History is what it is
Music by Peter Hatch
Performed by the Blue Rider Ensemble
Catalog: CMCCD 18413
This compact disc brings together a diverse group of compositions written over the past dozen or so years. The CD’s title History is what it is is taken from a text by Gertrude Stein and used in my piano work One Says. History Is., a work that questions the role of the individual in relation to large historical contexts. The writing of another great 20thc literary genius, Italo Calvino, was the inspiration for Five Memos. The work does not use any of Calvino’s texts but is based on a set of lectures he developed outlining his conjectures of the future of literary writing. The remaining two works are more about history-making in the moment: Music is a Beautiful Disease is an exercise in intuitive composing inspired by dream states and Cantabile, with grace is a structured improvisation by the Blue Rider Ensemble based on a simple sketch I generated for them. Both works stress the act of creation, the impulse that generates both art and, perhaps, the making of history as acts of individual decisions and motivations. From Stein again: “They make history. They are in the place of it.”
Although two of the works on this CD were commissioned by other ensembles (Vancouver’s Standing Wave and Toronto’s Continuum), it was a workshop and concert by the Blue Rider Ensemble in Waterloo in 2007 that galvanized this collection. My connection to the Blue Rider Ensemble goes back to 1993, when I collaborated on a full evening instrumental theatre piece called Mounting Picasso that involved the performers not just performing musically, but speaking and moving as well. Our 2007 Blue Memos concert was an “expanded” chamber music evening in which lighting and simple theatrical gestures enhanced the music of the evening - much of it composed, some improvised. Both Five Memos and Music is a Beautiful Disease include directions for simple theatrical movements (to be performed by the instrumentalists) in them - obviously not represented on this disc and intended to supplement the musical material while not supplanting it. The work that ends the disc is a testament to the fine musicianship and improvisational skills of these musicians.
Peter Hatch, November, 2012
Blue Rider Ensemble
Since its inception in 1990, the Blue Rider Ensemble has worked on a project-by-project basis, gathering several times per year for intensive work sessions lasting from one week to one month. Although the ensemble has concertized, the heart of its identity lies in the bigger, long-term projects and in its collaborations with artists from other disciplines.
The first of these projects was centered around Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, a staged production that toured internationally and was released on CD (Eclectra & Marquis Classics). In 1993, Blue Rider premiered an instrumental theatre work, a genre championed by composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel. Mounting Picasso by Peter Hatch with text by Gertrude Stein, is an 80 minute fully staged work with video and dance where the musicians are also the actors who carry the dramatic action. It premiered at NUMUS (KW) and the DuMaurier Theatre Centre Series (TO). Blue Rider’s unique process has drawn other artists to work with them, from Québec poet and playwright Michel Garneau’s Blue Rider Marmelade to choreographer David Earle’s beautiful staging of Blue Memos, a concert of structured improvisations and works by Peter Hatch, which was the genesis of this CD recording.
The common thread for the Blue Rider members is a desire to reexamine our approach to music making, interpretation, performance and ensemble. We have learned to use extra-musical and nonmusical tools as an integral part of our process. In the scope of this exploration, we recall the community of artists who formed Der Blaue Reiter in 1911 to promote the cause of Modernism and a synthesis of the arts.