Monday, January 17, 2011

10 Questions with Kurt Westberg

JK: Were you trained traditionally in music?

KW: I was the type that began piano lessons at age five and I then continued piano studies through undergrad years. I loved sight-reading. I studied composition by reading books, etc and had a few lessons in high school before majoring in composition in undergrad and grad school.

JK: When did you first compose a piece of music? What is your earliest opus?

KW: Pianists are always improvising – and there were many improvised pieces that (fortunately) did not get written down. There was a really bad Beethovenesque piano sonata which I kept trying to notate, but I couldn’t get past the second theme section – I got hung up on the transition/modulation. My first claim to fame was a woodwind quintet that I wrote in junior year of high school at the request of an English teacher. It was five movements, each one related to one of the five elements (air, water, etc.) and was performed as part of the school’s “Literary Showcase”.

JK: When did you first use computers for composing music (notation software, etc.)?

KW: I first started notating (with Finale) in the early ‘90s. Until then, many evenings were spend with ink and liquid paper.

JK: Who are the living composers (in Chicago and/or abroad) that you feel deserve more attention?

All living composers deserve more attention! Except for John Williams.

JK: What is good and bad about the new music scene here in Chicago?

KW: It’s actually grown a lot within the last 20 years — more performances of quality by more quality performers. There are many more possibilities now than “when I was young”. Any scene can be too inbred and too parochial, and Chicago can be that way, of course. Everyone has to promote their own stuff — it would be great to have more interaction between different performing groups and different universities: The University of Chicago could have concerts of music by DePaul and Northwestern composers and vice-versa.

JK: What is your opinion about the intersection of political ideas and new music?

KW: I think it is a very important part of any art form — the final product should not be a political diatribe, of course, but political ideas can be a meaningful part of a new work.

JK: Do you think it is futile for composers to be socially engaged?

KW: It may be futile for anyone to be socially engaged (“you can’t stop the wars”, etc.) But I think it can be a very meaningful part of being alive - I think it is important for the composer to be socially engaged outside of the music, not just as part of the aesthetic.

JK: Do you consider your work to be political in any way?

KW: Actually, most of my early works (from 1968 – 1978) were overtly political — concerned with the war in Vietnam, the Kent State and Jackson State tragedies, nuclear testing on Amchitka island, etc. It was almost impossible to avoid these issues at that time, and they could provide an emotional program for works. Most of my works now are concerned with more individual and personal issues and political ideas are way in the background. However, I think the sounds of the 60s are always with me.

JK: Describe your compositional process at the current time.

KW: I usually still begin at the piano — it’s where I imagine best -- - I usually start with isolated fragments which produce sonorities I want to concentrate on and then sketch out those ideas (in an almost unreadable fashion) with pencil and paper — all of this is revised and developed numerous times at the computer. Part of this process is helped greatly by getting away and doing something different such as reading (usually novels), biking, etc. I don’t listen to midi versions much — they don’t help me. But looking at the score as notated by computer does help me. My formal concerns are usually variation oriented, and also make use of symmetrical structures.

JK: What is your prediction for the use of computers in the future of music?

KW: Not hard to say that they will only become more necessary/significant in the production of musical works and the production of sound itself.
I’m also sure there will be backlashes and people will try to go “unplugged”.

JK: If you had to pick one work, or collection of works by a single composer to bring with you to a desert island, what would it be?

KW: This is always so difficult - I often pack for vacation with too many scores, recordings, etc. , and many remain in the suitcase. My pick for this question changes every time I am asked. For today, it’s Berio’s Sinfonia.

JK: What is your advice to young composers studying today, what do they absolutely need to know?

KW: Maintain the balance between getting to know yourself (personal growth) and external musical influence — both are of extreme importance. And the process never stops. Keep going.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sunday January 23, 2011!!! TRIPLE CD RELEASE!

Our next "New Music at the Green Mill" concert
organized by George Flynn
Celebrate NEW CD's by Chicago Composers!!!

Tom Stevens
Janice Misurell-Mitchell
Kurt Westerberg

The above three composers will also perform, and.......

Additional Musical contributions are written or realized by: Andrew Gallovich (prerecorded), .Joanie Pallatto (voice) and Bradley Parker-Sparrow (piano); Athanasios Zervas (saxophone); George Flynn ("American Howl Quartet" parts I and II, for mixed piano quartet, "Chicago Moods" for sax/piano, and "Forms of Friction" for viola solo); Don Malone (prerecorded); Elliott Carter (flute solo); Brian Baxter (flute); Other performers include Doyle Armbrust, viola; Aurelien Pederzoli, violin; Cory Tiffin, clarinet; Russel Rolin, cello, Alicia Poot, flute.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12/18 Scratch Meeting Minutes

December 18, 2010 Chicago Scratch Orchestra Meeting Minutes

Special thanks to Dan and Clifton for opening up Brown Rice for us!

In attendance: Eric Leonardsen, Julia Miller, Joe Fosco, Clifton Ingram, Andrew Royal, Samuel Bradshaw, Chris Priessing, Dan Godston, Jeff Kowalkowski

Next Meeting: Friday, January 7, 2011, Heaven Gallery, with guest conductor Eric Rieman

Performing his score “Nursery/Machine Houses” 7 PM Rehearsal, 9 PM Concert

We rehearsed “Nursery/Machine Houses” and feel very comfortable with the instructions. We specially appreciate #11: Using your acute (or less than acute) powers of memory, attempt to repeat a lengthy-something-you-did-previously. Try to be precise, but fail.

A ScratchOrchestra: draft constitution by Cornelius Cardew, The Musical Times, June 1969, was distributed. Everyone should read this.

Chris Priessing presented “Ekphesis *score added to CSO appendix

Sam Bradshaw presented an Improvisation Rite: “Canon a2 from the Musical Offering” by JS Bach. Joe Fosco recommended a “klangfarbenmelodie” solution that sounded very good. *score added to CSO appendix

Dan Godston directed our emotional motivation: “You Are”: Mount Fuji in 19th century, Josephine Baker’s shoes, Merce Cunningham quitting Martha Graham, Francis Bacon’s Head, Jane Adams meeting Tolstoy, Bosch Ear meets Van Gogh Ear, in duos, trios, and tutti. *score added to CSO appendix

Eric Leonardsen discussed the intersection of Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology and CSO, potential sound walks conducted by orchestra members and/or planted musicians in a playing environment.

Jeff Kowalkowski mentioned the possibility of collaborating with Links Hall for the Summer-dance(?) event downtown (grant park?), where-in CSO would be the “band.” This was mentioned by Dan Mohr as a maybe….might be a chance to do a Fluxus-type event with many artists participating with us…from all disciplines?

Clifton Ingram discussed his Scratchbook experiences, writing on the train, trying to write everyday, noticing patterns, repetitions of ideas done unconsciously over time. It is suggested that everyone follow the instructions for Scratchbooks in the draft constitution and prepare a SOLO score for yourself to be ready to play. After you have played it, it becomes an accompaniment, etc.

Please try to keep all handouts from all meetings and concerts in a chronological folder, and add your own pages.

CSO current repertoire appendix 2010

May Pole Howard Skempton, chord by Jeff Kowalkowski

I, Norton Gino Robair*

Penjara Clifton Ingram

UDTQ Andrew T. Royal

Nursery/Machine Houses Eric Rieman*

Scatter Paul Hartsaw

fractures Alex Feldman

Ektphesis Chris Priessing

Canon a2 from A Musical Offering JS Bach, Improvisation Rite by Sam Bradshaw

You Are : Dan Godston

*guest conductors

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scratchbook Meeting Saturday, 12/18 1 PM!

Dear Core-Members,

The Chicago Scratch Orchestra (CSO) will meet on Saturday 12/18, 1-3PM
at Brown Rice--4432 N. Kedzie

1. Discuss the formation of individual Scratchbooks. What is the purpose and objective of making these score/journals? Develop rules for this activity. In addition to your instrument(s) please bring your own notebook and writing utensil for this purpose.

2. Discuss our goals for 2011 and several future performance opportunities. (January 7 at Heaven gallery with guest conductor Eric Glick Rieman?)

3. Play new scores and scores from the open Repertoire.

4. Distribute small tasks for everyone to do.

Please RSVP with a response to Bring new members to the meeting or have them contact me. I would like to have 30-40 musicians by next year.

Thanks! Jeff

Friday, October 29, 2010

Welcome our CSO! (Chicago Scratch Orchestra)

Hey Scratchers,

I am very pleased with how everything went this weekend. It was a special event, beginning what I hope will be a long and powerful collaboration. I want to especially thank Gino for helping us get started.

Here are the live recordings from the mill and also WLUW

My hope is to increase the enrollment to 30 or 40 musicians by next summer. We are going to begin monthly rehearsals. Brown Rice and Enemy are potential gathering points, we need free space that we can all fit in!

What does everyone think about SATURDAY afternoons, once a month, to start?

Also, everyone should begin their personal Scratchbook if they have not already, and please read the Draft Constitution by Cornelius Cardew. I would like to structure our CSO in much the same way.

Feel free to send any ideas along, or visions of how to proceed with the SCRATCH!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gino Robair and Andrew Royal on Airplay, WNUR 89.3
Gino and Andrew will improvise on Airplay this Friday at 2pm. Here is a link:

ROSTER as of TODAY and Call Times for this Weekend

Three Scratch Events, attend one or ALL

Saturday 10/23--ESS Scratch Orch arrive at 3:30 PM, recording 4-6 PM

Sunday 10/24--Green Mill 2-5PM

Sunday 10/24--WLUW Something Else, arrive at radio station 9:30 PM

Clifton Ingram
Jeff Kowalkowski
Julia Miller
Andrew Royal
Alex Feldman
Noe Cuellar
Sid Samberg
Sam Bradshaw
Joseph Kramer
Bobby McMahon
Sid Yiddish
Rita Eye Rita
Paul Hartshaw
Dan Mohr