Have Pig Want Gun #8
Frog Peak Newsletter

PEAK PICKS (contents)

* New scores from Kyle Gann, Daniel Goode, Paul Schick, Simon Wickham-Smith
* New CDs from Cold Blue, Ilya Monosov, Dan Plonsey, Simon Wickham-Smith
* Frog Speak: Texts by Peter Garland and Daniel Goode


Kyle Gann
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
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
SÄCHSELÜTE. Sextet for clarinet in A, cello, e. guitar, piano, bass, percussion. Schi07 (score & parts). $25.

Simon Wickham-Smith
The Humpbacks. For 2 oboes, SATB soloists, string trio. Wic01 (score & parts). $25.
Snyder Triptych. For countertenor and piano. Wic02. $15.
The Extraordinary Levitation of Dreams. Wic03 (score & parts). $25.
Clouds and Stillness. For harp and electronics. Wic04 (score & CD). $25.
chhöld. 2 trumpets, soprano, accordion and piano. Wic05 (score & parts). $25.
asterisks in,breathing. Solo piano. Wic06. $15.
sky's in featherfall. String quartet. Wic07 (score & parts). $25.
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 listings.


Cold Blue Music
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
Music for Listening. Mon04. $25.

Dan Plonsey
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
Murrinh Kulerrkkurrk. Wic09. $15.
two4dancin. Wic10. $15.

Please visit http://www.frogpeak.org/newitems.html for complete listings.

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 Helmholtz.
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, five piccolos.

 Two tubas, three contra-bassoons, ten clarinets, fifteen violins, two pianos, percussion.

 Thirty cellos, thirty oboes (and english horns), fifteen harps, and organ.

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 contrabassists.
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 (unpublished)

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
exact text:

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)
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phone/fax: (603) 643-9037

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