA Paul Dresher - 1982

CASA VECCHIA was commissioned by the Kronos String Quartet and composed in the summer of 1982 while residing outside a small village on the west coast of Tuscany, Italy. The specific neighborhood was known locally as Casa Vecchia because it contained the ancestral home, now in ruins, of the former overlord of the region. The work realizes a longtime desire to compose for string quartet, which is to me the only western "classical" ensemble which can consistently achieve the ensemble synchronicity common in jazz, rock and roll and many non-western or non-classical ensembles.

The piece is built upon a single twelve note diatonic phrase (or row, or cycle) whose specific note to note structure may be varied by a few arbitrary rules determined by the composer. All the sections of the work use the material of the row or its transformations. Each section is defined and differentiated by a different polyphonic or contrapuntal structure. Seen from this perspective, the work may be considered a kind of variation set. It was the first chamber work to be composed after Channels Passing/Study for Variations (1981-82) and in some sense it may be considered a realization if the ideas for which that work was a study. It was probably the last of my works in which pre-determined compositional procedures took precedence over intuition in the development of the basic materials of the work.

Looking back on the work from the perspective of twelve years, it is easy to see now the initial steps on several paths of development which my work has taken since its composition. While every moment of the work is strictly diatonic, from section to section there is a developmental use of harmony, a parameter which for several years I had consciously avoided as a tool for development, preferring to explore rhythm, counterpoint and timbre as my primary resources. Also at this point I was just beginning to question my basic sense of duration in terms of sectional and developmental proportions. While almost all of the work maintains my previous modus operandi, in the last section of the work I decided to accelerate the rate of change in the harmonic movement of the work, such that by the end what had been occurring over a period of 2-4 minutes was compressed to 1/2 a bar at a rapid tempo. Interestingly to me, this compression results in the illusion that the harmonic language is no longer strictly diatonic.

This idea for performing the work as a double quartet was entirely the conductor's, Yuki Morimoto. He sent me a recording of his group, Ensemble 9, performing it this way and it clearly was an excellent transformation of the work.

Ensemble 9 - Conducted by Yuki Morimoto

Violin 1 -Michael Snyman Willem De Swardt Violin 2 -Steven Mohler Ursula Greif Viola - Jensen Lam Odile Skarnes Cello - Ricardo Bru Julian Kalmar

Engineer - Stefan Prowaznik Organization - Dieter Strehly Recorded in Vienna, Spring 1994 Recording produced and edited by Paul Dresher


Paul Dresher, born in Los Angeles in 1951, is a composer pursuing musical interests in experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral compositions, live instrumental electric music performances and electro-acoustic taped scores for theater, dance, and film.

As Artistic Director of the Paul Dresher Ensemble, he has guided the creation of the "American Trilogy", a set of music theater works which address different facets of American culture, in collaboration with writer/performer Rinde Eckert. The trilogy began with SLOW FIRE (1985-88), developed with POWER FAILURE (1988-89) and was completed in 1990 with PIONEER, a collaboration that includes visual artist Terry Allen, actress Jo Harvey Allen, tenor John Duykers and director Robert Woodruff.

His evening-length collaboration with choreographer Margie Jenkins, THE GATES, premiered at Jacob's Pillow and opened the 1994 Serious Fun Festival at Lincoln Center. In 1993, Dresher premiered his new "electric chamber ensemble" on a five city tour of Japan as part of Festival Interlink. This ensemble performs the works of a broad range of contemporary composers utilizing a hybrid orchestration which combines both acoustic and electronic instrumentation.

His commissions have included works for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival USA, Kronos String Quartet, the San Francisco Symphony, Walker Arts Center, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, University of Iowa, and the American Music Theater Festival. He has performed or had his works performed throughout North America, Japan and Europe. Venues have included the Munich State Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Festival d'Automne in Paris, the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, the Minnesota Opera, the Cal Arts Festival, and New Music America in 1981,'83, '85, '88 and '89.

Dresher received his BA in Music from U.C. Berkeley and his M.A. in Composition from U.C. San Diego where he studied with Robert Erickson, Roger Reynolds, Pauline Oliveros and Bernard Rands. He has had a long time interest in the music of Asia and Africa, studying Ghanaian drumming with C.K. and Kobla Ladzekpo, Hindustani classical music with Nikhil Banerjee as well as Balinese and Javanese music.

Robert Black Biography

Performing on the doublebass, the electric upright bass, and the electric bass guitar, Robert Black combines classical acoustic traditions with modern computer, MIDI and electronic technologies to present solo programs throughout the world, recently performing at the Helsinki Festival, the NYYD Festival in Estonia, and the Festival des Artes in Brazil. He has commissioned over 45 of today's leading composers, including John Cage, Christian Wolff and Paul Dresher. Robert Black also performs in the electronic duo, Basso Bongo, the trio Bermuda Triangle, the Bang On A Can All-Stars, and with The School of Hard Knocks, a performance art/dance ensemble. He teaches at the Hartt School of Music, the University of Connecticut, and the FUNDEC Eleazar de Carvalho in Brazil.


Yuki Morimoto, born in 1953 in Tokyo, is a composer, conductor and concert producer who studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, at the University of Southern California and the Hochschule fur Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. He currently resides in Vienna where in 1987 he founded Ensemble 9, a chamber orchestra dedicated to contemporary music. The Ensemble has premiered works by many important composers including Toru Takemitsu, Paul Dresher, Howard Skempton, Somei Satoh, Joji Yuasa and Arvo Part. The group has toured extensively in Europe and Japan and recorded several CDs of Mr. Morimoto's work. He has conducted major orchestras in Tokyo and has been commissioned by the Austrian Broadcasting Organization ORF and the German Broadcasting Station WDR Cologne.