Composers Datebook

with host John Zech

Monday, January 28

Armer's musical sci-fi in SF

Synopsis

On today's date in 1995, the Women's Philharmonic and conductor JoAnn Falletta premiered a new work for chorus and orchestra. It was called "Island Earth," and was the eighth installment of a multi-year collaboration between the Bay Area composer Elinor Armer and the popular science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

The collaboration began, according to Le Guin, with "an intuition that somewhere there must be other uses for music than those commonly recognized, namely: to sooth the savage beast, to arouse patriotic fervor, to allay qualms in elevators, to increase egg-laying, to permits glimpses of ineffable truth, etc. etc."

Much to their delight, Le Guin and Armer, while exploring a remote archipelago that existed purely in the outer reaches of their own imaginations, discovered a race of exotic islanders for whom music can serve as food, paving materials, or even aphrodisiacs. On the Island of Gegge, for example, the seven-legged inhabitants have only one immense musical instrument -- namely the island itself, which can accommodate thousands of players. If the island isn't played, in fact, it would simply sink -- so for the Geggerets, music is a life and death matter.

So fascinated were Elinor Armer and Ursula Le Guin by these imaginary islands, that they created a series of large and small musical portraits titled "The Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts." The result is a kind of "Young Person's Guide" to the fantastic orchestras of their imaginations.

Music Played in Today's Program

Elinor Armer (b. 1939) Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts SF Chamber Singers; Women's Philharmonic; JoAnn Falletta, cond. Koch 7331

Additional Information

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