Are You Brave Too ? Festival 4.26.2000

 Brave New Works


First Baptist Church

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Back to Are You Brave Too ? Festival

April 26, 2000

8 pm concert

Brave New Works Presents KYLIX

Paolo Bortolussi - Flute
Sujean Kim - Violin
Nicholas del Grazia - clarinet
Andre Gaskins - Cello
Stephan Wirth - Piano
and guest artists
Andrew Tucker - Percussion
Andrew Hendricks - Baritone


Formed by past and present graduate students from Indiana University's renowned School of Music, Kylix brings together versatile contemporary musicians from around the globe. Between them, the group's members have performed in over twenty countries, collaborated with dozens of composers on projects ranging from film scores to large-scale electro-acoustic works, and continued actively to promote the performance of twentieth-century music at the highest level of artistry.

A mixed quintet with extra members as needed, the group's repertoire ranges from John Adams to Frank Zappa, and has resulted in original, innovative and engaging programming. Whether performing masterworks such as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire or transcriptions of Piazzolla tangos, the members of Kylix believe above all else in communicating the diversity of meaning and value found in great music. To this end, they frequently eschew performing with a conductor, despite the inherent difficulties of such an approach, aiming always to be a true chamber ensemble.

The kylix, a large decorated cup from which the ancient Greeks drank wine at festive occasions, symbolizes the celebration of exciting new music, as well as a respectful toast to the music of the recent and not-so-recent past.



Maurice Ravel
Chansons Madecasses
Flute, cello, piano, voice (baritone)





Dorothy Chang
Bloom (12')
solo cello

Michael Torke
Yellow Pages
flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano

Peter Maxwell Davies
Eight Songs for a Mad King
flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, voice



Eight Songs for a Mad King

The flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, as well as having their usual accompanimental functions in this work, also represent on one level, the bullfinches the King was trying to teach to sing. The King has extended ^Ìdialogues' with these players individually &endash; in No.3 with the flute, in No.4 the cello, in No.6 the clarinet, and in No.7 the violin. The percussion player stands for the King's ^Ìkeeper.' Just as the music of the players is always a comment upon and extension of the King's music, so the ^Ìbullfinch' and ^Ìkeeper' aspects of the players' roles are physical extensions of this musical process &endash; they are projections stemming from the King's words and music, becoming incarnations of facets of the King's own psyche. The sounds made by human beings under extreme duress, physical and mental, will be at least in part familiar. With Roy Hart's extended vocal range, and his capacity for producing chords with his voice (like the clarinet and flute in this work), these poems presented a unique opportunity to categorize and exploit these techniques to explore certain extreme regions of experience, already opened up in my Revelation and Fall, a setting of a German expressionist poem by Trakl. Until quite recently ^Ìmadness' was regarded as something at which to laugh and jeer. The King's historically authentic quotations from the Messiah in the work evoke this sort of mocking response in the instrumental parts &endash; the stylistic switch is unprepared, and arouses an aggressive reaction. I have, however, quoted far more than the Messiah &endash; if not the notes at least aspects of the styles of many composers are referred to, from Handel to Birtwistle. In some ways, I regard the work as a collection of musical objects borrowed form many sources, functioning as musical ^Ìstage props,' around which the reciter's part weaves, lighting them from extraordinary angles, and throwing grotesque and distorted shadows form them, giving the musical ^Ìobjects' an unexpected and sometimes sinister significance. For instance, in No.5, ^ÌThe Phantom Queen', an eighteenth0-sentury suite is intermittently suggested in the instrumental parts, and in the Courante, at the words ^ÌStarve you, strike you,' the flute part hurries ahead in a 7:6 rhythmic proportion, the clarinet's rhythms become dotted, and its part displaced by octaves, the effect being schizophrenic. In No.7, the sense of ^ÌComfort Ye, My People' is turned inside out by the King's reference to Sin, and the ^ÌCountry Dance' of the title becomes a foxtrot. The written-down shape of the music of No.3 becomes an object in fact &endash; it forms a cage, of which the vertical bars are the King's line, and the flute (bullfinch) part moves between and inside these vertical parts. The climax of the work is the end of No.7, where the King snatches the violin through the bats of the player's cage and breaks it. This is not just the killing of a bullfinch &endash; it is a giving-in to insanity, and a ritual murder by the King of a part of himself, after which, at the beginning of No.8, he can announce his own death. As well as their own instruments, the players have mechanical bird song devices operated by clockwork, and the percussion payer has a collection of bird-call instruments. In No.6 &endash; the only number where a straight parody, rather than a distortion or a transformation, of Handel occurs, he operates a didjeridu, the simple hollow tubular instrument of the aboriginals of Arnhem Land in Australia, which functions as a downward extension of the timbre of the ^Ìcrow.'

The keyboard player moves between piano and harpsichord, sometimes acting as continuo, sometimes becoming a second percussion part, and sometimes adding independently developing musical commentary. The work was written in February and March 1969. -- Peter Maxwell Davies

A note on the text The poems forming the text of this work were suggested by a miniature mechanical organ playing eight tunes, once the property of George III. A scrap of paper sold with it explains that ^ÌThis Organ was George the third for Birds to sing.' Another fragment identifies its second owner as ^ÌJames Hughes who served his Majesty George 3 near 30 years penshen of in 1812 at 30 pouns year served HRH princes Augusta 8 years Half penshen of in 1820 at 30 year.' The organ remained in the family of Hughes until a few years ago, when it was acquired by the Hon. Sir Steven Runcimen, who in 1966 demonstrated it to me. It left a peculiar and disturbing impression. One imagined the King, in his purple dressing-gown and ermine night-cap, struggling to teach birds to make the music which he could so rarely torture out of his flute and harpsichord. Or trying to sing with them, in that ravaged voice, made almost inhuman by day-long soliloquies, which once murdered Handel for Fanny Burney's entertainment. There were echoes of the story of the Emperor's nightingale. But this Emperor was mad; and at times he knew it, and wept. The songs are to be understood as the King's monologue while listening to his birds perform, and incorporate some sentences actually spoken by George II. The quotations, and a description of most of the incidents to which reference is made, can be found in the chapters on George II in The Court at Windsor by Christopher Hibbert (Longmans and Penguin Books). -- Randolph Stow

1. The Sentry

King Prussia's Minuet

Good day to Your Honesty: God guard who guards the gate.
Here is the key of the Kingdom.
You are a pretty fellow: next month I shall give you a cabbage.
Undo the door!
Who has stolen my key? Ach! my Kingdom is snakes and dancing,
my Kingdom is locks and slithering. Make room!
Pity me, pity me, pity me. Child,
child, whose son are you?

2. The Country Walk
La Promenade

Dear land of sheep and cabbages. Dear land.
Dear elms, oaks, beeches, strangling ivy,
green snakes of ivy, pythons. God guard trees.
Blue-yellow-green is the world like a chained man's bruise.
I think of God. God also is a King.

3. The Lady-in-Waiting
Miss Musgrave's Fancy

Madam, let us talk, let us talk.
Madam, I mean no harm.
Only to remember, to remember
what it was that through silk,
lace, linen and brocade
swooped on my needle. To remember. Madam,
let us talk, I mean no harm.

4. To Be Sung on the Water
The Waterman

Sweet Thames, sweet Thames, far, far have I followed thee.
God guard my people.
Sweet Thames, flow soft. Flow, burdened by my people
(deliver me of my people; they are within)
to Eden garden, unto Eden garden
in Hanover, Bermuda or New South Wales.
Sweet Thames, flow soft. Evacuate my people.
I am weary of this feint. I am alone.

5. The Phantom Queen
He's Ay A-Kissing Me

Where is the Queen, who does she not visit me?
Esther! O my heart's ease.
Have they chained you too, my darling, in a stable?
Do they starve you, strike you, scorn you, ape your howls?
They say some other woman is my wife,
but the Queen's name is Esther
Fall on my eyes, O bride, like a starless night.

6. The Counterfeit
Le Conterfaite

I am nervous. I am not ill
but I am nervous.
If you would know what is the matter with me
I am nervous.
But I love you both very well;
if you would tell me the truth.
I love Doctor Heberden best; for he has not told me a lie
Sir George has told me a lie: a white lie, he says
but I hate a white like!
If you tell me a lie,
let it be a black lie!

7. Country Dance
Scotch Bonnet

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people
With singing and with dancing,
With milk and with apples.
The landlord at the Three Tuns
Makes the best purl in Windsor.
Sin! Sin! Sin!
Black vice, intolerable vileness
In lanes, by ricks, at Courts. It is night on the world.
Even I, your King, have contemplated evil.
I shall rule with a rod of iron.
Comfort ye.

8. The Review
A Spanish March

My people: I come before you in mourning,
On my breast a star.
The King is dead.
A good-hearted gentleman, a humble servant of God,
A loving husband, an affectionate sire.
Poor fellow, he want mad.
He talked with trees, attacked his eldest son,
Disowned his wife, to make a ghost his Queen &endash;
A ghost his Queen.
So they seized him (yes!) and they whipped him
(ach! yes!) starved him, jeered in his face,
while he talked he talked he talked he talked he talked:
they could not shave him, his mouth was never still.
Sometimes he howled like a dog.
And he veiled the mirrors not to see himself pass by
For his eyes had turned to blackcurrant jelly.
Poor fellow, I weep for him.
He will die howling.

Randolph Stow and King George III

Chansons Madecasses
mark the last in a series of vocal works which explore the sounds of exotic realms. Written in 1926, they were preceded by "A Thousand and One Nights" (1903) which evokes oriental Arabia, the "Cinq Melodies Populaires Grecques" (1907), "Chants Populaires" (1910) which explore the sounds of Italy, Russia and Scotland, and the "Deux Melodies Hebraiques" of 1914. The "Chansons Madecasses" are settings of three poems by Evariste Parny, a frenchman who lived in the tropics in the eighteenth century. Although Parny claimed the poems were simply translations of the original Madgascan, it has since been proved that they are in fact his own writings. The first poem "Nahandove" is an erotic, ardent love song, "Aoua" is a battle cry directed against the white inhabitants of the coast who threaten to oppress and tyrannize the islanders, "Il est doux" is a tender lyrical Idyll, a prelude to nocturne sung into the evening wind. Ravel described his composition as "a kind of quartet in which the voice plays the part of the main instrument." At this point in his career, Ravel strove to move away from the use of harmonic devices to drive a piece, rather, he wanted to return to "the spirit of true melody". In the "Chansons", each part is treated independently, and the texture is created by the interweaving of the various lines.



Yellow Pages

"Bloom" is, in an abstract way, about the process of creation or transformation. This 'blooming; is, however, not a gentle and delicate metamorphosis but a struggle which is at times fiery and harsh. The first movement "emerging", reflects this idea with one large wedge shape in which a slow quiet opening passage builds to a high point of intensity, only to push on with no release until the very end of the movement. "playful" has a lighter feel, yet even this scherzo has moments which echo the aggressiveness of the previous movement. In "hushed" there is, at last, peace and a quiet stasis through repetitions of a simple motive which appears with only slight variations.







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