- Point Music 434 873-2.
- Jon Gibson:
- Soprano Saxophone;
- Soprano and Alto Saxophone on Pat's Aria;
- Soprano and Baritone Saxophone on Terry's G Dorian Blues;
- Percussion and Keyboards on Extensions II.
- Martin Goldray:
- Piano on Pat's Aria and Waltz.
- Michael Riesman:
- Keyboards on Pat's Aria, Terry's G Dorian Blues, Tread on the Trail and Extensions II;
- Organ on Terry's G Dorian Blues.
- Bill Ruyle:
- Percussion on Terry's G Dorian Blues;
- Bongos on Extensions II.
- John Snyder:
- Conch Shell and Rainstick on Extensions II.
- La Monte Young:
- Digital Piano on Terry's G Dorian Blues.
- Producer: Michael Riesman for Euphorbla Productions, Ltd., NYC.
- Executive Producers: Philip Glass, Kurt Munkatsi, Rory Johnston.
- Recorded and Mixed at The Looking Glass Studios, NYC.
- Assitant Engineers: Dante DeSole, Angela Dryden, Scott Hollingsworth, Kevin Baird and Dan Sherman.
- Jon Gibson "Waltz" (4:07)
- John Adams "Pat's Aria" (7:47)
- Steve Reich "Reed Phase" (6:14)
- Terry Jennings "Terry's G Dorian Blues" (5:19)
- Philip Glass "Bed" (6:56)
- Terry Riley "Tread on the Trail" (7:24)
- Jon Gibson "Song 3" (4:19)
- Philip Glass "Gradus (For Jon Gibson)" (10:57)
- Jon Gibson "Extensions II" (10:39)
Total Time 1:04:09.
Minimal Music and the Composers by Dean Suzuki
Minimal music has been around since the late 1950s when La Monte Young began experimenting with extremely long tones in his music. By the mid - to late 60s, several other American composers, among them Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Jon Gibson, were writing works which could be categorized as Minimalist. As with much American art, Minimal music was (and in some quarters remains) controversial, yet it has profoundly revitalized contemporary music.
Though Minimal music dates back to the late 50s, its history and development is rather murky. The generally perceived notion is that four American Composers - Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young - created and developed the style. There were, however, a significant number of other composers who made important contributions, Glass often cites Jon Gibson, Terry Jennings and Charlemagne Palestine (all participating in the vibrant arts community in SoHo in the late 60s) as early and significant Minimalists. Harold Budd, Pauline Oliveros and others whose works could be categorized as Minimalist, were active in Southern California around the same time.
While not all Minimalist compositions are easily categorized, they are frequently characterized by the following elements:
Reductive Style: One finds a minimum of musical means.
Early works tend to have fixed, even monochromatic timbres, unchanging dynamics and unwavering tempos.
Repetition: A motive -a brief melody or theme- is repeated numerous times before proceeding to the next. The music is often modular, comprised of a series of repeated motives. Repetition may be replaced by extended drones.
Tonal or Modal Harmonies: The harmonic language however, is often non-functional.
Steady Pulse: An unflagging, metronomic beat.
Gradually Unfolding Process: The musical process is in the foreground, readily perceived or understood.
The traditional narrative structures of music (e.g. exposition, development and recapitulation, etc.) with their inherently dramatic tension and heights are absent.
Altered Time Frame: Durations tend to be long, especially in light of the reductive style.
These first four elements fly in the face of the avant garde and academic styles of the 50s and 60s, which made the early Minimalists personae non grata. The last two characteristics, the non-narrative, non-goal oriented structures or processes, and the non-colloquial time element, yield an entirely new musical aesthetic. For the Minimalists, form and content become one and the same. Form is dictated by the process which, in turn, is the content of the work. The reductive nature of Minimal music, repetition, tonal materials, and steady pulse all facilitate the perception of the gradual musical processes. Irregular or changing rhythms, chromaticism and dissonance, variable tempi, in toto, constant change and variation of the constituent musical elements would obfuscate the musical processes and were, therefore, frequently discarded by the Minimalists in their compositions. The focus on what is normally considered the minutiae of music, those elements which are usually deemed incidental, demands new modes of listening and reveals an unexpected wealth of interest and detail.
Jon Gibson (b. Los Angeles, 1940) is a composer, woodwind instrumentalist and visual artist who has been active in new music since the 1960s. He has taken part in numerous landmark musical events, performing in the early works of Steve Reich (1963-'72), Terry Riley (1964-'66), Philip Glass (1968-present), as well as performing with many other composers, including La Monte Young, Frederick Rzewski, Christian Wolff, Alvin Curran, Arthur Russell, Petr Kotik, Peter Zummo and Annea Lockwood, to a name a few.
His own music consists of a large body of solo and ensemble instrumental and vocal works that have been performed by himself and others throughout the world. His individual approach to composing and performing results in part from the influences of various western and non-western musics, jazz and improvisation styles, sounds from nature, and his long and important association with Minimalism and the post-modern aesthetic.
Along with three of his own compositions, this Point music project includes early works composed for Gibson by Glass and Reich along with works by Riley (Gibson performed in the premiere of the Riley work), John Adams and Terry Jennings.
Gibson's composition "Rainforest/Brazil" appears on the Thomas Buckner CD on Lovely Music entitled "Full Spectrum Voice", and his composition "Equal Distribution #1" appears on the Petr Kotik CD on EarRational Records entitled "Virtuosity With Purpose". Two earlier albums of his music, "Visitations and Two Solo Pieces" appear on Chatham Square Records, As a performer, Gibson appears on recordings by Glass, Reich, Rzewski, Russell, Garrett List and Robert Ashley, among others.
Other activities include commissions to compose music for the dance companies of Merce Cunningham "Fractions", Lucinda Childs "Relative Calm", an evening-length work with decor by Robert Wilson, Margaret Jenkins "Equal Time", Elaine Summers "Solitary Geometry", and evening-length work featuring dancers Min Tanaka and Suzushi Hanayagi), Simone Forte "To Be Continued", as well as work with dancers Nancy Topf and Elisabetta Vittoni. He recently completed a video animation entitled "Interval", which combines audiovisual ideas of his into a single work and a collaboration with theater director JoAnne Akalaitis on a music/theater work centered around Charles Darwin entitled "Voyage Of The Beagle".
Philip Glass (b. Baltimore, 1937). Though he studied music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, University of Chicago, Juilliard School of Music, where he studied composition with Vincent Persicherti and William Bergsma, and the Aspen Festival with Darius Milhaud, Glass's two most important influences early were Nadia Boulanger (from whom he truly learned the fundamentals of the European harmonic tradition) and Ravi Shankar, who opened his eyes to the possibilities of rhythm and meter. Glass is most associated with what he terms an "additive process' in which the size of a small musical motive or fragment is gradually enlarged or diminished by the addition or deletion of a few notes. Each "version" of the motive is repeated several, if not many times before proceeding to the next.
Steve Reich (b. New York City, 1936). While working with composer Luciano Berio at Mills College in Oakland, California, Reich showed his teacher a serial work. Reich's composition betrayed his tonal tendencies and Berio asked, "If you want to write tonal music, why don't you write tonal music?" to which Reich replied, '"hat's what I'm going to do."
Subsequently, while working with tape loops, Reich stumbled across his by now famous "phase process," a unique sliding canon in which two or more identical musical fragments move out of sync or out of phase with one another. The resultant musical texture is a complex and changing polyrhythmic contrapuntal fabric which invites detailed listening via repetition and slow, gradual change. The phase process became the fundamental technique in Reich's music from 1965 to 1971, Including "Reed Phase". While he no longer uses phasing, Reich's music continues to be informed by the process, its rich counterpoint, and complex rhythmic schemes.
Terry Riley (b. Colfax, California, 1935). Though trained in the tradition of European classical music, Riley's most important influences have been improvisational jazz, non-Western music (especially that of India), and the radical ideas of La Monte Young Early in his career, Riley composed "In C" (1964), the first Minimalist masterpiece to recorded, widely available and discussed, and one of the most influential compositions in the modern era. After "In C", most of Riley's works were not notated rather rough sketches became the basis for long, repetitive yet gradually evolving improvisations, often performed with a specially devised tape loop delay system. "A Rainbow in Curved Air" and "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" belong in this category.
Under the influence of La Monte Young, Riley has composed a number of works in just intonation. In the early 1980s, Riley began a fruitful collaborative association with the Kronos Quartet which has led to many works for string quartet and also brought the composer back to the written score.
Terry Jennings (b. Eagle Rock, California, 1940, d. San Pablo, California, 1981) a composer associated with La Monte Young from 1953. It was Jennings who introduced Young to Cage's music through the "Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano". In turn, Jennings studied composition with Young and was later associated with the Fluxus group. Jennings composed some of the very first works with notes of long duration, low dynamic range and repetitive structures. Such pieces clearly manifest the influence of Young's compositions such as "Trio for Strings".
"Piano Piece" is a scant nine measures in length. The directions that accompany it indicate as follows:
The piece should be played softly. The damper pedal should be held down for the entire duration of the piece. Each chord should be held until it fades or longer before the next chord is sounded, or fifteen second or more may be allowed to pass between each chord. At each bar line there may be a pause longer than described above.
Very few of Jennings' works have been published, and he died at an early age before his music became widely known. This is the first commercial recording of Jennings' work.
John Adams (b. Worcester, Massachusetts, 1947) has become one of the most successful of the second generation of Minimalist composers. While his Minimalist compositions have repetitive features, most are through composed. His music was first recorded on Brian Eno's Obscure label from 1975, though he had not yet fully developed his own personal Minimalist idiom. The work which Adams considers to be his first successful Minimalist composition is "Phrygian Gates" (1977). Adams has described himself as "a Minimalist who is bored with Minimalism". Adams points out some differences between his music and that of other Minimalists:
"My music is not as formally pure as some of the Minimalists, Musical from, the shape of the music -the highs and lows- the topography of it is its most expressive potential. Y go for changes in speed and tempo."
Though La Monte Young's music does not appear on this disc, his presence as a performer is notable. This is Young's first appearance on a commercial recordings as a supporting performer and one of very few commercial appearances in any capacity.
Notes by Dean Suzuki
Dean Suzuki is a music historian and teaches twentieth century music at San Francisco State University. He is also a music critic for "Option, Audition" and other publications, as well as a radio producer and host at KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California.
Notes on the Music by Jon Gibson
"Waltz" (Gibson, 1982) is a short straight-forward intuitive work for soprano saxophone and piano that was developed out of a pattern of pitches (alternating major and minor 3rd intervals) that often crop up in my music.
"Pat's Aria" from "Nixon in China" (Adams, 1987). This is the most recent piece on the CD and it reflects a major direction of music in the 80s towards a more lush and intuitive approach to composition that would probably be more accurately termed "maximal". When I approached John about including a piece of his on the project, he suggested substituting the soprano and using piano and synthesized accompaniment, as well as overlaid saxophones to bring out the counter melodies.
I got to know John in the late 70s when he was conducting the New Music Ensemble in San Francisco, and in that capacity he conducted one of my ensemble works. I stayed at the house he shared with the composer Ingram Marshall and that is when I first became aware of John as a composer. I was very impressed with a piece he played for me, but certainly did not realize at the time the enormous success his music would later have.
"Reed Phase" (Reich, 1967) was composed with me and my circular breathing skills in mind during one of the periods between 1963 and 1972 when I was working closely with Steve. It is his first "phase" piece involving a live performer - coming a few months before his more widely known and more developed "Piano Phase" and "Violin Phase". "Reed Phase" consists of a continuously repeated 5-note melodic pattern played on prerecorded tape (or at this point some other way) while the live musician performs the same melody, starting in unison with the tape and then gradually accelerating to a slightly faster speed, thereby "phasing" slowly across the recorded melody. A middle section becomes more dense with the addition of a second prerecorded saxophone track a beat ahead of the first, to phase across, which then returns to a single track, creating an overall ABA structure to the piece. "Reed Phase" is probably the first formal western composition to require circular breathing (a technique that allows a wind player to play continuously for a number of minutes without stopping for air) as a performance practice. This is the first commercially available recording of this piece and to my knowledge, "Reed Phase" for some reason has never appeared on any list of Steve's compositions.
I first met Steve around 1963 when he was in graduate school at Mills College and I was attending San Francisco State University. He was looking for a saxophonist to participate in one of his pieces at Mills, and the composer Larry Austin, with whom I had been working extensively prior to this time in an experimental improvisation group called the New Music Ensemble (a different New Music Ensemble than the one mentioned in the "Pat's Aria" notes), told Steve to look me up. We subsequently worked on many projects together, both in San Francisco and later in New York. During these years he was a major influence on my thinking about music and also very supportive of my work.
Terry's G Dorian 12-Bar Blues (9x5) + 3 (Jennings, ca. June, 1962) This is the full title of the piece which consists of a repetitive 5-note melodic pattern placed over a traditional 12-bar blues structure, creating a type of shifting accent effect as the melody progresses across the blues structure. This effect anticipates a compositional device that had since been widely used by many western composers in different ways.
In addition to this significant yet still relatively unknown work as a composer, Jennings was also a very impressive improviser on the saxophone. On various occasions, I have heard recordings of him playing, usually with composer/performer La Monte Young who earlier in his career was also a very impressive innovator on the saxophone, playing the piano. In the late 60s, La Monte introduced me to Terry and I had the experience of "hanging out" with him for awhile in New York and the pleasure of hearing him perform live a number of times in the process. Unfortunately, Terry died in 1981 and all that remains of his playing (on saxophone as well as the piano) is a limited number of rough recordings. La Monte has been an unwavering and tireless supporter of Terry and his music ever since their pioneering work together in the 50s in Los Angeles. I'm very pleased that he was able to make this piece available for the project and that he also participated as a performer by playing the improvised keyboard part on the recording.
"Bed" from "Einstein on the Beach" (Glass, 1976) appears in the opera as an aria for soprano voice. Its long, exposed tones make it quite a demanding piece whether for voice or saxophone. I remember hearing it sung many times while performing in "Einstein on the Beach", and I began to perform it myself on soprano saxophone with Philip playing the keyboard part in solo/duo concerts we sometimes do together performing our own and each other's music. Since there are no words in the aria, there is virtually nothing lost by performing it with either voice or saxophone.
"Tread on the Trail" (Riley, 1964/65) is a work that Terry composed sometime just after seminal composition "In C", which is considered by many to be the first landmark minimalist work. Certainly it is the first to reach a wider audience. "Tread" consists of five different sets of melodies of equal length, each one constructed in a mirror of itself. That is, when each melodic set arrives at its center, it proceeds to retrograde motion. Terry did not indicate a specific way to perform the piece, so Michael Riesman and I devised our own road map and instrumentation.
At the time "Tread" was composed, I was working very closely with Terry and participated in the premiers of both "In C" and "Tread" at the San Francisco Tape Music Center, Which was a hub of avant - garde activity in the Bay Area at the time. Terry and I were also both playing in a small jazz rehearsal band, and as I recall, "Tread" was composed for and performed by that group. Since I was so Involved with "Tread" in its beginnings, I was excited when Terry suggested using it for this project. I don't think it has been recorded or performed since that time. The effect of working very closely in these various projects and generally "hanging out" with Terry at that particular time in my life was pivotal to my subsequent musical development and direction.
"Song 3" (Gibson, 1976) is a piece for solo soprano saxophone that was primarily inspired by Scottish classical bagpipe music called "Pibroch" (Piobaireachd in Celtic), as well as the "shenai" (an Indian double-reed instrument) playing of Bismillah Khan and other such influences. "Song 3" consists of levels of long tones that are played continuously (by circular breathing) and augmented by bits of ornamentation in an attempt to create an elemental, primal sound and feeling.
"Gradus for Jon Gibson" (Glass, 1968) is for solo soprano saxophone and is one of the first pieces Glass composed upon his return to New York from his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and work with Ravi Shankar. Structurally, "Gradus" deals with the juxtaposition of melodic and rhythmic material within repeated cycles of 32 beats, and although it is highly structured on the one hand, it also sounds highly intuitive and unpredictable (to me anyway) on the other. When I met Philip, he was among other things, in the process of composing "Gradus" and also studying with the tabla master, Allah Rakha. This is the first piece by Glass that I performed and marks the beginning of a long and important association for me that continues to the present. This is the first commercially available recording of this piece.
"Extensions II" (Gibson, 1981/92) originates from music that was initially composed for the Lucinda Childs Dance Co. in 1981 as part of the evening length work entitled "Relative Calm". Both "Extensions I" and "II" consist of systematically composed melodic material that is then performed in an improvisational style on soprano saxophone. "Extensions I" uses various layering of soprano saxophones only, while "Extensions II" incorporates a varied sound environment consisting of drones, various natural sounds (from water, insects etc.), percussion and conch shell. This work is reflecting my ongoing interest in combining "steady-state" sound textures in different ways, and as part of this recording, I was able to further develop and elaborate on these environmental sounds from the original material, such that the texture has become more complex and in some ways reminiscent of an earlier piece entitled "Visitations, an Environmental Soundscape" (1972) which appears on the Chatham Square Records of the same name.
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