Program Notes



i feel a profound connection to György Kurtág and his music and had the unique opportunity of spending an evening with the 90-year-old composer last November in Budapest. His serious demeanor belies a deep generosity of spirit; he is an extraordinary man. The extreme compactness of his music shows the clear influence of the early 20th-Century German composer Anton Webern but there is something undefinable that recalls Béla Bartók, another great Hungarian composer.

We’ve come to expect classical music to tell a story but this highly perishable music instead seeks to create a specific atmosphere rather than follow the tradition of conflict/resolution common to narrative. Each “microlude” is its own miniature self-contained world. While Kurtag’s highly abstract and lonely music should be approached as primary text, I thought it might be helpful to share some images that have appeared to me during the process of preparing these works.

#1: Continental drift - the sound, sped up many millions of times faster, of tectonic plates gliding over one another and being subducted into molten lava.

#2: Fitful dream-sleep at 2:14 AM accompanied by the unearthly sound of a lone moth flitting against the window in the light cast by a full moon.

#3: Deadlines deadlines too much to do phone won’t stop everyone needs something from me wants something no time no time..take a…deep……breath……………deadlines deadlines too much to do phone won’t stop…..

#4: Small frogs and one enormous bullfrog gossiping during an early evening rain shower in summer.

#5: Exploring an uncharted planet, a scout ship stumbles across a final message of farewell, thousands of years old, from the last member of a long-extinct, super-advanced but dying civilization.

#6: Feeding time at the aquarium - an enormous grouper glides by slow and majestic while small fish intermittently splash violently at the surface, scrambling for food.

#7: Suddenly slipping hard on black ice - shock, hurt, the wind knocked out of you, then veeeery slowly and painfully getting to your feet and hobbling away.

#8: This is how it feels trying not to lose your temper after you have taken the morning off to spend two hours

waiting at the DMV to contest an unfair and expensive parking ticket and finally reaching the window only to be told by an officious city worker “Sorry, I can’t do anything about this, you have to pay the ticket, sir.”

#9: A gliding solitary swim before sunset in a cool Canadian lake feeling powerful stroke after stroke as mayflies skip lightly over the surface of the water.

#10: Dance of the Spider Shrimp at the bottom of the ocean.

#11: A paranoid British spy crossing nighttime Budapest on the eve of war in an impenetrable fog, the rare gas lamp casting an eerie orange glow, occasionally encountering sinister strangers who emerge suddenly out of the murk only to vanish just as fast.

#12: A small demon child, alone, plays make-believe games while singing a made-up song to itself.

Program notes by David Yang