pROGRAM NOTES

 
 

All notes are by the composer unless otherwise specified


The Complete Works of Shakespeare for flute, clarinet, and piano (1999)

Infinite Typewriters—Infinite Time—Infinite Monkeys

An old adage states that given an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of monkey typists, eventually one is bound to create the complete works of Shakespeare. This hypothesis is meant to illustrate the nature of infinity, not the enormous artistic talent of monkeys. But what else might be created in such a fertile environment?

The Complete Works of Shakespeare was composed for Jennifer Grim, Meighan Stoops, and Héctor Sanchez.


Hard Knocks for orchestra (1999)

In 1998, I co-founded a concert-presenting group called The Minimum Security Composers Collective. The name we chose for this group implied that we were edgy and tough (like prison inmates), but not terribly so (like inmates in a minimum security prison). We also chose the name because we felt that it accurately reflects the shaky career-instability of a composer in the 21 century. In this spirit, I have given this orchestral work the title Hard Knocks, which not only refers to the one-chord “BAM!” motive (a hard knock indeed), but also refers to the difficulty of making one’s way in the composition of orchestral music. It seems to me that learning to compose music for orchestra is to study at the “school of hard knocks,” where only the experienced become established, and only the established gain experience.


Korczak's Orphans opera in three acts

For inofrmation on Korczak's Orphans, please visit [http://www.adambilsverman.com/korczak ]


Those Mean Reds for piano (1999)
Premiere performance by Blair McMillen, January 2002 at Trinity Church (New York, NY)
Also performed by Stefano Malferrari at Centro Musica di Modena, Italia (January 2002) and McMillen in New Haven, CT (February 2003)

From Breakfast at Tiffany's:

Holly: Listen...you know those days when you get those mean reds?
Paul: The mean reds? You mean like the blues?
Holly: No...the blues are because you're getting fat or because it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul: Sure.


Quick Blood for percussion quartet (2001)
Premiere performances by Battery Four percussion, January 2003 at Delaware Symphony Chamber Music

"Quick Blood" was composed in 2001 expressly for this group, and it is mostly for mallet instruments (marimbas, vibraphones, xylophone) often in the "four hands" method of having two people simultaneously share an instrument. Melodies are passed note-bynote back and forth from one marimba to the other, creating a special kind of stereo sound that works very well on their recording of the music. The music is "tonal," meaning that it uses the sorts of diatonic harmonies that are common to much older classical music. It is rhythmically very vigorous, with a feeling of perpetual motion. There is also a very dramatic use of the large orchestral bass drum.

The title "Quick Blood" comes from Silverman's orchestra piece "Her Quick Blood Runs Dancing," of which this percussion quartet is a slightly expanded and embellished re-orchestration of the middle movement. The original, longer title is itself taken from a poem written in 1640 by Thomas Carew, a contemporary of Shakespeare. It's a love-poem sung by chorus in the orchestral work, that Silverman chose to continue a series of works that address historical conflicts between religion and science:

Fond man, thou canst believe her blood
Will from those purple channels flow;
Or that the pure untainted flood
Can any foul distemper know;
Or that thy weak steel can incise
The crystal case wherein it lies.

Know, her quick blood, proud of its seat,
Runs dancing through her azure veins;
Whose harmony no cold nor heat
Disturbs, whose hue no tincture stains:
And the hard rock wherein it dwells
The keenest darts of love repels.

But thou repli'st, "behold, she bleeds!"
Fool! Thou'rt deceived, and dost not know
The mystic know whence this proceeds,
How lovers in each other grow:
Thou struck'st her arm, but 'twas my heart
Shed all the blood, felt all the smart.

- note by Ted Wilks (2002) for the Delaware Symphony


Red Herring for cello (2003)

Red Herring is a virtuosic piece for unaccompanied cello, comprised of three movements with misleading titles: red herrings. All three movements were composed for cellist Amy Sue Barston in very close collaboration, and she deserves much credit for the shape and form of the pieces, for refining motivic ideas on which I might build the composition, and for adapting some very awkward gestures to be more suitable for the cello. Even with all this help from such a facile player, Red Herring remains a difficult piece that, in its outer movements, creates a sense of flow through unbroken, breathless motion.

Its three movements are all inspired by different sources. Leslie was inspired by the sound of a “leslie rotating speaker,” a spinning speaker that was common in Hammond organs that created a shifting sound through Doppler effect. I love my love with a v was inspired by a Gertrude Stein poem, and was initially composed as the processional for a friend’s wedding. Oswald’s Groove was intended to give Barston a solo based on rock music to play at family-concerts; Oswald is the name of her cello.

- note by Adam Silverman (2004)


Ricochet for viola, clarinet, and piano (2004)

One of the best bow-strokes that string players use is called “ricochet,” in which the bow is thrown against the string to bounce repeatedly and sound a flurry of short notes. “Ricochet” itself is a great word – fun to say and to spell, onomatopoetic, French. One of the ways that I write music is to choose an instrumental technique that is native to one performer, and try to get the other players in a group to imitate that sound as best as they can on their own instruments. The resulting composition then becomes like a group of foreigners speaking the same language in different accents. So this piece is about ricochets – not only about this kind of bowing (which there is quite a bit of) but the whole idea of things bouncing off of each other – and there are parts of the piece inspired by cartoony sounds of gunshot ricochets, which, as in cartoons, never leave more than a mild sting.


Rondo of Sorts for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello, and three pre-recorded clarinets (2001)

A dry program note:
Rondo of Sorts is tripartite, with each of the two outer sections further divided thrice. The first part consists of a central section ("Episode I") framed by a prelude and a postlude, both performed largely by a "protagonist group" of three clarinets. The second part is an independent movement that follows from the first part without pause. Part Three is the formal opposite of Part One; the protagonist clarinets assert themselves in the center of the movement, interrupting Episode III.

A touchy-feely program note:
Rondo of Sorts is about the interaction between two groups: a distant, wistful choir of clarinets, and an onstage quintet. There is a struggle between the two groups, who at times cooperate, argue, and learn from each other. In the end, many things remain unclear: Who has learned more? Has one group emerged victorious, and, if so, at whose expense is the victory? The characters, of course, are abstract, and the experience deals with musical lessons - contrasts and variations of chords, keys, styles, and melodies - but the conception is a dramatic one.

Rondo of Sorts was composed for Kylix New Music Ensemble.


Sturm for piano trio (2001)

Premiere performances by the Amelia Piano Trio at La Jolla Chamber Music Society, Febuary 2002, with subsequent performances by this group at Riverhead (NY) Free Library (March 2002), Trinity Church (New Haven, CT, February 2003), and Coleman Concerts (Pasadena, CA, February 2003).

I studied at the Vienna Musikhochschule in 1994—95, and divided my time equally between classrooms, practice rooms, concert halls, and bars. While not practicing, studying, or attending concerts, I discovered the Austrian drink called Sturm, a young sweet wine that is served in its violent fermentation stage. This wine is truly ephemeral—not only is it available only one season per year, but a bottle’s potable life lasts only a week; it may be sour and fizzy, sweet and light, or rotten and bitter depending on which day it reaches you. Sturm is cloudy because the unsettled must forms swirls in the glass. It is light yet highly alcoholic, and a Sturm hangover is terrible. For these reasons, I consider Sturm to be a gambler’s drink.

This piano trio is not about wine. It is, however, turbulent music that moves between sweetness, bitterness, and sourness; some parts even sound fizzy. Its melodies leave trails like the swirls in Sturm; obscured motives are repeated in other voices at very short distances. And like all art, it is risky—maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t.

The title Sturm also refers to an 18th century artistic style called Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”), noted for its very emotional expression.

This work was composed for the Amelia Piano Trio in 2001, with a premiere by them at the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s “Discovery Series.” It is dedicated to this group and to Brian Bumby, their former artist manager with Concert Artists Guild, who has introduced me to many of his artists and has given me endless free tickets to their events.

I hope you like Sturm. May your hangover be an easy one.


Three Fell Swoops for tenor saxophone, percussion, guitar, and piano (2004)

Three Fell Swoops was composed for Flexible Music, a brand-new group with an uncommon set of instruments. This group – saxophone, percussion, amplified guitar, and piano – is odd for many reasons, because of the different volumes of its instruments, their colors, their home keys. It would be tough to find a group of instruments more difficult to blend together. So while composing this piece, I decided that my goal would be to blend these instruments as best as I could while trying to give them music to play that best suited each as a solo instrument. There is one exception, I think: the piano, which often works as a musical chameleon, is given the job of binding everyone together. Beyond that, I wanted to write a piece that really rocks, that has a strong groove throughout and at least one tune that will get stuck in your head,

updated March 29, 2005