WHO CARES IF YOU LISTEN
for solo string and fixed media      

Junqi Tang

PROGRAM NOTE
The Twentieth-Century featured many composers who pioneered the expansion of the sonic palette to where now all sounds are possible.  Many books, articles, lectures, and sermons espoused the dawn of a new era, of a new expression, of new sonic possibilities.  Who Cares if You Listen embraces not only the vast array of sounds available both acoustic and digital, but also the rhythms and tonalities of the actual words used by a few of these trailblazing composers when stating their case for progress and evolution.  Three Twentieth-Century composers and words attributed to them are used in the composition.

“Who Cares if you Listen?”

“Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny.”

“Get up and use your ears like a man!”

Who Cares if You Listen is dedicated to Jaqueline O'Donnell.

DURATION
8 Minutes

PREMIERED BY

  • Violoncello: by Christopher Ahn, Lineage Center for the Performing Arts, Pasadena, CA
  • Violin: by Naha Greenstein, Davenport, IA.
     
Who Cares If You Listen, by John Frantzen followed, and the title was based on the famous 1958 High Fidelity magazine article written by Milton Babbitt. In his remarks prior to the performance of this piece, Frantzen explained that he was inspired by the sounds of some of the famous quotes about music, starting with Babbitt and including sayings by Busconi and Ives. Solemn electronic sounds begin the piece, soon joined by the solo violin. The pounding of construction equipment was heard through the speakers and trills in the violin introduce an element of anxiety. Faster violin runs give way to repeating passages having the same rhythm and cadence as the speaking of the phrase “Who cares if you listen.” This was reminiscent of the vocal patterns heard in Steve Reich’s string quartet Different Trains, but in this case no recorded voices were heard. The Busconi quotation was less concise and illustrated with rapid violin phrases – precisely played by Pasha Tseitlin – along with a dance-like pizzicato section. The final quotation came from Charles Ives: “Why can’t you stand up before fine strong music like this and use your ears like a man?”, apparently in response to a heckler at a concert he was attending. This was accompanied by increasing volume in the electronics and a much faster tempo for the violin, resulting in a dramatic finish. Who Cares If You Listen is an artful blend of electronics, masterful violin playing and the sounds of speech patterns that combine to produce an intriguing extension of the sentiments expressed in the underlying quotations.
— Paul Muller, Sequenza 21

SUBTONE for clarinet and fixed media      

PROGRAM NOTE
Subtone is a harmonic exploration of one pitch.  As the work progresses, the clarinet soloist improvises through harmonic territory constructed from the lattice of vibrational relationships within one pitch.  Technology has allowed composers to rediscover and exploit this inner harmony in new and exciting ways.   However, technology is only a tool and not an end in itself.  At the center of art is what it means to be human.  “We cannot contract out of humanity”.

DURATION
8 minutes

PREMIERED BY
The Tactus New Music Ensemble at Symphony Space in New York City featuring Schyler Fung, clarinet,  Jessica Schmitz, piccolo, and Kathleen Tagg, speaking voice.

Subtone by John Frantzen followed and this featured the recorded sounds of what seemed to be a subway line, complete with the roar of heavy machinery, flowing water and the squeal of brakes. This created a sense of powerful movement against which Brian Walsh’s clarinet wove tones in and out of the electronic tracks – the clarinet phrases seemed to be making a commentary on the background rumble. Gradually a voice emerged from the jumble of industrial sounds, sounding chillingly like a train announcement: “We cannot contract out of humanity” – and the piece ended. Subtone is a fervent editorial against the hyper-mechanization of our daily life.
— Paul Muller, Sequenza 21

TRIUNE for solo voice and fixed media        

 
 THEATRE JAZZO performing "Synchronized Hysterics" to Triune for voice and fixed media.

THEATRE JAZZO performing "Synchronized Hysterics" to Triune for voice and fixed media.

 

PROGRAM NOTE
Music is sound and silence.  Throughout history, humanity in all its colorful variants has molded the tonal and ambient sounds of nature into musical contexts - a medium that expresses all aspects of the human spirit.  In life, one of the first sounds we encounter is the human voice.  Within the speech and intoned sounds of the voice all the fundamental elements of music can be perceived.  With attentive listening to everyday conversation one can hear timbre changes within the harmonic series, interplay between periodicity and aperiodicity, dynamic contrast, vertical and horizontal pitch, frequency modulation, and much more.  Triune draws its sonic material from this realm.

DURATION
20 Minutes

PREMIERED BY

  • Alpha, in New York, New York, Helix Series: “Creation and New Beginnings”, 2/25/2005. 
  • Credo, Manhattan School of Music, 12/5/2004.
  • Omega, Manhattan School of Music, , 4/25/2005.

SO SIMPLE for piano and fixed media

DURATION
8 minutes

PREMIERED BY 
Kathleen Tagg, New York, New York