Eastman American Music Series, Vol. 7-Music by David LIptak



Eastman American Music Series Volume 7






Catherine Tait, violin








A Message from the Director




The Eastman School of Music is pleased to be a partner with Albany Records in the production of this series featuring American composers. Beginning with the appointment of Howard Hanson as director in 1924 and proceeding consistently ever since, the Eastman School has stood for innovation in American music. While the Hanson era was characterized by consistency of genre as he established his concept of American music, succeeding generations of Eastman leaders and composers have promoted diversity in expressive means. These recordings are a fine example of this latter principle of exploration and discovery.




The series follows in Eastman's spirit of promoting opportunities for artists with significant voices to be heard in a society increasingly seduced by clutter. I salute Albany for its commitment to higher ideals.




James Undercofler




Director, Eastman School of Music




Notes on the program




From roughly the late 1930s through the early 1960s, most serious American composers worked within one of two basic musical encampments, continuing and expanding upon traditions established by the 20th century giants Schoenberg and Stravinsky. In striking contrast to this earlier era, today's younger generation of composers benefits from exposure to what has been called "a veritable salad bowl of styles," marked by an extremely wide range of character, aesthetics, and musical cross-currents.




The works represented in this Eastman American Music Series of new music recordings bear eloquent testimony to the effect this healthy and diverse musical diet has had on the work of American composers. Various auditory repasts offer composers a choice of forms and influences from such divergent sources as jazz, non-Western music, romanticism, dodecaphony, minimalism, pop and rock, asceticism, "cross-over," and spiritualism - and all on the same menu!




This variety serves both as a high-calorie, vibrant sign of our own creative times, and as a demanding burden placed upon American composers seeking, indeed groping for, their own unique voices: "Red or green peppers? Radish? How much onion? What kind of lettuce? How do I choose my OWN language that will allow me to speak what I need to say?" The works recorded here present the distinct and often unusual offerings of a few leading, contemporary American "workers" in the sonic kitchen.




Sydney Hodkinson




Producer, Eastman American Music Series




Throughout her professional career, Catherine Tait was a performer closely identified with the presentation of new works. The compositions that appear on this CD are those that I had written especially for her, and they span the decade and a half from 1980, the year of our marriage, to 1996, which was less than a year before she died. They were all written for special reasons that were sometimes public and sometimes private, sometimes spoken aloud and sometimes quietly understood.




Time-Piece, written in 1980, is the earliest work on this recording. It is for violin and piano, and was music that we often performed together in concert. The title refers to the importance of rhythm, speed, and "timing" in the making of the music. Much of the piece is built upon the contrast of extremes in tempo that are usually reached by abrupt accelerandi or deccelerandi. The extremes of speed and rhythm are joined to contrasting dynamics, colors, and melody. Catherine and I gave the first performance of this piece in New York in October 1980.




Arcs, the other work on this CD for violin and piano, was written six years later; begun in the summer of 1986, it was finished off a few months later in the beginning of 1987. Arcs was composed during the time we spent summers in eastern New York, renting a summer "camp" on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Catherine was teaching violin at the Meadowmount School, which takes on aspiring young string players and presents an intensive two month course of lessons, recitals, and chamber music; I spent my efforts at composition in the solitude of the cabin with a rented piano that was brought across the lake from Burlington, Vermont by ferry. The presence of the lake had much to do with this music. The ever changing patterns of light upon the water, the often extreme differences in the weather that seemed to come without warning, the brightness of the summer days, and the softness of summer in slowly moving time - these were images that were with me in the composition of Arcs. The titles of the five movements have as much to do with describing the visual patterns as with the musical imagery: "Incandescence," "Cyclic Changes," "Shadow Dance," "Scintilla," and "Line."




I wrote Shadower in 1991 when Catherine asked for some music to play with percussion instruments. It was originally my intent to write this work as part of a series of pieces that featured a solo instrument in the context of a chamber music ensemble; this one was to be for solo violin and a percussion group similar to the one I had used when I wrote, in 1978, for solo clarinet and percussion. As the piece took shape, I settled upon using one percussionist who would play a variety of instruments. The percussion part was written to follow or "shadow" the musical lead of the violinist, and I wanted to reinforce this image spatially by placing the percussionist behind the violinist, relative to the audience, with both performers facing forward. In this way, the violinist would not be able to see the percussionist, and the percussionist would be constantly playing in reaction to the violinist's lead. The music, I think, began to suggest an uneasy association in this arrangement. There was a foreboding and dangerous imagery in this relationship that surprised both of us and, in light of events in our lives that were soon to follow, hit all too close to the mark. The five movements are defined by the percussion instruments that are dominant: the first is with drums, the second with vibraphone, the third with cymbals, the fourth with bowed vibraphone, and the fifth with woodblocks.




In September of 1992, Catherine was diagnosed with breast cancer. The remaining two works on this CD were written for her after this and, in both cases, were in response to the presence of this disease. Spirit, for solo violin, was the final piece I wrote for her. The two relatively brief movements are celebrations of the force of the spirit that exists even in the most diminished life circumstance, especially as I saw it in Catherine. The movements contrast two understandings of the word "spirit" in a musical sense. In 1993, a year following her diagnosis, I wrote the song cycle Under the Resurrection Palm, for voice and violin, to offer to Catherine a new work to mark her return to a more active professional life after surgery and months of chemotherapy. I chose three poems of Linda Pastan and two by Rita Dove to set to music which, to me, seemed to be especially meaningful in describing things about Catherine that were important and personal. These songs were written with William Sharp's baritone voice in mind, and they are performed by him on this recording.




Notes by David Liptak




The Bookstall (Linda Pastan)




Just looking at them




I grow greedy, as if they were




freshly baked loaves




waiting on their shelves




to be broken open - that one




and that - and I make my choice




in a mood of exalted luck,




browsing among them




like a cow in sweetest pasture.


For life is continuous




as long as they wait




to be read - these inked paths




opening into the future, page




after page, every book




its own receding horizon.




And I hold them, one in each hand,




a curious ballast weighting me




here to the earth.




Canary (Rita Dove)




Billie Holiday's burned voice




had as many shadows as lights,




a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,




the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.




(Now you're cooking, drummer to bass,




magic spoon, magic needle.




Take all day if you have to




with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)




Fact is, the invention of women under siege




has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.




If you can't be free, be a mystery.






Crocuses (Linda Pastan)




They come


by stealth, spreading


the rumor of spring -


near the hedge...


by the gate...


at our chilly feet...


mothers of saffron, fathers


of insurrection, purple


and yellow scouts


of an army still massing


just to the south.






In the Museum (Rita Dove)


a boy, at most






Besieged by the drums


and flags of youth,


brilliant gravity


and cornucopian stone






The Discus Thrower




stares as he crosses the lobby


and enters


the XIVth century




I follow him as far


as the room with the blue Madonnas.




Under the Resurrection Palm (Linda Pastan)


If you eat the cabbage heart of a palm, the tree will die...




In Beaufort, South Carolina, Spanish moss


hangs from the live oaks, blurring


all distinctions,


turning the landscape into a room


so filled with cobwebs


that History becomes no more


than the moment that has just passed,


and the faces lifting


from the field to watch us


could be from an engraving


we know by heart already.


Our tour guide speaks of the War


as if there had been no other,


tells us how even the Yankees


spared this hospital town


where gravestones were lifted


from the ground like doors


from their hinges to rest


the wounded Confederate soldiers on.


Hamilton, Fripp, and Barnwell


she knows their names, their houses,


which one married the other's sister.


She is as swollen with facts


as this moss which holds


twenty times its weight in water.


It is nearly silent here.


Behind the pillared porches nothing


seems to happen


except birth and death


and the barely perceptible seasons,


though sometimes drunk


on palmetto berries,


a mockingbird flies upside down.


How hard it is to believe


that the little heron


with its shy head,


the one that winters here,


is the same bird we will see


up north next summer


or that the sky which spreads


like watered silk


over this river town


is of a piece with the cold


sky at home.




"Canary," "In the Museum," from GRACE NOTES by Rita Dove. Copyright © 1989 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author and W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. "The Bookstall," copyright © 1991 by Linda Pastan. "Under the Resurrection Palm," copyright © 1991 by Linda Pastan. "Crocuses," copyright © 1989 by Linda Pastan, from HEROES IN DISGUISE by Linda Pastan. Reprinted by permission of the author and W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.




David Liptak was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1949. After teaching composition and theory at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, he joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in 1987, where he has chaired the composition department since 1993.




Liptak's music has been widely performed throughout the United States by ensembles including the San Francisco Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Youngstown Symphony, the Sinfonia da Camera of Illinois, the New England Philharmonic, the National Orchestral Association, the Group for Contemporary Music, EARPLAY, members of the Saint Louis Symphony, the Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Eastman Philharmonia, the Eastman Musica Nova, the 20th Century Consort, the Society for New Music in Syracuse, the new music group Thamyris, the Raphael Trio, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the wind ensembles of Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Northwestern University, and Eastman.




In 1994, Liptak was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation to write a trumpet concerto for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, which was premiered in 1996 with soloist Paul Merkelo. Other recent work includes ANCIENT SONGS, written for baritone William Sharp and the 20th Century Consort. In 1995, Liptak was awarded the Elise L. Stoeger Prize by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in recognition of distinguished achievement in the field of chamber music composition.




Liptak's music is recorded by Gasparo (SEVEN SONGS, with William Sharp and pianist Anton Nel; ILLUSIONS for clarinet and piano) and Opus One (RHAPSODIES for chamber ensemble). His principal music publisher is MMB Music.




Catherine Tait was an acclaimed violinist who performed as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles. Among her special interests was the performance of new music, and among her recordings is a CD on the Gasparo label of violin sonatas by Ursula Mamlok, Louise Talma, Ruth Crawford, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, performed with pianist Barry Snyder. Her violin studies took place at Juilliard and the Curtis Institute, where her principal teacher was Ivan Galamian. She was herself renowned as a teacher, having been on the violin faculties of Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, as well as the Meadowmount School. Up to the time of her death in March of 1997, she was professor of violin at the Eastman School of Music.




Barry Snyder is professor of piano at the Eastman School of Music. Also a graduate from Eastman, he studied piano with Vladimir Sokoloff and Cecile Genhart. Snyder was a triple prize winner in the 1966 Van Cliburn International Competition, and has performed as soloist with the orchestras in Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Rochester, and Montreal. He is active as a recitalist and chamber music performer, as well.




Winner of the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition and the Geneva International Competition for singers, William Sharp's repertoire ranges from 12th century troubadour songs to contemporary premieres. His recording with pianist Steven Blier of works by American composers was nominated for a 1989 Grammy Award. His recording of Leonard Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles, on the Koch International Classics label, was awarded a Grammy in 1991. Mr. Sharp studied voice with Thomas Paul and Jan DeGaetani at the Eastman School of Music.




Benjamin Toth serves on the faculty of The Hartt School, where he teaches percussion and directs the percussion ensemble. He was previously a member of the Percussion Group/ Cincinnati and percussion teacher at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His interest in performances of contemporary music in mixed ensembles extends back to his years as a graduate student at the University of Illinois, where he performed as a member of the University's Contemporary Chamber Players.




All selections were recorded in Kilbourn Hall and the Kresge Recording Studios of the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Arcs, Time Piece, recorded September 27-28, 1996; Spirit, Shadower recorded September 9-10, 1996; Under the Resurrection Palm recorded September 12-13, 1996. Session engineer and editing, David Peelle. Producer for the Eastman American Music Series, Sydney Hodkinson. Special production assistance, Suzanne Stover. Concept and artwork preparation by Windsor Street Design.










Music for Violin




Time-Piece (1980) (6:55)


Catherine Tait, violin


Barry Snyder, piano


Arcs (1980) (11:03)


Incandescence (2:03)


Cyclic Change (1:55)


Shadow Dance (1:39)


Scintilla (1:30)


Line (3:56)


Catherine Tait, violin


Barry Snyder, piano


Shadower (1991) (14:54)


I. with drums (1:43)


II. with vibraphone (3:48)


III. with cymbals (2:32)


IV. with bowed vibraphone (4:04)


V. with woodblocks (2:47)


Catherine Tait, violin


Benjamin Toth, percussion


Spirit (1996) (6:25)


I. Slowly Floating (3:35)


II. Fast and Spirited (2:50)


Catherine Tait, violin


Under the


Resurrection Palm (1993) (20:38)


The Bookstall (4:05)


Canary (2:48)


Crocuses (3:07)


In the Museum (1:39)


Under the Resurrection Palm (8:59)


Catherine Tait, violin


William Sharp, voice


Total Time = 59:55