Now on WQXR: stream Roomful of Teeth’s October 17 performance at National Sawdust featuring the world premiere of Ted Hearne’s Coloring Book and Anna Clyne’s Pocket Book VIII –
Roomful of Teeth 2015 MASS MoCA Residency
The Latest Update
LISTEN: Ted Hearne’s Coloring Book and Anna Clyne’s Pocket Book VIII
Watch: Michael Harrison’s Just Constellations
At long last, we’re pleased to share with you a video from the MASS MoCA premiere of Michael Harrison’s new work for us, Just Constellations! Read Michael’s notes on the piece below, and look out for a track from Ted Hearne’s Coloring Book coming next week – we hope you enjoy!
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Ever since the 1980’s, when I started working as La Monte Young’s composition and tuning assistant, I have wanted to compose a work like Just Constellations for specialized singers exploring gradually evolving constellations of tones in extended just intonation tunings. However, it was not until Brad Wells asked me to compose for Roomful of Teeth that the opportunity finally presented itself.
Just Constellations is approximately 23 minutes in duration and comprises four interconnected constellations of justly tuned chords and modes: The Opening Constellation, The Romantic Constellation, The Magic Constellation, and The Acoustic Constellation. The first three of these are derived from harmonic regions of La Monte Young’s epic The Well-Tuned Piano using tunings based on the harmonic primes 2, 3 and 7. The Magic Constellation presents an arrangement of “The Theme of The Magic Chord,” which is one of the simplest but most profound themes from The Well-Tuned Piano. The Acoustic Constellation is based on the fourth octave of the harmonic series and uses what is often referred to as the “acoustic” mode, using the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 16th partials of the harmonic series (I replace the 13th partial with 27/2).
“Just intonation is the tuning system of the later ancient Greek modes as codified by Ptolemy; it was the aesthetic ideal of the Renaissance theorists; and it is the tuning practice of a great many musical cultures worldwide, both ancient and modern.” (Gilmore, Bob, “Maximum Clarity” and Other Writings On Music). It is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of whole numbers. The two notes in any just interval are members of the same harmonic series and are called “just” or pure. Historic just intonation uses only notes derived from multiples of the prime numbers 2, 3 and 5, while “extended” just intonation includes higher primes such as 7, 11 and 13. Just intonation can be contrasted with equal temperament, which dominates most Western instruments, and compromises the purity and harmonic integrity of music for the convenience of having 12 equally spaced notes.
– Michael Harrison
Hello from MASS MoCA!
Roomful of Teeth is wrapping our second week up here in the Berkshires – man, what a time it has been. Over the past 12 days, we’ve collaborated with a grand total of five wonderful composers, including Fred Hersch (named by Vanity Fair as “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade”); 2014 composer alum and just intonation guru Michael Harrison; acoustic and electro-acoustic specialist Anna Clyne, Australian born composer Wally Gunn; and the one-and-only singer, bandleader and 2015 composer-in-residence Ted Hearne.
Tonight, we’re unveiling five new works by Ted and Michael in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center – we can’t wait to share what these two have come up with. If you’re in the area, we sure hope you’ll be there.
Stay tuned over the next few days for some behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage and a select recording from the concert. We know you’ll be in love.
talk to you soon,
Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth is a vocal project dedicated to mining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from non-classical traditions the world over, the eight voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an on-going commissioning project, invites today’s brightest composers to create a new repertoire without borders.
Roomful of Teeth seeks support for our annual residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), taking place this summer August 17-28. Our yearly residency serves not only as a home base for the group’s unique commissioning process, but also as an essential commitment to the professional development and refinement of the ensemble’s unique and wide range of skills.
During the first week of each residency, ensemble members meet five to six hours a day with some of the world’s top performers and teachers of the non-western styles. They learn not only how to execute new vocal styles but also the history and practices of each technique. This past summer the group studied Persian classical singing and Hindustani music with Sepideh Raissadat, an Iranian performer, teacher and ethnomusicologist, and Warren Senders, an internationally recognized vocalist, performer, and teacher of classical Indian music. Group members learned traditional folk melodies, collectively composed ragas and improvisations, received coaching on warm-up and performance techniques and participated in discussions on musical ornamentation, vocal facility, and the mathematical properties and evolution of just intonation. Other techniques studied since 2009 include Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing and Sardinian cantu a tenore styles.
The second half of the residency is devoted to the composing, workshopping, and premiering of new work. Composers are provided the rare opportunity to write early in the day, workshop with the ensemble in the afternoon, revise and rewrite that night and then repeat the process several more times before unveiling a new work at the end of the week. Nearly 100% of the group’s core repertoire has been written and premiered at MASS MoCA during the summer residencies. In total, Roomful of Teeth has commissioned over 30 new works for voice by 15 exceptional composers, including Rinde Eckert, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, Missy Mazzoli, Sam Amidon, Michael Harrison and Julia Wolfe, among others.
This summer, we will invite composer, singer and bandleader Ted Hearne to write new works for the ensemble. Hearne’s music draws on a wide breadth of influences to create intense, personal and multi-dimensional works. The New York Times has praised Hearne for his “tough edge and wildness of spirit,” and “topical, politically sharp-edged works.” The Los Angeles Times said, “No single artist embodies the post-genre Brooklyn scene, but Hearne may be its most zealous auteur.” He is perhaps best known for his 65-minute dramatic song cycle based on the raw and shocking words of politicians, survivors and celebrities following Hurricane Katrina (recipient of the 2009 Gaudeamus Prize for composition).
Written by artistic director, Brad Wells, and featured on Roomful of Teeth’s sophomore release, Render, Otherwise features Sardinian cantu a tenore-inspired singing, belting, and some yodeling all in a melange to highlight baritone, Dashon Burton, in full bel canto glory. The title comes from a Jane Kenyon poem but uses no text, only non-sense syllables as lyrics.
The Ascendant is a set of songs composed by Wally Gunn, set to a trio of poems written by Maria Zajkowski. The final movement, Surviving Death, unfolds in a patient, incessant groove, elegantly straddling the boundary between contemporary classical music and indie rock. As Gunn states, Zajkowski’s text is “spare, detached, taut with restraint, but spiked with devastating releases of feeling which can make your stomach drop as if you are suddenly in freefall…[the poems] have a way of getting under your skin and leaving you unsettled, haunted.”
Start and End Dates
08/17/2015 — 08/28/2015
North Adams, Massachusetts