Wednesday, June 10, 2009

John Luther Adams

Adam Reinwald and I were working in the Cantus office yesterday, sorting through and filing music while geeking out to some music from his infamous iPhone. We came across some interesting scores, including a small art song entitled "up into the silence" by John Luther Adams (the poem is by e.e. cummings...a GREAT poem that you should google!). I brought this art song home to sift through. At first I couldn't figure out if I liked it or not... It was repetitive, with the same sorts of figures in the accompaniment, and the right hand of the piano almost always played what the solo line was singing (which wasn't much other than arpeggios already used in the piano part). But by the end of the bleak-sounding piece, I was completely entranced. It wasn't boring like I'd thought: It was very, very slow progress, with a lot of measured silences.

So I looked up this John Luther Adams, and it turns out he's pretty famous. He's got a discography of around 10 CDs, a quote from Lou Harrison mentioning that he's "one of the few important young American composers", and it seems like he's a semi-continuation of Morton Feldman's ideas about slow moving processes. But these slow moving processes and possible minimalist gestures are a direct result of his love for Alaska, where he's lived since the late 1970s, which he mentions in almost every interview I could find.

I then searched for him elsewhere, and came upon this article in the New Yorker about a sound and light installation that Adams placed in the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It's called "The Place Where You Go to Listen", and it's based on natural events that occur in real time. By that I mean it's completely controlled by input data collected from its surroundings: seismic waves, overcast/clear skies, etc. I know...I freaked out a little too.

So check the New Yorker article's quite interesting. And who knows. Maybe John Luther Adams might sit in on one of our concerts in October, when we're scheduled to have our very first Alaska tour!

Monday, June 8, 2009

This is what we do

Hello, folks. Since it's my first post on this here blog, I thought I'd introduce myself. My name is Tim Takach, and I've been singing in Cantus forever. Seriously. This is the end of my 13th year singing bass, and I love it. I'm also the graphic designer for the group, and I'm a professional composer on the side. Here's a bit more about me.

When we go on the road, there' a lot of work to be done. First of all, there are the concerts, which on an average concert day keep us scheduled from about 3:00pm until 10:00pm. We also do educational outreach programs, which happen about 4-5 times per tour, and those usually keep us busy for 2-3 hours per day. And then there's the driving. Oh yes, the driving. Sometimes we fly, but usually, we pile into sweet, sweet minivans and "roam around the world" (yes, it's a lyric from the b52s. We're in the middle of our Covers concerts...).

So that begs the question, what do we do when we don't have to be around each other all the time? The answer, surprisingly, is that we spend even more time with each other. Movies (either on the theater or on DVD), board games, frisbee games, work outs, hotel swimming pools, dinner outings, and many other things beckon to us as we travel. Once, eight of us went bargain hunting at Kohl's. I know. Please don't tell anyone.

However, having fun and playing games rule our off hours, and we take any chance we get to try a new game. Paul introduced us to a game he had played called Telephone Pictionary. He bugged us for months to try it, and we finally got around to playing during our March tour.

Here's the scoop:
Everyone sits in a circle, with a stack of paper in front of them.
Everyone write a phrase or on their page, and then passes it to the left.
That person reads the phrase, and then tries to capture it in a drawing on another sheet, and then passes their drawing to the left.
The next person looks at the drawing, and writes down what they think the original phrase was, then passes that to their left.
The next person looks at the new interpreted phrase and tries to capture it in a drawing.
See where this is going?

By the time you get your own original back, it is supported by slowly degrading versions of what you wrote down. Then you so a bit of show and tell, so everyone can see how the original answer got skewed. So, I'm posting a couple of examples from our recent game. See what you think they are. Comment if you like.

Example #1:
You know, I think I might even need a refresher as to what this was. Hey Cactus guys, want to weigh in?

Example #2:
This had something to do with shoefly pie, and ended up with Tom Selleck, apparantly.

Example #3:
Anyone want to guess?

Thanks for your time, and as always, thanks for your support of Cantus. See you next time!