Experiencing Pain Through Sound: Ustvolskaya (Pt. 2) and Maryanne Amacher

The last episode of Art Music Perspectives delved into performers’ experience of pain and discomfort in playing the music of Galina Ustvolskaya. In this episode, we’ll explore how listeners can experience pain, often at the hands of composers who purposefully create sonically-uncomfortable listening experiences through sound.

My guest this episode is:
Maria Cizmic, author of Performing Pain: Music and Trauma in Eastern Europe

The music heard in this episode is:
Ustvolskaya, Symphony No. 2
Meshuggah: Demiurge
Maryanne Amacher: Chorale

Performing Pain through the Music of Galina Ustvolskaya

Soviet composer Galina Ustvolskaya wrote music that seemed to defy the rules of pain/injury prevention for pianists. Her pieces frequently ask the pianist to play with the edges of the hands, the clenched fist, or the forearms. Additionally, the expressivity of her works is extreme, with dynamics reaching cacophonous levels. Even so, what draws musicians to play her music? How did her music fit into late-Soviet society?

My guests this episode are:
•Maria Cizmic, Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida; author of Performing Pain: Music & Trauma in Eastern Europe
•Tom Curry, Professor of Tuba & Euphonium at UW-Madison
•Iva Ugrcic, Director of LunART Festival (Madison, WI)
•Satoko Hayami, Collaborative Pianist

The music in this episode:
•Bach/Busoni, Chaconne 
•Ustvolskaya, Piano Sonata No. 6
•Ustvolskaya, Composition No. 1 (“Dona nobis pacem”) for tuba, piccolo, piano; featuring Tom Curry, Iva Ugrcic, and Vincent Fuh. Curry’s debut solo album is available from Summit Records: https://www.summitrecords.com/release/alight-tom-curry/

Ep. 4: Narrative of “The Alpine Chough”

Messiaen includes a written account of his birdsong collecting tour in the preface to each movement of the Catalog. Read as a quasi-ethnographic account of the ecology around him, the prefaces can also be interpreted as a type of narrative. This episode explores the place and birds of the first movement of the Catalog, followed by a union of Messiaen’s written account with a musical performance of “Le Chocard des Alpes” (The Alpine Chough). Guest: Mark Berres, ornithologist.

Transcript & Citations

 

Ep. 3: Natural Sounds in Musical & Social Practice

Music history is full of examples of composers who used environmental sounds in their works, notably Ludwig van Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, in which he uses Western instruments to mimic the sounds of three different species of birds. In the 20th century, composers were able to use recordings of natural sound in their works, but not without problematic entanglements. Guest Craig Eley discusses the connections between recorded sound and environmentalism. Musical performance: Le Merle Noir for flute and piano.

Transcript & Citations

 

Ep. 2: The Language of Birdsong

How does one translate sounds of the forest to the manuscript page, or even describe a natural sound in language? Do Messiaen’s transcriptions succeed? Guests: Mark Berres, ornithologist, and Steve Dembski, composer. Musical performance: “L’alouette Lulu” (Song of the Woodlark) from the Catalog.

Transcript & Citations