(scroll down for video of performance)
NOCTURNAL SPIRIT is the latest incarnation of Christopher Kaufman’s HUDSON VALLEY MUSIC, which was originally commissioned by Barbara Oldham and Quintet of the Americas for their 30th anniversary. Since the first tour of some 14 performances, Kaufman has ‘re-imagined’ this work for various soloists and ensembles, therefore HVM is constantly evolving. Kaufman has created versions for ensembles such as Ensemble Pi and The Society for New Music, soloists such as world renowned flutist/composer Robert Dick and even full orchestra (the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra). The full work tells a story moving from the Long Island Sound up through the Hudson River Valley and into mythological space. VISIT: for more.
This new unique work, NOCTURNAL SPIRIT for String Quartet was created for the AMERNET QUARTET. This dynamic world-class ensemble premiered it at the National Opera Center, 9/13/2016.
NOCTURNAL SPIRIT begins with a Nocturnal Scene… you will hear music created by night creatures and others such as rattlesnake, tree and field crickets, bats, wolves, coyotes, red-wing blackbird, bear and moose against a backdrop of wind sounds… a kind of ‘music concrete’, and then the Quartet takes over with music which imitates these creatures. The music builds to a few climaxes before subsiding into wind. Then Oceanstorm music and the CHORUS OF ANIMALS ensue which initiates the second movement, the full title of which is …and the Earth is our Spiritual House… You will hear the animal characters humpbacked whales (referenced below), dolphins, beluga… and then again the bear and moose. Wolfsong brings in the Quartet once again and they take over with passionate phrases of newly composed music written for them… the phrases subside into a texture built of muted trumpet, harp, background strings and wind as the animal characters return while the players perform music of variable texture.
The *video has been mirroring this story all along and during this most recent phase you will see images of outer space, and then the Earth from far away and getting closer. The visuals burst slowly into clouds and soon the cello begins a new phrase of music, which the others join and the music works into an expressive phrase climax. The background texture returns and the musicians react to powerful raptor sounds mixed with dolphin sirens. The music reaches a final culmination, explosive eruptions occur which can be interpreted in a variety of ways… as an intensified image of the Hudson River Valley fills the screen. The echoes recede and the image titled EARTHSTAR appears and fades.
*The video is comprised of natural imagery and the art of the well-known and highly regarded environmental artist Ken Cro-Ken.
Embedded in this work is an homage to my beloved teacher Karel Husa. Mr. Husa was my teacher when I was a student of music composition at Cornell University. At Cornell is ‘The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’ which is basically a library of thousands of natural sounds. Most of the hundreds of natural sounds you will hear in HVM and its progeny come from this source, others come from my sound libraries from my work in film.
Some years ago there was a young man, of whose name I am unaware, who worked in ‘The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’ and was avid for Mr. Husa to hear whale songs which had captured his imagination. Mr. Husa was busy and put him off and the fellow eventually left the sounds on Mr. Husa’s answering machine, which tells you this story was from earlier days… the result was that Mr. Husa loved the whale music and the sounds inspired the ending of his great masterpiece ‘Apotheosis of This Earth’ and later work, especially his Sonata for Violin and Piano! In this music, Nocturnal Spirit, you will hear whale song in the second movement. They are the same sounds as were left on Mr. Husa’s answering machine!… Thus the homage.
Please enjoy below the world premier performance of Christopher Kaufman’s Nocturnal Spirit by the AMERNET QUARTET.
Other versions of HVM ready to go; Woodwind Quintet (full vrs. and shorter derivation), Mixed Quartet (vln, cl, vc, pno), Sextet (fl, cl, vln, hn, pno), Full Chamber Orchestra and soloists (flute, oboe, horn and tuba). Any other combination possible at reasonable rate. Contact composer at jmusic800 at gmail dot com.