3 nights celebrating new perspectives of the piano
Charles Ives' ode to the Transcendentalists, the seminal Concord Piano Sonata, remains a deeply moving and monumental listening experience to this day. Celebrating the centenary of this masterpiece, pianist Jason Hardink, hailed by the New York Times for his “abandon and remarkable clarity,” will perform three concerts in three days: beginning with the complete performance of Ives' Concord Sonata, followed by two evenings of four world-premiere solo piano works commissioned for the occasion by composers Jason Eckardt, Anthony R. Green, Steve Roens, and Inés Thiebaut.
Concerts will include lively roundtable discussions with pianist Jason Hardink and all four commissioned composers, moderated by Transcendentalist scholar Lance Newman. See below for detailed programming for each evening of this event.
Meet the performer and composers at a special post-concert cocktail reception on the evening of Monday, March 21st.
Ives’ Concord Sonata and Composer Roundtable
The first evening of this series will begin with a lively roundtable conversation with performer and concert curator Jason Hardink and Transcendentalist scholar Lance Newman as they sit down with commissioned composers Anthony R. Green, Inés Thibaut, Jason Eckardt and Steve Roens to discuss the genesis of this project. They will touch on why we remain captivated by the Transcendentalists' thinking and how it reflects on our current times, as well as what creative sparks led these composers to write these particular piano works for this concert. Following the complete performance of the Concord Sonata, there will be a reception for guests to mingle with performers, scholars, and composers.
Program: Jason Hardink, piano
Piano Sonata, no. 2: “Concord, Mass., 1840-1860" by Charles Ives (1874-1954)
- "The Alcotts"
“…a melody which the air had strained”
In the second evening of Concord/Revisited, hear three composers with diverse approaches to the Transcendentalists, Ives, and the possibilities of pianistic sonorities. One piece is in conversation with Thoreau’s world in Walden; another nodding to Ives’ lyricism and playfulness; and the third reworking the fragments of Ives’ universe through an expanded palette of electronic sounds.
Program: Jason Hardink, piano
panta rhei by Inés Thibaut (b. 1979)
Promontories by Steve Roens (b. 1949)
a melody which the air had strained by Jason Eckardt (b. 1971)
Anthony R. Green’s The Baldwin Sonata (World Premiere and Westminster Commission)
In the final evening of Concord/Revisited, pianist Jason Hardink will give the first ever performance of Anthony R. Green’s The Baldwin Sonata. This four-movement works is an expansive and exuberant ode to the life and writings of American writer and activist, James Baldwin (1924-1987).
Program: Jason Hardink, piano
The Baldwin Sonata by Anthony R. Green (b. 1984)
- Going, Telling
- The Outing (Queering existence)
- How Much I Owe
- Facing Reality (the changing same)
Scholar, Performer, and Composers
Dr. Lance Newman, author of Common Dwelling: Henry Thoreau, Transcendentalism and the Class Politics of Nature; Dean of the Westminster College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of English, Westminster College
Lance Newman is the author of Our Common Dwelling: Henry Thoreau, Transcendentalism, and the Class Politics of Nature and the editor of The Grand Canyon Reader, as well as several textbooks and collections of scholarly essays. His scholarly articles have appeared in American Literature, New England Quarterly, ISLE, Reconstruction, Electronic Book Review, and other journals. His poems have appeared in many print and web magazines, as well as in two free online chapbooks— Come Kanab (Dusi-e/chaps Kollectiv, 2007) and 3by3by3 (Beard of Bees, 2010). He is currently Dean of the Westminster College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at Westminster College.
A fearless interpreter of large-scale piano works both modern and historical, Jason Hardink’s recent repertoire includes the complete Michael Hersch The Vanishing Pavilions, Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, the Liszt Transcendental Etudes paired with the Boulez Notations, and Wolfgang Rihm’s numbered Klavierstücke, all of which he performs from memory.
His recent debut at Weill Recital Hall was lauded for its audacious programming and pianism, demonstrating both “abandon and remarkable clarity” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times). David Wright of New York Classical Review called the recital an “analogous musical event” to Alex Honnold’s free solo ascent of El Capitan, and Frank Daykin of New York Concert Review wrote “I want to emphasize how very impressive this recital was, and how un-routine the programming was.”
Recent performances include his debut at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music as soloist in the North American premiere of Gerald Barry’s Piano Concerto with conductor Cristian Macelaru, a performance of Michael Hersch’s The Vanishing Pavilions at Wien Modern, the complete Liszt Transcendental Etudes performed on an 1852 Bösendorfer at Music in Context in Houston, and works by Shawn E. Okpebholo, Brittany J. Green, and the Beethoven (“Hammerklavier” Sonata) for the NOVA Chamber Music Series.
Much sought after as a chamber musician, Mr. Hardink has collaborated in recital with violinists Augustin Hadelich, Nicola Benedetti, and Phillip Setzer. His performances with Augustin Hadelich of Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major (opus 30, No. 3) the Stravinsky "Divertimento" were recently featured on NPR’s Performance Today. He has appeared on chamber music series all over the U.S., including Music in Context, fEARnoMUSIC, Music on the Hill, Aperio Music of the Americas, Montana Chamber Music Society, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Hardink has performed solo works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms on period instruments, and he has toured Norway with violinist Tor Johan Bøen performing the Grieg Sonatas for Violin and Piano on an 1853 Blüthner. He has performed concerti with conductors Donald Runnicles, Carlos Kalmar, and Brett Mitchell and regularly appears at the Grand Teton Music Festival every summer.
Mr. Hardink has commissioned a number of piano works, including Thomas Osborne’s And the Waves Sing Because They Are Moving, Bruce Quaglia’s Passagio Scuro, and Inés Thiebaut’s concerto for piano and small ensemble, Hiraeth.
Recording projects include a recent performance of Saint-Saens’ Le carnaval des animaux with the Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer, and pianist Kimi Kawashima, released as a live recording on the Hyperion label. Upcoming recordings releases include Jason Eckardt’s pulse-echo with the JACK Quartet.
Mr. Hardink has appeared as guest recitalist and adjudicator for both the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and the Oberlin International Piano Competition. He has served as guest artist for the University of Utah Summer Chamber Music Workshop and the Idaho State University Summer Piano Institute. A native of Rhode Island and a graduate of both Oberlin Conservatory and the Shepherd School of Music, his former teachers include Robert Boberg and Sanford Margolis. Hardink holds a DMA from Rice University, where he studied with Brian Connelly; his Doctoral thesis “Messiaen and Plainchant” explores the varying levels of influence that Gregorian chant exerted on the music of Olivier Messiaen.
Mr. Hardink resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he holds the position of Principal Keyboard with the Utah Symphony and serves on the piano faculty of Westminster College.
Jason Eckardt (b. 1971) played guitar in jazz and metal bands until, upon first hearing the music of Webern, immediately devoted himself to composition. Since then, his music has been influenced by his interests in perceptual complexity, the physical and psychological dimensions of performance, political activism, and self-organizing processes in the natural world. He has been recognized through commissions from Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Koussevitzky Foundation (2000, 2011), the Guggenheim Museum, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University (1996, 2008), New Music USA, Chamber Music America, the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago, the New York State Music Fund, Meet the Composer, the Oberlin Conservatory, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie; awards from the League of Composers/ISCM (National Prize), Deutschen Musikrat-Stadt Wesel (Symposium NRW Prize), the Aaron Copland Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, ASCAP, the University of Illinois (Martirano Prize), the Alice M. Ditson Fund, and Columbia University (Rapoport Prize); and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fondation Royaumont, the MacDowell and Millay Colonies, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music, the Composers Conference at Wellesley, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music.
Major festivals have programmed his works, including the Festival d'Automne a Paris, IRCAM-Resonances, ISCM World Music Days (1999, 2000), Darmstadt, Musica Strasbourg, Voix Nouvelles, Musik im 20. Jahrhundert, New Music on the Point, Musikhost, Currents in Musical Thought-Seoul, New Consortium, International Review of Contemporary Music, Festival of New American Music, and the International Bartok Festival. Performances of Eckardt's music have been broadcast by the BBC, Saarlandisches Rundfunk, Radio Socioculturelle, WKCR, the Australian Broadcasting Company, WBAI, and Cultura FM Espana.
Subject, a recording featuring the International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, and soloists Tony Arnold, Jay Campbell, Jordan Dodson, Eric Lamb, and Marilyn Nonken was released by Tzadik. Two additional portrait recordings—Undersong, featuring Fred Sherry, Claire Chase, Tony Arnold, and ICE conducted by Steven Schick, and Out of Chaos, featuring Ensemble 21—are available on Mode. Other recordings include "Wild Ginger" by Rebekah Heller and "to be held…" by Wendy Richman both on Tundra, Strömkarl by violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Blair McMillen on Urlicht, "Quaking Aspen" by Stephanie Lamprea, Echoes' White Veil by pianist Marilyn Nonken on CRI, Transience by marimbist Makoto Nakura on Helicon, Sweet Creature by percussionist Michael Lipsey on Capstone, 16 by ICE on New Focus, Multiplicities by flutist Nancy Ruffer on Metier, Tangled Loops by saxophonist Nathan Nabb on Amp, Tango Clandestino by pianist Amy Briggs on Revello, A Fractured Silence by the Prism Saxophone Quartet on Innova, "Lady Fern" by Victoria Jordanova on ArpaViva, and Rendition by clarinetist Jean Kopperud on Albany.
Eckardt has written on subjects ranging from cognitive research informing composition to Richard Serra's use of process from a musical perspective. His work has appeared in Perspectives of New Music, Autour de la Set Theory in IRCAM's Musique-Sciences series, L'etincelle, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift, Current Musicology, and a chapter in Arcana II, edited by John Zorn.
Also active as a promoter of new music, Eckardt co-founded and served as the Executive Director of Ensemble 21, the contemporary music performance group in New York City. Under his leadership, the critically acclaimed Ensemble earned a reputation for innovative programming and top-caliber performances, premiered over thirty works, and recorded for the CRI and Mode labels. In 1999, Ensemble 21 was the first American ensemble to collaborate in concert with IRCAM.
Eckardt received a doctorate in composition from Columbia University as a Presidential Fellow. In 1992, Eckardt graduated cum laude from Berklee College of Music where he was awarded the Richard Levy Scholarship. He has attended masterclasses with Milton Babbitt, James Dillon, Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He has taught at Columbia, Illinois, New York, Northwestern, and Rutgers Universities, the Oberlin and Peabody Conservatories, and is currently on the faculties of the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
(photo by Michel Marang)
The creative output of Anthony R. Green (b. 1984; composer, performer, social justice artist) includes musical and visual creations, interpretations of original works or works in the repertoire, collaborations, educational outreach, and more. Behind all of his artistic endeavors are the ideals of equality and freedom, which manifest themselves in diverse ways in a composition, a performance, a collaboration, or a social justice work.
As a composer, his works have been presented in over 25 countries across six continents by various internationally acclaimed soloists and ensembles, including: vocalists Anthony P. McGlaun, Julian Otis, Anna Elder, and Amanda DeBoer Bartlett; violists Ashleigh Gordon, Gregory Williams, Carrie Frey, and Wendy Richman; pianists Stephen Drury, Kathleen Supové, Jason Hardink, Hayk Melikyan, and Eunmi Ko; cellists Matthieu D’Ordine, Patricia Ryan, and Ifetayo Ali-Landing; percussionists Bill Solomon, Michael Skillern, and Dame Evelyn Glennie; saxophonists Neal Postma, Benjamin Sorrell, and Kendra Williams; and ensembles Tenth Intervention (Hajnal Pivnick on violin and Adam Tendler on piano), ALEA III (with Gunther Schuller, conductor), the Thalea String Quartet, counter)induction, Ensemble Dal Niente, Dinosaur Annex, andPlay, NorthStar Duo, fivebyfive, Transient Canvas, the McCormick Percussion Group, Opera Kansas (as winner of the 2018 Zepick Modern Opera Contest), the American Composers Orchestra, the Lowell Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the Minnesota Philharmonic, the String Archestra, the Playground Ensemble, Ossia New Music Ensemble, and Alarm Will Sound, to name a few. He has received commissions from the Fromm Foundation (a 2021 commissioned composer), Community MusicWorks, Make Music Boston, Celebrity Series Boston, Chamber Music Tulsa, Access Contemporary Music, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Duoctane, the Texas Flute Society (for the 2021 Myrna Brown Competition), NOISE-BRIDGE duo, Ghetto Classics (Kenya), and various other soloists and ensembles. In 2021, three portrait concerts featuring his music were presented digitally by Boston University, in live concerts at UMKC—presented by the saxophone studio, and in St. Paul, Minnesota—presented by the 113 Composers Collective. He has been a resident artist at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts (Nebraska), Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Escape to Create (Florida), Visby International Centre for Composers (Sweden), Space/Time (Scotland), atelier:performance (Germany), the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Nebraska), Gettysburg National Military Park (through the National Parks Arts Foundation), and the perfocraZe International Artist Residency (Ghana). As a performer, he has appeared at venues in the US, Cyprus, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, South Korea, and Ghana, premiering original works and working with students, emerging and established composers such as David Liptak, Renée C. Baker, and George Crumb for various performance presentations. Green has participated in consortium commissions organized by Neal Postma (saxophone), Meraki (clarinet and piano duo), and New Works Project (solo percussion). His music has been performed at Symphony Space (New York), Marian Anderson Theater at Aaron Davis Hall (New York), Jordan Hall (Boston), Tivoli Vredenburg (Utrecht), Kunstraum (Stuttgart), Cité de la Musique et de la Danse (Strasbourg), the Shoe Factory (Nicosia), the TWA Hotel (New York), the Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade (Boston), and the Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), amongst many others. Selections of Green’s music and performances are on CDs and DVDs on the Navona, Ravello, Stone, and Innova labels. His recent engagement in performance art has yielded presentations of such works in Berlin (Spike Gallery), New York City (at Union Square, for the Art in Odd Places Normal Project, 2021), and in Kumasi, Ghana. Other visual and sonic art projects have been presented at Galerie Wedding (Berlin), Federation Square (Melbourne), Monkey Bar (Hannover), Alliance Francaise Kumasi, the Tampa Museum of Art, and venues in Malaysia, Venezuela, Spain, and more.
Through music, text, and entrepreneurship, Green comments on many issues related to social justice, including immigration (Earned - narrator & double string quartet), civil rights (Dona Nobis Veritatem - soprano, viola, & piano), the historical links between slavery and current racial injustice in the US (Oh, Freedom! - spoken word, voice, flute, viola, cello), the contributions of targeted and/or minority groups to humanity (A Single Voice: Solitary, Unified - solo alto sax & fixed media), and more. His ongoing opera-project Alex in Transition highlights the life of Alex - a trans woman - and her journey to truth and authentic living. This opera has been featured in the Ft. Worth Opera Frontiers Festival, presented by New Fangled Opera and One Ounce Opera, and performed in a concert production at the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. Other works include: short cabaret operas, which are comedic-yet-piquant critiques on capitalism via corporations (one of which was premiered by Strange Trace for their 2021 Stencils Festival); His Mind & What He Heard in Central Park in the Late 90s for solo voice, concerning a gay Black man’s encounters with queer racism and toxic exotification (premiered at the 2019 Conference: Music & Erotics at the University of Pittsburgh); the sax quartet Almost Over, a musical symbol of Black history in the United States (featured in the 2017 Grachten Festival in Amsterdam and the 2017 Gaudeamus Music Week in Utrecht); rest - reflect - reignite, a video work exploring Black rest, inspired by the Nap Ministry (commissioned by the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project for the Re:Sound 2021 Festival); and I Returned. I wanted to., a video work examining Black joy, Black queerness, Christianity in Africa, and more (commissioned by CAP UCLA for the 2021 Tune In Festival). Publications include text for New Music Box, TEMPO (Cambridge University), Archive Books, and more. Green’s most important social justice work has been with Castle of our Skins, a concert and education series organization dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music. Being co-founder, associate artistic director, and composer-in-residence, his work with Castle of our Skins has included concert/workshop curation and development, community outreach, lecturing about the history and politics concerning Black composers of classical music, commissioning and supporting young, emerging, and established composers, and more.
His primary teachers include Susan Kelley, Dr. Donald Rankin, and Maria Clodes-Jaguaribe for piano, and Dr. Martin Amlin, John Drumheller, Theodore Antoniou, Lee Hyla, and Dr. Robert Cogan for composition. He has participated in masterclasses with Laura Schwendinger, Paquito D’Rivera, Walter Zimmermann, Jonathan Harvey, the Fidelio Trio, and the JACK Quartet, amongst others. His solo and collaborative work has been recognized by grants from Meet the Composer, the Argosy Foundation, New Music USA, and the American Composers Forum as a McKnight Visiting Composer, among others. A passionate educator, Green has given courses, workshops, lectures, and studio visits at numerous institutions, including Boston University, the Longy School of Music, the Piet Zwart Instituut, the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO), UC Santa Cruz, the Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, and Columbia University. He has served on the faculty for the Sewanee Music Festival, Project STEP summer program, Really Spicy Opera’s Aria Institute, and the Alba Music Festival Composition Program. He has also taught various subjects and given private composition lessons at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music, Theater, and Dance. He is a recently graduated fellow (alumnus) of the Berlin Centre for Advanced Studies in Arts and Science (BAS) at the Berlin University of the Arts graduate school (Graduiertenschule).
Green was born on Nacotchtank land (Arlington, VA) and raised on Narragansett and Pauquunaukit land (Providence, RI). He currently resides in Europe with his occasional piano duo partner and forever husband Dr. Itamar Ronen. ~ edited Jan. 2022
Steve Roens holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Swarthmore College, a Master of Fine Arts degree in music theory and composition from Brandeis University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from Columbia University. He has studied composition with Seymour Shifrin, Martin Boykan, Arthur Berger, Chou Wen-Chung, Jack Beeson, and Mario Davidovsky. He is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Composers' Conference, and a former visiting assistant professor at Wellesley College. In addition to teaching music theory and composition at the University of Utah, Dr. Roens served for seven years as the Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and is currently an Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Director of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. His music is published by the Association for the Promotion of New Music and is available on the Centaur label.
Roens's writing is freely atonal, rhythmically fluid, and spare. It has been called by one critic, neo-Webernian. Primarily for chamber groups of varying sizes and soloists, pieces have been commissioned by the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players, the Nova Chamber Music Series, the late pianist Rebecca La Brecque, and the Intermezzo Chamber Music Series.
While his background and practice are informed by the literature of atonal music, as a teacher of composition, Roens attempts to help students find their own voices and originality in whatever direction their stylistic predilections evolve.
Roens enjoys dividing his time between teaching and his administrative duties and believes that these different activities support each other in a variety of ways. He is also an avid photographer, amateur astronomer, and hiker.
Inés Thiebaut (1979) was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at California State University East Bay. She holds a Ph.D from the CUNY Graduate Center (New York). Her research interests primarily engage with the music of the 20th century. Her dissertation is titled Symmetry and Interval Cycles in the Quartettos of Mario Davidovsky (with Joseph Straus as advisor), a portion of which was published under the title “Compositional Spaces in Mario Davidovsky’s Quartettos”,e in Form and Process in Music, 1300-2014: An Analytic Sampler (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).
Her music has been performed by the Second Instrumental Unit (David Fulmer, director), the Contemporary Music Ensemble (Whitney George, director/conductor), Mivos Quartet, New Music Singers (Cynthia Powell, director); and the SospiroWinds, Transit, and Cygnus ensembles in New York; as well as by cellist Iracema de Andrade in Mexico City, and the Kalistos String Orchestra (David Callahan, Conductor) in Boston. Her orchestra piece The Unmarked was premiered by the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (Liza Grossman, director/conductor) in Cleveland in December 2009. In 2010 her piece Con Nombre de Olvido was premiered by internationally acclaimed percussionist Miquel Bernat in the “Festival Internacional de Música Contemporánea de Tres Cantos” (Madrid, Spain), and later had its Portuguese premiere in December 2011. That same year her piece Apocarpous II was performed by the Mexican Ensemble Espirales in the National Auditorium in Madrid. Other commissions include a percussion quartet for the Mexican percussion ensemble Tambuco, several chamber works for the New York based ensembles Vigil, Ensemble Mise-En and Ensemble 365, and solo pieces with electronics for percussionist Jonathan Singer, and violinist Karen Kim.
Her recent works for the concert hall include a commission from flutist Julián Elvira, a piece for prónomo flute and electronics, a chamber piece for The Cadillac Moon Ensemble which was commissioned by Julie Harting and Elizabeth Adams as part of their Anti-Capitalist Concert Series in New York, and a chamber piano concerto for the Nova Chamber Music Series (with pianist Jason Hardink as soloist) which premiered in the Spring of 2018.
Inés's compositional interests also lie beyond the concert hall, as she is always eager to collaborate with other art forms. She has composed music and sound designed for several productions of the Traverse City-based theater company Parallel45, as well as several short films and dance projects in Spain, Portugal, and the US.
Ives's work embodies a distillation of the diverse stylistic features of the music of his time, from the traditions of Romanticism prevalent in European art music of the late nineteenth century to the simplicity of traditional American hymn tunes, often juxtaposed in unexpected and even experimental combinations. Ives's life-long impulse to break free of European musical models and to develop his personal means of self-expression -- thereby forging new musical paths for a distinctly American music as well -- parallels the pioneering spirit, cultural development and expanding perspective of the growing American nation.
Born in Danbury, Connecticut on 20 October 1874, the son of a prominent and socially progressive family which was active in business and civic life, Ives's first lessons in harmony, counterpoint and composition were provided by his father George, a trained musician and former Civil War bandmaster, who was reputed to have developed the finest band in the Northern army.
Ives's life is as diverse and colorful as the often mosaic-like character of his music. By the age of fourteen, Charles had become a salaried organist at his local church, where he often performed free improvisations on familiar hymns with audacious musical effects such as fugues in multiple keys simultaneously. In addition to his musical talents, Ives was also an accomplished athlete, and was captain of several baseball and football teams. A musical education in this era did not, however, necessarily indicate a desire to pursue a musical career, a profession which was still considered somewhat socially unacceptable. After graduating from Yale in 1898, Ives moved to New York and gained a position in the actuarial department of the Mutual Insurance Company, eventually launching his own agency, Ives & Co. and devising the insurance concept of estate planning.
Ives marriage to Harmony Twitchell, who’s enthusiasm for literature and social justice, led him to became reacquainted with the philosophies of transcendentalism, a literary, religious and social reform movement which flourished between approximately 1830 to 1860, and which emphasized a unity of the individual soul with nature and with the divine. Arising partly as a reaction against the increasing dehumanization of life in a post-Industrial Revolution society, and encompassing a wide variety of loosely defined doctrines, transcendentalism was fundamentally characterized by a reaffirmation of the power of the individual to effect change in one’s own life as well as in the larger human community. By following the direction of nature itself, and through personal experience and sensitivity, the individual would discover their own path to Heaven. It is understandable how the independent-minded Ives would have readily embraced a doctrine based so firmly on self-determinism and reliance on the strength of individual insight.
The writers who embraced these doctrines included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Bronson and Louisa May Alcott (and tangentially, poet Walt Whitman). As several of these writers lived in or near Concord, Massachusetts, then a small town northwest of Boston, Ives's admiration for these writers was reflected in the subtitle of his Sonata no. 2 for piano, "Concord, Mass., 1840-60" (composed 1916-19, revised 1920s-1940s, first published 1947), where the title of each of the work's four movements bears the name of a transcendentalist writer: "Emerson," "Hawthorne," "The Alcotts" and "Thoreau." Sprawling, complex, innovative and posing a formidable challenge for the performer, the work's complexity reflects the broad world view shared by these writers and by the composer, creating a moving homage on both parts to the difficulties and joys of thinking beyond convention.
Despite indifference and even open hostility of audiences, critics and other composers towards his music, Ives's reputation continued to increase slowly and steadily throughout his lifetime. The "Concord" Sonata was performed in its entirety only in 1938; his first two symphonies were given their première performances in 1953 and 1951 respectively, over a half century after each was composed. Ives died of a stroke on 19 May 1954, just as his music was becoming universally acknowledged for its power and originality.
–excerpted from Library of Congress
Ives composed the Concord Sonata as he did all of his music: in his spare time while working full time for an insurance company in New York City. Written during the first 20 years of the 20th century, this work was at the cutting edge of modernity- largely lacking in any notated meter or traditional key areas, the piece contains many nods to the European canon (a key musical motif comes from the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) while representing a distinctly new and American break from accepted conventions.
Emerson- perhaps the Concord Sonata as whole can be read as a musical response to Emerson’s ‘The American Scholar’ address. While there was a thriving literary scene in 19th-century America, classical art music during this time was entirely indebted to European models and lacking in any visionary American impulse. The Emerson movement is perhaps meant to evoke the rhetoric of Emerson’s writings and speeches: daring, bold, highly organized yet brimming with so much raw inspiration that the narrative is utterly exuberant and unpredictable.
Hawthorne- the structure of this movement is loosely based on the Hawthorne story “The Celestial Railroad.” Preoccupied with themes of guilt, sin, and amorality, the music is a raucous train ride which passengers think will take them on a shortcut to heaven. They laugh at pilgrims they pass (ghostly hymn tunes heard from a great distance) in full confidence of their destination, only to realize in the end that their train is most certainly NOT going to heaven…
The Alcotts- A sweet scene of domesticity found in the Alcotts family home. One of the daughters plays the Beethoven 5th motive on the piano, a gentler and more serene version of Concord life.
Thoreau- Scene at Walden. Hazy, shimmering, and mysterious, a contemplation of nature. At the
very end of this movement, a flute is heard over the water, playing a theme that has
been alluded to throughout the entire sonata but never played in its entirety until
now. This structure turns the principals of Western music up to this point on their
head- rather than a theme heard at the beginning of a work that is constantly developed
and referenced, the Concord Sonata spends an hour preoccupied with a theme that becomes
the revelation and apotheosis—that which we have been searching for is revealed in
the final minutes of the work.
One of my favorite Pre-Socratic philosophers, Heraclitus loved to write and think about the concept of flow (rhei), the stream of things. He is the one that talked about not being able to step on the same river twice, and that nothing ever just is, it is always becoming. This piece is always becoming. It is cyclical, yet different every time. It is also a reflection on the symbiosis of the piano and the electronics, how they both need each other throughout, starting and finishing each other's gestures and colors. At the very end, when the electronics give out, the piano doesn't know how to continue, and the flow stops. These interacting and dependent streams were intentional attempts to honor Charles Ives, as is my metaphor of nature. I've always experienced his music in the transcendental way intended, with added touches of humor I hope to have honored in this piece as well. I want to take the opportunity here to deeply thank Jason for sharing his incredible talent with me, I can't think of anyone better than him to bring this music to life.
Promontories for piano solo was commissioned along with three other pieces by pianist Jason Hardink to celebrate the centenary of the publication of Charles Ives’s Concord Sonata. The piece references Ives’s work in its frequent use of tone clusters and, in its final section, in a chorale-like chordal progression interrupted by rapid passages, reminiscent of the quoted hymn passage interrupted by Ives’s own more phrenetic music midway through the Hawthorne movement of the Concord Sonata. Promontories divides into five sections. The first consists of a group of rapid passages followed by variation-like iterations, separated by quiet cadences. The second consists of a slow section interrupted by a quiet rapid passage after which the slow music returns. The third section consists of a return of the opening music and the fourth of a return of the slow section. The final section consists of the aforementioned interrupted chorale-like music, the interruptions being inspired by the rapid passage that first occurred in the original slow section. The piece ends with the longest of the quiet, fast passages disappearing into the extreme upper register.
This work was composed on the 100th anniversary of the Charles Ives Concord Sonata. The following quote precedes the score:
Sometimes, on Sundays, I heard the bells, the Lincoln, Acton, Bedford, or Concord bell, when the wind was favorable, a faint, sweet, and, as it were, natural melody, worth importing into the wilderness. At a sufficient distance over the woods this sound acquires a certain vibratory hum, as if the pine needles in the horizon were the strings of a harp which it swept. All sound heard at the greatest possible distance produces one and the same effect, a vibration of the universal lyre, just as the intervening atmosphere makes a distant ridge of earth interesting to our eyes by the azure tint it imparts to it. There came to me in this case a melody which the air had strained, and which had conversed with every leaf and needle of the wood, that portion of the sound which the elements had taken up and modulated and echoed from vale to vale. The echo is, to some extent, an original sound, and therein is the magic and charm of it. It is not merely a repetition of what was worth repeating in the bell, but partly the voice of the wood; the same trivial words and notes sung by a wood-nymph. --Henry David Thoreau, Walden "Sounds"
My best friend Mariela Baez gave me my first James Baldwin book: Another Country. I remember reading and thinking “Oh, this is entertaining and light.” Then I reached the end of the first half of the book, when the tone of the text completely shifts and Baldwin sets a stage where the previous material can take on a new light given the new context. It was then that I realized Baldwin’s power, and I went on to read Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, and more … and the thing is, I’m a slow reader! A very slow reader. Baldwin had me. I knew then why and how Baldwin had solidified his importance as a writer. However, I was much younger then, and my life experience—especially in terms of socio-racial interactions and realizations—was basically nothing compared to what it is now. With that, the commission from Jason Hardink came at the absolute perfect time for me and—quite possibly—for the world. The period between commission and completion of the work was fraught with too many deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers, a surge in murders of Black Transgender people (especially trans women), a racial reckoning that has been mostly shallow (but hopefully swollen with potential), Black voices speaking out with more urgency, power, and inhibition, a significant uptick in calls-to-action and support for major and emerging Black voices, organizations, and initiatives, and so much more, both positive and negative. At the same time, the world is also dealing with a climate crisis, a pandemic, a severe deficiency in qualified political leadership globally, massive political, social, and economic polarization, drastic human behavioral shifts caused by social media, mistrust in news sources and other media outlets, and so much more, both positive and negative. Often I find myself asking these terrible (a word which Baldwin used excessively) questions: is my strong emphasis on Black issues to the detriment of what many may consider more pressing, global issues of ecumenical survival and justice? Does this emphasis come from a selfish desire to carve a path of high access for upcoming Black composers and musicians, a path that was not available to me for various systemic reasons? Is my identity and personal and systemic mistreatment clouding my vision with regards to the actions that humanity must first take in order to increase justice and global community? Or is an increase and justice and global community even possible at this juncture in time?
Many argue that when the most oppressed are taken care of, then everyone is okay. I do believe this, and I do believe that those who consider themselves Black are recognizing an aspect of themselves that has been ostracized for myriad reasons, mostly related to racism, economic imbalances, other power imbalances, and general exploitation. Baldwin addressed all of this in many ways in his novels, short stories, essays, speeches, conversations, interviews, and actions. He himself would admit that he was not “perfect” and there is no such thing as perfection. However his observations and suggestions are powerfully still relevant today. Hence the relevance of The Baldwin Sonata. In my work, comprising four movements and three optional interludes, the music communicates obvious and hidden messages through its use of intense structural quotation. The first movement references the period between Baldwin’s birth and his incipience as a writer, leading up to his debut novel Go Tell It On the Mountain. The second movement focuses on his queerness, mostly through his short story "The Outing" from the collection Going to Meet the Man. The third movement is in recognition of Baldwin’s mother, who had a strong influence on James becoming a writer, and who herself was an excellent writer. This movement is also based on Baldwin’s poem "For Berdis" (Baldwin’s mother’s name was Emma Berdis Jones). The last movement is a summation of Baldwin’s social and political genius, and also captures the reality of his controversial relationships with other prominent Black activists and thought leaders. The optional interludes are controlled improvisations on melodic fragments from some of Baldwin’s favorite tunes. The totality of the material combined with my compositional commentary and contribution essays to communicate powerful messages that can only be transmitted through music performance, while staying true to Baldwin’s power and vision. Lastly, it is my sincere hope that those listening who have not read any Baldwin, have read very little Baldwin, or are not very familiar with him will be challenged and inspired to examine his power individually and grow into better world citizens for the sake of the entire human family.
–Anthony R. Green