Short Takes: In the People’s Park, with Music by Kyle Gann and George Tsontakis

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The photographs of Central Park in New York City were taken in early June. All who could were out to make the most of a beautiful day in what I choose to think of as the people’s park.

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Listening List

Two recent CD purchases are offering me countless hours of delight, and I’ve been eager to share the news.

George Tsontakis

I think every work ends with dot, dot, dot. It disturbs me that my chosen medium—music—is expected to end.
—George Tsontakis

Violin Concerto No. 2 (2003), Clair de Lune (2007), and The Past, The Passion (1987) (To listen on Spotify, click here.)

Tsontakis’s Violin Concerto No. 2 easily stands with the finest of contemporary violin concerti and deserves to be performed as often and as widely as that suggests. I’m not alone in holding this work in high esteem: it won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2005. Awards are, of course, not the sine qua non of indicators; rather, the final judgment must rest with each of pair listening ears. To my ears, every work on this CD is a multi-faceted jewel. Bruce Hodges’s excellent review of the CD may be found here.

Kyle Gann

I dance only privately, and in my head.
—Kyle Gann

Private Dances (To listen on Spotify, click here; audio for selections from the CD, including Time Does Not Exist, may be found here.)

Sarah Cahill, whose elegant pianism reminds me of no one so much as Marian McPartland, commissioned many of the pieces on this CD and performs several of them, including the six Private Dances (2000-2004), Time Does Not Exist (2000), and On Reading Emerson (2006). Every work on the CD is attractive and intelligent in equal measure. Two that caught my particular attention are Time Does Not Exist and On Reading Emerson.

In Time Does Not Exist, the interplay of delicate musical fragments creates an alluring, elusive architecture. Gann wrote of the work, “The piece is about therapy, conceived as the spiraling inward path described by James Hillman, in which one keeps traversing the same territory, only a little different each time.” [CD liner notes] On Reading Emerson, replete with appealing harmonic collisions, is not, as Gann has noted, characteristic of his work—for one thing, he “used, for the first time in my life, a 12-tone row.” [CD liner notes]

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Credits: The header quotations from Tsontakis and Gann are from the respective CD liner notes. The remaining quotations are from the sources linked, or where online sources are not available, noted in the text. The photographs, as always unless otherwise indicated, are mine.

8 thoughts on “Short Takes: In the People’s Park, with Music by Kyle Gann and George Tsontakis

  1. friko

    Being neither a Spotify subscriber nor having heard of these pieces (or their composers – yes, I know, I am a peasant), I am sorry to say I cannot follow you into the music but following you into The People’s Park was a lovely experience. How can you have these delights already when you still had ice and snow a few weeks ago (or so it seems to me). Your seasons move twice as fast as ours.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Friko: Yes, it wasn’t so long ago that we were thigh-deep in snow. As spring began to come on, I thought, well, there is some internal clock going on in the plant world having nothing whatever to do with the actual conditions on the ground. But now, the season is “in sync” for the most part. Spring here is hard to catch, it always seems, and before you know it, it’s hot. Meanwhile, the groundhog has come up from under the front deck, and just when our first broccolini of the season were ready to eat, it (of course) got into the garden and ate every one, down to the bare nubbins, along with all the little cabbage plants. If it’s not one thing, it’s another . . .

  2. David N

    I feel guilty for taking so long to get around to writing, but I wanted to listen and react to the Tsontakis. As time seems unavailable for now, let me just say that the lead pic is an absolute winner. And how exotic it seems to us to be ravaged by a groundhog. I well remember the radio as we drove from Brisbane to Byron Bay was full of folk complaining about the damages done by parakeets and wombats – you gotta give in, I guess. Blackbirds eating my mulberries seem small beer by comparison.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: No need for guilt! Not surprised you’ve got no time, lately, what with all your traveling and concerts and all the rest. Glad you enjoyed that lead photograph. I was lucky to catch just the one. I’d intended to take a couple more shots to make sure I had it, but the fellow you see in another photograph with the fancy equipment had the same idea and walked up in front of me (about which I have no comment). As for the groundhog, we can only hope it’s true that they don’t like tomatoes (turtles, which we had on Long Island, DO like tomatoes, though at least they don’t go through garden veg at such speed). We shall see . . .

  3. shoreacres

    I was delighted by the white flower with the purple dots, and even more delighted to find the closeup. And the photo of the fellow with his dog is just wonderful. Companionable is the word that comes to mind.

    Turtles like tomatoes? Well, it makes sense, I guess, since they’re so fond of lettuce and other greens. I’d be seriously irritated with that groundhog. I’ve heard tales, though I don’t think they’re as much of a problem here. To be honest, I don’t even know if they live here. Deer? That’s something else.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      I was so happy to get that man and dog photo. “Companionable” is exactly the right word–wish I’d thought of it and glad you did. Re groundhogs, oh, yes, we do get seriously irritated, but it doesn’t last . . . until the next time. As for deer? Yup, not possible to have a veg garden here (or hosta, or day lilies, or . . .) without a deer fence. Even with a deer fence, one year, the gate didn’t hold and, while we were away for ONE week, deer got in and ate ALL the just-ripening tomatoes. Yet we always enjoy seeing our deer-in-residence (out grazing in the tall grass, mind you) and particularly seeing new fawns. So, what can you do?

      PS: The close-up is of a foxglove. Magical flowers. I love seeing them in the wild most of all.

  4. angela

    Sue ~ actually took a spin through your wonderful picture posts over the weekend and enjoyed very much, esp. the man with the very intent dog! What I really came back to say, however, was I am enjoying Gann on Spotify. Certain tracks seem to echo the space my mind touches upon as it traces through unknown passageways. ~

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Angela: How nice to see you there! So glad you’re enjoying the picture posts. I’m timid about taking photographs of people, but am so glad I got the “man and dog” one . . . with the two ducks, too! And I’m so pleased you’re enjoying Gann’s work on Spotify. I have the CD, and I find it the best of companions, in much the way you describe.

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