april 12 1995
PROJECT DESCRIPTION "NEW AMERICAN LANDSCAPES"
Part One: The Concert/The Commissioned Works
The Paul Dresher Ensemble, in consortium with Cal Performances/UC Berkeley, Helena Presents, Performing Arts Chicago, the Anchorage Concert Association and the Public Events Office of Arizona State University, request $45,000 commissioning and copying costs to commission Eve Beglarian, Jay Cloidt, and Paul Dresher to compose works for the six member Paul Dresher Ensemble. This contemporary music group performs the work of a diverse range of contemporary composers on an instrumentation which combines traditional acoustic with contemporary electronic instruments.
These works will comprise the core of a new ensemble program, tentatively titled "New American Landscapes," a program which examines the diverse ways in which composers are both influenced by and in turn reflect their individual environments. The concept for this program arose from the observation that with new sampling and digital editing technologies, composers are increasingly utilizing and integrating as performable musical material, sounds from diverse environmental sources. The variety of both the sonic sources, whether urban, rural, verbal, psychological or electronic, the methods used and results obtained all attest to the vitality with which composers approach this evolving medium. (Other composers may be commissioned to contribute to this program however Meet the Composer funds will only be used for the commissioning and copying costs for Beglarian, Cloidt and Dresher). While these works will first be presented as part of a thematically coherent program (containing additional works both commissioned and non-commissioned), each of these three works will be complete in itself and may be performed outside of the original framing context.
The American Landscape, whether it is the vast open expanses of the West, or the intense and seemingly chaotic environment of modern cities, has always exerted a profound influence on the actual sound of American music. Beginning with Charles Ives' Three Places in New England, composers have expressed their personal landscapes in ways that differ radically from 19th century European program music. Even more radically, in the 2nd half of the 20th century American composers rejected the ideology of pure musical abstraction and have been freely using a full panoply of sonic sources for their work. So whether it is John Zorn's split second shifts between radically different and juxtaposed musical styles, the icy sonic solitude of Alaskan John Luther Adams' The Far Country of Sleep, or the gritty urban music from rap groups like Public Enemy, each American composer reflects his or her own landscape.
These three works, each 15-20 minutes in length, will be composed for the ensemble's six instrumentalists and sound engineer. They will be completed by the summer of 1996 so that they may be rehearsed and premiered during the Ensemble's Fall 1996 and winter/spring 1997 US Tours. The exact schedule of dates will not be made until the consortia members each define their 1996-97 booking seasons, which will be sometime late 1995 and early 1996. The Ensemble will also perform all the commissioned works at other non-commissioning venues during these tours as well as on its home season and international engagements. We expect that there will at least eight performances of the works in the 1996-97 season and it is likely that the works will remain in repertory for the 97-98 season and that they will be recorded by the Ensemble for release on Starkland Records.
The three composers selected all have the essential experience necessary to realize works in this medium. All have substantial experience in composing and performing in both acoustic and electronic media, all have worked with sampling and digital editing technologies, and all have an interest in examining the compositional implications of using non-musical source materials in musical contexts.
Part Two: The Installation
In addition to the creation of the three concert works, integral to the concept of "New American Landscapes" is an infinitely variable multi-speaker lobby or gallery installation which accompanies the concert program. Meet the Composer funds will not be used for this facet of the overall program. With this installation, the audience will be able to experience a fictional environment, one created from the raw sonic material collected or sketched by the composers in the process of creating their commissioned works heard in the concert hall.
The process of creating works using not-intentionally-musical sounds often requires the recording of many hours of environmental tapes and additional hours of manipulations and explorations of the collected sounds potential for further manipulation. These recordings will be the source sounds for the installation.
Technically, multiple tracks of long duration source material will be stored on multiple DATs, ADAT (8 track digital tape) or hard disc (Pro Tools). Tracks may be turned on or off by a variety of techniques, such as multiple motion, sound or proximity sensors, Buchla's "Lighting" system and\or random procedures. Dresher and Cloidt, who will design this system, are creating algorithms for controlling event duration, amplitude, location and simultaneous event density based on actual and diverse environments and which respond to the presence and behavior of the audience in ways analogous to natural and human environments.
The installation should function to provide a completely different context in which to experience the collected sounds, many of which are also heard in the concert environment. Inherent in these two different environments is the contrast between what we generally assume to be the contrast between musical and non-musical sounds, between random and controlled events, between closed/cadenced time and continuous or cyclic time, between events defined relative to grids of pitch or duration and events experienced autonomously and relative only to themselves.
In 1937 John Cage prophetically wrote "I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard." Whether he was responding to his own increasingly noisy environment or whether he was just being extraordinarily prescient or some combination of the two, we have now arrived at a point, both musically and technically, which has proven John's prediction to be uncannily true. The use of electronics, digital recording and editing, and samplers in particular has made the entire world of sound available to today's composers and they have embraced this world with a freshness and vitality which is unprecedented and invigorating.