ONCE more festival

If the Christian Wolff retrospective at NEC in Boston this spring was the event of the first half of the year for aficionados of experimental composition, then the University of Michigan’s ONCE More, their 50th Anniversary celebration of the legendary ONCE Festivals is without a doubt the event for the second half of the year. Alas while I was able to attend and write my series of reports on the Wolff events I do not have the opportunity to travel to Ann Arbor for this once in a lifetime event.  However in 2003 New World Records put out a 5-CD boxset, Music from the ONCE Festival, with a generous selection of recordings from the historical festivals five incarnations. For various reasons, mainly due to the cost of the set, I had delayed a long time in picking it.  But I finally was able to score a used copy of the set for a reasonable outlay and have been recently exploring the treasures contained within.  As this set contains most of the pieces that are being performed in the ONCE Then day of the festival one is able to create ones own retrospective at home.  The festivals were a fascinating historical event with a rich tradition of pushing the boundaries of contemporary composition, live electronics, tape music, theatrical events and more.  There has been a decent amount published about the festivals and of course many of the principles have gone on to long and distinguished careers.  This post contains a generous selection of links to things to read, watch, listen and further explore. As the festival takes place and then becomes its own addition to the ONCE history (perhaps to be released itself in the future; it is being professionally recorded and rumor has it that Mode Records has done some video recording as well, perhaps a Mode ONCE DVD is in the works) you can read along as you listen and celebrate this great bit of history.

Roger Reynolds, Donald Scavarda, Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley
Roger Reynolds, Donald Scavarda, Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley

The ONCE More 50th Anniversary festival takes place this week (November 2nd-4th) with events in and among the community continuing for some time.  Definitely check out the festival guide for details on all of the events but as of the time of this post the initial concert has taken place but the very interesting concluding concert is tonight. If you are in the Ann Arbor region I urge you to go and would love to hear from anyone who makes it to the festival. The two concerts bracketing the festival featured performances from the composers who took part in the initial festival.  The first of these concerts held on November 2nd, ONCE Then, was historical material pieces that were performed during the original festivals. ONCE Now, which takes place tonight feature more recent work from these composers.  While sadly some of the original composers have passed on many of the original composers are on hand to take part in the festival; Robert Ashley, Roger Reynolds, Gordon Mumma and Donald Scavarda are all on hand to supervise, participate and witness the performance of their music, and the music of their friends.

George Cacioppo's "Cassiopeia"
George Cacioppo's "Cassiopeia"

Co-Directors: Michael Daugherty and Mary Simoni
Performers: Faculty artists of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Creative Arts Orchestra, and the Digital Music Ensemble
When: Tuesday, November 2, 8 p.m.
Where Rackham Auditorium (915 East Washington Street)

Roger Reynolds – MOSAIC (1962) for flute and piano
Robert Ashley – in memoriam”¦CRAZY HORSE (symphony) (1963) for 32 instrumentalists
Gordon Mumma – LARGE SIZE MOGRAPH (1962) for solo piano
Donald Scavarda – GROUPS FOR PIANO (1959)
Robert Ashley– in memoriam”¦ESTEBAN GÓMEZ (quartet) (1963)
Donald Scavarda – FilmSCORE for Two Pianists (1962)
Donald Scavarda – GREYS, a FilmSCORE (1963) film shown silently
Scavarda/Mumma – GREYS, a FilmSCORE (1963) performed with stereo electronic music
George Cacioppo – CASSIOPEIA (1962)
Gordon Mumma – SINFONIA (1958-60) 12 instruments and magnetic tape
Donald Scavarda – MATRIX FOR CLARINETIST (1962)
Roger Reynolds – A PORTRAIT OF VANZETTI (1962-63) for narrator, instruments, and stereophonic electro-acoustic sound

Co-Directors: Michael Daugherty and Mary Simoni, Co-Directors
Performers: Faculty artists of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Ann Arbor Improvisation Collective, and the ONCE Quartet
When: Thursday, November 4, 8 p.m.
Where: Rackham Auditorium (915 East Washington Street)

Robert Ashley – VAN CAO’S MEDITATION (1991) for piano
Gordon Mumma – THAN PARTICLE (1985) for live percussion with synthesized percussion
Donald Scavarda – CINEMATRIX, a FilmSCORE film shown silently (2002)
Donald Scavarda – CINEMATRIX, a FilmSCORE performed with multiple instrumentalists (2002)
Gordon Mumma – GAMBRELED TAPESTRY (2007) for solo piano with internal electro-acoustics
Donald Scavarda – SOUNDS For seven (2010) for chamber ensemble
Roger Reynolds – ARIADNE’S THREAD (1994) string quartet, computer-synthesized and spatialized sound

Lecture on the Weather

Beyond featuring the work of the original participants the 50th Anniversary festival also includes new material that displays the legacy of the festivals and the music performed there. The U-M Center for Performing Arts Technology is also celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a series of events and a concluding concert on Friday November 5th.  Additionally there are a series of installations and exhibitions on both historical as well as contemporary events:  ONCE More Exhibition, a John Cage Lecture on the Weather installation, the Specious Present installation by Alexander Drosen and Matthew Rose and Gypsy Pond Music XII interactive installation by the Digital Music Ensemble and an interactive tour of Ann Arbor of the 60s. Along with a number of related events such as a performance of John Cage’s Indeterminacy presented by the John Cage Trust this is a packed week of events that is a fantastic tribute to an important series of events.


I. ONCE Now Festival Information

1) ONCE More main page
2) Interactive Festival Guide
3) U-M Center for Performing Arts Technology 25th Anniversary Events
4) Installations and Exhibitions
5) ONCE.MORE.Tour interactive guide
6) John Cage’s Indetermancy presented by the John Cage Trust

II. ONCE Now Festival (P)reviews

2) ONCE upon a time in Ann Arbor festival preview on AnnArbor.com
3) Lecture on the Weather installation article on AnnArbor.com
4) Once Concerts Blend the 60s with Today article from the Detroit Free Press
5) ONCE (before) festival preview on Sequenza21
6) ONCE (during) review on Sequenza21
6) Once (now) review on Sequenza21
7) ONCE (then) review on AnnArbor.com

III. Historical Information

1) ONCE Group Wikipedia article
2) Music from the ONCE Festival boxset [liner notes] (New World Records)
3) Robert Ashley (Wikipedia article)
4) David Behrman (Wikipedia article)
5)  George Cacioppo profile
6) Philip Krumm Wikipedia article
7) Gordon Mumma (Wikipedia article)
8) Pauline Oliveros (Wikipedia article)
9) Roger Reynolds (Wikipedia article)
10) ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny (Wikipedia article)

IV. Additional Resources

1) New World Records
2) Lovely Records
3) Mode Records
4) University of Michigan Musical Society
5) Ann Arbor information
6) Sequenza21
7) University of Michigan