Fred Lerdahl Honored As Maurice Abravanel Distinguished Composer

October 31, 2009
0 Comment

Fred Lerdahl

On November 4th, 2009, Canyonlands presents the Maurice Abravanel Visiting Distinguished Composer Series and honors Composer Fred Lerdahl.

A highly-regarded composer, Lerdahl has been composing for more than 45 years, writing Piano Fantasy in 1964 while ‘under the spell’ of his first summer at Tanglewood.  Among his many accolades, Lerdahl is a recipient of the Koussevitzky Composition Prize and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music.

Lerdahl has received commissions from institutions including the Fromm Foundation, the Koussevitzky Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and his works have been performed by world-renowned symphonies, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras, and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Seattle symphonies. (Lerdahl Biography)

In November, the Maurice Abravanel Visiting Distinguished Composer Series recognizes the contributions and works of Fred Lerdahl, Aaron Einbond and Canyonlands Director Morris Rosenzweig.

Canyonlands will be performing Lerdahl’s Duo for Violin and Piano, and Marches, and will be premiering Three Diatonic Studies. Canyonlands also performs Aaron Einbond’s Temper and Morris Rosenzweig’s Dah Lives ah dah Saints.
(See Program Notes below.)

I recently spoke with Fred Lerdahl and he said that he is both pleased and grateful to be chosen as a Maurice Abravanel Distinguished Composer.  I also asked him how  it feels to have a work premiered and he said that it is “exciting" and "sometimes nerve-wracking”!

As the Visiting Distinguished Composer Series audience includes musicians, faculty and students, I asked Mr. Lerdahl what he hoped the musicians and students would learn from his works, and he stated he hopes “his music conveys structural integrity and depth and a broad range of human expression, and that it proves to be enjoyable as well as demanding to play”.

Lerdahl has been composing for five decades, and I was curious to know how the musical climate has changed over the years, how the audience is different today than it was in the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on.  Mr. Lerdahl said, “In the 60s, there was a lot of pressure to conform to this or that style, depending on which aesthetic school one belonged to. The hierarchy of what was thought to be important was comparatively clear and enforced. Since then, styles have dispersed and the hierarchy has flattened."

Lerdahl continued, "The good side of this is that there is less compulsion to conform; the bad side is that the scene is confusing in its diversity, and one can get lost in it. I have kept my head above water by progressively developing my own style and compositional methods. The greatest influence on my music is the music I have already written; on this foundation I step in fresh directions."

He also said that "performance levels have risen steadily, and orchestras perform contemporary music more often than they used to.”

If you go:
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 — 7:30 p.m.
Dumke Recital Hall, University of Utah
Free Admission

The November 4th Canyonlands performers include Clarinetist Laura Carmichael, Violinist Lynnette Thredgold, Cellist Noriko Kishi, Pianist Jed Moss, and Conductor Morris Rosenzweig.

About Canyonlands New Music Ensemble
The Canyonlands New Music Ensemble is dedicated to presenting a broad spectrum of contemporary music: from Ligeti to Schöenberg, Copland to Davies, Reich to Webern. The ensemble provides the opportunity for the community to hear new works and functions as a performance venue for faculty, professional musicians and as an educational experience for university students. The ensemble first came into being in 1977 and has been directed by Morris Rosenzweig since 1988. [source]

Program Notes (excerpts)

Fred_Lerdahl_CDThree Diatonic Studies originated in a commission from the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival to write a variation based on the “Aria” of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The result was the diatonic and canonic Chasing Goldberg, composed in 2004. After hearing a number of performances, I concluded that this unusual little piece needed companions. It felt presumptuous to compose more variations on Bach’s masterpiece, so instead, in 2009, I added two pieces that continue to explore the diatonic collection, Cyclic Descent and Scalar Rhythms.  – Fred Lerdahl

The Duo for Violin and Piano (2005) was commissioned by the McKim Fund and is dedicated to the violinist Rolf Schulte, who premiered the work with pianist James Winn at the Library of Congress in 2005. The Duo is in two contrasting parts that share underlying motivic, harmonic, and gestural patterns. – Fred Lerdahl

I composed Marches (1992) for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which premiered it in late 1992. The idea for Marches initially arose after I completed another chamber work, a cycle of twelve waltzes called Waltzes, in the early 1980s. In these compositions, contrasting musical materials juxtapose and overlap, often through intricate tempo modulations, in an evolving structural counterpoint that depends more on similarity of process than on recurrence of material. Marches is a phantasmagoria of overlaid march-like ideas, some apparently familiar and others arising inexplicably, creating an overall mood that veers unexpectedly between humor and passion.  – Fred Lerdahl

Aaron_Einbond.jpgTemper for bass clarinet and live electronics (2006)
The bass clarinet sounds as if constantly on the verge of hysterics: its low register never far from breaking, squeaking, and splitting into multiphonics.  These choleric fits are explored through a rotating sequence of multiphonic harmonies.  Computer analyses of these sounds are resynthesized in response to the live clarinetist, shadowing her with evolving resonances, sonic X-rays.  Despite repeated attempts at decorum, another outburst is always just beneath the surface.  — Aaron Einbond

Morris_Rosenzweig.jpgDah Lives ah dah Saints. This piece came about as a result of an unlikely chain of events. I had been wanting to write it for some time.  My version is neither based on medieval accounts of saints’ lives nor the many novels and pieces of music that deal directly or allegorically with the Saints of the Catholic Church. It’s about my hometown football squad and what that entity means to the citizens of that place.

I suppose the piece could be heard as an amusing set of clips combined with incidental music, but my intention is to capture the nature of this nearly 50-year-old team in its glorious moments, its despair and hopes, reflected by its many fanatical devotees. I approached this not as a mere chronicle but as an unfolding of the one thing, the nexus, that ties and affects the many strands of New Orleanians who rabidly follow the Saints, particularly in this post-Katrina era. The design of the piece was inspired by Dufay’s 1423 ballade, Resvellies vous with respect to that work’s use of Gematria (the specific correspondence of alphabetic letters with numbers) and Golden Sections. It begins softly and sparsely, becomes more crowded and loud, and ends softly and sparsely: it’s shaped like a football.  – Morris Rosenzweig

Detailed information about the artists is available on the Web: Canyonlands, Fred Lerdahl, Aaron Einbond, Morris Rosenzweig.

photo credits: Fred Lerdahl, Canyonlands New Music Ensemble and Morris Rosenzweig.