Conrad Cummings; Chinary Ung
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL487     Release Date: 2011-05-15
Susan Belling, soprano; Members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic: [Paul Dunkel, flute; John Moses, clarinet; Kenneth Bowen, piano; Robert Chausow, violin; Jerry Grossman, cello;] New Music Consort: [Susan Deaver, flute; Robert Atherholt, oboe; Virgil Blackwell, soprano saxophone; Curtis Macomber, violin; Lois Martin, viola; Claire Heldrich, percussion; William Trigg, percussion; Barbara Allen, harp] Conrad Cummings, Conductor; Joan Heller, soprano; Christopher Finckel, cello; Keith Underwood, flute; Robert Atherholt, oboe; David Starobin, guitar; Arthur Weisberg, Conductor; Marc Johnson, cello

Conrad Cummings' Beast Songs, for human voice, computer generated voice sounds, and chamber ensemble, was one result of his stay at what some consider the most advanced center for music and technology, the Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM). There Cummings became acquainted with a system of computer vocal synthesis invented by Xavier Rodet and developed for musical use by Gerald Bennett, which resulted in the composition (in 1979) of a dramatic work contrasting the human voice and the computer voice.

Cummings wrote Summer Air for nine instruments during a stay at the MacDowell Colony in 1980; in the composer's words, "it owes much of its character to the lush mid-May New Hampshire woods, to the almost palpable heavy sweetness of the air." The composer found inspiration for the work in the profusion of sounds in the summer forest — "a dense wall of green, a general wash of vibrant pulsating sound, and the occasional (sometimes raucous) animal interruption, suddenly coming to the fore, then just as suddenly receding back into the pulsating whole." The resulting musical environment, richly laden with provocative and vital sounds and rhythms, yet framed in a relaxed, calm atmosphere, leaves the listener with an impression of the "peaceful steadiness" of the natural world.

Chinary Ung's Tall Wind is a sensitive, rather spare setting of two poems by e.e. cummings ("Sunset," and "Sonnet") plus a wordless introductory song. Ung sought, as did the poet, to obtain the maximum expressive power with minimum means. The composer was attracted to cummings' poetry for its transparency, economy and brevity, as well as its images and its actual sound. Tall Wind is one of Ung's earliest pieces, written during the composer's years at Columbia University, where it won the Boris and Ida Rapaport Prize, 1970, and was premiered at Tanglewood in the same year.

The solo cello work Khse Buon (Khmer words meaning "strings four," referring to the four strings of the cello) was composed 10 years after Tall Wind and finds the composer with a decidedly different outlook. Khse Buon is as expansive as Tall Wind is sparse, although both are surely the work of a composer who believes that music should flow and breathe. Ung attributes the outcome of Khse Buon to two main sources — his involvement with group improvisation during the period he was teaching at Northern Illinois University, and his "close collaboration with Western string players in a search for new possibilities whose origins are to be found in indigenous instruments of the East."



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Various Artists

Conrad Cummings; Chinary Ung

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Track Listing

Beast Songs
Conrad Cummings
Buy
Summer Air
Conrad Cummings
Buy
Tall Wind
Chinary Ung
Buy
Khse Buon
Chinary Ung
Buy