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CATALOG > Four Pentagrams - Paeans - Granites

Dane Rudhyar
Four Pentagrams - Paeans - Granites
Total Time: 69:28
Record Label: Aucourant Records
Catalog Number: AUREC 0909
UPC: 6-49783-09092-3
Type: CD
Released: 2009


Rudhyar’s music combines rich, Scriabinesque harmonies with a spontaneous, improvisatory quality reminiscent of Debussy. Commentary on Rudhyar’s music tends to emphasize harmony and chord construction to the relative neglect of melody and rhythm. The Pentagrams, however, feature long melodic lines that provide a sense of direction and context to the rich harmonies. These lines are expressive as well as structural, sometimes branching out into successions of short melodic motives. The melodic writing in Paeans and Granites, however, features wide leaps and octave doublings that call to mind the music of Ruggles, whose Portals for string ensemble (1925) was a work that Rudhyar greatly admired. Paeans also features brief, repetitive, rhythmically charged motives that recall Varèse, as do the percussive clusters in the low register. These influences are not surprising, for Rudhyar’s writings from the 1920s indicate that Varèse and Ruggles were the American composers that he held in the highest esteem, seeing them as worthy successors to Scriabin and to the pre-neoclassical Stravinsky. The rhythm of Rudhyar’s music gives it a strong sense of flow that generally avoids strict metrical patterns. When repeated rhythmic patterns do occur, they tend to be organized into asymmetrical groupings, such as meters with five or seven beats. The overall impression created by harmony, melody, and rhythm in Rudhyar’s music is one of steady, continuous transformation.
Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) was a founding member of the “ultramoderns,” a group of American composers who rose to prominence in the 1920s. Other important ultramoderns included Henry Cowell (1897-1965), Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953), Carl Ruggles (1876-1971) and Edgard Varèse (1883-1965). Each of these composers wrote in a highly individual style, giving expression to a vision for American music that was open to both European and non-European influences. The European composers that Rudhyar favored—late Liszt, early Satie, Debussy, Scriabin, and pre-neoclassical Stravinsky—had also opened their music to non-Western influences, thereby (in Rudhyar’s terms) seeking to “dis-Europeanize” the musical culture of their time. The ultramoderns were also open to various literary influences, including the writings of the American Transcendentalists (who, slightly earlier, had inspired Charles Ives as well). Rudhyar and Crawford in particular were deeply affected by theosophical literature which, like Rudhyar’s work, bridged European, American, and Asian cultures.

The works on this recording were composed between 1924 and 1929, a period of sustained musical activity for Rudhyar after which he focused most of his attention on writing and, intermittently, on painting as well. A number of his writings were devoted astrology, the topic for which he is arguably best known, but he also wrote poetry, fiction, philosophy, and criticism. Rudhyar’s compositional productivity abated during the 1930s and 40s, when the American cultural climate supported it even less than it had in the 1920s. Inspired by some revivals of interest in his work in the 1950s and 60s, Rudhyar’s musical productivity resumed in earnest in the 1970s—after the deaths of the other ultramoderns—and continued into his final years.

Even though Rudhyar is arguably the least well-known of the major ultramodern composers today, interest in his work appears to be growing once again. References to his music and ideas in the scholarly literature have been increasing in recent years, classic recordings of his works have been reissued, and new recordings are beginning to appear. This recording is the first to present the complete Pentagrams, which has yet to occupy its proper place as one of the great cyclic works in the modern piano repertoire. It is hoped that the representative sampling of Rudhyar’s work that is presented here will stimulate further interest among audiences, performers, and scholars in the music and ideas of this remarkable composer and thinker. As those who have acquainted themselves with his music and writings are well aware, Rudhyar consistently presented a perspective on the arts and society that was humanistic, transcultural, and spiritually informed. It was a perspective that reflected the major trends of his time, and one that remains relevant to our time.
~ Ron Squibbs

Ronald Squibbs, Piano

Ronald Squibbs was born in Connecticut in 1962. He began studying the piano with Elizabeth Mason Ginnel (a descendent of Lowell Mason) at the age of eight. Further piano studies were with Richard Gregor at the Westport School of Music and Donald Currier at Yale. He earned a Ph.D. in music theory from Yale in 1996 and taught at Georgia State University in Atlanta from 1997 until 2002. He is currently Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. His scholarly and performance interests are focused on the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has performed the music of Yuasa, Xenakis, Rudhyar and others in recitals and lecture-recitals and has presented his research at conferences in the United States and Europe. His articles on the music of Xenakis have appeared in Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, and in the book of essays Présences de Iannis Xenakis.

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