Alvin Curran's famous 1980 composition combines piano, voice, a Serge modular synthesizer, and tape recordings, particularly of his 14 year old dachshund Caspar "singing", recorded after meeting a female dog in heat earlier in the day, a peculiar love song based around a 5-note motive played on the piano, increasingly frenzied and affected by the Serge synth.
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Label: Our Swimmer
Catalog ID: WELLE 101LP
Squidco Product Code: 30094
Recorded at Sound 80 Studios, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 24th, 1980, by Paul Martinson. Originally released on vinyl LP on the Italian Fore label in 1980 as catalog code FORE 80/TWO.
Alvin Curran-voice, piano, synthesizer, tape
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• Show Bio for Alvin Curran
"Born December 13, 1938, Providence, Rhode Island. From five years: piano lessons, trombone, marching bands, Synagogue chants, Jazz, and his father's dance bands. Becomes an artist at age 13 in an apple tree at the house of his lifelong friend, poet Clark Coolidge. Hears Spike Jones, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Satchmo, The Boston Symphony Orcherstra, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, The Band of America, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bartok and Christian Wolff.
With a fortuitous bang, he begins his musical journey (1965 in Rome) as co-founder of the radical music collective Musica Elettronica Viva, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome's avantgarde theater scene. In the 70's, he creates a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls -- he develops a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries and caves -- his natural laboratories. In the 1980's, he extends the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six large ensembles performing together from many European Capitals. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Diskklavier) and computers, since 1987, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works -- an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He creates a visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, Uli Sigg. Throughout these years he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.
Studies composition with Ron Nelson (B.A. Brown University 1960) and with Elliott Carter and Mel Powell ( M.Mus., Yale School of Music 1963). During summer vacations, plays European crossings with the "Brunotes" on the Holland American Line, in a Greek Dance Band in the Catskills, and in the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.
Continues studies and friendship with Carter in Berlin (1964 Ford Foundation Grant), meets Stravinsky, Xenakis, Berio, Yuji Takahashi, Andriessen, Remo Remotti, and above all Rzewski. Goes to Darmstadt, hangs with Babbitt and Earl Brown, hears Stockhausen and Ligeti. Goes to Rome with Joel Chadabe and plays piano in bars on via Veneto, meets Franco Evangelisti and Cornelius Cardew.
In the Musica Elettronica Viva years (1966 -1971 in Rome), performs in over 200 concerts in Europe and the USA with Teitelbaum and Rzewski, Carol Plantamura, Ivan Vandor, Alan Bryant and Jon Phetteplace; and makes significant artistic encounters with Giuseppe Chiari, Edith Schloss, AMM, Cardew, Steve Lacy, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Steve ben Israel, Anthony Braxton, Simone Forti, Steve Reich, Joan La Barbara, Michael Nyman, La Monte Young, Trisha Brown, Ashley, Behrman, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Larry Austin, Bill Smith, Ketoff, Robert Moog, Nuova Consonanza, MEV2, Meme Perlini, Mario Ricci, Maria Monti, Prima Materia, Ron Bunzl, Phil Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Riley, George Lewis, Evan Parker, Gregory Reeves, Serge Tcherepnin, Kosugi, Pulsa, Maryanne Amacher, John Cage, David Tudor, Morton Feldman. Scelsi becomes his friend and mentor.
From 1975-80 taught vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica (Rome) and from 1991 to 2006 was the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California. Currently teaching privately in Rome in addition to master classes, residencies, and lectures at Oberlin, Peabody, Brown, Berkeley, The Hague, Haifa, Bolzano, Northwestern, Yale, Beijing, etc."-Alvin Curran Website (http://www.alvincurran.com/Curran_bio.html)
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1. The Works I
1. The Works II
sample the album:
"The Works -- one of the most famous pieces by brilliant American composer Alvin Curran -- was not created by will and direct purpose but, as the composer himself states, as a "providential accident" which is to say quite organically. Combining piano and voice with found sound and a custom-built Serge modular synthesizer, The Works is a slowly developing piece where space and ambient tape are eventually overtaken by raga-esque chanting and frenetic piano playing, where synthesizer washes become full-on workouts all leading to a coda where the listener is "finally carried off on the wheels of the Berlin U-Bahn."
Curran -- whose initial training and musical education was as a pianist -- had been living in Roma, Italy, in the mid-70s returning to his roots and performing regularly in cocktail lounges on Via Veneto. It was this return to piano and vocals that became the genesis for The Works. In relearning the piano, a five-note "motive" took hold.
Added to this was "a recording I had made of our 14 year old dachshund Caspar just before he died. It was, in fact, a love song which he persisted in singing all day after meeting a lovely bitch in heat in Piazza Navona. This I knew would be the beginning of the piece." As the piece expands further the listener will hear "cows munching grass, the Rome-Florence express train, a horse-fly caught against a window pane, my footsteps approaching a Roman fountain and later going up the steps of my old studio, cicadas, an Amsterdam calliope, a tin can being kicked, and a series of sounds from La Serra di Lerici."
Though The Works has been performed in many incarnations over the years, it's this performance -- captured on February 24, 1980, and originally released that same year by the short-lived Italian avant-garde label Fore -- that is the definitive version, and one of the finest recordings ever made by the celebrated composer."-Our Swimmer
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