from NEWORLD 1978, No.2
Because of the economics of the concert world in this country, it is difficult to hear new music. Time was, and not so very long ago at that, that audiences wanted only new music. One of the reasons Joseph Haydn wrote 104 symphonies was to keep up with a demand; smaller and more selective audiences of yesteryear didn't want to listen to the same piece over and over. The mass audiences of today, however, want their top forty and only that, and management, itself a modern phenomenon, complies out of what it sees as fiscal necessity. This, of course, has reached the level of a self-fulfilling prophecy: since audiences seldom hear anything new, they are unable to acquaint themselves with new techniques and ideas and thus gain an understanding of new music. Since they don't understand it, they don't want to hear it and we are back to square one.
This also means it is difficult for composers to get their work performed. Especially if they are young and unknown. (Perhaps if they were very young - twelve or thirteen - it would be different. Audiences tend to put up with a lot of nonsense from pre-pubescent musicians.) The ways around this are not legion. You can have your parents buy you an orchestra; you can stay in school forever, being performed on the obligatory student composer concerts and heard by practically nobody; you can threaten to hold your breath until Zubin Mehta agrees to perform your piece; or you can organize and try for a frontal assault.
The Independent Composers' Association (I.C.A.) is a group of eleven young composers who banded together in 1976 to promote contempoary music, to create a new audience for this music and to encourage the growth and creativity of experimental music.
Their first concert series, held last year in Santa Monica, presented twenty-one pieces, none more than three years old, explored a variety of styles and techniques including electronic music and mixed media works. I.C.A. members have appeared on local radio stations KUSC, KPFK, KCRW, playing and discussing their work.
The members of I.C.A. come from varied backgrounds and their music is likewise diverse. President Jan Greenwald, now living in New York, has worked in several multi-media works. She toured Europe last year with fellow member Carey Lovelace as part of Simultaneous Arts and Company. Carey is now studying in Paris. Richard Amromin, acting president while Jan is in New York, won the prestigious 1976 Cuidad de Zaragoza award. Robert Jacobs works in graphic arts as well as being an accomplished player on the clarinet, saxophone and recorder. Anna Rubin originally studied sociology and has done considerable research on the history of women in music. Lois Vierk and Steve Mitchell are both pursuing their Masters' degrees in composition at California Institute of the Arts. Drew Lesso is recently returned from Germany where he studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen. David Ocker is a professional music copyist for such popular musicians as Frank Zappa. Susan Palmer, a full-time member of the L.A. Zen Center, has had several commissions; she is also a pianist. Scott Fraser is a professional recording engineer.
The group is now preparing the Second Second Story Series, four concerts of new music on April 16 and 30, May 7 and 28. The concerts will be at the Larchmont Center for Yoga (on the second story), 230 1/2 No. Larchmonth Blvd., Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m. (Call 464-1276 for information and reservations.)
The first concert will highlight works by women. In addition to works by Anna Rubin, Jan Greenwald, Carey Lovelace and Lois Vierk, internationally known composers Pauline Oliveros will be present to supervise the performance of one of her new works. Ms. Oliveros is best know for her chamber and electronic music.
Subsequent concerts will feature electronic music, a variety of chamber music, music for amplified instruments and solo works. The last concert on May 28 will feature Terry Riley, well-known composer and performer, who will supervise the performance of In C, (available on a Columbia recording).
Anna Rubin, spokewoman for I.C.A., says: "The concerts will be informal, informative and of course fun. We want people to realize that new music is accessible and as interesting as new events in visual arts, cinema, etc."
Wednesday, May 31, 1978
Part IV, page 12
Many ideas, astrological and otherwise, invade the listener's thoughts while hearing "In C." Terry Riley's watershed 1964 work, which closed the second "Second Story" series in Larchmont Center Sunday night, seems to loosen, through its droning intensity, cracks in the ceiling of the mind.
The work, of course, is open-ended in that its length and progress are variable and flexible. This performance, presided over not in the conductorial but in the spiritual sense by the composer, occupied 54 minutes' time and used 25 players. For one watching the skeletal score - printed on the back of the series program - it was a performance of utter clarity, though such clarity also includes projection of the basic mystery of this work: that is to say, the physical acts of producing "in C" net metaphysical results.
Under half-dimmed lights in a second-story yoga classroom, between a Safeway and a Baskin Robbins, this extraordinay event took place. To one observer, the impressive closing of a second series cosponsored by the Independent Composers Assn. and Larchmont Center (the yogic connection) cause regret that earlier visits to an obviously enterprising impressarial entity had not been made. Clearly, ICA is making some things happen.
Besides "In C," what happened Sunday were apparently strong performances of newish works by Carey Lovelace, Dave Ocker and Lois Vierk.
The Oriental calm that pervades Lovelace's "Odes" (1976) for four instruments and readers does not disguise the attractive undercurrent of Oriental violence built into the work. Ocker's "Backward, Looking, Forward, " Book II (1977), for seven players used in sets of three through six highly charged and evocative pieces, shows skill, pitiness of thought and high promise. Vierk's brief but telling "Kana" for male voices displays wit, point and a resourceful ear. And none of these three pieces suffered from sharing program space with Riley's historic mural.
Tuesday, May 30, 1978 -
For the first time in recent memory, there was a real sense of occasion at a new music concert. The Independent Composers' Association pulled off this minor coup in the unlikely but pleasant Larchmont Center for Yoga at the final concert of their second season Sunday night.
The uncommonly large and excited crowd came for a rare local appearance by Terry Riley, who led a performance of his "In C." During the last decade Riley blazed a new path for a modern music that had become hopelessly complex and mathematically befuddled. The rich texture of overlapping short melodic phrases of "In C" have been widely imitated, yet their appeal has not palled. And one still marvels at the clever approach to improvisation that never obscures the work's form or identity and that requires neither virtuoso musicians nor an indroctrinated audience.
The chamber sensemble, 24 strong, played with a combination of reverence and inspired energy. The momentum was spicier, the rhythms more angular, and a few of the performers a little more egotistically demanding of the spotlight than desirable; but the audience gave unflagging attention for 55 minutes despire the stiffling heat in the tightly packed hall.
The rest of the program was devoted to three pieces, each with a special effect. The most intriguing was Lois Vierk's tantalizingly brief "Kana," in which she expressively combined exotic vocal glissandi and syllabic articulations in antiphonal tenor and bass choirs.
Dave Ocker's six short pieces "Backward Looking, Forward (Book II)" had the difficult problem of swaying an audience initially startled by disagreeably harsh attacks. But he did so in the ultimately engaging piece. Carey Lovelace's pointillistic "Odes" disembodied four impressionistic poems with little phonetic invention and repetitious atmospheric effects.
Tuesday, May 30, 1978 - page B-7
I saw that the '60s never ended, and in fact began a creative musical tradition, at a concert put on by a group of young musicians called the Independent Composers Association in Los Angeles Sunday night.
That the program took place in the Larchmont Center for Yoga suggest how the avant-garde (this part, at least) has matured beyond the need to be outrageous. Despite the outrageous heat, the young, hip listeners (some with infants in arm) displayed as serious musical concerns as the very committed musicians.
THE focus of the evening was Terry Riley's In C (1964) led by the composer - a work which figures as one of the classics in this new tradition. It consists of 53 phrases which each performer (this time 22) plays in order, but with no determined timing, against pulsating octaves (in C) on the piano.
The 55-minute affair seemed a Western tribal incantation, a jubilant, compelling, intensely focused experience. As the overlapping phrases proceeded ineluctably, individual voices (those of the brass especially) surfaced with passionate bravura or ominous Wagnerian calls. The playing had a wholly convincing musicality, showing how the piece is not just exotic tricks.
ONE ALSO saw method in what might have been madness in "Kana" (1976) for six male voices by Lois Vierk.
Derived from the ancient Japanese 'gagaku" tradition, the smoothly interwined (sic) vocal lines made ample musical sense out of monosyllables, whines, whispers and lots else. It all seemed rather Italian in its suave lyricism and perky humor.
A haiku-like piece turned up as well in "Odes" (1976) by Carey Lovelace, a succession of brittle sounds (for four instruments) and disassociated words (four speakers) set to poems by Liza Braude. Though somewhat longer than seemed appropriate to the idiom, it fused the vocal and instrumental sonorities in a delicate and affecting manner.
"Backward Looking, Forward" (1977) by Dave Ocker for three clarinets and three percussion, however, seemed still a student exercize (sic) in newfangled counterpoint.
Second Second Story Series
Larchmonth Center for Yoga, L.A.
May 30, 1978
Larchmont Village is a sleepy little community just to the south of old Hollywood, along the lines of a small-scale Beverly Hills: quiet and conservative. However, on weekend evenings during the spring, the area became the center for some of the most interesting music in L.A. punk rock on alternate Fridays, and through April and May, contemporary music at the unusual venue of the second floor of The Larchmont Center for Yoga. Sponsored jointly by the latter and the Independent Composers Association, a group of eleven young Southern California composers, "The Second Second Story Series" consisted of four concerts, largely highlighting works by members of the ICA, but culminating in a performance of Terry Riley's in C, led by the composer himself.
Composed in San Francisco in 1964 when Riley was 29, In C has become one of the seminal works of the twentieth century, influencing all areas of music, but in particular looking forward to Riley's later preoccupations with North Indian raga music. The work consists of a pulse of even octave eighth notes pounded throughout on the top two c notes of a keyboard. Overlaying this, each member of the orchestra plays the 53 short figures of the score in sync with the pulse, moving consecutively from 1 to 53. The musician is completely free as to where he places his downbeats, and as to how often and how long he pauses between figures. The piece ends when all players finish figure 53.
This particular performance was something of a revelation. The excellence of the musicianship was aided by the receptive condition of the audience, our sensual perception having been heightened by the incredibly hot evening and the absense of air conditioning in the hall. Most people were beginning to feel groggy by the beginning of In C and the perpetual pounding rhythm of the pulse and repetitive overlays of the 53 figures produced an intense experience as if being pounded into submission all the more effectively to appreciate the nuances of the orchestration. One's mind drifted into a dreamlike state for long periods, overwhelmed by the totality of the piece while at other times on could concentrate on the rhythm or on each indivicual instrument. In C is not an electronic piece, yet it somehow seems electronic, conjuring up the electronic pulses of the German sequencer-dominated music of Hoenig Schulze and Tangerine Dream.
The first half of the concert consisted of three short works that in the case of the first two sounded very interesting in theory, but like most conceptual pieces, were somewhat arid in performance. Carey Lovelace's Odes counterpointed four instrumentalists with four speakers who recited three poems in a fragmented, repetitive form, to create an "ambient" total that was at once a whole and a series of fragments. It was not altogether successful, although Scott Fraser produced some interesting electronic distortions on guitar, and one found oneself concentrating on him rather than the piece as a whole.
Dave Ocker's Backward, Looking, Forward (Book 11) consisted of six short pieces for three clarinets, three percussionists and piano and was rather hollow, although producing occasional interesting crescendos. In totality, the piece was too dryly academic in its juxtapositions, although not unpleasant for all that.
The best of the three was Lois Vierk's Kana for tenors and basses, a set of three short pieces sung a cappella, consisting of rising and falling sound textures, both interacting and counterpointing to produce alternately flowing and rhythmic patterns. It was a refreshing end to the first half of the evening, all the more welcome for its humor and a tasty hors d'oeuvre for the entree to follow.