Friday, July 7, 2006

Blog #9, TnTnT

Dear Friends -- This Blog about an upcoming performance is going primarily to folks I know in and around New York City. Some of you live too far away to even consider coming to this event but you may find the information of interest. Help me spread the word about this performance. I think it's going to be a knockout.

WHAT: A complete performance of my largest organ piece, "Tunes 'n' Timbres 'n' Time: The History of Western Music" [TnTnT for short]

WHERE: St Bartholomew's Church, New York City, Park Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets

WHO: William Trafka, director of music at St Bart's and organist extraordinare

WHEN: Wednesday 19 July, 2006, at 7:30 p.m.

HOW MUCH: This event is FREE and open to the public

The organ at St Bart's is the largest one in NYC and the tenth largest in the world. TnTnT was composed to 1) provide an overview of the history of western music; 2) showcase the unique properties of this gorgeous instrument; and 3) have some fun. It was premiered in 1997, then extensively revised and presented by Trafka at Wesleyan in the summer of 2005, as the opening event of one of that year's Pipe Organ Encounters-- a special set of programs by the American Guild of Organists to make the youth of America more aware of the King of Instruments. (The performance on July 19th is also part of a POE, but that's another story.)

Let me explain this composition a bit. It is in fourteen movements, and traces the history of western music from shortly after the invention of the organ (in the second century AD) to the recent past (the late 1960s). It consists of original material and extravagant arrangements, in roughly equal measure. On one level it serves an obvious didactic purpose. But on another level, it is an opportunity for me to make yet another large artistic statement about the nature of history, as I perceive it (and what other kind of history is there, other than the history we individually perceive?).
Those of you who have been aware of my music for a long time will recognize that TnTnT shares this character of "historical commentary" with other large-scale works of mine -- "The Plague: A Commentary on the Work of the Fourth Horseman" (this "rock phantasmagoria" takes place simultaneously in the fourteenth and twentieth centuries); the operas "Americana" (an allegorical retelling of the American Revolution with mythological characters) and "The Trials of Psyche" (which takes place in "mythological time," i.e. outside of time and space); and most recently CONVERGENCE, a mammoth work for hundreds of performers which simultaneously comments on American music in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, on the eve of the 21st. I'm going to elaborate on this aspect of TnTnT in a blog on my web site, sometime between now and the performance, should you want to check it out:

For the moment, I'll just list the movements. Your imagination can fill in the gaps. The re-GAL (not RE-gal) mentioned, by the way, is neither the modern organ stop nor the Renaissance reed instrument, but the ancient battlefield organ of the Romans, a giant noise-making machine designed to frighten their enemies and send them into disarray.

1. Regal Fanfare

2. Organum for St Hildegarde

3. A Madrigal from Marenzio

4. Quasi Gabrielli

5. La Bataille

6. Concerto in the manner of Vivaldi

7. Toccata and Fugue in D minor (a significantly abbreviated version of the famous Bach [?] piece)

8. Don Giovanni, Finale, Act One (a tour de force for the five manuals of the St Bart's organ)

9. The Beethoven Fifth Symphony (Readers Digest version, all four movements, SEVERELY abbreviated)

10. Romance a la Chopin

11. Love Music from "Romeo and Juliet"

12. The Entertainer

13. Avant Garde Fragments

14. Strawberry Fields Forever

Hope you can come. And please help spread the word about this performance. The more the merrier! There is a little narration which I will provide, and the whole event will be just over an hour.

All the best -- Neely