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Muscle/Memory

Fri Feb 24 2017: First Universalist Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin Street, San Francisco ($20 general/$15 student)

Wild Rumpus presents the world premieres of Carolyn Chen’s The Mussels, and William Dougherty’s The New Normal, alongside Alex Temple’s Willingly, Richard Reed Parry’s Duo for Heart and Breath, Ted Hearne’s Furtive Movements, and William Gardiner’s Hebbian Theory.


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Friday, February 24 at 8pm at 1187 Franklin Street

PROGRAM
Carolyn Chen: The Mussels
William Dougherty: The New Normal
Alex Temple: Willingly
Richard Reed Parry: Duo for Heart and Breath 
Ted Hearne: Furtive Movements
William Gardiner: Hebbian Theory

MUSCLE/ MEMORY champions works of emerging contemporary classical composers devoted to matters of the mind and body. The composers range from budding to mid-career. Each balance innovation with excellent artistic expression. Two world premieres The Mussels by Carolyn Chen and The New Normal by William Dougherty represent the evening’s selection of Wild Rumpus’ seven 2015 winners of its annual Commission Project competition.

Composer Carolyn Chen’s work described as “lush meditation” by the New York Times often draws upon contemporary and traditional Chinese culture. Her new work for Wild Rumpus entitled The Mussels taps into surrealist humor as it delves into a frothy gourmand world in which music and words by poet Divya Victor oscillate between images of mussels and muscles and their many connections: “…a muscle in your lip that encircles your mouth which is composed of four independent weaving waves which interlace to create the round O of your OH NO like a circularity which is used to play all your brass instruments and your woodwinds … which shapes your face to spell em you ess ess e elle ess which is briney and earthy like beefy marrow pan fried with the butter of yak’s milk and washed down with a particularly peppery Pinot Noir…”

Still a young composer and performer, Alex Temple has developed a unique voice projecting wry social commentary. Black humored, Willingly conceived in 2012-13 for flute, piano and electronics, consists of a single stereo playback track provided by the composer to which the players synchronize with rhythmically complex speech samples of people completing the sentence: “If you had told me ten years ago that some day I would willingly ______, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Duo for Heart and Breath by Richard Reed Parry was written for an open instrumentation of chordal and melodic instruments with performers wearing stethoscopes in order to play in the tempo of their own shifting heartbeat, resulting in a nature driven web of delicate fractals of sound. Though a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, best known as a core member of the Grammy Award-winning indie rock band Arcade Fire, Richard Reed Parry seeks an inner tranquility here as he follows in the organic and nature-based footsteps trodden by John Luther Adams.

The New York Times has noted Chicago born composer Ted Hearne for his “topical, politically sharp-edged works.” Hearne explains the socially charged topic and musical modes of exposition for Furtive Moments:
“Furtive movements is a phrase found in many reports from the New York City Police Department: it is the most commonly cited reason individuals were detained under the Stop and Frisk policy. So my challenge in writing Furtive movements was to call their assumed identities into question and to try and blur the lines between their musical roles. …I also chose to “prepare” the cello by wedging a wine cork between the two middle strings. This enables the cello to make startling unique sounds (harsh and distorted at sometimes, gong-like at others), and also very much obstructs the instrument’s ability to project sound in the way it was intended.”

Hebbian Theory conceived in 2014 by Australian composer William Gardner for violin, clarinet and piano, returns to a romantic hedonistic lushness of harmony as it probes an examination of Hebbian’s theory of brain activity during the learning process. In his 1949 book The Organization of Behavior Hebb himself states his theory as follows: “Let us assume that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or “trace”) tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability.[…] When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”

In his new work for mixed chamber ensemble and tape The New Normal composed for Wild Rumpus, William Dougherty collages recording samples of prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in 1947 chopping wood and singing Old Alabama, “Ahi Troppo e Duro” by Claudio Monteverdi, an orchestrated sample of Japanese noise artist Merzbow’s 1996 album Pulse, Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Henry Purcell, non-voiced pops, clicks, static, and beeps of police radio recordings from recent mass shootings and murders of unarmed Blacks by police officers, and b for 3 musicians, 3 neon lights, effect pedals and a loose jack cable by Simon Loeffler along with his own original composition. Dougherty calls “The New Normal” an attempt to respond to the horrible events of the summer of 2016 including the rise of the spectre of fascism, the Syrian war, the systematic attack of Black America and the Arab Winter.