Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

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Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 27, 2017 7:16 am

I am interested in Australian composers. So here is a Carl Vine world premiere by the Chicagoans led by James Gaffigan with Michael Mulcahy, trombone. I have included relevant notes from the program booklet and restricted the link to CMG viewers.

CARL VINE: Five Hallucinations (22:06) (world premiere)
Michael Mulcahy, trombone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Gaffigan, conductor

Orchestra Hall
Chicago, Illinois
October 6, 2016

Carl Vine
Born October 8, 1954; Perth, Australia
Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra

COMPOSED 2016. These are the world premiere performances
Co-commissioned by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and by Kim Williams AM, Geoff Ainsworth, and Johanna Featherstone for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

solo trombone, two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drums, marimba, glockenspiel, tom-toms, crash cymbals, suspended cymbals, tam-tam, xylophone), harp, strings


The neurologist and best-selling writer Oliver Sacks, who died last August, had a lifelong fascination with music. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the 1985 book of essays that first brought him a large audience, he told the story of Dr. P., who can no longer make sense of his life and relies on Robert Schumann’s music to keep his bearings by linking each everyday activity with a musical theme. (The tale was made into a one-act opera in 1986 by the English composer Michael Nyman, who incorporated Schumann’s music into his largely minimalist language.) Sacks himself was an accomplished pianist. His first musical memory was of his brother playing music by Bach. He later admitted that his musical tastes more or less ended with Brahms (he did confess a fascination with Stravinsky’s music). Countering Nietzsche’s boast that listening to Bizet had made him a better philosopher, Sacks once said: “I think Mozart makes me a better neurologist.” In 2007, near the end of his distinguished career, he published Musicophilia, a collection of essays devoted entirely to the relationship between music and the brain, and to the power of music to move and heal us. “One does not need to have any formal knowledge of music—nor, indeed, to be particularly ‘musical’— to enjoy music and to respond to it at the deepest levels,” he wrote. “Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed.”

Carl Vine, the Australian composer, calls Musicophilia, “an awakening book in terms of brain function and musical awareness.” Vine’s musical background is extraordinarily wide ranging—from playing piano in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to lecturing on composition at the Sydney Conservatory; serving as artistic director of the chamber music organization Musica Viva Australia; and writing seven symphonies and ten concertos, as well as music for film, television, dance, and theater. But Vine has also said that he would have studied neurology if he had his life to live over. In his new composition, Five Hallucinations, written for CSO trombonist Michael Mulcahy, his friend of thirty years, and inspired by the writings of Sacks, Vine was able to unite these two passions in a single work. After Mulcahy made his solo debut with the Chicago Symphony in 2000, performing Leopold Mozart’s Alto Trombone Concerto in D major, discussions got underway to commission a new work for him to play with the Orchestra. As the years passed and CSO music directors changed, Mulcahy considered some twenty different composers. But when he returned to his native Australia to record a CD of Australian trombone works, which included Carl Vine’s Love Song, he immediately knew that Vine was the right choice. After some thirteen years of searching—and another eighteen months before a contract with Vine was signed—the long-awaited Chicago commission was a reality. After Sacks’s death last year, Vine decided to revisit the author’s Hallucinations, a classic study of sensory deceptions induced by everything from exhaustion to drugs. When he read Sacks’s phrase “hexagons in pink,” recalling the exact image of his own drug-induced hallucination years ago, Vine contacted Mulcahy in Chicago with the kernel of an idea for his new score. Mulcahy was skeptical at first—he didn’t want anything too light or showy; he valued music that was dramatic and lyrical above all. But then he realized that Vine’s excitement—and the irresistible force of a composer’s inspiration—was what he wanted most of all: “Be led by your own muse,” he told Vine. Music, Sacks reminds us, in Musicophilia, “has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”

The composer comments on Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra

In his book Hallucinations, the acclaimed British-American neurologist Oliver Sacks chronicles a wide range of hallucinatory conditions reported by his patients throughout his illustrious career. I have chosen five of those cases as the inspiration for this concerto, creating an imaginary musical representation of each mental state. These particular hallucinations were comparatively benign for those who experienced them, and in some cases were positively welcome. Hallucinations are fascinating phenomena— instantaneous random inventions of our brains overlaid on the sensation of common reality and indistinguishable from it. Many of us will experience them in some way during our lives. When we sleep for example, we are aware that our brain is in free flight and its muddled dream scenarios are not real. On the edges of sleep however, we can confuse random mental impressions with reality, and are hallucinating. A typical example is hearing one’s name spoken by an unknown person; another is when the tail end of a dream impinges on perceived reality. Sufferers of brain damage or a range of neurological disorders regularly hallucinate. Others without mental illness but under great stress or fatigue can also hallucinate, as of course can those who use psychotropic drugs. It is this bridge between the real world and some of the surprising ways in which our brains interpret the mundane reality around us that I find endlessly fascinating.

I smell the unicorn
One of Sacks’s patients frequently hears complete sentences spoken outside herself while drifting off to sleep. The phrases have no special personal meaning, and bear witness to the extraordinary and unexpected creative power of the brain as it freewheels into sleep.

The lemonade speaks
Hearing voices is a hallucination common in schizophrenia, especially as threats or curses. Less threatening versions may be experienced by just about anybody on waking up, either disembodied or from inanimate objects. In this case an effervescent beverage has discovered the power of speech. What it says is not clear.

Mama wants some cookies
Sufferers of Charles Bonnet Syndrome often hallucinate text or other visual material super- imposed repeatedly across their entire field of vision. The sentence “Mama wants some cookies” is actually another auditory hallucination like “unicorn” above, but I’ve used some poetic license to imagine that incongruous sentence as text filling one’s entire visible world.

The doppelgänger
Many people have experienced the sense of being followed when it is clear that it isn’t happening. A special version of this hallucination is the sense of being followed by oneself—a permanent mirror aping one’s every motion, and in extreme cases affording such close identification with the simulacrum that the individual swaps places with the doppelgänger.

Hexagons in pink
Hallucinating repeated visual patterns like arabesques and hexagons is common to many conditions including extreme migraine and the use of psychotropic drugs, and can be detected, for instance, in the repetitive decorations on Persian rugs. Losing control of one’s visible universe to a randomly reinvented geometrical animation can be disturbing, but it can also be pleasurable.

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Re: Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

Post by Belle » Thu Apr 27, 2017 11:26 am

A friend and colleague from our Music Appreciation group was going to a performance of that work with the SSO last month at the Sydney Opera House and I will see him next week to find out his response. My friend is a trombonist, having started in jazz at an early age. But he once said to me, "if you're not as good as a trombonist in an international orchestra when you're 18 you'll never really have a career with the instrument". Instead he became a music academic, jazz player and enthusiast and he has written a book. His passions in art music are Wagner and Mahler. I'll find out his thoughts about the Carl Vine work and report them here.

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Re: Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

Post by barney » Sat May 06, 2017 6:09 pm

I think I am right that the soloist, Mulcahey, is a brilliant Australian trombonist and a great loss to this country. Chicago's gain.

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Re: Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

Post by Heck148 » Sun May 07, 2017 8:13 am

barney wrote:
Sat May 06, 2017 6:09 pm
I think I am right that the soloist, Mulcahey, is a brilliant Australian trombonist and a great loss to this country. Chicago's gain.
Yes, Mike Mulcahy is Australian, a great trombonist....He plays Trombone II in CSO, but sometimes gets solo roles as well - years ago I heard CSO with Barenboim perform Mahler #7 in Boston Sym. Hall - Mulcahy was featured soloist on the big tenor horn solo in mvt I....magnificent playing - real virtuoso flair and panache.

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Re: Carl Vine: Five Hallucinations for Trombone & Orch. Mulcahy/Gaffigan/CSO 2016 world premiere

Post by Belle » Thu May 11, 2017 2:43 am

I spoke to my friend about this concert today. He said "it didn't sound all that pleasant; it lacked melodic interest" and implied that this was nearly impossible anyway with an ensemble of trombones. He was surprised by how enthusiastically the house responded to the work and to Carl Vine, though he imagined lots of them were students who actually knew the composer.

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