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CCO & Tomeka Reid: Jazz, Electronics & Brand New Music
January 14, 2018 @ 8:30 pm
Doors and Constellation bar open @8:00pm, concert @8:30pm
Jazz and concert music composer Tomeka Reid joins CCO as composer and cello soloist. Plus commissions pairing orchestra and electronics by Chicago composers Lawrence Axelrod and Beth Bradfish; and George Walker’s gripping Address for Orchestra.
Tomeka Reid – New Work, world premiere
featuring Tomeka Reid, cello
Chicago based cellist, composer and educator, Tomeka Reid has been described as “a remarkably versatile player,” (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune). Equally adept in classical and jazz contexts, Ms. Reid predominantly finds herself in experimental and improvisatory settings and composes for a wide range of instrumentation, from big band to chamber ensemble. Ms. Reid’s music combines her love for groove along with freer concepts.
Essay No. 1 is a short piece in 3 connected sections based on a recorded solo improvisation I made during early fall of 2017. The work reflects some of my recent experiences working with Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. Initially, when approached with the idea of writing for the CCO I had the idea of writing 3 separate movements that paid tribute to two improvisers that have been inspirations to me musically over the years, Eric Dolphy and Stuff Smith. The first two movements would borrow elements from their individual solos and be developed for the larger ensemble. The third movement would be a reflection my own solo approach to improvisation. But as I sat down to write, I was having some difficulty, mostly in choosing the material because they have so much! So, I turned on a recorder and began playing and
improvising ideas on the cello. I did this over the course of a week and found that I kept coming back to certain themes which resulted in this piece. Although, I had access to using the whole orchestra, I found myself being drawn to sounds mostly on the low end of the spectrum. As I love rhythm and strings, they were definitely included.
The piece begins with percussion followed by a somber first theme from the solo cello and is joined by the flute. This theme is explored for a bit before moving into a section with more movement. Following this section, there is an opportunity for the orchestra to improvise before heading into the last section that is basically a blues. This is my first attempt to write a solo piece accompanied by a large ensemble hence the title Essay No. 1.
Larry Axelrod – Brown Line, a scherzo sort of, world premiere
When the Chicago Composers’ Consortium paired with the Chicago Composers Orchestra to present a concert of works in 2016, the one criterion was that all the pieces have something specific to do with the city. Because I am often inspired by images in the natural world, I decided to push myself in the exact opposite direction. Listing quintessential Chicago things and places, the el was immediately at the top of the list.
The el is an amazing way to move people around the city and is a vital urban resource. It is also a source of frustration, crowding and difficulty, leading to innumerable nightmare scenarios. I decided to run with the nightmare aspect, turning a ride on the el into a kind of horror movie scenario. I chose the Brown Line because I lived a short walk from the last stop at the time. I recorded sounds from the el – stop names, door chimes, emergency announcements, creaking doors, laughter – and created a rhythmically charged electronic backdrop on top of which the orchestra has to fit exactly.
Pushing the concept of musical nightmare one step farther, I used my favorite fun musical horror scenario – the Witches Sabbath from the Symphonie Fantastique of Hector Berlioz – as a foundation. I took various rhythmic and thematic elements of this movement, shook them up, and came up with a wild fun ride, one which I hope is a worthy modern urban reflection and extrapolation of the original Berlioz.
Many thanks to Beth Bradfish for the use of her electronic equipment in collecting the sounds and to Alex Inglizian, the Paganini of the sound program, whose expertise allowed me to realize my vision of the electronics perfectly.
Beth Bradfish – Fanfare with Singing Insects of South Pond, Lincoln Park, world premiere
George Walker – Address for Orchestra
The Address for Orchestra was composed in 1958.in Paris. After the performance of the third
movement by the Atlanta Symphony in a Rockefeller Foundation Symposium in 1968, the work
quickly reached legendary status.The entire score was recorded by the Oakland Youth
Orchestra for Desto Records.The European premiere was presented at a festival in Mons,
Belgium in 1971 with James DePriest conducting. The third movement played by the Dallas
Symphony was included in a documentary, “The Black Composer”, televised by PBS. The DC
Youth Orchestra performed the
entire work on their first European tour and their first international competition. Robert Shaw
programmed the Address for Orchestra as the first work on the opening concert of the
subscription series of the Atlanta Symphony in 1981.
The first movement begins with an introduction. The motivic content contains a triplet of three
repeated notes that becomes the basic element of the entire movement. These notes are
incorporated in the subject of a fugal exposition that is presented in changing meters, 3-8, 4-
8,-5-8,-6-8 and in subsequent iterations. After the exposition the modulatory technique of the
conventional fugue is replaced by a lyrical section. This is typically found in a sonata form. This
is followed by the return of the introductory material. A rhythmical accompaniment to the
arching melodic line of the lyrical section employs the repeated interval of the major second
from the introduction. The recurrence of these relationships is evident throughout this
The second movement is monothematic. lt consists of several phrases. The first is introduced
by the bassoon, then an oboe and the initial melody by a horn. The quiet cadence utilizes winds,
harp and the lower strings- cellos and contra basses.
The introduction that precedes the passacaglia of the third movements is divided into two
sections.The brief recitative in the strings is followed by two phrases of chromatic harmonies
over a pedal point.
The passacaglia was originally called “Ground”. It comprises eleven notes within the framework
of seven measures. Its construction is uniquely modulatory. The meter, 3-2. is unchanged in this
movement.There are fifteen variations with distinct characteristics in instrumentation,
harmonization, rhythm and tempo above and below the theme. There are aspects in the
Address for Orchestra that appear in later orchestral works as the Folksongs for Orchestra,
Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, Pageant and Proclamation,Tangents and Foils for Orchestra
(Hommage a Saint George).
Appropriately, there is the declamatory statement of the beginning of of the Address for
Orchestra, the mournful reiterations in the second movement evoking the anguished stillness of
Gettysburg and the unsettling tranquillity of Harper’s Ferry.The progressive development of the
Variations leads to a conclusion that is both affirmative and defiant. The Address for Orchestra
has a Lincolnesque connection to the unresolved and disturbing American dilemma that
underlines the social fabric of our society.