Composer Elodie Lauten: CD release - 4-Tay Records

Portrait of Allen Ginsberg, from the poetry of Allen Ginsberg


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The Waking in New York CD follows three critically acclaimed productions (Music Under Construction, 1999; 14th St Y Theater. 2001; and Snug Harbor Festival, 2002). Lauten's setting of Ginsberg was called "lovely, effecting and affecting" by the New York Times. The recording was produced by the composer at Sony Studios and features Mark Duer, baritone in the role of Allen Ginsberg, and his muses, interpreted by Meredith Borden, Tyler Azelton and Sherrita Duran, sopranos; in Lauten's idiosyncratic style, adapting the classical set up of a string quartet and flute with the addition of a steady, driving, drum beat (Bill Ruyle), complemented by afro-latin percussion (Mustafa Ahmed)and contrabass(Rafael Agudelo).

Elodie Lauten explains her experience with Ginsberg and the inspiration of the piece: "I met Ginsberg in 1973 when at 22, I first came to New York. I stayed at his apartment on 10th St and Avenue C, and occasionally accompanied him in his public readings. Encouraging me to compose, he brought home a Farfisa organ and that was my first experience with an electronic instrument. He also introduced me to Buddhism with the chanting of mantras and meditation. Albeit unconventional, some form of mentoring took place and I have always felt deeply connected to his life and work. I interpreted his texts from the point of view of Mahayana - the "great path" of compassion, in the sense of caring for humanity at large. In his poems, I heard other voices in his head, extensions of his consciousness, and I created the characters of the muses Freedom and Compassion to interact with him. Generally, I stayed very close to Allen's train of thought, alternatively introspective and expansive, edgy, playful or lyrical, sometimes triggering hints of different musical styles, but twice removed, never as direct quotes. It was like making film music with images provided by his consciousness - until the melody found its way of taking over: I broke free from the obvious narrative over music approach, every word is sung, even the most unlikely."

What is the story in WAKING IN NEW YORK? It is about experiencing daily life in New York, through the eyes of Ginsberg, pictured in the later part of his life. He is in a state of mind that Buddhists call "being ordinary", just living his life moment by moment. From his apartment in the East Village, he is transparent: he tells everything about his state of mind, his bodily functions, his illnesses, his food, his work, his political causes, all in the same breath. He is in a constant dialogue with his muses. And suddenly, he stops to look at the beauty of a tree or the odd shape of a rooftop. He finds inspiration in an exhaust pipe, a non-biodegradable garbage bag. He tells stories about the real people who lived in his building and the odd mix of characters who inhabited the East Village at the time. He shares his own struggle with his aging body.

Ginsberg also expresses his love of life in a down-to-earth, occasionally satirical vision of the world, alternating with moments of deep emotion and classic lyricism. In the light of the events of 9/11, there is an uplifting, comforting element in Ginsberg's tolerant and all-inclusive vision of the city with its exciting jaggedness, its energy, which makes it a desirable place to live.

"Elodie Lauten's music is cool, impassive, limpid, letting the text ride over it without detailed comment. And Allen Ginsberg is the cool, post-Beat poet par excellence, the voice of 1960s radical America. But Ginsberg's poems are not emotionless and uncaring, but quite the opposite: earthy, intensely personal, too relentlessly honest to filter out any detail of daily life. This is where Lauten is so perfect, infusing the music with the Zen quality that we read between Ginsberg's lines, acting as universal Buddhist foil to his quotidian observation."
Excerpt from the liner notes by Kyle Gann.

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926, the son of the well-known lyric poet and teacher Louis Ginsberg. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began a close friendship with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and became associated with the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s. After jobs as a laborer, sailor, and market researcher, Ginsberg published his first book of poetry, Howl and Other Poems, in 1956. Howl overcame censorship trials to become one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages, a model for younger generations of poets from West to East. Crowned Prague May King in 1965, then expelled by Czech police and simultaneously placed in the FBI's Dangerous Security list, Ginsberg has, in recent years, traveled to and taught in the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe, receiving Yugoslavia's Struga Poetry Festival "Golden Wreath" in 1986. A member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist college in the Western world, Ginsberg lived on New York's Lower East Side. He died in April 1997 at age 70.

Composer and keyboardist Elodie Lauten has been described as a pioneer of postminimalism. Recordings of her music - piano, electronic, electro-acoustic, chamber music and operatic works, have been released during the 1990s by O.O. Discs, Nonsequitur, Tellus, Point/Polygram, Lovely Music, Silenzio, Frog Peak Music, New Tone and 4-Tay. Over the years Lauten has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, and commissions from Lincoln Center, the Soho Baroque Opera, Harpsichord Unlimited and The Lark Ascending. Lauten's SYMPHONY 2001, premiered in February 2003 by the SEM Orchestra in New York, was well-received.
Recent events include: The Mystery of the Elements, a new CD released in October 2002 on Studio 21; her response to 9/11, S.O.S.W.T.C. for electronics/video was premiered at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center (Dec. 2001), also a Studio 21 release, and Waking in New York, at the Snug Harbor Festival (August 2002). In 1999, Lauten's DEUS EX MACHINA CYCLE for voices and Baroque ensemble - a double CD set released on 4Tay - received critical acclaim in the US and Europe. Also in 1999, Lauten's solo piano work VARIATIONS ON THE ORANGE CYCLE (Lovely Music) was included in Chamber Music America's list of 100 best works of the 20th century.

Elodie Lauten was born in Paris, France. She has lived in New York since 1973 and became an American Citizen in 1984. She received a Master's in composition from New York University, where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Eastern composition with Ahkmal Parwez. She also studied with LaMonte Young, and was a disciple of Sri Chinmoy and Paramahansa Yogananda. She was formally initiated to Tibetan Buddhism in 1994. More detailed information is available from her site at: CDs on the Studio 21 and 4-Tay labels can be ordered and listened to on the internet from


Acknowledgements and thanks

Allen Ginsberg Trust/Bob Rosenthal
Harper Collins
The Wylie Agency
James Arts Consulting/Jeffrey James
The New York State Council on the Arts
Meet the Composer
American Music Center: Margaret Fairbanks Jory/ Music Liberty Initiative
Downtown Music Productions/Mimi Stern Wolfe
Sony Studios/Kieran Connelly
The Juilliard School of Music/Dalit Warshaw
Music Under Construction/Carolyn Lord
The 14th St Y Theatre
Rafael Agudelo/International Fine Arts Foundation
Snug Harbor Cultural Center
The Lark Ascending/Nancy Bogen
Elizabeth Falk and Martin Piecuch
Performers and friends: Julianne Klopotic, Mary Hurlbut, Laura Wolfe,
Milton Fletcher, Anthony Bez, Steven Hall, Jack Roberts Dolinsky