Eastman American Music Series, Vol. 2



Eastman American Music Series, vol 2






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


Acting Director, Eastman School of Music






Notes on the Program




Diversity is a defining feature of American society. Ours is a country full of differences - differences of race, ethnic heritage, ideology, sexuality, to name just a few. To be sure, this amazing range of differences was probably never envisioned by America's political architects. And certainly, our differences have not always made for smooth sailing; some of our disagreements have been harsh, even violent. But with a healthy mixture of curiosity and good will, America's sometimes bewildering diversity can be a source of rejuvenation and great joy.




The triumphs and challenges of America's diversity are no less evident in our concert music. We have seen a number of musical styles appear: neoclassicism and serialism (imported by way of Stravinsky, Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and others), indeterminacy, electronic and computer music, minimalism, the new complexity - the list goes on and on. Such diversity can also be found in this series of American music recordings.




It is important to remember that each new "innovation" has not replaced what has come before but, instead, joined in the fray. Now, at century's end, composers as disparate in aesthetic and technique as Philip Glass and Charles Wuorinen (to take two American composers born only a year apart) continue - almost stubbornly - to flourish. There are those who still imagine that one or another of these differing aesthetics will eventually emerge victorious. Perhaps it would be more fortuitous to see musical alternatives multiply and to see larger audiences even more open to new musical experiences.




David Maslanka's musical training included studies in clarinet and conducting in addition to composition; his principal composition teachers were Joseph Wood and H. Owen Reed. His works are often clearly, some might say resolutely, tonal and traditional, and he has composed for forces as diverse as solo marimba (Variations on Lost Love, 1977) and chamber opera (Death and the Maiden, 1974). He provides this note on his Duo for Flute and Piano (1972):




"I consider my Duo for Flute and Piano (written in 1972) to be something of a milestone in my composing. It emerged fully formed from a part of me with which I wasn't at the time very familiar. It whispered, it cried, it shrieked, when on the surface I had no idea that I was doing any of those things. As has been the case for more than thirty years of composing, my music consistently reveals things to me in advance of their arrival in conscious mind. If the Duo revealed pain and depression, it also revealed a search into mystery, a love of the beautiful, and a penchant for formal construction and precision of detail - all issues which have occupied me in the intervening years, issues which have been the premise of a composer's life.




"The Duo is in six sections with a coda. Three of these sections bear the heading 'a mystery,' referring in whatever way to the great mysteries of the universe and of life. Following the opening 'mystery' is an 'interlude' for piano solo. The right hand spins an elaborately decorated melody over a sparse accompaniment in the left hand. This 'spinning out' has its roots mainly in the keyboard music of J. S. Bach. The title of the next section, 'a sore point; or: a touchy question; or: the unanswered question put another way,' owes a nod to Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question. This music is obsessive, insistent, and clangorous. It goes farther than the listener is comfortable in going, but in so doing, breaks the bonds of anger. The harmonic language is tonal but extremely dissonant. The second 'mystery' is a quiet soliloquy for flute with a very sparse backdrop of piano chords. The sound of the Japanese shakahachi flute is an important influence on this music. A clear C tonality is evident. A 'fanfare' of some length leads into the third 'mystery,' which is a distant music, having the quality of a candle flame, that is, placid on the surface, yet filled with an inner life. It fades into the coda, which refers to material from the 'fanfare' and the 'interlude.' There is a gasping, choked quality in the flute, and a dead finality in the piano. The piece ends in a gray and lonely stalemate."




About Heaven to clear when day did close, for tenor saxophone and string quartet, Maslanka writes:




"Heaven to clear when day did close (fantasy on a theme of Barney Childs) was completed in 1981, almost nine years after the Duo. It is in a single movement, having something of the effect of a concerto for saxophone and strings. The 'theme' is the last section of a work for solo piano by Barney Childs, who has been my friend for many years. The title 'Heaven to clear when day did close' belongs to the Childs piece and is a quote from eighteenth-century English poetry.




"Barney Childs' composing is terse, compact, stripped-down, implying worlds of expression without elaborating on them explicitly. My 'fantasy' treats the Childs theme as a touchstone, spinning out a series of elaborations in something of a stream-of-consciousness manner. The result is a work which ranges far afield, drawing from such diverse sources as Spanish street music (from my years in New York City), Bach chorales, Italian opera, Bebop, and 1950's Saturday morning TV. Toward the end of the work the sun does set and the heavens do clear."




Warren Benson has had a long and distinguished career that includes an appointment at the Eastman School of Music from 1967-1994. Nearly all of his music has been written on commission, usually for specific performers. For Benson, composition is an act of collaboration that gives pleasure, "though not without serious commitment, exposure, and risk." While some of his mature works (such as the wind ensemble piece The Solitary Dancer) have a modern edginess resulting from their emphasis on rhythm, other works, like the cycle Songs for the End of the World, have a warmth and simplicity that recall Britten or Barber.




Upon accepting a commission from the International Horn Society for a major work featuring the horn, Mr. Benson chose to write a song cycle scored for mezzo-soprano, horn, English horn, cello, and marimba, favoring the talents of Eastman faculty horn virtuoso Verne Reynolds, and the brilliant mezzo-soprano, Jan DeGaetani. During his search for an appropriate text, Benson recalled that the distinguished American novelist John Gardner had studied the French horn and performed as a professional on the instrument. He wrote to Mr. Gardner proposing collaboration on a song cycle. Mr. Gardner responded with enthusiasm and, after much correspondence and discussion regarding the particular subject matter of the cycle, Benson received six poems titled Songs for the End of the World. Mr. Benson explored the descriptive and symbolic qualities of the text both in the music he composed and in the titles he gave the individual songs, with the author's approval. The première of the work, conducted by the composer, took place on November 24, 1980 in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, with Mr. Gardner present. John Gardner writes about the work:




"In Songs for the End of the World I wanted to write something that the composer might treat either as a song cycle or as an internalized one-woman short opera. I thought of trying to dramatize the way a woman's exclusive love for her husband and children can, when she grows old, become love - and anxiety - for life itself. The idea provided me with a setting: the old woman awakening from a nightmare of the whole world's death, comparable to the death of two of her children. I thought it was psychologically right that the old woman, in her terror, would turn to sweet thoughts of her girlhood and the man who would become her husband (the second song), and I thought that, because of her age and wisdom, that innocence and love would be generalized to all the world, a world all green yet subtly suggesting autumn - the houses are 'red, orange, yellow.' From there her thoughts might move, I imagined, to the warmth and security of family in an obscurely dangerous world ('for the bear's in the woods and owl's in the sky'), a world still seemingly safe because of love and community. In the fourth song I state the tragedy that motivates the cycle. For all our hope, for all the seeming security of community, death sometimes strikes. Hastily, defensively, the old woman flees to a happy memory (in the fifth song) of the marriage of one of her surviving daughters. All will be well, the old woman desperately tells herself. And who knows? Perhaps it will. The old woman calms and adjusts herself. She sees that her own mother-love is not necessary. When she dies, God's love will take over for hers, and so, without guilt or anxiety or terror, she can sleep. And if there is no God? Never mind, there will be motherly love until the last generation, and even then still hope, still the prospect of 'a brand new sun.'




- Robert Haskins






Benson: Songs for the End of the World


John Gardner








I've dreamed it again: that old woman's dream


of failing light and stillness.


I cry, "Where are the children? Are the children safe?"


and awaken in my small, dark room.




There is snow on the fields; in the sky, bright stars;


by the barn, nothing moves.


All is well, I know; and nothing is well;


I am old and sick and not yet wise.




My neighbors' houses are unlighted, as still


as sleeping animals with nothing to fear,


dreaming their strong-young-animal dreams...


I too must sleep. I do not think I will.




I clutch the covers with fingers curled


and stiff, listening. Oh, not my life


would I have God spare, but the children, the houses, the snow and stars!


I would have God spare the world!








To the heart it seems only a week ago


that high, strong elms lay their shade on the streets,


and the bricks of the streets were red, orange, yellow,


and the grass of the lawns was green.


I walked down the street in a sky-blue dress


and I knew who I was by my father's eyes;


and the bricks of the streets glowed red, orange, yellow,


and the grass all around glowed green.




When my mother was young and her hair was brown


she told me tales of when she was a child,


and I'd lean on my hands, full of longing, longing,


and my thoughts ran like deer, ran wide.


She told how my father was stumbling and shy,


how her father would frown and her mother sigh,


and I'd lean on my hands, full of longing, longing,


and my thoughts flew like deer, shot wide.




Yet the seasons sped on, and my own time came:


I walked all shy where the elms lay their shade,


and the wide-windowed houses were red, orange, yellow,


and the world all around was green.


I walked down the street in a cloud-white dress


and I knew what I was by my true love's eyes,


and the hushed, hushed houses were red, orange, yellow,


and the world all around shone green!








Sleep, little child, don't weep, don't sigh,


for the bear's in the woods and the owl's in the sky,


and nothing's so cunning they'll let it slip by,


but they'll spy it, or smell it, or hear it, and cry


Hush there! Be still there! The children are asleep


and their dreams are out roaming! Take care!




Sleep, little child, let dreams begin,


for the dog's by the door and the cat's by the stove,


and nothing that comes will those two let in


but they'll cry out at once in their furious love,


Hush there! Be still there! The children are asleep


and their dreams are out roaming! Take care!




Hush then, my children, be still, be still,


for the trees watch above and the earthworms below,


and nothing can move half an inch on the hill


but your father and all who work with him will know!


Hush then, be still then. The children are asleep


and their dreams are out roaming in the world.








This is the season . . . April again . . .


strange, edgy weather . . . crocuses and thaw. . .


everywhere, hurrying, muttering to themselves,


the ice-gray, quick-swollen rivers. . . .




It was the light that called them. Oh, I knew, I knew!


From the beginning I guessed! The house lay in shadow


dark clouds. It had rained. On the hills, like a vision,


on the old, shrunken snow lay sunlight.




Like gold newly cut by shears like glass


that sunlight shone. Who wouldn't have followed?


and children at that, with eyes still wide,


quite round, on the watch for angels,




and the rivers angrily muttering, overworked,


like bank people fussing and figuring sums,


crowds of them hurrying with canes and black hats


who'd not have bent down to listen?




Then I woke out of sleep crying Where are the children?


Are the children safe? All but two, all but two.


He went to the back door to call, not in haste.


When I saw how the light was, I knew.








Lo, our daughter, bright as apples,


bride to some strange boy alas!


(Doubtfully, to herself) True, he's handsome . . . true, quite handsome...


Seems quite nice . . . (Brightly and falsely, spoken) "Yes, isn't he nice!"


(What have I forgotten?


What have we forgotten?


Trickery or recipe or piece of good advice?)


All the world's so filled with troubles,


Them so young and new alas!


(To herself) Must keep smiling . . . must keep smiling . . .


(In alarm) He's so tall! . . . (Brightly, falsely, spoken) "Yes, isn't he tall!"


(What have I forgotten?


What have we forgotten?


I don't believe we ever told her anything at all!)


Poor, dear baby! Look! She's kissed him!


Married! Just a child alas!


(To herself) How he smiles, though! How he loves her!


How hey glow! (Behind her hand to someone) Oh, look how they glow!


(What have I forgotten?


What have we forgotten?


Love each other, hold each other, never once let go!


That's the thing we should have told them! Never mind; they know.)




It's nothing. I always cry at weddings.








Strange: now, as fog drifts in


at dusk, my soul grows light,


not for pumpkins loud in the yard


or the clean smell at night,


but lifts, lifts toward turning leaves


to thin in the crimson glare,


as all I care for fades like a ghost


breathed on the frosty air.




Come, winter, clean my thought


and sing my heart to sleep:


close these eyes grown old, made dim


by the long watch I keep.




If darkened worlds can light again,


let this one rise and sing


its children, houses, snow and stars in


inconceivable spring.




If no spring comes, no harm; for I


took sides with earth long since,


trees and grass all Death denies


my heart's bright residence.




If these fail, let me too fail:


better to sleep like stone


than live bereft eternally


of all we left at home.




Sleep, sleep . . . no harm, no harm;


sleep and expect the dawn


and voices, dear, more dear than life,


bright as a brand new sun.




Texts composed especially for this work and used by permission of the poet, John C. Gardner. Music ©Theodore Presser Co., Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.






Bonita Boyd is professor of flute at the Eastman School of Music. She studied with Roger Stevens, Maurice Sharp, and Joseph Mariano, and received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School. Boyd has been principal flutist in the Rochester Philharmonic (1971-84), Chautauqua Symphony (1971-77), and Filarmonica de las Americas, Mexico City (1977). Her career includes solo tours and performances with orchestras in the Americas, Australia, Asia, and Europe; numerous broadcast recordings; premiere performances of new works; and commercial recordings on Spectrum, Vox, Stolat, Gasparo, Philips, and Pantheon.




Robert Spillman, piano, studied at the Eastman School of Music and the Hochschule für Musik, Stuttgart. A composer as well as pianist, Spillman was associate professor of piano and opera coordinator at the Eastman School from 1973-1987. He is presently professor of music at the University of Colorado at Boulder.




Ramon Ricker, tenor saxophone, is professor of saxophone at the Eastman School. He studied clarinet with Keith Stein, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Leon Russianoff, and Stanley Hasty; saxophone with Albert Regni and Jean-Marie Londeix. He is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Creative Artist Public Service, and ASCAP. Ricker has recorded for Mercury, A&M, Polygram, and Open Loop.




Sydney Hodkinson, Director of Eastman Musica Nova, the Eastman School's primary contemporary music ensemble, has held a joint appointment as professor of composition and ensembles at the Eastman School of Music since 1973. A noted composer as well as conductor, Hodkinson's works appear on the Nonesuch, CRI, Advance, Grenadilla, INNOVA, Novisse, Centaur and Louisville labels.




The great American mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani (1933-1989) mastered an expansive repertoire of vocal music during her thirty-year career. Particularly celebrated for her performances of new music, she premiered compositions by Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, and many other major twentieth-century composers. Also noted as an inspiring teacher, DeGaetani's legacy continues through the careers of the many students she taught at the Eastman School of Music and the Aspen Music Festival.




Verne Reynolds was professor of horn at the Eastman School of Music from 1959 through 1995. Noted as a composer as well as performer, he has had over 60 compositions published by G. Schirmer, Carl Fischer, Belwin-Mills, and Southern Music. A recipient of many commissions and awards, Reynolds has recorded for the Vox, Crystal, CRI, and Mark labels.




Robert Sylvester, cello, is internationally renowned for his performances of solo and chamber music. As a faculty member of the Eastman School for twelve years, he performed extensively with the Eastman Trio. Sylvester is currently the Director of Cultural Affairs at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, and the founder of the Bellingham Festival of Music.




John Beck, marimba, is professor of percussion at the Eastman School of Music. He is active as a composer, conductor, and clinician, and recently served as editor for the Encyclopedia of Percussion, published in 1995 by Garland Press. Beck is timpanist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, having performed with the orchestra since 1959.




Philip West, English horn, is professor of chamber music at the Eastman School of Music, where he directs the Eastman InterMusica Ensemble, a student chamber music program that features performances of works from the 17th to the 20th Century. He has performed throughout the United States and Europe as an oboe and English horn soloist, and has premiered works by Britten, Harbison, Wernick, and others.








All selections were recorded in the Kresge Recording Studios of the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Remastering engineer, Brian Sarvis. Digital signal processing by Dusman Audio, Rochester, NY. Digital tape transfers, Brian Regan and John Ebert. Notes by Robert Haskins; special production assistance by Suzanne Stover. Producer for the Eastman American Music Series is Sydney Hodkinson. Production supervision by David Peelle, Director, Department of Recording Arts and Services.




The cover is a portion of a painting by the American artist Ilya Bolotowsky, Untitled (Relational Painting), 1950, from the collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Marion Stratton Gould Fund. The entire work may be assembled by the joining of this cover with others in this series. Concept and artwork preparation by Marybeth Crider, Creative Arts Manager, Eastman School of Music.






Maslanka, Duo for Flute and Piano


Bonita Boyd, flute · Robert Spillman, piano


Recorded in the Eastman Theatre 11/6/83 by Ros Ritchie and Mary Van Houten; Sydney Hodkinson, producer






Maslanka, Heaven to clear when day did close (fantasy on a theme of Barney Childs)


Ramon Ricker, tenor saxophone


Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble (Bel Canto String Quartet): James Lyon, violin ·Clay Purdy, violin ·Nancy Holland, viola · Carol Purdy, cello


Sydney Hodkinson, conductor


Recorded in the Eastman Theatre 2/26/83 by Ros Ritchie; John Santuccio, producer






Benson, Songs for the End of the World


Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano ·Verne Reynolds, horn · Robert Sylvester, cello · John Beck, marimba · Philip West, English horn


Warren Benson, conductor


Recorded in the Eastman Theatre 2/16/82 by Ros Ritchie; Sydney Hodkinson, producer






David Maslanka




Duo for Flute and Piano (20:04)




A Mystery (1:26)




An Interlude (3:13)




A Sore Point; or (6:52)




A Mystery (3:46)




A Fanfare (1:14)




A Mystery (3:21)




Bonita Boyd, flute · Robert Spillman, piano




Heaven to clear when day did close (21:49)




Ramon Ricker, tenor saxophone




Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble (Bel Canto String Quartet)




James Lyon, violin · Clay Purdy, violin · Nancy Holland, viola · Carol Purdy, cello




Sydney Hodkinson, conductor




Warren Benson




Songs for the End of the World (30:41)




Awakening (7:08)




Two Step (3:30)




Lullaby (5:05)




Spring (3:39)




Siciliana (4:26)




Nocturne (6:26)




Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano · Verne Reynolds, horn · Robert Sylvester, cello




John Beck, marimba · Philip West, English horn · Warren Benson, conductor




Total Time = 72:52