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MP3 Joseph Waters - ELECTRONIC: Experimental

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MP3 Joseph Waters - ELEC
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American Populist Electro-Acoustic: 21st Century music in the lineage of Barber, Copeland, Bernstein.

7 MP3 Songs
ELECTRONIC: Experimental, CLASSICAL: Contemporary

General Quotes:

"He is also a musical poltergeist. He can get inside your head and throw off nocturnes and fugues that are either surreal or that flow like blond hair off the back of a barstool. Plug headphones into Waters's Powerbook, and Hobbit music slithers out. It is Moby gone over to a dark side, where Yoko Ono is the Dungeon Master and Brian Eno keeps score." David Good - The San Diego Reader

"The second half turned darker... [Waters] uses the ... sounds of a cello to evoke the ghosts that beset the ... dream state. It is both an eery, unsettling work and a tour de force for cello..." James McQuillan on Kanashibari - The Oregonian

"Waters charts a course between Jazz, Electro and Avant-Garde Music that would sit comfortably within the ebullient pluralism of the Bang-On-A-Can Festival: the style the New York critic Kyle Gann calls Totalism." Lindsay Vickery on Flame Head - Australasian Computer Music Conference, Melbourne

"... Waters' music speaks directly to listeners ... stimulating, theatrical, chromatic, often songful, frequently fast and exotically colored." David Stabler - The Oregonian

"... you'd think the man had the king's horses teamed to his chariot, so effortlessly do electronic elements unite with traditional, classical instrumentation." Bill Smith - Willamette Week

"It's extremely virtuosic, like the roadrunner on speed. It's a bit like Bela Bartok if he wrote cartoon music." Jeffrey Payne on Kali Yuga - Fear No Music, Portland

Music Review --The Harbinger, Mobile, AL
-- Bill Smith
November 28, 2000

(Music of) Joseph Waters. Arabesque; When the Clouds So Boldly Painted On the Sky; Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos; Drum Ride; Quiet Music - Early Morning; The Garden of Kali; The Populist Manifesto. Various artists including Susan DeWitt Smith, Liz Falconer, Ron Blessinger, Phil Hansen, Jeffrey Payne. (North Pacific Music 009) 2000.

It's fitting that composer Joseph Waters closes his new CD with a musical setting of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's epic rant "The Populist Manifesto." The Beat poet's call to arms for a popular poetry urges that there's "no time now for the artist to hide above, beyond, behind the scenes -- refining himself out of existence."

Waters takes the above mantra to heart. Though his "serious music" c.v. is in order -- he studied under Jacob Druckman and Dominick Argento -- he's not content to write music for the allegedly educated elite.

"My purpose as a composer in society," asserts the Yale doctorate, "is to interpret feelings, dreams, thoughts that are current and to channel them in some way so that other people can reflect on them. If you're going to do that you have to do it with a language people can understand."

To Waters, that language has an electronic element. Despite Edgar Varese's 1920's assertion that electronic elements would dominate all future music, that's still a shocking conviction to hold in the classical music realm. Perhaps it's because such experimentation has a history rife with stade intellectualism with very few melodic successes (one thinks of Messiaen's experiments as the latter). What made those few successes accessible was that they were electro-acoustic mergers, proving that the electronic cart shouldn't lead the musical horse but should be just another ride in the compositional stable.

Lend an ear to Waters' "When the Clouds So Boldly Painted On The Sky" to hear how it is done. The music opens with a hurdy-gurdy mix of scurrying computer generated voices that swirl to a stormy halt as a plaintive koto -- or 13-stringed Japanese harp -- takes over. As the banjo-like koto picks its way on its meditative march, the voices return zipping in and out during the ten-minute work like a kind of mischievous Exorcist-style madness. When the koto chimes its final notes, there is a moment of tonal resolution and apparent victory for the quiet side. Yet in scurries the electronic scramble for a final bit of mischief.

Call it a meditation on the clash between East and West, tradition and technology or a more personal statement on keeping to one's path in a helter-skelter world -- whatever you call it, it's a working marriage between the two taboo genres. The piece, composed in 1997, has garnered praise worldwide and some 20-plus performances so far from Argentina to China.

Other pieces reference sources as dizzyingly varied as Mozart, jazz, Tangerine Dream, Prokofiev, Beat poetry, the paintings of Bosch and Australian Aboriginal song. Yet none of it sounds gratuitously tossed in for cleverness sake. "Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos" combines wind sextet with vocal quartet in a choral translation of a Yolngu aboriginal text; the string trio "Quiet Music-Early Morning" shifts from elegy to reverie like dawn's light through a bedroom window; 'Drum Ride ' is a raucous push-me-pull-you between piano and electronics; and "The Populist Manifesto" sounds like something Schoenberg and Weill might have come up with if staggering around San Francisco's North Beach on a lost weekend.

Such culture clashing is all part of the fun, and though the resultant hybrid may scare some and confuse others, it does so only in concept. Once the guards come down and one listens open-mindedly to this expert marriage between traditional chamber music and computer-generated soundscapes, the overweighing sensuality and emotional freshness of Waters' creative appetite comes through. Water's kitchen sink amalgam of influences results in music that is edgily playful and always accessible.

"My goal," says the forty-something Waters, "is to create a contemporary music that has a place and that has a dialogue with the culture that surrounds it." He feels that dialogue has been forfeited by the "rarified and strange" serialism of musical academia and blames such music for the alienation of classical music audiences.

"I think that's changing and really it has to change," he concludes. "If I'm really going to be honest about who I am as a composer -- and you need to be if you're going to say anything -- I had to admit that I really like the energy of electronic popular music."

If this disc is the result of such a confession, we're the luckier for it.

Arabesque (piano solo); When the Clouds So Boldly Painted On the Sky... (koto and electronics); Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos (SATB and wind sextet); Drum Ride (piano and electronics); Quiet Music - Early Morning (string trio); The Garden of Kali (digital electronics); The Populist Manifesto (soprano and mixed chamber ensemble). Performers include Susan DeWitt Smith, piano; Liz Falconer, koto; LeaAnne DenBeste, sop.; Sue Hale, mezzo.; Scott Tuomi, tenor; Craig Kingsbury, bass; Nancy Teskey, flute; Allen Juza, english horn; Betsy Hornick, clarinet; David Becker, bassoon; Kevin Calvert, horn; Jim O'Banion, trumpet; Ron Blessinger, violin; Brian Quincy, viola; Phil Hansen, cello; Jeffrey Payne, sampled piano; Brenda Baker, sop.; Gernot Blume, accordion; Tom Bergeron, saxophone; John Hubbard, cello; Julie Spencer, percussion. North Pacific Music NPM LD 009 (68'52).

Contact: [email protected]://


program note:

The Garden of Kali

(acousmatic, two channel musique concrète)

Inspired by the Flemish master Hieronymous Bosch's famous painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is intriguingly beautiful, macabre, hallucinogenic and grotesque. The electronic portion consists entirely of recordings of sounds produced by prepared piano - a technique developed by John Cage wherein the piano strings are laced with screws, bolts & rubber erasers, and the strings are strummed, rapped with knuckles, scraped and trounced with mallets. These sounds, thus perverted, were then electronically bent, molded, stretched, splintered and blended into a bumpy sonic landscape.
Ideally the work should be performed in total darkness, and diffused manually over a multi-channel loudspeaker orchestra array.

program note:

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos

This is the first of three choir works based on the songs of the Yolngu people of Australia. I discovered them summer of '97 while looking for unusual texts to set for choir and was immediately haunted by their otherworldliness - they come from somewhere outside of the western European experience. The Aboriginal clans that originated these songs are splintered and in many cases extinct, and the songs are passed down by a few who still remember them.
These songs are "public" songs that were used by the Yolngu for entertainment as well as initiation and mortuary rituals. They have several layers of meanings - on the surface are hymns to different bird species, but simultaneously refer totemically to ancestral beings and a hidden spiritual world. As such, the works are religious, albeit from a perspective outside the Judeo-Christian perspective. They are also intended to be celebratory. While it is impossible for us, as outsiders, to understand these subtleties, nonetheless the words for me have powerful effect and inspire interpretation within our culture's musical language. They are offered humbly with greatest respect for their creators, and with the desire to bring this wonderful poetry to the west. Joseph Waters, 1999

White cockatoos fly calling
"noopil noopil",
"jikiding jikiding"
calling as they fly,
enjoying the breeze,
alighting in the tall paperbark trees at Balthawun.
"noopil noopil noopil",
"noopil noopil",
they called, "jikiding",
calling as they fly,
happy in the breeze,
calling as they fly,
the wind ruffles their crests,
happily they cried, "jikiding!"
"noopil noopil noopil",
"noopil noopil noopil",
"jikiding, jikiding"
calling as they fly,
endless chatter of cockatoos
unceasingly they call
Garpirra wind, Yawukul wind
blowing towards Balthawun
talking there,
at Barlawatji, Murruwana,
the wind ruffles their crests
Crests ruffled in the breeze,
they called "jikiding",
Gurnbuma cockatoos,
wind blowing their feathers,
at Balthawun;
- South wind blew their crests,
the breeze from the north
makes then croak
"noopil noopil",
"noopil noopil",
Gurnbuma cockatoos,
Gurnbuma cockatoos,
feathers ruffled in the breeze,
Galumaluma cockatoos,
- Over there they called
at Barlawatji, Murruwarna.
Marrparrama cockatoos,
Galumaluma cockatoos at Yawukuyala,
Gurnbuma cockatoos,
wind ruffling their crests,
At Balthawun;
- South wind catches their feathers,
in the Balthawun paperbark trees,
talking happily away, towards Yawuku.
"noopil noopil noopil",
Galumaluma cockatoos,
Marrparrama cockatoos,
towards Yawuku;
- Gurnbuma cockatoos,
powerful south wind after the rains,
wind from the north-east,
happily they talk.

translation by Ian Keen
used by permission

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