Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Napoleon Complex with a Comb-Over

At the time of this release, the Philadelphia Composer's Forum had been performing together for fifteen years. In 1963, they changed their name to Orchestra of Our Time (OOT) and settled in the South Bronx forming a consortium with the South Bronx Community Action Theater and Bronx Museum of the Arts.

They have performed in alternative spaces such as elementary schools, prisons, and street corners, as well as in Carnegie Hall, the IBM Auditorium, and the Guggenheim Museum. They worked with visual artists and artists of various genres; their most famous modern dance collaborations were with the Erik Hawkins Dance Company playing the music of Lucia Dlugoszewski. They even collaborated with Frank Zappa on his recording Zappa's Universe for which they won a Grammy.

Here on this recording, you will bear witness to their renditions of works by Pierre Boulez, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Henri Pousseur.

Pierre Boulez: In the 1940s and 1950s, Boulez studied under Messiaen publicly and Andrée Vaurabourg and René Leibowitz privately. His main concern was initially with rhythm and non-developing forms but also inherited a deep appreciation and longing toward works such as Schoenberg's. There have been critical writings that seem to point towards compositional links between the early works of Boulez and works by Berg- plagiarisms of a sort without the feeling or emotional back bone of the electrical pulses that were being copied. He created IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), a resource for composers and music-makers that would enable them to gain access to the best performers of any genre and to utilize the most up-to-date electronic technology and computer scientists at their disposal. He was also instrumental (no pun intended) in pioneering a musical style that couldn't be easily co-opted by nationalist fervor. For a counter to Boulez and his work, refer to the Pierre Boulez Project. For more info about Boulez and IRCAM, read Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, And The Institutionalization Of The Musical Avant-Garde by Georgina Born.

Luigi Dallapiccola: Dallapiccola didn't have much of a musical childhood as his family moved around from town to town in Austria due to the fact that he was born of Italian parents. At one point, his whole family was in internment for being suspected subversives. He didn't have access to a piano at this time but he was able to attend the local opera house and upon hearing Wagner's music decided that this was his calling. However, upon hearing Debussy for the first time, he temporarily halted all study so as to allow this new musical style to sink in. In the 1930s, he was particularly influenced by Berg and Webern. He was the first Italian to compose a work based on serialist techniques, however he still stayed in touch with harmony, which is perceived to be lost in most compositions of this sort. During the Second World War, he toured throughout countries not inhabited by German Nazis and performed pieces that clearly decried them. At one point he had to go into hiding as he found himself publicly opposing them. In his diary, he'd written: "In a totalitarian regime the individual is powerless. Only by means of music would I be able to express my anger." For some reason, his work composed in the 1920s has been withdrawn and is not allowed to be studied except under strict and controlled supervision.

Henri Pousseur: A member of the Darmstadt school, like Boulez, Pousseur had a penchant for dabbling in crossing styles like that of Schubert with Webern, a seemingly impossible mixture. His particular brand of composition was referred to as "tabula rasa" or "refusing the refusal" of historical experience. His electronic works using tape-music medium were meant to be re-arranged in order before playback and aided in bringing a new outlook on composition and the many results it can bring into fruition.

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