Tongues Scenario for a concerto for POET SPEAKING IN TONGUES, LIVE ELECTRONICS, TAPED SOUNDS AND CHAMBER ORCHESTRA.
Commissioned and premiered by THE ARCH ENSEMBLE with ANDREW HOYEM, poet, conducted by ROBERT HUGHES. Copyright 1978 Charles Shere.
Instrumentation: piccolo, oboe (also English horn), clarinet (also alto clarinet ad lib, and bass clarinet), bassoon, trumpet, horn (also Wagner tuba ad lib), trombone, harp, piano, percussion (one player): Lion's roar, low timpani, bongos, tom-tom, snare and bass drums, wood block, guiro, claves, (optional) xylophone, cabeza, maracas, sandpaper blocks, cricket, slapstick cymbals (suspended and hi hat or crash), glockenspiel, triangle, chime
SOLOIST: a poet capable of speaking "in tongues"; prerecorded tape, live electronic processing of soloist (and cello and trumpet ad lib), violin, viola, cello, contrabass. Duration: ca. 27 minutes, EAR PRESS, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA, 1979.
TONGUES (1978) Gift of Tongues is generally considered an abnormality produced under stress of religious excitement. Modern linguistics has defined glossolalia as unintelligible extemporaneous post-babbling speech that exhibits superficial phonologic similarity to language without having consistent syntagmatic structure and that is not systematically derived form or related to known language.
I am suggesting that this faculty of vocal utterance participates in the illiteral realm of poetry and as such is an affront to literature. Rather than transforming thoughts into voiced symbols, vocal articulation is utilized for the direct expression of experience beneath conscious thought. However, I am conscious of form, as a sinuous line or shape to each piece, and I am aware of my whole body as a coordinated, graceful instrument for the emission of these strange statements. A calm egolessness during the exercise would relate the term tongues to its plurality, because it is a common tongue, shared by all men in their infinite variety, and, like any other medium or facility, contributes to the poetry of the moment only upon consensus of speaker and auditor. In my instance, I must regard this glossolalia as coming from a poetic source, not exclusive of religion, its historical association, but sometimes aroused by more temporal sentiments than religious fervor. -Andrew Hoyem.
Excerpted from "Speaking in Tongues as Poetic Endeavor." "Tongues" continues my preoccupation with the assembly of disparate elements into a single structure--pluralistic, not integrated. It is in a traditional concerto form: a developmental first movement based on contrasting elements, a three-part slow movement, and a rondo finale with recurring material, but the musicians are encouraged to inflect the music of this form as the developing spirit of the piece moves them--in a manner analogous to the developing poem the soloist will discover in the course of HIS "performance".
The piece was written during trying times and is dedicated to all periods of transition. It is also a gesture of appreciation to the late Bruce Munly, who created and directed an important source of my education, the Art and Music Room of the Berkeley Public Library. I am very grateful to Andrew and the splendid members of the Ensemble for their inspiration and cooperation without which "Tongues" could not have been made. Charles Shere.
Concrete sounds on tape include; I: bulldozer and demolition mix, footsteps, barking dog. fishing boat engine throb. II: fishing boat, "Night Chorus": a mix of bird and cricket sounds III: "Night Chorus", fishing boat, "Boat Chorus": a mix of boat, car sounds and voices in air terminal.
Page 32-S.F. Examiner, Mon. May 8, 1978. No Tub-thumping 'new music' By Michael Walsh
Too often, concerts of "new music" turn out to be ideological tub-thumping affairs, more concerned with conformity to a particular party line of compositional thinking than with reflecting the many creative currents of our time.
This charge, fortunately, cannot be leveled at the programs of the Arch Ensemble, the new-music group that made its debut this season under the auspices of Berkeley's 1750 Arch St. On its third, and final, program of the season Saturday night at the Metropolitan Arts Center on Geary Street, the group presented five new works--four of them from the 70s--that had something for almost every taste. (The concert will be repeated Sunday at the Oakland Museum.)
The program ran the technical and emotional gamut from Steve Reich to Luigi Dallapiccola to Robert Ashley; that is to say, from ostinato to sensitive serialism to overt theatricalism. But however one may feel about their musical philosophies, each of the five composers represented on the program--Reich, Robert Moeys, Dallapiccola, Ashley and Charles Shere--is good at what he does, and the musical argument is clear and distinct.
.....piece of music and "Cinque Canti" is infused with his characteristic lyricism and humanity. Tom Buckner sang the solo part, originally written for baritone, but lying well for Buckner's tenor.
Ashley and Shere were in the audience for the performances of their "Fancy Free" and "Tongues". Each piece employs aleatoric (chance) techniques but they are quite different in intent and style.
"Tongues" (1978) is for "poet" and chamber orchestra. Its title refers to glossolalia, or unintelligible speech, often religiously connected. Conventional in its three-movement form, it is a concerto for poet and orchestra with much interplay between the speaker and the instruments. Andrew Hoyem invented a language for the poet and the performance realized Shere's intent quite admirably.
Robert Hughes conducted the Arch Ensemble in the Moevs, Dallapiccola and Shere. I wished for more lyricism in all three, but the performances were sharp and clear. The reading of the Reich by the four organists could have been more accurate.
p44 San Francisco Chronicle, Tues. May 16, 1978. By Robert Commanday.
The Arch Ensemble's concert at the Oakland Museum Sunday was a puzzle. Finally, the point of director Robert Hughes' programming became clear.
He was attempting to show that widely divergent new music trends were not necessarily polarized, that the avant-garde works of Steve Reich and Robert Ashley can coexist on the same programs with the mainstream music of Dallapiccola and Robert Moevs, that they have equal if different values. For him and others, perhaps.
For me, the high interest centered in the linear works. Dallapiccola's "Cinque Canti" (1956) is a jewel of rare devising.
Tom Buckner sang the high baritone lines with lyric ease, as the eight instruments traced the fragments into the lacy melodic lines and bell-clear sonorities. It was a beautifully prepared and realized performance by Buckner, with Hughes conducting.
Also in a 12-tone idiom, Robert Moevs' "Musica da Camera II" (1974) provided a kind of link to the Steve Reich style, by exploring a three-note combination Reich had used. The intense polyphony, linear tensions and rhythmically active textures made it entirely different form the harmonic fixational style of Reich. It was vivid and excitable.
Whether it was the fault of so much sound in the small hall, the performance or the composer's craft, it was difficult to discern goals, big shapes or formal purpose in "Musica da CameraII." Moevs' craft came into question with the ungratefulness of some of the instrumental writing.
Berkeley composer, commentator, and critic Charles Shere was represented by a big new piece, "Tongues", which incorporated any number of avant-garde procedures.
A poet-actor, Andrew Hoyem speaking almost continuously in "tongues", glossolalia, and making rhetorical gestures, gave the idea of frustrated verbal contact, and not only with the audience. He engaged solo players in simultaneous argument.
If the energy levels and the deliberate confusion were high at the climaxes, this was not the predominant feature. "Tongues" revealed a clear three-movement form in a classical concerto mode.
The contrasts, balance and variety of textures in the soft episodes were important and estimable qualities.
THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN, SEPTEMBER 4, 1980 By Julia Cheever
Shere's "Tongues" had the most controversial musical structure of the three pieces, with a three-movement concerto form, but also the most offbeat companion for its music. The special soloist was Andrew Hoyem, a poet who is an expert in glossolalia, or the gift of tongues, the art of speaking in nonsense syllables. Hoyem performed almost continuously throughout the piece, usually in emotional confrontations with various instruments. The mixture of the two kinds of live performance was intriguing, and Hoyem's solo was notable in itself for his ability to keep sounding. It was unfortunate, however, that the amplification was such that one couldn't always hear Hoyem over the instruments, a situation that also (either deliberately or accidentally) seemed to skew the confrontations in favor of the orchestra.
By Paul Hertelendy; Staff Writer.
In "Tongues" for chamber orchestra and voice, composer Charles Shere again combines several of his earlier graphically notated pieces as part of a bigger structure. It thereby inevitably evokes the spirit of new music in the 1960s, when conductors were human sweep-second hands, when abstract art often replaced staves and quavers, and when fragments of instrumental burps and exhalations formed much of the sound.
A lot of Shere's spatial-music effects did not work well, at least in this hall with this low-budget sound system. But the narration of Andrew Hoyem was the evening's success as he improvised close to a half hour of glossolalia, often in heated dialogues with one or another instrument of the 14-member Arch Ensemble under Robert Hughes.
Hoyem's incoherent declamation was fed through synthesizer circuits to alter the sound even further, like some foreign language heard over crackly short-wave radio.
THE PENINSULA TIMES TRIBUNE, Monday, August 25, 1980 By Michael Andrews. Special to the Times Tribune.
Mills College composer Charles Shere's "Tongues" struck an elemental, primal nerve somewhere deep in species memory. Glossolalia, the gift of tongues, is not limited to religious ecstasy. Poet Andrew Hoyem, who reputedly has this gift, "witnessed" to the Arch Ensemble's sounds.
One recognized the meaning of everything Hoyem said without understanding a single word. He muttered, purred, babbled, growled and raved and went from the gentlest to most violent gesticulations. The finale's rondo elements was three short hysterical dialogues between Hoyem and horn/amplified cello, with trombone, and lastly with full ensemble full-blast. The next step could only have been physical assault.
Green Sheet, Wednesday, August 27, 1980.
Glossolalia crooned and gurled into a microphone to the accompaniment of a clutch of "musicians" making crude noises is pretense carried beyond endurance. This is what went on at Cabrillo College theater Saturday night. Why the Cabrillo Music Festival lends its fine name this kind of spurious artistry remains a riddle. To charge admission to these non-events is inflicting the injury before hurling the insult. (B.A.)
By Marilyn Tucker: Chronicle Correspondent.
Shere's "Tongues" , according to the composer, was inspired by Andrew Hoyem, whose poetry is said to arise from speaking in tongues. Hoyem was the soloist for this tightly crafted piece, but I found his "poeotry" to be immensely disturbing. There was something monstrous about it, and I didn't like it at all.
Typed by Barb. Nov 2 1995