Summer News, 2019

I’m delighted to announce that Wendy Steiner and Andrew Lucia’s real-time music visualization installation, Traces on the farther side, in which drawings are generated by the acoustic signals from my composition A flower on the farther side, has opened at the Venice Biennale. The music, for viols and electronic sound, was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation for my wonderful friends and collaborators, the viol consort Parthenia. It is a kind of fantasy inspired by Hildegard’s beautiful chant Alleluia, o virga mediatrix. In the visualization, marks are created on the screen in various colors, with the pigmentation and placement varying according to the pitch and volume of the sounds (which were recorded by Parthenia). The resulting imagery is abstract, but suggestive of flowers in a field, or a starry sky. The installation is at the Palazzo Bembo in Venice, and will run until November 30.

In other news, I have received a commission from The Composer’s Guild of New Jersey to create a new work for electric guitar and electronic sound, for guitarist Giacomo Baldelli. I’m very excited about this project! Giacomo is a great musician and a wonderful person. After hearing a performance by the incomparable Adam Tendler of my Still Life With Piano, over two years ago, he approached me about writing for him. I’m thrilled that now the project has become a reality! We’ll start working together at the end of the summer, and the piece will premiere in fall of 2020.

Grant from the Sparkplug Foundation

The Momenta Quartet has been awarded a generous grant from the Sparkplug Foundation to support our “And so the heavens turned” project! The funds will commission composer Elizabeth Brown and me to write new works for the concert.

Elizabeth’s Babel, for string quartet and electronic sound, with sculpture and video by Lothar Osterburg, celebrates NYC as a living organism. Momenta is spaced around Osterburg’s monumental interpretation of Babel, covered with pages from discarded books in many languages. Brown’s recordings of Emma Lazarus’s verse from the Statue of Liberty, read in English in multiple accents, form the soundscape’s center. This positive version of Babel is cumulative, its history visible, its influx of immigrants the source of its life and beauty.

My work, The book of evening, will be for shakuhachi and string quartet. It is drawn from Mark Strand’s poem “Moon,” which pictures the moon appearing between clouds. The music reflects this as a sonic image, the shakuhachi surrounded by the strings’ musical “clouds.” Strand’s moon creates a path to “those places where what you had wished for happens.” The music evokes longing for that place, vanishing as the book of evening closes. Imagery based on the moon is important in Japanese culture, and Strand’s poem has the same impetus. The piece imagines the two cultures contemplating the same shared heavenly being, the moon; simultaneously the moon contemplates the two human cultures.This work is a new direction for me, as it is my first to bring together the shakuhachi with Western instruments.

In other news on the project, we now have a date for the premiere on the Interpretations concert series: December 5, 2019 at Roulette in Brooklyn!

If you’d like to follow our project on the New Music USA site, here’s a link to the page:

And so the heavens turned

Summer news

Parthenia, the wonderful viol consort I have been working with since 2009, has been getting great reviews for their new CD, Nothing Proved, which includes my two pieces A flower on the farther side and From a fairy tale. Fanfare magazine says:

While all of the compositions on offer are excellent, in light of the Hildegard being included I was particularly drawn to Frances White’s From a Fairy Tale. The juxtaposition of narratives, spoken and played, the first suffused with field recordings depicting the empty pastorality of its protagonist’s existence, is quite moving. Following on from it, the musical portion blends ancient and modern harmonies, and the viol timbres afford a beautifully multilayered historical bent to the music that speaks to the lofty goals the performers set for themselves.

American Record Guide says (of one of my pieces):

The most stunning works incorporate electronics. White’s Flower on the Farther Side is a haunted response to the Marian chant by Hildegard that precedes it, using electronic drones to augment the tangled viol counterpoint.

And, of the whole CD:

This music is in a class of its own—don’t overlook this album.

I’m so honored to share CD space with Tawnie Olson and Kristin Norderval, two magnificent composers; and of course its a dream to have my music played by the incomparable Parthenia!

In other news, my work for violin, electronic sound, and video The Old Rose Reader has been traveling in Italy!  Mari Kimura, the superb violinist who commissioned it, played it on her Italian tour this past June: it appeared on her programs in Sardinia, Salerno, and Rome.  The Old Rose Reader has a very special place in my heart, and I’m so delighted that this piece, written almost 15 years ago, still has such a vibrant life.

Finally, I’m thrilled to announce that the Momenta Quartet received a New Music USA Project Grant to fund the creation of new works by me and by my brilliant friend and colleague Elizabeth Brown! My piece, The book of evening, will be for shakuhachi and string quartet; Elizabeth’s Babel will be for string quartet, electronic sound, and sculpture (created by Lothar Osterburg).  These works will be premiered in December 2019 on a concert on the renowned Interpretations series.  They’ll be presented along with my work for quartet and narrator And so the heavens turned (text by James Pritchett, read by Thomas Buckner), Elizabeth’s gorgeous quartet Just Visible in the Distance, and her new work for shakuhachi Dialect.

Update: The Bloom and the Blackness

The full version of The Bloom and the Blackness, my collaboration with choreographer Alia Kache and writer James Pritchett, is scheduled for performance November 17-19 at Restoration Arts in Brooklyn.  I am so delighted and honored to be part of this beautiful work!

Here are some pictures of Alia and one of our magnificent dancers, Shay Bland, in The Bloom and the Blackness (Alia is the “Reine des Violettes” – Queen of the Violets – from The Old Rose Reader).

 

I find these pictures capture some of the beauty and tenderness of the dance, as well as some of the heartbreak.  But if you’d like to see more, please check out the links to video in my previous post! And please consider coming to see our shows in November.  More information will be posted here soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in supporting The Bloom and the Blackness, you can donate by credit card at the link below:

Kachal Dance is a sponsored project of Fractures Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.  Contributions for the charitable purposes of Kachal Dance must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bloom and the Blackness

Over the years I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many wonderful artists; these collaborations have been among the best artistic experiences of my life.  Most recently, I have been working with the brilliant choreographer Alia Kache.  Alia is creating The Bloom and the Blackness, a gorgeous, incredibly moving dance work that uses my pieces The book of roses and memory and The Old Rose Reader (themselves collaborations with writer James Pritchett, violinist Mari Kimura, narrator Hervé Bronnimann, and violist Liuh-Wen Ting) as music.  The Bloom and the Blackness explores a searing juxtaposition of romance, beauty, and love with the pain, violence, and dehumanization of racism.  The first iteration of the work premiered on March 21 at Dixon Place.  I was so thrilled and moved by what Alia created, and by the magnificent way it was brought to life by the amazing dancers Shay Bland, Tyler Brown, Winston Dynamite Brown, and Alaric Thomas.  We were blessed and honored to have the music performed live by Mari Kimura and Liuh-Wen Ting.  Alia plans to continue to work on the piece to include also As night falls, the last piece (for violin, viola, narrator, and electronic sound) in my “rose trilogy”.  The result will be an evening length work, to be premiered most likely this fall – details will follow!  In the meantime, please enjoy these videos from the premiere of The Bloom and the Blackness:

Excerpts

Full video

Review in Musicworks of “She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew”

A wonderful  review of the CD recording of my chamber opera She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew appeared in Musicworks magazine.  Reviewer Cecilia Livingston writes:  

Frances White’s music is spectacularly beautiful: soprano Kristin Norderval’s voice blooms through the electronics’ drowned tonality, as the piece explores “the necessity of putting into words experiences that are beyond words, or where words have been suppressed.”
and
With the clarity and elegance (and, in places, the gorgeous vocal polyphony) many listeners will associate with early music, this startling new sound world offers music so atmospheric and sensuous it is almost fragrant.
 

Between here and not here

water2

Between here and not here, a collaboration between me and the brilliant visual artist Jim Toia, will be premiered on Saturday May 14 at 8pm at The DiMenna Center, Cary Hall (450 W37th Street).  Scored for alto flute, viola, piano, electronic sound, and video, this work was commissioned by The New York Viola Society with funding provided by The American Music Center’s Commissioning Music USA grant (formerly Meet the Composer). Between here and not here explores the inevitable experience of loss: the passage between the states of presence and absence, above and below, life and death. Over the course of the piece, the music’s expressive nature is gradually erased into silence—a reminder of those larger processes that gradually dissolve the self. Jim Toia’s video consists of images of water, visual meditations on its different stages of calm and agitation. The images gradually become more abstract; they are projected onto ephemeral materials which fade away as video and music dissolve.  The two media inform and transform each other: sound disappearing into silence, form into abstraction, longing into emptiness.

 Between here and not here  will be performed by these fantastic musicians from Ensemble Meme: Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; and Molly Morkoski, piano.

New CD Release

On October 9th, Ravello Records (a PARMA label) will release a CD recording of my chamber opera for solo voice and electronic sound, She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew. This work was a collaboration with soprano Kristin Norderval and Valeria Vasilevski, who directed and wrote the libretto.

She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew moves through situations of trauma or awe, exploring the necessity to put into words what is unspeakable. Valeria based her text on conversations the three of us had when we first began the collaboration. We talked about many things, including some of the most profound events in our lives: times of trauma, death, awe, wonder. At these moments, experiences beyond words, we found that we lost our voices and faced silence.  She Lost Her Voice, That’s How We Knew grew from this insight.

While coming from our personal stories, the work is also open to the larger and more universal issues that are implied by the idea of this loss of voice. While there is no explicit, linear narrative, the piece does suggest an interior drama, from which a definite persona emerges. This persona has multiple voices: an inner voice, a voice of memory, a public voice, a private voice, a spoken voice, a singing voice, and a voice silenced by the fears that define our time. The “voice” struggles to reveal her secret, but questions if there is willingness to even listen.  Relentlessly, she searches for the heart that receives even the most despicable, or most desirable, truth. At the same time, she is also a listener, hearing the cries of all these different voices.

It has been an honor and a joy to collaborate with Kristin and Valeria.  They are both great, great artists, and also deeply beautiful and compassionate human beings. Creating She Lost Her Voice, That’s How We Knew required us to trust each other profoundly, as we shared some of the darkest, and also the most transcendent experiences of our lives.  I am overjoyed that the result of this loving and profound collaboration will now be available to many new listeners!

Kristin, Valeria and I plan  on a CD release event on October 28 at Spectrum in NYC.  I’ll post more about that soon, as we work out the details.  In the meantime, a video with excerpts from the piece:

The Old Rose Reader

In 2004, I wrote The Old Rose Reader for the magnificent violinist/composer Mari Kimura.   This work is for violin, electronic sound, and video, and the text and video were created by my husband, James Pritchett.  The text is beautifully read by Mari’s husband, Hervé Bronnimann.  The original video of Mari’s performance is now available online:

I guess composers always have a deep connection to each of their works – but for me, The Old Rose Reader has  a  particularly special place in my heart.   It is a loving collaboration between two couples, and somehow everything in the piece just seemed to come together like magic.  I will always be grateful to Mari and Hervé for their exquisite performances, and to James for his beautiful and haunting text and video.

Random Access Music

I am happy to announce that I have been invited to join Random Access Music, a composers collective.  This wonderful group of artists is involved in a lot of exciting activities, including producing a number of innovative concerts throughout the year, collaborations with many fantastic ensembles, and running the annual Queens New Music Festival.   I have already had a chance to experience working with them, as last November I was their guest composer for a collaboration with the beautiful viol consort Parthenia.  I’m looking forward to a long and productive association with this talented group of composers!

Here’s a video of  From a fairy tale,  the piece that I created for Parthenia for this concert.