The Music Performance Program at ColumbiaUniversity presents


New and Old Music of Benjamin Carson



Columbia University, Philosophy Hall Lounge (301)

March 26, 2009 | 8:00 PM


There will be no pauses between works. Applause is welcome at any time.

[ TOWARD THE MOMENT ca 30’00” ]


2003 Katie Schlaikjer, violoncello/bell/voice | Ian Antonio, Russell Greenberg, percussion/keyboard/voice | Laura Barger, prepared piano/keyboard/voice [12’00”]


2009 Glen Whitehead, trumpet | Yarn/Wire, percussion/keyboards | Chris Williams, bass | Rhonda Taylor, saxophone [8’00”]


2009 Chris Williams, contrabass/voice [ 4’00” ]

“Fors seulement…”, fors seulement condition

2004 Jacob Rhodebeck, piano [3’30”]



2009 Rhonda Taylor, saxophone [7’00”]

Mediations, tenors*

2003/2008 Ian Antonio, marimba and metal | Russell Greenberg, vibes and wood [11’00”]


Coda: “You Are Not I”

1999 Jacob Rhodebeck, piano [2’30”]

Cold on him by Eric Parson/Ben Carson

I cannot walk in the solitude of night

2008 Chris Williams, contrabass/voice [3’00” / 5’00”]

Anahistoric: Passapied

2003 Katie Schlaikjer, violoncello | Ian Antonio, Russell Greenberg, percussion/keyboard | Laura Barger, prepared piano/keyboard [2’30”]

*Parts of Anahistoric, Atalune, and Mediations, tenors will be reprised throughout the concert.


Anahistoric was inspired by Vietnamese-Canadian writer Daphne Marlott’s novel Ana Historic, in which the discovery of an obscure woman’s memoire (of life and labor in pre-industrial Northwest American prospector settlements) throws a contemporary reader’s relationship to the memory of her mother into a state of slow transformation. I tried to emulate Marlott’s mobile and facile approach to layering and overlapping narrative perpectives, her abrupt shifts in the characters’ sense of emotional potential, and her use of found texts. But the strained idea of music emulating literature loosened its grip on this piece. Having written most of a first draft, I had to start over, this time more conscious of being motivated by jealousy for what she had created, wanting to create the same work, with the same title, same meanings and implications, but without having to duplicate any of the content or form of her work.


We would rather be ruined than changed, rather die in our dread, than climb the cross of the moment. —W.H. Auden

Auden’s words continue “And let our illusions die”, a phrase I take to be helpful without adding new meaning. Chris Williams played a strong role in composing this piece, reformulating arpeggios to fit under the hand and bow, rethinking timbral and harmonic possibilities.

“Fors seulement…”, fors seulement condition

The chanson “Fors seulement l’attente que je meure…” (“If not for thoughts of death…”) originates in a musical tradition that can be credited with the invention of Romantic love—a kind of love which resembles the erotic but which is supposed to be entirely different. Courtly love—as the troubadours portray it, drawing upon Christian notions of selflessness and sacrifice—often meant devout faith in the ultimate importance of something unknowable and intangible. Likewise, then and now, truly ‘romantic’ lovers are supposed to dismiss as insignificant all that is sensual and corporeal. The element of devotion, the refutation of world, self, and body, and the narrator’s acutely passionate sorrow about the loss of his beloved, are demonstrations of the kind of love Christians are supposed to share with God and Christ. My translation [next page] is not what you would call scholarly.

We can’t easily say what meaning 15th- and 16th- century worshippers—who are the mute (but resonating) bodies of this whole affair—would invest in secular tunes emerging amidst a polyphonic Sanctus or Agnus Dei. The combination does invite us to draw associations between similar kinds of glory (Romance and Salvation), but they also draw each into a closer relationship with its limitations. Because of their shared dependence on disembodiment and mind-body separation, especially in this song, the romantic and the soteriological come together not competitively but symbiotically. (Strictly: “I would die without you.”)

Anonyme is an in-progress collection of works that sketch some basic categories of feeling and narrative that might one day become a comic opera; in particular, an opera in which unknown or unrecognized (or non-existent) “myths” interact episodically to create an open-ended whole. A myth might be defined as a story that transforms a narrative of events into a broadly shared ideology, or even a kind of symbolic language, through which we can express something other than the story itself. “Broadly shared” is probably an essential feature of the definition, so “Lesser Myths” is probably an oxymoron. (Likewise, a story of Anonyme relates to the paradox of a Neptune worshipper whose sacrifices exceed all expectations, but who takes a special kind of power over the God by remaining anonymous. The essense of worship is to make oneself known, and Neptune can’t handle praise that he can credit to no one, so he turns her into a sea anenome.) It makes some kind of sense, in times of crisis, to imagine what small stories might have been flattened or subsumed by the greater myths…I take an interest in stories like this not so much to pretend that something meaningful got lost, but rather because something forgotten might be more interesting as it grows more distant.

Mediations, Tenors is the second work in a pair of studies for marimba and vibraphone, that explore the narrow and unfamiliar region of ambiguity between melody (often defined in terms of singularities, openings and closings, the work of a “voice”) and texture (which is timeless, a snapshot; it has no conclusion, and no beginning). The two aren’t opposites, but in ‘the West’ at least (in pop and art music) the categories are independent. Texture is most important when melody is truncated, undeveloped; memorable tunes are not supposed to rely on “texture” for their meaning or identity. Which made me wonder how, or where, the two might overlap.

The title refers to the “psalm-tone recitation formula” of medieval chant, and especially to the midpoint of the formula, between two lines of a psalm, where, at long last, a flatline of devotional text is given its rhythm: a hiccup, a stepwise ornament. But there are other “mediations”—I listened with fascination at the unpredictability of bell, woodblock, and gong articulations at the Cantonese Po Hua (Buddhist) Temple in San Jose, especially after a friend Duc Si told me “no, it’s very simple; you just have to know where to strike are where not to.” I’m sure it was my remoteness from the tradition that made this incomprehensible even after I knew the words inside and out. My listening experience was stubbornly unlike hers. The melodies usually persisted with a chant “tenor” almost indefinitely, and arrived at mediations unpredictably, but melody and texture had to be interdependent, I thought, since the articulations of bells seemed just as often to mark a mediation as not, and neither the bells nor the mediations were placed in coordination with any obvious features of the text.

The other point of reference, then, is a false opposition of a different sort: that of the ‘difference’ between Brahms and Wagner. Enough has already been written about their hidden common ground—Schoenberg saw that both wanted the most modern thing possible, which was have the largest universe of ideas emerge from the smallest idea. But it was a less obvious common ground that mattered to me more: that both composers imagined melodies as dependent features of rhythm and counterpoint, so much so that melodies sometimes emerge or submerge without warning, from some distinguishing quirk of an inner voice, some turn of overlap between one idea and another, that makes melody and texture inseperable.

Coda: “You Are Not I” was a response to my experiences of November 19, 1999…the day NPR announced the death of Paul Bowles. I paid attention to unrelated events, and remembered them:

(1) It was the day that the Venezuelan baseball team, on a goodwill mission led by their new prime minister/pitcher Hugo Chavez, played against Castro’s beloved national team in Cuba.

(2) Later that afternoon, a French breach of sanctions against Iraq was noticed with displeasure by the US and Britain.

(3) 11-19-1999 was also the last date, until the first day of the year 3111, that could be spelled completely without even digits.

Finally, a striking photograph was taken in November of 1999, and printed in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (“What They Were Thinking” September 10, 2000), long after my work on this composition. At some distance from the subject, we see round glasses, thinning grey wispy hair, and nondescript clothing; the woman shown has a largish body and an androgynous face. Some of her features are in shadow, and most of her torso and legs are overexposed in the strong blurry sunlight of a nearby window. It is an image we are supposed to pity. The caption reads, in part:

Karen Edna Wallstein, Camphill Village U.S.A. [ a managed care facility ], Copake, N.Y., November 1999

I came to Camphill Village when I was 20. Now I’m 58 … Usually I smile, but in that photograph I was just waking up from my rest hour. I read, and I listen to my radio, and I sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep … Some people can go and live in the city on their own and nothing happens to them. I’m pretty weak to live on my own and get around on my own because I don’t know what will happen. I just don’t know why some people can do better than other people. Why is that?

(Emphasis mine, interview by Catherine Saint Louis.)

Wallstein’s sentiments are parallel with those of an institutionalized character in Bowles’ “You Are Not I”, who, in a crisis, slowly and cautiously develops a plan to trade bodies with her sister. When the plan is about to go forward, she remarks “I often feel that something is about to happen, and when I do, I stay perfectly still and let it go ahead.” Wallstein and Bowles express bewilderment or intimidation at the freedom and the competency of outsiders, especially with regard to the flowchart of everyday life, and environment.

You’ll go Cold On Him, wait and see, just as you always go cold on me. You’ll hurt him. You’ll probably apologize. But your face won’t show any pain.

You’ll go cold on him, before long. You’ll find someone else, right or wrong. You’ll tell him your reasons and you’ll say goodbye. And you’re fated to play that game again.

Once your kiss was soft and bright, it lasted till the morning light It glowed and shimmered, like a summer moon. Now with someone new, the sparks are flying like they used to do but I can tell you’ll start to change your tune. He doesn’t see the evidence, but soon

You’ll grow cold on him. Cold as ice. It won’t matter, how hard he tries. It figures, no fire can keep you warm, all night, without something to feed the burning flame. - B.C. / E.P.

I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of night without thinking that the night pleases because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does. -Jorge Luis Borges


Yarn/Wire (Ian Antonio, Laura Barger, Russell Greenberg, and Jacob Rhodebeck) is the only active contemporary music ensemble in the U.S. dedicated to expanding the body of works written for two pianists and two percussionists. The sonic possibilities afforded by this unique instrumentation leads to a rich body of work. Since its inception in 2005, the ensemble has presented concerts throughout the country, championing a wide range of literature, including early and recent, acoustic and electro-acoustic; its members’ interests range from the standard classical repertory to experimental popular music.

Percussionist Ian Antonio was born in 1981 and grew up in Albany, NY. After studying with Richard Albagli and performing with the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble, he moved to New York City on a Presidential Scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music. There, Ian studied with James Preiss, Duncan Patton, Christopher Lamb, Eric Charleston, and Claire Heldrich and graduated in 2003, receiving the Kraeuter Musical Foundation Award and a B.M. While attending MSM, Ian was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2002 and 2003, performed with the Wild Ginger Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, NYU Experimental Theatre Division, and began playing with the Wet Ink Ensemble.

In 2003, Ian began his studies at SUNY Stony Brook with Eduardo Leandro where he received his M.M. in 2005 and is currently working on completing his D.M.A. While at Stony Brook, Ian has been professor of undergraduate percussion and manager of the university’s new-music ensemble, the Contemporary Chamber Players. Outside of the university, Ian leads a busy musical life, performing and touring extensively with the avant-garde rock trio Zs, commissioning and premiering new works with new-music ensembles Yarn/Wire and Hunter-Gatherer, and pushing the boundaries of contemporary theatre and composition with Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf and the Wet Ink Ensemble. Outside of his own ensembles, Ian also performs with the S.E.M. Ensemble, the Argento Chamber Ensemble, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Ian has taught at SUNY Stony Brook, Cornet Music School, I.S. 291 in Brooklyn, maintains an active private studio, and has guest taught at the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division, Adelphi University, the New York Summer Music Festival, and with Associated Solo Artists. His playing can be heard on the Albany, Bridge, Planaria, Sockets, Social Registry, Three One G, Tzadik, and Warp record labels.

Laura Barger is a versatile and vibrant pianist who has performed both as a soloist and chamber musician at The Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), Västerås Konserthus (Sweden), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Darmstadt International Summer Festival for New Music (Germany), The Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, Bang on a Can Marathon at Mass MOCA and The Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. Active in New York’s new music scene, she has performed in venues varying from John Zorn’s downtown experimental mecca The Stone to the Kaufmann Center’s Merkin Hall. In addition to Yarn/Wire, she has also performed with contemporary music groups such as the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Argento Chamber Ensemble, Talujon Percussion, Lost Dog New Music, and the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players.

Laura has premiered numerous works by composers from around the world, and has been fortunate to work directly with composers such as Philippe Leroux, Augusta Read-Thomas, Yan Maresz, Dai Fujikura, Alexandra Dubois, Mei-Fang Lin, David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Terry Riley. In the spring of 2007, she was the featured soloist in György Ligeti’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra as part of the Emerson Quartet’s International Chamber Music Festival at Stony Brook University. Laura is also currently part of an experimental opera project by American composer Ellen Lindquist and Companion Star Productions. The international ensemble has presented open workshops and performances both in Sweden and New York; in 2007 the company was featured prominently on Swedish radio and television. Based on the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer, För levande och doda (For the Living and the Dead) will premiere in Sweden in 2010.

Laura has been the recipient of several grants for performance, such as the Arts Council Legacy Award for Interdisciplinary Arts from the University of Tennessee, an Encore Grant from the American Composers Forum, and a Dialogues Across Differences Grant from Stony Brook University. Laura holds degrees from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (BM, summa cum laude) where she studied with David Northington, and Stony Brook University (MM, DMA) where studied primarily with Christina Dahl and additionally with Gilbert Kalish and Arthur Haas (early keyboards). While at Stony Brook, she was honored with the Music Department’s only graduate award, the Ackerman Excellence in Music Award. She is currently on the piano and chamber music faculty at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan.

Russel Greenberg, percussion, is interested in new music ranging from current compositional trends to electronic media, improvisation and rock music. Currently based in Ridgewood, Queens, he was born in Los Angeles in 1980, where he grew up listening to a steady diet of classical music, free jazz and noise rock.

Russell received his BA in music from the University of California at Berkeley in 2002, where he studied percussion with William Winant, and with Eduardo Leandro at Stony Brook University, where he earned his M.M. in 2004. While at Berkeley, he was awarded the Eisner Award for achievements in the creative arts, and performed with ensembles including the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, sfSound and the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players.Now pursuing his doctorate, Russell has recently performed at the SPARK festival of Electronic Music and Art (Minneapolis), and was a featured artist at the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento, California.

In addition to his work with Yarn/Wire, Russell performs with the innovative pop band, Hi Red Center, which actively tours around the country each year. Outside of his own groups, Russell works with the experimental theater group, Two-Headed Calf, and has performed with groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Mantra Percussion. Other activities include composing music for the Off-Off Broadway theater production of Clubbed Thumb’s “Gentleman Caller” as well as a soundtrack for a short film by the WWE wrestler John Morrison.

As a teacher, he has taught percussion and lectured in music at Stony Brook University, and has been an adjunct faculty member at Suffolk Community College. He is currently on faculty at the Lucy Moses School in Manhattan. He has recorded for the Bridge, Mode, Albany, and Joyful Noise record labels.

Jacob Rhodebeck is a pianist known for his facile technique and his enthusiasm for performing new and unknown music. He was born in Mansfield, OH in 1982 and grew up in central Ohio. Prior to attending college, he studied piano with Christopher Durrenberger, at Wittenberg University. Jacob attended the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music and studied with Elizabeth Pridonoff. It was during this time that his interest in performing new music came about. During that time, he performed five solo recital programs featuring many contemporary works, including works by Frederic Rzewski and Per Norgard, as well as a recital comprised entirely of works commissioned from student composers. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from CCM, Jacob went on to Stony Brook University to continue his study with Gilbert Kalish. At Stony Brook, he completed his Master’s degree in 2006 and continued there in the Doctoral program.

Jacob has been highly active in the world of new music, having collaborated with and premiered works by Mason Bates, Shinuh Lee, Christopher Bailey, Lukas Ligeti, and many others. He has performed as a soloist with the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music Symphony Band and as a member of the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players. Jacob has performed in many masterclasses with artists such as: Garrick Ohlsson, Ursula Oppens, Frederic Rzewski, and Emanuel Ax. In April 2008, he was invited to perform and record Morton Gould’s Chorale and Fugue in Jazz for two pianos and orchestra with Blair Macmillen and the Albany Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded Christopher Bailey’s Piano Sonata and Ilari Kaila’s piano quartet, Kellojen Kumarus with the Escher Quartet. He was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Summer Music Festival as a in 2007 and 2008. Currently, Jacob in is the advanced stages of his Doctoral degree at Stony Brook and is the Music Minister at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Smithtown, NY. He joined Yarn/Wire in November 2008.

Cellist Katie Schlaikjer received top prizes from the Concert Artist Guild, the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, and the Banff International Quartet Competition as a former member of the Avalon Quartet. Her present work as a New York City freelancer has presented her with diverse performance opportunities including a production of Harry Partch’s microtonal opera Oedipus and Villa Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras number five in Zankel Hall’s first, dedication concert with Renée Fleming. Katie has performed at the Ravinia, Caramoor, Aspen and Apple Hill chamber music festivals and attended the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove, England. She tours regularly with the Core Ensemble (cello, piano, percussion and actor/singer) performing works that combine chamber music and theater to portray the lives of famous women in history. Katie received her doctoral degree in December, 2007 from Stony Brook University where she studied with Timothy Eddy.

Saxophonist Rhonda Taylor (b. 1976) is dedicated to the creation and performance of meaningful sonic art of our time. She has worked with a variety of today’s most outstanding composers, including Bernard Rands, Robert Morris, Jeffrey Mumford, and Robert Lemay. She has also commissioned and premiered works by such emerging composers as Rick Burkhardt, Avi Tchamni, Justin Rubin, Chris Arrell, and Jon Forshee. Her recent activities include presenting a recital of late 20th century solo saxophone works at Spivey Hall in Atlanta, lecture recitals on Gérard Grisey’s Anubis et Nout at institutions in the U.S. and abroad, performances at NASA Biennials, World Saxophone Congresses, and at new music festivals throughout the United States. Her primary teachers were Kelland Thomas at the University of Arizona and John Sampen at Bowling Green State University. She also studied with Jean-Marie Londeix and Jean-François Guay at Domaine Forget, and with Arno Bornkamp, Jean-Michel Goury, and Kenneth Radnofsky at the International Clarinet and Saxophone Connection at New England Conservatory. Dr. Taylor has been on faculty at New Mexico State University since 2003, where she is the College Professor of Saxophone and Music Theory.

Glen Whitehead is a contemporary music specialist, improviser, composer, interdisciplinary artist; founder of the Electro Acoustic Improvisation Ensemble at CU Denver and the VAPA Interdisciplinary Music Major at UCCS; “Psychoangelo,” and “Trumpetspeak” with Dr. Michael Theodore; co-producer of “the 6th Room: a Multimedia Long Distance Installation Improvisation” at UCCS with Mary Oliver, Michael Shumacher & Ellen Knopps; cross-cultural improvisation project with Pt. Sanjoy Bandopadhyay; Kim Stone Electric Band on Exit Records; GW Group at Rednote Festival, Mercury, Dazzle, Denver Visual/Music Festival, TIE Experimental Film Festival; “Nightmare in Rio” with Gregory Walker; O’Keefe/Stanyek/Walton/Whitehead on Circumvention and 9Winds records; Solo trumpet on “Tania,” opera by Anthony Davis on Kotch Int, principal trumpet Everquest soundtrack; other collaborators: Kent Maclagan, Cecil Taylor, Keith Rowe, Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, Judith Coe, Nicolas Collins, Alan Joseph, Randy Bowen, William Malone, Jonathan Lee, Peggy Berg. Dr. Whitehead is Assistant Professor and Director of Music at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs,

Christopher Williams is a Barcelona-based composer, bassist, and organizer originally from San Diego (California), where he he studied at the University of California with Chaya Czernowin, Bertram Turetzky, Charles Curtis, and others. Additional teachers include John Rahn, Erik Ulman, and Mark Dresser. He has musicked with Derek Bailey, LaMonte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music, Mary Oliver and Rozemarie Heggen, trigger ensemble für aktuelle musik, Hans W. Koch, Tom Djll and Matt Ingalls, Barbara Held, Charles Curtis, ensemble chronophonie, Maggie Nicols, NOISE Ensemble, visual artist Tanja Smit, and dancers Martin Sonderkamp and Justin Morrison; has recorded for the Incus, Steady Beat, and Eclipse record labels; has written articles for The Improvisor, and—on the subject of Carson’s piano music—The Open Space Magazine; and has received scholarships and prizes from the University of California, the Darmstadt Summer Courses, the Arts Council of Catalunya, and the Festival Acanthes composers’ workshop.

Recent projects include participation in Possibility of Action: the life of the score, a collective exhibition of musical scores at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; Apples Are Basic, a composition for violist Mary Oliver and contrabassist Rozemarie Heggen based on the work of radical art nun Sr. Corita Kent; a month-long stay at Hotel Pupik, an international artists’ residency at Schloss Schrattenberg, Austria; and organizing a series of improvised and experimental music at Miscelanea art space and elsewhere in Barcelona.

Christopher is a member of Associació Musical l’Embut and the Metro Mig Cycle Club, a member emeritus of the 4862 Voltaire St. Consort, and a Maker’s Mark Embassador <>.

Ben Carson’s work as a composer is supported by a variety of theory and research, including work in both critical gender studies and cognitive science; he has studied under John Rahn at the University of Washington and Roger Reynolds at the University of California, San Diego. His music has been performed at local and international festivals, including Aspen, the 25th-anniversary “June in Buffalo” festival of new music (2000), the Sydney Conservatory’s conference on Music and Social Justice (2005), and at the New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Piano Performance (2004). Ben Carson’s music has been supported by a number of international awards and research grants, including the first prize in chamber music (2001) for the London-based International Bass Society. He has lectured in the series Perception et Cognition Auditives at the University of Paris V, at the Thurgood Marshall College Writing Program (UC San Diego), and at the UC Santa Cruz Cultural Studies Colloquium. His writing is published in a variety of areas, including the American Journal of Psychology, the Journal of New Music Research, the “Feminist Provocations” series of the Institute for Advanced Feminist Research, and the OPEN SPACE magazine of new music and art.

Both in scholarship and in musical practice, Carson is primarily concerned with the sometimes unpredictable locations of musical “subjects,” which he defines broadly as any identity-bearing aspects of musical experience. He explores these ideas through the connections and distinctions between event groups, especially in regards to the ways that one kind of connection or distinction (melodic, rhythmic, timbral, contrapuntal) might conflict with another. Carson also attempts, in his research, to broaden these technical issues to address questions about the history and ideology of compositional method.


Thank you to Deborah Bradley-Kramer for suggesting the idea, supporting it, and making it work. Thanks to Eleanor Lipat-Chesler for administrative support. Thank you Michel Galante for introducing me to Yarn/Wire. Thanks especially to George Lewis for invaluable guidance. Naturally, to the collaborators, hearty gratitude—all have worked beyond expectations with difficult and sometimes opaque music.

Eric Parson’s invaluable and extensive efforts in sound engineering have been necessary for this unusual concert. Thanks to David Gordon at Josephson Engineering (<>) in Santa Cruz, who invented the evening’s primary microphone. He somehow saw fit to serve as a behind-the-scenes producer for a composer he hasn’t even met: managing the shipment of large microphones from California, and supervising their most effective use.

Thanks finally to Alex Stein, and to everyone else who let a musician sleep a few days on a couch. And thanks to many more that aren’t named here.