A famous commercial for magnetic recording tape once asked the question: “Is it live—or Memorex”—suggesting it was hard to tell the difference. These days, at concerts of some contemporary composers’ works, the correct answer would be “It’s live AND Memorex”—as there is a growing body of works that involve both live performers and prerecorded tape.
A 1995 work by the American composer Ingram Marshall, titled Dark Waters, was written for an English horn soloist accompanied by a prerecorded tape of fragments from old 78-rpm recordings of Jean Sibelius’ chilly tone-poem “The Swan of Tuonela.” Both the live English horn part and the prerecorded tape are digitally processed and mixed at each live performance. “Those who know the Sibelius will recognize familiar strains,” says Marshall.
On today’s date in 1998, Marshall and Libby Van Cleve, the English horn player for whom Dark Waters was written, recorded the work at St. Casimir’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. “You can actually hear the sound of that church in the recording,” recalls Van Cleve. “We finished at about 3 AM, and it was stiflingly hot—How ironic that Ingram's music—and Sibelius’—is always associated with cold climates!”
Music Played in Today's Program
Ingram Marshall (b. 1942) Dark Waters Libby van Cleve, English horn; Ingram Marshall, electronics New Albion 112
On This Day
1874 - Russian-born American double-bass player, conductor and new music patron, Serge Koussevitzky, in Vishny-Volochok (Gregorian date: July 26)
1901 - English composer Gerald Finzi, in London
1930 - American composer Eric Stokes, in Haddon Heights, N.J.
1674 - English composer and chorister, Pelham Humfrey, age 27, in Windsor; An entry in Samuel Pepy's famous diary describes him in 1667 as being "full of form, and confidence, and vanity," and disparaging "everything and everybody's skill but his own."
1942 - Wm. Schuman: "Newsreel," at a New York Philharmonic concert at Lewisohn Stadium, conducted by Arthur Smallens
1948 - Kurt Weill: folk opera "Down in the Valley" at the University of Indiana in Bloomington
1949 - Britten: "Spring Symphony" at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam
1999 - Kernis: "Concierto de Dance Hits," in Minneapolis, by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by David Miller, with guitarist David Tanenbaum
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.