An immersive program featuring Loretta Notareschi’s ‘Bordoncello’

<p>(Photo: Courtesy Loretta Notareschi)</p>
<p>Composer Loretta Notareschi</p>

Most contemporary composers rarely hear their music performed live and often have no control over how it's presented in concert. Composer & Curator asks an artist to design a dream program around a piece they've written and explain their selections.

Photo: Composer Loretta Notareschi
Composer Loretta Notareschi

Her other selections also play with drones and immersive soundscapes.

"Some pieces take you on a journey," she says. "Others put you in a particular kind of space. These pieces all tend toward the latter idea, each creating a unique soundscape that welcomes the listener for a time."

Loretta Notareschi, "Bordoncello" for cello and live electronics

"Bordoncello," whose title is an amalgam of the Italian for “drone” and “cello,” is for live laptop and cello improvisation.

The laptop part is played on a virtual instrument called the Drone Machine, which I built using the interactive electronics software Max. "Bordoncello" is the second in a series of pieces for the Drone Machine and live instruments. The first was Bordone (from 2012), and the third is Bordonquartet (also from 2014).

The Drone Machine allows for the layering of filtered drones and the playing of other synthesized and sampled sounds. The laptop player also plays an amplified telephone pickup over the laptop.

Into this evocative soundscape, the cello enters with its own otherworldly timbres, including sul ponticello (a glassy sound), harmonics, slap and ordinary pizzicato (plucked), glissando (sliding), and noise made through overpressure with the bow.

I wrote this piece to satisfy my desire to be enveloped in a sound world of complex, layered long tones and slowly-developing melodic and noisy material. Performed by Richard vonFoerster on cello and myself on live electronics.

Pauline Oliveros, "Bye Bye Butterfly"

Composer Pauline Oliveros notes that this piece “bids farewell not only to the music of the 19th century but also to the system of polite morality of that age and its attendant institutionalized oppression of the female sex. The title refers to the operatic disc, 'Madame Butterfly' by Giacomo Puccini, which was at hand in the studio at the time and which was spontaneously incorporated into the ongoing compositional mix.”

I love this piece because of its combination of searing electronic tones combined with haunting operatic vocals. I also am fascinated by the symbolic meaning of the piece, in the way that it both reflects and protests the oppression of "Madame Butterfly" by alternately admitting and drowning out her voice.

Oliveros’ piece relates to "Bordoncello" in that it also combines electronic sounds with acoustic (although in this case, the acoustic music is pre-recorded). It also displays a similar compositional patience, taking its time to develop a sound world from a limited palette of sounds.

Nico Muhly, "Drones and Violin" for violin and piano

Muhly notes on his website that "Drones and Violin" begins each movement with a drone held in either the piano or the violin, which continues for the duration of the movement.

I like the way the other part sometimes sings, sometimes dances, and sometimes shivers around these drones, creating a satisfying mix of static and moving materials. This piece relates to "Bordoncello" in its use of drones plus another constantly shifting element.

Morton Feldman, "Rothko Chapel" for soprano, alto, mixed choir, percussion, celeste, and viola

Morton Feldman wrote "Rothko Chapel" after visiting that space in 1971. He was friends with Mark Rothko, whose paintings hang in the chapel.

I love this piece because of its quiet, introspective textures and the gentle surprise that rewards the listener toward the end of the piece. It relates to "Bordoncello" in the way that it invites meditation in an intimate sonic space.

Loretta Notareschi's music has been performed throughout the U.S., South America and Europe. In Colorado, groups that have performed her work include students and faculty at Regis University, including the Regis Collegium Musicum; by the Playground Ensemble at the King Center; on the Pendulum Series at the University of Colorado; on the Denver Eclectic Concert Series; and the Boulder Symphony.

Notareschi, an associate professor of music at Regis University, recently debuted her piece "Bordonquartet" with the Spektral Quartet. She recently completed a piece for Laramie County Community College's New Music Ensemble and is working on new music for the Playground Ensemble.