The Laughing Bird
January 24th, 2014, 7:30pm
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church of Chestnut Hill
22 East Chestnut Hill Avenue
$25 regular / $15 student at the door
Made Possible by a grant from
The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia
Hyperdyne Adam Vidiksis
The Laughing Bird
Escureçe las montañas Manuel Machado (1590-1646)
Ave color vini clari Juan Ponce (1480-1521)
Asperges me Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
Regina caeli Christóbal de Morales (1500-1553)
Niño Dios d’amor herido Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
Por ese mar d’Helesponto Anonymous (15th c)
Puse mis amores Anonymous (15th c)
Starscape Jan Krzywicki
Every Lover is a Warrior Kati Agocs
“Love has Come”
locoMotives Anne Neikirk
(electronics performed by Anne Neikirk, projections by Andrew Huston)
Hyperdyne – explores the dynamics of force as the impetus for vibration, both electrical and mechanical. This work features frenetic rhythms which are then processed by the computer, variably expanding or diminishing the resonant characteristic of the sound produced by the drum. As the piece progresses, the digital filtering is accompanied by increasingly less resonant sound production by the performer, through the use of various extended techniques that reveal harmonic spectra of the drum, sticks, and performance space. The result is a process of diminishing resonance throughout the work, leading to a sense of wilting or decay.
The Laughing Bird
Derived from medieval dance forms, the 15th-century Spanish villançico was a type of popular poetic and musical form of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America sung in the vernacular and frequently associated with rustic themes. The poetic form of the villançico was that of an estribillo (or refrain) and coplas (stanzas), with or without an introduction. While the exact order and number of repetitions of the estribillo and coplas varied, the most typical form was a loose ABA framework.
Escureçe las montañas is an early baroque villançico composed by the Portuguese composer Manuel Machado (1590-1646). The most notable characteristic of this song is the use of text painting. The poem is in the point of view of a mountain climber who becomes more and more disoriented the higher he climbs and the music becomes increasingly harmonically and rhythmically disorienting as well. Ave color vini clari composed by Juan Ponce (1480 -1521) isn’t a typical villançico in that the text is in Latin. The drinking song is a satire of a religious hymn, which would have had a Latin text, a “Hail Mary,” if you will, devoted to exalting wine, drinkers, and intoxication.
Cristóbal Morales (1500-1553) was the first Spanish composer of international renown, before Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) who was one of the greatest composers of the Counter-Reformation. Both of these composers spent a large part of their careers in Italy and their output was limited to the Latin liturgical works that were expected of church composers of this period. The Asperges me and the Regina Caeli are examples of typical antiphons that would have been heard in the cathedrals of Europe.
Of all the Spanish Renaissance composers, Francisco Guerrero (1528 – 1599) was the one who lived and worked the most in Spain, working as the maestro de capilla at the Cathedral in Seville for 55 years. Not only did Guerrero write more motets than Morales and Victoria and nearly as many Masses (Morales wrote twenty-two Masses, Guerrero eighteen, Victoria twenty) but his villançicos were extremely popular and helped establish Guerrero’s reputation as the master of a truly Spanish style. Guerrero was known as “el cantor de Maria” in his lifetime because so many of his pieces are settings of texts in honor of the Virgin Mary.
The source for both Puse mis amores and Por ese mar d’Helesponto is the Cancionero de Medinaceli, one of the most important compilations of secular Spanish polyphony of the Renaissance. It was copied in the late 16th century and was part of the collection at the library of the Duke of Medinaceli.
Every Lover is a Warrior is a cycle for solo harp that takes traditional folk tunes from three countries and recasts them with ostinati and other original material. The first two movements will be performed today. The work grew out of Agocs’ collaboration with harpist Bridget Kibbey, for whose creativity and insights with respect to the harp the composer is exceedingly grateful. The first movement transforms the Appalachian tune John Riley into a bluegrass number. The song tells of a soldier who returns home from war and tests the faithfulness of his sweetheart. He finds her in her garden and asks her to marry him. She does not recognize him and says no, she is waiting for her John Riley. The tune for the second movement comes from a charming French hymn, and the words depict a love more spiritual than romantic. The themes of love and war unify the work. This piece was commissioned for a Philadelphia premiere in 2008.
Starscape is a fantasy for solo harp whose title is intended as an evocation of night, the night sky, and night thoughts. Composed by Jan Krzywicki as a sort of sequel to Snow Night for marimba and piano, the work’s scenario is that of stars emerging in a mystical night universe of silence accompanied by contemplations of the ultimate mysteries and miracles of nature, both tragic and spiritual. The work consists of five sections: an introduction, a song (based on the medieval chant “Ave maris stella”), a fantasy or development section, a reprise of the song, and a coda that includes a fragment of Mahler’s song “Um Mitternacht” (At Midnight). Starscape is dedicated to Karin Fuller and Robert Capanna who were so helpful in the composition of the work.
locoMotives was commissioned by and is dedicated to Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis. Her concert program focuses on Philadelphia composers, so I wanted to incorporate some element of the city into my work. The germinal sound source in locoMotives is a recording of one of Philadelphia’s Regional Rail trains. The familiar sound of a pitch bending as a vehicle passes, known as the Doppler effect, became the connective element of the piece. Other sounds in the raw audio include the ticking noises of the lowering crossing gates at a nearby road, as well as the whoosh of the wind as the train passed by. The experience of witnessing a powerful, fast-moving object fly by elicits both excitement and fear. I reflected this emotional content in the work. The title, locoMotives, lends itself to a tongue-and-cheek double entendre between the train theme and the musical terms inherent in the word: loco for “at pitch” and motive for a short musical idea. There are moments of peaceful repose throughout the work, highlighting the beauty of the harp and embodying the comfort of riding in a train while watching the landscape pass by through the window.
Adam Vidiksis is a composer, conductor, percussionist, and technologist based in Philadelphia whose interests span from historically informed performance to the cutting edge of digital audio processing. Equally comfortable with both electronic and acoustic composition, his music has been heard in concert halls and venues around the world. Critics have called his music “mesmerizing”, “dramatic”, “striking” (Philadelphia Weekly), “notable”, “catchy” (WQHS), “interesting”, and “special” (Percussive Notes), and have noted that Vidiksis provides “an electronically produced frame giving each sound such a deep-colored radiance you could miss the piece’s shape for being caught up in each moment” (David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer). Vidiksis has become known for exploring new timbral soundscapes in his electronic and acoustic works, often using the computer not only as a means of enhancing and manipulating the sounds he produces, but as a digital performer on equal footing with its human counterparts. His unique approach to composition has been praised for its “outstanding control” (Philadelphia Weekly) and for being “restrained” and “magical” (Local Arts Live). He has a deep interest in science and technology, an enthusiasm that has profoundly influenced his work as a musician. Vidiksis currently serves on the composition faculty at Temple University, where his research in music technology focuses on techniques for realtime audio processing, designing gestural controllers for live digital performance, and machine improvisation. His music often explores sound, science, and the intersection of humankind with the machines we build.
Called “a revelation” (The Reading Eagle) and praised for its “top-notch” performances (LocalArtsLive) and creative programming, The Laughing Bird is Philadelphia’s premiere Early Music vocal quartet. Founded in 2010, the ensemble is comprised of four singers from the Philadelphia area, each also an active solo, chamber, and choral artist. Devoted to performances of vocal chamber music from time immemorial through 1750, The Laughing Bird has performed monophonic and polyphonic works by such composers as Machaut, Dufay, Josquin, Byrd, Guerrero, Gesualdo, Schütz, and Monteverdi, as well as plainchant, and presents programs that highlight the members’ command of both ensemble and solo singing. The Laughing Bird has performed regularly in and around Philadelphia, including an appearance on BalletX’s “eXpand the eXperience” series at The Wilma Theater and its debut performance with Piffaro, The Renaissance Band, in April 2013. The quartet has also been presented by LocalArtsLive and World Cafe Live at The Queen (Wilmington, Delaware), and has appeared on concert series in Maryland and Florida. The Laughing Bird is soprano Leslie Johnson, mezzo-soprano Jenifer L. Smith, tenor Steven Bradshaw, and bass Colin Dill.
Note: Dan Schwartz substituted for Colin Dill for this concert.
Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis is a Philadelphia based harpist committed to expanding the harp repertoire through performances of works by living composers, commissions, and education.
Morgan-Ellis grew up on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and is the daughter of two professional musicians. She began playing the harp at the age of eight, and immediately developed an interest in contemporary compositions. While working on her Bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University, she collaborated with many composition students on solo harp works and performed at several Composers of Western concerts. She received her master’s degree from Temple University, where she gave a talk on harp composition at the Temple new music symposium and worked with composers on orchestral harp parts which she performed with the Temple Composer’s Orchestra. Elizabeth now works to expand interest and awareness of the harp’s capabilities as a new music instrument through public performances, world premieres and workshops.
Anne Neikirk is a composer whose interests include vocal and sacred music, symmetrical modes and music in nature. Her works have been performed throughout the United States and abroad, including the University of Central Missouri New Music Festival and Regional SCI Conference, the North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference, and the Licino Refice Conservatorio di Musica in Frosinone, Italy. She has worked with ensembles such as the Momenta String Quartet, the University of Delaware Percussion Ensemble, the Bowling Green State University Collegiate Chorale, and the Hamilton College Hill Singers. She is an alumna of the Brevard Music Center Summer Festival and the European American Musical Alliance Summer Composition Program in Paris, France. She has received commissions from various performers as well as the Women’s Sacred Music Project and Network for New Music in Philadelphia. Anne is a recipient of the 2012 Presser Music Award and was a finalist for the 2012 SCI/ASCAP Student Composition Commission. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Temple University, where she teaches courses in music theory, music appreciation and orchestration. She received a Master of Music degree in composition from Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Hamilton College. Anne is a co-founder and former president of conTemplum, Temple University’s student chapter of the Society of Composers, Inc. Her dissertation is a multi-movement work for orchestra and soprano soloist.