Music of Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky & Mel Powell
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL227     Release Date: 2010-07-15

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, José Serebrier, conductor; Mildred Dunnock, voice; Lee Bowman, voice; Martha Scott, voice; Ward Davenny, piano; Keith Wilson, clarinet; David Schwartz, viola

New York Chamber Soloists: Charles Bressler, tenor; Gerald Tarack, violin; Ynez Lynch, viola; Alexander Kouguell, cello; Melvin Kaplan, oboe & conductor

Concerted Piece was composed in 1960 on commission by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and premiered by them that year. The music bears some resemblance to a movement from a classical concerto, with the tape recorder in the role of soloist or concertino. The first part, composed by Otto Luening, ends with the cadenza for taped sounds alone. It is somewhat more homogenous than the second, composed by Vladimir Ussachevsky, which makes considerable use of an antiphonal interplay between the orchestra and tape.

Vladimir Ussachevsky writes:

"The title, Of Wood and Brass (1965) is derived from the materials used in composing it. I attempted to remove the final sound materials as far as possible from the quality of the original instrumental sounds."

To achieve this, Mr. Ussachevsky used a number of machine and tape manipulative techniques which he developed from his extensive experimentation in tape medium when the latter was dependent exclusively on skilled handicraft rather than on the now popular keyboard controlled electronic sound generating devices. He adds:

"The first section consists predominantly of material evolved from the trombone and from the electronic source; the second from a single flourish on a trumpet; most of the third section was originally played on the xylophone, mixed with some electronic sounds; the final section is made almost exclusively from a glissando on the trombone and the sound of a Korean gong."

Wireless Fantasy was composed in 1960. The composer writes:

"The birth of wireless communication ushered in an exciting period which lasted from 1899 to 1925 when the Amateur Spark Era came to an end. Much romance and nostalgia still remain from these times."

"The first signal is 'QST', a standard call to all stations to stand by for a message of general interest. Then comes the first old open gap spark-generated code, 'DF' (for De Forrest), the identifying call of the famous Manhattan Beach Station which could be heard from Newfoundland to the Caribbean. This is soon followed by 'WA', associated with the Waldorf-Astoria Station, built in 1910, and then 'NY'. Under this is played a montage of wireless signals, until slowly the orchestral composition emerges. Toward the end ‘DOC DF’, the affectionate nickname by which De Forrest was known to his friends, is tapped by Mr. Raser. The Fantasy ends with the conventional code ‘EM’—end of message—and ‘GN’— good night”.

Mel Powell's Events (1963) uses three pre-recorded voices and electronically generated sounds. Each of the actors was asked to read Hart Crane's "Legend." The recorded voices were then treated exactly like the electronic sounds, and their overlappings and transformations result in a poem-collage. The simultaneities, and the returns and repeats of isolated phrases and words create a number of subsidiary meanings and associations, thus "interpreting" the poem. Intertwined with the poem-collage, and interacting with it, are the electronic sounds, and the interaction makes Events Powell's most overtly dramatic piece.

Improvisation (1962), a commission of the Yale University Summer School of Music, and Two Prayer Settings (1963), written for the New York Chamber Soloists, make use of tightly controlled polyphonic webs which nevertheless allow each performer considerable freedom. The controls tend to create harmonic areas with clearly delimited interval content which often coincide with and unify motivic groups, as well control of the directional thrusts of the groups and their manner of attack. At times the tempo indication requires that each player perform as fast as possible without regard for the vertical correlation of the parts.

In Improvisation the fluctuations of the tempo and the relatively complex writing in the strictly ensemble sections obscure the division between these and the freer sections, creating a continuum from one to the other.

In the Two Prayer Settings, the strings are treated as a single polyphonic instrument and set against the oboe and the voice. The work is so rooted in the delivery of the texts that often they can be understood as normal discourse. Thus, the most complex passages occur when the voice is silent as, for example, at the opening of the second setting. The words of the first setting are by Paul Goodman, those of the second are attributed to Gregory the Great.

The Second Electronic Setting (1962) contrasts sharply with Events. Its divertimento-like surface and straight-forward structure make apparent the amazing technical virtuosity of the work. The individuality of the parts is made explicit by their own registral, timbral and rhythmic characteristics; thus the Setting carries to the electronic medium some of Powell's attitudes towards instrumental music. However, like every true virtuoso performance, the piece can be enjoyed for its sheer engaging sound by listeners who do not care how it was put together.

This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available as a burn-on-demand CD (CD-R) or download in MP3/320, FLAC or WAV formats. CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included. Full liner notes are accessible via the link above.

We have preserved the original CRI LP catalog number for this title, preceded by the prefix NWCRL, to distinguish previously unavailable back catalog titles from those later reissued by CRI on compact disc.

Various Artists

Music of Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky & Mel Powell

MP3/320 $7.99
FLAC $7.99
WAV $7.99
CD-R $7.99
CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print material or jewel case included.
A *.pdf of the notes may be accessed here free of charge.
   Liner Notes

Track Listing

Concerted Piece for Tape Recorder and Orchestra
Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky
Of Wood And Brass
Vladimir Ussachevsky
Wireless Fantasy
Vladimir Ussachevsky
Events for Tape Recorder
Mel Powell
Mel Powell
Second Electronic Setting
Mel Powell, Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky
Two Prayer Settings
Mel Powell