* New scores from Kyle Gann, Daniel Goode, Paul Schick, Simon
* New CDs from Cold Blue, Ilya Monosov, Dan Plonsey, Simon
* Frog Speak: Texts by Peter Garland and Daniel Goode
NEW FROG PEAK SCORES
Kyle Gann SCORES
Transcendental Sonnets (on poems by Jones Very). For SATB
chorus, soprano and tenor soloists, and orchestra. Gan17 (study
score). $25. Gan18 (piano vocal score). $15.
Daniel Goode SCORES
PATHS for piano. Goo25. $15.
PATHS II: Piano Concerto. For piano, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin,
viola. Goo26 (score & parts: vn., va., pno.). $25.
Circular Thoughts. For solo clarinet. Goo27. $15.
Paul Schick SCORE
SÄCHSELÜTE. Sextet for clarinet in A, cello, e. guitar, piano,
bass, percussion. Schi07 (score & parts). $25.
Simon Wickham-Smith SCORES
The Humpbacks. For 2 oboes, SATB soloists, string trio. Wic01 (score &
Snyder Triptych. For countertenor and piano. Wic02. $15.
The Extraordinary Levitation of Dreams. Wic03 (score & parts).
Clouds and Stillness. For harp and electronics. Wic04 (score &
chhöld. 2 trumpets, soprano, accordion and piano. Wic05 (score &
asterisks in,breathing. Solo piano. Wic06. $15.
sky's in featherfall. String quartet. Wic07 (score & parts).
Wild Geese. For flute, trombone, glockenspiel, tubular chimes, ST
soloists, violin, cello. Wic08 (score & parts). $25.
Please visit http://www.frogpeak.org/newitems.html for complete
NEW CDs FROM FROG PEAK ARTISTS
Cold Blue Music CDs
Jim Fox. The City the Wind Swept Away. Fox17. $9.
Daniel Lentz. Los Tigres de Marte. Fox18. $9.
Michael Jon Fink. A Temperament for Angels. Fox19. $9.
Steve Peters. From Shelter. Fox20. $9.
Ilya Monosov CDs
Music for Listening. Mon04. $25.
Dan Plonsey CDs
Ivory Bill. Music for solo and multiple saxophones. Plo01. $15.
Baseball Season. Plo02. $15.
What Leave Behind. Toychestra and Fred Frith. Plo03. $15.
Daniel Popsicle "Jazz" at Yoshi's. Plo04. $15.
Manufacturing Humidifiers: Dire Images of Beauty. Plo05. $15.
Daniel Popsicle - Music of El Cerrito Volume 2A. Plo06. $15.
Simon Wickham-Smith CDs
Murrinh Kulerrkkurrk. Wic09. $15.
two4dancin. Wic10. $15.
Please visit http://www.frogpeak.org/newitems.html for complete
FROG SPEAK: Texts by Daniel Goode and Peter Garland
from Daniel Goode, Guppy 6 (Goo28): LETTER FROM VIENNA
The Problem of the Orchestra. I recently told a new Viennese
acquaintance, a philosopher, that I was obessesed with the idea of the
orchestra, though I hadn t really composed for that medium since my
student days and a little after. She said that to her the orchestra
represented the ideals of the Enlightenment and of Beethoven s part
in that. Something about freedom she said, a glorious, even
overwelming sound of humankind.
The orchestra s ideal status as the expression of individuals merged
into a collectivity-in-unity, singing some part of ourselves back to
us in an awe-inspiring, expressive language, is not something talked
about in my musical circles. The Symphony Orchestra is either shunned
as an elite item purposefully kept out of the hands of the children of
the avant-garde, or it is grimly and slavishly courted as a source of
commissions, royalties, and publications. Few composers I know will
exhult in the sheer overwelming power of its sound, of the
monumentality of ninety-to-a-hundred human beings with one leader,
doing together something of such precision and difficulty that really
has no other exemplar in Western culture.
Most of us, on the other hand, know orchestral players who gripe and
bitterly complain either about their conductor, their terms of
employment, or the boredom of playing what they have to play every
day, and when pushed to articulate more, will say that the orchestral
life is a crass negation of the very ideals that brought them into
music in the first place. Of course I m speaking of Americans now,
but the strange and contradictory place of the orchestra in
contemporary life is a worldwide urban phenomenon. It is a grand,
grandiose, expensive, elitist, and European institution (even when
found in Asia), an unlikely institution to survive in postmodern
global capitalism where digital information is primary, and
inefficient skilled manual labor is some kind of atavistic holdover of
pre-digital civilizations. Yet no country espousing Western ideals can
do without a nice handful of these relics.
And if you ask me, the orchestral sound is one of the most thrilling
things on earth. Yet there is something profoundly wrong with the deep
structure of the orchestra and this is connected to the way it fails
to unite the past of its tradition and the present-day state of
musical creativity. One cause is the Modernist attack on the past,
which included an attack on magisterial largeness. In the early
20th-century, Schoenberg, in his Chamber Symphony No.1, paired down
the orchestra to a string quintet and single winds. This kind of
ensemble of about fifteen musicians fulfilled a minimum harmonic and
contrapuntal requirement for his, now, post-romantic music and would
become one kind of model for the "radio orchestra" sound
engineers could always enrich the sound if necessary! But the large
symphony orchestra survived this attempt at streamlining, and
full-sized radio orchestras still exist and thrive in Europe (though
they were summarily dismissed from American s totally commercialized
radio decades ago). Still, composers often felt that the symphony
orchestra was the not the ideal medium for their ideas, especially
neoclassic ones, or post-Webern, pointillist ones.
What makes an individual instrument primarily a harmonic instrument,
and the large ensemble, the orchestra, also a harmonic instrument is
the same phenomenon: the harmonic (or overtone) series. Each principle
note in the instrument s scale is a resonant fundament that is
reinforced by the largely indiscernible overtones which are piled,
skyscraper-wise, above the heard tone (the fundamental) in multiples
of the fundamental s vibrational frequency, while adding at the same
time a shimmering, a highlighting to the instrument s tone. As a
kind of bonus, the relative strength or weakness of each overtone
contributes to the tone color, which helps us hear the difference
between a flute, an oboe, a violin, a french horn, and so on. This has
been known since the 19th-century scientific discoveries of
What is interesting about the giant orchestra as it ended up in the
late 19th-century and continues on into the present, is that the
weighting of instruments by volume emphasizes the the same pattern as
the the overtone series. In the low end of the the orchestral range we
have a group of string basses, and a tuba and trombone section,
augmented by the low kettledrums and often a piano, even an organ.
Then in the middle range we have all the other instruments. In the
highest range we have the top of the flute and oboe ranges, the
piccolo and the harmonics of the violin section, the top of the piano
range, and the glockenspiel. Blurring the distinction between a single
low note resonated by all the higher instruments in the manner of the
harmonic series on a single instrument and the orchestra s giant
major chord (or "seventh chord") is a wonderful, if
occasional "show-stopping" sound found in Wagner, Strauss,
and less ostentatiously, in most 19th-century composers here and
there: the giant, full-range major chord.
Once a composer understands the principle behind this harmonic sound
either en masse or in the individual instrument (and acoustics is now
part of the composer's standard training), a lot of other
possibilities start to creep out of the background. First, you don t
need the particularly large numbers of the large orchestra or of its
particular standard distribution. Only the scored orchestration of the
symphonic classics determines that we shall have thus many flutes,
thus many horns, trumpets, etc. Nothing else! Second, there are many,
many ways of getting the giant chord-sound accoustically without using
exactly that large-orchestra distribution. Further, there are other
characteristics of "harmonic music" besides this giant
resonant chord phenomenon: for example, the tendency to outline sound
with a prominent bass line and a prominant treble, or "melody"
line. Then there are endless variations on this in which, for example,
the melody is surrounded closesly by smaller intervals like thirds and
fourths (Ravel s flick of the orchestrational hand in Bolero).
This is just the beginning of compositional thinking about a large
ensemble that is not the prototypical arrangement of the standard
orchestra. Once freed from the tyranny of that arrangement, the idea
of the large sound played by a large number of people becomes again a
progressive idea and not a deadly museum of ex-Enlightenment
provenance. It is once more something that can have the freshness and
exhuberance of the earliest orchestral sound of Stamitz, Mozart,
Haydn, von Weber, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and their peers, but without
the necessity of cleaving to their styles. Let us fantasize just a few
ad hoc "orchestras."
Fifteen trombones, fifty violas, five saxophones, ten flutes,
Two tubas, three contra-bassoons, ten clarinets, fifteen
violins, two pianos, percussion.
Thirty cellos, thirty oboes (and english horns), fifteen harps,
Of course every orchestra manager, orchestra contractor, conductor,
orchestral trustee knows that this is an impossible way to parse the
orchestra. It makes no financial sense and maybe very little
programatic sense. We would need to have a different conception of
moving from the sonic idea to the concert program. But let me sketch a
somewhat utopian fantasy of the Flexible Orchestra: given a big city,
composers would work with each other to develop a particular
combination of instruments for, let us say, two or three repeated
programs (more if you include touring). They compose for this unique
ad hoc large ensemble. The contractor hires from the union book the
number and types of instruments required for this program. Of course
some cities might not support thirty professional oboists or fifteen
harpists, so regional differences will emerge. They might themselves
be interesting orchestral discoveries which composers could exploit.
Perhaps Memphis has a plethora of saxophonists but very few
piccolo-ists. San Francisco may have a huge number of
One can find endless ways to object to the fantasy I am sketching
here. But funding would be a prime objection. How could a community
fund both a standard orchestra and the ever-changing Flexible
Orchestra? Well, funding for the arts in general is a bitter
battleground, especially in America where encrustations of gigantic
wealth never yet seen in the history of the world are coupled with
ever-declining public services and skeletonized funding for public
education and culture. There is a revolution to be fought here for
more than just the Flexible Orchestra. Yet even without the larger
struggle for a fairer and healthier distribution of national weath, we
might suggest that maybe every city need not have the standard
orchestra, that we don t have to duplicate the 19th-century
orchestra automatically wherever there are clusters of people. The
standard orchestra could be here and there among us, the Flexible
Orchestra could be in even more places because, in fact, its very
flexibility in numbers and types of instruments would encourage a
flowering in more places than the standard orchestra.
There are some precedants for this flexibility. The marching band, the
symphony band, the large jazz ensemble all have a more informal
structure than the symphony orchestra. High schools, colleges, and
small communities work with what they have to produce these types of
ensembles. I am taking the idea of the informal ensemble to an extreme
in my fantasy because I see great potential artistic gains from doing
so. We need to hear the classics live in expert orchestras. But we
don t need to be shackled by the format. My feeling is that we are
very much shackled by the standard orchestra in our time.
I return to my Viennese philosopher friend who sees the classic
orchestra as an instrument of Enlightenment ideas. I see the large
sound of the large ensemble peopled by a large number of players as
representative of group effort freely entered upon for the larger
satisfaction of everyone: a collective ritual of individual-and-group
in which the very flexibility I have proposed is that of freely chosen
possibilities by self-selecting creative individuals. It has
Enlightenment values behind it, but also more specific egalitarian and
communitarian ideas that America invented with, let us say, the rural
co-op movement. This is an ideal that reappears today in many avatars,
with the "zap action" of an ad hoc political activist group,
the food co-op, even the online discussion group, and the shifting
make-up of a "free improvisation" musical group. Our
corporate leaders may have stolen the very money out of our collective
pockets but they haven t taken away the forms with which we manage
to survive without them.
from Peter Garland, FIELD WORK: The Mexican Journals 1997-2004
Besides the four bands I've just mentioned, I record a band from San
Bartolomé Zoogocho, and one of people from San Melchor Betaza who
live, work and/or study in the city of Oaxaca. The existence of this
band is another proof of how strong community ties are maintained even
outside the village. Periodically in Oaxaca City, one sees posters
announcing fiestas organized by members of a specific community, with
a band from the home village coming to play. One does not
automatically become "anonymous" by moving to the big city
-- many of the people from the Sierra retain first and foremost their
village identity. During the course of nearly three hours that the
different bands play, we occasionally get up and walk around, so we
don't hear or record all of them (I only have five hours worth of
cassettes with me, and want to save some for the masked dances and
chirimias). But among the other bands listed as participants are those
from Ixtlán de Juárez, San Pedro Cajonos (whom I do record later,
accompanying dances) and San Pedro Yaneri. The reprertoire of
these bands is a wide mixture of different kinds of pieces and
rhythms. It should also be noted thart most of the bands play with
written-out parts, on music stands. While the band from Totontepec
takes a break, I wander over and take a look at their "books"
of scores -- for such they are -- on their music stands. The title
page, written out elegantly and formally in computer print, read
"Banda Filarmónica Municipal de Totontepec de Morelos,"
and lists eight pieces (I don't get to see whether their music is
hand-written or computer-printed -- I'm shy about disturbing the music
stands, cause then and there it's none of my business, and the
question doesn't occur to me till later). The pieces are:
"Cumbia; Fox-Swin (sic); Son; Marcha; Bolero; Obertura;" a
word that is apparently "Potpourri" (in Spanish,
"Popurrí"), but which is drastically mis-spelled,
something like "Poppuiuuy;" and Fantasía." Other
groups play similar repertoires, but also include chilenas, a version
of the son popular on the Pacific coast; danzones, popular songs from
the radio; and an interesting piece, entitled "Niña Hermosa,"
whose genre is referred to as a "Petenera." "La
Petenera" is a son associated with both the Huasteca and the
Isthmus, though it was composed by a musician from the Sierra. This is
the first time I've heard it referred to as a style or genre. Another fact that this presentation of band
music makes us aware of is that there is an active participation of
composers and arrangers in this Sierra musical tradition. The
stereotype of "tradition" often implies that the repertoire
is static and anonymous -- nothing could be further from the truth
here. In fact, later in the afternoon, there is going to be a homage
to three composers from the Sierra (one deceased) -- although
scheduled for 4 p.m., it occurs too late, at a point where we
absolutely have to leave, after dark. One of these composers, the
maestro Narciso Lico Carrillo, originally from San Melchor Betaza and
currently resident in Oaxaca City, is hanging out with the band from
Totontepec, who play a tune of his; as does the group from Betaza. He
receives applause from the public as a composer; and I think to myself
how nice it must feel to hear your music here, like this. He's young,
maybe in his forties/early fifties; and later back home I check in the
phonebook for him. Maybe as a follow-up to this, I'll have to get
together. I wouldn't mind at all writing for bands like these! When we
moved to Oaxaca from Veracruz, I had originally thought I wouldn't be
involved much with the brass bands. As a Mexican composer put it to me
once, "Too bad the indigenous music from Oaxaca is not so
interesting." What he meant was that to him, this music (of the
brass bands) sounded too European-influenced; not "Indian"
enough. Though there is plenty of that in the state of Oaxaca also --
maybe the Guelaguetza gives an impression that Oaxaca is nothing but
brass band music. I'd also spent a lot of energy investigating the
brass bands and mixed winds/strings orquestas of the Purépechas of
Michoacán from 1978-80. But I must confess to having fallen in love
all over again with Oaxacan brass bands. This is wonderful music! It
couldn't be further away in spirit from all that militaristic-Big
Sports stuff played by military and college bands in the US. I think
more of New Orleans -- this is a community music. For dancing,
weddings, funerals -- even where I live, in San Felipe del Agua, a
village that is now part of the city of Oaxaca, the dead go to their
funeral resting place accompanied by a brass band (and fireworks). I
hear them, because they round the corner, a half block from my house,
on their way to the cemetery. Where and how you hear music makes a
great difference in your appreciation. In some national military
parade, or half-time at a football game, this music sounds pretty
grim, the opposite of freedom or joy. But here, in the pine-scented
air of the Sierra de Juárez; or with beers, mescal and laughing
conversation in the Valley of Oaxaca, in Teotitlán del Valle, how
different this music sounds. And like New Orleans (and the early jazz
big bands), this remains a music for dancing, which accounts for much
of its magic. At this moment, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2001, in a proudly
and culturally autonomous Zapotec town in the mountains of Oaxaca,
being offered a brimming cup of tepache by one of the townsfolk,
listening to this joyful brass band music -- there is no place,
anywhere, that I would rather be!
HPWG is named for a listing in
"It's Classified, " a weekly paper
in the Upper Valley of New
Hampshire and Vermont. The
HAVE PIG WANT GUN. Grain
fed pig ready Nov.-Dec. approx.
200 lbs. dressed, will butcher, cut
and wrap or whatever. would like
good bolt or lever, heavy caliber
scope or mounts, depends. 802-
Frog Peak Music (a composers' collective)
Box 1052, Lebanon, NH 03766 USA
phone/fax: (603) 643-9037