Anxiety of Influence
Claude Debussy / Josef Burgstaller Stanley Silverman / Raymond G. Stewart

Anxiety of Influence

Meridian Arts Ensemble

CCS 9796 - 0723385979623

Information GreatBrittain Germany

Anxiety of Influence 
All artists seek their own creative identity or voice. The process often begins with emulation and imitation of the models already established. But the process can also involve rejection of that which has come before. This desire, this need to be different and new, this distancing from ones artistic forebears, is the anxiety of influence. On this sixth Meridian album, we have continued on our course through uncharted waters. In our quest for new sounds, we have added piano to the Ensemble for this disc, and have selected repertoire which romps through this new sonic spectrum. Works by Ensemble members, commissioned works, and pieces by some of our favorite composers comprise the music on this disc. We hope that the anxiety of influence, leading us away from the past, will push us ever forward. Meridian Arts Ensemble Frank Zappa (1940-1993) - Run Home Slow, The Little March, Little House I Used to Live In, The Black Page 

One of the great geniuses of our time, Frank Zappa was widely recognized as a pop composer who wrote classical music on the side. Nothing could be further from the truth. Frank began writing "classical" chamber music at the age of 14, and didn't write his first "pop" tune till he was 21. His compositional roots clearly lie in chamber music. We know this from his early study of Varese, Webern, and Stravinsky. Our intention when performing his music is to present it as concert music, regardless of the style of a particular piece, be it ska, rock, or funk. Also, this music (like everything else we play) can be heard in any kind of venue, be it Philharmonic Hall, Ed's coffee shop, or JR's Bar and Grill in central Arkansas. One need only ask two questions: Is this piece worthy of adaptation and preparation? Will an adaptation to a new medium still truthfully communicate the intention of the composer? Run Home Slow was originally written in 1959. This music comes from a cowboy movie called Run Home Slow, starring Mercedes McCambridge. Little House I Used to Live In is taken from Zappas Fillmore East 1971 album. Black Page comes from the Make a Jazz Noise Here album, as performed by the 1988 Frank Zappa band. This version is referred to by the composer as the New Age version. Jon Nelson Claude Debussy (1862-1918)- Sarabande (1914, 1894), arr. John Sheppard 

The name of Claude Achille Debussy (1862-1918) is forever linked to French Impressionism and Symbolism (although he preferred the latter, a literary term, rather than the former, an art term). A pianist by training and a student of the French Conservatory tradition, his influences included Wagner, Russian music, French composers, and Oriental Music (especially the Javanese Gamelan, an orchestra made up primarily of gongs and percussion, which he first saw at the Paris Exposition in 1889). The Sarabande, drawn from Pour le Piano (1894), bears a harmonic resemblance to a piece of the same name by his contemporary Satie, and illustrates Debussys tendencies towards fragmentary and motivic melodies, parallel structures, and 7th, 9th, and 11th chords. Debussys piano music emphasizes the lush, shimmering, mysterious qualities of that instrument. His use of extreme dynamics and of the blurring capability of the pedal creates music which encompasses the feelings of fragility and strength, opacity and clarity, stillness and motion. This arrangement, by John Sheppard, perfectly translate the beauty of the piano score into the realm of brass.

Josef Burgstaller Stanley Silverman (b. 1938) - Variations on a Theme of Kurt Weill (1977) Several years before writing this piece, I served as the musical director for Joseph Papps production of Brecht and Weills Threepenny Opera, directed by my collaborator Richard Foreman. Curiously enough, I had never really known the work in its original form until I did the research for this production. Indeed, when I was in high school, my girlfriends obsessive rendering of certain songs, coupled with Babby Darins version of Mack the Knife, gave me a rather incomplete picture of the whole score. The song I have chosen for the theme of this piece is called Lied von der Unzulanglichkeit Menschlichen Strebens, or, in the translation by Ralph Mannheim, Song of the Insufficiency of Human Endeavor. It is sung by Peachum, the king of the beggars. In recent years there has been a tendency to treat it as a light-hearted up-tempo third act show tune because of its seeming rhythmic and harmonic simplicity. However, tapes of early performances show that it was performed slower, and at times legato, with the emphasis on the verbal articulation like a learning song. At the time I wrote these Variations, I had been exploring the relationship between musical found-objects and my own variation technique. I am interested in almost blatantly recognizable models in order for the listener to be able to follow (or get lost in) the variations. Also, the in and out of tonal focus is very evident in these variations, which all deal with gestures from the Weill subject. Stanley Silverman

Daniel Grabois (b. 1964) - Zen Monkey (1995) Zen Monkey is my first piece for brass quintet, and is one of my earliest compositions. I was inspired to begin writing by the mere fact of having a band that would play any piece (within reason) I came up with. Zen Monkey unfolds in three sections. In the first section, I have tried to create a sense of repose and stasis. Two-beat and three-beat gestures alternate with small pockets of silence, which act as puctuation. The second section sets a very simple melody on top of an ever-quickening groove. I have tried to create a sense of the music hurdling forward toward its climax. The final section recapitulates the first, but the material here is much less spare, and is heavily ornamented, with only the pockets of silence remaining the same as before. The inspiration for this piece comes from the brilliant musicianship of my colleagues in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, and from the music of Arvo Part and of the rock band R.E.M. The title of the work is probably meaningless. Daniel Grabois  
Traditional Afro/Cuban - Solitario Solitario is a traditional Afro/Cuban piece, representative of the 1940s style of Latin dance music made popular by Machito, Mario Bauza, and Tito Puente. Solely rooted in son clave, this musics emphasis is on rhythm, relying heavily on extensive percussion. This piece worked its way into the Meridian Arts Ensembles repertoire as a result of several group members experience playing in Orque de Chu Melendez, a traditional style Latin band based in East Harlem, New York City. 
The MAE has added piano in its traditional role in this arrangement by Jon Nelson. Jon Nelson Stephen Barber (b. 1952) - Semahane (Whirling Wall) (1993) Naat, Mesnevi, Taksimi, Pesrev, Ayin-I-Serif I, Ayin-I-Serif II, Taksimi, Taksimi, Ayin-I-Serif III, Ayin-I-Serif IV, Homage to F.Z., Finale - Huuu, 

Coda Semahane is inspired by the spiritual ceremonies of the Mevlevi sect of Sufism, known in the Western world as the whirling Dervishes. This ritual of whirling is an act of love and a drama of faith. It possesses a highly structured form within which the gentle turns become increasingly dynamic as the individual dervishes strive to achieve a state of trance. This piece features a truncated form of the ritual, which normally lasts forty minutes. Being an instrumental piece, Semahane does not include all of the verbal and musical elements. A few segments are omitted. The selections of the movements, however, represent the main body of the ayin-i-serif (blessed ceremony). The piece opens with the recitation of the Naat, a praise of Mevlana (Our Lord or Our Master). This is followed by an improvisation. The Mesnevi starts with the sad, heart-rending strains of the instruments expressing the mystics yearning to return to God the Beloved. Following the Mesnevi is the Taksimi, also an improvisational soloistic passage. The Pesrev (Prelude) is followed by the Ayin-i-Serif, the main body of the whirling ritual. The continuous whirling has four sections, each referred to as a Selam (meaning greetings, salutation, peace). After the Homage to F.Z. (F.Z. is Frank Zappa, whose premature death occurred during the writing of Semahane), we reach the Finale, in which the dervishes chant in unison the extended Huuu. This is said to epitomize all the names and attributes of God in mystical terms. The whirling ceremony is referred to as sema, which may have its roots in the ancient shamanistic semah dances of Central Asian Turks, but also is related to an Arabic word for sky or heaven. Some of the poems of Rumi, the towering figure of Sufism, refer to the semas celestial metaphor: Yours are the galaxies in the sky of the whirling. Semahane is dedicated to Frank Zappa and the Meridian Arts Ensemble. Stephen Barber

Raymond G. Stewart (b.1962) - Okay Chorale (1994) This chorale, presented here as a prelude, is the result of boredom with Bach. That is, the MAE had performed and recorded the same Bach Chorales for years until recently, when we began writing original material and publishing new Bach chorales to replace the old (see Meridian Arts Ensemble Editions 40 Bach Chorales arranged for brass quintet). After a recent concert, an MAE fan approached me to suggest a title for the work and although I think he had Wyatt Earp in mind, I accepted the title because, after all... its not a great chorale, just an okay chorale. Ryamond G. Stewart Raymond G. Stewart (b. 1962) - KOHS-Ska (1995) Ethnic music fascinates the Meridian Arts Ensemble. The recent additions of Turkish ceremonial and klezmer music are a case in point and are welcome to our growing repertoire in the ethnic category. When the idea of exploring the music of Jamaica came to me, I realized we had absolutely no experience performing Mento, Calypso, Ska, Reggae, Rock-Steady, or even Present-Day Reggae. Review of these historic styles (lyrics were often reflective of the political and socio-economic climates of the island nation) left me drawn to Ska, which emerged in its first wave of popularity during the late 1950's and peaked about ten years later. The Skatalites, a band still working today, were the original voice of the ska sound, identified by the choppy afterbeat rhythm. This afterbeat chop was labeled "ska" simply after the musical syllable the rhythm offered from the accompanying instruments, usually guitar or piano. My idea was to honor the masters, the Skatalites, in an arrangment of one of their tunes, but this idea soon evolved to create a new piece of music specifically for the MAE while maintaining the original style of the period. Raymond G. Stewart

  • 1
    Run Home Slow
  • 2
    The Little March
  • 3
    Little House I Used to Live In
    Piano Introduction
  • 4
    Little House I Used to Live In (Ensemble)
  • 5
    The Black Page
    Drums Solo
  • 6
    The Black Page
  • 7
    Suite for piano, 'Pour le piano', L. 95
  • 8
    Semahane 'Whirling Wall'
  • 9
    Zen Monkey
  • 10
    El Solitario
  • 11
    Variations On a Theme of Kurt Weill
  • 12
    Okay Chorale
  • 13