Elodie Lauten's musical
career spans 3 decades. She has earned a place in music history and is
widely recognized as a pioneer of post-minimalism with 18 CDs on more
than 10 labels. The importance of her work is acknowledged in Music in
the 20th Century by Kyle Gann (Schirmer), La Musica Minimalista by Giovanni
Antognozzi (Rome), John Schaefer's New Sounds (Harper & Row) and the recently
published Soho - The Rise and Fall of an Artists Colony by Richard Kostelanetz
In 2003, following the premiere by the SEM Ensemble Orchestra in New York, Lauten's Symphony 2001 was recognized as "the first true post-minimalist symphony" (Village Voice). Current projects include River Meditations, a video installation in collaboration with artist Rosalind Schneider to be shown at the Hudson River Museum for 8 consecutive months, starting in October 2003; a new chamber opera, OrfReo, to be premiered next year at Merkin Hall; and The Wish of the Quickening Moon, for the Zendora Dance Company.
Lauten has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (1985), The Massachusetts Council on the Arts (1987), ASCAP (every year since 1987), Meet the Composer (83, 86, 96,97, 99, 01), the American Music Center Music Liberty Initiative (2001) and commissions from Lincoln Center (1988), the Soho Baroque Opera (1996), Harpsichord Unlimited (97, 98, 99, 03), The Lark Ascending (1999), The Bozeman Symphony Society (2000). Lauten's compositions include: pieces for piano - solo piano as well as piano & tape (electronic, computer-generated and/or concrete): Piano Works (1983), Piano Sonatas (1985-86), Blue Rhythms (1988), Variations on the Orange Cycle (1995), The Mystery of the Elements (2002); electronic pieces: The Soundless Sound (1989), Tronik Involutions (1994), Inscapes form Exile (1995), S.O.S.W.T.C. (2001); multimedia operas: The Death of Don Juan (1987), Existence (1991); chamber operas and song cycles: The Deus Ex Machina Cycle (1997), Irrational Synergies (1998), Waking in New York (1999); pieces for the Trine, her custom-designed electro-acoustic lyre: Magnetic Fields (1985), Music for the Trine (1988), Harmonic Protection Circle (2003); chamber music (solos, trios, quartets and sextets); orchestral music: the 7-movement Symphony 2001, composed in celebration of the millennium.
Approximately 90% of her output has been premiered and released.
Elodie Lauten studied classical piano. With her father, jazz composer Errol Parker, she acquired a deep understanding of improvisation. Her first composition was well-received at the Paris Museum of Modern Art (1972), when she was 22. Shortly after, she moved to New York where she was discovered by poet Allen Ginsberg. During the 70s she took an active part in the music scene. During the 80s, she started producing and releasing her own music; she studied privately with LaMonte Young; spiritual discipline and the study of Buddhism were an integral part of her training; she was a disciple of Sri Chinmoy, Paramahansa Yogananda and Chogyam Trungpa; she received a Master's in composition from New York University where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Indian classical music with Ahkmal Parwez.
During the 90s she took a 2-year 'sabbatical' in New Mexico to concentrate on her compositions; she was voted #1 keyboardist of the year by an internet poll (1998), and her music appeared on labels in the U.S. and Europe: Lovely Music, O.O. Discs, New Tone (Italy), Nonsequitur, Tellus, Frog Peak, Point/Polygram, Capitol and 4-Tay, as well as her own Studio 21.
Critics have hailed
Elodie Lauten's music in the US and abroad as "an extraordinary revelation…a
fixture of future musical lexicons" (England), "wonderfully exciting music"
(Netherlands), "food for the soul" (Canada), "elegiac melodies" (The New
York Times), "grand work that we are likely to return to again and again"
(21st Century Music), "mesmerizing" (Option Magazine), "powerful, spontaneous
and enlightening" (Santa Fe Sun.) She has been called "a composer of enchanting
music… a seminal figure... one of the leading postminimal composers…a
major talent (The Village Voice), "a musical magus in the Renaissance
tradition" (Chicago Reader), "a force on the new music scene" (Fanfare).
Lauten's Variations on the Orange Cycle (Lovely Music, 1998) was included
in Chamber Music America's list of 100 Best Works of the 20th Century
"A composer of enchanting
music, one of New York’s most individual voices of the present generation."
"A seminal figure... one of the leading postminimal composers."
"Elodie Lauten’s music
extract order from chaos." "Elegiac melodies...pungent and intriguing."
One of America’s premiere post-minimalist composers." DOWNTOWN EXPRESS "
A force on the new music scene." FANFARE "
A musical magus in the Renaissance tradition." THE CHICAGO READER
About Waking in New York:
"The poetry of Allen Ginsberg has inspired a wide range of composers
from Lee Hyla (whose Howl pits the Kronos Quartet against a recording
of Ginsberg reading his celebrated poem) to Philip Glass (whose Ginsberg
settings include the eclectic Hydrogen Jukebox and Symphony
#6 which is a Mahlerian adaptation of Ginsberg's "Plutonian Ode").
In terms of authenticity, however, all are trumped by Elodie Lauten, who
actually was Ginsberg's roommate during the 1970s. Lauten's Waking
in New York, a poly-stylistic musical melange residing somewhere between
musical theatre and a requiem, is Lauten's moving memorial to her creative
mentor who encouraged her to pursue a career as a composer."
Lauten reveals greater
artistry the further
beneath the surface, successfully marking the leaps in Ginsberg's own
impressionistic narrative with appropriate changes in metre and key.
Strange but oddly
compelling work...often wild and marvelously demented chord changes...
this is a music of Gotham updated to our times, immortalized by one of
its best poetic voices, and put in motion by a composer in tune with the
pulse of her city."
A Libretto via Ginsberg captures a City's Spirit
When she found them, both in direct references and by implication, she incorporated them into her setting in the form of blues melodies, the soulful wail of the gospel singer, hints of jazz and the insistent rhythms and bright melodies of pop music. Perhaps most crucially, she presented Ginsberg's texts with clarity and directness, never obscuring his ideas or pacing for the sake of a purely musical effect.
About The Deus Ex Machina Cycle:
"A grand work that we are likely to return to again and again… timelessly beautiful… Unquestionably Lauten’s own is this fascinating combination of baroque and earlier musics with contemporary concerns." 21ST CENTURY MUSIC
"A marvelous piece of music… performed on this CD with admirable exactitude and with the immediacy of a live recording….Although startlingly new at times I very soon recognized the rightness, the fitness of The Deus Ex Machina Cycle. I doubt that I will be alone in this recognition.…Elodie Lauten is set to become a fixture of future musical lexicons." NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL (England)
"A spiritual complexity that is no stranger to the best works of the classical chamber music tradition." CHAMBER MUSIC AMERICA
"Wonderfully exciting music." OPZIJ (Netherlands)
"This work merits a major recording as soon as possible." THE SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER
About Tronik Involutions:
"Mesmerizing keyboard work. The music on this CD is quite extraordinary." OPTION MAGAZINE
"Powerful, spontaneous and enlightening." THE SANTA FE SUN
"Unforgettable. Sounds like food for the soul." NOW MAGAZINE (Canada)
"An extraordinary revelation." NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL (England)
Additional biographical information
Since the 1970’s Lauten has researched universal correspondence systems found in both Eastern and Western cultures: Indian Vedic cosmologies, the European esoteric tradition (including Kepler and Newton), the Chinese I Ching, as well as the work of modern mathematicians Cousto and Mandelbrot in order to ultimately find a universal life pattern to use as a template to create music.
This approach leads to questioning the validity of equal temperament and even the reference pitch generally used, in terms of their relation to universal principles and patterns, and led Lauten to experiment with poly-microtonality on custom-built and/or custom-tuned instruments: harp, harpsichord, synthesizer piano and the Trine, a triangular-shaped amplified lyre of her own design.
As a result, Lauten’s works include pieces in equal temperament as well as other alternative tunings/temperaments such as just intonation, Pythagorean, Vallotti and other custom tunings or poly-microtonal tuning combinations.
The idea of universal correspondence is a source of inspiration and of many interpretations in Lauten’s work, as a macro-composition tool, to organize an entire body of work, or in micro-composition, in the programming of rhythmic patterns, the use of concrète, the stacking of tones, or in Universal Mode Improvisation, Lauten’s idiomatic style, in which the same modal scale is used both harmonically and melodically.
Examples of this can be found in her piano music and electronic works TRONIK INVOLUTIONS and INSCAPES FROM EXILE. Integrating improvisation into her compositions has been a constant interest - she is the daughter of Errol Parker, the well-know jazz pianist/ drummer/ composer. Born in Paris in 1950, Lauten began studying piano at age 7, and dates her first composition to her twelfth year. Responding to the urgings of her family, she gained admission to the prestigious Institut d’Etudes Politiques at age 18, and three years later received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. In 1972 an opportunity came her way to compose and perform music for a play by Dashiell Hedayat at the Paris Musée d’art moderne, and with this success, she decided devote her life to making music. Shortly thereafter, Lauten came to New York City - indeed as to a cultural Mecca in the early seventies.
She was discovered by American poet Allen Ginsberg, whose purchase of a Farfisa organ for her dramatically changed the course of her musical career, exposing her to the possibilities of music produced electronically. Ginsberg also introduced her to Buddhism. She moved permanently to New York and became active on the music scene in the late 70s, performing at the Ear Inn, A’s, CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City, the Mudd Club, Folk City, Inroads and The Kitchen. She held a 12-hour music marathon at White Columns Gallery and was featured on several Cable TV shows produced by Glen O’Bryan and Michel Auder.
During the 1980s she studied the basics of Indian music with LaMonte Young; meditation with Sri Chinmoy, composition with Dinu Ghezzo; and Northern Indian music with Akhmal Parwez, as well as production on the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument, on which she programmed her first opera THE DEATH OF DON JUAN. The years of study culminated in a Master of Arts Degree in Electronic Composition from New York University in 1986. PIANO WORKS (1983 release, Cat Collectors), a series of piano pieces accompanied by sound effects and sequenced rhythms, was featured on WNYC, premiered at the Dance Theatre Workshop and subsequently performed at the New York Theatre Ensemble.
Her first major review appeared in the Village Voice, by Gregory Sandow. That year Lauten curated a series of Solo Works by Composers sponsored by Public Access Synthesizer Studio (now Harvestworks) and presented an electronic sound installation at Small Walls Gallery. In 1984, the CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRAL MEMORY was released (Cat Collectors), premiered at Columbia University, and performed at Roulette. OEDIPUS REX was commissioned by the Robert Streicher Dance Company.
THE SOUNDLESS SOUND, a sound installation/interactive performance based on the experience of silence (and research on Vedic hierarchies) was premiered at Experimental Intermedia. Several other sounds installations and performance/installations followed, at the Whitney Museum (Action Music, 1985) and at Penine Hart Gallery (1988).
THE DEATH OF DON JUAN, Lauten’s multimedia opera, based on the Scale of Number Seven matrix (inspired by the work of McGregor Mathers), involves a correspondence system translated into a series of musical patterns programmed on computer. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985 (Opera and Musical Theatre program) the opera was released in the Fall of 85 (Cat Collectors) and was premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston with support from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts (1987). Pioneering multimedia, the piece combined four sopranos, microtonal harp, Trine, harpsichord, cello, trombone, synthesizer, and computer-generated rhythm tracks interacting with narratives and a video installation.
Lauten married architect Carl Karas in 1986. That year the SONATE ORDINAIRE was premiered at Merkin Hall with a live WNYC broadcast. Lauten received a commission from the Elinor Coleman Dance Company for two works, SHE-WOLF and TANGO, premiered at St. Marks Church. Tellus released the Tango the following year.
In 1988 BLUE RHYTHMS was released on CD (Cat Collectors). Lauten received a commission from Lincoln Center (Serious Fun Series), performed at City Hall (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Bel Canto Series), Baca Downtown, Alice Tully Hall and LaMama. She received a residency from Real Art Ways for REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, a series of narrative pieces based on the work of Marcel Proust. The work was presented as a sound sculpture installation at Penine Hart Gallery (1988) with sculptures designed and built by Carl Karas. In 1989, a residency at the Center for Electronic Music allowed further exploration of THE SOUNDLESS SOUND with digital programming and recording. The new work was presented at LaMama in October1991.
In 1990 Lauten began a new multimedia opera, EXISTENCE. Excerpts were performed at LaMama with soprano Dora Ohrenstein. Subsequently, Lauten received residencies from Film Video Arts and Experimental Television Center for the completion of the video material for the new work. Premiered in 1991 at the Performing Garage, it featured a computer-generated video installation and performers including a narrator, two sopranos, a tenor, two percussionists, piano and synthesizer. In the summer of 1991 she produced a memorable performance at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street where she had a harpsichord brought in and a line-up including Arthur Russell on amplified cello.
In 1992 an excerpt of her MUSIC FOR THE TRINE (Lauten’s custom-designed microtonal lyre) was released on The Aerial #4 (Nonsequitur). She produced studio recordings of EXISTENCE. The year 1992 marks the death of her close friend cellist/composer Arthur Russell. His music was posthumously released by Point on a CD entitled ANOTHER THOUGHT, which contains a collaboration, Miracle. In 1993 Lauten and her husband moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
THE GAIA CYCLE, a new electronic work based on a correspondence with the rotation of the earth and the yearly cycle was premiered at LaMama. Despite a snowstorm the night of the performance, Bernard Holland from the New York Times came and gave it an insightful review. Lauten's entire catalogue of works became available in Europe through Silenzio Diztribuzione (Rome, Italy). In 1994, in Albuquerque, she participated in the soundtrack of a documentary for TBS, THE NATIVE AMERICANS (Capitol Records).
She released TRONIK INVOLUTIONS on her own label Studio 21 and it received critical acclaim nationally in Option Magazine, The Santa Fe Sun, The Chicago Reader and internationally in Now Magazine (Canada), New Hope International (England) and Tango Magazine (Lithuania). In 1995 Lauten toured in Canada and the Northeast. She was featured in the Chicago Arts Festival.
Pianist Lois Svard premiered VARIATIONS ON THE ORANGE CYCLE at Merkin Hall. Lauten performed her IMPRESSIONS OF NEW MEXICO at Experimental Intermedia. Over the summer 1995 she completed the orchestration of the first part of the DEUS EX MACHINA CYCLE, and returned to New York. In 1996, Lauten performed UNKNOWN PRESENCE AT THE MESA, for electronic keyboard, tape and flute with Andrew Bolotowsky at The Kitchen.
DEUS EX MACHINA, a song cycle for sopranos and Baroque ensemble, was commissioned by the Soho Baroque Opera and premiered on Earth Day (April 22, 1996). She participated in the Soho Arts Festival. She received a residency at Bucknell University. She performed at LaMama La Galleria, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council presented a full program of her music at the World Trade Center. She appeared at the Knitting Factory. TRONIK INVOLUTIONS was re-released by O.O. Discs in October 1996. This marks Lauten’s first national and international release.
Following the release, the Green Dolphin poll on the Internet placed Lauten on top of the list of the world’s best electronic keyboardists.
THE DEUS EX MACHINA CYCLE was presented in two parts, both at Merkin Hall, the first in October 1997, by the Interpretations Series/World Music Institute and the second by John Schaefer’s New Sounds Live from Merkin Hall for WNYC and simultaneously broadcast. DISCOMBOBULATIONS was premiered at the Festival of Microtonal Music.
1998 marks two important releases.The VARIATIONS ON THE ORANGE CYCLE, performed by pianist Lois Svard, released by Lovely Music. The Variations were later included in a Chamber Music America’s list of the 100 Best Works of the 20th Century by Frank Oteri. New Tone released INSCAPES FROM EXILE, a series of electronic pieces about the New Mexico experience.
In 1998 Lauten also presented a new version of THE SOUNDLESS SOUND, her lifetime experiment on the sound of silence, entitled INITIATION, at the Knitting Factory. She also performed THE SOUNDLESS SOUND at the Federal Reserve Gallery in Boston, in the context of a group exhibition curated by the Boston Visionary Cell. In July 1998 she lost her father Errol Parker, who died of cancer at 72.
In 1999, The first production of her new chamber opera WAKING IN NEW YORK, based on a libretto given to her by Allen Ginsberg 6 months before he died, was presented by Music Under Construction.
IRRATIONAL SYNERGIES, settings of poems by Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein, for baritone and chamber orchestra, was commissioned by The Lark Ascending and premiered at the Church of St. Paul.
The Queen’s Chamber Band premiered LUNATICITY at Merkin Hall, a Harpsichord Unlimited commission. Lauten also premiered DOUBLE X at the American Festival of Microtonal Music.
The year 2000 was mostly devoted to the composition of SYMPHONY 2001, commissioned by the Bozeman Symphony Society, to be premiered in April 2001. A 50th Year Retrospective concert was presented by Music Under Construction, to coincide with the release of a limited edition Retrospective CD.
In 2001, a new production of WAKING IN NEW YORK with Downtown Music Productions took place at the 14 St Y. This production was well received by the New York Times and the Village Voice.
In the summer 2001, Lauten was invited by Le Cercle des Piroumanes to do a series of solo, site-specific performance in Pirou, Normandy. She performed TRONIK INVOLUTIONS in the Ought One Festival in Vermont. Later that year she released S.O.S.W.T.C., her response to the events of 9/11, and premiered the work with video and choreography at the Williamsburg Art Historical Center.
In 2002, WAKING IN NEW YORK was included in the Snug Harbor Festival. Lauten released The Mystery of the Elements for piano and synthesizer, and this work was premiered at the Greenwich House Music School, along with a setting of Michael Andre's piece Sex and pre-anti-post-modernism for voice and contrabass.
In 2003, Symphony 2001 was premiered by the S.E.M. Orchestra conducted by Peter Kotik. WAKING IN NEW YORK was released on 4-Tay. The Harmonic Protection Circle, a new microtonal piece for Trine and electric guitar, was premiered at Music Under Construction. The Hudson River Museum presented a video installation by Rosalind Schneider featuring Lauten's Mystery of the Elements soundtrack.
Photo: Evan Ward, 2000