CATALOG > Shadows of Ancient Dreams
New Music Connoiseur - Volume 7, Number 1
"F. Gerard Gerry Errante, is an active composer, teacher and instrumentalist of extraordinary technique, fluency and boldness. All of the selections in Ancient Dreams involve computer processing of some sort. Combined with his propensity o collect exotic instruments throughout his travels, it led to the 10-minute long album-title work. Beside the clarinet, he plays a Zimbabwean mbira, an Australian didgeridu, a Japanese shakuhachi and a Thai khlur. Using computer sampling, he was able to layer and dissolve all of these timbres to produce the effect of an ancient ritual, primeval in spirit and evocative in its simplicity of design and scale. The one quibble we have is with Peter Cosmos recording which is to us grossly out of balance, though perhaps partly intended that way by the composer for contrasts sake.
Charles Bestors Conversations with Myself is another of those duos between an instrumentalist and his alter ego, shadow, echo however you choose to see it triggered by computer processing. The conversations here are about Max (jazz composer-drummer Roach), about Her (an elusive figure), about Midnight (Theloneous Monk), and about Hildegard (von Bingen, of course) and about Time (a summation). The conception and the technique are both interesting and even alluring, but we find the material a bit disappointing, unable to sustain interest throughout.
Robert Scott Thompson is also obsessed with shadows, as in his Canto (de las Sombras) (1996), a melding of clarinet materials and electro-acoustic transformation. The latter component was fashioned via a state-of-the-art digital audio workstation synthesized through software, signal processing and algorhythmic composition. The Spanish title perhaps relates to the content wherein one can discern unmistakable Latin American rhythms treated in a fresh and engaging way.
Todd Winklers Snake Charmer (1992) exploits elements of live computer0performer interaction and therefore some indeterminacy. If this performance is typical of what he expects, then it successfully suggests a work of wit and inventiveness, though the title need not be taken too literally.
Douglas Quins Yasashii Kaze is yet another example of the enticing new high-tech music processes composers and performers can use as a means of express certain interests. Mr. Quin evidently is a nature lover and has found a novel way to create an environmental sound palette minimizing the danger of artificiality, though a certain degree of forethought can never be avoided. Using a pitch-to-MIDI converter and a synth, Errante triggers a variety of electronic sound palettes, five all told. For example, the final piece is a montage of frogs and insects against a running stream in the upland rainforest of Ranomatana in Madagascar.
Michael Lowensterns five-minute Milk Teeth involves one of his favorite media combos the bass clarinet (often mournful in tone) set against a backdrop of taped voices, in this case, TV commercials. One of them sounds like a phone sex conversation you see/hear on cable. The intended idea, an extramusical one, grew, he says, out of the notion that as soon as a baby gets these teeth, he or she is beginning to be bombarded by media commercials suggesting what it should use those teeth for.
Gerry Errante, by inviting Lowenstern to write for him, clearly characterizes the new breed of musicians who believe in relegating the competitive posture to past history. Lowenstern is, himself, a virtuoso of the bass clarinet and plays his own works like nobodys business, so his writing such a work for Errante displays an obvious regard for the latters eminence. All of the works on this disc were, in fact, written especially for Errante who has, in the past, invited other clarinetists to share the stage and the CD studio with him, a sign that there really is a United States of Clarinetists. Overall, a daring and interesting album."
NACWPI Journal - Summer, 1998
"F. Gerard Errante is a composer/clarinetist of international acclaim. He has recorded for the CRI label, Telarc, Mark Recordings, AIR Records (Japan), Apollo Records (The Netherlands), Tall Poppies (Australia) and for national radio stations around the world. He is Professor of Music at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia and immediate past president of the International clarinet Association.
This review is a joy for me to write. Dr. Errante has been, in many was, a role model for me. As a young performer, I was in awe of the many new sounds he produced with the clarinet. His music opened doors for me that I never knew existed Dr Errante's work with computer controlled interactive electronics takes these sounds to a new level.
There are six pieces on this new disk, Shadows of Ancient Dreams: Shadows of Ancient Dreams, F. Gerard Errante. Conversations with Myself, Charles Bestor. Canto (de Las Sombras), Robert Scott Thompson. Snake Charmer, Todd Winkler. Yasashii Kaze, Douglas Quin and Milk Teeth, Michael Lowenstern.
Errante states that in Shadows of Ancient Dreams, he combines, digital technology with a variety of exotic instruments that I have collected in my travel throughout the years. These instruments include a mbira from Zimbabwe, a didjeridu from Australia and a shakuhachi from Japan, as well as the clarinet. These are played into a digital effects processor which delays and repeats the sounds. The effects are tremendous.
Conversations with Myself, was written for the performer. The piece uses an interactive computer program that creates a work which is literally a conversation between the performers, live and electronic. Each performer, the computer and the clarinetist, react to each other in an evolving dialogue. The five movements, according to the composer, "are each a reference to a conversation about a specific historical composer, ranging from the 12th century abbess, Hildegarde of Bingen, to the contemporary Max Roach, Thelonius Monk, and the elusive Her. The effect is an improvisatory piece, different in each performance, and for each performer.
Canto (de Las Sombras), was also written for Errante in 1996.
According to the composer, The three movements of Snake Charmer are each designed to explore a different area of technology for interactive composition. The computer accompaniment is always a result of how and what the clarinetist is playing and consequently no two performances are alike. I have had the pleasure of hearing this piece four times live as this recording and can attest to that fact! I have heard Dr. Errante perform the piece as well as two of my Doctoral students. The effect is amazing, and the recording brings out all of the unique sounds found in the live performance. This is especially true when listening to the disc with headphones. The stereo effect is stunning.
Yasashii Kaze was premiered by Errante at ClarFest 93 in Ghent, Belgium. The performer uses a pitch-to-Midi converter and a synthesizer which triggers a variety of sound palettes with the synthesizer that are set against wildlife recordings. These include the sounds of bats, insects, frogs and water from the semiarid desert region of Samburu, Kenya, and Madagascar Scops Owls from the spiney desert region near Berenty at the southern end of Madagascar.
Mild Teeth, was again written for Errante. The title refers to another term for baby teeth. According to the composer, bass clarinet virtuoso, Michael Lowenstern, this term serves as a compositional tool. …, as soon as a baby gets these teeth, he or she is beginning to be bombarded by media commercials suggesting what it should use those teeth for (literally and figuratively). Television commercials were used as the basis for the semantic content of the piece, and clarinet samples for the remainder of the sound material. No synthesized sounds were used, however some of the clarinet sounds have been altered substantially.
I especially recommend this recording to those who have not yet experienced the wonderful sounds that can be achieved when using interactive electronics. For those of us who have lived in the era of taped electronic accompaniments living with timing problems in every performance the ability to vary timing, and have timings affect the overall performance of the work create a whole new palate on which we can create music. I very highly recommend this disc!"
20th Century Music - March, 1998 - by Mark Alburger"It's safe to say that you've never heard clarinet the way clarinetist F. Gerard Errante performs in "Shadows of Ancient Dreams," his sole original composition from a like-named album from Capstone. That's because he doesn't play much clarinet, but instead mbira from Zimbabwe, didgeridoo from Australia, shakuhachi from Japan, and khlu from Thailand. But what he gets in the end, with the help of digital effects processing is equally resonant as Balinese gamelan, Tibetan chant, and massed ocarinas -- a wonderful exercise!, if a little "do this and then do that" as well.
Pcrhaps there's something inevitably lonely and solipsistic about "Conversations with Myself," by Charles Bestor, but at least the composer branches out "about Max [Roach, not Mathews]," "about Her," "about Midnight [i.e. Thelonius Monk]." "about Hildegard [von Bingen.. who else?]," and "about Time" [the 1960's sit-com??)]. It's about time, with selections enriched by strong electronic rhythms, somber clarinet swing, Gershwin smears, and new age sparkle.
Robert Scott Thompson's "Canto (de Las Sombras)" is an echoic assemblage of multiple clarinets and the mysterious musique concrète atmosphere of Varèse's " Poème electronique," related to the rhythmic sassiness and lonely messiaenisms of Todd Winkler's "Snake Charmer," via shared harpish slithers.
And speaking of Messiaen, Douglas Quin joins Ann LeBaron in another approach to the wonders of nature with his "Yasahii Kaze," five studies for birds and bees and frogs collected from Samburu (Kenya), the Sierra Nevada (California), the Atlantic rainforest of Caratinga (Brazil). the spiney desert near Berenty [!] (southern Madagascar), and the mountain rainforest of Ranomafana (eastern Madagascar). To this of course is added Errante's electric clarinet magic -- what's not to like?
"Milk Teeth," by Michael Lowenstern, cuts its way wonderfully through found-sound tooth-decay commercialism. The conclusion is perhaps the first sex-phone recording used in a classical work, but only pale turquoise rather than deep blue. Come to think of it, "pale turquoise" is how it all ends, fading away into the abyss of clarinets."
The Clarinet - February/March 1998 - by Michèle Gingras
"Clarinetist, composer, world traveler, acher, and past I.C.A. President Gerry Errante is world renowned for his innovative and stellar performances. In Shadows of Ancient Dreams he puts all his many talents to use and introduces listeners to outstanding new music.
Shadows of Ancient Dreams, composed by Errante in 1995, combines the use of several exotic instruments he collected during his travels. The instruments are collaged one over another into a digital effects processor which delays and repeats sounds, makmg it possible to layer the various voices. This composition uses a mbira from Zimbabwe, a didjeridu from Australia, a shakuhachi from Japan, a khlui from Thailand, and yes, a clarinet, too. The piece is improvisatory in nature and the "shadows" of the repetitions and the combinations of textures and timbres of these instruments are designed to create a gentle ambiance, establishing an atmosphere of a dream.
Charles Bestor is a native of New York and received his musical training under Paul Hindemith at Yale University, Vincent Persichetti and Peter Mennin at The Juilliard School, and independently under the electronic pioneer Vladimir Ussachevsky. His exploration of the integration of jazz-derived, tonally based music into the formal structures of conventional concert music is apparent in Conversations with Myself written between 1993 and 1996. The work was written for Errante and is a set of conversations between the clarinetist and his or her electronic alter ego, with each of the performers, live and electronic, triggering the musical responses of the other. Each "performer in turn, reacts to the other's musical gestures in a continuing evolving musical dialogue. The various movements, marked "about Max, about Her, about Midnight, about Hildegard," and "about Time" are each a reference to a specific historical composer, ranging from the 12th-century abbess, Hildegarde of Bingen, to the contemporary Max Roach, Thelonious Monk, and the elusive Her. The latter is a luscious sweet sounding sea of synthesized chords accompanying the clarinet's slow improvisation-like long tones - beautiful! The music of the different composers serves as a point of departure from which the material of the music freely develops. The interaction between the live performer and the various electronic voices is often aleatoric, and sometimes based on precomposed material over which the performer exercises shifting degrees of musical control. The final movement is a five-part canon, a summation of the material of the preceding conversations.
Robert Scott Thompson wrote Canto (de Las Sombras) (Song of the Shadows) for the I.C.A. Congress in Paris in 1996, where Errante performed its premiere. Thompson is a composer of electroacoustic and computer music, as well as music for chamber ensemble and orchestra. A student of Bernard Rands, Roger Reynolds and Joji Yuasa, he earned his Ph.D. in composition and computer music from the University California at San Diego. He currently serves on the faculty of Georgia State University. Cantos, written for Errante, again follows this recording's theme with dreamlike aleatory sounds.
Todd Winkler is a composer specializing in computer music. He studied with David Cope and Gordon Mumma at U.C. Santa Cruz, Morton Subotnick and Mel Powell at CalArts and John chowning at Stanford University. He is on the faculty of Brown University where he is the Director of the MacColl Studio for Electronic Music. Winkler pioneered new methods for integrating acoustic instruments with computer technology, writing software that allows a computer to analyze a live performance, and create expressive music by responding intelligently to real-time musical gestures, phrasing and tempo, rendering each performance different from one another. Snake Charmer is in three movements and was written in 1992. Each movement is designed to explore a different area of technology for interective composition. The first movement features a playful interaction between the clarinet and computer. The computer responds with variations on what it "hears,"
reacting to start time, phrase lengths, register, and dynamics. In the second movement the computer's music is quite different from the clarinet and responds to slow sounds with contrasting plucked sounds. By playing more aggressively, the performer can "stimulate" the computer into playing equally aggressive responses. The expressive clarinet solo is processed by a subtle phasing effect. No synthesizers are used in the third movement, except for the clarinet controlling a digital delay.
Douglas Quin wrote Yasashii Kaze in 1993. It is a suite of five short works written especially for Errante and was premiered by him at the I.C.A. Congress in Ghent in 1993. The music uses sounds extracd from nature such as bird song and waterfalls. Using a pitch-to-MIDI converter and a synthesizer, Errante triggers a variety of electronic sound palettes. The different movements' ambiance goes from the semi-arid desert region of Sambuni, Kenya, with featured sounds of bats, insects, frogs and water. The next is a collage of sounds from an Alpine marsh and meadow in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The third environment is comprised of frogs and rain from the Atlantic rain forest of Catatinga in southeastern Brazil. The fourth is a dawn chorus of owls from the spiny desert region near Berenty at the southern end of Madagascar. The final ambiance is with frogs and insects with a rinnung stream from the mountain rain forest of Ranomafana in eastern Madagascr.
Michael Lowenstern is a well-known bass clarinetist and composer. His amazing solo bass clarinet recording was recently reviewed by this writer in this magazine. Milk Teeth (1995) for clarinet and electronic tape utilizes no synthesized sounds, however the clarinet sounds have been altered substantially. It was written for Errante who performed it during the I.C.A. Congress in Paris in 1996. The tide suggests the media's insistence on providing all kinds of hygiene products to people past the "milk teeth" stage. The piece is interspersed with TV commercial excerpts such as fear of bad breath, the menace of gingivitis" and "it cleans with hospital disinfecting," and "coffee so enchanting, you'll fall in love." Shadows' innovative mix of the exotic with the electronic works very well. Very few performers have the means and savoir-faire to pull off such repertoire.
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