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Harrison’s compositions from the 1980s and 1990s do not eschew the eclectic influences of the past (percussion, dance, Medieval music, the French Baroque, tuning, and instrument building), but rather integrate them in novel combinations typified by the two latest chamber works in the present collection. Completed within a year of each other, the Varied Trio and the Grand Duo illustrate the syncretic process Harrison has cultivated over the past half century and summarize the influences that have guided him during his long career. Both works have been performed repeatedly and recorded, yet neither has heretofore been published.

Varied Trio

The Varied Trio, like many compositions throughout Harrison’s career, arose from a personal friendship, in this case with the percussionist William Winant, who began working closely with the composer at Mills College in 1980. Although Harrison envisioned the piece for three players from the start (intending it for Winant and two colleagues, Julie Steinberg and David Abel), he first composed it as a quintet so that he and Colvig could join the group for the premiere on February 28, 1987.
   By the time of this concert, Harrison had known Winant for eight years; Winant, in turn, had been playing Harrison’s percussion music since he was an undergraduate at the California Institute of the Arts in 1972. "Lou was one of my idols," says Winant, recalling his early percussion studies with John Bergamo and James Tenney; "I was in awe of him."147 The two did not meet until 1979, however, when Winant was completing his undergraduate work at York University in Toronto and Harrison came to the city to hear the premiere of his String Quartet Set.148 The following year Winant enrolled in the master’s program at Mills College, where he was assigned a graduate assistantship helping Harrison and Colvig build a new gamelan. "They set up a little workshop for Bill in the loft above the concert hall," says Winant; "I spent every day there making resonating boxes, and helping him cut the wood for the gambangs [xylophones] and file the metal bars for the metallophones."149 (Their completed gamelan contained two sets of instruments, one in slendro tuning, the other in pelog, which Harrison named Si Darius and Si Madeleine in honor of Darius Milhaud and his wife.)
   For Harrison’s sixty-fifth birthday concert at Mills (May 10, 1982), Winant played in the first performance of the Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Gamelan and premiered the finished version of Tributes to Charon with its new opening movement, "Passage through Darkness" (see above). Also on the program was the Concerto in Slendro in which faculty member Julie Steinberg played the tack-piano. After the concert, she introduced Winant to her husband, violinist David Abel, and the three planned a future collaboration. The opportunity did not arise until two years later, when Winant was organizing a concert called "Three Generations of American Music" for Cal Performances, a series sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley. He programmed Cowell’s Set of Five as well as Harrison’s Music for Violin with Various Instruments, European, Asian, and African (1967), for which Harrison played the psaltery part and Steinberg performed on a reed organ. The concert was so successful that a tour to other University of California campuses was arranged, during which Harrison resolved to compose a new piece for the ensemble. The resulting quintet later evolved into the Varied Trio.
   In the original version, Harrison performed on harp and Colvig played bells. In place of piano, Steinberg played a virginal, tuned in the composer’s favorite eighteenth-century temperament, Kirnberger II.150 Shortly after the February 1987 premiere, Steinberg, with Harrison’s permission, arranged the score for trio by assigning the bell parts to a vibraphone or gong and adapting the harp and virginal parts to the piano (at times calling for the instrument’s strings to be plucked with the finger or the frame to be hit with a hard yarn mallet: the original harp part had called for some percussion effects, including knocking on the instrument’s frame.) The Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio performed the new version for the first time at Mills on Harrison’s seventieth birthday (May 14, 1987).
   The Varied Trio provides a case study of Harrison’s cross-cultural approach to composition. Each movement draws on different compositional resources (percussion, dance, gamelan, the music of India, the French Baroque, Rococo painting, the teachings of Henry Cowell), from which he created a unique personal synthesis. Harrison’s percussion ensemble experiences of the 1930s are most apparent in the Trio’s second movement and finale. The former features the jalataranga, an Indian instrument comprising a set of rice bowls struck with thin bamboo sticks. The bowls are tuned to different pitches by filling them with various amounts of water. Harrison had used the jalataranga in various works for years; in fact, he first heard it on a 1930s recording by Uday Shankar (the elder brother of Ravi Shankar).151 Henry Cowell also called for the instrument in Ostinato Pianissimo (1934).
   The finale, a lively dance, was partially inspired by a routine shopping trip in downtown Santa Cruz. Passing a kitchen supply store one day, Harrison and Colvig noticed a display of baking pans in the window, reminding Harrison of the days he spent shopping for new percussion instruments in San Francisco: "Those are musical instruments," he said to Colvig, and the pair went into the store to test them. They promptly bought a set of six in various sizes for the Trio’s finale.
   Indonesian gamelan influences (specifically those of the Cirebon region of northern Java) appear in the Varied Trio’s opening movement, titled "Gending," which means simply "piece." The opening two measures constitute a traditional gamelan buka, the solo introduction that defines the mode, in this case a type of slendro (anhemitonic pentatonic): D–E–F#– A–B. The texture of traditional gamelan is a type of elaborate heterophony (often called polyphonic stratification), in which different instruments perform various levels of rhythmic diminution over a structural melodic pattern called the balungan. The balungan, which may never be heard as an integral line in any one instrument, is built from four-note groupings in which the second and fourth notes are stressed. In the Trio’s first movement, the balungan is A–F# D–B E–F#, first sounded on the quarter-note level in measures 3 through 6 as the initial note of each group of sixteenths (see the circled pitches in example 8). The vibraphone’s three off-beat sixteenth notes lead to the following balungan pitch by anticipating and decorating it. Beginning on the second beat of measure 6, an additional layer appears, not through the use of faster notes, but by the slowing of the balungan itself to half speed. The vibraphone material from measures 3 through 6 is transferred to the piano in augmentation, the balungan now articulated on the half-note level instead of on the quarter-note level. Although the vibraphone continues its rhythm of sixteenth notes, each set of four notes now represents an eighth, rather than a quarter of the balungan. This change in note density, created through alterations in the speed of the balungan, is typical of traditional gamelan works; density levels are called irama. The effect is one of speeding up although the structural melody has actually slowed down. Still a fourth metric layer begins in measure 12, though in this case without alteration of the balungan speed. The original irama is restored at the end.
   The violin, which enters in measure 13 with a line that sounds free and improvisatory, mimics the gamelan’s two-string bowed rebab (fiddle), which plays a similar solo role in traditional works. Meanwhile, the right hand of the piano, through its thirty-second-note figuration, imitates the elaborate embellishment patterns typically played by the gendèr, a metallophone with thin ribbed plates and individually tuned tubular resonators. The gendèr, which is played with two soft padded disc-shaped mallets, is among the most difficult of the instruments of the gamelan. In typical fashion, all of the various layers, including the violin (rebab) part, meet on downbeats on unison "goal tones," articulating the notes of the balungan (example 8b).
   From the gamelan influences of the opening movement, we move to India for Movement Two, "Bowl Bells." In addition to the jalataranga reference cited above, Harrison uses a jhala technique (borrowed from North Indian practice)—the intermittent reiteration of a single tone between the notes of the main melody. In Harrison’s usage, the jhala functions as an interrupted drone, or what he calls "India’s answer to the Alberti bass."152
   While the compositional process and instrumentation of this movement are Indian, the overall form is borrowed from the French Baroque: it is cast in a typical eighteenth-century rondeau form, ABACA. Another rondeau appears in the fourth movement, this time identified as such in its title. Harrison’s tribute to eighteenth-century France is seen not only in the fourth movement’s form, but also in its texture, rhythms, ornaments (standard French agréments), and dedication to the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806). Struck by the classical grandeur of Fragonard’s work during a visit to New York’s Frick Museum, Harrison purchased several volumes of reproductions: "Violent Romanticism before its time," he calls Fragonard’s style, "with an astonishing breadth of expression."153 That breadth includes representations of mythology, classical antiquity, theater, and puppetry, all of which parallel long-term interests of Harrison as well. (Harrison himself is an accomplished visual artist whose works have been shown in public exhibitions.) This fourth movement is another Harrison hybrid, blending the French Baroque with the gamelan, for the violin’s melody is based on the hemitonic (pelog) scale of the "gamelan degung," the classical orchestra of the region of Sunda (example 9).
   Movements Three, "Elegy," and Five, "Dance," hark back to Cowell’s teaching that (in Harrison’s words) "most of the world’s music is melody with some sort of rhythmic support."154 The central slow movement features the type of expansive melody for which Harrison has become widely recognized—in this case, an unmeasured rhapsody for the violin. In the finale, the tune is joyful, supported by drums, tambourines, and those baking tins from the kitchen store, as well as a recurrent low E in the piano that functions as an interrupted drone. The conclusion of the Varied Trio recalls one of Harrison’s most memorable quotations: "Music," he has often said, is "basically a song and a dance."

Grand Duo

Like the Varied Trio, the Grand Duo was inspired by personal friendship. At a casual lunch with Dennis Russell Davies in October 1987 (after Davies had conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in Harrison’s Third Symphony), Harrison remarked, "Dennis, I think I’ll write you a polka."155 And indeed, an energetic polka, reflecting the social dance classes of Harrison’s childhood, eventually became the Duo’s finale. The following year, when he was in Portland for the rehearsals and performance of his opera Young Caesar, Harrison began working out ideas at the piano for a largo movement, which eventually became the work’s "Air" (Movement Four). "An Ivesian hymn tune began to emerge,"156 he says, recalling the delight he felt in the reappearance of this early influence (see mm. 55ff). "Mr. Ives ... left us the most wonderful of playgrounds, a kind of People’s Park in which we are all arrangers of lovely things."157 A commission from the Cabrillo Music Festival prompted the expansion of these fragments into a five-movement, thirty-five-minute Duo, which was premiered by Davies (piano) and violinist Romuald Tecco (the Festival’s concertmaster) on July 28, 1988.
   Harrison composed the first and fourth movements using "interval control," a technique that had served him well since his early San Francisco days: he simply restricts (rather severely) the number of admissible intervals. In the Duo’s opening movement, melodic motion is confined with one exception to the minor second, minor third, and minor sixth (ascending or descending); in the "Air," he uses only the minor second, major third, major sixth, and an occasional perfect fourth between adjacent pitches. (Each voice in a contrapuntal texture is treated independently; the harmonic intervals between them are not subject to the restrictions. As a case in point, see the piano’s opening introduction to Movement Four, in which two interwoven contrapuntal lines are each built from the four permitted intervals, while the intervals between them include the perfect fifth and the minor sixth.) Through the years, Harrison has found this technique one of the most useful of his compositional "controls" and has employed it often, for instance in his flute concerto (1939), in three piano pieces from the 1930s (Saraband, 1937; Prelude for Grandpiano, 1937; and the Third Piano Sonata, 1938), and in the Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra (1959).
   The second movement ("Stampede") is one of Harrison’s most vibrant estampies, though its form varies slightly from the traditional pattern of paired phrases (AxAyBxByCxCy, etc.):158 the repeat of section D is postponed until after section F (example 10a). Harrison first used the estampie, a medieval dance form, in the Suite for Symphonic Strings (1960), and has included it in works as diverse as the String Quartet Set (1979), the Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Gamelan (1982), the Fourth Symphony (1990), and the Concerto for P’i-p’a with String Orchestra (1997). The Duo’s estampie also uses one of his favorite scales: the octatonic (alternating half and whole steps; example 10b).
   In his later works, Harrison often used the term "stampede" in place of "estampie," stemming from an inadvertent slip by William Winant during a rehearsal of the Double Concerto in 1982. Unfamiliar with the word estampie, Winant blurted out "stampede" instead, sending Harrison to the dictionary to track down etymologies. He discovered that "estampie" denoted a general brouhaha, an implication he accentuated in the Duo by the use of an "octave bar." This device, about two inches high with a sculpted rubberized-foam bottom and light wooden handle, spans the length of an octave, allowing the performer to replicate the keyboard clusters pioneered by Henry Cowell at a breakneck tempo.159 The arch shape of the sculpted foam makes the outer notes of the octave speak louder than the intervening pitches (see illustration and instructions preceding the score). Although the tone cluster passages in the Duo have distinctive melodic contours, their overall effect is rhythmic, recalling Harrison’s percussion ensemble background. For the pianist, the octave bar sections in the "estampie" (sections D and D9) are truly an athletic exercise; for the audience, they are a delightful visual treat (a distinct advantage of live performance over recording). The difficulty of this passage may well have encouraged the variant in the movement’s form as well: the pianist’s right arm simply needs a rest before the repetition. Splitting section D from its recurrence further enhances the movement’s dramatic momentum as the technical display creates climactic arrival points both in the middle and at the end. The octave bar also makes a dramatic reappearance in the Duo’s polka finale, where it brings the thirty-five-minute piece to a crashing finish.
   To balance the dynamic stampede and finale, Harrison introduced at the Grand Duo’s center a gentle "Round," a duet in quintal counterpoint that he had written seven years earlier for Davies’s two daughters, Annabel and April. The original composition was an idiomatic French rondeau ("round") with a refrain and two couplets (ABACA). For the Duo Harrison expanded it by adding a third couplet (ABACADA) in canon (mm. 82ff.). Reflecting traditional eighteenth-century practice, he repeated the A section once at the beginning (mm. 9–17), and then ornamented it differently at each subsequent recurrence (beginning in mm. 34, 66, and 100 respectively).
   In 1992 Mark Morris asked Harrison for permission to choreograph the Grand Duo’s polka. Morris, who served for three years as director of dance for Belgium’s state opera house (the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie), had been intrigued by Harrison’s music ever since he heard the Louisville Orchestra’s recording of Strict Songs (1955) as a teenager. By the time Morris heard the Duo’s polka, he had already choreographed the Strict Songs for his own troupe, using the entire 120-voice Seattle Men’s Chorus in place of the original eight baritones. In Morris’s hands, the Duo’s polka became "five minutes of frenzy."160 But he was dissatisfied with the lone movement as an independent dance piece: it lacked the climactic exhaustion he had envisioned. So the following year he (uncharacteristically) choreographed backwards, setting the earlier movements with the exception of the long "Air." In that way, the polka became the culmination of a dramatic curve. The dance has since proven to be one of Morris’s most popular works, and he has programmed it frequently.
   Both the Varied Trio and the Grand Duo have prompted some of Harrison’s most enthusiastic reviews. To quote a few examples:
On first live hearing the recent [Varied] Trio seems to have hit a peak. Deceptively accessible, it flaunts the elegance of simplicity. Ever-humble, it rises to eloquence. Minimal in its materials—Harrison was a minimalist 40 years ago, when today’s composers of that persuasion were children—it utilizes them with a thoroughness and rhetoric that make the total irresistible.
(Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1988.)

At the end there was the best music of all, Lou Harrison’s "Varied Trio": full of the old codger’s flowing, genial melodic invention, with piano and percussion ... filling in with Oriental evocations at one moment and something medieval the next. Sheer loveliness this music.
(Alan Rich, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, May 4, 1988.)

Harrison’s impressive range as a composer was demonstrated fully in the "Grand Duo for Violin and Piano." ... Harrison has a gift for impassioned lyricism in the grand romantic manner that few can rival today, and showed moments of intensity worthy of Brahms or Beethoven at their peak.
(Robert C. Marsh, Chicago Sun-Times, August 8, 1989.)

[Harrison’s Varied Trio is] a treasure house of exotically tinged modal melodies, rhythmic vivacity and subtle instrumental color. In one of the movements, the percussionist plays with chopsticks on an array of eight differently pitched ... rice bowls; another one calls for Chinese drums and a row of baker’s pans. From another composer, these would seem like stunts (albeit amusing ones). But the integrity of Harrison’s music is so clear—the notes so obviously call for these exact sonorities—that the listener hears only the ravishing melodies and intricate rhythmic counterpoint.
(Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, October 10, 1991.)
   Together the Varied Trio and Grand Duo encapsulate most of the major influences that have guided Harrison’s compositional development over the years:
 • Percussion: in the Trio and the octave bar sections of the Duo
 • French Baroque music: in the three rondeaux (two in the Trio, one in the Duo)
 • Compositional "controls": in the restricted interval vocabulary of the Duo’s first and fourth movements
 • Medieval music: in the Duo’s "Stampede" and the quintal counterpoint of its "Round"
 • Gamelan: in the Trio’s opening movement, "Gending"
 • Other Asian musics: the jalataranga and jha-la- in the Trio’s "Bowl Bells"
 • New instruments and extended performance techniques: the Trio’s baking tins and the Duo’s octave bar
 • Dance: the Duo’s "Stampede" and "Polka," the rondeaux, and the Trio’s finale
 • Painting: in the dedication to Fragonard of the Trio’s second rondeau
 • Expansive melody: in all of the slow movements
 • Tuning: in the specified pentatonic mode for the jalataranga.

EXAMPLE 8a. Varied Trio, Movement 1 ("Gending"), mm. 1-11
(circled notes = balungan pitches)
[Example Image]
EXAMPLE 8b. Varied Trio, Movement 1, mm. 13-17
[Example Image]
EXAMPLE 9. Varied Trio, gamelan degung scale used in the violin part of Movement 4
[Example Image]
EXAMPLE 10. Grand Duo, Movement 2. ("Stampede")
a. Form: Ax Ay Bx By Cx Cy D Ex Ey Fx Fy D' Coda*
(measure numbers rounded to the nearest downbeat)
Section: Intro A x B x C x D E x F x

Mm. : 1–3 4–15   16–29 56–73   74–87 122–41   142–55 189–249 250–61   262–81 314–29   330–44
A y B y C y E y F y

30–41   42–55 88–105   106–21 156–75   176–88 282–93   294–313 345–60   361–73

374–434 435–41
*AxAyBxBy...is used instead of AA'BB'...in order to demonstrate the point of variance in each major section. The various x and y sections are not necessarily related to each other. †374–91 related to 189–205; 392–405 = 205–19; 419–34 = 232–47
b. Octatonic scale, showing pairs of half steps alternating with whole steps
[Example Image]

   147 Winant, interview, Aug. 21, 1996.
   148 The performance by the Orford Quartet took place on April 28, 1979.
   149 Winant, interview, Aug. 21, 1996.
   150 This tuning was described in 1779 by J. S. Bach’s student Johann Philipp Kirnberger. All fifths are tuned pure except D–A and A–E, the pitch A being raised from its equal tempered position. The result is that, despite compromising these two fifths, three important thirds (C–E, G–B and D–F#) become pure. Harrison used this tuning in his 1985 Piano Concerto as well.
   151 Uday Shankar led a music and dance troupe that played a kind of popularized Indian music and toured widely abroad in the early 1930s. Although Harrison no longer has the recording he heard, a possible candidate would be the album "Hindu music / Shan Kar and His Company," directed by Vishnudass Shirali, RCA Victor, Victor Musical Masterpiece series M-382, ca. 1937.
   152 Harrison, personal communication, n.d..
   153 Harrison, personal communication, Aug. 6, 1997.
   154 Harrison, interview, Jan. 31, 1994.
   155 Harrison, personal communication, summer 1997.
   156 Ibid.
   157 H. Wiley Hitchcock and Vivian Perlis, eds. An Ives Celebration (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1977), 82.
   158 Note: "x" and "y" represent open and closed section endings that in traditional estampies are similar, but not always identical.
   159 Ives used a device similar to Harrison’s octave bar in the Hawthorne movement of the Concord Sonata.
   160 Morris, interview, Nov. 6, 1995.

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