Bass baritone Nicholas Isherwood performs UK premiere of Jack Van Zandt’s setting of Percy Shelley’s sonnet The Painted Veil and Michael Zev Gordon’s Nigun at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmigham, Friday, 28 February, 2020. The works are part of Isherwood’s international touring program “The Electric Voice” which also includes performances in the US and Canadian cities, Krakow and Amsterdam so far. There will be further North American and European performances in 2020 and a CD of the program is forthcoming.
On composing The Painted Veil Van Zandt writes;
The reason Shelley appeals so much to me as a composer is the synthesis of influences in his work. My composing style is very much the same, combining elements of science, math, philosophy, visual art theory (especially Klee and Escher), and often, music that I love from ancient traditions and cultures outside my own, especially Native American, Indian, Japanese, and Equatorial African. In this case, I was struck by the similarities between the Shelley poem and the spiritual texts of some of the epic Hindu vocal works of Indian classical music. On one level, my setting is essentially a “raga,” and is based on a commonly used modal scale of that tradition. I also ask the vocalist to imitate some of the ornamental idiosyncrasies of raga singing. The fixed electronic tracks behind the voice are constructed by using dozens of slow-motion cyclic lines played by several digital synthesizers—further processed by computer manipulation—in an elaborately layered crab canon. There are no traditional Indian instruments in my piece, but electronic instruments take the functional place of these, including performing drones and tala (rhythmic cycles).
Michael Zev Gordon tell’s about his work;
A nigun is a religious Jewish song, especially associated with Chassidic mysticism. Most often such songs have no text, and are carried along through many repetitions of one or two vocal sounds such as ‘ai’ or ‘yai’. For me, the mystical ecstasy that is pointed towards comes precisely from the lack of verbal meaning, with ‘abstract’ music being centre stage. In my work the solo voice begins in the foreground, developing a meditative, improvisation-like line, with little sense of beat. But the background electronics gradually surface and a rhythmic repeating pattern begins to make its presence felt. Initially the source of this pattern is submerged because of the electronic treatment. But as the solo voice increasingly joins up with it, so the electronic sounds multiply and clarify; and their source – a recording of a large gathering of Chassidim – make its presence felt. The Chassidic voices sweep up and even start to overwhelm the soloist: the one becomes part of the many. The electronic parts of the score were created with Ian Dearden of Sound Intermedia.
Friday 28 February, 1pm
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Saturday 28 March
Monday 23 November 2020