Speculum Musicae plays Blaustein, Rakowski, Anderson & Clement


Speculum Musicae

David Radoski - Imaginary Dances

Susan Blasustein - Commedia

Allen Anderson - Charrette

Sheree Clement - Chamber Concerto

COMMEDIA was composed in 1980 for Speculum Musicae and is scored for mixed ensemble of winds, strings and percussion. The title alludes to those dramatic traditions wherein a play is specifically written for and recreated by a company of players, each of whom is well known to his audience as a particular masked character. Commedia was written for the players in the ensemble Speculum Musicae which, on the occasion of it's tenth anniversary, seemed of sufficient vintage to enjoy such a rapport with its audience.

At the piece's opening, the ensemble is gathered in excited celebration as it readies materials for it ritual drama. Amidst the initial din and flurry, familiar individual voices emerge; while we are busy renewing our acquaintance with the handsome troupe, the drama among them has already begun to unfold.

In the scenes that follow, each player has occasion to express his own brand of virtuosity with which he tries to engage and too influence his cohorts. Through the projection of their individual rhetorical styles, the characters attempt to charm or cajole, outrage, delight, or inspire their fellows.

Not until the oboe's intimate singing carries the other `melodic' voices away with its lyrical sweep can a more genuine expressive quality finally penetrate the masks. Even the repeated and energetic attempts of the characters to resume their revels (and to restore a sense of decorum better befitting a ritual drama) cannot altogether silence this lyric strain, its voice once discovered.

  • Susan Blaustein

SUSAN BLAUSTEIN (born 1953 in Palo Alto, Calif.) was most recently an Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University ('85-90). Prior to joining the Columbia faculty she was a Junior Fellow for three years in the Harvard University Society of Fellows, before which she taught at Yale, where she received her doctorate in composition.

Ms. Blaustein has received commissions from Speculum Musicae, the American Composers Orchestra, the Group for Contemporary Music, the Jerome Foundation, the Jubal Trio and the Nonesuch Commissions Awards, pianist Alan Feinberg, flutist Jayn Rosenfeld, cellist Joel Krosnick and the Fromm Foundation, Parnassus, Pomona College, and, most recently, from the International Musicological Society, and the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress.

The composer was a recipient of the 1987 Brandeis Creative Arts Award Citation and has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Composer/Librettist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, prizes in the league-ISCM National Composers Competition, and fellowships to the Composers' Conference, now at Wellesley College. Her music has been nationally broadcast on public radio and has been performed in Canada, Israel, the Soviet Union, and in Western Europe. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1988.


I wrote IMAGINARY DANCES for Speculum Musicae in the summer and fall of 1986. It was premiered at Merkin Hall, New York City, on March 9, 1987. The opportunity to write for such accomplished performers, equally adept at solo playing and tight ensemble playing, suggested a piece in which one instrument was always a soloist, and in which the soloist's relationship to the ensemble - of which it is necessarily a part when not a soloist - is constantly being explored and redefined. This premise reminded me of the functions of dancers in some modern ballet, hence the title - which came to me in a dream. The piece is divided into three movements, played without pause, and further divided into sections in which one instrument is soloist. The movements could be described as fast-slow-fast, over which the timbre moves from bright to dark and back to bright.

The piece begins in turmoil as the instruments try to sort out their roles in the drama of the piece; the oboe is the soloist here, and after a wrenching climax, it manages to assert itself above the din and quiet the ensemble down in time for the violin solo section. The violin's music is lighter and a little more rhythmic, but is punctuated by uncalled for outbursts from the ensemble. These outbursts finally multiply and the music becomes more tense for the percussion solo section. But this frantic music runs out of steam, at first starting, at first starting and stopping, finally collapsing under its own weight, settling into the slow music of the second movement. The second movement is very slow, with the lyrical viola solo giving way to the intricately woven bass clarinet solo. As this movement ends, in the quietest moment of the piece, the third movement - a theme with five variations - suddenly interrupts as if to bring back the opening. The music of this movement, though, is less frantic and mercurial than that of the first, as the movement gradually progresses toward music with longer and longer stretches in which a clear pulse can be perceived. The Theme and first variation are led by the piano; the second and third variations are led by the cello; and the fourth and fifth variations are led by the flute. All during this movement, the oboe keeps trying to bring back the `B' which began its solo and its opening licks (it apparently doesn't understand the function of recapitulation), but by the en of the last variation, it settles on moving that `B' up a semitone to `C'. the climax at the end of the fifth variation segues to the Coda of the entire piece, the only significant stretch of music with a clear pulse; in this Coda all the instruments get another brief moment in the sun as soloists before the piece ends with nineteen quickly hammered chords.

Imaginary Dances is dedicated to Speculum Musicae and to Donald Palma, who conducted its premiere and this recording.

  • David Rakowski

DAVID RAKOWSKI was born in 1958 in St. Albans, Vermont. He is Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University, where he teaches composition and theory. He previously taught composition and theory at Stanford University, where he also directed the ensemble for new music. Rakowski's major teachers have included Babbitt, Berio, Ceely, Westergaard, Spies, Lansky and Heiss. Among his awards and fellowships are a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, two BMI awards, fellowships to Tangle wood and the Wellesley Composers Conference, residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, a Chadwick Medal from New England Conservatory, and others. His commissions include the Riverside Symphony, speculum Musicae, Parnassus., Fromm Foundation, Alea II, Alea III, Dinosaur annex, and Nueva Learning Center. His music is published by C. F. Peters, and he is affiliated with American Composers Alliance and Broadcast Music,k Inc. He is a founder of the Griffin Music Ensemble of Boston.


CHARRETTE was completed in May 1984, three days before its premiere. It was commissioned by Speculum Musicae through Chamber Music America with the support of the Jerome Foundation and The Mary Flagler Cary charitable Trust.

When in the all too frantic business of completing a score one resorts to round -the-clock labor to meet a deadline, that is a charrette. So it was with the writing of this piece: down to the wire, fraught with both anxiety and exhilaration. But more than characterizing the conditions of the piece's creation, the urgency and concentration of a charrette epitomizes the central tone of the music itself. There is enough in the score which is unsettled and in search of completion that a collage has dubbed the piece, “the apotheosis of the upbeat.”

Each of the work's four main sections is shaped as a protracted upbeat to a decisive arrival, which serves to dispel accumulated tensions and to signal the section's close. Arrival is everywhere identified with group effort. Cooperation among the instruments, which entails a transformation from shifting textures and dialoguing to a massed front, is a prerequisite for the success of the articulation. The violin eventually emerges as the guiding force in the first section, directing the ensemble to the climax. In the second, competing soloist and sub-ensembles settle on an ordering of their musics compatible with motion to the goal. In the third section - which begins after a brief interlude - a capriciousness is overwhelmed by music of a diabolical cast. The overlapping of voices again gives way to a group gesture, which, after the crucial arrival, disperses, reverting to fragmentary figures. The firm, chordal opening of the third section parodies in its compression the weighted sectional arrivals and contrasts with the equivocations of previous openings. After an allusion to an ethereal passage from the second section, the music resumes the upbeat track, but now the uniformity of purpose and means among the participants, a lesson learned in all that's gone before.

  • Allen Anderson

ALLEN ANDERSON (b. 1951) was educated at the university of California, Berkeley and Brandeis University where his teachers included Andrew Imbrie, Edwin Dugger, Michael Senturia, Martin Boykan and Seymour Shifrin. He taught at Brandeis University from 1981 to 1991. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New England ISCM (Leo Snyder Award for Arcade), the Washington Square Contemporary Music Players (for Solfeggietti), BMI and the New Music Consort. His commissions include those by the Koussevitzky Foundation (String Quartet) and the American Music Center (Measure of Terrain) among others. He is a founding member of Boston's Griffin Music Ensemble.


CHAMBER CONCERTO was written in New York City and Lenox, Massachusetts in 1982. The piece is about reviewing and reliving previous events placed in new contexts. It initially unfolds through a series of variations. Later variations include parts of preceding ones; occasionally, the resulting passage is reviewed again, in a third context. The riot of orchestrational color possible in the soloist chamber orchestra goes a long way to creating the new contexts for familiar ideas. The work was previewed at the Composers' Conference and given its premiere at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 1985. Speculum Musicae gave the New York premiere the following fall.

  • Sheree Clement

SHEREE CLEMENT was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1955 and studied at the University of Michigan and Columbia University. She has received awards from ASCAP, the American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters, Tanglewood Music festival, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. At present she creates software applications for the New York City Public Schools, and continues to compose music.

SPECULUM MUSICAE is ensemble-in-residence at Columbia University in New York City. It has been called New York's most important new-music group” by the critic for the Boston Globe. Speculum Musicae has been bringing new music to audiences for over twenty seasons. On the concert stage and through recordings, the ensemble seeks out the best chamber music the 20th Century has to offer. From the “classics” of the early 1900's (Schoenberg, Ives) to newly commissioned works (Hyla, Sanford), from the writings of well-established composers (Boulez, Babbitt, Carter, Davidovsky, Seeger, Takemitsu, Wolpe) to those of composers at the beginning of their careers (Vinao, Fuentes) or of those composers just gaining international recognition (Kurtag, Ruders, Jemitz). Speculum Musicae presents a varied ad multi-cultural look at music.

In addition to an ongoing annual series at Merkin concert Hall in New York city, the ensemble's home base, and a preview series at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, the ensemble tours both in the United States and abroad. Recent seasons have included performances of the American Music series at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Library of Congress, the New Music Los Angeles series, the New York Philharmonic's New Horizons series and Harvard University (for the Fromm Foundation). Overseas, the ensemble has toured Great Britain and Germany and was featured at Poland's Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1986. In 1988, the group performed at the Bath International Festival, including a concert that was taped for television broadcast by the BBGC, and at the City of Geneva Festival.



Susan Palma, flute & piccolo; Stephen Taylor, oboe; Allen Blustine, E-flat, B-flat & bass clarinet; Benjamin Hudson, violin; John Graham, viola; Chris Finckel, cello; Donald Palma, bass; Charles Descarfino & Daniel Druckman, percussion. Robert Black, conductor

Imaginary Dances:

Susan Palma, flute & alto flute; Stephen Taylor, oboe & English horn; Allen Blustine, clarinet & bass clarinet; Charles Descarfino, percussion; Aleck Karis, piano; Benjamin Hudson, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Eric Bartlett, cello; Donald Palma, conductor


Susan Palma, flute; Stephen Taylor, oboe; Allen Bjustine, bass clarinet; Daniel Druckman, percussion; Aleck Karis, piano; Benjamin Hudson, violin; John Graham, viola; Eric Bartlett, cello; Donald Plama, bass; William Purvis, conductor

Chamber Concerto:

Susan Palma, flute; Laura Conweser, piccolo; Allen Blustine, B-flat clarinet; William Purvis, French Horn; Raymond Mase, trumpet; Jonathan Taylor, trombone; David Braynard, tuba; Daniel Druckman, percussion; Gwendolyn Mok, piano; Benjamin Hudson & Carol Zeavin, violins; Loois Martin, viola; Chris Finckel, cello; Marji Danilow, bass; Donald Palma, conductor.

Produced by Marc Aubort & Joanna Nickerenz.

Engineered by Elite Recordings, Inc., NYC.

All recorded at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, NYC.


Recorded on October 23, 1987.

Published by the Association for the Promotion of New Music (BMI).


Recorded on March 23, 1989.

Published by C. F. Peters, (BMI)


Recorded on February 29, 1988.

Published by Margun Music (BMI).


Recorded on March 18, 1986.

Published by Margun Music (ASCAP).


  1. COMMEDIA (1980) (13:43)



  1. I.(5:23)

  2. II. Libermente (5:02)

  3. III. Tema con variazione (5:51)


  1. CHARETTE (1984) (13:45)


  1. CHAMBER CONCERTO (1982) (13:49)