Press Releases

‘Words and Music’At UC Berkeley By KEN BULLOCK

Tuesday May 03, 2005

Participants in a UC Berkeley “Words and Music” seminar led by composer William Bolcom, visiting Ernest Bloch lecturer in music, and poet (and UC professor) Robert Hass will present performances of their completed projects of what Bolcom has referred to as “the way words and music marry” in a Wed. May 4 afternoon reading and workshop, 2-5 p.m. at the recital hall in Morrison 125, and in a recital setting, incorporating more material (including electronic media), 8 p.m. Sat. May 14 at Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technology (CNMAT), 1750 Arch St. The performances are open to the public; admission is free. 

Meeting over the past semester, the weekly seminar has paired poets—mostly graduate students drawn from the English Department—with Ph.D. ca ndidates in composition from the Music Dept. to develop songs and other forms incorporating words and music, under the guidance of Bolcom, whose settings of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” won the Pulitzer Prize, and Hass, a past natio nal poet laureate. The seminar was sponsored by a grant from the UC Consortium for the Arts, which supports collaboration between artists, often from the different arts. 

At the Wednesday reading and workshop on May 4, musicians, singers and other perform ers, some seeing the work for the first time, will engage in an open workshop to engage with collaborative pieces by each of the seven poets and seven composers. Vocalists will include soprano Tara Generalovich, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane and baritone Zachary Gordin. Pianist LaDene Otsuki will accompany, along with other instrumentalists. 

The May 14 event will be more of a concert, with more diverse material from the seminar participants, including both acoustic and electronic compositions.  

“The goal was for four projects each, in different pairings between composers and poets, “ said composer and seminar participant Aaron Einbond, one of the organizers of the events. “One piece was to be in reverse process--that is, in classical music, the lyrics are composed first, followed by the music. In popular music, it’s usually the reverse. For my piece, I wrote a song in Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter style--obviously, influenced by Bill Bolcom’s presence. Joan Morris [Bolcom’s wife, collaborator and co-lecture r] sat in many times at the seminar and would interject the singer’s perspective. 

“After random pairings at the start, we formed alliances for the final project. These were real collaborations with real process—not just handing finished poems to a composer, who then writes the music. There was a nice back and forth—and considerable aesthetic diversity, both in the poems and music—and in the results of collaboration.”