Monday, December 10, 2012

Timo Andres offers "Comfort Food"; can young composers write about less comforting programs?

Timothy Andres has recently (Nov. 2012) preformed his new short chamber work “Comfort Food”, for nonet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, two violins, viola, cello, bass), and women’s choir.  In the performance, the Milwaukee Choral Artists sing the vocal part.

The piece has a lot of blocks of sound and repetition, and to my ear built themes in a manner than resembles Britten.

The best place for the link is his Nov. 27, 2012 blog posting here

Timo has also posted a complete performance of his “It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer” (see my Dec. 11, 2010 posting).  He says it is somewhat revised.  My ear is starting to learn some of the suite now, and some of the melodic effects near the end are quite striking and beautiful (the way early Schoenberg is beautiful).  So are the repetitions, sometimes in blocks of unusual time signatures like 5/4.  I peaked at  the sample score pages on EAM PSNY Project Schott (link ), and noticed that there are key signatures, which surprised me.  The effect on my ear is properly atonal.  By the way,  Schott does sell scores (digital and printed)  online.

As the music played on my computer (sorry, not a Mac, but Windows 7), I worked on some loose ends in my “Do Ask Do Tell” screenplay.  The twinkling piano figures seem to fit the mood of a scene I was editing, which was an initiation scene on a space station run by extraterrestrial angels (the angels, as well as the abductees, have to avoid immolation themselves, but that’s another matter).  I felt like I could switch over to the ground bass music from Hans Zimmer’s score to “Inception”.  I don’t know if Joseph Gordon-Levitt  (aka “Arthur”) could survive my ritual tests as one of my “angels” as well as he bikes in “Premium Rush”.  Film score composition, they say, is a “real job”. 

I’ll be curious to see “Trade Secrets” get posted; “Trade Winds” is already available (reviewed here July 10, 2012).

He talked about Ravel (“Mother Goose”) and Richard Strauss (“Death and Transfiguration”, Op. 24) recently on his blog.  I did the Ravel myself here on Dec. 1, but I was curious enough to drag out a Vox CD of the Strauss , a 1986 original digital recording by the Cincinnati Symphony with Michael Gielen.  The program notes try to explain Strauss’s abstract intentions in writing a romantic  tone poem about  body-to-spirit “transition” when he was only twenty-five.  He must have been healthy enough, because he wouldn’t get to compose his “Metamorphosen” for 23 solo strings (also on the CD) until he was in his seventies.  Anyway, composers do write ruminations about the fragility of life and civilization. We’ve seen that before.  It’s noteworthy a descending three-note motive in “Tod und Verkalrung” seems to appear also in the first movement of the Mahler Ninth, toward the end.  Modern music as we know it begins with that latter work.

The LA Philharmonic explains the Struass piece here. Remember, Boito was young when he composed his "Mefistofele". But Boito was more a writer than composer.  
The picture is a kind of “comfort food”.  It’s an “autumn salad” (with beets and squash tips)  served by the Angelika Mosaic Film Center café in Merrifield, VA (while in one of their bags, before opening).  By the way, Timo once said that the gentle Symphoy #7 by Prokofiev is "comfort food" (you can skip the loud ending if you want).  I much prefer the Sixth, with its crash and burn experience at the end (review May 5, 2011).  Who can pass up “another  Op. 111”? 

Update: Dec. 19

Check an article by Ted Gordon at PSNY, "Timo Andres's Earthly Feast", link here. "Comfort" may have taken on a new meaning recently.  I understand that there is a String Quartet, and a Piano Quintet coming, if I have things right.  I still have to go back and remember Ted Hearne's "Parlor Diplomacy" (Aug. 24, 2011), which is discomfort food for politicians who can't work together, especially in Congress now.   If you want to make a political or social statement about something, compose an abstract piano or orchestra piece or suite about it, and get it performed.

Richard Dyer had written a prospective assessment of Timo's composing in the Boston Globe back in August, 2004, when Timo was 19 (link).  He mentions other large works, like a one-movement Piano Concerto and a full Piano Sonata.  Andres has preferred smaller forms , or suites of smaller pieces (like ("Shy and Mighty" or "..Good Composer") during recent years, but there are reports of a string Quartet and a new Piano Quintet (to be performed by pianist Jonathan Biss [Dec 1, Dec 20 2012 on this blog] and the Elias Quartet in California in the Spring of 2013).  It will be interesting to me to see how he would handle a full large form (Symphony, opera, etc.)    Andres particularly admires Robert Schumann's smaller pieces.  But remember, Schumann also composed the monumental ("post Op. 111") Fantasy in C (really a huge 3-movement sonata).

Also, it looks like corporate media likes the name "comfort foods" now, maybe out of awareness pf Timo's piece.  That may hold for "Southern Living".  Just be careful to keep the foods low fat and low sugar.
  Update: Jan. 7, 2013

Timo has posted his "Trade Secrets" on his website.  The piece for cello, violin, flute and percussion explores a rising four-note melody in different key signatures, a little bit like a moving ground bass (as in a chaconne).  The title of the piece has a definite meaning "in the law", especially in the employment world. Salman Khan (of the Khan Academy) would like the tutorial value of this little piece.

Update: Feb. 4, 2013

Timo's Jan. 29, 2013 blog posting gives a link to his performance of the Mazurka #2 by  Thomas Ades.a "leggerio" piece (the Lizst "Dance of the Gnomes" comes to mind).  I have yet to see a toy bicycle, cyclist (or piano and pianist) in a "parlor" model railroad layout.  But there's always a first time.

Update: Feb. 16. 2013

Check Timo's event schedule for upcoming concerts, particularly at Walter Reade Theater (NYC) and Library of Congress (Washington DC).  Timo will enjoy the Bike and Roll emporium at Union Station.

Update: March 9, 2014

WQXR (4/2012) talks about the "reverent but witty world" of Timo's work here

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