The Paul Dresher Ensemble wishes to commission two Bay Area composers, Paul Dresher and Alvin Curran, to each to compose a chamber violin concerto featuring noted Bay Area violinist David Abel. The Paul Dresher Ensemble is a seven musician group combining both acoustic and contemporary electronic instruments. The finished works would feature Abel with the Ensemble performers. These works will premiere on the Ensemble's San Francisco season in 1995-96 and tour during the 1995-1997 seasons.
There are several motivations for this project. The Ensemble represents a unique chamber music group in that it freely combines both electronic and acoustic instrumentation. While composers have always been forward looking in their exploration of new musical resources, performers, particularly virtuoso soloists, have been extraordinarily resistant to performing works that extend the resources of their instrument beyond traditional 19th century techniques. This has been particularly true with the use of electronics. Some members of the chamber music community think that the inclusion of electronics or even the use of amplification of any sort, de facto, prohibits a work from being considered chamber music. As a result, there are very few performances of chamber works that incorporate electronic media; and virtuoso performers have largely ignored or shunned works beyond the traditional repertory.
The Ensemble feels that these proposed compositions are particularly appropriate because the composers involved are experienced at using electronic resources in their works. None however has conceived a work using both the resources of electronics and the virtuosity of a performer like Mr. Abel, who has long been associated with the performance of contemporary music but who has not yet performed in an electronic environment. The genesis for this proposal arose from David Abel who, after hearing Dresher express a desire to compose a work for him and orchestra, responded that he would much rather perform a work with Dresher's own Ensemble. Serious discussions between Dresher and Abel led to an expansion of the idea to include commissioning works from other composers who shared a similar interest in both the Ensemble's resources and Mr. Abel's skills.
Since the formation of their chamber music component in 1993, the Ensemble has been building new repertory through the commissioning of new works. To date, the Ensemble has commissioned and/or premiered six works from composers including Bun Ching Lam, Carl Stone, Koji Ueno, Paul Dresher and John Adams. In our first two seasons, we have built upon the audience of our loyal constituency that we gained over the years in the performance of our music theater and dance collaborations. We strongly desire to continue to expand this audience to include more of the concert and chamber music audience. The success of our recent concert, presented by Cal Performances at Hertz Hall in Berkeley, indicated that we are able to achieve that goal. Because David Abel is well known and highly respected within the Bay Area chamber music community, we feel that his performance with the Ensemble will encourage chamber music lovers to take a risk with electronics. Ultimately, the Ensemble hopes this project will expand its repertory, increase its audience and, in the long term, contribute to expanding the repertory of chamber music in general. A positive by product of this will be to expand both the concept and resources of chamber music.
The successful completion of this proposal will require extensive interaction between both the composers, David Abel, and the individual musicians in the Paul Dresher Ensemble. Because working with electronic media in performance is in no way standardized, it is essential that the composers be thoroughly knowledgeable about what is technically possible within the specific resources of the Ensemble. These resources include both the technology that the Ensemble incorporates in performance and the specialized and unique skills that the individual performers bring to the project. As has happened with Ensemble commissions in the past, the composer has an individual session with each of the seven Ensemble performers to learn their personal techniques and technical set-ups. Conversely, Mr. Abel will need to become comfortable working in an amplified music context. We expect the individual composers to spend several individual sessions with Mr. Abel to explore a variety of issues in the collaboration. As with our music theater works, well before the scheduled premieres the Ensemble will have workshop rehearsals on both the works to allow the composers to test their ideas and to give all the performers an idea of the demands of the works.