Cabrillo Festival's 50th anniversary season opens with the world premiere of Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra, an evening-length work based on stories developed by Peabody Award-winning radio producers The Kitchen Sisters (a.k.a. Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson) for their series on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. This groundbreaking new work uses the power of the symphonic form and contemporary multimedia to explore the diverse lives of girls and the women they become—stories of coming of age, rituals and rites of passage, secret identities—women who crossed a line, blazed a trail, changed the tide. Women and girls' stories and secrets emerge from the dunes of the Sahara, the prisons of Louisiana, a racetrack in Ramallah, a reservation in South Dakota, a horse fair in Cork, a slumber party in New York City, the planet Venus, and beyond. Four remarkably talented women composers add their own distinctive voices and personal interpretations to these stirring and culturally diverse stories.
Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra is the collaboration between The Kitchen Sisters as lead concept artists; four-time Emmy award-winning composer Laura Karpman as lead composer and creative director; three distinguished emerging female composers—Clarice Assad, Alexandra du Bois, and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum; multi-media technology and art studio Obscura Digital with Creative Director Marta Salas-Porras, along with Producers Maria Walcutt, Vajra Alaya-maitreya and Jennifer Spratt and Engineer Mary Franck collaborated to create the stunning visualizations for the program; and Cabrillo Festival’s esteemed music director and conductor Marin Alsop; and it features two local teenage girl soloists including Santa Cruz’s Jacklyn Partida (a.k.a. Jackie Rocks) on electric guitar, and percussionist Emily Liu of Cupertino.
The 2012 season begins on July 28 with an outdoor Pre-Concert Talk by Marin Alsop and a special ticketed dinner prepared by Feast for a King and served alfresco at the Civic Auditorium. Reservations required. The two evening performances of Hidden World of Girls include Post-Concert Talkback Sessions with Marin Alsop and the creative team.
HIDDEN WORLD OF GIRLS FORUM: STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES
Sunday, July 29 at 3:30pm
The Hidden World of Girls Forum: Stories Behind the Stories is designed to give audience members the opportunity to learn more about the women included in the featured stories and the personal and social issues they faced.
The commissioning and production of this world premiere is made possible by The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Composer Collaboration Awards 2010 Initiative, and by a grant from The Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation.
Alexandra du Bois (b. 1981)
Raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and now a resident of New York City, Alexandra du Bois began playing violin at the age of two, and by age fifteen, had begun composing. She received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School and her principal teachers include Christopher Rouse and Osvaldo Golijov. The Kronos Quartet commissioned her first and third string quartets. She writes the following notes about Beneath Boundaries:
Beneath Boundaries was written in part during an artist residency at the Harrison House in Joshua Tree, California. As I put my bare feet into the hot sand of the desert, I try to imagine Shadi [Ghadirian, Iranian photographer, subject of The Kitchen Sisters’ story which was my inspiration], her bare feet too immersed into the earth. My feet can take me almost anywhere I want to go. I climb a rocky cliff in my shorts, and feel the hot sun on my legs. My arms too are bared to the sun, and now and then a cooling wind surprises me. I lift my arms to the sky and yell because I can. I once saw an art installation at MassMoCA where six living maple trees were hung upside down to grow. The branches struggled towards the sun. I sat effortlessly in the sun on a rock in the desert, and tried to imagine Shadi, her feet like mine.
Clarice Assad (b. 1978)
Born in Brazil, Clarice Assad is the daughter of Sergio Assad and the niece of Odair Assad, one of the world’s premier international guitar duos. She has appeared at the Cabrillo Festival once before, for the 2004 world premiere of her Violin Concerto, written for and performed at the Festival by violinist and conductor Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. About The Disappeared, Assad writes:
In 1992 artist Claudia Bernardi and her sister Patricia went to El Mozote, El Salvador, to commit themselves to the grueling task of exhuming hundreds of skeletons from a mass grave. Among them, 136 victims had been children under the age of twelve. This slaughter, a bizarre by-product of a brutal twelve years of civil war, had been quickly covered up and dismissed for various political reasons. As a result, it went unreported by the press for a long time. Yet Rufina Amaya Marquez (1942-2007), one of the handful survivors of this horror, had lived to tell the story.
The Disappeared is a political piece. The underlying political events that led to the massive destruction of an entire village are quite absurd and really difficult to accept. It took me several weeks to figure out what I was going to do with this story, and after much pondering the image/idea of a traveling circus came into my mind. I chose the circus because of all its metaphorical meanings and its vivid imageries. A circus can be sweet, childish and innocent, or it can be gruesome, freakish and violent, such as the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome.
A disturbing musical parody, the music is quite visual and acknowledges the horrific events that had taken place in the village of El Mozote, as if conveyed to the audience by a traveling circus that had pulled into town and put on a show. Each circus “act” metaphorically addresses political issues such as power abuse and freedom, and the acts are woven together by interludes sung by a female voice inspired by the witness Rufina Amaya. Her voice lives in a parallel reality and accounts for what happened before the pandemonium and in the aftermath, but never during the present, actual horror.
Little by little, the bittersweet melody begins to lose its naiveté by piecing together ghostly memories of a community that once thrived in innocence and simplicity, though it had been overshadowed by an ominous premonition. The chronicle is a juxtaposition of ideas, emotions and ideals, a musical collage of sorts, influenced by Claudia Bernardi’s art, which, since her experience in El Mozote, has included severed figures and fragments of bone.
The work opens with an Overture and quickly dissolves into the First Interlude, Children in a Circle. Next is Clowns, symbolizing the government. It features a solo piccolo trumpet, which attempts to mock and mimic the speech of a dictator. The Second Interlude welcomes the Flying Trapeze, which stands for freedom, freedom of speech and free will. The movement closes bittersweetly with Jugglers and Tumblers, who herald news of the circus coming to town.
Finally, the music is interrupted by the Last Interlude, which is not sung but whispered in the form of a prayer. It is a soft, but desperate pleading, a cry for help that goes answered and the music progresses into the final movement entitled Freak Show. The piece concludes with a sung Postlude, the only portion of the work that contains lyrics. These lyrics, set to a poem by Brazilian writer Daniel Basilio, summarize the story with a beautiful message of life-affirming hope and continuing fortitude.
Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum (b. 1979)
Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum was born in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. She has composed symphonic works, and works for film, television and theatrical stage. She studied music at the Juilliard School, where her teachers were Samuel Adler and Milton Babbitt. Commissions include works for the London Symphony Chorus, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, among others. She writes about Double Adventures:
Double Adventures depicts the travels of two twins as they explore outer space, discover their own superpowers and ultimately return to Earth changed. The piece is based on a secret invented world that science fiction writer Pat Cadigan developed with her best friend Rosemarie when they were children. They were twins, Joan and Jane, capable of powerful expeditions into the furthest reaches of the galaxy. Equipped with superhuman powers, Joan and Jane defied space and time, shape shifting and manipulating their universe. I felt naturally connected to this material because as children, my twin sister and I inhabited many imaginary worlds. One universe was dominated by a rocky landscape made real by this big craggy rock in the basement of our house. The rock was so big that they built the house on top of it. We played on this strange family cliff. I remember it being a ship and we were the officers. It was infinite what this unexpected anchor could become.
Double Adventures is divided into a collection of six twin excursions/experiences:
Part 1: Secrets/The Launch
Part 2: Transport
Part 3: Space/Super Powers;
Part 4: Transformation
Part 5: Shape Shifters
Part 6: Earth Circles.
There are sci-fi references throughout the score, and some echoes of great twentieth-century music that I love. These musical worlds live beneath the surface, percolating, asserting themselves at times, but always fleeting. Herrmann, Cage, Gubaidulina, Xenakis, Corigliano, Andriessen, Williams, Messiaen, Karpman, Bernstein, all weave undertones sometimes overt, sometimes covered, all in my compositional playlist. There are also little sniffs of The Flash, Wonder Woman, Safety Woman, and some kitschy superhero sounds that empower us on to be open to this fantasy.
Conceptually, Double Adventures rigorously explodes the twin paradigm: similar but not same, duplicate but contrasting. The five-note motive, first introduced in the timpani, evolves and transforms throughout the piece. Characterized by a major 2nd rise at the front and a minor 2nd fall at the tail, this motive blooms into the main thematic material of the piece. The two notes that structurally surround the five-note motive are realized as verticals, responsible for the slightest harmonic color contractions and expansions.
In terms of orchestration, things happen in pairs. During the opening, "twin" woodwinds introduce the ethereal, sometimes distorted sounds of an alternate reality. From a pointillistic perspective, individual brass players couple with specific pitches in the timpani, now further representing this pairing as a simultaneity. Within a great sea of whispering, the five notes unfold quickly, and as the music gets faster and faster, the twins launch into outer space. The timpani and bass drum hit signifies arrival, freedom. This specific instrumental doubling marks change and new adventure.
Now buoyant in space, unhindered by gravity, the twins are free, so polymetric dances begin. The music is episodic as they first discover outer space, and then their own "inner space," marked by superhuman powers and abilities.
The music becomes about mystery. Not knowing. Floating. It has heart but it's a little weird. It's about transformation. A different kind of shape shifting happens here. The twins are spiritually growing up. The trumpets in the background bring memory, but this memory is interrupted by a jolt into a mirror of the original dance.
Conceptually, the symmetry of the opening 5-note motive unfolds at a structural level. In its framework, as we begin with a musical winding up, we are ultimately grounded. What was once strange and whispered is now sweet and nostalgic. Empowered by their own shape shifting abilities, the twins remember where they come from as they go forward, moving through time and space.
While I was writing Double Adventures, I kept thinking about musical superpowers. Time travel, sonic shape shifting, manipulations of acoustic dimensions, all become possible with processing digital audio. So Double Adventures incorporates superhuman sonic superpowers, live triggered samples that are peppered throughout the piece as an orchestral "cape."
Thank you to the Cabrillo Festival and Marin Alsop for commissioning this work. Double Adventures is dedicated to my grandmother Ruth Kroll, who played the violin with the American Youth Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, and Dean Dixon, who, as recognized by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was one of few women practicing law in the 1940s.
Portraits for Orchestra: The Reappearance of Those Who Have Gone
Laura Karpman (b. 1959)
Lead composer for the world premiere of Hidden World of Girls, Laura Karpman has received four Emmy Awards for her work in television music. A remarkably versatile composer, she also writes award-winning music for concert and theater, film, multi-media and video games. A graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied with Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom, she received her doctorate from the Juilliard School where she studied composition with Milton Babbitt. She has written the following note about Portraits:
Portraits for Orchestra and Samples is based upon the photographs and personal journey of Deborah Luster. The piece is a concerto for orchestra and samples, featuring primarily female soloists from the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. The samples are drawn largely from Alan Lomax’s legendary recordings of prison hollers and songs recorded at Parchman Farm in 1947, a notorious prison farm/plantation. The idea of the piece is to travel from Deborah Luster’s hidden world into the inner lives of her subjects. In Luster’s work, time is suspended, the present and the past, merged and frozen. Her subjects, in their self-posing, project their own worlds, flights of celebration, connection, freedom and the overwhelming lack thereof. Portraits is inspired by these notions, as well as Luster’s, Lomax’s and The Kitchen Sisters’ way of listening to and looking in on these very private lives.
My use and choices of samples also reflects this idea of suspended time. Alan Lomax went to prisons to find music that would most closely reflect the music of slaves–at these prisons time is literally frozen, and so the use of these samples is highly conceptual. You will hear not only the Lomax recordings, but also bits of voices from old radio shows, political speeches, etc.
I was particularly inspired by several of Luster’s portraits and I have grouped these into four sections. The orchestral soloists in these sections roughly represent the characters in Luster’s photographs as they present themselves to me.
Masquerade: solo piccolo, clarinet and viola
Sample: Jumpin’ Judy Hold On: solo oboe, English horn and trombone Sample: No More My Lord Black and White: solo piano and harp
Sample: Whoa Buck Freedom (and Liberty): featuring percussion, trumpet quartet and solo French horn
Samples: Prettiest Train, Theodore Roosevelt Campaign Speech, Destination Freedom radio program (1940’s Chicago)
HWG photos courtesy of The Kitchen Sisters, clockwise from bottom left: Corbis; Tartit; Shadi Ghadirian; Brave Heart Society. HWG Creative Team at right: The Kitchen Sisters; Laura Karpman