PROGRAM NOTES FOR NBMAA CONCERT
NEW BRITAIN MUSEUM
OF AMERICAN ART
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2013
Jeffrey Krieger, electric cello
Threnody for electric cello and computer by Tom Flaherty
Dilemma for electric cello and video by composer, Jan Jirasek and video artist, Sheri Wills
Portrait of Jeffrey for electric cello and computer by Pauline Oliveros
Old Badman for electric cello and computer by Arthur Hernandez
Threnody, composed in late 2003, is partly about war and what is lost in its name. “Threnody,” which means "song of mourning," is probably best known to musical enthusiasts as the title given by Penderecki to his string orchestra piece named for the victims of Hiroshima. Like Penderecki in that piece, I composed the piece thinking I was working in purely musical terms; only afterwards did the tone and shape of the piece bring to mind the extra-musical resonance and title. Nonetheless, I was surely influenced by the daily news at the time, as the piece has come to seem inextricably connected to the war time loss of lives in my own mind.
In this piece the computer records, manipulates, and plays back the sound of the cello (and only the cello), beginning and ending with the simple and harmonious overtones of the open A string.
The title of the piece, Dilemma (1987) describes its content. Four basic musical ideas representing four basic emotions are confronted in order to express the feeling of a dilemma.
In Portraits the performer receives sets of pitches from the composer generated by various algorithms derived from the time, date, place of birth and name. The performer then renders a self portrait using the given pitches guided by a mandala score (included) and instructions. An interactive computer program was created in the software program MAX/MSP by the performer which includes the mandala image. The work was completed in 1988 with funding from the Composers’ Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Old Badman (2011) was commissioned by the e-cellist Jeffrey Krieger in 2008. This commission coincided with the passing of the American composer Donald Erb (1927-2008). Donald Erb was a great teacher, mentor and friend to Arthur Hernandez, and had written the work, Suddenly, It’s Evening, for Jeffrey Krieger in 1997. Both Hernandez and Krieger decided that it would be appropriate that this new commissioned work would be dedicated to the enduring memory of Donald Erb. The title, “Old Badman” comes from the last movement of Erb’s last large orchestral work, Evensong (1993). Old Badman is an American folk legend that Erb humorously adopted as a moniker for himself due to the iconoclastic reputation that he had developed over his music career. The work begins with a direct quote from the opening motive of the first movement of Evensong, followed by a passage of music that, if not a direct quote, is certainly a familiar passage in the later music of Donald Erb. From there, Hernandez takes this material and creates a uniquely original work of music all its own.