Sign of the Times
New works by: Jon Gibson, Annea Lockwood, Leroy Jenkins, Brian Smith and Robert Ashley
with Stefani Starin, flute, alto flute and khaen
Jon Gibson, soprano saxophone
Leroy Jenkins, viola
Joseph Kubera, piano
Bill Ruyle, percussion
The compositions on this CD were all commissioned and premiered as part of the “Interpretations” concert series I co-produce with the World Music Institute. It is not my practice in commissioning a piece to choose a text or even a subject, even when asked to by a composer. Rather, I enter into a dialogue with the composer to discover an area of mutual concern. I wish to thank the five composers represented on this disc for collaborating with me in the attempt to make new music that deals with contemporary social and spiritual concerns.
— Thomas Buckner
Running Commentary (Arbitrary Excerpts)
Music and words by Jon Gibson
Dedicated to John Cage
Jon Gibson: soprano saxophone
Joseph Kubera: piano
Bill Ruyle: percussion
Running Commentary (Arbitrary Excerpts) (1992) consists of words and phrases that have been chosen from a larger ongoing work entitled Running Commentary (A to Z). This latter work was started in the late 70’s and acts as an alphabetized catalogue and resource of “meaningful” but also ambivalent words and phrases that have been gathered (and continue to be gathered) in a very intuitive way. The order in which the words/phrases are combined in Arbitrary Excerpts is indeed arbitrary and usually determined by other elements involved in the composition of the piece. The overall structure consists of a cycle of several basic sections that change and expand within themselves as they recur, and at a certain point in the cycle, other sections occur that have nothing to do with one another or anything else in the piece. These are the “off the wall” or “loose canon” sections. All of the parts are through-composed except for a rather extensive improvised accompaniment part for the saxophone.
The Angle of Repose
Texts: Ojibwa Indian & Rainer Maria Rilke
Stefani Starin: flute, alto flute and khaen
The Angle of Repose is an evening song commissioned by Thomas Buckner and scored for baritone, alto flute and khaen (a Thai mouth organ). It incorporates two texts. The first is an Ojibwa Indian text quoted by Peter Matthiessen in his book Nine Headed Dragon River. The second is from a letter written in 1904 by Rainer Maria Rilke to his wife while on holiday in Denmark. The angle of repose is the angle of inclination of a slope at which sliding earth and boulders come to rest.
Ojibwa Indian text, quoted by Peter Matthiessen in his book, Nine Headed Dragon River:
“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while
A great wind is bearing me across the sky.”
Letter written in 1904 by Rainer Maria Rilke to his wife, the sculptor Clara Westhoff:
“There are here, amidst this realm of fields, strips of dark ploughed land. They are empty and yet they lie here as though the bright stalks round about them were there for their sakes, rows of fencing for their protection. I asked what these dark acres were about. They told me: “c’est de la terre en repos.” So lovely, you see, can rest be and thus it looks alongside work. Not disquieting, but gathering up a deep trust and the feeling of a rich time.”
Dream of Dreams of Home
Text: Ann T. Greene
Stefani Starin, flute
Leroy Jenkins, viola
This piece is designed for three voices to move in parallel motion and yet independent of each other. There is no harmonic cushion for the voice which describes the anguish of being homeless. The instruments are the voices of the back drop providing the environment.
Who brought me this stranger when all I want is rest? Who is this man unbeckoned that interrupts my sleep? Where is the peace I yearn for? Every night retreating, leaving me to dream of dreams of home? He brought me here to show me his is my dream of dreams of home. He is the man who tells me that home is a dream now gone. Nothing to show for the years of work, he did it to make it better for them than his father had before. Nothing to leave for his son but a dream of home.
When I got back, it was gone. Home was the joint, he told me. I sat in the yard in a brown shirt. My thoughts to myself were the only things I owned. All that I wanted was home. But when I awoke from that nightmare, all that I had was a ticket to the city with nowhere to go. When I got back, there was nothing. Nothing that I call my own. Our house was dead and shrouded by arrogant ivy. The glass on the walk was the crumbs that I followed as if they could lead me to where she had gone. With my girls. All my girls call me Daddy, Daddy, when I would come home. Night after night I slept on the stoop, knowing, just knowing they would come home. Time told me what I wouldn’t say: what was there wasn’t mine anymore. I lost my home. My wife. The babies, my life. So now I’m with you, ‘cause they’re gone. Can you tell me why? Help me find them? Do you know what it’s like when you don’t have a home? How can you find what’s not there anymore? How will I live when they’re gone?
Who brought me to this stranger when what I want is rest? Who is this man unbeckoned that interrupts my sleep? Where is the peace I yearn for? Night after night retreating, leaving me to dream of dreams of home.
Copyright © 1990 Ann T. Greene. Text reprinted by permission.
Text: Rainer Maria Rilke
Joseph Kubera, piano
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “I do not want to sunder art from life; I want them, somehow or somewhere, to be of one meaning.”
In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris
Rainer Maria Rilke
His glance, worn by the passing of the bars
has grown so weary it has lost its hold.
It seems to him, there are a thousand bars,
and then behind a thousand bars no world.
The soft gait of the supple, forceful paces
revolving in a circle almost nil,
is like a dance of power that embraces
a core containing, dazed, a mighty will.
Rarely the pupil’s curtain, soundlessly,
is raised—and then an image enters him,
goes through the silent tension of the limbs—
and in his heart ceases to be.
From Shakespeare to Existentialism: A New Edition, with Additions, by Walter Kaufmann. Anchor Books. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY. 1960.
The Producer Speaks
Music and Libretto, Robert Ashley
Joseph Kubera, piano
In The Producer Speaks the singer is encouraged to allow the rhythms and melodies associated with the language to affect the monody of the narrative in the most spontaneous manner. In other words, to just “sing” the story.
This element of spontaneous “invention”, so unique to the nature of speaking and singing, and so different from improvisation on an instrument, is the basic technique of Atalanta (Acts of God).
In this concert version of the aria the meter of the line is preserved, but the grouping of the lines within the harmonic pattern (and in counterpoint to the instrumental theme) is freely determined by the soloist.
Produced by Tim Martyn
Engineered by Tom Lazarus
Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters by Classic Sound, Inc., NY
Art Direction and Design: By Design
Copyright © 1991 Robert Ashley (Visibility Music Publishers, BMI)
Copyright © 1992 Jon Gibson (Undertow Music, BMI)
Copyright © 1991 Leroy Jenkins (SESAC)
Copyright © 1990 Annea Lockwood (BMI)
Copyright © 1991 B.W. Smith (ASCAP)
Copyright © P 1994 Lovely Music, Ltd.
LCD 3022 [D] [D] [D]