Web Site: http://www.markgustavson.com

Bio: American composer of music.

Posts by Mark:

    Dissolving Images is listed in “Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire”

    December 7th, 2013

    Dissolving Images has an entry in the “Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire, Fourth Edition”, Indiana University Press:

    Mark Gustavson (1959- ) USA
    Dissolving Images 1986 (CFP 67187 1988) 21pp. 15 min. Multisectional one-movement essay with descriptive titles of intense magnitude requiring a thorough imagination for convincing realization. Difficult to read, the music navigates between swells and releases in a variety of rhythmic patterns. Concludes softly following a succession of trills and short motivic flourishes.

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    September 10th, 2013

    This is the second post about the pieces on “Dissolving Images.”

    QUINTET for clarinet, two violins, viola & cello (1993)

    In 1992 I applied to the Fromm Foundation to commission a clarinet quintet. The application requires an ensemble to commit to premiering the piece so I asked an old friend from school who was the violist in a quickly emerging string quartet if his quartet along with me as clarinetist would premiere the piece. He enthusiastically liked the idea, so I sent the forms to him to sign and we applied and received the commission in 1993.

    I was living in Brooklyn at the time I received the commission and soon after the news I decided to take a walk to the Promenade where I would contemplate what this piece was going to be. The first thought that came to me, and I stuck with it, was a work that addressed rhythm and its different functions and I would address each function in the four movements of the piece.

    The first movement would be a ten minute accelerando; the second movement uses two or three meters simultaneously within a double variation. The third movement would be a rhythmic canon in the strings with a floating, disembodied as it were, clarinet line. At the time I hadn’t come up with a final movement.

    That night I was at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan having dinner where I connected with my future wife. For whatever the reason, we had spent time for the past year hanging out at my friend’s apartment but on this occasion something connected us. There after we began to date. Why do I bring up this private moment? Synchronicity. My connection with Pam happened the day I started Quintet but not only that. Pam, who was a dancer at one time was taking belly dancing classes and had a collection of Middle Eastern tapes that I listened to. The music wasn’t new to me (hearing it often on Atlantic Avenue, where I was living at the time, with its halal butchers, Sahadi’s, hookahs, and Muslim morning prayer) but I found dombek rhythms refreshing—a different approach compared to jazz , West African or Indian drumming. Perhaps it appealed to me because it was what I was looking for. In any event, the fourth movement is rhythm as a groove: the pizzicato cello interprets the dombek rhythms from the Chiftetelli, a slow Turkish dance.  The clarinet’s highly embellished lines were the result of my improvising clarinet lines and then working out the material.

    The main influence on Quintet comes from Brahm’s “Clarinet Quintet.” As a clarinetist when you play the Brahms you feel as though you are immersed in the textures of the ensemble. As a listener I find that each movement on the surface sound so very different from one another and each movement has its own strong character. I set out to capture both of these experiences in my piece.

    I won’t name names because I am an honorable person but the ensemble that signed the Fromm contract reneged but I was fortunate that Ralph Shapey called and asked to premiere the piece at University of Chicago with his great group of players who then went into the CRC recording studios the next night and made the recording that is on the album.

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    Dissolving Images for piano

    August 27th, 2013

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    I am going to write a series of posts, each one dedicated to a piece from my new album “Dissolving Images.”

    DISSOLVING IMAGES for piano (1986)

    I started composing this 15-minute solo in Amsterdam while I was studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with Ton DeLeeuw on a Fulbright Fellowship. I finished the piece in New York. The title of this piece comes from the third line in Pablo Neruda’s poem “Thinking, Tangling Shadows”:

    Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
    You are far away too, oh farther than anyone.
    Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
    burying lamps.

    Belfry of fogs, how far away, up there!
    Stifling laments, milling shadowy hopes,
    taciturn miller,
    night falls on you face downward, far from the city.

    Your presence is foreign, as strange to me as a thing.
    I think, I explore great tracts of my life before you.
    My life before anyone, my harsh life.
    The shout facing the sea, among the rocks,
    running free, mad, in the sea-spray.
    The sad rage, the shout, the solitude of the sea.
    Headlong, violent, stretched towards the sky.

    You, woman, what were you there, what ray, what vane
    of that immense fan? You were as far as you are now.
    Fire in the forest! Burn in blue crosses.
    Burn, burn, flame up, sparkle in trees of light.

    It collapses, crackling. Fire. Fire.
    And my soul dances, seared with curls of fire.
    Who calls? What silence peopled with echoes?
    Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude.
    Hour that is mine from among them all!
    Megaphone in which the wind passes singing.
    Such a passion of weeping tied to my body.

    Shaking of all the roots,
    attack of all the waves!
    My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending.

    Thinking, burying lamps in the deep solitude.

    Who are you, who are you?

    Translated by W. S. Merwin

    The piano piece explores the same idea Neruda explores in his poem, the nature of thinking. In the poem Neruda is thinking about a woman he is in love with (perhaps his first love because he was 18 when he wrote the poem) or the idea of her. I replace the “idea of her” with the minor third (G-Bb) to the rhythm of a quarter-note pick up to a half-note:

    The entire piece grows out of the opening interval/motive and reveals its nature throughout as a metaphor for thinking; the developing variations are the revelations of the thought as it unfolds — or dissolves.

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    RIP George

    August 8th, 2013

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    Harp Pedal Slides

    August 7th, 2013

    I was working with the harpist Ruth Bennett and she showed me that a harpist can simultaneously slide two pedals (pitches), one in each foot, a half-step. So I wrote this:

    Harp Ex.








    There are many possibilities. One common notation is to put an “x” through the note head of the arrival note.

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    Dissolving Images on iTunes

    August 1st, 2013

    My album “Dissolving Images” is now available on iTunes in the US:

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    Garam Masala

    July 22nd, 2013

    Before I begin my composing for the day I have to make a new batch of Garam Masala, here cooling prior to grinding.

    Garam Masala

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    Quote of the Day

    July 22nd, 2013

    “You move in a logical circle and I am out of it.” -D.T. Suzuki

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    Probing the Mysteries of the Harp

    July 9th, 2013

    The orchestral harp with all of the those pedals to understand. The instrument, from a composer’s perspective, has a steeper learning curve than many instruments. However, in addition to working with a harpist, I recommend the site “Harp Spectrum—Exploring the World of the Harp” where there is a helpful essay titled “Composing for the Harp” by Joyce Rice.

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    Dissolving Images Is Available Today

    July 1st, 2013

    di_cd_200“Dissolving Images” is available today
    on Albany Records’ website as a CD or digital download and any of your favorite music locations.

    I would like to thank Susan Bush at #Albany Records, David Merrill who recorded, edited and mastered the album, the Fromm Foundation, #AaronCopland and Alice M.Ditson Funds for their generous financial support, my wife Pamela Gurman for designing a great looking album and all the masterful musicians on the album: Lisa Moore, Ed Gilmore, Susan Polifrone, Theresa Fream, Keith Conant, Kim Scholes, Margaret Lancaster, Vasko Dukovski, James Rogers, Stephen Gosling, Esther Noh, John Popham, Richard Carrick, Keith Underwod, Alan R. Kay, Christopher Oldfather, James Preiss, Cyrus Stevens, Christpher Finckel and Anthony Korf.

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