Robert Carl (b.1954) studied composition with Jonathan Kramer, George Rochberg, Ralph Shapey, and Iannis Xenakis. His music is performed throughout the US and Europe, and is published by American Composers' Alliance, Boosey&Hawkes, Roncorp, and Apoll-Edition. His grants, prizes and residencies have come from such sources as the National Endowment for the Arts, Tanglewood, Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Camargo Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Ucross, Millay Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, Djerassi Foundation, the Aaron Copland House, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He has been awarded a 2005 Chamber Music America commission for a string quintet written for the Miami String Quartet and Robert Black. An excerpt from his opera-in-progress Harmony (with novelist Russell Banks) was presented in May 2005 in the New York City Opera’s VOX Showcase series. He is also the recipient of the 1998 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. New World Records released a CD of three large string chamber works in March 2006.
In 2007, Carl received a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council for travel to Japan to research contemporary Japanese composers, and he has been commissioned by Oxford University Press to write a book on the premiere of Terry Riley’s In C. Other CD releases of his work are found on Neuma, Koch International, Lotus, Centaur, Vienna Modern Masters, E.R.M., and The Aerial. For fifteen years he was a co-director of the Extension Works new music ensemble in Boston; he is chair of the composition department at the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford, and writes extensively on new music for Fanfare Magazine. He studies shakuhachi with Ralph Samuelson.
A Clean Sweep (2005) is a work for shakuhachi flute and electroacoustic accompaniment, generated by the MAX/MSP program. It is 13’ long.
The title comes from the iconic gesture of the electroacoustic part, long continuous glissandi that move incrementally from one pitch to another, often over small intervals. The result is a polyphonic web of modal harmonies that are constantly changing in their construction, and their resultant tonal implications. The work’s layers are all centered around key structural tones of the shakuhachi, in particular D and A (Ro and Chi). The sliding motive is a glacial expansion and projection of the sort of bending tones possible on the shakuhachi. The original generative sound is that of a sine tone, frequency modulated by a single cycle from a sample of the low D on the shakuhachi. For me, the resultant sound is rather like a sort of “meta-sho”, i.e. the polyphonic mouth organ used in gagaku orchestral music.
The shakuhachi part is closely related to this accompaniment, but it was conceived much more intuitively. It is very much a plaintive, “human” voice that keens within a far more impersonal, “inevitable” sonic environment. Because the work, while fully notated, allows for performer discretion in matters of timing, ornamentation, and repetition of motives, it may be performed as either a solo work, or a duo, the latter of which will be heard in this concert. —Robert Carl