Last month, the Universal Language Project took us out of the Pacific Northwest…. and in to the Wild West!
This well crafted, western-themed program was presented at Resonance at SOMA Towers on Friday, January 22 and Velocity Dance Center on Saturday, January 23. We’re pleased to share the audio recording of Saturday night’s concert with you. Be sure to mark your calendars for ULP’s next performances on March 11 and 12 featuring SCRAPE!
Notes on “Campfire Songs” by Brian Cobb:
I have always been intrigued by the American frontier era. It started with the idea of traveling into unknown lands with a dream of a better life. Although I can never truly understand the hardships of such a journey and the discipline required, I admire the courage and the ambition of these settlers. While much can be debated about the pros and cons of this era in American history, as a composer I am not equipped to argue for or against this period. I just know that other people have come before me and their actions have brought us to our present state. Furthermore, since I reside in Seattle I am unquestionably indebted to their journey.
Campfire Songs can be thought of as a symbolic representation of one night on the pioneer trail. I have assembled a collection of poems by different American authors from different periods. A seventh song, Winter in the Sierras, was commissioned by the Universal Language Project for this performance. The collection, as a whole, is intended to convey a story of hopes, hardships, and ambitions of the pioneers.
The campfire is one remnant from the past that I hold dear in my own life. Before wax cylinders, radio, telephones, television, or the internet, the communication of news and personal experiences often took place around the campfi re. What I fi nd fascinating is how the allure of the fire’s flames feeds the imagination, creates camaraderie between people, and offers a primeval connection to our distant past. Beyond the essential needs of warmth and cooking, the campfi re setting offered a diversion from the day’s travel and a chance for much needed rest before the next day’s journey.
Notes on “Railroad” by Tim Carey:
My goal in writing “Railroad” was to use the American folk song “I’ve been working on the railroad” as an exploratory vehicle for experimenting with harmonic concepts which I have been wanting to explore for quite a while. I attempted to create a musical space with an open backdrop on which small motives could be presented and heard as singular ideas. The motives are not intended to develop, but instead appear and come to life quickly and vanish before their full realization, as if the listener is staring out the window of a train catching glimpses of the countryside. The piece is structured in four parts as is the original source material. While the themes have been obscured, the form and harmonic content are derived directly from the original song and molded to fi t the desired aesthetic of the piece.
Notes on “There Must Be a Lone Ranger!” by Karen P. Thomas:
A few years ago, in the course of considering my ignominious past – a childhood fi lled with Country & Western music and too much TV – I realized that I rather liked some of that directness and simple imagery. So, as composers are wont to do, I put on my cowboy boots and wrote about it. The result was a song cycle, “Cowboy Songs” – on texts by E. E. Cummings.
“There Must Be A Lone Ranger!” is a continuation of those earlier cowboy pieces. The sources for the text include 19th century cowboy songs, cowboy poetry and newspaper articles, a poem by e e cummings (“sam was a man”), and a few things I wrote myself. Within it are some of the mythical heroes of childhood: the Lone Ranger, Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid…
Visit our archives for more on-demand, live concert recordings, including more Universal Language Project shows!
Soprano: Cherie Hughes
Baritone: Michael Monnikendam
Flute: Liz Talbert
Clarinets: Rachel Yoder
Violin: Eric Rynes
Cello: Brad Hawkins
Guitar: Jeff Bowen
Banjo: Michaud Savage
Percussion: Greg Campbell, Melanie Voytovich
Trumpet: Brian Chin
Piano: Kevin Johnson
Conductor: Karen Thomas
Audio Recording: Bill Levey