YBCA and Kronos Performing Arts Association present
Kronos Quartet with Special Guests Tanya Tagaq and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ
Fri & Sat, May 11–12, 2012 • 8 pm
San Francisco’s own Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet continues its multi-year partnership and residency at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with a program featuring the artistic voices of several contemporary women composers and performers. Women's Voices features works written specifically for the Quartet including the world premiere of a new piece written and performed by composer and musician Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, co-commissioned by YBCA and the Kronos Performing Arts Association, as well as three Bay Area premieres: Laurie Anderson’s Flow, Nicole Lizée’s Death to Kosmische, and Derek Charke’s Tundra Songs featuring Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Additional pieces will be announced later.
For nearly 40 years, the Kronos Quartet has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to expanding the range and context of the string quartet. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing over 45 recordings of extraordinary breadth, commissioning more than 750 new works, and collaborating with renowned artists of myriad disciplines.
The Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts entered into a multi-year partnership in the fall of 2010 in which YBCA would be Kronos' exclusive San Francisco home for concerts and experimentation for three seasons. Kronos and YBCA co-produce performance programs each season, and have co-commissioned three new works so far. In the 2010–2011 season, Kronos presented the program Black Angels, which included the world premiere of Sahba Aminikia’s String Quartet no. 3, A Threnody for Those Who Remain, commissioned for Kronos through this partnership. This was followed by A Chinese Home with guest performer Wu Man. In addition to Women’s Voices, featuring guest vocalist Tanya Tagaq and the world premiere of the newest commission, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ’s All Clear, Kronos also performed another commission in YBCA’s 2011–2012 season, Fragile with Eiko & Koma.
"Kronos is thrilled to begin a three-year partnership with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. We are inspired by the Center's programs and artistic vision, and we feel a great synergy in our mutual commitment to the creation and performance of new work. We are excited by the opportunity to deepen our relationship with YBCA and its audiences. Kronos has always loved performing at YBCA, and we look forward to planning very special programs and performances in our hometown." — David Harrington, Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet.
“The Kronos Quartet is one of the world’s leading string quartets, pushing the boundaries of contemporary music and constantly reinventing themselves through their explorations with artistic partners. YBCA is thrilled to celebrate this new venture with the Kronos Quartet—an organization that shares our vision and commitment to innovation—which is sure to delight music fans with new works and experimentations for several years to come.” — Kenneth J. Foster, Executive Director, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
For more than 30 years, San Francisco's Kronos Quartet — David Harrington and John Sherba (violins), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello) — has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to expanding the range and context of the string quartet. In the process, the Grammy-winning Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential ensembles of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 45 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning more than 750 new works and arrangements for string quartet. In 2011, Kronos became the only recipients of both the Polar Music Prize and the Avery Fisher Prize, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians.
Since 1973, Kronos has built a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th century masters (Bartók, Shostakovich, Webern), contemporary composers (Aleksandra Vrebalov, John Adams, Alfred Schnittke), jazz legends (Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk), and artists from even farther afield (rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov, interdisciplinary composer/performer Meredith Monk).
Integral to Kronos' work is a series of long-running, in-depth collaborations with many of the world's foremost composers. Kronos has worked extensively with composers such as the "Father of Minimalism," Terry Riley, whose work with Kronos includes Salome Dances for Peace, the multimedia production Sun Rings, and 2005's The Cusp of Magic; Philip Glass, recording his string quartets and scores to films like Mishima and Dracula; Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, featured on the 2005 release Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh; Steve Reich, whose Kronos-recorded Different Trains earned the composer a Grammy; Argentina's Osvaldo Golijov, whose work with Kronos includes both compositions and extensive arrangements for albums like Kronos Caravan and Nuevo; and many more.
In addition to composers, Kronos counts numerous artists from around the world among its regular collaborators, including Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man; the legendary Bollywood "playback singer" Asha Bhosle; Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks; and the renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw. Kronos has performed live with the likes of icons Allen Ginsberg, Zakir Hussain, Modern Jazz Quartet, Noam Chomsky, Rokia Traoré, Tom Waits, Howard Zinn, Betty Carter and David Bowie, and has appeared on recordings by such diverse talents as Nine Inch Nails, Amon Tobin, Dan Zanes, DJ Spooky, Dave Matthews, Nelly Furtado, Joan Armatrading and Don Walser.
A non-profit organization, the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association is committed to mentoring emerging musicians and composers, and to creating, performing, and recording new works. The quartet spends five months of each year on tour, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals around the world including BAM Next Wave Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Barbican in London, WOMAD, UCLA's Royce Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Shanghai Concert Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on recordings. The ensemble's expansive discography on Nonesuch Records includes collections such as Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers, which simultaneously topped Billboard's Classical and World Music lists; 1998's ten-disc anthology, Kronos Quartet: 25 Years; Nuevo (2002), a Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated celebration of Mexican culture; the 2003 Grammy-winner, Alban Berg's Lyric Suite; and Floodplain (2009), spotlighting music from regions of the world riven by conflict.
"Indescribable" is not an appropriate word to begin an artist’s bio, nor is it suitable as a description of a musician. The problem is this: when Tanya Tagaqs’ music fills your ears, she is genuinely one of those rare artists whose sounds and styles are truly groundbreaking. "Inuit throat singer" is one part of her sonic quotient. So are descriptions like "orchestral" "hip-hop-infused" and "primal"…but these words are not usually used collectively. In the case of Tagaq, however — they are.
So much has happened to Tagaq since the release of her debut CD Sinaa (meaning ‘edge’ in her ancestral language of Inuktitut) in 2005. The Nunavut-born singer has not just attracted the attention of some of the world’s most groundbreaking artists, they have invited her to participate on their own musical projects, not just on singular occassions, but repeatedly. Tanya has recently recorded once again with Björk (specifically on the soundtrack for the Matthew Barney film Drawing Restraint 9) having already appeared on Björk’s Medúlla CD in 2004 as well as having accompanied her on the Vespertine tour. In 2005, another monumental collaborative project came to fruition when the Kronos Quartet invited Tanya to participate on a project aptly titled Nunavut, which has been performed at venues all over the world, from its January 2006 debut at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, BC through to New York’s Carnegie Hall. Acclaim and respect has followed Tagaq on her solo ventures as well: Both Sinaa and Auk / Blood were nominated for a Juno Award (Best Aboriginal Recording) and (Best Instrumental Recording) Both recordings won in several categories at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Female Artist.
Tanya’s most recent project is the stunning video Tungijuq on which she collaborated with Jesse Zubot and Montreal filmmakers Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael. It premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In 2009 Tanya also narrated and provided music for the National Film Board award-winning documentary, This Land. 2011 finds Tanya and her band touring internationally with festival performances in Australia, New Zealand, Poland, France as well as concerts back home in Canada.
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ
All Clear (2012)
II. At the Cemetery
III. Christmas StorM
V. Patching Up
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ comes from a family of musicians, and began studying traditional Vietnamese music and the đàn Tranh zither at the age of four. She graduated with distinction from and subsequently taught at the Vietnam Academy of Music in Hanoi. In 1995, Võ won the Vietnam National Đàn Tranh Competition, along with first prize for best solo performance of modern folk music. In Hanoi, Võ was an ensemble member of Vietnam National Music Theatre as well as a member of the traditional music group Đồng Nội Ensemble, which she founded and directed. She has performed throughout Vietnam and many other countries.
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2000, Võ has focused her career on collaborating with musicians across different music genres to create new works, bringing Vietnamese traditional music to a wider audience, and preserving Vietnamese cultural legacy through teaching. Among her compositions are the 2009 Emmy Award-winning soundtrack for the documentary Bolinao 52, which she co-composed and recorded, and the soundtrack for the 2003 Academy Awards nominee Daughter from Danang. Võ also co-composed and recorded for the recent documentary A Village Called Versailles, winner of the New Orleans Film Festival Audience Award. She performs with Kronos on the recording of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” released on the CD collection Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50
Years of Amnesty International.
About All Clear, Võ writes:
“I was born right after the war ended. I remember the suffering of the people around me who went through it. In All Clear, I want the audience to feel the suffering of women and children who bear the brunt of war, and of the many innocent people who are caught in the middle. My perspective is that of someone who was not on any side.
“David Harrington encouraged me to weave together the distinctive sounds of Vietnamese language, culture, and history. Together, we explored Vietnamese instruments and musical traditions. I searched for many sounds to use in All Clear and I had the chance to travel to many provinces in Vietnam to record the sound and thoughts of local people.
“Through my music, I hope to share a thousand years of Viet cultural history, which was overshadowed by the war. My instruments – the đàn Tranh, đàn Bầu, k’ni, and artillery gongs – represent the Viet cultural legacy. These instruments may have been drowned out by the sound of war but they survive.
“The sound at the end of All Clear is a bridge between the past and present. The past already happened, and there were wounds in our hearts that have healed over time. The past now has taken a new form that reminds us of how painful those wounds were.
“In working with David for a year and a half, I might say that All Clear was composed by the two of us.”
David Harrington writes:
“I have long wanted Kronos to explore the world of Vietnamese musical culture, but the intricacies of this vibrant culture and the immense instrumental variety to be found in Vietnamese musical life have been overwhelming. I learned of Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ’s work when she introduced herself after one of Kronos’ recent concerts at Stanford University. Van-Anh is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer, and possesses an enormous amount of knowledge about Vietnamese traditions. I felt I had found an expert guide to Vietnamese life, history and music. Together we started to explore making a concert piece.
“Like many Americans of my generation, I knew about Vietnam mostly through the evening news reports about the war in the 1960s and early ’70s. I remember the horror of seeing people dying on TV – both Vietnamese and American. The North Vietnamese were demonized in our society at that time. I recall my spiritual confusion growing up in a mad-warrior society that was bent on its own ruin, and at the time I often wondered what I could do to help change this.
“I found a moment of sanity one August night in 1973, when on the radio I heard George Crumb's Black Angels for the first time, performed by the New York String Quartet. In my opinion Black Angels (1970) is the great American musical masterpiece to have resulted from the ‘Vietnam’ War (known in Vietnam as the ‘American’ War). This was a time when, as Crumb later said to me, ‘There were strange things in the air.’ I formed Kronos the next month, in order to play that piece.
“As time passed, my collection of recordings from Vietnam has grown and my appreciation for the varieties of music and instruments to be found there has increased immeasurably. I’ve long felt that much remains to be done to atone artistically for an American-made war that brought much suffering and ruin to so many innocent people. I hope to help create a musical experience that will explore some of the inner reaches of Vietnamese music.
“Van-Anh and I began by listening together to Vietnamese music of mourning. It seemed to me that the sound of the đàn Bầu, a one-stringed plucked instrument with a buffalo-horn whammy bar, was created especially for mourning. We want to tell a story through music using a variety of instruments from Vietnam and the West, connected by several poems by Hồ Xuân Hương (1772–1822). She was a 19th century woman with 21st century sensibilities. There are multiple dimensions of meaning expressed at the same time in her poetry – poems within poems – which contain images of female desire and longing coupled with scenes of everyday life. Van-Anh recorded and collected sounds from Vietnam, which we use to weave a web of sound, providing windows into Vietnamese culture and society. The music was built over this sonic ‘ground.’”
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ’s All Clear was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Kronos Performing Arts Association, and the David Harrington Research & Development Fund.
About the Composers
Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)
Arranged by Jacob Garchik (b. 1976)
Laurie Anderson is one of America’s most renowned – and daring – creative pioneers. Known primarily for her multimedia presentations, she has cast herself in roles as varied as visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist.
O Superman launched Anderson’s recording career in 1980, rising to number two on the British pop charts and subsequently appearing on Big Science, the first of her seven albums on the Warner Brothers label. In 2001, Anderson released her first record for Nonesuch Records, entitled Life on a String, which was followed by Live in New York, recorded at Town Hall in New York City in September 2001. The original version of “Flow” is the final track on her 2010 Nonesuch album Homeland, and has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental.
Anderson has toured internationally with shows ranging from simple spoken word performances to elaborate multimedia events. She has published six books, and text from Anderson’s solo performances appears in the book Extreme Exposure, edited by Jo Bonney. Anderson has also written the entry for New York for the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Anderson’s visual work has been presented in major museums throughout the United States and Europe. In 2003, The Musée Art Contemporain of Lyon in France produced a touring retrospective of her work, entitled The Record of the Time: Sound in the Work of Laurie Anderson.
As a composer, Anderson has contributed music to films by Wim Wenders and Jonathan Demme; dance pieces by Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown, Molissa Fenley; and a score for Robert LePage’s theater production Far Side of the Moon. Her most recent orchestra work, Songs for Amelia Earhart, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2000 performed by the American Composers Orchestra.
Recognized worldwide as a groundbreaking leader in the use of technology in the arts, Anderson collaborated with Interval Research Corporation, a research and development laboratory founded by Paul Allen and David Liddle, in the exploration of new creative tools. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA, out of which she developed her solo performance “The End of the Moon.” Anderson was also part of the team that created the opening ceremony for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. In 2007 she received the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for her outstanding contribution to the arts.
Jacob Garchik’s arrangement of Flow by Laurie Anderson was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the David Harrington Research and Development Fund.
Derek Charke (b. 1974)
Tundra Songs (2007)
- Sedna’s Song
- Lament of the Dogs
- The Trickster Tulugaq
Derek Charke is a composer, flutist and professor of music at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, Charke completed a Ph.D. in composition and masters in flute performance at SUNY Buffalo. A recipient of the NUFFIC grant by the Dutch government, he also received a BMI student composer award and a special mention from the Kubik Prize. Charke is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre. Tundra Songs is the second piece composed by Charke for the Kronos Quartet; the first, Cercle du Nord III, has been performed by Kronos over 30 times throughout Europe and North America. Charke has also written extensively for the flute; WARNING! Gustnadoes Ahead was commissioned for the 2008 National Flute Association Convention. His works have been broadcast internationally and nationally on CBC Radio Two and on Radio-Canada. www.charke.com
Charke and Tanya Tagaq first met in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where Kronos and Tagaq were developing Nunavut, allowing each to hear each other’s work and to establish this musical relationship. About Tundra Songs, Charke writes:
“I’ve been fascinated with the Arctic for as long as I can remember. I’ve lived there, I met my wife there and I continue to return as often as I can. Naturally I was thrilled when David Harrington asked me to write a new work for Kronos and Tanya Tagaq based on the north. The first step was to collect as many sounds as possible.
“In March 2007 I traveled to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Fresh off the plane, and in -30 degree weather, I hooked up with Polar Explorer Matty McNair for a two-day trip out on the ice by dog sled. Leaving town I recorded the dogs and the sled. We went to a polynia, an open area of water surrounded by ice. Dropping my hydrophone into the water I recorded sounds of shrimp, krill, seals and other marine life. Later that day as the dogs rested we went on a short hike to take in the scenery; magnificent sheets of ice lined the walls of the valley where the tide had receded. We camped that night in a cabin at the edge of the frozen ocean. It was remarkably clear and the aurora borealis decided to give us a beautiful show. I left my microphone outside all evening to capture any sounds that might have occurred. The next morning I set the microphone on an ice floe and recorded the cracking ice; huge chunks of ice grinding together as the tide came in pushing the entire frozen ocean up. Later that afternoon when we had arrived back in town I positioned a microphone in the centre of some dog food to attract the ravens. Just like clockwork as soon as the food appeared the ravens swarmed. I recorded their calls and shrieks, their wings flapping in the frigid weather.
“Over the next week I wandered the streets with my recording gear capturing daily life in the north; a group of kids playing shimmy street hockey, snowmobiles racing around town, airplanes coming and going, a dog sled race, someone carving a soapstone sculpture, the beeps of the water trucks backing up, howling wind and dogs tied up in front of homes. I was invited to a Country Feast. We ate polar bear, seal, caribou, whale and arctic char. After the feast the tale of Sedna, the Inuit goddess who created all living beings, was vividly recounted.
“I wasn’t able to get all the sounds I needed from this one trip. In particular I didn’t have recordings of mosquitoes. So I created a bug recorder. It’s a plastic container with a hole for the microphone. You simply add one mosquito and voilà! During the summer of 2007 I recorded kayak sounds, waves and paddle noises, as well as birds, geese, ptarmigan and other wildlife. Some sounds were difficult to find, the caribou with their hoofs clicking for example, and in lieu of the real thing you’ll hear a castanet. Other sounds were produced in my home studio including drums, shakers, some of the whale sounds and the various processed effects.
“Tundra Songs is divided into five continuous movements. Each section explores a specific sound world. In addition the form roughly follows the seasons. Two primary ‘extended’ techniques are explored: circle bowing and vertical bowing. Using these methods of tone production it is possible to make the string quartet sound similar to Inuit Throat singing. Throat singing is a game usually played between two women. Tanya Tagaq is unique because she does this on her own. The sounds are raw and guttural. The singing is rhythmic and emulates sounds of animals, birds and other natural or man-made sounds. Paired with the sounds on the soundtrack, and Tanya’s singing, the effect is highly evocative of northern Canada.”
About the individual movements, Charke writes:
“I. Ice. Winter / Ukiuq – Sounds of drums and cracking ice are heard from a distance. Quickly they get closer. The string quartet enters. Circle bowing, grinding and vertical bowing techniques over a static harmonic backdrop begin the work. A systematic increase in tempos occurs until at just over four minutes a final flourish and Tanya is left singing on her own with just the ice to accompany her. Four main rhythmic sections alternate with slower regions where we can hear the sounds of the raw ice cracking as the tides recede.
“II. Water. Spring / Upirngaksaaq – A whale call starts us off. More whale calls ensue, heard as descending harmonic sounds. Seals grunt, shrimp crackle and streaming water is heard flowing under the arctic ice. An atmospheric and rhythmic backdrop accompanies a jazzy string quartet. The tempo increases and we hear the opening whale call again. The seal grunts are transformed to become a rhythmic backing track. The string quartet hockets similar material back and forth as the energy increases. The string quartet is left on its own for a moment before we are plunged into the depths of the ocean once more. A high beep signals the last part of this movement. Water, whales and ice are heard as the string quartet plays a march-like rhythm in unison, pizzicato or col legno battuto (with the wood of the bow). Synthesized sounds are included, a choir, shakers and drums. Geese honks signal the arrival of summer, and a clash of thunder signals the transition to the third movement
“III. Sedna’s Song. Summer / Aujaq – ‘Lakaluk would like to tell us a story,’ kids are playing hockey, ‘What a goal!’ and a snowmobile whizzes along. Birds, wildlife and a band-saw used for carving are in the background. The string quartet plays pizzicato. A folksy solo melody on the violin accompanies the story. Castanets emulate caribou hooves clicking. The story takes an unexpected turn and the music becomes more virulent, more chromaticism ensues. Eventually things calm down, birds and wildlife return as the movement comes to its conclusion.
“IV. Lament of the Dogs. Fall / Ukiaqsaak – The sound of dogs howling is very sad. These particular dogs are singing in pitch, in the key of D-sharp minor to be exact; a dark, remorseful key. The cries are stretched in time and layered to create a pad of sounds to accompany the strings. A lachrymose melody is heard in the viola while fast arpeggiated figures are passed between the other voices. The momentum builds; more dog cries are heard. Voices, a children’s song in Inuktitut (the main language of Nunavut) filter through. The arpeggios win over from the melody and build in intensity. Eventually the melody returns, first in the violin, and then the cello, transformed and stretched we come to the end of the movement. A quick modulation and the sound of a Ravens begin.
“V. The Trickster Tulugaq. Winter is coming / Ukiaq – Ravens squawk as they fight for food. Wings flap overhead. Mosquitoes swarm as they live their last moments in search of blood. Raven sounds are transformed until they become a rhythmic backdrop. The string quartet takes up some circle bowing techniques, a few harmonics before settling into a longer passage in a triplet feel and quick change of mode. A synthesized organ enters and the mood changes. Finally a honky-tonk ending ensues, complete with ravens and the buzzing of mosquitoes. Strings play a flurry of open strings. Ice joins the mix for the last time, as the cycle completes itself. Winter, once again, settles in.”
Derek Charke’s Tundra Songs was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Tanya Tagaq by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director.
Nicole Lizée (b. 1973)
Death to Kosmische (2010)
Nicole Lizée is a composer, sound artist and keyboardist based in Montreal, Quebec. Her compositions range from works for large ensemble and solo turntablist featuring DJ techniques fully notated and integrated into a concert music setting, to other unorthodox instrument combinations that include the Atari 2600 video game console, Simon and Merlin handheld games, and karaoke tapes. Lizée has received commissions from artists and ensembles such as l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, CBC, So Percussion, and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. In 2010 she was awarded a fellowship from the prestigious Civitella Ranieri Foundation based in New York City and Italy. She has twice been named a finalist for the Jules-Léger Prize, most recently in 2007 for This Will Not Be Televised, scored for chamber ensemble and turntables, and recommended among the Top Ten at the 2008 International Rostrum of Composers. In 2002 she was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Robert Fleming Prize, and in 2004 she was nominated for an Opus Prize. www.nicolelizee.com
About Death to Kosmische, Lizée writes:
“Death to Kosmische is a work that reflects my fascination with the notion of musical hauntology and the residual perception of music, as well as my love/hate relationship with the idea of genres. The musical elements of the piece could be construed as the faded and twisted remnants of the Kosmische style of electronic music. To do this, I have incorporated two archaic pieces of music technology (the Stylophone and the Omnichord) and have presented them through the gauze of echoes and reverberation, as well as through imitations of this technology as played by the strings. I think of the work as both a distillation and an expansion of one or several memories of music that are irrevocably altered by the impermanence of the mind. Only ghosts remain."
Nicole Lizée's Death to Kosmische was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Margaret Dorfman and the Ralph I. Dorfman Family Fund.
Delia Derbyshire (1937–2001)
Mosaic (from music of Delia Derbyshire):
in memory of Connie Sterne (arr. 2012)
Arranged by Danny Clay with David Harrington
Delia Derbyshire was born in Coventry, England, and educated at Girton College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a degree in mathematics and music. In 1959, on approaching Decca Records, Derbyshire was told that the company did not employ women in their recording studios, so she went to work for the UN in Geneva before returning to London to work for music publishers Boosey & Hawkes.
In 1960 Derbyshire joined the BBC as a trainee studio manager. She excelled in this field, but when it became apparent that the fledgling Radiophonic Workshop was under the same operational umbrella, she asked to be assigned to the Workshop. It was an unheard of request, but one which was nonetheless granted. Initially Derbyshire thought she had found her own private paradise where she could combine her interests in the theory and perception of sound; modes and tunings, and the communication of moods using purely electronic sources. Within a matter of months she had created her recording of Ron Grainer's Doctor Who theme, one of the most famous and instantly recognizable TV themes ever. On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: "Did I really write this?" he asked. "Most of it," replied Derbyshire.
Thus began what is still referred to as the Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop. Initially set up as a service department for Radio Drama, it had always been run by someone with a drama background. Derbyshire was the first person there with any higher music qualifications, but as she wasn't supposed to be doing music, much of her early work remained anonymous under the umbrella credit “special sound by BBC Radiophonic Workshop.” Before long the Workshop's TV output had overtaken work produced for radio broadcast. Derbyshire was called upon to do music for drama and documentary programs set in the distant past, the unseen future or deep in the human psyche - in fact any area where an orchestra would be out of place. Derbyshire soon gained a reputation for successfully tackling the impossible.
Derbyshire’s works from the 1960s and ’70s continue to be used on radio and TV, and her music has given her legendary status. She is frequently mentioned, credited and covered by bands from Add N to (X) and Sonic Boom to Aphex Twin and The Chemical Brothers. The Guardian has called her “the unsung heroine of British electronic music,” probably because of the way her infectious enthusiasm subtly cross-pollinated the minds of many creative people.
About Mosaic (from music of Delia Derbyshire): in memory of Connie Sterne, David Harrington writes:
“The fascinating musical universe of Delia Derbyshire inspired us to ask Danny Clay to assemble a multi-layered portrait of her that celebrates her imagination and allows Kronos to explore a collection of her themes. The piece is dedicated to Connie Sterne, who was a great friend to Kronos and to music. We miss Connie’s warmth, her sun-filled smile and her encouraging presence. Mosaic remembers Connie's spirit by bringing the musical spark of a pioneering, mercurial and hugely inventive composer into our concerts for the first time.”
Arranger Danny Clay (b. 1989) is a composer and general noise-maker from Ohio, drawing upon elements of American folklore, genealogy, art education, children's theater, improvisation, digital media, and everything in between to make music (and sometimes other odds and ends) for the people around him, whether it be writing pieces for the concert hall, recording tunes in his basement, or collaborating with other artists. He received an undergraduate degree in composition from the University of Cincinnati and currently studies with friend and fellow musical delinquent Dan Becker at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Derbyshire biography adapted and reprinted with permission from www.delia-derbyshire.org.
Research assistance by Nikolás McConnie-Saad and Derek Lance.
Mosaic (from music of Delia Derbyshire): in memory of Connie Sterne, arranged by Danny Clay with David Harrington, was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet in memory and in celebration of Constance Grylls Sterne by her devoted family and friends.
YBCA’s programs are made possible in part by:
National Endowment for the Arts
YBCA Performance 11–12 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
These concerts are made possible by generous grants to the Kronos Performing Arts Association from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Bernard Osher Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Meyer Sound. Additional support was provided by The James Irvine Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Amphion Foundation, Thendara Foundation, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
The Kronos Quartet and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts have developed a three-season partnership during which YBCA is Kronos’ exclusive San Francisco home for concerts and experimentation. The residency, which began during the 2010_11 season, features co-produced performances as well as new works.
Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 11–12:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
Cultural Services of the French Embassy
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts