Courtesy of Spectrum/Glenn Cornett
Spectrum is pleased to celebrate the launch of violinist and violist Miranda Cuckson’s Melting the Darkness album, which is to be released digitally on November 11 by Urlicht Audiovisual.
The works on the album are:
Iannis Xenakis: Mikka S
GF Haas: de terrae fine
Oscar Bianchi: Semplice
Chris Burns: come ricordi, come sogni, come ecchi
Alex Sigman: VURTRUVURT
Ileana Perez-Velasquez: un ser con unas alas enormes
Robert Rowe: Melting the Darkness
This event at Spectrum is part 1 of a two-evening album launch, part 2 being two nights later on Nov 14 at the Brown Institute Concert Series – http://brown.stanford.edu/blog/brown – and featuring the four microtonal pieces on the album.
Nov 12 at Spectrum will feature the CD’s three works for violin and electronics by Perez-Velasquez, Rowe and Sigman- the former two in live performance and the Sigman in the recorded surround-sound version. These will be heard in the context of solo electronics pieces by each of these composers. Sound engineer Richard Warp, who worked on this CD as well as Miranda’s previous Nono project on Urlicht, will play his recent composition with video.
Miranda, Robert Rowe, Ileana Perez-Velasquez and Richard Warp will be in attendance. Physical CDs will be for sale at the event.
Full liner notes for the album are here: http://www.mirandacuckson.com/2014/08/25/liner-notes-for-new-cd/
This album ventures into regions of the art of violin-playing the significance of which is now becoming clear. Devoted entirely to microtonal compositions for violin and pieces for violin with electronics, this CD explores works of seven composers who have been challenged by these areas of discovery to create intriguingly fresh and surprising sound worlds….Since turning much attention in recent years to the music being written in my own time, I have found it fascinating to explore certain areas of experimentation that have taken my instrument beyond the familiar glories of its heritage. One of these is the use of microtonality- a system of intervals involving distances smaller than the half-step (the keys on a piano). I have been intrigued by both the physical aspects of working with such intervals, and the idiosyncratic ways in which composers use such intervals for their own expressive aims. Another interest has been noise- that is, non-pitched sounds, often percussive or abrasive, produced by unusual techniques on the instrument. A third area I’ve been eager to explore has been music involving electronics. Since electronic music’s beginnings, using spliced reel-to-reel tapes decades ago, the possibilities of the technology have exploded so that there are numerous ways in which to create or generate sounds and to interact, as a live performer, with them. This has led to a palette of sound possibilities and a degree of agility of response often not offered by traditional instruments.
Alex Sigman’s VURTRUVURT for violin and live electronics was commissioned for this recording. In this piece, the violin is a live denizen of an urban sound world, adding its startling noises to a world of machines. The electronics part is triggered and adjusted by an additional live performer. The piece was recorded in studio, after which the composer added some further sound processing and also created the spatialized imagining found on the 5.1 surround disk. Sigman writes:
V is for Vehicle and Volume, not Violin. U is for Union. R is for Resonance, Recording, Reflection…and T is for Trigger. VURT refers to the 1993 cyberpunk science fiction novel by Jeff Noon. Set in a dystopian Manchester, the novel chronicles the (mis)adventures of a gang of Stash Riders, who travel between Manchester and a parallel universe called Vurt. The boundary between the universes remains permeable, as Vurt creatures and events materialize on Earth. The sound sources employed in VURTRUVURT include elements evocative of the decaying urban and industrial environments described by Noon, as well as songs by Manchester bands of the 1980s-90s that were influential upon the his writing. These sources were also central to generating the violin material. In performance, the electronics are projected through a pair of small sound exciters: one attached to the violin, the other to a resonating glass surface. The violin thus becomes an electrified tension field, a physical point of actual/virtual intersection and cross-influence.
Ileana Perez-Velasquez’s work “un ser con unas alas enormes” is for violin and fixed media: the electronics were previously recorded onto a CD as one single track, with which the violinist performs in real time. The piece evokes a lush natural world with dangerous-sounding animal calls and insect noises in the electronics. Cuban motifs and a full-throated, heated lyricism characterize the violin part. Perez-Velasquez’s note:
“un ser con unas alas enormes”, which translates as “a being with enormous wings”, was inspired by the 17th Freeman Etude for violin by John Cage. Within the hectic gestures that are a major part of this etude are passages reminiscent of Cuban rhythms. An important idea for Cage is that human beings can be better themselves by overcoming their limitations. This piece translates that spirit; humans improve through the use of their imagination. The title is also related to the literary work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “un hombre muy viejo con unas alas muy grandes”. The tape part, as my departure of style, is fragmentary, and contains processed excerpts from the Freeman Etude. The piece also includes concepts of silence that are present in non-Western music. The use of silence as a conscious part of the piece yet again reflects back to Cage.
For Robert Rowe’s piece, Melting the Darkness, the violin part was written and recorded first; the composer then created the electronics as an accompaniment to the violin part, using processed snippets of the violin-playing, samples of percussion instruments such as the tabla, and other synthesized sounds. The violin propels the narrative of the piece, with a warm, largely conventional style of violin-playing. Rowe writes:
Melting the Darkness was written for Miranda Cuckson and commissioned by the New Spectrum Foundation. The piece is built around contrasting styles of music and performance, ranging from gritty, rhythmic phrases to more lyrical and slowly shifting sonorities. These contrasts are amplified and elaborated by an electronic commentary consisting of fragmented and processed material from the violin performance as well as a number of secondary sources. The title comes from The Tempest (as it should when a piece is composed for Miranda): “…as the morning steals upon the night, Melting the darkness…”
I will be featuring an all-new interview with Miranda Cuckson on The Glass Sho very soon! Stay tuned!