Monday, March 03, 2014

Third Annual Festival of the Avant Garde

Shin-ichi Matsushita: Subject 17
THE RECENT CONCERTS by Other Minds brought an earlier festival to mind: the Third Annual Festival of the Avant Garde, which I wrote about in EAR, a monthly newsletter I published in the 1970s. Herewith that article, much edited:

The Third Annual Festival of the Avant Garde took place at 321 Divisadero St., San Francisco, in April 1965, sponsored by KPFA and run by myself, Peter Winkler and Robert Moran. Looking back on it I don't know how we had the guts: later endeavors have since convinced me of the enormity of such an undertaking. But we did, and it worked for the most part.

It was a sort of celebration of having the hall at all. KPFA and Ann Halprin’s Dancers’ Workshop joined the Tape Music Center in renting it. KPFA put on three concerts in the Festival, which was of course the first Third Annual. (There was a second one the following year, of which the less said the better.)

Opening Concert: April 2, 1965, 8 pm

Earle Brown: Four Systems     Robert Moran, piano; Georges Rey, violin; Gwendolyn Watson, cello
Robert Moran: Interiors     Third Annual Ensemble
Peter Winkler: But a Rose     John Thomas, countertenor; Peter and Judy Winkler, piano
Joshua Rifkin: Winter Piece     Robert Moran, Georges Rey, Gwendolyn Watson
John Cage: The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs     John Thomas; Peter Winkler
Ian Underwood: The God Box     Nelson Green, horn.
Douglas Leedy: Quaderno Rossiniano for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bassoon, piano, horn, cymbals and bass drum.
     Third Annual Ensemble
Soft Concert: April 3, 1065, 11 pm

Roman Haubenstock-Ramati: Decisions I     Robert Moran; with prerecorded tape.
John Cage: three pieces for solo piano
Sylvano Bussotti: Piano Piece for David Tudor 3     Robert Moran
LaMonte Young: 42 for Henry Flynt     Peter Winkler, gong
Shin-ichi Matsushita: Hexahedra     Third Annual Ensemble
Morton Feldman: Durations 1 for piano, violin, and cello
                           Durations 3 for piano, violin, and tuba
Charles Shere: Two Pieces for two cellos
     Ed Nylund, Gwendolyn Watson, cellos
Closing Concert: April 4, 1965, 8 pm

Shinichi Matsushita: Hexahedra     Third Annual Ensemble
Shere: Accompanied Vocal Exercises     Linda Fulton, soprano; Peter Winkler, piano
Galen Schwab: Homage to Anestis Logothetis
Moran: Invention, Book I     Robert Moran, piano
Anestis Logothetis: Centres
John Cage: Variations II     Third Annual Ensemble

Third Annual Festival of the Avant Garde Ensemble:

John Thomas, voice; Nelson Green, horn; Arthur Schwab, Robert Moran, Ian Underwood and Peter Winkler, piano; Linda Fulton, soprano; Georges Rey and John Tenney, violin; Ed Nylund, Gwendolyn Watson, cello; Jim Basye, tuba; Charles Shere, bass drum and cymbals; William Maginnis, percussion; Judy Winkler, door and piano interior

I don't recall who played flute or bassoon in Quaderno, or who played piano and violin in the Feldman pieces. I do remember the hall was pretty well full for the opening concert, say 150 people. We scheduled the Soft Concert — so called because it was generally rather quiet — late, because a big Ernst Bloch memorial had been scheduled for that night in Marin county, and we knew a lot of our audience would be playing in it, so we scheduled the Soft Concert late, starting at 11 p.m. to give people a chance to get to 321 Divisadero. In the event, we had a full house.

Jim Basye had never played solo tuba before, it was his 16th birthday and the performance was gorgeous. The Japanese composer Shinichi Matsushita had never been heard in San Francisco before. 42 for Henry Flynt almost brought me and Bob Hughes to blows, in a disagreement which was finally healed later when he heard the piece again, a few years later, played just for him at a symposium at Esalen. Peter Winkler's performance at this Festival was much better, as can be heard online.

When I last wrote about the Festival, in 1975, I concluded with a Where Are They Now paragraph. Many are gone from this realm entirely, alas. All the composers were living when their music was programmed; of them Brown, Cage, Haubenstock-Ramati, Matsushita, Feldman, and Logothetis have left us, and I don't know about Galen Schwab, who seemed ephemeral even at the time.


Curtis Faville said...


The art work is very cool.

Was this done recently, or decades ago?

I like the centrifugal/centripetal focal point, with the Abstract Expressionist "matter" scattered around the edges. Were all the "Subjects" like portraits of people (a la Virgil Thomson)?

Charles Shere said...

Shin-ichi Matushita's Subject 17 is a graphic score, similar to his Hexahedra which we played at the Third Annual Soft Concert. Matsushita was an interesting man, a mathematician, a celebrated topologist, who pursued an academic career in those fields in Germany — Hamburg, I believe. I don't know when he made this score, which is pen and ink on heavy paper, with some color, as you see. He sent it to me as a little gift; one did that sort of thing in those days (the early-middle 1960s).

I knew him only through correspondence. I'd written to him in 1960 or so, having heard and very much liked his Sinfonia which had been broadcast by KPFA from an NHK Radio transcription from the Osaka Festival. He kindly asked me to send him a score of my own, which is why my Fratture for seven instruments, the only piece of mine I haven't heard (apart from my long piano sonata), was performed in 1963 at the Osaka Festival.

I have no idea if there even
were other Subjects, let alone whether they were portraits. I always assumed they were more related to his mathematical interests.

Curtis Faville said...

Wow! A score.

The visual expression of musical ideas as an abstraction is one you don't see much.

I've been studying Kandinsky lately, and many of his "mechanical" works--filled with intersecting geometric shapes and kinetic movement--are rather like this.

How does one "play" a score like this?

Are they like dreams of composing, where the visual becomes an imagined kind of distortion of the sound's "meaning"?

Charles Shere said...

See, for example, this.

Curtis Faville said...

Would Pollock's big physical canvases then be like musical scores of dancing?

Maybe Glass's repeating figures are like Op Art, with concentric bands and fields of dots.

Not to be too tipsy here, but Frank O'Hara's "grope pizzicati"?