International Contemporary Ensemble: Khumalo, Pagh-Paan, Shirazi, Smith

Friday, August 25, 2023
7:30 pm

Mary Flagler Cary Hall

Younghi Pagh-Paan
Wundgeträumt, 2005
for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello

Andile Khumalo
Invisible Self, 2020*
for piano and large ensemble
* US premiere
with Jacob Greenberg, piano

Aida Shirazi
Crystalline Trees, 2020
for flute, bass clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello

Wadada Leo Smith
Gondwana, 2022*
for solo cello, three ensembles, conductor
* NY premiere
with Ashley Walters, cello

International Contemporary Ensemble

Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor

Alice Teyssier, flute
Jillian Honn, oboe
Campbell MacDonald, clarinet
Rebekah Heller, bassoon
Jonathan Finlayson, trumpet
Priscilla Rinehart, horn
Clara Warnaar, percussion
Nathan Davis, percussion
Jacob Greenberg, piano
Cory Smythe, piano
Gabriela Díaz, violin
Josh Modney, violin
Yezu Woo, violin
Marina Kifferstein, violin
Pala Garcia, violin
Wendy Richman, viola
Kyle Armbrust, viola
Ashley Walters, cello
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Lizzie Burns, double bass

Concert duration: approximately one hour

Mary Flagler Cary Hall
DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W 37th Street
New York, NY 10018

Program Notes

Younghi Pagh-Paan
Wundgeträumt (2004/2005)

Even in Korea, our modern, western-oriented society considers subjective, private dreams to be out of bounds of reality; as it is impressed upon us by the media, we prefer to see dreams as a virtual sensation. Far Eastern perception, on the other hand, unites Dream, Life and Death, Reality and Creation to an entirety that lends humility to human existence. Following the lines of Byung-Chul Han’s poem, which he wrote for my stage production Mondschatten (Shadows of the Moon), the totality of our oppressed, remorseful, tarnished survival develops unharmed out of the plum blossom within the hollowness of the present. My music does not follow the poem line for line, of course, but assimilates the thoughts and the figures found in the poem, illustrating the images and counter images according to Buddhist tradition, which never ceased to acknowledge that death is a bridge to recurrence. A great cosmopolitan European, George Steiner, puts it like this: “the implicit or explicit indication of supernatural power, of the frontier, within this moto spirituale, is of utmost importance. Many Western works of art and literature witness to the fact that we are neighbors to the Unknown, that we are trapped between orders of pragmatic substance, which themselves are permeable to that which is on the other side, that which originates beyond the ‘shadowline’.”

Andile Khumalo
Invisible Self (2020)

Invisible Self is a work for piano with ensemble. Though the piano is the central object, it is not viewed differently from the whole ensemble, which is the metaphorical representation of the environment in which the object finds itself. The main musical object of the piece gets more and more pulled apart by the environment, or as the material continues to develop itself over time, it adapts or pulls the environment into itself. Each time it is stretched by the environment, its inner layers are revealed. This process gives an illusion of going deeper into the soul or core identity of this musical object. As it does so, the ‘true self’ or ‘inner self’ seems to highlight the original self (as perceived at the start of the piece) as a distorted version of the inner self. The piece was inspired by the tension between the ‘migrant’ Africans and Africans within South Africa that led to the xenophobic attacks that have dominated the South African social landscape in recent years. Of course one asks, what is a migrant African, in Africa? And according to whom, do we define foreign-ness or the ‘other’ as Africans in Africa. In that definition, it seems like there is a disturbing paradox in how the system of ‘Freedom’, which was achieved through the strong support from our African brothers and sisters during the apartheid regime, is now used as the fundamental tool with which we discriminate against the very same people who helped us, identified with us, and considered and whom we considered at some point part of our blood, which distinguishes ‘Us’ (Africans) from the ‘Others’ (non-Africans). It seems like ‘freedom’ has liberated us away from who we are or has amplified the need to ask the question “who are we?” more strongly now. . . . In short, the work is about identity—how we perceive whom we are, based on what people see versus who we are, based on our internal self.

This work takes inspiration from jazz, bow music of amaxhosa, amadinda (Ugandan xylophone), and Shekere music.

Aida Shirazi
Crystalline Trees (2020)

Crystalline Trees is inspired by the poem Winter by Mehdi Akhavān-Sāless, the Iranian 20th-century poet. In his poem, Akhavān uses winter as a metaphor to describe the dark and suppressive political climate of Iran in the 1950s.

Crystalline Trees is a response to the last verses of Akhavān’s work and reflects on the complicated relationship between the darkness within and without:

Nobody responds as you greet them,
the air is dreary, doors shut;
heads hang low, hands disguised;
breaths turn into clouds; hearts get heavy and somber;
trees are crystalline skeletons;
the earth is dead; the sky has fallen;
the sun and moon are hazy;
Winter has prevailed.

Untitled. Photo: Thomas Fichter

Wadada Leo Smith
Gondwana: Earth, a Blue Sanctuary (2022)

Gondwana: Earth, a Blue Sanctuary is a new work in a series of compositions exploring my concerns with Earth’s symbolic images and its incredibly long arc of evolution and development as a planet. Gondwana incorporates the conception and some of the functioning principles of the tectonic plates. I use this information as a central idea that helps inform my reflections on how the three ensembles’ activities and their interactions with each other should occur in the music.

The cello solo symbolically represents the energy force that enables the ensembles to have mobility and movement. That mobility is also responsible for the structure in the music and is similar to the tectonic plates’ activities in creating the Earth’s constellation of continents during different epochs of its history.

Diane Tuft, Lake Vanda Composition, detail, 2012, from the series Gondwana

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