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Unstuck

Saturday 8.10 8pm

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Guest Conductor Brad Lubman

Andrew Norman Unstuck
Enrico Chapela Magnetar Concerto for Electric Cello
(Johannes Moser, electric cello)
Philip Glass Symphony No. 10 [U.S. Premiere]

ORDER TICKETS: $32-$52

PROGRAM NOTES

Composers Andrew Norman and Enrico Chapela return to the Cabrillo Festival, and Philip Glass’ tenth symphony receives its U.S. premiere tonight. Andrew Norman is composer in residence of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and his music has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times for its “Chaplinesque” wit and in the New York Times for its “daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors.” After last season’s wildly successful performance of his Gran Turismo for eight violinists, Maestra Alsop wanted to dig deeper into the music of this emerging talent. Tonight’s program opens with Norman’s orchestral work Unstuck, a kinetic piece that explores a turning point when the composer overcame a prolonged period of writer’s block. It was a line from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five–“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”–that made for a breakthrough realization that “the lack of coherence in my ideas was to be embraced and explored, not overcome.” And so it is in this driving piece that has won much critical acclaim throughout the world.

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“Young and old—in suits or T-shirts and jeans, in high heels or sneakers— smiled, stood and cheered.” Los Angeles Times on Magnetar



Next, German-born Johannes Moser, proclaimed by Gramophone Magazine as “one of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists,” will make his Cabrillo Festival debut in Enrico Chapela’s concerto for electric cello and orchestra, Magnetar. Mexican composer Chapela, who made his Cabrillo debut in 2009 with ínguesu, was inspired by a rare type of pulsar that has the biggest magnetic field in the universe. “For 25 minutes Chapela charts a riveting narrative of sounds that create their own reality of love, excitement, and drama” described Strings Magazine, “A major e-cello concerto...rich in jazz, rock, and Latin-American influences, and quotations, that are seamlessly integrated.” Few composers have as defined a voice and as prolific and broad reaching a musical career as the iconic Philip Glass, and the Cabrillo Festival has championed his work for four decades. Symphony No. 10 received its world premiere in France under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies and tonight it receives its U.S. premiere with Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. The work includes five movements, the last of which is Black and White Scherzo, first heard here and written in dedication to Marin on the occasion of her 20th anniversary. A compelling finale and a welcomed reprise!

MEETUP! The concert is followed by an outdoor dessert reception for the entire audience and orchestra!

Program Notes


Unstuck
(2008)

Andrew Norman (b. 1979)


I have never been more stuck than I was in the winter of 2008. My writing came to a grinding halt in January and for a long time this piece languished on my desk, a mess of musical fragments that refused to cohere. It was not until the following May, when I saw a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and remembered one of its iconic sentences, that I had a breakthrough realization. The sentence was this: “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time,” and the realization was that the lack of coherence in my ideas was to be embraced and explored, not overcome.

I realized that my musical materials lent themselves to a narrative arc that, like Vonnegut’s character, comes “unstuck” in time. Bits and pieces of the beginning, middle, and end of the music crop up in the wrong places like the flashbacks and flashforwards that define the structure and style of Slaughterhouse-Five.

I also realized that the word “unstuck” had resonances with the way that a few of the piece’s musical ideas get caught in repetitive loops. The orchestra, perhaps in some way dramatizing my own frustration with composing, spends a considerable amount of time and energy trying to free itself from these moments of stuckness.

—Andrew Norman

Unstuck was commissioned by the Orpheum Stiftung and premiered by the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich on September 9, 2008 with Michael Sanderling conducting.

Not recorded

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Magnetar (2011)
Enrico Chapela (b. 1974)


The electric cello is an electromagnetic instrument. The kinetic energy of the strings is transformed into electromagnetic energy that can be manipulated in numerous ways before being reconverted into sound. This is the main feature of this instrument and the very source of its amazing power, so I decided to find the biggest possible magnet to base my work on. Reading some articles online, I learned about the existence of some rare type of pulsars that had the biggest magnetic fields in the universe known as magnetars.

After learning about the existence of magnetars, I contacted Dr. Jonathan Arons from the University of California at Berkeley (an astrophysicist who happens to play the cello) who kindly accepted to have lunch with me. It was then that I learned all I needed to know (and more) about magnetars and their flares. He also put me in touch with Dr. Kevin Hurley – one of the authors of the articles I read – who was kind enough to share with me data from three flares produced by three different magnetars collected by the Venera, Ulysses and RHESSI spacecraft. I used this data to construct the base materials for my work.

Once I had the materials ready, I ripped off two strings from my electric guitar and tuned it as a cello. Then I jammed over the materials to find out what could be done with them. I composed the solo part first, and showed it to Johannes Mosser, who crashed in my studio for a week. During this time we defined how the final version should sound like, leaving the score ready to add the e-cello FXS patcher and the final orchestration.

The work has three movements: fast, slow, and brutal. The data from the flares had some seconds of cosmic noise before and after the blast, so the first movement comes from and goes back to cosmic noise, which is represented by the use of hands and feet – ideal instruments for controlled noise chaotic textures. The core of the movement has the time line reversed: the decay of the flare becomes a gradual build up towards the big blast that dies out into the solo cadenza. This cadenza represents quiet and peaceful times; when magnetars chill out and return to balance. The second movement explores melodies that build up to a mini flare (magnetars also have small bursts), then falls into a cool jam, and dies out to the same ethereal ambience of the cadenza. The third movement bursts from nowhere into a fully distorted e-cello that leads into a brutal riff, that gradually builds up to the giant final flare.

Needless to say, the effects patcher is the most exciting part of an e-cello concerto. This software controls all digital as well as analog effects. It’s based on MAX/MSP and does many things: it governs the effects configuration during the entire piece, it analyses the audio signal and provides a real time stream of information that is used to adjust the response of the effects to the playing of the soloist. Finally, it performs all digital FXS (delay, granulation, ring modulation, spectral freeze) while storing the MIDI data that turns on and off the analog FXS (distortion, wa wa, chorus, phaser).

—Enrico Chapela

Magnetar was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and premiered on October 20, 2011, at Walt Disney Concert Hall with Johannes Moser and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Not recorded

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Symphony No. 10 (2012)
Philip Glass (b.1937)

Philip Glass was born in Baltimore and studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School, and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. After moving to Europe, he studied with Nadia Boulanger and worked closely with famed sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. In 1967, he returned to New York and founded the Philip Glass Ensemble. Over the next forty years, he would collaborate in many genres with a diverse array of artists, from Woody Allen to Twyla Tharp, David Bowie to Paul Simon. His more than 20 operas, including Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, play to full houses around the world, and his concertos, symphonies, string quartets, and film scores (notably Koyaanisqatsi and The Hours) have helped establish his style - which he calls not minimalism but “music with repetitive structures” - as among the most recognizable for modern audiences.

Philip Glass came to writing symphonies relatively late in his career. What we know now to be Symphony No.1 premiered in 1992 when the composer was in his mid-50s. Over the next twenty years the composer would immerse himself in orchestral writing with a number of operas, thirteen concertos, numerous film scores, and ten symphonies.

Glass’ symphonic influences follow models closer to Shostakovich, Bruckner, and Mahler than they do the classical symphony. Two of his numbered symphonies were based on the music of Brian Eno and David Bowie. The works range in scale (Symphony No.3 [1995] is for 19 strings; his Maximalist Symphony No.5  [1999] is 100 minutes long and adds soloists, children’s chorus, and chorus to the full orchestra) and his middle symphonies often include text or chorus. His use of text began with various religious texts in No.5 and continued with No.6, Plutonian Ode (2002) using an epic poem by Allen Ginsberg. The last Glass symphony to use text was Symphony No.7, A Toltec Symphony (2005) that was inspired by the ancient Toltec tradition of Meso-America.

Glass did not return to the purely instrumental symphony until No.8 in 2005. The composer’s instrumental symphonies include Nos.1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and now 10. With the exception of No.7, all of the Glass symphonies were commissioned by former Cabrillo Festival Music Director Dennis Russell Davies. Marin Alsop herself has performed a number of Glass symphonies and recorded three of them: Nos. 2, 3, and 4.

Symphony No.10 began with a work titled Black & White Scherzo that was commissioned and given as a gift to the Cabrillo Festival, celebrating 20 years with music director Marin Alsop. Glass had informed Alsop that the ‘Scherzo’ was the final movement from a planned full-scale symphony. The premiere took place on August 5, 2011 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, with Marin Alsop as conductor. As early as June 2011, perhaps as a measure of dealing with the curse of a Ninth Symphony, Glass went on record as having finished his Tenth Symphony a full six months before the premiere of his Ninth. The musical discourse of the piece continues the formal investigations which Glass began with his later symphonies, specifically Nos.7-9.

Commissioned by the Orchestre Francais des Jeunes, Glass’ Symphony No.10 had its world premiere on August, 9, 2012 at the Grand Théatre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. Tonight’s performance represents the American premiere of the work.

—Richard Guérin

Not recorded

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