The San Diego Symphony Ensemble, Harvey Sollberger
If composers born in the 1920s deconstructed the classical tradition and destroyed the foundations of "normal" musical practice, it was left to the '30s generation to build a new universe amid the rubble. No one has participated more assiduously in that venture than Roger Reynolds (b. 1934). He has infused into avant-garde music a perspective cognizant of the extra-musical world. It seemed surprising, yet fitting, that in 1989, Reynolds nabbed the usually sedate Pulitzer Prize for music; he was the first experimentalist sufficiently recognized by the establishment to do so since Charles Ives in 1947. Whispers Out of Time is the prize-winning work. The title is the last phrase of John Ashbery's long poem, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, and Reynolds uses a string orchestra to reflect the poem's changing images, as the poem itself reflects a sixteenth-century painting by Parmigianino.
Transfigured Wind II (1983) is an example of Reynolds's quintessential style. It could be said that the central challenge of both his music and his writings has been the subjective response to new technology, how to absorb new sensibilities into music without allowing the technology to defeat or subvert artistic expression. Transfigured Wind II relies on techniques that Reynolds pioneered in Archipelago, a major work he produced in 1983 at IRCAM: He recorded the piece's four flute solos and used a computer to capture, analyze, and transform the nuances of pitch, tempo, and dynamics that the performer intuitively added to the notation. The transformations then appeared on tape, and also became the material for the orchestral writing.
Roger Reynolds: Whispers Out of Time/Transfigured Wind II