Lou Harrison: Scenes from Cavafy
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80710     Release Date: 2011-06-01

John Duykers, voice; Adrienne Varner, piano; Jessika Kenney, voice; Gamelan Pacifica Chorus; Gamelan Pacifica, Jarrad Powell, artistic director

Lou Harrison’s (1917–2003) long-term love affair with the Indonesian gamelan had its roots in a course he took from Henry Cowell in the spring of 1935. As Harrison refined his understanding of traditional gamelan procedures during the 1980s, he began to transfer these compositional ideas to works for Western instruments. At the same time, Harrison continued to compose for the Indonesian ensemble itself, indulging a fascination for Asia that had been part of his life since his youth while simultaneously bringing this fascination into close interaction with his Western musical training.

He simply found in gamelan music some of the most beautiful sounds he could imagine and he hastened to add these sounds to his toolbox of compositional resources as an extension of his personal artistic voice. In so doing, he honored the culture that had inspired him, and offered his works as an admiration for its artistic products.

Harrison composed Scenes from Cavafy (1980) five years after beginning his gamelan studies with Pak Cokro and Jody Diamond. The lyrics consist of a paraphrase by Harrison of four poems by the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933). For the outer movements, Harrison selected texts showing “the fantastically intimate and lyric feeling that Cavafy had for Byzantine and Alexandrian history.” The middle movement focuses on two of Cavafy’s erotic poems, illustrating the homosexual themes that appear in many of them. (Harrison was an outspoken advocate for gay rights.)

From 1976 through 1987 Harrison composed eight works combining Western solo instruments and the gamelan. Among these, the Concerto for Piano and Javanese Gamelan (1987), written for the pianist Belle Bulwinkle, figures as one of the most extensive. The piano is retuned to match the gamelan instruments.

A Soedjatmoko Set (1989) represents Harrison’s mature gamelan style and was occasioned by the death on December 21, 1989 of the prominent Indonesian intellectual and diplomat Soedjatmoko, an outspoken advocate for world peace, preservation of the natural environment, and the alleviation of poverty. Harrison, for his part, had composed a host of politically-charged works beginning as early as the 1930s. Here, he uses the gamelan and a text from the Ramayana to honor the ideals for which both he and Soedjatmoko stood: pacifism and a devotion to nature.

This is the world-premiere recording of these three major works in authoritative performances by Gamelan Pacifica, which had a long association with the composer, performing and giving the Northwest premieres of all his major works for gamelan.

Gamelan Pacifica

Lou Harrison: Scenes from Cavafy

MP3/320 $9.99
FLAC $9.99
WAV $9.99
CD $15.99

Track Listing

Scenes from Cavafy: Scenes from Cavafy: I. Gending Cavafy
Lou Harrison
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Scenes from Cavafy: Scenes from Cavafy: II. Gending Bill/Lancaran Jody
Lou Harrison
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Scenes from Cavafy: Scenes from Cavafy: III. Gending Ptolemy
Lou Harrison
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Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: I. Bull's Belle
Lou Harrison
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Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: II. [Untitled]
Lou Harrison
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Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan: III. Belle's Bull
Lou Harrison
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Soedjatmoko Set: Soedjatmoko Set: I.
Lou Harrison
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Soedjatmoko Set: Soedjatmoko Set: II. Isna's Song
Lou Harrison
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Soedjatmoko Set: Soedjatmoko Set: III.
Lou Harrison
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