2016 May 9. New York: Concert at Bohemian National Hall with one woman composer

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble presents a concert tomorrow, May 9 at Bohemian National Hall 

Bohemian National Hall

321 East 73rd Street, New York

Monday Evening, May 9, 2016 at 8:00pm


The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble
With soloists:
Seth Parker Woods, Violoncello
Sara Schoenbeck, Bassoon
Roscoe Mitchell, Saxophone
Debra Kay Anderson, Narration
Petr Kotik, Conductor and Flutes

String Noise:
Conrad Harris & Pauline Kim Harris, Violins
with Lucie Vítková, Accordion

Improvisation Ensemble:
George Lewis, Trombone
Thomas Buckner, Voice
Lucie Vítková, Accordion
Sara Schoenbeck, Bassoon
Roscoe Mitchell, Saxophone
Chris Nappi, Percussion

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble
Petr Kotik, Director

Voice, Thomas Buckner
Flute, Roberta Michel
Oboe, Boris Baev
English Horn, Jeffrey Reinhardt
Clarinet, Marianne Gythfeldt
Bassoon, Sara Schoenbeck
Trumpet, Thomas Verchot
Trombone, William Lang
Percussion, Chris Nappi
Percussion, Jon Myers
Violin, Conrad Harris
Violin, Pauline Kim Harris
Viola, Victor Lowrie
Viola, Jeanann Dara
Violoncello, Meaghan Burke
Contrabass, James Ilgenfritz

Petr Kotik String Noise William  Premiere
2 violins and narrator
George Lewis Not Alone  (2015)
Solo violoncello and sound processing
Lucie Vítková Places to Meet  Premiere
2 violins and accordion
John Cage Ryoanji (1983-1985)
Voice, Strings, Horns, Flutes, and Percussion
Roscoe Mitchell They Rode For Them  (2016)
Part One / Solo Bassoon and Orchestra
Part Two / Solo Sopranino Saxophone and Orchestra 
Karlheinz Stockhausen Zeitmaße  (1956)
Oboe, Flute, English Horn, Clarinet in A, Bassoon
Group Improvisation

About the music:
String Noise William (2016) by Petr Kotik is the instrumental part of his new dance opera, William William, to be premiered on June 27, 2016 at the new opera festival NODO (Czech Republic).  Composed between February and May, 2016, the piece includes 2 violins (composed for the duo String Noise) and a narrator. The text is Petr Kotik’s adaptation of an excerpt from an autobiographical text by Natalie Babel, the daughter of the great Russian poet Isaac Babel. (PK)
Not Alone (2015) by George Lewis is for solo violoncello and electronics. It uses interactive digital delays, spatialization and timbre transformation to create a dance among multiple cellists following diverse yet intersecting spatial trajectories.  Although the work does not deploy explicit models of self-similarity, the more immediate spatial trajectories expand into larger trajectories of affect across the duration of the piece.  Advancing a conversational aesthetic, albeit in a non-improvised work, in Not Alone foreground and background deliberately conflate.  The electronics and the cello blend, intersect, and ultimately diverge into multiple digital personalities that can suddenly converge into unified ensembles while shrouding their origin in processes of repetition.  Not Alone was written for Seth Parker Woods, and the software was written by Damon Holzborn. The composition is dedicated to cellist Abdul Wadud. (GL)
Places to Meet by Lucie Vítková was composed for the violin duo String Noise and Ms. Vítková on accordion and voice. This composition consists of parts which demand interactions between the players based on listening. The piece has a variable duration according to the time required for the fulfillment of each musical situation defined in the score. (LV)

Ryoanji, by John Cage was named after and inspired by a rock garden in Kyoto, Japan that consists of 15 rocks placed in a landscape of raked, white sand. The piece was written as a set of live and pre-recorded solos (Voice and instruments), accompanied by percussion. The instrumental and vocal solos are series of 2-minute segments separated by silences. The percussion part is a complex rhythmical structure, using two unspecified sounds (wood and metal), played throughout of the entire performance.  

In 1987, Petr Kotik and the S.E.M. Ensemble was asked to participate in the 24-hour live performance event at WDR in Cologne (Germany) that celebrated Cage’s 75th anniversary. Cage worked with SEM, creating a version of Ryoanji for the Ensemble, adjusting the piece to its instrumentation. This version, without pre-recorded parts will be performed tonight.  (SEM)
When in 2016, Ilan Volkov invited me to the Tectonics Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland, I decided to transcribe some of the recordings of my Conversations I and Conversations II. These two CDs consist of improvisations by Craig Taborn, Kikanju Baku and myself. Ilan’s invitation provided me an opportunity to define more clearly my work on the relationships that exist between composition and improvisation. It also allowed me to premiere a new work titled Conversations For Orchestra. These works were performed at the Tectonics Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland, on April 15, 2016 with Ilan Volkov conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

My first thoughts were to orchestrate these transcriptions for orchestra, chamber orchestra, string quartet, woodwind quintet, brass quintet, etc. Some of these compositions include an improvisational element whereby I invite improvisers to perform with the composition. This furthers the improvisational process. Each time the composition is performed, it would change a bit from the last version (the orchestra part of the piece is completely notated). I am keeping all the transcriptions as separate compositions so that they can be put together in different configurations for different performances. This process will be documented in a book that shows the original transcriptions, handwritten drafts and all the subsequent work that will be generated in this process.

Tonight’s performance will premiere two transcriptions: They Rode for Them Part One and Part Two by Roscoe Mitchell in collaboration with Kikanju Baku (2013), transcribed by Stephen Harvey (2015), and orchestrated by Roscoe Mitchell (2016). It is a transcription of an improvised duet for bass saxophone and drums set by Kikanju Baku and myself. Part Two uses Kikanju’s drum part that led to the creation of the orchestration. I took the bass saxophone part off this orchestration and reinserted myself as an improviser on sopranino saxophone. The orchestration of They Rode for Them Part One used my bass saxophone part and was created explicitly for the bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. Tonight’s performance is the world premiere of They Rode for Them Part One and the United States premiere of They Rode for Them Part Two. (RM)

Zeitmaße (1955-56) by Karlheinz Stockhausen was composed while Stockhausen was working on Gruppen for 3 orchestras. Both works are ground-breaking, presenting the first attempt at cycling segments of controlled, non-simultaneous performance through a subdivided ensemble. Whereas in Zeitmaße the vertical independence creates interplay between 5 wind instruments (a woodwind quintet, replacing French horn with English horn), in Gruppen it unfolds between three orchestras, led by 3 conductors (the three orchestras surround the audience in a spatially arranged stage setting). In both compositions, the music alternates between coordination and independence within the ensemble. (SEM)

About the artists:
Petr Kotik (b. 1942) was born and educated in Europe (studied music in Prague and Vienna) and has lived in the U.S. since 1969. Kotik’s best known compositions are vocal works on texts by Getrude Stein (Many Many Women) and R. Buckmister Fuller (Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking) and orchestra and ensemble works – among them Variations for 3 Orchestras, Nine+1, and String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2. In 2014–15 Kotik composed his first opera, Master-Pieces, on a libretto by Gertrude Stein. Dividing his time between performance and composition, Kotik is known for exemplary performances of works by New York School composers, collaboration with AACM composers, orchestra works by Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Alvin Lucier, Phill Niblock, Christian Wolff and others, as well as championing compositions by the young generation (SEM workshops-readings, Ostrava Days Institute).

George Lewis (b. 1952) is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. The recipient of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, and member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s scholarship on music has been widely published, and his compositions are documented on more than 140 recordings

Lucie Vítková (b. 1985) is a composer, improviser and performer (accordion, harmonica, voice and tap dance) from the Czech Republic. Her compositions focus on sonification (compositions based on abstract models derived from physical objects), while her improvisation practice explores characteristics of discrete spaces through the interaction between sound and movement. In her recent work, she is interested in the musical legacy of Morse Code and the social-political aspects of music and art in relation to everyday life. She graduated in accordion performance at Brno Conservatory and composition at Janacek Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (CZ). During her Master Degree, she studied at Royal Conservatory in The Hague (NL) and at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (USA). She has studied with Martin Smolka, Jaroslav Šťastný (aka Peter Graham), Martijn Padding, Gillius van Bergijk, Michael Pisaro and Marc Sabat (Universität der Künste, Berlin). Recently, she is realizing her PhD. research as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York with Prof. George Lewis.

John Cage (1912-1992) studied composition with Henry Cowell and Arnold Schönberg. It would be impossible to calculate the catalytic effect and ramifications that John Cage’s work has had on 20th-Century music and art. The musical developments of our time cannot be understood without taking into account his music and ideas. Cage’s invention of the prepared piano and his work with percussion instruments led him to imagine and explore many unique and fascinating ways of structuring the temporal dimension of music. He is universally recognized as the generative and leading figure in the field of indeterminate composition by means of chance operations.  This brief sketch is perhaps appropriately concluded by a remark of Arnold Schönberg who said of Cage that he was an “inventor of genius.”

Roscoe Mitchell (b. 1940) is an internationally renowned musician, composer and innovator serving as the Darius Milhaud Chair of Composition at Mills College (CA). His virtuosic resurrection of overlooked woodwind instruments spanning extreme registers, visionary solo performances, and assertion of a hybrid compositional/improvisational paradigm have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music. Mr. Mitchell is a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the trio Space. He is also distinguished as the founder of the Creative Arts Collective, The Roscoe Mitchell Sextet & Quartet, The Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, The Sound Ensemble, The New Chamber Ensemble, and the Note Factory. His oeuvre boasts hundreds of albums and original works, ranging from passionate, forceful improvisations to ornate orchestral music. His instrumental expertise includes the gamut of the saxophone and recorder families, clarinet, flute, piccolo, and the transverse flute in addition to his elaborate invention, the Percussion Cage (consisting of instruments from five continents and found objects). Mitchell’s honors include the Doris Duke Artist Award (2014), a CMA Presenting Jazz grant (2010), and grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer. This past year, Roscoe was further granted The Doris Duke Audience Development Fund and The Shifting Foundation Grant.

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) belongs among the most inspiring music makers of
the 20th century, a leading personality of the Darmstadt school of the 1950s and 1960s. In Cologne he studied music pedagogy, piano, and composition with Frank Martin (1947-1951). He continued in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Schaeffer (1952-53), studied philosophy and also phonetics at the univeristy in Bonn, and information theory with Werner Meyer-Eppler. Stockhausen’s steep artistic development is characterized by
a consistent search for a new musical language, unburdened with the past, that goes from the initial following of Webern’s punctualism through multi-serial composition, the concept of music in space, electronic and electro-acoustic music, application of indeterminate and intuitive elements to a broader concept of musical art influenced by the studies of the philosophy of the Far East culminating in a monumental (and controversial) cycle of seven full-night multi-media operas – a modern “Gesamtkunstwerk” – Licht (Light, 1977-2003) and the unfinished project Klang (Sound, 2003-2007). Each of Stockhausen’s 376 compositions that form a complementary whole solve a different compositional problem documenting the composer’s unusual and inexhaustible innovation.

STRING NOISE is an “enterprising violin duo“ in NYC. Classical avant-garde violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, who are married, have expanded the two violin repertoire to include over 40 new works written for them since their debut at the Ostrava Days in 2011. String Noise was highlighted in Performa 11 and was the featured ensemble for the launch of composers collective Index 0. Premieres include works by Christian Wolff, Elizabeth Hoffman, John King, Phill Niblock, Annie Gosfield, Caleb Burhans, Spencer Topel, David Lang, John Zorn, Bernhard Lang, among others. String Noise has performed at Issue Project Room, Roulette, EXAPNO, Rockwood Music Hall and The Stone and has been heard on WNYC, WKCR and Czech radio Vltava. Their first feature album was released last Spring of music by Eric Lyon.

Critiqued as possessing “mature artistry and willingness to go to the brink,” Seth Parker Woods has established a reputation as a versatile artist straddling several genres. Outside the chamber music and solo setting, he has performed with the Ictus Ensemble (Brussels, BE), Ensemble L’Arsenale (IT), zone Experimental (CH) Basel Sinfonietta (CH), New York City Ballet, and Orchestra of St. Lukes (US). A fierce advocate for contemporary arts, he has collaborated and worked with a wide range of artists ranging from the likes of Heinz Holliger, G.F. Haas, Helmut Lachenmann and Klaus Lang to Peter Gabriel, Sting, Lou Reed, Dame Shirley Bassey, Rachael Yamagata, Aldo Tambellini and Jack Early.

A graduate from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the California Institute of the Arts, the bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck is a well known New York City performer. The Wire magazine placed her in the “tiny club of bassoon pioneers” at work in contemporary music today and the New York Times has called her “riveting, mixing textural experiments with a big, confident sound.” Schoenbeck performs with Anthony Braxton’s 12+1(tet), Wayne Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet, LPR, Wet Ink composers collective, S.E.M. Ensemble, the Mancini Orchestra, Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra, among others.

S.E.M. Ensemble, Inc. Board of Directors: Paula Cooper, Sheldon M. Berlow, Thomas Buckner, Gene Caprioglio, Petr Kotik, Emily Krell,
Reneé W. Levine, Noni Pratt

S.E.M. Ensemble, Inc.

Petr Kotik, Artistic Director
Jon Myers, Coordinator
Isabelle Deconinck, Publicity

25 Columbia Place
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone 718/488-7659

This concert has been made possible with the support of The Czech Center New York, Barbara Karpetová, Director and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Edmund H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; and by individual donations by Virginia Dwan; Noni Pratt; Rackstraw Downes; Raymond Learsy; Miloš and Martina Forman; Linda Wadsworth; Sheldon Berlow; and Beth Greenberg and Jim Wright. Special thanks to Jasper Johns and Wynn Kramarsky.