25: Concert 1 | Musical Essence

Baakisimba Idioms Damascus Kafumbe
This piece is based on the rhythmic vocabulary of the baakisimba musical genre of the Baganda. The performers use 6/8 time (typical of baakisimba rhythms) as a framework for a musical conversation that is both planned and spontaneous. Such structured improvisation is a major characteristic of baakisimba and the Baganda’s music in general. (Notes by the composer.)

Omwenge: Suite for Woodwinds (2012) (premiere) Damascus Kafumbe
This work is a four-movement suite written for an E-flat clarinet, a piccolo, an alto saxophone, and a bassoon. Rooted in the traditional folklore and musical style of the Baganda people of Uganda, the piece is a musical representation of a drama about a home troubled by its alcoholic head. The opening movement of the work symbolizes the victim lamenting how sorrowful he will be if he ever fails to find beer. This act triggers rebuke from his family members, who accuse him of drinking throughout the night. The tension that develops in the victim’s home when he chokes on beer is captured by the second movement. Worried that he is nearing his death, the household head makes a will in which he reveals his expectations for his relatives. The third movement represents the courage that the alcoholic’s wife summons amidst this tragedy to confront him about the unbearable consequences of his humiliating drunken behavior. She bravely declares to her family and friends that she can neither stand the husband’s drinking nor tolerate his nonsensical conduct that often turns him into a nuisance. The fourth and final movement symbolizes the victim pondering his wife’s reproach, which in turn causes him to resolve to only drinking beer far away from his home. The E-flat clarinet represents the household head and his wife, while the rest of the instruments signify other characters participating in the drama. (Notes by the composer.)

Giè Dennis Báthory-Kitsz
Bringing ancient and modern together, Giè combines word games, late medieval sensibility, quasi-improvisation, modern instruments and traditional djembe playing into a gentle fabric of sound that might be heard anywhere in the world. A modified palindrome, the music twists and turns back on itself, weaving non-retrogradable rhythms into and open fourths and fifths, sweet chords, and even the momentary transfer of sound to the ensemble players’ voices—singing scat-like unabashedly on the street corner or in the shower. Giè—the word means “interruptions” in Latvian—keeps interrupting itself to change its path through time while trying to retrace that very path home. Giè was commissioned by the VCME for this concert. (Notes by the composer.)

O Vox Pop Dennis Báthory-Kitsz
The Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble has always been the recipient of my most adventurous, thoughtful and difficult pieces. Following the premiere of the intense “New Granite” late in 2007, Steve Klimowski asked for something more accommodating to instrumental pleasure, or just more fun. “O Vox Pop” was the result, a piece in two continuous movements. It begins with a sweet, song-like conversation between bass clarinet and bassoon, with slithering harmonies and shifting rhythms. Pausing uncertainly, it then leaps into a rhythmic chase – one instrument first follows and then leads the other, squeezing out the first movement melody and changing places and sweeping across the instruments’ ranges: it is a caccia in rock sensibility. “O Vox Pop” is made for the pleasure of the players and the audience. (Notes by the composer.)

Lexanne (premiere) David Gunn
In a slightly revisionist spelling, “Lexanne” first appeared as the theme of my 342nd introductory essay* to Kalvos and Damian’s New Music Bazaar, a radio show of some repute. Quoth the essay, “Lexann was the name of a 1969 Merle Hackaway hit that stayed atop the country music charts for four consecutive months” that “had all the components of a good country and western melodrama – desire, passion, anger, revenge, tragedy, a cameo by the Marshmallow Fluff Fairy ….” The year was 2001 (as if that should explain everything). Lexanne has little in common with Lexann, and even less with Lexan®, a heat-resistant polycarbonate resin discovered in 1953. It’s scored for four woodwinds, instruments that Lexann eschewed, much as modern woodwind artisans shun the use of Lexan® in their products. Lexanne’s 11? minutes comprise not movements but mood swings, a trait that it shares with Lexann (but, so far as I know, not with Lexan®). Can you spot the moment that it/she is picked up by Dr. Dan Fox – the U.S. chemist who discovered Lexan® – as she’s hitchhiking to Needles, California? What serendipity! (*click here to read entire text)

Dances for clarinet & guitar Daniel Kessner
Dances was written in 1997 at the request of my cousins, Richard Lesser, then Principal Clarinetist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jordan Charnofsky, prominent Los Angeles area guitarist. However, since the two of them never found themselves on the same continent long enough to perform it together, the premiere performances featured them separately: in July of 1998 Richard gave the first performance in Tel Aviv with guitarist Doron Salomon; then in March of 2000, Jordan did the first American performance with clarinetist Julia Heinen at California State University, Northridge. The two have joined forces to record it on a recently-released CD with Crystal Records. Since then, I have also completed versions of it for flute/alto flute and guitar and for oboe/English horn and guitar. (Notes by the composer.)

Di Primavera (1998, rev. 2001) for guitar and marimba Maria Grenfell
Di Primavera for guitar and marimba was inspired by a trip to Italy, an astonishing place that overflows with artistry in every aspect of its culture. Di Primavera (“of Spring”) is reminiscent of warm spring breezes inviting a late afternoon thunderstorm in the Tuscan hills, the lusciousness of Botticelli’s painting “Primavera,” and echoes of a melodic idea derived from Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals. (Notes by the composer.)