OF TIME & PLACE
The selections on this album reflect the composer’s interest in poetry and landscapes of various cultures and places across time.
Andean Suite was inspired by a journey on foot through the mountains of Peru. With the Condors aims to convey the feeling of freedom one experiences in the great outdoors. One day a man of Incan descent walked with us to a lake where he performed a ritual blessing, constructing an offering of herbs and candies wrapped in cloth which he then set on fire. Playing a flute as he walked, I noticed his melodies consisted of only four pitches, so for Lacuna I followed the same idea, using G A B and C — except at the very end where the cello plays an E. The next day, during our ascent toward a high pass, I observed a White Horse standing in a meadow some distance away. Water was flowing through the meadow and sparkling in the sunlight. Dance employs folk music idioms of the Andes to express pure joy.
The ‘Wheel of Life’ is a common subject for painting in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Such paintings follow a strict iconography wherein the outermost circular section depicts The Twelve Causes from the Circle of Becoming. Like its subject, this piano piece also has a circular form, with ‘promenade’ sections interspersed every so often between music conjured by the various images shown in the individual panels.
Wild places are essential to me as a creative artist and I am always grateful for any opportunity to visit them in person. Wilderness Portraits: Three Places in Nevada was inspired by three such places in the state of Nevada. Jarbidge lies in the remote northeastern corner of the state. The name supposedly derives from a Shoshone legend about a monster who collects (and eats) children — this flavors the music with a hint of suspense. At the southern end of the state, Mount Charleston soars high above Las Vegas at 11,811 feet. The trail to the summit consists of many switchbacks snaking through the forest, with some beautiful bristlecone pines along the ridges and a long traverse across a slope of scree above timberline. As I climbed higher, the views of distant blue land forms far away in the desert reminded me of waves in the ancient sea bed that had lifted up to become the mountain. High Rock Canyon travels through high, desolate sage brush country northwest of the Black Rock Desert. This music embodies the bold spirit that surely propelled the pioneers who came through here on their way to California.
Stay, Shadow was commissioned by Panoramicos. It is in the main a setting of a sonnet in Spanish by Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz who lived in New Spain (now Mexico) during the second half of the 17th century. Because she was a composer as well as a poet, I chose to frame my setting with a bit of music attributed to her — a three-part sacred work for female voices entitled ‘Madre de los primeros’ — adapting it to the instruments of the ensemble. The sonnet is in hendecasyllabic form with an Italianate rhyme scheme (abba/baab/cdc/dcd). Here is the text together with my own attempt at an English translation:
Detente, sombra de mi bien esquivo,
imagen del hechizo que más quiero,
bella ilusión por quien alegre muero,
dulce ficción por quien penosa vivo.
Si al imán de tus gracias, atractivo,
sirve mi pecho de obediente acero,
¿para qué me enamoras lisonjero
si has de burlarme luego fugitivo?
Mas blasonar no puedes, satisfecho,
de que triunfa de mí tu tiranía:
aunque dejas burlado el lazo estrecho
que tu forma fantástica ceñía,
poco importa burlar brazos y pecho
si te labra prisión me fantasía.
Stay, shadow of my contentment, elusive,
image of enchantment most adored,
beautiful illusion for whom happily I die,
sweet fiction for whom painfully I live.
Though I am like a magnet to your graces, attracted,
my breast serves as obedient steel,
for what purpose do you flatter me with affection
only to elude me like a distant fugitive?
For you to gloat more is not possible, satisfied,
that your tyranny triumphed over me:
although you escape from the tight bonds
that encircled your fantastic form,
your taunting arms and breast are of little importance
if I build for you a prison in my fantasy.
The Three Songs without Words were inspired by poems of the Tang Dynasty poet Tu Fu (712-770 A.D.)
Epigram is a response to the last quartet of Ludwig van Beethoven. Also in F major, it is built from a three note motive closely related to Beethoven’s famous “muss es sein” (must it be) motto. The work is in one movement.
Corpo Sonoro was composed for pianist Halida Dinova in fulfillment of the Ohio Music Teachers Association ‘Composer of the Year’ Commission for 2007. It consists of four poetic pieces based on eponymous poems by the Brazilian poet Maria Davico. This work is dedicated to the memory of composer Dennis Eberhard who was our mutual friend. To read the texts of the poems in Portuguese, with English translations by Joseph Sekon, please visit:
A ROSA MAL-TEMPERADA
Há tanta trama
Há o verbo em ré – maior.
Houvera o solfejado sol,
E o si tenuto,
com ar astuto,
brincara na atmosfera atonal,
Ouço o teu timbre
e nele a tua fuga.
Talvez puderas brilhar
ou em allegro amar.
THE ILL-TEMPERED ROSE
There are many rhythmical
There is a verb in re major.
There was the solfeggioed kite,
And the si tenuto
with an astute aire,
played in the atonal atmosphere,
I can hear your prelude
and fear your fugue.
Perhaps you could shine
or love in allegro.
Sabia que ias
A poesia é antinomia
Sabia que eras
Sabia que não seria
só o encanto.
I knew that you were going
to scarify me
Poetry is a paradox
a contra song.
I knew that you were
I knew that it wouldn’t
be only delight.
QUASE UM SONETO
Sempre te quis soneto, mas tu me vinhas
Sempre te quis original e te concebia perverso,
de tetas azuis,
Amei tuas rimas, tua discreta concisão.
De mil formas te fizeram
e tão bem te deram ares de
Só chegavas em dueto para mim.
Eu buscava dois quartetos,
dois tercetos e tu voltavas com um solo
I always wanted you as a sonnet, but you kept
coming as a song.
I always wanted you original, but you were
with blue surreal
I loved your rhymes, your concise discretion.
Many have made you in a thousand forms
and have given you an air of
You only arrived in a duet for me.
Although I searched for two quartets,
two tercets, you returned with a
Se eu ousasse quebrar ângulos e harmonias,
em contraponto violar imagens. Em dissonâncias
e consonâncias revirar o tema, que se fundisse
em anárquica linguagem.
Se eu ousasse traçar equivalências
e longamente desmembrar sonoridades.
Na partitura ideal de cores puras
incluir silenciosa temporalidade.
Tal obra atonal suscitaria
e elo de múltiplos semitons
a pontilhar o espaço.
Voariam pássaros sob abundante
flora. Onde a cor enclausurada
precede o ritmo da aurora.
If I dared to break angles and harmonies,
violating images in counterpoint. To turn
anew the theme in dissonances and consonances,
that would be forged in anarchistic language.
If I dared to trace equivalences
and lengthily dismembered sonorities.
To include silent temporality
on the ideal score of pure colors.
Such atonal work would arouse
the link of multiple semitones
punctuating the space.
Birds would fly under abundant
flora, where the cloistered color
precedes the rhythm of the dawn.
Poems by Maria Davico with English translations by Joseph Sekon.
Sky Signs began without a formal plan. One summer afternoon in Ohio, a cirrus cloud appeared and changed shape; on another day, a particularly vivid sunset revealed something akin to a hieroglyph; then one morning, a cold front blustered through. These events took on special meaning in my imagination and some music began to take shape. The entire work derives from a seven note gesture stated by the saxophone in the opening two bars — so in essence, it is a fantasy. There are recognizable sections that return in altered states. This work was commissioned by The Cleveland Duo and James Umble.
– Monica Houghton
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