Thea Musgrave

The embodied voice: Thea Musgrave and Kui Dong

Below are two very different yet fantastic examples of perfomative choral music, and each brings entirely different musical and cultural influences to their work.  Thea Musgrave and Kui Dong are two of my favorite coposers who work in the avant-garde and yet ancient tradition of giving their musical performers performative cues as part of their musical score.  In works such as those below, these composers treat the physical presentation of the music as inseperable from the score itself, yet they present their works in a composed music setting as opposed to a theatrical or otherwise traditionally performative setting — to great effect.

Kui Dong (董葵, born 1966, Beijing, China) is a Chinese-American composer, musician, and teacher. She is known for her music which has often incorporated traditional Chinese music into contemporary contexts, and is currently Professor of Music at Dartmouth College.

Thea Musgrave(b. 27 May 1928) is a Scottishcomposer of opera and classical music.  In 1970 she became Guest Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a position which confirmed her increasing involvement with the musical life of the United States, where she has lived since 1972. She has received the Koussevitsky Award (1974) as well as two Guggenheim Fellowships (1974/5 and 1982/3). From 1987 to 2002 she was Distinguished Professor at Queen’s College, City University of New York. She holds honorary degrees from Old Dominion University (Virginia), Glasgow University, Smith College and the New England Conservatoire in Boston. In 2002 she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

PLAYLIST 04: AUTUMN

Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period.Duchamp’s first musical work, Erratum Musical, is a score for three voices derived from the chance procedure. During a New Year’s visit in Rouen in 1913, he composed this vocal piece with his two sisters, Yvonne and Magdeleine, both musicians. They randomly picked up twenty-five notes from a hat ranging from F below middle C up to high F. The notes then were recorded in the score according to the sequence of the drawing. The three vocal parts of Erratum Musical are marked in sequence as "Yvonne," "Magdeleine" and "Marcel." (Duchamp replaced the highest notes with the lower ones in order to make the piece singable for a male voice.) The words that accompanied the music were from a dictionary’s definition of "imprimer" - Faire une empreinte; marquer des traits; une figure sur une surface; imprimer un scau sur cire (To make an imprint; mark with lines; a figure on a surface; impress a seal in wax). Duchamp’s first musical work, Erratum Musical, is a score for three voices derived from the chance procedure. During a New Year’s visit in Rouen in 1913, he composed this vocal piece with his two sisters, Yvonne and Magdeleine, both musicians. They randomly picked up twenty-five notes from a hat ranging from F below middle C up to high F. The notes then were recorded in the score according to the sequence of the drawing. The three vocal parts of Erratum Musical are marked in sequence as "Yvonne," "Magdeleine" and "Marcel." (Duchamp replaced the highest notes with the lower ones in order to make the piece singable for a male voice.) The words that accompanied the music were from a dictionary’s definition of "imprimer" - Faire une empreinte; marquer des traits; une figure sur une surface; imprimer un scau sur cire (To make an imprint; mark with lines; a figure on a surface; impress a seal in wax).

Thea Musgrave is a Scottish composer of opera and classical music. Rich and powerful musical language and a strong sense of drama have made Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave one of the most respected and exciting contemporary composers in the Western world.  Her compositions were first performed under the auspices of the British Broadcasting Corporation and at the Edinburgh International Festival. As a result her works have been widely performed in Britain, Europe and the USA, and at the major music festivals, such as Edinburgh, Warsaw Autumn, Florence Maggio Musicale, Venice Biennale, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham and Zagreb; on most of the European and American broadcasting stations; and on many regular symphony concert series. "Black Tambourine", on six poems of Hart Crane, is performed as a continuous 18 minute span. The cycle captures the wide range of moods of the poetry, from the madrigal-like trio of ‘Pastoral' to the tinkling salon piano of "My Grandmother's Love Letters".

Camberwell Now were formed in London in 1982 after the demise of This Heat featuring one of the founders of that group, drummer and vocalist Charles Hayward, bassist and vocalist Trefor Goronwy, who had joined This Heat to replace Gareth Williams after the latter had quit the band, and This Heat's former sound technician Stephen Rickard, who brought the studio to the stage with the revolutionary and possibly unique "tape switchboard".  In all, the band released one album, The Ghost Trade, two 12" EPs, MeridianGreenfingers, two tracks for the Sub Rosa Myths/Instructions album and a track for the Touch audio cassette/magazine. Most of this material was later reissued in CD form as All's Well by RecRec Music in 1992, and this compilation was remastered and reissued in November 2006 by ReR Megacorp.

June of 44 is s an American rock band which was formed in 1994 from ex-members of Rodan, Lungfish, Rex, and Hoover. The band's music is often described as 'math rock'.  The band's name refers to June Miller, wife of author Henry Miller.  The band toured extensively and reached as far as Australia. Often referred to as the punk rock pirates of the math rock world, June of 44 were a collective from 1994–2000. All the members were living in different cities at the time. Often cited for their artistic hand crafted record packaging, June of 44 had six releases in as many years before members went on to form HiM, The Sonora Pine, Shipping News and Rachel's. This seminal band created music that ranged from experimental jazz to ambient dub to angular post punk.

A Minor Forest was a San Francisco-based math rock band in the 1990s. They were musically related to the Louisville scene of post rock groups like Slint and had personal connections to the San Diego scene of Three Mile Pilot and related bands. Their songs had pop music, progressive rock, and punk rock influences and featured changing time signatures, sudden dynamic changes, silent pauses, unintelligible screaming, catchy, repeating melodic passages and absurd, in-joke titles. Their slogan was "A Minor Forest Supports the Destruction of Mankind." They formed in San Francisco in 1992 and, in addition to other smaller releases, put out three albums: Flemish Altruism (1996) and Inindependence (1998) on Chicago label Thrill Jockey, and So, Were They in Some Sort of Fight? (1999), a career-spanning compilation on My Pal God records. They played their last show on November 1, 1998 at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

The Swords Project was formed in late 1999 in Portland, Oregon. Under this moniker, they released an ep, 2001’s The Swords Project, which was followed two years later by their only full-length album, Entertainment Is Over If You Want It. In 2003, the band shortened their name to Swords. In 2006, the band announced they would be breaking up.