Elodie Lauten: Recent Reviews 2005-11

The Death of Don Juan
by Mark Greenfest
May 18, 2011



The Death of Don Juan
by Nick Birns
The Tropes of Tenth Street
May 8, 2011



Psychotronic Sonics:
Elodie Lauten

Summer 2010
by Jay Somerset


“Captivating and utterly compelling.” Other Music

Vibrant.” The Wire

“Lauten's concerto continues to be an untamable wild ride, a fascinating compositional model”. New Music Box

“Excellent find.” Vital Weekly

The two-disc collection of piano music (composed and performed) by Elodie Lauten had me entranced from the opening of the first track. Jay Batzer, Sequenza21

These early works contain the seeds, and the early flowering, of the traits that have made Elodie Lauten such a consistently interesting composer for such a long time: a keen ear for the emotional content of a sound or a tuning; the rhapsodic character of her playing; and a mysterious, almost mystical approach to inspiration, improvisation and performance practice. None of that goes out of date.” John Schaefer, WNYC


Elodie Lauten: Piano Works
by Jay Batzner
July 15, 2010

I was surprised when the two-disc collection of piano music (composed and performed) by Elodie Lauten had me entranced from the opening of the first track: Cat Counterpoint.  I approached this particular track with a fair amount of apprehension.  I’ve simply been around too many instances of composers using their pet’s meanderings on music instruments as source material.  Any hesitation I felt towards the track melted away within seconds.  Instead of Lolcats, the room filled with driving and energetic punctuations.  You can’t judge a track by its title.

The collected Piano Works from 1983 take the lead on the first disc: Cat Counterpoint, Revelation, Adamantine Sonata, Alien Heart, and Imaginary Husband make for excellent character pieces as well as a cycle of works.  There is a foundation in minimalism present, as one would expect from an icon of the Downtown scene.  Lauten’s minimalist language is one full of play and punk, separating it from the austere minimalism found safely inside textbooks.  The underlying simplicity lends to a strong sense of flow over process.  Each piece creates a moment that rarely extends beyond itself nor do they need to extend.  These 1983 pieces were constructed with an ear and not a slide rule.  I find Adamantine Sonata particularly charming.

The inclusion of ambient sound and supporting electronics is frequent in the 1983 works and the technique is put in overdrive for Lauten’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory. This 1984 set uses a quilt of disconnected instrumental and electronic textures to create eight signature moments.  Each of these segments is strongly focused around a shape, texture, or groove and throughout the segment’s lifespan the idea simply is.  There is a zen element in this concerto, each track is totally of the moment.  Some listeners may want more of a sense of trajectory and dramatic shape but I am not among them.  These moments are what they are and as such they are fascinating.  The spacious Orchestral Memory and the cheeky Tempo di Habanera form polar opposites of affect and, for that very reason, appeal to me the most.  Disc one closes with a fairly straight-ahead Tango with a mournful and husky vocal line.

If you are looking for a deep end off which to go, then disc two will be happy to serve you.  Instead of many short tracks, disc two provides two beefy works: Variations on the Orange Cycle and Sonate Modale. Any criticisms laid out about disc one’s lack of trajectory can be laid to rest in Orange Cycle. Within the opening seconds I knew I was going to be here for a while, letting the hypnotic and resonant sounds wash over me, La Monte Young-style.  After about seventeen minutes, Lauten does the most amazing thing.  The low drone, the foundation of the very work, goes away.  The listener drifts and floats, untethered for some time, and when the low voice returns it is not the same static firmament we had left behind us.  Where I expected the drone to reassert itself, it never finds full strength again.  The piece closes on that drone pitch but with uncertainty, timidity, and quiet.  The world of the piece has changed and Lauten did not take the easy way out.  Variations on the Orange Cycle is worth every second.

Sonate Modale, in this live recording from Toronto in 1985, is a rather intimate experience.  I felt as though I was a fly on the wall while Lauten created all the 1983 pieces and theConcerto. The ambient electronic environments are cut from the same cloth as the earlier pieces and the live piano meanders through gestures and stream-of-consciousness improvisations.  Dramatically, the piece works well as a whole, as if Lauten decided to stich together the quilt of the Concerto.

Sounds Heards: Elodie Lauten - Piano Works Revisited
by Frank J. Oteri
March 8, 2010

Back in the days when there were a plethora of record stores in lower Manhattan that
trafficked in independent releases of new music, by total serendipity I picked up an LP
featuring music by Elodie Lauten. I was attracted by its provocative title, Concerto for
Piano and Orchestral Memory, and its somewhat mysterious cover. The cover consisted
of nine photographs—presumably from someone's apartment—including the top of a
kitchen stove and a cat on a bed, but also an upright piano and a synthesizer. There
wasn't much information about the piece, whose eight movements filled both sides, but I
took a chance anyway; I was really glad I did. As the vagaries of independent releases
go, it was not widely distributed and soon went out of print, and yet, as is so often the
case, the music it contained was extraordinary. It's a bizarre amalgam of minimalism,
musique concrète, free jazz, and psychedelic freakout that inexplicably all fits together

In subsequent years I heard many other works by Lauten, and became particularly
enamored with her hefty 1991-95 solo piano composition, Variations on the Orange
Cycle, performed by Lois Svard on Lovely Music. I also attended premieres of a few of
Lauten's operas and even got to know her and, as a result, I feel I have a better
understanding of her music. But the elusive qualities of that strange concerto, which I
will probably never completely understand, have always held a place of primary
importance in my heart. Although it certainly was not the earliest piece of postminimalism,
Lauten's 1984 concerto was probably the first piece of music I had ever
heard that would now qualify for the moniker. I was still an undergrad at Columbia and
the works that I was discovering on my own by Glass, Reich, Riley, and (when I was
lucky) La Monte Young were still new and a part of a secret, forbidden musical language.
But the idea that the formal processes of such music could somehow be loosened to
create an even more expressive and expansive idiom was perhaps an even more radical
idea, especially in an era when other formal processes from serialism to chance were still
something to aspire to if you wanted to write something that was more than "pop
music." And, potentially more shocking, Lauten's piece was clearly designed as a piece of
contemporary classical music—it's even called a concerto for goodness' sake—that
occasionally actually sounds like, gasp, pop music, and does so with absolutely no
remorse or self-conscious posing.

So it is with a combination of nostalgia and gratitude that I approach the
at-long-last reissued recording of Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory. It's
part of a 2-CD collection that also features the more introspective Sonate Modale
(1985) for piano and processed sounds, and Lauten's own fascinating solo piano
performance of the aforementioned Variations on the Orange Cycle, an improvisation
recorded in 1991, four years before she assembled the work into a notated score for
Svard. There's even a brief Tango for piano and voice from 1985 (in which we hear the
composer singing in the chanteuse vein engrained in her from growing up in France) and
five keyboard pieces from 1983. These five pieces were once also available on an LP,
whose original cover art graces this CD reissue, but I missed out on that record and so
had not heard them until now—they are also quite fascinating. Cat Counterpoint
combines a driving piano sequence with gurgly sounding analog synthesizer timbres,
whereas Revelation is a tad more ominous. Adamantine Sonata takes us into a feel
good, extremely high-energy sound world not terribly far removed from that of Terry
Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air, but one that sounds perhaps more Mozartian than the
Hindustani elements that permeate Riley's piece. But Alien Heart is somewhat more
impressionistic. Finally, Imaginary Husband combines Meredith Monkish piano figurations
with some difficult to identify pre-recorded sounds, including that of a man's voice,
sometimes talking and sometimes singing.

But the real highlight still remains Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory. From its
strident opening (titled "Allegro vivace"!)—in which an insistent 7/8 piano riff gradually
morphs into other meters and eventually gets submerged—through surreal soundscapes
and a kooky habanera leading to a somewhat apocalyptic sounding apotheosis, Lauten's
concerto continues to be an untamable wild ride. And her assembled "orchestral
memory" (which consists of a combination of sequencers and processed tapes with a real
time performance by Peter Zummo on trombone and a trio of string players, among them
the late, lamented split-personality—minimalist and disco—composer Arthur Russell on
cello) offers a fascinating compositional model for composers who want to explore the
powerful us-versus-them paradigm of the concerto form.

Overall this collection of Lauten's piano works is a wonderful portal back into an era when
the Downtown New York scene promulgated a music that combined so-called
compositional rigor with the energy of the nascent punk rock and new wave scenes. Wait
a minute…isn't this kind of beyond-genre cross-fertilization something that the spin
doctors claim has only just started recently with the rise of performance entities called
"bandsembles" who play gigs in venues like Le Poisson Rouge? Perhaps this is why
even though I personally feel a sense of nostalgia listening to these recordings, they still
sound completely new.

Review of Piano Works Revisited
February 2010
The Sound Projector
by Ed Pinsent

Beyabbers! More primo material from the amazing Elodie Lauten, the lost NYC minimalist dream-world cinematic creatrix of the 1980s, whose The Death Of Don Juan opera was something of a revelation to us last year. Now Unseen Worlds deliver the goods once again on this terriff double-CD collection Piano Works Revisited (UW05). Disc one rescues two of her rare private-press LPs originally released on her own Cat Collectors label, namely Piano Works from 1983 and Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory from1984. On the former, some taut and crisp work from Lauten playing five gorgeous compositions realised with piano, sequencer and sound loops; her use of electronics and tape is severe and sparing, emphasising the supremely romantic boniness of these evocative semi-surreal explorations, titled with such novelistic epithets as ‘Alien Heart’ and ‘Imaginary Husband’. On the Concerto music, she’s joined by Arthur Russell, Peter Zummo and others, adding strings and brass to her slightly more atonal and complex piano-based works, recordings where the vast Fairlight sampling computer is brought into play, adding a great spectral
cathedral-like quality to the overall sound. The second disc contains longer works from 1991 and 1985, one of them recorded live, not yet played at time of writing. I think the label are pretty excited about getting this one together, and with good reason.

Elodie Lauten: Gypsy Variations for piano trio
by Mark Greenfest
February 2009

Light and Sound Women Composers Concert Saturday, February 14 – 8 PM
The Old Stone House,
Brooklyn NY

Julianne Klopotic, violin
Jennifer Devore, cello
Elaine Kwon, piano

Ms. Lauten, who is a Parisian transplant to New York, wrote 108 variations for trio – gypsy style (is that why there’s “rom” in romantic?) – of varying color and mood. Ms. Lauten, whose writing about music can be found on the Internet, including at Sequenza21, is a passionate person herself, and the wide range of expressive feelings and timbral color is intensely beautiful and astonishing.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
Stephen Eddins
September 25, 2008

French-born, American-based composer Elodie Lauten was one of the most intriguing Post-minimalist composers to emerge in the 1980s. It's easy to hear repetitive structures, additive layers and harmonic stasis in her 1984 opera, The Death of Don Juan, but her handling of Minimalist materials creates a unique sound that makes her work stand out from that of Glass, Reich and Riley. Critic John Schaefer aptly describes her style as a blend of "Satie-like lyricism, Minimalist keyboard patterns, brooding electronics, gentle Impressionism, and tapes of everyday noises." The simultaneity of all these elements in the opera makes for a dense and complex texture that still manages to sound delicate. The opera, which last less than an hour, structurally resembles Glass' Satyagraha somewhat in its establishing a single mood and musical ambience for each section, and letting it play itself out in subtly shifting patterns and reconfigurations. An exception is the final scene, which begins with a simple chanting of the Kyrie and builds in power through an increasingly dissonant amalgamation of harmonic layers. The work isn't conventionally operatic, in the sense of having a clear narrative conveyed by bel canto voices, but its ritualistic scenes are strongly dramatic. The recording dates from a 1985 release, and is a welcome addition to the distressingly sparse selection of Lauten's music that's available on CD. Although the voices here aren't always the most beautiful, the singers and instrumentalists (some of whom both sing and play) perform with conviction and eloquence. The sound is atmospheric and present, and Lauten's use of electronics gives it a brightness characteristic of electro-acoustic music of the period.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
Massimo Ricci
September 4, 2008

The welcome reissue of a long unavailable LP dating from 1985, "The death of Don Juan" is an unusual opera in two acts that still captivates, despite the use of a by now prehistoric sampling instrument such as the Fairlight - plentifully featured in recordings by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush in the 80s - and post-minimalist choices that, without Lauten's genial work of concurrence, would sound rather out of time. The libretto is developed via a "nonlinear storyline" where an archetypical Don Juan looks at a death that resembles a woman, several concealed implications attributing additional significance to an otherwise pretty straightforward succession of scenes. Three levels of instrumental activity are present: the sampled orchestral segments (either fast plucked strings or slow woodwind patterns), the half-improvised instrumental parts and the multiple-language vocal involvement by Lauten herself and soprano Randy Larowitz. The "free" inserts comprise Arthur Russell on cello, Peter Zummo on trombone, Bill Raynor on guitar and the very composer on her custom-made Trine (a self-devised Lyre). Those who love the music of David Borden or Daniel Lentz should become fond of quite a few portions of this opus. There's a sort of romantic underlining of the inevitability of passing away which lets the listener understand the essence of an unwanted occurrence in the guise of a healing experience (the final "Kyrie", wholly constructed on abnormally wavering superimposed voices, is exemplary in that sense) and the structural faultlessness of the large part of the album - graced by a good dosage of polite idealism - helps us through reiterated listens, aural strain completely missing from the scene.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
WIRE, August 2008
Nick Cain

Elodie Lauten first surfaced in 1970s Manhattan, studying with LaMonte Young, collaborating with Allen Ginsberg and fronting a pink group called Flaming Youth, before shifting her attentions to experimental music and minimalism in the early 80s. Since then she's written microtonal and electroacoustic compositions, as well as works for theatre, chamber groups and orchestras, and has a couple dozen albums to her name.

Released in 1985 in a limited edition on Lauten's ownb Cat Collectors label, The Death of Don Juan is an opera, a genre which by the mid-80s had been thoroughly reinterpreted by Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach and Robert Ashley's Atalanta (Acts of God) and Perfect Lives. Compared to such epic, often bombastic works, Lauten's Don Juan is a model of restraint, and at tidy 51 minutes, concision.

Its events all take place in the mind of a Don Juan depicted as a contemporary artists confronting his emotional failings. Lauten's accompaniment essays a melancholic, spectral minimalism, shifting between layers of looped, Reich-like patterns, richly textured drones and rhythmic solos on trine a customized lyre. It conflates composed orchestral tracks with semi-improvised performances by a quartet of Arthur Russell on cello, trombonist Peter Zummo, guitarist Bill Raynor and Lauten on harpsichord. Bass and soprano vocals are sung in five different languages, with Lauten herself contributing alto and contralto.

Operaphobes should note that only half of the ten tracks contain singing and that one of them features a lovely vocal from Russell, whose own work has achieved such posthumous significance that it inevitably trails its own context. It shouldn't distra ct attention from this fascinating album.

One hopes its disinterral will promot reinvestigation of the diverse discography of Lauten, surely one of the more elusive and obscure figures to have emerged from New York's downtown scene.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
August 5, 2008

Like one of her mentors, La Monte Young, the microtonal composer Elodie Lauten is fond of funneling her music knowledge into passages of almost ascetic restraint. Like John Cage, she often gives these passages a mystical heft by yoking them to the vagaries of the I Ching and astrological systems of relation. On "Vision", from her recently re-released 1985 opera, The Death of Don Juan, Lauten plays a sort of electroacoustic lyre of her own devising, which she calls a Trine, referring to a certain planetary arrangement in astrology. "Vision" is aptly titled-- it seems to swim up from nowhere, as the great Arthur Russell's haunted humming and gusts of delay-drenched cello shimmer into being. It snaps into place as Lauten's sparkling Trine weaves itself through the rich grays and blues of Russell's voice like fiber-optic ivy, and peters out as Bill Raynor dribbles in mercurial electric guitar licks. Throughout the composition, insistent Fairlight CMI loops serve as a night-sky backdrop for Lauten's celestial billiards.


Lauten's The Death of Don Juan-- a more structured piece-- leaves me feeling more ambiguous. At her most conservative, she hugs traditions forged by Terry Riley or, to an extent, Steve Reich: motorized pentatonic-scale keyboard patterns overlapping endlessly, with melodies swelling out of the mix. In other sections-- "Duel" or "Despair"-- she hashes noise, samples, speech, and guitar, a marker of a time in composition where, especially in New York, "composers" could've easily been mistaken for lead singers or the homeless. (Among other downtown musicians on Don Juan, Arthur Russell, who traversed and unified art, rock, and classical worlds, plays cello and sings.) It's Lauten's unwillingness to settle-- Don Juan is alternately mystical and exuberant; it marches stiffly for minutes on end and then dissolves into noodling-- that makes it a milestone. As a recording, it has a remarkably diverse vocabulary. But the slang of 1985 is the vernacular of 2008, and even in Lauten's most beautiful moments, the work dates itself in distracting ways. Call it the unique burden of being an innovator.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
Other Music
July 30, 2008

Unseen Worlds continues its streak of timely, avant-garde reissues with the release of Elodie Lauten's long out of print post-minimalist opera, The Death of Don Juan. Born in France and immigrating to New York in the early '70s, Lauten fronted the all-female, avant-punk band Flaming Youth for a few years before devoting herself to a life of composing acoustic, electronic and electro-acoustic music, partly at the urging of her one-time roommate, Allen Ginsberg, who gave Lauten her first electronic instrument -- a Farfisa organ he bought for her from the Fugs. Lauten's first opera, composed in 1985 and premiered at Boston's ICA in 1987, The Death of Don Juan was met by great critical acclaim before lapsing inexplicably into obscurity. In recent years, however, there has been a renewed interest in the piece and it has been hailed as one of the major post-minimalist works of the '80s and "a great lost experimental record" by critics like Kyle Gann and Alan Licht. For many reasons Don Juan can be seen as both a way out of the reductive ends of minimalism as well as a great feat of musical synthesis. The tight repetitive patterns that open and appear throughout the piece are classic minimalism in the Philip Glass/Steve Reich vein, but as Lauten says, "I heard another layer of improvisation on top..." A devoted Tibetan Buddhist compelled by universal correspondences between frequencies, colors, planetary bodies, and well...everything, Lauten often structures her works on compositional matrixes she calls "Philosopher's Stones" -- esoteric looking grids of musical and extra-musical information that can be used to generate sequences of patterns, melodies and harmonies. Improvisers on this recording include guitarist Bill Raynor, Elodie Lauten herself on harpsichord and trine (a seven stringed lyre of her own invention), Peter Zummo on trombone and Arthur Russell on cello. Russell's unmistakable voice also figures prominently in some sections, in counterpoint to operatic soprano Randi Larowitz and Lauten's multilingual spoken and sung parts. Overall, The Death of Don Juan is a mysterious work, suggestive of a grand cosmic vision that attempts to include everything from the insistent, bouncing pulse of minimalism to the rich tonal subtleties of eastern music -- Lauten studied with LaMonte Young and Pandit Pran Nath -- and the emotional weight of early choral music. Lauten's investigation into the mythic nature of gender roles -- here, the aged Don Juan archetype encounters Death who is, of course, a woman -- provides yet another layer of meaning to an already dense fabric of associations. The reissue of this long-overlooked masterpiece of new music is sure to spark a new wave of interest in Lauten's work, which has continued to follow the myriad entangled threads laid out in Don Juan. Highly recommended and essential listening for fans of minimalism, Meredith Monk, Robert Ashley, etc. [CC]

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
Allegory of Allergies
by Ear/Rational-Cryptonymus
July 25, 2008

Lauten has been active in the downtown New York classical and punk scenes since moving from France in the 1970s. The Death of Don Juan is a breakthrough for its lyrical minimalism in combination with drama that actively engages a contemporary emotional experience. Originally self-produced and released as a small LP edition on her own label, it has been touted ever since by Kyle Gann, who adds notes to this edition, and was recently included on one of Alan Licht's Minimal Top Ten lists. Features performances by Arthur Russell and Peter Zummo." -- EAR/Rational

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
The North Coast Journal
By Spencer Doran
July 17, 2008

In the current world of modern composition, no movement has been more influential than minimalism. With the canon of bona fide first-generation minimalism set almost in stone with the big four (La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass), not much is left undiscovered. However, much less examined is minimalism’s second generation, with composers from across the globe who used the musical tools fleshed out by the first generation as starting points for the exploration of their own ideas. Elodie Lauten’s little-known 1985 piece, The Death of Don Juan, now rescued from obscurity by Austin label Unseen Worlds, is one such work, and a powerful one at that. A mixture of instrumental and vocal movements, the work stitches together various textures and compositional approaches into a complete two-act opera with an abstract, poetic libretto about the classic Don Juan archetype seeking redemption upon his death.

The album’s main tool is the Fairlight synthesizer, a then-cutting edge digital sampling keyboard/computer unit (famously used in the same era by musicians like Herbie Hancock, Kate Bush and Prince), which is utilized by Lauten as a tool for looping and sound manipulation, resulting in a form of Reich/Glass-influenced digital composition that sounds much like recent advancements in electronic music, especially minimalist-informed artists like Nobukazu Takemura. The extent that these advanced musical ideas are fully realized is stunning here. Instead of sounding like embryonic versions of music to come, Lauten’s musical language is fully formed to the extent that it sounds completely contemporary — no easy feat for a classical work. Plus, Lauten uses cutting-edge technical equipment of the time in a way that extends beyond simple experimentation into territory that is not only creative but also highly evocative, a feat only fully achieved in 1980s minimalism by Steve Reich with his piece “Different Trains,” which also utilized primitive sampling technology. It’s undeniable, listening to the album from the 2008 vantage point, that Lauten was mining new areas of musical expression that wouldn’t be fully discovered for decades to come.

Oddly, much of the renewed interest in the album likely comes from the presence of endlessly fascinating musical figure (and recent indie media darling) Arthur Russell, though Russell’s contributions to the piece are a mere portion of musical universe of the album. The opening to “Vision” could very well be from the sessions of World of Echo, Russell’s monolithic song cycle for solo cello/voice/echo effects, until the track morphs into interlocking Fairlight loops of hammered zithers and harpsichord atop cello and guitar improvisation. Russell’s distinct plaintive vocal style appears throughout the album as the tenor voice of Don Juan, overlapped with Lauten’s own alto to form a kind of male/female vocal exchange that is rarely seen in Russell’s work.

From a musical standpoint, Lauten’s electronic processes are the most interesting and engaging part of the work. Lauten uses the Fairlight to deconstruct: interlocking loops are created by playing musical fragments at different speeds simultaneously, creating a pulsating, kaleidoscopic world from brief moments in musical time. On “Duel,” two brief notes from Russell’s cello are sped up, slowed down and overlapped within the stereo field to construct a whole six-minute piece where the sample seems to fold out into a whole orchestra. On “Don Juan Enlightened,” trombone, harpsichord and vocal drones are stitched together to create a continuously sliding soundscape. Though these processes are a walk in the park with today’s music editing software, Lauten’s process was likely very time consuming, as Lauten re-programmed the Fairlight herself, using a complex system of matrix grids to digitally organize the structure of the piece. These repeating, layered fragments form a bed for subtle improvisations for instruments like Russell’s cello and Lauten’s electric lyre that stray from the repeated patterns just enough to break up their predetermined digital nature, resulting in a healthy balance between order and improvisational freedom. All in all the result is a complete experimental work of opera that doesn’t seem much like an experiment, and even less like an opera — instead we get a multi-faceted, thoughtful slice of modern composition and a high point for second-wave minimalism.

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
Other Music - Digital Music Store
by Max Gray

July 13, 2008

EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE RELEASE! Elodie Lauten's groundbreaking avant-opera, The Death of Don Juan, finally sees its first reissue in digital form. Hailed in 1985 by WNYC as one of the top 10 albums of that year, and more recently by Kyle Gann, as well as Alan Licht who pronounced the work as "one of the great lost experimental records of the '80s," this New York-based (by way of Paris) composer infused her neoclassical training with minimalism and microtonality (Lauten studied under LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela and Pandit Pran Nath) and created a seminal piece of music that is both meditative and mystical, reminding the listener equally of Tangerine Dream, Steve Reich and Arvo Part. It's truly captivating from the outset, with the opener's hypnotic, Riley-esque poly-rhythms of harpsichord, trine (her custom made electric lyre) and Arthur Russell's cello which slowly unfolds into the Eastern-influenced "Vision" whose floating delayed guitar work is reminiscent of Manuel Gottsching. The album then goes in a more haunting direction with Lauten and soprano Randi Larowitz singing and speaking in several languages over semi-improvised arrangements of wind instruments including Peter Zummo on trombone -- Russell even makes a vocal appearance on "Death of a Woman." Although Lauten developed much of The Death of Don Juan on a Fairlight synthesizer, the work resonates with human emotion and remains contemporary to this day. An essential introduction to a pioneering voice of post-minimalism. Highly recommended! Max Gray

The Death of Don Juan
Unseen Worlds
by David Toub
July 7, 2008

This is a reissue of an LP from 1985 of Lauten’s seminal postminimalist work, and it’s a pleasure to hear after all these years. While technically an opera (or rather, a “neo-opera”) in the same way that Glass’s Einstein is an opera, The Death of Don Juan is perhaps best described as a multimedia happening. In the end, it doesn’t matter what one calls it—the music is pretty compelling and the performance is definitive. The libretto was written by Elodie Lauten and relates to “timeless Don Juan archetype (staged asan unseen character, screen character or a multiple) facing death in the form of a woman, with a complex emotional, sexual, political and spiritual subtext that addresses concerns of our time.” The music is programmed from a matrix created by Lauten (The Scale of Number Seven), but I’m not sure any of this is critical to experiencing the music. So what does the music sound like? Some of it reminded me of the best of Laurie Spiegel, and even part of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, while other parts sounded like nothing else. In the end, however, the music defies description since it doesn’t fall into a neat package. And that’s to its credit—this is music to be listened to and experienced. I suspect that the work comes across differently in live performance, since it is an opera, after all. However, the music is very remarkable on its own, and I recommend anyone interested in minimalist or postminimalist music pick up this album.

Tango Tellus reissue
Continuo's weblog
March 2008


‘Tango’, #16 in the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine series, offers the unexpected pairing of contemporary downtown NY composers with vintage tango songs. It works though, contributors avoiding mimicry and impersonation, and the essence of tango being retaken by participants as slow, melodramatic songs, with added gusto and drama. Tango is merely a dotted line here, serving as rough guidelines to participants eager to emancipate themselves from any popular format, while seeking the intense, gripping mood of tango. I assume the complex choreography of this dance also appealed to the Tellus team as a kind of stage play, as they had always been interested in music theater, radio plays, radio art, etc. Tango is personified here by the legendary argentinian singer Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) with a couple of 78s from the 1930s, and by the late Jo Basile, aka Joss Baselli, a french bal musette accordion player from Paris 1950s-1960s. The latter got some fame in the US in 1958, when touring the country accompagnying french singer Patachou. His solo LPs on Audio Fidelity label then became big sellers in the US. His accordion playing on side B is typical french musette, though he was born in Italy. The ‘Tango’ Tellus tape was edited by the Harvestworks board (namely: Claudia Gould, Carol Parkinson & Joseph Nechvatal), but it seems engineer Gerald Lindahl contributed more than technical production and his input might be notable. A member of the Harvestworks organisation, Gerald Lindahl curated several Tellus cassettes (like number 5-6) in the 1980s. A noted singer as well, he regularly performed in NY during the 1980s, and was a member of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in 1991.

Some of the cassette strongest tracks on ‘Tango’ are solo piano recordings, the apt instrument to convey the south-american blue mood. A student of LaMonte Young during the 1980s, Paris-born Elodie Lauten (b1950) writes and improvise microtonal music on real instruments as well as electronics. Her solo piano improvisation ‘Tango’ is build on subtle microtonal chords and a poignant sadness which feels very Argentinian to this listener. Another solo piano track is the amazing live recording of Robert Sheff on piano, tape and keyboards. The song start like an ordinary piano melody before morphing into Cassiber-like synth+drum machine avant instrumental duo. For a one man performance, this interplay is quite phenomenal. Robert Scheff (b1945, Texas) is better known as NY just intonation blues composer ‘Blue Gene Tyranny’, also well known for his music reviews, for the All Musics Guide, for instance. And then the Christopher Berg is an extended, paced, semi-detached piano piece in Franz Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage mood, that is Europe late 19th c. romantic era. Of course, this beautiful piano piece is cued with the superb Fast Forward steel drum extravaganza, a rythmic and exotic affair. The epic track of ubiquitous David Garland ‘Play Within A Play’ is already known to this blog’s readers, since it was also part of 1986 Alchemy Magazine cassette (see previous post), and still an impressive mix of imaginative arrangements and cabaret-like atmosphere, thanks to the lively participation of Cinnie Cole and Zeena Parkins. Molly Elder is an unfamiliar name to me. Hercontribution to Tango is an all keyboards track in pre-illbient urban paranoia mood, a kind of surrealist film soundtrack. Matthew Nash contributes two charming keyboard vignettes. The ‘minuette’ is a variation of tango – something to do with french menuet? The Chris DeBlasio is an actual tango for piano and baritone voice. The compilers chosed to cue in the Keeler track (real name Keith Keeler Walsh), a barrage of drum machine and industrial keyboards preset sounds. Quite a shock, especially when what follows is another Carlos Gardel song. Mader concludes with a real tango, complete with spanish guitar.

Piano Soundtracks, 4Tay
New Music Box, 2005
Molly Sheridan
Buy this CD
Lauten has plenty of large-scale compositions on her resume, but there is much to be said for looking to the intimate and often confessional quality of solo work performed by the composer, when it's available, for a more complete vision of the artist. The stress of caring for her ill mother in Paris (during which the piece was developed) seems to have poured itself quite directly into this composition, an uneasy waterfall of notes which, poetically enough, includes reference to an old nursery rhyme. Lauten is no stranger to a keyboard, and her performance on this recording showcases that talent. —MS

OrfReo, 4Tay
American Record Guide
Jan-Feb 2008

Marshall Coid (Ray Johnson), Charlotte Surkin(Lethe), Meredith Borden (Persephone, Crow), Peter Castaldi (Lion); The Queen's ChamberBand/ Rudolph Palmer-4-Tay 11-30 minutes OrfReo(2004) is a short musical theater piece by Elodie Lauten (composer of Waking in NewYork, a theater piece about Allen Ginsberg, S/O2003). Her subject is the artist Ray Johnson,who drowned mysteriously off the coast ofLong Island in 1995. (He was the subject of John Waters's memorable 2002 documentary How to Draw a Bunny.) This is a semi-staged rehearsal of the work, set on the stage of Merkin Concert Hall in New York in front of an audience. The video is rather amateurishly produced, the music decently played and sung by these professional New York performers. Ms Lauten's piece is in neo-baroque mode, her small ensemble of flute, oboe, and strings supplied with expert continuo by harpsichordist Elaine Comparone and enthusiastic onstage conducting by Rudolph Palmer. Lauten's harmonies drift all over the map with her patented outer-space voice-leading-an ideal match for the thoroughly strange dramatic proceedings. Orfeo/Ray Johnson (Orf-Ray-o), in search of his beloved Beatrice (why not?), must cross the river Lethe (sung by dramatic mezzo Surkin). "Sing, Orfreo!", the river commands. Persephone appears in the form of a Crow (coloratura Borden): "Death is the only emperor of ice cream!", she chirps virtuosically. "You'll drown!", she warns. "Ray Johnson committed suicide by drowning!" Beatrice, as it turns out, is also Elodie (Lauten). Orfreo will free them both from hell. He is led offstage. The end. Subtitled 'The Orphic Death of Ray Johnson', the piece is simply too delightfully bizarre to criticize too much. The star of the show is countertenor Coid, who plays deceased artist Johnson attempting to cross the river. (Those who have seen the film men-tioned above might find it hard to imagine Mr Johnson as a countertenor, but remember he is simultaneously composer Lauten in this scenario.) Coid is of creamy voice and commanding presence; the spectacle is without a doubt something to see. This is essentially a memento of a performance of a piece not likely to be duplicated in the near future, so if you have an interest in this composer's unusual work you will want to investigate this release. I found it fun. No extras, short playing time.

Orfreo DVD, 4Tay
Colin Clarke
January 1, 2008

Elodie Lauten has been described as “a well-known unknown” and “a fixture of the New York scene.” Hers is not a name that seems to have travelled over to the U.K., but it was fascinating to receive this short opera. There are no accompanying notes to the physical DVD received, but a visit to www.elodielauten.net sorts that out. A full libretto is included online, plus commentary. This is a concert performance, with singers using music and with a black strip of cloth representing the river. The instrumentation is for string quartet, double bass, flute, and oboe. Lauten uses a Baroque template for her sound world here, which is remarkably effective. In a short space, Lauren says a lot, making the mysterious suicide of the artist Ray Johnson a point of departure (the work’s subtitle is “The Orphic Death of Ray Johnson”). Apparently a documentary, it consists only of the performance of June 2, 2004, at Merkin Concert Hall. Marshall Coid has a strong countertenor voice as Orf(r)eo. A shame the lighting, as rendered on the DVD, is rather inconsistent. He almost disappears into the blackness as he sings “What am I to do?” As Eurydice, Beatrice, and Persephone, Meredith Borden delightfully hams up her parts without negating the possibility of tenderness. Her opening lines swoop magnificently, and Borden responds with impressive pitching. Peter Castaldi’s bass-baritone is marvelously focused. In fact, all parts are dispatched with aplomb and more than a hint of affection for this appealing little piece. Charlotte Surkin is an imposing Lethe, especially when she asserts, “I want all men to sing to my rhythm.”

Lauten has provided here a diverting little piece whose economy of means and expression is entirely praiseworthy. More, the piece seemed to get better and better each time I experienced it.


In 2004, Fletcher Copp,
who knew Ray Johnson well, wrote about Orfreo:

Michael Andre, Man's Fate, Ray Johnson
Regarding the opera Orfreo by Elodie Lauten with libretto by Michael Andre.Performed by Elaine Comparone, harpsichord and the Queen's Chamber Band. Vocalists: Marshall Coid, countertenor; Peter Castaldi, baritone; Meredith Borden, soprano; Charlotte Surkin, mezzo-soprano. At Merkin Concert Hall, June 2, 2004. Michael Andre's opera Ofreo was not the melo-opera I was expecting. Not an "opera a clef" Andre explains. Those coming for a re-run of Ray Johnson's heydays and his fateful finish will find no John Willenbecker, no Billy Name, no Tobie Speiselman, and no William S. Wilson. Michael Andre has set Orfreo / Ray in the company of mythic personages, and a crow. To this listener, Ms. Lauten's score was ravishing. The Queen's Chamber Band inspired. The assembled voices, in various roles stunning. N.B. The Merkin Concert Hall does not lower the lights sufficiently to allow one to grope one's seatmate hence I was able to devote complete attention to official proceedings. As to the question: "Why was man born only to die?" One is reminded that Ray planned his last event. It turns out that all his "nothings" were something all along-- of course! I wonder at this juncture, what his first planned art event was? Perhaps Bill Wilson will shed light on this. As for his last, when the tide turned in the Great Peconic Bay, he was gone. All was right: the numerology, the setting (see W. S. Wilson on Water in the Work of Ray Johnson), everything was, as planned. As the poet Manley Hopkins opined, "it is the fate man was born for…" and Ray took it in perfect backstroke, it is said. Not being an aficionado of swimming technique, I cannot comment. That he took this last event in hand I can. Man's Fate and his own, taken in hand, and for that the writers of opera and the fans of "the World's Most Famous Unknown Artist" will always remember him.

An Interview with
Elodie Lauten
by Henry Stag

January 2008

HS: Dear Elodie, At first, congratulations for winning the Princeton Award?... This is only the last of many Awards you won since the beginning of the 80’s. Does this one have some special meaning to you?

EL: Actually it wasn’t anything like an award, I was just a guest on the WPRB Princeton 21st Century 24-hour Music Marathon on December 28-29, but I was honored to have been chosen among so many fine composers…

HS: It looks like you are starting the big actions in the 2008. There are preparations to put the “Waking in New York” again on the stage. (Together with Benedicte Ardiley and Rafael DeStella.) Please could you tell us something more about this work?

EL: Waking in New York is a very special piece. It started when I approached Allen Ginsberg about a libretto… I wanted a piece about New York, and he selected a set of poems for me to set to music. A few months later he passed away… and the piece took on a new meaning as a kind of memorial to the great poet – who I had met in the seventies when I first came to New York--quite coincidentally I must say: I joined an all-girl rock band that was actually his own backup band when he did readings, as he liked to sing and was quite a good singer. I lived in his apartment for several months and he taught me many things: how to appreciate New York, how to be compassionate and tolerant, what a mantra is and how it is practiced, and how spirituality does not have to be bigotry. He was a father figure for me and an unofficial mentor. All of those memories of my youth came back when I wrote the piece. The most unusual aspect of it is that, unlike most of the settings of Ginsberg’s poetry (and there have been many, including Hydrogen Jukebox by Philip Glass) it is a melodic setting not a narrative-over-music type setting. Every word is sung, even the most unlikely… as the stream-of consciousness writing goes from the mundane to the sublime. This is a very special work and even though it has been presented so far four times, it was never fully staged. So I very much look forward to the time when the piece will receive its real premiere.

HS: Where are you getting so much energy and the inspiration to do all of this?

EL: The music gives me energy, it is healing in and of itself, and it helps me deal with the other areas of my life.

HS: Your music is very peaceful and thought-out, or let’s better say meditative. There is always some esoteric touch in your works and it looks like this is also a huge part of your motor. What is the philosophy behind your work?

EL: I think music connects with people’s hearts and souls way beyond mere entertainment. There is almost the possibility of enlightenment through music. Making music comes with a responsibility towards others and towards the environment. What kind of wave do we project, as composers? Universal harmony, being in tune with the earth (through the earth tone, the frequency corresponding to the earth’s rotation), even if it means playing at a slower tempo… not showing off how fast you can play. From a strictly aesthetic standpoint, I think I belong to postmodernism –I love modern elements like technology but I also like to include old elements such as the Baroque instruments or the classic modal scales of raga music.

HS: Is there any music which is inspiring You the most?

EL: The one I am working on at the time… just kidding. I am all-inclusive: I love the Velvet Underground, Bach’s cantatas, African drumming, Soft Machine, LaMonte Young, all the minimalists, Eno, R&B, Muddy Waters, the list is too long… so many different kinds of music… and most of my contemporaries also I love.

HS: What do you think about the latest development in the technology, and specially in connection with the music?

EL: Ever since they’ve been available I have been working with synthesizers. I have not for one minute ceased to love them. Next year I am scheduled to have access to the new microtonal synthesizer designed by the American Festival of Microtonal Music and write a piece for it. This is a prototype and I look forward to working with it. I have also experimented with designing instruments, such as the Trine, an electro-acoustic lyre which enabled me to lay out custom microtonal scales, and allowed some degree of sound processing through amplification. I am fascinated by the new instruments designed at MIT, the ones that kids can play. A dream of mine is to work with someone who can help me design a truly new instrument that would make use of the interactivity that is available on the internet.

HS: Are You using any software?

EL: For music I use Finale mostly. The new version is set up with the Garritan sound library and that is pretty workable. I used to export my midi files into Reason but with the Finale 2007-08 I don’t need to do that any more. For web and art I use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Quark, InDesign, Illustrator. I also use Excel for certain scores and visual purposes. For synthesis I do not use software I have a couple of good Korg synthesizers and I like to play with my hands on the keys or the knobs so there is space for some spontaneity, some intuitive process.

HS: You have written a few operas until now. Where is Your love for the opera coming from?

EL: I always loved theatre but opera came as an acquired taste. Maybe from seeing the Who’s rock opera Tommy at the Isle of Wight festival… I took opera voice lessons, and later I had Indian music lessons which are so completely different in terms of vocal sound… Once I got through my first opera The Death of Don Juan I couldn’t wait to write another one… Every opera marks a high point in my life. It is so involving and exciting. I love to work with certain singers – for some weird reason I hear their exact timbres playing in my head when I compose. I really like to know the voice I am writing for. I hope I get to do maybe one or two more operas in my lifetime. They’re a real long haul.

HS: How it came You left the Europe?

EL: At the time – early 70s - coming to New York was fascinating. It’s not that I left Europe: I adopted, I embraced New York City. And then I couldn’t go back.

HS: What are Your plans for the next future?

EL: This year I will be going to the West Coast for a premiere by the Seattle Chamber Players featured in ‘Classics of Downtown’, a program curated by Kyle Gann. In May, Downtown Music Productions will premiere a chamber work at St Marks Church in New York. For the fall I have two large-scale projects but they are at preliminary stages of planning right now.

HS: Dear Elodie, Thanks for this interview.

EL: Thank you so very much, Henry, for your interest in my work.


Classics of DowntownIntroduction to the program
Icebreaker IV
Seattle Chamber Players
Jan. 29, 2008, Seattle, WA

by Kyle Gann

Tonight's concert is devoted to composers who were part of that scene, and whose music would have been called in the 1980s new music, or Downtown music, and that today might be called "postclassical" music. Calling us "classics," I think, is to suggest that we are all, as one might say, "of a certain age," and have been around too long to be considered "emerging" composers like the ones you heard last night. But this music so split itself off from classical music that in many respects the scene itself is still emerging, as a genre of music that is neither classical, pop, nor jazz, somewhat in between but not entirely that either. Since the cohesion of this scene was at least as much social as defined by any inherent musical principles, I want to emphasize in my descriptions the kind of connections each composer had to the scene. Elodie Lauten came to Manhattan from France in 1970, lived and performed with the poet Allen Ginsburg, shaved her head before it was hip, studied with the reclusive minimalist guru La Monte Young, and performed as singer for a rock band called Flaming Youth. In 1986 she put out a recording of a dark, mysterious feminist opera The Death of Don Juan, which seemed like the logical next step after minimalism, and which is just now being reissued on CD. I reviewed The Death of Don Juan enthusiastically in the Chicago Reader, and when I got a job at the Village Voice later that year, Elodie was one of the first people I wrote about and the first people I looked up. She has continued to come out with a new theater work every few years, some of them with Baroque music ensemble, some incorporating Broadway and gospel style, but all suffused with mysticism. She also performs as an improviser, using a system of correspondences between harmonies and nature that she calls the Gaia Matrix. One of her operas I reviewed, whose title was simply Existence, had no humans on stage, just a softly mumbling television.

Downtown and Midtown
by Alex Ross
January 2008

A few notable postminimalist composers are Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe (collectively Bang on a Can), Janice Giteck, Elodie Lauten, Kyle Gann, Ingram Marshall, and William Duckworth. So-called "midtown" composers include John Corigliano, Mark Adamo, Christopher Rouse, Joan Tower, and John Harbison. Representatives of "New Complexity" include Brian Ferneyhough, James Dillon, and Michael Finnissy, whose music branches out in many unexpected directions. Ned Rorem is a link to an older mid-century Franco-American style; some of his most recent works, notably the opera Our Town, are his strongest. Elliott Carter, the godfather of American modernism, plans to celebrate his hundredth birthday in 2008, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Four young composers worthy of note are Anna Clyne, Nico Muhly, Judd Greenstein, and the unclassifiable Corey Dargel.

Living American composers!
In Seattle!
Thomas May,
Crosscut.com: arts beat


A stunning weekend festival by Seattle Chamber Players demonstrates the great vitality of contemporary classical music. And also how much Seattle lags the West Coast in serving up such excitement.....With exaggerated gestures and frenzied bowings, Elodie Lauten's Scene from 0.02 (The Two-Cents Opera) started as a postmodern meditation on the art of performance. But the originality of her voice quickly emerged as she led us to an emotional space almost unrecognizable in terrifying hyperawareness."


News from the Third Angle
and Beyond
February 11, 2008
Lynn Hathaway Bunza
(Colombia Research Institute)
recounts recent
Icebreaker IV Festival:
The American Future

with Music Critics
Alex Ross and Kyle Gann

15 Composers, 10 World Premieres. Here in the Northwest, the final days of January 2008 were a classical music Aurora Borealis. With its all-black walls, floor, and ceiling, Seattle's Studio Theater building was the metaphorical dark sky out of which sparks of sound and ideas shot through the air like color thunderbolts. Two music critics selected the composers: Alex Ross from The New Yorker and Kyle Gann, Associate Professor of Music from Bard College (and Village Voice music critic from 1986-2005). The 13 composers chosen flew to Seattle to showcase their compositions in all-day seminars and evening concerts. Ross and Gann also gave pre-concert talks, led post-concert discussions, and talked about their books: The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Ross and Music Downtown by Gann. Occupying the free zone were Samuel Taylor's caffeine-soaked film, "The End of New Music" (quoted in The New York Times), and an engaging new composition by Seattle-based composer, Seth Kinsky. A Morton Feldman Marathon, held the last day of the festival, marked the 20th anniversary of the composer's death. Day 1--World(s) in Collision platformed Alex Ross' selection of emerging composers, all under 40: Alexandra Gardner, Anna Clyne, Mason Bates, Judd Greenstein, Max Giteck Duykers, Nico Muhly, and William Brittelle. Never heard of these inventive folks? You will. All of the compositions were full of imaginative, exploratory ideas, conceived with the razor-sharp intelligence that Ross himself has. And the Seattle Chamber Players performed each piece with flawless, clean tones. Interesting though, that the older and mostly white-haired composers selected by Kyle Gann on Day 2 let loose more than Alex Ross's Day 1 composers under 40. The younger group with their exposure to punk, hip hop, and cell phone ring tones, might well have been the wild ones, but their music revealed the polite reserve of years spent in compositional training. Check out the music on their web sites. You'll find plenty of pyrotechnic magic there-from both groups. Day 2--Classics of Downtown. Kyle Gann's post-Minimalist composers: Gann himself, Elodie Lauten, Janice Giteck, John Luther Adams, Eve Beglarian, and William Duckworth--all over 40 with a flair for adventure--have produced stacks of CDs. Seattle's Merrill Wright Stage came alive with pumped-up electronics, swirling soundscapes, ghostly echoes, and unexpected rhythms. Again, the Seattle Chamber Players performed, this time with gusto among a tangle of wires, computers, synthesizers, and subwoofers on the stage. Who said classical music is dead? It's very much alive and well.


Elodie Lauten
The Death of Don Juan
Cat Collectors LP 1985
Alan Licht
June 10, 2007

This is one of the great lost experimental records of the 80s. Lauten has been around since the 70s, going back and forth between Paris and New York. THE DEATH OF DON JUAN is an opera, in the avant garde sense, but I honestly prefer it to any of Robert Ashley’s operas or the Philip Glass ones (except EINSTEIN). There’s a Fairlight on most of the record, but fear not, as you would never know that it dates from 80s. The first two tracks sound like Joe Jones meets Glass or Steve Reich, with harpsichords, trine (an electric lyre that Lauten invented) and Arthur Russell’s cello. “Death As A Shadow” recalls Meredith Monk’s “Turtle Dreams” but is even more haunting and doomy. Russell’s vocal on “Death As A Woman” even reminds me of MOONDOG 2 and sounds unlike any of his other work. Even the libretto is fab-A+.

Most influential works of the last three decades - 90s: Elodie Lauten - Waking in New York

111+ Influential Works,
or Every Year Was a Good Year
by Lawrence Dillon
April 15, 2005

George Crumb: Ancient Voices of Children (1970) John Cage: Songbooks (1970) Gyorgi Ligeti: Chamber Concerto (1970) George Crumb: Black Angels (1970) Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mantra (1970) Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 3 (1971) Tom Johnson: An Hour for Piano (1971) George Crumb: Vox Balanae (1971) Steve Reich: Drumming (1971) Philip Glass: Music in Twelve Parts (1971-1974) Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel (1972) Gyorgi Ligeti: Double Concerto (1972) Charles Amirkhanian: Just (1972) Andres Jolivet: Violin Concerto (1972) Peter Maxwell Davies: Hymn to St. Magnus (1972) George Rochberg: String Quartet No. 3 (1972) Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together (1972) Luciano Berio: Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1972-73) Louis Andriessen: De Staat (1972-76) Helmut Lachenmann: Gran Torso (1972-88) Ben Johnston: String Quartet No. 4, "Amazing Grace" (1973) Leonard Bernstein: Mass (1973) Per Norgard: Turn (1973) Steve Reich: Music for Mallet instruments, Voices, and Organ (1973) Gyorgi Ligeti: San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74) Brian Ferneyhough: Unity Capsule (1973-76) Luciano Berio: Points on the Curve to Find (1974) Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 15 (1974) Peter Maxwell Davies: Ave Maris Stella (1975) Per Norgard: Symphony No. 3 (1975) Frederic Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated (1975) Henri Dutilleux: Ainsi la nuit (1976) David del Tredici: Final Alice (1976) Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach (1976) John Williams: Star Wars (1977) Henri Dutilleux: Timbres, espaces, mouvement (1977) Peter Maxwell Davies: A Mirror of Whitening Light (1977) Sofia Gubaidulina: Duo-Sonata (1977)

Joseph Schwantner: Aftertones of Infinity (1978) John Adams: Shaker Loops (1978) Morton Feldman: Why Patterns? (1978) Tristan Murail: Treize couleurs du soleil couchant (1978) Robert Ashley: Perfect Lives (1978) William Duckworth: The Time Curve Preludes (1978-79) Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Chamber Symphony (1979) Judith Weir: King Harald's Saga (1979) Philip Glass: Satyagraha (1980) Sofia Gubaidalina: Offetorium (1980) James Sellars: Chanson Dada (1980) Joan Tower: Petroushskates (1980) James Dillon: Spleen (1980) Harold Budd/Brian Eno: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980) Conlon Nancarrow: Studies Nos. 40, 41, 47, 48 (1980s) Laurie Anderson: O Superman (1981) Ezra Sims: Phenomena (1981) Jaco Pastorius: Word of Mouth (1981) La Monte Young: The Well-Tuned Piano (1981) Judith Weir: Thread! (1981) Peter Maxwell Davies: Image Reflection Shadow (1982) Steve Reich: Tehillim (1982) Michael Finnissy: Banumbirr (1982) Anderzej Panufnik: Arbor Cosmica (1983) Oliver Knussen: Where the Wild Things Are (1983) Steve Reich: The Desert Music (1983) Salvatore Sciarrino: Macbeth (1983) Witold Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 3 (1983) Morton Feldman: For Philip Guston (1984) Salvatore Sciarrino: Hermes (1984) Peter Maxwell Davies: Symphony No. 3 (1984) Harrison Birtwhistle: The Mask of Orpheus (1984) Arvo Part: Te Deum (1984) Louis Andriessen: De Stijl (1984-85) Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet (1985) Judith Weir: The Consolations of Scholarship (1985) John Adams: Harmonielehre (1985) Gyorgi Ligeti: Piano Concerto (1985-88) Gyorgi Ligeti: Piano Etudes (1985-1990) Daniel Lentz: The Crack in the Bell (1986) Per Norgard: Lin (1986) Laurie Anderson: Home of the Brave (1986) Michael Finnissy: String Trio (1986) Witold Lutoslawski: Chain 3 (1986) Janice Giteck: Om Shanti (1986) Harrison Birtwhistle: Earth Dances (1986) Carl Stone: Shing Kee (1986) Iannis Xenakis: Keqrops (1986) Morton Feldman: For Samuel Beckett (1987) Galina Ustvolskaya: Symphony No. 4 "Prayer" (1987) Lois V Vierk: Simoon (1987) Gyorgi Kurtag: Quasi una fantasia (1987) Toru Takemitsu: Twill by Twilight (1988) Wolfgang Rihm: Depart (1988) Larry Polansky: Lonesome Road: The Crawford Variations (1988-89)

David Rakowski: Piano Etudes (1988-) Bunita Marcus: Adam and Eve (1989) Lee Hyla: String Quartet No. 3 (1989) Art Jarvinen: Murphy-Nights (1989) Gyorgi Ligeti: Violin Concerto (1990) John Cage: Four2 (1990) Iannis Xenakis: Knephas (1990) Pauline Oliveros: Crone Music (1990) Martin Bresnick: Opere della Musica Povera (1990-99) Julia Wolfe: Four Marys (1991) John Cage: Five3 (1991) Robert Ashley: Improvement (1991) Milton Babbitt: Mehr Du (1991) John Adams: The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) Meredith Monk: Atlas (1991) Judith Weir: I Broke Off a Golden Branch (1991) Frederic Rzewski: De Profundis (1991) John Adams: Chamber Symphony (1992) Magnus Lindberg: Clarinet Quintet (1992) Conrad Cummings: Photo Op (1992) John Cage: Fifty-Eight (1992) David Lang: Cheating, Lying, Stealing (1993) Milton Babbitt: String Quartet No. 6 (1993) David First: Jade Screen Test Dreams of Renting Wings (1993) Michael Daugherty: Metropolis Symphony (1993) Elliott Carter: Symphonia (1993-96) Magnus Lindberg: Aura (1994) Olivier Messiaen: Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela (1994) Milton Babbitt: Triad (1994) Gyorgi Kurtag: Stele (1994) Mikel Rouse: Failing Kansas (1995) Michael Gordon: Trance (1995) Eve Beglarian: Landscaping for Privacy (1995) Mikel Rouse: Dennis Cleveland (1996) Gerard Grisey: Vortex temporum (1996) Tobias Picker: Emmeline (1996) Tan Dun: Marco Polo (1996) Michael Finnissy: Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets (1997) Thomas Ades: Powder Her Face (1997) Sofia Gubaidulina: Canticle of the Sun (1997) Michael Finnissy: Multiple Forms of Constraint (1997) Pierre Boulez: Sur incises (1998) John Luther Adams: In the White Silence (1998) Beat Furrer: Still (1998) Mark Adamo: Little Women (1998) Elodie Lauten: Waking in New York (1999) Toshio Hosokawa: Koto-uta (1999) Louis Andriessen: Writing to Vermeer (1999) The Magnetic Fields (aka Stephin Merritt): 69 LOVE SONGS (the album) (1999) Kaija Saariaho: L'amour de loin (2000) Frederic Rzewski: Pocket Symphony (2000) Osvaldo Golijov: La Pasión según San Marcos (2000) Michael Gordon: Decasia (2001) Michael Harrison: Revelation (2001) Chocolate Genius (aka Marc Anthony Thompson): Godmusic (2001) Peter Maxwell Davies: Naxos Quartets (2002-05) John Luther Adams: The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2002) John Corigliano: Circus Maximus (2004) So there it is. Have you memorized them all? Now for some questions. Are there too many pieces on this list? I don't think so. There are many, many composers out there doing wonderful work. Is it possible we missed some? No question in my mind. We're doing a little better than the Pulitzer Prize, but this list just scratches the surface. Is this list biased? You bet. I can think of a number of prominent people born in the 1930s in particular who have been left off. Anybody remember an interview a few weeks ago in the NYTimes with James Levine and a couple of composers? Won't find their names here. Among established composers with prominent careers in 1970-2005, don't look for Mario Davidovsky, Alfred Schnittke, Lou Harrison, Iannis Xenakis, Sofia Gubaidalina, Toru Takemitsu or William Bolcom either. We're also missing a lot of the composers who are getting the majority of orchestral commissions these days. And don't tell me they don't have any influence, because there are hundreds of other composers trying to imitate those career paths, even if they won't admit it. Do numbers matter? The most represented composer is Peter Maxwell Davies, with five entries. John Adams, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Gyorgi Ligeti, Steve Reich and Judith Weir have four each. All of these composers are very important, but I'm thinking these numbers are only of qualified interest -- they might be a bit skewed by individual enthusiasms to be really significant of the largest trends. But numbers are what they are. Is there a connection between length and impact? I don't know all of the works on this list, but of the ones I know, very few are under 10 minutes, and many are over 30 minutes. Is length an appropriate measure of importance? What is influence? I asked What new works changed the way composers thought about composing from 1970 to 2005. Several people answered with the pieces that had influenced them most. But there are two kinds of influence: there is the piece that changes how you think about music, and there is the piece that reinforces the viewpoint you already hold. No matter how conservative or progressive we may be, we all respond to both types of influence, and I believe that a lot of the pieces that ended up on this list -- both conservative and progressive -- fall into the latter category, even though I was specifically asking for the former. Actually, there is a third kind of influence, which we all experience as well: the piece that has a negative impact on us, as in, Wow, I never want to write anything like that! How many of these works have you heard? My score is 37, which is exactly one third. Gives me a great reason to go on living, just knowing that all those life-changing works are still out there for me to experience. What's next? You tell me. Hope this list is of some use/interest to you. posted by Lawrence Dillon

The Many Sides of Elodie Lauten
Composer of the Month
Postclassic Radio
January 2005

Kyle Gann

Postminimalist, neoclassicist, meditationist, New Ageist, improviser, jazzer, opera composer, Elodie Lauten is one of the most Protean composers of recent years, with many sides to her personality, but they all sound like her. I think of her a little as the female Terry Riley, though her music is a little more muted in tone, and more recognizably hers regardless of genre than Terry's sometimes is. In making her January's composer of the month on Postclassic Radio, I tried to include something from all sides. Two long works I've posted in their entirety: her opera The Death of Don Juan from the mid-1980s, and her quasi-oratorio Waking in New York from the late '90s, based on poems by her friend Allan Ginsberg (and selected by him for that purpose before he died). The Death of Don Juan epitomizes what I think of as her quintessential mystical style, while Waking in New York has more of a pop sensibility, with singers drawn from Broadway, gospel, and operatic idioms. I've always told Elodie that Waking in New York reminds me of Erik Satie's masterpiece Socrate in its impassive melodies over kaleidoscopically changing harmonies, and I've added the first movement of the latter work to the playlist for comparison. (Socrate strikes me as a seminal postclassic work anyway, even if it was written in 1917.) The overture to Lauten's brand-new opera Orfreo (that's not a typo: the subtitle is "The Orphic death of Ray Johnson") demonstrates how Baroque she can sound when working with classical instruments like harpsichord, as do two lovely excerpts from her large-scale cantata Deus ex Machina. Three movements from her synthesizer improvisation Tronik Involutions show her at her most sparklingly cosmic - New Age, you might dismiss it as, but more richly textured and more harmonically motionless than any New Age music I've ever heard. And I'll continue adding some of the early pieces from which I first knew her work, the early piano pieces and Concerto for Piano with Orchestral Memory. I've also put up one movement from Variations on the Orange Cycle played by pianist Lois Svard, a haunting, Riley-ish, reconstructed improvisation, and someday I'll post the entire piece. It takes at least this much music to demonstrate the tremendous range of Lauten's universalist imagination.

"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."
"... a fixture of the New York scene."

"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

Lauten's Variations on the Orange Cycle for solo piano was included in Chamber Music America's list of best works of the 20th century.

Lauten's opera Waking in New York, portrait of Allen Ginsberg was listed among Sequenza21's list of the most influential works of the last three decades.

About S.O.S.W.T.C.
One of the most powerful works to bloom out of the ashes of the World Trade Center attacks was Elodie Lauten's S.O.S.W.T.C. Using synthesized ambient sounds of New York and jarring electronic sounds that fold upon themselves with the grit of collapsing steel, Lauten's meditation diverged from both the sentimental tributes and the haphazard patriotic arrangements that followed the attacks. She opted to express the horror of those morning hours, a feeling that she as a longtime New Yorker has a particular claim on, rather than the sadness of the aftermath. Released only a few months after Sept. 11, S.O.S.W.T.C. possesses a rawness that few other composers have been able to capture.
Amanda MacBlane, NEW YORK PRESS

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."
Frank J. Oteri, NEW MUSIC BOX

Lauten reveals greater artistry the further you look beneath the surface, successfully marking the leaps in Ginsberg's own impressionistic narrative with appropriate changes in metre and key. Ken Smith, GRAMOPHONE U.K.

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." Gimbel, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

A Libretto via Ginsberg captures a City's Spirit
"Blues melodies, gospel and pop as a song cycle. (...) Waking in New York is actually a lovely, effective and affecting song cycle for vocal ensemble and orchestra. Ms. Lauten has treated Ginsberg's poetry and its underlying spirit carefully, even reverently. She tucked its personal and sometimes diarylike texts into her own agreeably melodic and eclectic style, but she also appears to have listened carefully for traces of the music that animated Ginsberg's soul. 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."

"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)