December 2011 eNews: InterNetzo

  • Without fanfare, The Walden School takes musically inclined children for five weeks each summer and gently guides them to be composers.

    – Associated Press

Table of Contents


Message from the Executive Director
waldenschool.org: Gateway to News and Features
Walden Honored with Prestigious Award from CMA/ASCAP
Now’s the Time to Apply for the 2012 Young Musicians Program
Walden Events to Warm the Heart and Spirit
Interested in Working at Walden’s Young Musicians Program in 2012?
Give to Walden Without Even Trying!
Acoustics: Music’s Empty Reason (by Alex Ness)
Community News and Goods
Opportunities & Organizations Listing
Now Hear This! Works by 2011 Walden Participants

 

Message from the Executive Director

Seth Brenzel
Seth Brenzel
Today, December 22, 2011, marks the Winter solstice. It seems like a particularly appropriate day to be sending you Walden’s next installment of InterNetzo, our newsletter. The solstice marks the beginning of the days getting progressively longer, as we move toward those long summer days and anticipate another season of magic at Walden’s programs.

I am pleased to share that The Walden School was selected for a 2012 Adventurous Programming Award from Chamber Music America/ASCAP for our concert series and artist residency programs, and will receive this award at a ceremony in New York City on January 15. This is exciting recognition of an important aspect of all of our programs: outstanding visiting artists who share the highest quality, innovative music with our program participants. I send along my many thanks to our dozens of visiting guest artists in 2011 who indeed enriched the experience at each of our programs and who helped make the Walden magic happen!

In this issue of InterNetzo, we also announce our redesign of waldenschool.org, Walden’s website. This was a project that we launched at the end of last spring and are now so pleased to share with the entire Walden community. We hope you like it, and we look forward to your comments and feedback.

There are lots of other features and content to peruse, including a reprint of Alex Ness’ fascinating article that appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Recitative. There are links to our job postings, music opportunities, upcoming Young Musicians Program deadlines, and of course, news and goods from alumni & friends, where you can learn about your friends and colleagues and the goings on in their lives, both musical and otherwise.

I wanted to also take this opportunity to thank all of you who help make Walden happen each year: faculty, staff, and administration; volunteer board members and alumni association leaders; the many event hosts and volunteers; our hundreds of generous donors; alumni; partners; and of course, our parents and students and program participants, on behalf of whom we all work through the winter and spring in eager anticipation for your arrival, whether for your first or third or seventh Walden summer!

I hope you enjoy this installment of InterNetzo, and as always, I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully seeing you at an event or program soon!

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous, peaceful New Year. Thanks for reading.

Seth Brenzel
Executive Director

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waldenschool.org: Gateway to News and Features

Walden Logowaldenschool.org has always been the place to explore, learn and share news about The Walden School. Now it’s even better. Our enhanced website, which launched in December, offers fresh images, better navigation and all the latest news about our exciting musicians, innovative programs, concerts and events, and the most recent news about awards and honors. Improved SEO (search engine optimization) will make it easier for you to find us, and enhanced integration of social media will make it easy for everyone to link, like, share and follow.

We hope you’ll find rich rewards on our new site. Please bookmark it and visit it often. If you miss a press release, newsletter, or announcement, no worry: our archives will provide access, at any time, from anywhere in the world.

Many thanks to our partner Xiik, Jefferson Packer, Brendon Randall-Myers, and numerous others for their project management, design, photography, copy editing and content contributions.

Sign up for Walden’s e-newsletter, bookmark our site and visit waldenschool.org often! And if you have any feedback that you’d like to give us about the new site, now or anytime in the future, please write to us at contact us.

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Walden Receives Prestigious Award from CMA/ASCAP

ASCAP LogoChamber Music America (CMA) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) have chosen The Walden School receive a 2012 CMA/ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award. Read the complete press release to learn more. “This year’s award recipients represent some of the most exciting contemporary music programming in the country,” said Chamber Music America’s CEO, Margaret M. Lioi.
 
 
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Now’s the Time to Apply for the 2012 Young Musicans Program

YMP Apply
Applications are being accepted for the 2012 Young Musicians Program (YMP). New and returning applicants should submit their materials by Friday, January 6, 2012, to be considered in the early round of admissions decisions. Learn more and download application materials here.
 
 
 
 
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Walden Events to Warm the Heart and Spirit

Claire Chase
Claire Chase
On November 11, friends gathered at the home of board member and alumnus Andrew Jacobs and his wife, Kathy Park, to celebrate and support The Walden School. Lucky guests were treated to a performance by flutist Claire Chase who wowed the crowd with Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint and her own arrangement of Paganini’s legendary variations, complete with virtuosic extended techniques.

We are closing out the year with a series of regional holiday potlucks for alumni from Walden and the Junior Conservatory Camp. We have already had two such events with family and friends gathering to chat, sing, share food and good company.

In attendance on December 18 at a party in New York were: Matt Siffert (our event host), Marguerite Ladd, Christianne (Bessières) and John Lane, Kate Ettinger, Carolyn Gollance, Maria Marsalis, Meade Bernard, Tierney O’Brien, Ita Giventer, and Ilya Mayzus.

A December 19 gathering in the Bay Area included Corty and Alf Fengler (our event hosts), Ariel and Jill Kent, Carlos and Lucas Shimizu, Walter and Daphne Saul, Esther Landau and Caroline Pincus, Ruby Landau-Pincus, Seth Brenzel and Malcolm Gaines, Cora Brenzel Gaines, Brendon Randall-Myers and Ricki Schecter, Nick Benavides, Sophie Huet, Dina (Glendening) and Jim Keller, Ruth Rainero and Pieter de Haan, Ilana Rainero-de Haan, Steve Kusmer, Leland Kusmer, Jefferson Packer and Marcel Gemperli, and Marshall Bessières.

Walter and Daphne Saul with Walter’s Junior of Music Diploma

 

Leland Kusmer, Sophie Huet, guest

 
If you will be in the Baltimore area on Thursday evening, December 29, please join us for the last holiday gathering of the year! For details, contact Marguerite Ladd, Director of Operations and Development Assistant, at (603) 933-0150.

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Interested in Working at Walden’s Young Musicians Program in 2012?

Are you interested in serving as a member of the faculty or a member of the summer staff? The Walden School is building its team for the 2012 season of its flagship Young Musicians Program. 2012 marks the 40th session of Walden, and as always, we seek to build a vibrant, talented team. Submit your materials by January 20, 2012, to be considered for a position. Learn more and review the faculty, staff and nurse job announcements here. And if you’re not interested, but know of someone who might be, we would appreciate your passing along these position announcements to interested applicants.

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Give to Walden Without Even Trying!

By Marguerite Ladd

Last night I bought and shared a broccoli and mushroom pizza with friends. As we were all enjoying its greasy goodness, I smiled knowing that I had just made a donation to The Walden School. You can, too! All you need is an appetite and a web browser.

FREE and Easy Ways to Support The Walden School Every Day:

Here is how you can help:

  • Use GoodSearch.com when you search the internet (ex: looking up the best pizza places near you) – they will donate a penny to Walden every time you do.
  • Enroll your credit card at GoodDining.com and they will donate up to 6% of every dollar you spend when you eat at one of 10,000 participating restaurants
  • Use GoodShop.com when you shop online. They partner with more than 2,500 major brands – everything from Staples and iTunes to PetSmart and hotels.com. They have more than 100,000 coupons and will donate a percentage of every purchase you make to Walden.

It’s easy! Simply click here and choose your cause – The Walden School (Dublin, NH). You can download a customized Walden School toolbar to keep track of how much money you have earned for The Walden School by following this link.

Contact us if you want more information about earning badges and registering at Goodsearch.com.

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Acoustics: Music’s Empty Reason

By Alex Ness (YMP Faculty ’05-07; YMP Staff ’03)

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Please note: This article is drawn from Alex’s doctoral dissertation, and was published previously in our print newsletter, Recitative, which you may view on-line as well.

PythagorasThe simplest, most common musical assumptions have profound consequences. Consider, for example, the layout and tuning of the keys on a keyboard. Most of us take for granted a repeating pattern of seven white and five black keys. We also generally presume that each key should be tuned one-twelfth of an octave higher than the key below it. Patterns like these are, in a sense, the glue holding together the Western musical tradition—a point of agreement between composers as diverse as Bach, Beethoven, and Messiaen, to choose three famous names among thousands. If we choose, we too can spend a lifetime exploring the depths of these conventions. There is no shortage of musical discoveries to make, or material to exhaust.

Of course, we can also spend a lifetime working against the assumptions of Western art music and exploring alternatives. Like Harry Partch, we may want to compose music for uniquely-tuned instruments that we design ourselves. Perhaps we don’t even care about tuning at all, and are happy to let the musicians decide for themselves, as Louis Andriessen did in Workers Union. Or, we may simply be more interested in the conventions of the TR-808 drum machine than those of the piano.

During a period of deep depression, the philosopher John Stuart Mill was “seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations.” Those of us who see the bigger musical picture, however, might be tormented by the opposite thought: that music is utterly inexhaustible; that each musical style, practice, convention, or decision has countless alternatives. This is hard enough to deal with as composers and performers, but it makes things especially difficult for music teachers. Put simply: out of all these possibilities, which music should we teach, and why?

Certainly, one can answer that no music is well-suited to an education, at least an education that concerns itself with truth and correct reasoning. Musical preferences are, at root, a matter of personal taste (or bias) rather than of universal truth. Any musical decision is as valid as any other; fundamentally, it doesn’t matter whether you make music with a conventional piano, a randomly-tuned homemade marimba, or an 808. From this perspective, “musical logic” is an oxymoron, because music has no logos, no essential principle that guarantees its validity. This, however, has not been the opinion of philosophers, music theorists, and pedagogues from the dawn of music theory to the present day. They have argued, to the contrary, that some music can be justified by reason—more specifically, by the mathematically rationality of acoustics, the science of sound. For two-and-a-half millennia, music instructors in the West have relied on “the nature of sound” to distinguish the good musical assumptions and decisions from the bad, and the teachable music from the unteachable.

We can trace the link between music education, acoustics, and “good music” to the mythical foundations of Western music theory itself. According to legend, once upon a time in ancient Greece the philosopher Pythagoras was daydreaming about a way to measure sounds. In his reverie, he heard, by chance, a concord of blacksmith’s hammers as they beat a piece of iron on an anvil. Seduced by the beauty of the harmony, he tried to reproduce it on the strings of a lyre. His experiments led him to discover the integer ratios of the perfect consonances: 2:1 for the octave, 3:2 for the fifth, and 4:3 for the fourth. With this discovery, Pythagoras invented a technique of acoustic music notation that remains in use to this day. But this notation interested him less as a tool to transcribe new and unusual sounds, than as an intellectual weapon to justify the consonances that he preferred, and to impose them on his students as divine law. Pythagoras devised an entire religion, educational system, and way of life around the integers 1 through 4; the students of his cult learned to worship the consonances as sacred sounds. No student dared challenge Pythagoras’ conception of good music, since to do so would mean challenging nature itself.

Acoustics, however, is a double-edged sword for musical education: insofar as it can justify a musical preference and make it educationally viable, it can also justify its alternative. It doesn’t take much imagination to invent an anti-Pythagorean religion in which the small numbers are the most profane, and the consonances therefore the least desirable intervals. In such a religion, we might worship the tritone instead of the octave. This too has its precedent. A different legend relates the fate of Pythagoras’ student Hippasus, who showed that the consonances were nothing special because there was nothing special about the integers themselves. Hippasus used his master’s famous theorem to construct the irrational ratio √2:1 from the hypotenuse of a right isosceles triangle and its edge. Hippasus argued that this ratio is as mathematically, metaphysically, and acoustically valid as any small-integer ratio: it too makes sound, even if that sound is the diabolical discord of an octave split into two equal halves. For the insolence of his reasoning, the gods drowned Hippasus at sea, but not before his argument had spread through the Pythagorean cult, splitting it in two as well: on one side, the acusmatici, who would continue adhering to the values of Pythagoras himself; on the other, the mathematici, who, following Hippasus’ lead, would spurn their master’s religion, devise their own mathematics and discover their own sounds.

Pythagoras was not wrong to love the sound of the octave. He was not even wrong to teach the octave; what better way to teach music than by sharing the sounds that you love? His error was, rather, to call on acoustics to explain how music should work, and to force this explanation on his students. Acoustics explains nothing about music; although it can describe sound relationships, it cannot prove which of these relationships are musical and which are not. No logic can bridge the gap between acoustic information and musical decision-making. It is the responsibility of every musician, young or old, to make their own sense of that gap. They must each decide which acoustic tools to use for their music—if any at all—and how to use them. No music teacher can do this work for them.

Nor can any logic bridge the gap between the music of the world and the music of the classroom. It is the music teacher’s responsibility to decide what to teach; but this, again, must be their own decision. Whether they choose to teach the conventional musical patterns or the exceptional ones is less important than understanding that their choice is ultimately their own, and not the necessary consequence of an inviolable musical nature. As for the right curriculum, the correct curriculum, and the only curriculum, it does not exist.

Alex Ness is a doctoral student in the music department of New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. As a historian of music theory, he focuses on eighteenth-century harmonic treatises, the institutionalization of music pedagogy, and heterodox musical logic. He is also an active composer, having written extensively for new music groups in New York.

Alumni: What do you think about Alex’s conclusions? Share your reactions to this article on the Community Blog at www.handoverhand.org, the alumni community site. If you’re not a member, go ahead and register. Some responses may be selected for publication in future newsletter issues.

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Community News and Goods

The Walden School welcomes news and information from members of the Junior Conservatory Camp and Walden School communities to include in our print and online newsletters. News may be sent via mail or email. We will publish your contact information only if you specifically request that we do so. Please contact us on-line or send info to The Walden School, 31A 29th St., San Francisco, CA 94110. We reserve the right to edit submissions and regret we cannot publish all information provided. For upcoming event listings, go to www.handoverhand.org. (Note: YMP=Young Musicians Program; TTI=Teacher Training Institute; CMR=Creative Musicians Retreat; JCC=Junior Conservatory Camp).


Erica Ball
A new solo cello suite by Erica Ball (YMP ’06-07), dedications, was performed by Michal Schmidt on a concert of new works by UPenn graduate composers in Philadelphia in November.

A chamber opera by Ann Callaway (JCC ’65-67, Faculty ’74-76, ’78-84, ‘99), Vladimir in Butterfly Country, had its concert version premiere at the 11th Annual Sonic Harvest concert this October in Berkeley.

The premiere performance of Alan Chan’s (TTI ’04, ’06, Faculty ’10-’11) Erhu Concerto “Rock-Paper-Scissors”, commissioned by St. Matthew’s Music Guild / Los Angeles County Arts with Wang Hong (Visiting Artist ’08) on Erhu is viewable on YouTube.

Shawn Crouch (YMP ’93-94, ’96; TTI ’08; YMP faculty ’99-00, ’02, ’05-07) has a slew of performances this season, including The Garden of Paradise by Chanticleer on March 30-April 4, Pie Jesu from The Road from Hiroshima, A Requiem on Seraphic Fire’s 10th anniversary concert series January 11-15 in South Florida.


Nick DeMaison
Nick DeMaison (Faculty ’04-07) was the Musical Director for two big productions this fall: The Ticket That Exploded, a multi-media opera by James Ilgenfritz, which was performed at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, and Le Pauvre Matelot (The Poor Sailor) by Darius Milhaud, at Fraunces Tavern in New York.

A song by Renée Favand-See (YMP ’85, ’87-90, TTI ’08, Faculty ’93-97, ’99, ’06-07, ’09), Looking West on a Humid Summer Evening (poem by Corin See) was commissioned by the Five Boroughs Music Festival, and saw a premiere in October and a second performance in November. It will be performed in each of the five boroughs throughout the year.


Stacy Garrop
Stacy Garrop (YMP ’87-88, Faculty ’96) reports that Chicago a cappella, Chicago’s premiere nine-voice choir, has released its “Days of Awe and Rejoicing” CD, including her piece Hava Nagila, which was commissioned by the ensemble. This fall also saw several premieres of new works, including The Book of American Poetry, Volumes III and IV by The Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players at Stony Brook University, Songs of Lowly Life by Volti in San Francisco, Jubilation by the Lincoln Trio in Chicago, and the upcoming Helios by Gaudete Brass on December 28 in Chicago.


Livia Gho
Livia Gho’s (CMR ’11) choir in Vancouver, the Essonance Chamber Choir, held a joint concert series this Christmas with Ablaze Chamber Orchestra to put on Vivaldi’s Gloria in D major, which was Livia’s first instrumental conducting gig. The choir also performed works by Lauridsen and Hyokki.

Carrie Mallonée’s (YMP ’87-92, TTI ’07, Staff ’96, Faculty ’98-00, ’02-09, 11, Admin ’10-11) Carolers for chorus and orchestra (written when she was 14) was on WYPR 88.1 FM in Baltimore in November, and the San Francisco-based new music collective Wild Rumpus, which features Sophie Huet (TTI ’09) performed her piece Shadow Rings.

Teresa McCollough (Visiting Artist ’01, TTI ’05) and Wet Ink Ensemble (Visiting Artists ’09) performed a program at Santa Clara University in November featuring premieres by Sam Pluta (Staff ’01-02, Faculty ’02-08, ’10-11), Alex Shapiro (Visiting Composer ’04), and Sally Mitchell (YMP ’00-04, TTI ’11, Staff ’10).


Ned McGowan
Ned McGowan’s (Visting Artist ’01-04, ’10) concert series Karnatic Lab featured two performances in December, and Ned had a work in 31-tone tuning performed at MicroFest Amsterdam 2011.

The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco and Melody of China (Visiting Artists ’08) presented a concert celebrating the legacy of the Qin, an ancient seven-string zither, featuring performances by the Melody of China ensemble with guests Qin virtuoso Liu Li and Flutist Chen Tao, including a world premiere by Gang Situ.

Nat Osborn’s (YMP ’00-03) band Hawthorne performed at the legendary Joe’s Pub in New York in November, followed quickly by Nat’s west coast debut in San Francisco. He also performed with a new band in early December at the Rockwood Music Hall.

The duo edition of Alicia Jo Rabins’ (YMP ’88-93) band Girls in Trouble (GIT) did a month-long US tour this fall, including a residency at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum which culminated in a concert featuring a panel discussion on creative midrash with Biblical scholars. Alumni Will Rees (YMP ’86-90) and Brendon Randall-Myers (TTI ’10) made it to the show in San Francisco. GIT also performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City in December, will be at the LIMMUD Conference in Warwick, UK, from December 23-29, and will tour Italy in January.

D. J. Sparr (YMP ’91, Faculty ’09-10) will appear at The Atlas in Washington, D.C. on January 6. Learn more here.

The Bill Stevens Jazz Ensemble (Visiting Artists ’10) performed an evening of jazz at Ruggero Piano in Raleigh, NC this November.

The Da Capo Chamber Players, which feature Meighan Stoops (Walden School Players ’04, ’06-11, TTI ’06-07) gave two performances of a program called Cool Britannia this October, once at Bard College and again at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

­­An anthem by Bob Weaver (JCC ’57-63, CMR ‘11) and his friend Bill Pasch was published by St. James Music Press You can see and hear it by going to www.sjmp.com.


Pamela Z
Pamela Z (Visiting Artist ’11) has too many events coming up to list here, but they include a performance at the Berkeley Arts Festival, a shared concert at Le Poisson Rouge with Meredith Monk in New York on January 20, and solo sets at San Francisco State University on February 21, the Pulse Art & Technology Festival in Savannah, GA, on February 28, and Meridian Gallery in San Francisco on March 14.

 

Transitions:

Henry Ericson Huebner

 
Carrie Mallonée’s and Eric Huebner’s (Visiting Artist ’04-08, ’11) son Henry Ericsson Huebner was born October 27, 2011 at 4:10 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds and 4 ounces. He spent his first summer (in utero) at Walden in 2011.

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Opportunities & Organizations Listing

An opportunities listing for composers of multiple levels and age ranges, as well as organizations that provide services to composers, improvisers, and experimental musicians, is available here.
 
 
 
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Now Hear This! Works by 2011 Walden Participants


Caroline Mallonée and Gen Tanaka
More than 100 world premieres had their genesis in 2011 at Walden’s Young Musicians Program on one of seven Composers Forums that occurred throughout the five week experience. One of these pieces was first-time student Gen Tanaka’s A Brief Return of Calm, performed by Walden School Players Jane Chung, Tawnya Popoff, and Robert Burkhart, and Walden Faculty Member Alan Chan. Gen lives during the year in Tokyo, Japan. Click here to listen.
 
 
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