Festival! The Best of the 1995 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Page 2
The suite for chamber orchestra is Copland's reduction (in orchestral forces) of a condensed version of the ballet score, with all essential features retained; passages that were primarily choreographic were deleted, but the suite's series of eight continuous sections re-creates the ballet's structure. In the seventh section---one of the most touching---scenes of daily activities of the young couple are set to five variations on "Simple Gifts," a traditional Shaker hymn. In a way, the song's text symbolizes the spirit of Appalachian Spring:
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down
Where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves
In the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley
Of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right.
---Deborah Carley Emory (Footnote 1)
Tomiko Kohjiba (b. 1952)
The Transmigration of the Soul (1995)
World Premiere Recording
Ten years ago I wrote Requiem Hiroshima for string orchestra. (It was also performed at the 1995 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.) In the first half of the Requiem, I expressed the agony of people who died by the atomic bomb; in the latter half, I expressed prayer for salvation of their souls.
In my new composition, The Transmigration of the Soul, for nine instruments and voice, I try to express death not from the perspective of survivors, but from the view of the dying man himself---his sorrow, his agony in the face of unexpected death, and further, the process of salvation after leaving the body. The soprano [Kendra Colton in this world-premiere performance] sings a song of the soul which expresses a groan of impossibility to receive one's death, a trial to be saved, and rejoicing at being saved. Here I referred to Sho-Myo, as it is called---a kind of singing repeated by Buddhist priests at ceremonies and at memorial services. Sho-Myo exists not only in Japan, but also in India, Tibet, China, and so on. Traditionally, it is sung in a man's voice only, but in my composition I dared to adapt it for soprano voice. Though Sho-Myo was originally a Buddhist tradition, this does not mean that only Buddhists must be saved. I intended to express prayer for souls all over the world.
In this composition, the instruments help to express soul or depict background. At the end of the 20th century, we Japanese too now meet unsettled and dangerous matters. I shall be happy if this composition brings you peace of mind.---Tomiko Kohjiba
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
La Création du Monde, Op.81 (1923)
Although not a sporty humorist like his confrère Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud did have his own brand of wit. One certainly needed it in the unconventional group of composers bound to Jean Cocteau's circus-stimulated world, and to the audacious-intellectual musical clowning of Erik Satie. The anti-romantic group, called "Les Six," numbered one female and five young male composers, all working in the invigorating atmosphere of post-World War I Paris, and all united (loosely) under the eccentric aegis of Cocteau and Satie. Cocteau's creed became theirs for a time: that the spirit of "worldly sounds" (most typically those of Montmartre) should be incorporated in a classical musical framework.
Of the Six, Milhaud was the most active. Composing quickly and easily, he left an uneven catalog of some 400 large and small works, including 40 theatrical scores, written in a bold, dissonant, polytonal style. He also wrote 18 string quartets, two of which can be played simultaneously as an octet (a fact that, in itself, raises a smile if not an eyebrow).
The European discovery of American jazz, blues, and ragtime unleashed a new world of musical explorations by these 1920s Parisian avant-gardists. Milhaud had made his own discovery of jazz, however, and at its source: in Harlem. At that time in the US, jazz was regarded as an entertainment idiom suitable only for Blacks. Yet Milhaud sensed "that jazz expressed the deepest, truest emotion of the Black soul." The intensive, improvisational rhythms, percussive effects, and potent expressiveness of melodies had a profound effect on his human and musical sensibilities.
In the ambitious score to the ballet La Création du monde, his interpretation was matched to the scenario created by the French writer Blaise Cendrars. Their vision found its inspiration in themes of creation drawn from African folklore: "primitive...imaginative, guileless, confiding, and gentle." Hence, the world's creation was conceived as "a peaceable rather than cataclysmic" event. A feeling of gentle agitation, a sort of springtime ebullience, underlies the entire work. The plot is indeed poetic in its presentation of gods, harmonious nature, the appearance of Man and Woman, and the awakening of the world to all its wondrous possibilities. The six vivid sections of the score illuminate each event as it unfolds.
This splendidly organized tonal spectacle begins with a "pre-creation" overture that establishes a rather static atmosphere in which repetitious motives move in tonal ambiguity and close confinement. Thenceforth, with a finely textured nervous fugue replete with jazz rhythms, the script is delineated in sections that follow one another without break. There is excitement as well as tenderness, as gentle blues and colorful percussive drama, tempestuous rhythms, glimpses of the fugue, and the ubiquitous overture theme are woven into the supercharged orchestral tapestry. At the close, the origins (from the overture) are reconfirmed in a soft, tremulous epilogue. "It is the beginning of spring."---Deborah Carley Emory
Footnote 1: Deborah Carley Emory is completing the Music History Graduate Program at the School of Music, University of Washington. She has a BA from Smith College and an MA from the University of California, Davis. She has contributed program notes to a number of musical organizations, including the UCLA and UW concert series, the Kapalua, Seattle, Sitka, and Chamber Music Northwest festivals, and the Oregon Symphony. Her notes have appeared in Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival programs since 1982.