Riverside Symphony does Anderson's Djuna Barnes Settings
December 2 @ Merkin Hall
Eight Rhytms/6 Songs
Djuna Barnes Settings
George Rothman, conductor
featuring vocalist Elizabeth Farnum
and Oren Fader, guitar & Dan Lippel, mandolin, guitar, theorbo
Riverside Symphony Webite
These songs define my 21 C. I sometimes call it, "post-maximalist" other times, "hyper-minimalist". Most important is that Djuana Barnes & I are perfect for each other. Setting Georg Trakl or Christian Morgenstern would have been great fun, but I'm not Austrian. Barnes puts it all together. She is very American, winking at Emerson & Emily Dickinson in the first song of the cycle; she understood German Expressionism, perhaps with help from Ernst Hanfstaegl, to whom she was engaged (long before he became Hitler's pianist). She understood imagism, and I can show you a very short poem where she behaves like one, and then crosses it, each subsequent line a sharper finger-in-the-eye of imagism. The last song, Pastoral, likewise, springs from the ethos of imagism, but crosses it, dares to interpret itself, talking about time & belatedness, key elements in all the songs in the cycle. The Riverside Symphony built a brilliant Pre-Raphaelite program around these songs called, "Time Travel".
What is most American about Djuna Barnes,
her *American difference* is her *TRANSATLANTIC* overview
of all these most interesting goings-on--Imagism,
Vorticism, Decadence, Aestheticism, and finally, MODERNISM,
and all these not rooted in any soil, but super-national.
Barnes is quite a Pre-Raphaelite, which is a semi-autonomous English/American manifestation of much the same concerns and perspectives held by the Symbolists. This Pre-raphaelitism oozes easily into the ethos of the Decadent movement & the Aesthetic movement. Riverside's pairing with Delius and Scarlatti is brilliant.
What's the difference between Djuna & Gertrude?
Stein stuck closer to some cherished Bergson/William James concepts
and helped herself & others relate to those.
Djuna did everything more by feel and with very little concern for overarching principles.
I curated 3 Pre-Raphaelite concerts with Cygnus over the years. They went unnoticed. Remember the interiors in the TV series Monk, Psyched, and many others? There has been a revival of Arts & Crafts (a Pre-Raphaelite off-shoot), and it is seen manifested in the music scene, as far as I know, only in this song cycle, in some of the works of Steve Reich, especially those with clear Perotin connections; and in those 3 Pre-Raphaelite concerts that Cygnus did over the years.
Barnes, in the end, is widely agreed to be a modernist, but with clear tells in her work about how she got there. My work is her mirror image. Actually, more like a retrograde inversion. I refer in various ways to the movements (all those I mentioned above) that led to her kind of modernism, yet I am also usurping many kinds of contemporary idioms-- indie rock, Simon & Garfunkel, and a bit of minimalism as well. I do not want these to seem like collage. The language should hold together coherently.
A preliminary chamber version was instigated by my dear friends Zaidee Parkinson and Alanna Maharajh Stone through a new fund that they organized and named after Zaidee's teacher Stefan Wolpe--the Stefan Wolpe Fund.
Thatwas recorded last December at Dreamflower Studio, and for now, can be heard HERE.
The orchestral version is a seamless, contiguous musical statement, commissioned by Riverside Symphony. I am eternally grateful to the formidable team that makes the magic happen at all the Riverside Symphony events.
More about Barnes and the song texts HERE