Composers Collaborative: Solo Flights


Solo Flights

Composers Collaborative

Piano music of Andrew Violette, Robert Helps, Ursula Mamlok, David del Tredici, Virgil Thomson, Eleanor Hovda, Laura Kaminsky, John Zorn, Molly thompson, Leopold Godowsky, Jed Distler

Andrew Violette: Two Sonatinas (1995) 5:48

1. I - (1:55)

2. II - (3:53)

Andrew Violette, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, November 3, 1997

Robert Helps: In Retrospect—5 Pieces for Piano (1977) 9:18

3. a) Prelude (1:06)

4. b) Dance (1:00)

5. c) Song (4:07)

6. d) Pastorale (1:58)

7. e) Toccata (1:07)

Robert Helps, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, December 2, 1997

Ursula Mamlok: Three Bagatelles (1987) 3:10

8. a) Grazioso (:42)

9. b) Very calm (1:06)

10. c) Playful (1:22)

Sarah Cahill, piano

Recorded live at the Bloomingdale House of Music, NYC, February 24, 1996

11. David Del Tredici: Opposites Attract (1996) 4:21

David Del Tredici, piano

Recorded live at the New School for Social Research, NYC, November 9, 1996

12. Virgil Thomson: Solitude: A Portrait of Lou Harrison (1945) 1:11

David Del Tredici, piano

Recorded live at the New School for Social Research, NYC, November 9, 1996

13. Virgil Thomson: Edges: A Portrait of Robert Indiana (1966) 1:22

Andr3ew Violette, piano

14. Eleanor Hovda: Spring Music with Wind (1973) 7:20

Jed Distler, piano

Recorded live at the Bloomingdale House of Music, NYC, May 9, 1995

15. Laura Kaminsky: Triftmusik (1991) 5:18

Sara Laimon, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, October 20, 1998

16. John Zorn; Carny (1992) 11:36

Phillip Bush, piano

Recorded live at the Bloomingdale House of Music, NYC, January 17, 1995

17. Jed Distler: The Woman Who Danced (1991) 7:57

Jed Distler, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, October 21, 1998

18. Molly Thompson: Our Mingling Arms (1997) 6:38

Kathleen Supovè, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, October 21, 1998

19 Leopold Godowsky: Studies on Chopin's Etudes, No. 45. 6:02

Robert Helps, piano

20 Jed Distler: The Anthem at Woodstock (1996) 3:51

Jed Distler, piano

Recorded live at Independent Art HERE, NYC, October 27, 1999

total playing time 74:33

Composers Collaboative Inc. (CCi) began in 1987 as the brainchild of a few friends who shared a common passion for new music and getting the word out. Since 1994, CCi's Solo Flights festival has provided a forum chiefly for solo pianist who champion a broad range of new music styles and philosophies. The festival also gives voice to an international scope of new works by young composers, emerging and emerged alike. Coming full circle back to the organization's early work with film and video artists, CCi's Non Sequitur summer festival instigates interdisciplinary collaborations with writers, dancers, media and theater artists, all who thrive on turning the concert hall on its head. In this tradition, CCi and the New School co-produced 100 Portraits for Virgil, a daylong, multimedia festival featuring all Virgil Thomson's msuical portraits with 36 participants. This led to a concert theater work based on Thomson's words and music, now in development with director Valeria Vasilevski.

The music in your hands is live and unspliced. What Solo Flights audiences have shared for the past seven seasons is exactly what you hear, from different pianos and venues, as it occurred, in the moment. Sometimes the composer happens to be the pianist. Other times the composer happens to be the pianist. Other times the composer is sitting among the intimate gathering of music lovers. Afterwards an informal dialogue further binds artists and audience together. Questions and comments elicit unexpected insights, a few trade secrets, and a treasure trove of anecdotes. As another typical Solo Flights program wraps up, the good-byes, thanks yous, and let's stay in touches take their sweet time.

Seeds for Solo Flights trace back as far as my impressionable New York student days in the 1970s. The late Paul Jacobs introduced his NYU recital of contemporary etudes with eloquent comments. His words made me hear the music differently. From then, I became hooked on new piano music. My piano teacher turned me on to his own teacher, Robert Helps, who answered my questions, and put other backstage well wishers and me at ease. Another composer/pianist, Frederic Rzewski, was a live wire, and another role model. He once played a new piece of his for the first time, and asked the audience for suggestions, taping our comments on a hand-held machine. Imagine Chopin in a Parisian salon as he plays his latest Nocturne, asking you if the ending could be better. Then there was Yvar Mikhashoff, presiding over a seven-hour piano marathon like a bon vivant, transforming New York's cavernous Symphony Space into his living room. These events helped form my attitudes about performing and presenting new music. Tear down the Fourth Wall, and chuck those pedestals out the window.

Piano music is more vital and variegated than ever as the 21st century finds its bearings. The works on this disc attest to the breadth of style, texture, timbre, and expression for which the instrument is capable. These qualities truly blossom in the hands of pianists who imbue the music with passion, commitment, sterling musicianship, and force of personality. A veteran critic I know claims that all modern pianists sound the same. Not true. Listen to how Phillip Bush navigates John Zorn's split-second shifts in style with such debonair non-chalance. Andrew Violette's booming, whiplash sonority couldn't differ more from Sara Laimon's top-to-bottom tonal solidity and marble-tinged chord playing. While both Kathleen Supovè and Sarah Cahill bring pinpoint articulation to the spikiest sequences intheir selections, you know who's who without a scorecard.

If anything, CCi offers a congenial haven for trying out repertoire and progrmming ideas. You hear, for example, background noise during Molly Thompson's “Our Mingling Arms.” That's dancer/choreographer Nami Yamamoto, whose movement (directed by Valeria Vasilevsky) complements Kathy supovè's keyboard motions. While preparing for CCi's 1996 Virgil thomson Portait marathon, David Del Trdici phoned me, in a creative mood. Could he composer his own portrait of Vigil to play at the event? The result: the world premier of “Opposites Attract,” played by its composer when the ink had barely dried on the manuscript page.

For his encore, Robert Helps treated us to a chopin/Godowsky etude. The E Major Study No. 45 subjects Chopin's A-flat Nouvelle Etude to an intoxicating web of contrapuntal and rhythmic elaboration. Whether or not this music belongs on a new music collection is beside the point when you consider Bob's poignant and profound interpretation. I'm glad we've included it.

To keep company with the remakable artists, staff, board members, and musuic lovers who've made Solo Flights a success (including CCi's co-cofounder Célia Cooke, my wife and partner of 20 years) inspires and humbles me. I am grateful to all the musicians here, who open their honest, unfettered sound-worlds to us, keeping the dialogue alive.

—Jed Distler, July 21st, 2000

Recording engineer: David Merrill, except Three Bagatelles engineered by Joseph Patrych.

CD mastered at Tiki Recording Studios by David Merrill.

Publishing: Violette: composer (BMI); Helps: Associated Music Publishers (BMI); Mamlok: C.F. Peters (BMI); Del tredici: Boosey and Hawkes (ASCAP); Thomson: G. Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP); Hovda: composer (ASCAP); Kaminsky: composer (BMI); Zorn: Hips Road (ASCAP); Distler: Pernalonga Music (ASCAP); Thompson: composer (ASCAP); Godowsky (ASCAP); C. F. Peters