Friday, November 13, 2015

Guitar Ensemble: Program and Notes

 Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy
 Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer

 From Twelve Preludes, Op.11 by Alexander Scriabin:  No.4 & No. 17
 Kenneth Bozanich, Evan Dowdakin, Sador Rangel

 Paraboles by Jacques Ibert I
Jon Hernandez and Nick Hart

 The Jester by Kenneth Bozanich
 Leo Plummer, Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou

 Mouvements Perpétuels by Francis Poulenc
 Sador Rangel and Nick Hart

 Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel
 Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou, Leo Plummer

Program Notes
 by Nicholas Lambson, director

This semester’s program is essentially French. We will be performing a wide variety of pieces within this theme, including immediately recognizable favorites such as Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” and an original student composition.

 Nationalism was an important theme for many composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some trends were universal, such as the use of national folk songs, but each nation had a unique style as well: the Italian style emphasized sing-able melodies; the Germans featured a more intellectual and bombastic style; and the French style included music that was textural and nuanced.

While some French composers continued to develop their national artistic identity in the 20th century, some were also influenced by music from other times and places. Claude Monet’s painting, "Impression, Sunrise" essentially coined the term "impressionist" that later became a buzzword for the music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel; this was meant to convey a somewhat abstract and textural "impression" of something else.

The impressionist composers' music remained tonal, unlike the music of some their contemporaries (such as Arnold Schoenberg), and was generally more progressive than radical. Debussy's infamous statement on the guidelines for music and practice, "pleasure is the law," conveys this sentiment succinctly: essentially, if it sounds good, then it’s good! Indeed, rather than dispose of hundreds of years of musical development, he sought out both new and familiar styles to cultivate something that he found to be pleasurable, including everything from medieval music to Indonesian gamelan music.

Similarly, Ravel was highly influenced by jazz and the music of other cultures. Therefore, these composers are not the revolutionaries that they are sometimes believed to be. They also did not particularly like being called impressionists; rather he and his compatriots preferred to be called symbolists. The French symbolist poets sought to describe the indescribable through reference, allusion, and suggestion, rather than tangible and overt statements.

While Debussy and Ravel where clearly linked with this French school of thought, other major composers were also heavily influenced by it, including the Russian composer,  Alexander Scriabin.  Scriabin, in a word, was kind of a weirdo. Beyond being part of the so-called Russian Symbolists, he was a mystic; a force for the Russian dictatorship; he had synesthesia (a neurological condition in which the other senses are associated with sound - in his case color); and although he went to school with Sergei Rachmaninoff and wrote in a similar style early on, he developed his own tonal language later in life, which shared some of the same aesthetic goals as the symbolists and atonal composers.

Also on this program is a decidedly Spanish piece by Jacques Ibert. Like many other French composers, including Debussy and Ravel, Ibert was captivated by the music of the exotic sounds of that bordering nation, and he wrote a number of highly effective pieces in the style, colored by his own French disposition.

Finally, there is one piece for four guitars and bass written by a current HSU guitar and composition student, Kenneth Bozanich, which features some of the same stylistic elements with extended "jazzy" harmonies.

This is the first of several more works to be written for the ensemble. Next semester, we will be doing a collaborative project with the composition majors at HSU, and we hope that you will join us for that on April 2nd, 2016 at 8pm in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

No comments: