ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Ramin Amir Arjomand is an Iranian-American composer, pianist, conductor, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. His concert and electroacoustic music blurs distinctions between composition and improvisation, demanding in each the spontaneity as well as the level of formal intelligence that is often associated with one or the other individually and exclusively. He has worked extensively in dance theater, and has developed collaborative models in which composer and choreographer can trust one another to work freely and independently toward a common goal. His approach to dance theater composition emphasizes contrapuntal relationships between sound and movement. A much sought-after teacher, he is currently on faculty at Columbia University and at the Steinhardt School at NYU.
SELECTED PAST PROJECTS
Ramin Amir Arjomand, joined by Rebecca Gray and Chris Ruenes, presents an evening of exciting new work for voices.
The evening will begin with a discussion of contrapuntal logic as a formal principle in music, placed in contrast to harmonic logic. Leaving the symphonic tradition in perspective, the discussion will redefine dissonance and its treatment in purely contrapuntal terms, both expressively and as a formal cohesive force, and will identify a type of musical discourse unique to pure polyphonic thinking, making way for a theory of dissonance specific to contrapuntal organization. The new work being performed will offer a possibility to reflect on the ideas put forth in the discussion and will offer avenues for further thought, especially with regard to developing a performance practice in which musicians spontaneously create polyphonic ideas, or creatively and vigorously perform polyphonic compositions that cultivate an experience of dissonance specific to contrapuntal logic.
Reinterpretations: Silent Notations
Reinterpretations continues with its examination of classical performance practice, focusing on Morton Feldman's graphic and indeterminate scores from the early 1950's and 60's, and including a presentation of new work for violin, tuba, and piano. Ramin Amir Arjomand is joined by Andrew Niess and Sarah Segner.
Music is a performing art, full of spontaneity, and born of the moment. Musical notation has always implied and relied upon a rich performance practice around it to supply the critical quantity of musical instinct necessary to creating a true musical experience. In other words, notation has never been truly specific, nor is it able to give a complete indication of the musical conception it represents: this can only come into being in a specific moment in time by informed performers. As such, certain viable approaches to notation, developed by composers to elicit specific responses from performers and to achieve precise effects in the moment of performance, were abandoned because they never developed an adequate performance practice around them to draw from.
The afternoon will include a discussion of these ideas, tracing Feldman's musical syntax back to that of Webern, whose language was at once antique, in its embodiment of the spirit of contrapuntal discourse practiced by the Flemish School, and modern, being rooted in a harmonic environment in which tonal dissonance had been prolonged to such an extent that the notion of its resolution had been forgone, and forgotten even. The afternoon will feature performances of Feldman's 'Projection 4' for violin and piano, his 'Durations 3' for violin, tuba, and piano, and a new work by Ramin Amir Arjomand for violin, tuba, and piano.
Reinterpretations: Bridges to Indeterminacy
Reinterpretations begins a discussion exploring the relationship between classical sonata-allegro form and atonality, clarifying how an awareness of this connection is integral to the performance of contemporary music. Using the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, the discussion will analyze classical homophonic formal syntax experientially and will identify within it the seeds for Schoenberg's "emancipation of the dissonance", laying the formal groundwork for atonal music, and will draw from it the harmonic and conceptual basis for indeterminacy and chance-based compositional approaches. The discussion will touch upon the development of musical notation as a creative tool that also creates a potentially problematic distinction between composer and performer.
Reinterpretations: Intoning Atonality
Intonation in musical performance, rather than referring to accurate absolute rendering of pitch, is more meaningful when it suggests awareness, and cultivation, of pitch relationships within a piece of music. When awareness of such relationships goes beyond local moments and reaches through an entire composition, it can begin to uncover the complex network of dynamic tensions that is the very living structure of a composer's tonal thought process. This awareness becomes the essence of a performer's interpretation--tonally, his/her musical idea--and the basis for his/her development of instrumental or vocal technique.
Often it happens that a composer is cultivating and composing out tonal tensions between pitches that are not actually present on the surface of a composition. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, these pitches are no less present and no less influential as musical forces. In fact music, as an abstract language, has always been an art of specifying and intensifying an idea through its opposite.
The problem of intonation in atonal music can be seen as one of securely situating oneself inside of a musical form, beginning with the historical premises that it builds upon, and then listening through its surface for what the pitches in a composition are specifically acting upon and against. This is tonality, in fact, and eventually, it can develop into a nuanced reading of the structure of an entire atonal work. Purely expressively, it offers the basis for cultivating the possibility of lyricism in atonal music.
Reinterpretations, reviewing and re-invoking concepts put forth in June's "Bridges to Indeterminacy," which showed how atonality is a logical consequence of basic assumptions at the heart of classical tonal form, will invite audience members to apply the same concepts in listening to a number of improvised atonal piano compositions. The improvisational approach serves to emphasize the fact that the composer/performer will be responding to and cultivating the very same assumptions and tensions that will be established in the performance space in the moment, and that the audience members will be as acutely aware of and as sensitively listening to. It will also demonstrate the certitude of a performer/composer's sense of intonation in an atonal idiom--which with piano music translates into touch and timing--and of the security with which atonal form can be invoked and navigated.
The afternoon will be an experience in creative listening as well as a learned musical dialogue between audience and composer/performer.
Reinterpretations: Ashbery's "Litany"
Ramin Amir Arjomand and Julianna Mateyko perform John Ashbery's magisterial 90-minute polyphonic poem "Litany."
Reinterpretations: Ecstasies of Logic
Ramin Amir Arjomand reflects on the art of reading, performing a pair of evocative, sensual masterpieces: Alban Berg's Piano Sonata Op. 1 and Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."
Reinterpretations: Child of Sea
Ramin Amir Arjomand presents a program of original works inspired by classical Persian poetic forms and exploring diatonic pitch sets in various non-tonal polyphonic contexts. The afternoon will include a discussion of each work along with its performance.
Reinterpretations: Night Musics, Dream Sequences
Composer-pianist Ramin Amir Arjomand reflects on evocations of night in the tradition of music for solo piano.
Reinterpretations: Polyphony, Mysticism, and the Music of Opposites
Composer Ramin Amir Arjomand, together with an ensemble of the city's finest new music performers, presents a world premiere performance of his "Salve Regina,” a rhythmically complex, unrelentingly polyphonic 25-minute work for string quintet that uses an 11th century Marian antiphon as its inspiration.
A discussion will follow, providing context for the compositional process used in “Salve Regina,” with musical examples, examining the expressive and esoteric uses of counterpoint as a cornerstone of Western European musical thinking.
Reinterpretations: Parallel Futures
Composer Ramin Amir Arjomand, joined by two of New York City’s finest up-and-coming performers, examines miniature form in music. Five original works, all world premieres, will be presented and examined.
In 1913 Arnold Schoenberg, in his preface to Anton Webern’s Six Bagatelles, wrote:
“Consider what moderation is required to express oneself so briefly. Every glance can be extended into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel in a single gesture, a joy in a single in-drawn breath—such concentration can only be present when there is a corresponding absence of self-pity.”
Music is perhaps most explicitly poetic in a miniature. And one could say such music, in its absolute concentration, most materially transforms the immediate silence around it, making of it a special moment, a unique time of reflection, a potent space in which divergent narratives can be awakened, each, in parallel, suggestive of meanings in the music consequential to the life of a listener.