Program Notes for May 15th, 2022

Frederic Anthony Rzewski (/ˈʒɛfski/ZHEF-skee; April 13, 1938 – June 26, 2021) was an American composer and pianist, considered to be one of the most important American composer-pianists of his time.[1][2] His major compositions, which often incorporate social and political themes, include the minimalist Coming Together and the variation set The People United Will Never Be Defeated!,[1] which has been called “a modern classic”.


Composer, author, educator and co-founder of the UCSD Music Department.

Born in Marquette, Michigan on March 7, 1917, Erickson learned piano and violin as a child, studied composition with May Strong in Chicago, and with Ernst Krenek at Hamline University in St. Paul, graduating in 1943. After three years in the Army he returned to Hamline, taking an M.A. in music in 1947, and immediately began distinguished careers as both a composer and a teacher of composition.

A dedicated Modernist, Erickson was one of the first American composers to explore the “twelve-tone” system pioneered by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. By 1943 he had already modified that method to suit his own needs, and by the late 1950s he was evolving a more directly expressive, intuitive music in which, in his words, “craft, thought, and intuition are so merged that it is all one thing.”

For many years he experimented with specially-made percussion instruments, with extended vocal and instrumental techniques, with naturally occurring sounds, and with non-standard musical notation.

He was one of the first American composers to work extensively with sounds recorded on tape, both for its own sake and as combined with live performers on conventional instruments; and he wrote distinguished music requiring improvisation, by both solo instruments and ensembles. In later years he moved away from the pioneering experiments of the 1960s and ’70s toward a simpler, ultimately stripped-down style, characterized by frequent drones, long slow passages, and hypnotic rhythms which were influential on a number of younger “minimalist” composers.

Kryl by Robert Erickson is an extremely unique work for solo trumpet filled with microtones and other extended techniques where the soloist has to relearn all of their note fingerings as well as learn to sing and play in hocket. It was written for Ed Harkins, a master at extended techniques who collaborated with the composer. It was composed in memoriam to Bohumil Kryl, a Czech-American cornetist and band leader.

NYC-based composer inti figgis-vizueta (b. 1993) writes magically real musics through the lens of personal identities, braiding a childhood of overlapping immigrant communities and Black-founded Freedom schools—in Chocolate City (DC)—with direct Andean & Irish heritage and a deep connection to the land. Her musical practice is physical and visceral, attempting to reconcile historical aesthetics and experimental practices with trans & indigenous futures.

The New York Times speaks of inti’s music as “alternatively smooth & serrated” and “slyly warp[ing] time”, The Washington Post as “raw, scraping yet soaring”, and The Strad Magazine as “between the material and immaterial”. Recent honors include the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Fred Ho Award and a 2022-23 Music Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. inti is currently in residency at Sō Percussion’s Brooklyn studio for the ‘21-22 season. Upcoming projects include new works for the Kronos Quartet, American Composers Orchestra with the Attacca Quartet, and Roomful of Teeth in collaboration with visual artist Rose Bond.

“[inti’s] music feels sprouted between structures, liberated from certainty and wrought from a language we’d do well to learn” writes the Washington Post.

inti’s note on New Cosmologies: I see fundamental connections between the improvisatory and interpretative processes in my music and the formation of new, imagined histories of indigenous peoples. I think violence lives in our bones and our blood and that we still feel remnants from the first settlers to murder and poison our ancestors. Imagining a future for us means imagining a past separate from the settler colonialism that killed so many of our mythologies and stories. 

When I think about Steve Mackey’s piece Indigenous Instruments, I think about the power of a white man’s imagination. The power of being able to conjure into being a New Indigenous peoples, not ravaged by genocide. I imagine the power of being celebrated, featured, and written about for it. Perhaps it’s just a small piece in the scheme of things, but I can’t shake how much that piece radicalized me to tell my own stories, to imagine new pasts and futures, and to fundamentally understand that white people gain their power from stealing our traditions and knowledges, our proximity to the divine, the cosmological, and the truth.

Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. As a solo artist, Chacon has exhibited, performed, or had works performed at LACMA, The Renaissance Society, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, REDCAT, Vancouver Art Gallery, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Borealis Festival, SITE Santa Fe, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, and The Kennedy Center. As a member of Postcommodity from 2009-2018, he co-created artworks presented at the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, Carnegie International 57, as well as the 2-mile long land art installation Repellent Fence.

A recording artist over the span of 22 years, Chacon has appeared on more than eighty releases on various national and international labels. His 2020 Manifest Destiny opera Sweet Land, co-composed with Du Yun, received critical acclaim from The LA Times, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, and was named 2021 Opera of the Year by the Music Critics Association of North America.

Since 2004, he has mentored over 300 high school Native composers in the writing of new string quartets for the Native American Composer Apprenticeship Project (NACAP). Chacon is the recipient of the United States Artists fellowship in Music, The Creative Capital award in Visual Arts, The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship, the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for Music Composition, the Bemis Center’s Ree Kaneko Award, and in 2022 will serve as the Pew Fellow-in-Residence.

His solo artworks are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and National Museum of the American Indian, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, a various private collections.

Breaking News! Raven Chacon has been awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music:

Biyan (2011) was commissioned by Chatter Ensemble of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The title is the Navajo word for ‘song’ and moments of this composition repeat in the way that a song might if it were sung all night.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s