The Dvorak Project

Written and directed by Rachel Perlmeter with a score and sound design by J. Anthony Allen. Inspired by the Czech composer Antonín Dvorák’s travels to the Midwest in the summer of 1893, the work mingles Dvorák’s meditations at the water’s edge – creekside – with the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the legend of Hiawatha, the phantasmagoria of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the imaginary of the American frontier, and the heady electrical and cinematic experiments of the day as experienced by a homesick Romantic composer encountering the mythic West. Dvorák was visiting the Twin Cities, in part, to research a possible opera project based on Longfellow’s epic poetic retelling of Hiawatha. But the power of the site – the crashing Minnehaha Falls – the deep banks of ferns – overwhelmed him and inspired an impromptu melody that he sketched out on his shirt-cuff and later elaborated into another work entirely – the Violin Sonatina, Op. 100. He never completed the opera. The moment marked a turning point not only in Dvorák’s career, but in American music as well.
 

Featured on MST Remix Album

I120699979-1’ve mentioned before (or at least in that right column that talks about what I’m working on lately) that I’ve been doing some remixes for the band modernsextrash. I collaborate with these guys from time to time, contributing electronic elements to some of their tracks. I really dig their sound, and they are a fun bunch of folks.

This weekend they released a new remix called Varia. There are 16 remixes, two of which are mine. (#9 and #16) What I dig about this album is that some of their songs have multiple remixes by different artists. It’s interesting to see the way each of us was attracted to different elements of the track, and where we went with them.


human:disengage by modernsextrash

Marat/Sade: Ceremonious Music

img_0154This track is from our production of Marat/Sade. (more here). In this scene the character make their first entrance, and the Marquis de Sade takes his “throne”. The content of the play is still a little vague at this point, so it has a little optimism to it. I started with the little guitar riff for this track. Next came the drums, and then the harmony (played by two alto saxophones in the live production). The guitar riff was doubled by a flute player, and the drums stayed in the electronic track. The track ends with Sade taking his seat and the play-within-a-play begins. Enjoy: [audio:http://janthonyallen.com/audio/1-3_CeremoniousMusic-V4-2mi.mp3]

Envelop(e)

Skewed Visions is a Minneapolis-based arts organization specializing in site-specific performance. They created this unique series called Cubicle. To sum it up in their words:

Welcome to CUBICLE, a new series of podcasts meant to be watched while at work (shh!). We invited artists from a range of disciplines to create short pieces on the theme of ‘work.’ You can find one here every month or so until the year is up (or until you get caught).

This is the second piece I’ve done collaborating with director Rachel Perlmeter. She has a background in radio, and thought it would be interesting to not do a video, but a strictly audio contribution to the series. In order to work with the presentation design Skewed Visions had already setup, they made a video for it that was just a black screen. Somewhat appropriate given the last piece Rachel and I worked on together (along with some other friends), the Marat/Sade production at Macallister College.

Rachel wrote the script, and we recorded it at McNally Smith College of Music, using their recording studios and a couple of student engineers (who did an amazing job, by the way.) I took the audio of the voices and editing together a complete take, and worked with the pacing a little bit. From there I added all the other music. The primary music in the piece is an older work of mine for four cellos, called “Saturations II-A”. I played around with an old recording of that piece to make most of the music in the piece.

Hope you enjoy it – it was fun to work on. If you do, please consider making a contribution to Skewed Visions by going here.

envelop(e): A RADIO PLAY FOR 2 VOICES WITH 3 ASPECTS IN 4 MOVEMENTS from Skewed Visions on Vimeo.

Saturations III-C

saturations-iii-cThe Saturations series of pieces all focus on a very narrow “subject” and, similar to photography, saturates it with as much of the subject as is aesthetically desired. Saturations III-C uses samples made on the UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu) system while studying at CCMIX (Centre de Création Musicale Iannis Xenakis) in Paris, France. Unlike any of my other Saturations pieces, this piece uses one additional sample – a single strum of an acoustic guitar.

In 2007 this work was choreographed by the Tulane Dance Department for ICMC 2007 in New Orleans.

Duration: 4:09

Top 10 Summer Albums

1272905_audio_series_pt_1It’s summer – It’s feeling nice out. The thing about Minneapolis is that as nasty as our winters are, it makes us acutely aware of every single beautiful day in the summer. We cherish them. Listening to my iTunes library on random this afternoon, I decided to come up with a list of all time top 10 summer albums. It isn’t that I only listen to them in the summer – but there is something about them that is inherently summer. Maybe the album was released in the summer, maybe I just listened to it a lot one summer, I don’t know. But the summer-ness of it stuck. Here is my list:

Marat/Sade

In November 2009 I was contact by director Rachel Perlmeter about collaborating on an upcoming production of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade. It’s a fascinating play about the Marquis de Sade, Jean-Paul Marat, and the French Revolution, with a fair dose of historical ideas of madness as well. Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: “a bloody and unrelenting depiction of human struggle and suffering which asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself.”

The music is a tricky thing. It was written without a score, but with sections of the script labeled “song”. Lots of them – about 30 songs in all. Since the 1960s, the common score to use was Richard Peaslee’s. Rachel wanted to set her production in the future, with a fresh score. Certain actors are asked to play instruments in the original play. We ended up with a small ensemble in the cast: clarinet, 2 alto saxophones, a flute, and some percussion. We decided to make the majority of the score electronic, to show a more futuristic sense.

I called on my two favorite collaborators to get the job done: Noah Keesecker and Joshua Clausen. We work together from time to time under the moniker Ballet Mech, and it was a logical step to make this a Ballet Mech project.

The show ran from Feb. 26 – March 6 at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). It was a great time, and has me really interested in doing more theater.

Below is a promo video that Noah Keesecker made. It shows some of the intensity of our production, as well as our score.