13 December 2012

Beiser/Harrison/YPC: Joyous Time Loops, Just Intonation

YPC with Beiser and Harrison

T   his is the basic premise of the Transient Glory® project: that a child’s voice is a unique instrument during that fleeting time between childhood and after-childhood... and that this instrument can tackle the most challenging and uncompromising music written for them. Children leave something behind [as they grow up and leave childhood]. I don’t know what it is, but children are able to communicate in a way we adults have forgotten how to do.”
  — Francisco Núñez, YPC, 09-MAY-2011.
T   he entirety of ‘Time Loops’ is performed using ‘just intonation’ tuning, based on whole number proportions. With ‘Time Loops’ I am demonstrating the simpler and more harmonious aspects of just intonation. As a result the tunings on the CD don’t push boundaries per se, but rather they sound clearer and more direct than the normal equal-tempered scale that is used in most Western music.”
  — Michael Harrison, 23-AUG-2012.

T he new recording ‘Time Loops’ is a superb stimulus to joy and reflection. Meditation to bring peace at this or any time of year.

I n concert performances, cellist Maya Beiser plays the lead part live accompanied by pre-recorded, digitally-processed tracks forming an auto-ensemble of many sonic layers. Multi-media artist Bill Morrison created a film for ‘Time Loops’ that incorporates archival footage and CGI images that illustrate the movement of the planets, celestial mechanics mathematically conforming to the integer ratios of the music’s just intonation. Composer Michael Harrison performs the piano part with sensitivity and feeling. Even amidst the complexity and conflict of everyday life, we rediscover here the beauty and solace that are immanent in the natural world—the patterns and harmonics of a clockwork Universe whose physics was first formalized mathematically by Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and others—and rediscover that our own homo sapiens processes are as real and natural and immutable as those.

T he last and largest-scale work on the CD, ‘Hijaz,’ was composed by Harrison for Beiser and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City under the direction of Francisco Nuñez, as well as composer and percussionist Payton MacDonald on tabla and shaker. The text combines a prayer written by Harrison with spoken South Indian rhythmic syllables, which merge with the choral textures to evoke a sense of joy and unity and transcendence—deeply fitting for this holiday season.

E specially vivid and poignant are the perspectives of the school-age voices in the choir (see blockquote above). Wise beyond their years; empowered and uplifted by the music. To me, joy is mainly what music is for, and people should, through writing and performing music, feel joyous and acquire a better ability to create more joy. This CD—the compositions and performances—is first-class evidence supporting this idea. Evidence, too, of how crucially important opportunities are for kids to learn and perform music—before adulthood overtakes them as it does us all. Not a nostalgia for a childlike simplicity, but instead a meditation on clarity, on earnestness, on wonder, on the youthful drive to penetrate the truth of things, on receptiveness to joy.

    [50-sec clip, Beiser/Harrison/YPC, ‘Hijaz’; (track 8), 2012, 1.4MB MP3]
M   y intention was to invoke a sense of pilgrimage, either to a wondrous or holy place, or, metaphorically, to a sacred place within each of us. The chorus is the soul of the journeyer... The pulsing rhythms trace our footsteps, and those of our camels, as we make our way on the path of self-discovery.”
  — Michael Harrison, 23-AUG-2012.

T he recent release of ‘Time Loops’ coincided with the first productions of Maya Beiser’s ‘ELSEWHERE: A CelloOpera,’ created by Maya with director Robert Woodruff, composers Missy Mazzoli and Eve Beglarian and writer Erin Cressida Wilson. For more information, visit www.elsewherecelloopera.com.