Recorded in March 2003 at Soundhouse Recording, Seattle, WA, by Scott Colburn.
Edited and Mixed by Tom Baker.
"Distance, Dance, Discern" edited by Brett Battey.
Mastering at Seattle Disc Mastering by Mark Guenther.
Cover Art and Photo Montage by Alissa Rupp
CD Design: Mikiko To
Produced by Tom Baker and Mark Radonich for Present Sounds Recordings, 2004.
All pieces were played and recorded with no bassoon overdubs. All works are for solo bassoon except "Music for Bassoon" (with interactive real-time audio synthesis) and "Distance, Dance, Discern" (with pre-recorded sound.)
Present Sounds Recordings PS0401
All pieces licensed directly with the compsoer for use in this recording.
On New Music for Bassoon
by Ryan Hare
Simply stated, performing new music is one of the most satisfying activities I undertake as a musician. Different from performing compositions in the standard repertoire-where for better or worse established performance practices already exist-with new music one is afforded the privileged opportunity to create the performance practice for the first time, entirely afresh. This can be very exciting, particularly when presenting the work of a talented composer whose musical personality is not yet widely known. Also rewarding is the opportunity to collaborate with the composer in question directly: how often have performers wished that they could question a now long-dead composer about his or her intentions regarding a particular passage, or whether such-and-such is a misprint in the score? With a living composer, one need only ask. Most exciting of all is the sense of working with the composer in the midst of the creation of the piece. Nearly all of the compositions on this disc were undertaken under such circumstances: I was able able to work closely with the composers as sketches, drafts, and the final versions of the scores were forming. One can hardly exaggerate the enjoyment and personal connectedness created by such an experience, regardless of whether the composition in question is ever established in the repertoire, or deemed by future generations to be a "masterpiece."
Since I myself am primarily trained as a composer, performing new music is closest I come to expressing a "native language" for myself on the bassoon. I hasten to add that I came to love new music first-which is what drove me to become a composer-rather than the other way around, as is sometimes assumed about composers. I am fully committed to the idea of music as an ever-renewable art; as much as I love performing Mozart, Beethoven, etc., I could not abide limiting myself as a performer to nothing besides well-established masterpieces. There is an excitement and challenge to new music I find irresistible, and the discovery of new musical personalities in as of yet unestablished composers is an endlessly interesting and wonderful thing. Besides, if we do not endeavor to support these composers early in their careers, how could it ever be that any of them would ever achieve "greatness"?
Each composer on this program has created something very much in a contemporary style, clearly belonging to our era, but each piece is quite distinctive. There are certainly some common threads between them, but I think the listener will readily perceive how each composer has found an expression of his own unique musical voice.
About the Music
"Multiphonics" are phenomena whereby a performer on a wind instrument-through special fingerings or other techniques-causes more than a single pitch to be heard simultaneously, thereby creating chords or other, complex sound structures. The bassoon, being a double-reed instrument, is especially well suited to multiphonics, and I have enjoyed discovering them and practicing them on my instrument for many years. For Intrada, the piece for which this collection as a whole is named, I decided to put my years of multiphonic experience to use in creating something which, so I hoped, would provide a short but rousing concert-opener for the a recital I gave on January 12, 2003. That recital was the inspiration behind this recording project.
Imposition by Tom Swafford was inspired by a bassoonist with whom Tom performed a work by John Zorn in The Hague. Zorn's composition featured extended improvisations, some as solos and some involving the full ensemble. The improvisations are typically interrupted midstream, when it comes time for the ensemble to move to the next section of the piece. Tom was most impressed with the bassoonist's dramatic solo improvisation, and writes, "Imposition was an attempt to re-create that improvisation and what might have happened if the bassoonist was allowed to continue. The title is both a play on 'composition' and 'improvisation' and also suggests that this piece, with its many fast notes and little room for breath, might be a bit much to ask of a bassoonist."
Elegy No. 2 and Verdichtung are both solo works which feature abundant use of extended techniques, and both were written with close consultation between myself and the composers, Tom Baker and Eric Flesher. They are probably the most similar pieces on the program, in that there are some obvious resemblances in the extended techniques the composers chose. Both seemed particularly interested in sounds and effects that suggested fragility, or were on the extreme edge of controllability. However, the sense of time and pacing in each is remarkably different. About Elegy No. 2 Tom Baker has written:
"Elegy No. 2 is from a cycle of works called the First Book of Elegies. The entire cycle includes ten works, all for different solo instruments. So far three of the works are completed (Nos. 2, 3 and 4). They are loosely inspired by the Duino Elegies, a book of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. I believe these poems are about what it really means to be human. They deal with death, of course, but also with all the things that go along with it: Loss, change, pain, illness, fear, distress. They are in many ways Rilke's thoughts about the dance of life and death. I suppose that this First Book of Elegies is sort of the same idea. I think the Elegy No. 2 is about frailty and fragility, and it asks the performer to explore those ideas with several techniques."
For Verdichtung, Eric Flesher provided the following useful information:
Verdichtung, f.; (-, pl. -en) (German): 1. compression; the column of air within the bassoon, specifically the timbral possibilities produced by varying the intensity and speed with which air moves through the instrument. 2. condensation, solidification, liquefaction; (fig.) consolidation, concentration.1
1.This is not a toying with extended playing techniques.
1.1.The bassoonist must adapt modes of playing that are inherently unstable and unpredictable.
1.2.There is no assurance-nor should there be-that the performer will be able to reliably execute these modes of playing.
1.3.The only assurance is that no two performances will sound the same.
2.This is, however, a toying with the play on words in the title.
2.1.Dichtung, f.; (-, pl. -en): poetry, (creative) literature, poetic work, poem.
2.2.ver-, Ver-: inseparable and unstressed prefix to verbs and to nouns and adjectives derived from them, with the idea of (1) removal, loss; (2) stoppage, reversal, opposite; (3) using up, expenditure, continuation to the end; (4) alteration (usu. deterioration).2
3.1.Verdichtung, f.; (-, pl. -en): failed poetry.
1 Cassell's German-English Dictionary, Harold T. Betteridge, editor, (New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1978). Liberties taken.
2 Op. cit.
David McIntire's Each New Departure and Michael Chealander's Variation Variations, as with Tom Swafford's piece, do not make use of extended techniques. These pieces use only "conventional" bassoon techniques which are nevertheless presented and developed into compositions of considerable virtuosity. Variation Variations refers to the quirky fact that the piece is a set of variations on a theme, which was itself a variation on a "heavily modified and contorted version" of a theme from György Ligeti's Horn Trio, the theme for which was itself taken, again in a modified form, from Beethoven; Ligeti's trio as whole was also inspired by Brahms. Neither the modified Ligeti theme, nor the original variation upon it, actually appear in the piece. Michael has compared the genealogy of the piece to a set of Russian nesting dolls, missing, perhaps, the smallest or largest dolls. No doubt this has something to do with the rather peculiar and enigmatic title.
David McIntire provided the following note for Each New Departure:
"Each New Departure takes its title from the concluding lines of an extensive lecture/poem by Charles Bernstein entitled Artifice of Absorption. As a so-called 'language poet,' Bernstein is deeply concerned with the trajectory of words as sounding entities, as well as whatever they might be 'about.' In this poetic medium, the words are an experience in themselves as much as they try to describe or observe some external 'experience,' an aspect which makes this poetry a musical affair as much as a linguistic one. For me, his poem articulated a sense of purpose and self-criticism that was both clarifying and challenging. The relationship between my piece and this poem is elusive, but is perhaps best heard in the way the contrasting materials of the opening measures grow and evolve through the course of the piece. Each New Departure is dedicated to Ryan Hare."
Compositions for acoustic instruments mixed with electrcoacoustic sound sources have held the interest of composers since the earliest days of electronic sound creation. The most conventional use of the past fifty or so years is to combine the live acoustic performance with playback of the electronic sounds on some sort of prerecorded medium. Many effective pieces have been written in this manner, but there has also been a persistent criticism: because the prerecorded sounds are "frozen" in time, there can be no true interaction between the performer and the electronics, thus no "give and take" as one might expect, for example, in conventional chamber music. I believe that there is some truth to this criticism, but also that it is an oversimplification and misses some of what can be very interesting about this combination. In a work such as Bret Battey's Distance, Dance, Discern there is an alternation of sections, where the performer is expected to be precisely coordinated with the prerecorded part, with those sections where the performer's part is free and not strictly tied to the time of the prerecorded sounds. True, the timing as a whole remains fixed, but along the way the performer may greatly influence the listener's perception of time. With a sensitive reaction to the sound events unfolding in the recorded part, the performer actually has considerable control over the perception of those events.
About Distance, Dance, Discern Bret has written the following:
"I composed Distance, Dance, Discern in 1996 in response to the suggestion of the composer and bassoonist Ryan Hare. Work began with a recording session in which Ryan demonstrated the wide range of sounds and timbres that can be performed on the instrument, including key clicks, tongue-pops, reed crows, and multiphonics. Excerpts from this recording provided the basis for many of the sounds heard in the prerecorded, computer-generated portion of the piece, which was realized with the resources of the School of Music Computer Center at the University of Washington.
The psychology of consciousness and desire was a conceptual focus for the creation of the piece. The three words of the title correspond to the three major sections of the piece (and to 'I and we and it')."
Music for Bassoon by Josh Parmenter was written for bassoon with live electronics, in this case using the program SuperCollider by James McCartney, an environment and programming language for real time audio synthesis. Josh has provided the following as program notes:
"Music for Bassoon is the third in a series of pieces that I have written exploring the harmonic possibilities in microtonal inflections of notes. In this piece, the performer is asked to bend pitches sharp or flat, creating, with the computer, dense clutters of sound. Often, these sounds will create harmonies, sometimes, clashes that cause the sound to vibrate with itself. All of the computer part is generated from the performer on stage, in real time. While there is a great amount of digital processing done to create the sounds and textures, it is all dependent upon the performer's initial generation of sound (in other words, if the performer made no sound while the computer part was running, nothing would come out of the speakers). This real-time processing gives quite a bit of flexibility to both the performer (who doesn't need to follow a pre-made tape part) as well as the computer operator."
Many thanks first of all to the composers, who have created such beautiful and interesting music for my instrument.
Thanks to Mark Radonich and Tom Baker of Present Sounds for their devotion to new music, for their enthusiasm for this recording, and for the energy, insight, and resources they spent to make it happen.
Thanks to Christopher Shainin, the director of the Washington Composers' Forum, and his extraordinary patience, enthusiasm, encouragement, and diligence in aiding me in the undertaking of the solo recital which was the inspiration for this recording project. His hard work benefits all who care about new music.
Thanks to all my bassoon teachers: Mike Curtis, Lee Goodhew, Seth Krimsky, and above all, Arthur Grossman.
Thanks to my parents Dale and Jean for their indelible, loving support of all my creative endeavors, and for helping me purchase my bassoon.
Last, but not least, thanks to my sister, Shana Costrarella, and all my friends and teachers, who have believed in me and encouraged me to persist, despite all setbacks.
About the Performer
Originally from Reno, Nevada, Ryan Hare is a composer and bassoonist, and is presently Assistant Professor of Music in bassoon, composition, and theory at Washington State University. In 2000, he received his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition from the University of Washington, where he studied bassoon with Arthur Grossman, and composition with Joël-François Durand, Richard Karpen, and Diane Thome. Though composition was his primary subject, throughout his studies he treated bassoon performance as a sort of de facto double major. As a bassoonist especially devoted to new music, he has had the privilege of performing many new works written specifically for him, including six of the compositions on this recording. He has been active as a freelance bassoonist throughout Washington State, and has performed in many of the top professional orchestras in the Puget Sound region. He is the bassoonist for the Solstice Wind Quintet, and composer and bassoonist with the Seattle-based new music ensemble Contemporary Chamber Composers and Players. Ryan Hare performs on Heckel #4705.
Check out the artist's website:
3. Music for Bassoon
4. Each New Departure
5. Elegy No. 2
6. Variation Variations
7. Distance, Dance, Discern