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Contemporary Music Division Sponsors Lectures by Composers: Concerts to Feature Their Works

by Charity Johnson '99


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James Mobberley


Kulas Recital Hall
Wednesday, February 7, 2001 8:00 P.M.

Icarus Wept

Going with the Fire

Caution to the Winds


Dialogue for Performer and Computer

Jack Sutte, trumpet

Kathleen Chastain, flute

Melinda Faylor, piano

James DeSano, trombone

James Mobberley

James Mobberley (b. 1954)





Icarus Wept is a five-movement work commissioned by Keith Benjamin for his trumpet and organ duo Clarion, with organist Melody Turnquist-Steed. This version of the work is for trumpet and tape only, with organ sounds on tape. It was funded by a Composers Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, "a federal agency"; therefore the original concept, involving full frontal nudity, had to be abandoned. The tape sounds are drawn from an impromptu recording session and brain fry in which we came up not only with trumpet sounds of all kinds but also with the formula for a partially androgynacious anodized serial copolymer (patent pending). We also recorded a wide variety of other sounds (e.g. Keith's trumpet stand, swirling coins, laughter/vocal sounds, and various expletives). The title, Icarus Wept, was loosely inspired by the legendary flight of Icarus toward the sun and the sudden realization of the fatal mistake. Three movement titles reflect themes of Icarus or of the sky. Getting Waxed, Climbing the Blue Staircase (from a Native American Peyote Song), and Eleven Feet from the Sun. However, Somebody Else's Face and the newly completed first movement, Strap on Your Lobster, have nothing to do with Icarus at all, or with weeping either, pretty much.

Going with the Fire, composed for flutist Mary Posses, is the third in a series of works that utilize only the solo instrument as the source for the taped sounds. Much of this work was borrowed from a previously composed flute solo entitled Wait, written in 1980. The piece embodies the flash of creative fire that inevitably takes over as the work begins to gel. After the equally inevitable frustration period, with idea after idea, suddenly the grid unlocks, the boundaries slip away, and I find myself giving up the formal structures and preconceived notions, and simply going with the fire.

Caution to the Winds, composed in August-October of 1987, is dedicated to pianist Richard Cass, who premiered the work in January, 1988 in Kansas City. It is the fifth in a series of works, subtitled "Pluralities", which combine a solo instrument with an electronic tape accompaniment which is comprised only of sounds derived from the solo instrument itself. In this case, piano sounds were recorded by Richard and myself in the summer of 1987, and were then sampled into a computer music instrument for combination and manipulation in the formation of the tape part. The work was commissioned by the Missouri Music Teachers association, as a part of the commissioning program jointly sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association and by the state organizations. It was subsequently chosen as the winner of the national competition, earning the title of Distinguished Composer of the Year for the composer in 1988. Caution to the Winds is programmatic only in the broadest possible sense; the title makes reference to the raw energy that is a major part of the musical arsenal to be found both in piano music and in electronic music, and reflects the basic free, quasi-rhapsodic nature of the work.

Beams!, composed for trombonist John Leisenring, is the fourth in a series of electroacoustic works (subtitled "Pluralities") that utilize only the solo instrument as the source for the taped sounds which include, in the present work, mouthpiece sounds, breathing sounds, and sounds made by striking the bell and mouthpiece, as well as the more 'traditional' sounds associated with the trombone. Drs. Leisenring and Mobberley digitally recorded these sounds, which were subsequently arranged, edited, processed and recorded onto audio tape for use in performance with the live trombone. The completed work is thus a kind of concerto with the live performer accompanied by a multitude of 'other trombones'.
Beams!, is the result of a four-month collaboration between composer and performer; hence much of the composer's perception of the performer's personality and performance style has found its way into the piece, especially in the influence of jazz and in the forceful, theatrical approach to the performance environment. The work is primarily concerned with two concepts - the raw, often brutal nature of this exceptionally powerful instrument, and the sophisticated nuance of pitch, tone, and jazz inflection that emerges when this beast is tamed by the artistry of a sensitive performer.

Dialogue for Performer and Computer This work attempts to define, by example, the inherent discontinuity that exists between silicon- and carbon-based life forms. If desired, the audience can, at the end of the performance, determine which is superior. Or not. Whatever.

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