Duke Meets Mort (1992), Robert Carl

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Duke Meets Mort (1992), Robert Carl
Year of Composition: 1992    

Review

Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Friday, March 30, 2001
A delightful potpourri
Garaud MacTaggart

Ever Since Adolphe Sax invented his lung- and reed-powered assemblage of curved metal tubing and multitudinous buttons, there have been classical composers that were intrigued by its sonic possibilities. These days it is an instrument more closely associated with jazz, blues and honkin' R&B instead of Debussy, Glazunov and Hindemith. Now, on the cusp of a new century, things are meshing together, and a new generation of classical composers is still looking at and being intrigued by this unique instrument.

That was and is the whole thrust of just about any Amherst Saxophone Quartet concert during the past 20-some odd years and this was certainly the case Thursday night as they unveiled six mutant works that range from the overtly serious to the playful. There were moments where Duke Ellington shook hands with Norton Feldman and times when echoes of gospel shouts whipped between phantom preachers and congregations. It was all a delightful potpourri and a good way to end the group's season. The evening started out with Dana Wilson's "Come Sunday Mornin'," as the members of the quartet entered from different corners of Slee Hall at the University at Buffalo North Campus, bringing their sound together physically and audibly. Wilson was in the audience for this performance and dutifully received applause. Robert Carl also was present and his "Duke Meets Mort," an effort at combining the styles of Duke Ellington and Mort Feldman, was fairly successful, also garnering kudos from the people present.

"Drastic Measures" by Russell Peck closed out the first half of the program with a well-constructed score wherein the quartet engaged in piquant harmonies and the tossing of riffs back and forth, generation a strong pulse that showcased the group's rhythmic flair. The back end of the evening was a blend of whimsy and seriousness. The world premiere of Kim D. Sherman's "Ditties" unveiled a set of seven snippets with the two longest of them timing in around 30 seconds, give or take a few moments while the others were ephemera to the tune of 10-15 seconds. It generated the chuckles that the composer (via the medium of tenor saxophonist Stephen Rosenthal) hoped it would. "Sax Appeal" was composed by David Stock specifically for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet and proved to be the major event on the program. His four-movement score was filled with jazz quotes and featured, in the "Jump" portion, a near constant rise and fall of rhythm patterns with melody lines strung between the beats like fresh laundry on a breezy day. The "Blues" section of the piece showcased some mid-tempo, 21st century blues bobbing and weaving but the "Sarabande" went from a beautifully articulated opening to breathy punctuations before winding back to a lovely ending. All in all, another fun, interesting concert from the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. This program will be repeated at 7:30 tonight in Westminster Presbyterian Church. A broadcast of their program can be heard at 4 p.m. Sunday on WBFO-FM.

Sax Appeal (1990), David Stock
Duke Meets Mort (1992), Robert Carl
Drastic Measures, Russell Peck
Ditties (1997), Kim D. Sherman
A delightful potpourri

Composer Biography

1954 —

Carl, Robert, American composer, is chair of composition at the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford. He is co-director of the concert series Performance 20/20, co-director of Extension Works (Boston), and artistic director of the Hartt Contemporary Players. His composition teachers include Jonathan Kramer, George Rochberg and Ralph Shapey, as well as Betsy Jolas and Iannis Xenakis, in Paris, where he was a Lurcy Fellow. He has been composer in residence of the Camargo Foundation (Cassis, France), and the Rockefeller Foundation (Bellagio, Italy), and has also been awarded residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo and Millay artist colonies. His compositional work has received awards from the NEA, Tanglewood, and the American Chamber Symphony, and recordings of his music can be found on Opus One, Centaur, Neuma, Koch International, Vienna Modern Masters, Lotus Records Salzburg, and The Aerial.


[from Wikipedia]

Robert Carl (b. July 12, 1954 in Bethesda, Maryland) is an American composer who currently resides in Hartford, Connecticut, where he is chair of the composition department at the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford.

Carl studied with Jonathan Kramer, George Rochberg, Ralph Shapey, and Iannis Xenakis. From each respectively, the composer has commented that he feels he learned about time, history, counterpoint/phrasing, and form. His music finds its roots in the spirit of eclectic juxtapositions, transcendentalism, and experiment embodied in the output of Charles Ives and other American "ultramodernists", including Carl Ruggles.[2]

Carl’s music until 1997 tends to explore different styles, and to create unusual syntheses thereof. A history major as an undergraduate at Yale University, he has felt that the musical past is a fertile source to be manipulated for new expressive purposes. Duke Meets Mort (1992) is a saxophone quartet that interprets the harmonic changes of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo in the voice of Morton Feldman. Time/Memory/Shadow (1988) is a double trio (piano quintet and harp) based on a march written in the composer’s adolescence, which is slowly “excavated” in the course of the piece, and only revealed at the end.

From 1998 on, starting with Open for string trio, Carl’s music has become less referential. Since 2001 he has developed a technique of basing his harmonies on the overtone series, with common partials above different fundamentals serving as pivots for progressions and modulations. In American Music in the Twentieth Century, critic Kyle Gann described Carl's more recent style: "(he) has settled into a more serene, meditative idiom, but still with a dissonant edge."[3] More recent works that represent this approach include The Wind’s Trace Rests on Leaves and Waves (2005) for string quintet (premiered by the Miami String Quartet and Robert Black), Marfantasie (2004) for electric guitar and large ensemble, Shake the Tree for piano four-hands (2005), A Musical Enquiry Into the Sublime and Beautiful (2006–07) for chamber orchestra, and Fourth Symphony (2008).[4] Carl also frequently collaborates with sculptor Karen McCoy, creating sound components of installation art works, including pieces for the Sculpture Key Festivals of 2009 and 2010.

Since 1994, Carl has been a critic for Fanfare magazine, where he writes extensively on new music recordings. In addition, he has completed a book on Terry Riley’s In C, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press.[6][7][8] His interest in Japanese music (Carl often performs his own music on the shakuhachi) led to a residency in Tokyo in spring 2007, which resulted in interviews with 25 contemporary Japanese composers.

Composition Notes

Duke Meets Mort is a meeting at a ‘summit’ between two American originals, who, while we mourn their loss, can now hopefully get to know one another a little better. Specifically, the piece takes six chords (never in quite their original sequence) from Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo and interprets them freely in the voice of Morton Feldman. I’ve always felt a correspondence between Ellington’s Indigos and Feldman’s delicate, ethereal vision, so this ‘jam’ should not be too much of a surprise. The piece should be played throughout with hushed reverence, an homage and prayer.” —Robert Carl

"Duke Meets Mort is a meeting at a 'summit' between two American originals, who, while we mourn their loss, can now hopefully get to know one another a little better. Specifically, the piece takes six chords (never in quite their original sequence) from Duke Ellington's Mood Indigo and interprets them freely in the voice of Morton Feldman. I've always felt a correspondence between Ellington's Indigos and Feldman's delicate, ethereal vision, so this 'jam' should not be too much of a surprise. The piece should be played throughout with hushed reverence, an homage and prayer." — Robert Carl