Patti Deuter and I are very excited to present contrasting musical explorations of the unusual and fascinating Japanese group poetry-improv form renga (連歌): one of John Cage’s renga-based masterpieces, Two², and the new Renga-kai (連歌会) improvisational form for 9 musicians, combining synthesized, vocal, instrumental, and concrète sounds across an electroacoustic spectrum — especially as we’re performing them in two of the master foundries for the Bay Area’s current new music ferment:
We’ll present Two² alone in an additional concert in this series:
— 8pm, Sat 28 Sep, 2013, house concert, Palo Alto (If you’d like to come to the Palo Alto concert, please contact me at email@example.com as soon as possible for directions)
We’ll be joined by one of the Bay Area’s most exciting dancers, Nan Busse, for all concerts, and and for the 05 Oct and 07 Oct concerts at Berkeley Arts Festival and CNM, we’ll also perform as part of a 9-piece ensemble, viz.:
Nancy Beckman (shakuhachi & percussion), Tom Bickley (recorder, electronics/radios & percussion), Rachel Condry (clarinets), Patti Deuter (piano & toy piano), Ben Kreith (violin), Joe Lasqo (MSP/laptop, piano, mṛdangam, & solkaṭṭu), Sangita Moskow (sarod), Suki O’Kane (percussion), Dean Santomieri (guitars & voice)
Part 1: John Cage: Two², performed by Patti Deuter & Joe Lasqo, with dance by Nan Busse
My partner in crime for Cage’s two-piano/two-pianist piece Two² will be the delightful and brilliant pianist Patti Deuter, ringleader of last September’s Satie/Cage Vexations at Berkeley Arts.
Often found in Paris as well as California, and a student of Eliane Lust’s, Patti is an indefatigable macherin of the new music and piano scenes of the Bay Area. From her studio-cottage nestled in the trees, where everything is keyed to one of four vibrant synesthetic colors (forming, I would say, a visual rootless 13th chord in second inversion… Scriabin would approve), passionate strains of Rzewski, Cage, Wolff, and other masters of 20th and 21st century piano escape to infuse the air.
As is well known, John Cage was heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture in general, and his two-piano masterpiece, Two², is a remarkable musical re-imagining of the traditional Japanese linked-verse improvisation form, renga (連歌).
With beginnings in the time of the Man’yōshū (万葉集), c. 760 A.D., renga evolved into a very sophisticated game played by connoisseurs who used its 5-line stanzas consisting of a 5-7-5 syllable haiku (俳句) + a 7-7 syllable response in an interplay of group-improvised linked-verse, exchanged among the members of a (usually sake-soaked) poetry party (not unlike the similar game of cadavre exquis played in graphical form by the Paris surrealists).
Japanese poetry fiends took renga to remarkable heights of sophistication, defining an elaborate aesthetic of seasonal symbolism, pivot-stanzas referring to moon and cherry blossoms, and special gold-and-silver dusted papers of different shapes, sizes and colors, corresponding to distinct parts of the symbolic program, to brush their poems onto whilst sipping from cups of sake brought to them sushi-boat-style by special garden streams constructed for this purpose.
Cage’s luminous and serene Two² for 2 pianists uses the 36-stanza kasen (歌仙) form of renga, re-imagining each of the 5-line stanzas as 5-measure musical units, each filled with 5 or 7 piano sound-events which replace the syllables of the original poetic form. It has been called a “rock garden of sound”.
Like many of the other Cage “number pieces”, the timing of the musical events in Two² is not strictly determined, but unlike the “time bracket” approach to indeterminacy found in many of the number pieces, here instead Cage sets up a marvelous game of simple rules to let the two pianists create an interlinked joint control of fluid time, a game in which they can support or subvert each other, creating meditative kaleidoscopic ripples of piano sound which will be uniquely different in each performance.
Similar to Western classical music forms having 3 movements, the 36-stanza kasen renga (歌仙連歌) form employs 3 sections, called Jo-ha-kyū (序 • 破 • 急).
The form also includes three “moon stanzas” (#5, #14, & #29) and two “flower stanzas” (#17 & #35), which will be interpreted by dancer Nan Busse.
We’ll honor the renga tradition of alcohol-assisted creativity, by demarcating these sections with ceremonial libations (which may lead to some interesting musical results…).
Nan Busse has been creating dance-based art works since receiving her MFA from UC-Irvine (“a long time ago…”). Collaborating with choreographer Christopher Beck, she made pieces performed at Centerspace (Project Artaud) and New College; and with her partner, poet Tobey Kaplan, participated in the Link inter-disciplinary performance series.
Since about 1999 she has been unable to stop dancing – thanks to Yvonne Caldwell, Evelyn Thomas, Roger Dillahunty, Georgia Ortega, John Tanner, and the great Cassie Terman, and has toured in Việt Nam and the US with Nguyễn Dance Company. She works as an Education & Arts Therapist in the East Bay.
Part 2: New piece, Renga-kai, performed by Renga-9 Ensemble, with dance by Nan Busse
We’ve invited 7 musicial comrades to join us in the creation of a new renga-based nonet piece, Renga-kai (連歌会, or “renga party”).
The piece will comprise 36 short duets which will pair each musician with every other and employ the game-like shifting-time rules of Cage’s Two², along with a new renga-kai methodology to kaleidoscopically expand the palette of timbres, instruments, and events.
It generates a game that, like go (碁), is rich in strategy despite relatively simple rules.
Having premiered this renga-kai methodology with clarinetist Jacob Lindsay and guitarist Kristian Aspelin recently, I’m thrilled at the new improvisational vistas and completely different colors of time that it opens up, producing a uniquely beautiful sense of flow as the players move the game pieces of their musical gestures on an invisible board.
As in Two², the “moon and flower” stanzas will be danced by Nan Busse and players will honor the grand tradition of intoxicated inspiration with ceremonial libations.
The full ensemble:
— Nancy Beckman (shakuhachi & percussion)
Nancy creates performance pieces, plays and teaches the shakuhachi, and performs with the Cornelius Cardew Choir. Her education includes an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from Wesleyan University, a master’s in interarts from SFSU and ordination to teach shakuhachi from Myōan-ji (明暗寺, the famous “Temple of Light & Darkness” of shakuhachi history) in Kyoto.
— Tom Bickley (recorder, electronics/radios & percussion)
Tom Bickley (bio / site) composes electro-acoustic music, plays and teaches recorder, performs with Three Trapped Tigers (with recorder players David Barnett and Judy Linsenberg), co-founded and directs the Cornelius Cardew Choir, is a curator emeritus of the Meridian Gallery music series, and is on the Library Faculty (music, philosophy and political science) at CSU East Bay. His education includes degrees in music, theology, and library and information science and the Certificate in Deep Listening.
— Rachel Condry (clarinets)
Rachel Condry is an Oakland based clarinetist, improviser, composer and educator. Her work advocates for small sounds, lost or forgotten in the noisy drones of the modern soundscape.
Rachel’s musical interests span from pop to classical to free improvisation to acousmatic composition. She is often found collaborating with other disciplines such as art, poetry and dance.
She writes open scores and performs with the improvising quartet, Gestaltish who are preparing to release their first album. In 2005, Rachel made her Carnegie Hall debut with The Matt Small Chamber Ensemble, a group that blends jazz and classical approaches with free improvisation. She’s also a founding member of the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra with whom she has frequently been featured as a soloist, as well as the principal clarinetist of the Golden Gate Park Band, the oldest civic band in the nation. Rachel holds an MFA from Mills College and a BA and BM from Oberlin College and Conservatory.
— Patti Deuter (piano & toy piano) – see above
— Joe Lasqo (MSP/laptop, piano, mṛdangam & solkaṭṭu)
— Ben Kreith (violin)
Violinist Benjamin Kreith has performed as a chamber musician, soloist and orchestra player throughout the US and Europe. He’s premiered solo works at the Strasbourg and Marseille festivals and performed as a guest artist with the Ying and Muir Quartets.
Ben helped to found the Ensemble CGAC in Santiago de Compostela, and has also performed with sfSound, Barcelona 216, and the Harvard Group for New Music. Recently he spent several years in Montana as a member of the Cascade Quartet and concertmaster of the Great Falls Symphony. He has taught at the Escola de Música de Barcelona and served as artist-in-residence at the University of California, Davis.
— Sangita Moskow (sarod)
Sangita Moskow’s musical career reflects a personal global consciousness and delight in the wonderful variety of artistic expression.
Her sarod studies took place between 1969-1985 with classical North Indian maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Vocal training is a major component of classical Indian music study, and Sangita found herself combining vocals with the sarod early on.
Collaboration with Swiss clarinetist Hermann Bühler has inspired many compositions, some featured on their CD, Sojourn. Sojourn toured Europe for more than a decade and also received Swiss support for a 17-concert tour in Mexico.
Yakshi, the duo of Sangita & Mihai Manoliu, produced a CD of compositions and improvisations, preserving the rasa (रस, emotional power or “flavor”) of Indian rāgas via Manoliu’s use of modified tunings for the guitar to supply a harmonic underpinning for the sarod.
Planet Tree Music Festival producer/pianist/composer Lawrence Ball and Sangita duo-perform totally improvised music based on Indian rāgas, with the timbral overlaps of the sarod and piano providing a fertile ground. Their last performance occurred at the Planet Tree Music Festival at Pete Townsend’s studio on the outskirts of London.
Collaboration with electronic/ambient artist Robert Rich resulted in the CD Yearning, a combination of alāp (अलाप, unmetered free rhythm) on sarod with an electronic soundscape to create a unified field between Hindustani tradition and electronics; Yearning was voted a top CD for meditation and yoga by Yoga Journal.
Although primarily known as a sarodist, Sangita began her Indian studies as a percussionist on the North Indian classical tabla drums. She studied with Phil Ford, Pandit Shankar Ghosh (শংকর ঘোষ) and Zakir Hussain (زاكير حسين). She plays tabla with mandolinist Phil Lawrence and can be heard on the CD Mandolin Mandalas. Sangita played for a year in Lou Harrison’s gamelan orchestra at Mills College, and studied more gamelan in Bali. In 2010 Sangita began learning the bodhran, the drum that accompanies Irish music.
Not content with East-West synthesis, Sangita also pursues East-East synthesis, especially in combination with the Japanese shakuachi, performing with shakuhachist Stephen Ross in Hawaii, England, Europe and locally in a long musical collaboration. These Still Waters, Sangita’s CD collaboration with the late New York shakuhachi player Genji Itõ (伊藤源次) is another wonderful example of Sangita’s East-East work and one of my personal favorites.
Among other collaborators too numerous to note in detail, ones which may be of particular interest to readers of this blog are: Tom Nunn, Polly Moller, Aurora Josephson, Karen Stackpole, Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, Genny Lim and Pan Asian Orchestra, Doug Carroll, and Guillermo Galindo, with whom she has given some stunning recent performances at Berkeley Arts Festival and the Chapel of the Chimes Garden of Memory.
Sangita’s received more than 10 awards for musical composition from the ASCAP Foundation as well as a Subito grant from the American Composers Forum.
— Suki O’Kane (percussion)
Suki O’Kane is a classically trained mallet percussionist, a composer and an instigator working with artists from a wide array of of music, movement and public art genres. One of the founding members of the lo-fi sampling ensemble The Noodles (with Michael Zelner), Suki plays percussion with Moe! Staiano’s Moe!kestra!, Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle, Big City Orchestra and is an ensemble member of Thingamajigs, performing new works by Edward Schocker, Dylan Bolles and Zachary James Watkins.
Suki has performed live and recorded with She Mob and the side projects of its co-founder Sue Hutchinson: mad folk duo Junior Showmanship and it’s alter-ego, speed-metal Winner’s Bitch. She has performed in realizations of Jon Brumit’s Vendetta Retreat, and with Lucio Menegon in his Split Lip, Soundtrack Instumentals and Strangelet projects. Her long-running conversation about intermedia with Sarah Lockhart is occasionally expressed in drumkit duo and percussion trio performances of SL Morse.
Her work in theater includes three commissions for Theatre of Yugen with playwright Erik Ehn: Frankenstein (2003), The Cycle Plays (2007) and Cordelia (2011). She is a collaborator in Ehn’s Soulographie project.
She works in partnership with House of Zoka, a live recording project that has documented over 13 years of creative new music in the Bay Area, and since 2003 has been curating performances of live music and film, such as The Illuminated Corridor, a nomadic public art project that creates streetscapes of live experimental music and performative projection and Music by the Eyeful, the indoor performance series exploring the work of intermedia artists. She has collaborated with Neighborhood Public Radio to present NOVA, a culminating event of NPR’s exhibition American Life at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and with the Overdub Club, an ensemble made of performative filmmakers Alfonso Alvarez, Thad Povey, and musician Lucio Menegon.
— Dean Santomieri (guitars & voice)
Dean Santomieri has been working with electronic music and musique concrète since 1971, as well as creating multi-image pieces, videos, and super-8 and 16mm films. Dean formed the electro-acoustic performing duo Donkey Boy in the 90s with Luther Bradfute, which employed live electronic music, slides or video, story-telling, costumes, and props in their many Bay Area performances. He’s collaborated with Joyce Todd to form the baroque performance group Theater of Memory, and also performed with Malcolm Mooney (the original singer with the German prog-rock group Can) & The 10th Planet, providing electronics and guitar. Dean formed a multi-media group with musicians Bruce Anderson, Karen Stackpole and David Kwan, for live performance of his short stories (narration accompanied by live music and video). This ensemble’s initial show, The Boy Beneath the Sea, was performed numerous times in the Bay Area, leading to his first CD release, followed by Crude Rotation and others.
More recently, Bay Area audiences have been captivated by Dean’s telepathic duo work with violinist and electronics maestra Thea Farhadian, and Dean will in fact have just returned from playing with Thea in Berlin for this show. I was highly honored to have Dean & Thea play in this spring’s Vexations [Re-vex’d] improv marathon as well.
Another notable collaboration to which Dean has recently added impressive ectoplasmic heft is the uniquely paranormal ensemble Ghost In The House, where his unclassifiable musical narratives show what happens when Ken Nordine’s word jazz meets Jung’s Red Book.
Join some great players for a serene and surprising game of structured interdimensional drift to the places you can’t get to any other way.