Institute for Studies In American Music
Inside This Issue:
Inside This Issue
Celebrating Noah Creshevsky
Celebrating Noah Creshevsky
Noah Creshevsky in the 1970s
Noah Creshevsky studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Luciano Berio at Juilliard. As a faculty member in Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music, he coordinated the composition program and directed the Center for Computer Music. Creshevsky’s recent compositional work is part of a genre known as hyperrealism, explored in his essay below.
On 3 November 2005 the Brooklyn College International Electro-Acoustic Music Festival presented a concert to celebrate Creshevsky’s sixtieth birthday. The concert took place at Klavierhaus in Manhattan and featured performances by Vahagn Avetisyan (piano), Dennis Báthory-Kitsz (voice), Thomas Buckner (baritone), and Beth Griffith (soprano). Highlights of the program were compositions written in Creshevsky’s honor by Báthory-Kitsz, George Brunner, Douglas Cohen, David Gunn, Michael Kinney, Tania León, Robert Voisey, and Amnon Wolman.
In honor of Creshevsky’s birthday, an excerpt from León’s Para-Noah and reminiscences and statements by his friends and colleagues are published on p.7. The complete tribute statements are available at <www.bcisam.org>.
My musical vocabulary consists largely of familiar bits of words, songs, and instrumental music which are edited but rarely subjected to electronic processing. The result is music that obscures the boundaries of real and imaginary ensembles through the fusion of opposites: music and noise, comprehensible and incomprehensible vocal sources, human and superhuman vocal and instrumental capacities. My most recent hyperrealist compositions explore the fragmentation and reconstruction of pre-existing music in combination with original synthetic and acoustic materials. Moments suggest musical environments of indeterminate ethnicity—simultaneously Western and non-Western, ancient and modern, familiar and unfamiliar. Hyperrealism is an electro-acoustic musical language constructed from sounds that are found in our shared environment (“realism”), handled in ways that are somehow exaggerated or excessive (“hyper”).
Hyperreal music exists in two basic genres. The first uses the sounds of traditional instruments that are pushed beyond the capacities of human performers in order to create superperformers— hypothetical virtuosos who transcend the limitations of individual performance capabilities. These are the “supermen” who appeared in a number of my compositions, beginning with Circuit (1971) for harpsichord, on tape. The compact disc Man & Superman (Centaur CRC 2126) was largely connected to my interest in the ambiguous borders between live performers and their impossibly expanded electronic counterparts. The idea of superperformers has numerous precursors, including the violin music of Paganini, the piano music of Liszt, conventional music for player piano, and the fully realized player-piano music of Conlon Nancarrow.
Fundamental to the second genre of hyperrealism is the expansion of the sound palettes from which music is made. Developments in technology and transformations in social and economic realities have made it possible for composers to incorporate the sounds of the entire world into their music. Hyperrealism of this second genre aims to integrate vast and diverse sonic elements to produce an expressive and versatile musical language. Its vocabulary is an inclusive, limitless sonic compendium, free of ethnic and national particularity.
Essential to the concept of hyperrealism is that its sounds are generally of natural origin, and that they remain sufficiently unprocessed so that their origin is perceived by the listener as being “natural.” Since the sounds of our environment vary from year to year, generation to generation, and culture to culture, it is impossible to isolate a definitive encyclopedia of “natural” sounds, but there are a great many sounds that are familiar to nearly all of us. These are the most basic building blocks in the formation of a shared (if temporary) collective sonic reality. The development and incorporation of expanded palettes consisting of natural sounds also has precursors, most notably the work of Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henri, and the tradition of musique concrčte. Hyperrealism celebrates bounty, either by the extravagant treatment of limited sound palettes or by assembling and manipulating substantially extended palettes.
Editors’ note: Excerpts from Creshevsky’s music may be heard at <www.newmus.net.org/creshevsky.html>.
Tania León, Para-Noah, mm. 32-38
Courtesy of Tania León
For more information about Tania León and her music, please visit <www.tanialeon.com>.
Fractured Sounds of a Broken World
I discovered in Creshevsky's music a world I had never before experienced, even imagined. Here were sounds that hadn’t occupied the same musical space, now somehow co-existing, and creating an integrated music that seemed to transcend style, time, and place.
Hartt School of Music
Creshevsky’s music magnifies the reality of the sounds, creating an unexpected level of integration between the familiar in sound, the familiar in meaning, and the familiar in composition.
Sometimes a composer looks at a certain technology and sees it in a way that is not how it was designed. This is the case with Noah and samplers. He assembles several hundred or more of pre-recorded sounds and imports them into the samplers…. The focus is on sound, not pitch. His approach is one of the most imaginative I’ve experienced in all of MIDI implemented music and, in fact, all of electro-acoustic music.
You can teach almost any musically talented person to make music that sounds like music; what interests me are people who make music that sounds like themselves. Noah Creshevsky is certainly a composer whose music sounds like no other.
For Noah, the whole world of ideas, sounds, and experiences is a potential source of inspiration, and he encourages the same openness in his students.
The fractured sounds of a broken world recover their unity in the kaleidoscope of Noah’s music.
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