Explore two important voices of contemporary music: Israeli-American Shulamit Ran and the legendary Steve Reich. Three works by Ran, including Lyre of Orpheus, will be followed by Reich's deeply moving Different Trains for String Quartet and Tape, written to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.
Shulamit Ran: Bach Shards
Shulamit Ran: East Wind
Shulamit Ran: Lyre of Orpheus
Steve Reich: Different Trains
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Following each Gallery Concert, ticketholders are invited to enjoy complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres with the artists at a reception.
About the Music
Shulamit Ran (b. 1949)
composed 2002. First performance: October 2002, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.
While composing Bach-Shards, I found myself gravitating, intuitively and gradually, toward a dual goal. First, though the tension and dissonance inherent in certain moments of Bach’s own maze-like contrapuntal structures could quite easily and naturally lead one into a pungent contemporary terrain, I opted not to stray outside the realm of Bach-like materials and harmonic language. Instead, it was my hope to alter their relationships and context in ways that add up to a something that’s slightly different than the anticipated sum of the parts. A mildly deconstructed Bach, if you will.
The other important challenge I set for myself was building up the latter, toccata-like portion of Bach-Shards in a way that would make the entry point of the fugue which it precedes, Contrapunctus X, seem thoroughly natural. It was my intent to have the first fugal entrance feel like a huge and much welcome release of the energy created by my Prelude’s penultimate stretch, with its bravura figurations elaborating on an insistent dominant pedal point.
— Shulamit Ran
Shulamit Ran (b. 1949)
Lyre of Orpheus
Shulamit Ran (b. 1949)
composed 2009. First performance: March 2009, Rose Lehrman Arts Center, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Lyre of Orpheus was composed for Concertante, the New YorkPbased string sextet, for its ONE PLUS FIVE Project, a three-year, six-composer commissioning project designed to create six string sextets, each featuring one of Concertante core players. This particular commission was made with the goal of giving center stage to the ensemble’s first cello (Concertante’s Zvi Plesser, the wonderful Israeli cellist), a choice I was especially grateful for, as it gave me an opportunity to highlight an instrument for which, from a very early stage in my life, I have felt a special affinity. The cello’s “soul” — so naturally combining passion and lyricism — has always touched me in a special way.
As sometimes happens, naming the piece was the final act in the process of creation. Once titled, though, I found myself looking through the piece with a mixture of delight and astonishment: the narrative of this almost iconic mythological story of love and loss seems to be one entirely plausible, and to my mind convincing, way to trace the unfolding of the musical events. Of course, the music was written with no such tale (or any tale, for that matter) in mind. But perhaps some stories are emblematic of so much that is part of our lives and psyches, of our desires, fears and wishes. Orpheus, whose longing for Eurydice recognizes no boundaries of heaven and hell… Love regained, then forever lost… Orpheus’ lyre intoning his sorrowful yearning… Lyre of Orpheus is intermittently songful, caressing, passionate, pained, ferocious, and longing. The instrumentation consists of two violins, two violas, and two cellos — the first of which is the soloist/ protagonist, while the second is notable for having its lowest string tuned down a third to achieve extra lower notes. This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Commissioning Program, with funding generously provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
— Shulamit Ran
Steve Reich (b. 1936)
composed 1988. first performance: 2 November 1988, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Kronos Quartet.
string quartet, tape
I. America - Before the War
II. Europe - During the War
III. After the War
Different Trains, for String Quartet and pre-recorded performance tape, begins a new way of composing that has its roots in my early tape pieces It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966). The basic idea is that carefully chosen speech recordings generate the musical materials for musical instruments.
The idea for the piece came from my childhood. When I was one year old my parents separated. My mother moved to Los Angeles and my father stayed in New York. Since they arranged divided custody, I travelled back and forth by train frequently between New York and Los Angeles from 1939 to 1942 accompanied by my governess. While the trips were exciting and romantic at the time I now look back and think that, if I had been in Europe during this period, as a Jew I would have had to ride very different trains. With this in mind I wanted to make a piece that would accurately reflect the whole situation. In order to prepare the tape I did the following:
1. Record my governess Virginia, then in her seventies, reminiscing about our train trips together.
2. Record a retired Pullman porter, Lawrence Davis, then in his eighties, who used to ride lines between New York and Los Angeles, reminiscing about his life.
3. Collect recordings of Holocaust survivors Rachella, Paul and Rachel, all about my age and then living in America—speaking of their experiences.
4. Collect recorded American and European train sounds of the ’30s and ’40s.
In order to combine the taped speech with the string instruments I selected small speech samples that are more or less clearly pitched and then notated them as accurately as possible in musical notation.
The strings then literally imitate that speech melody. The speech samples as well as the train sounds were transferred to tape with the use of sampling keyboards and a computer. Three separate string quartets are also added to the pre-recorded tape and the final live quartet part is added in performance.
Different Trains is in three movements (played without pause), although that term is stretched here since tempos change frequently in each movement. They are:
1. America—Before the war
2. Europe—During the war
3. After the war
The piece thus presents both a documentary and a musical reality and begins a new musical direction. It is a direction that I expect will lead to a new kind of documentary music video theatre in the not too distant future.
— Steve Reich