Reviews

“…interesante uso de los silencios para que todo cree unaconversacion entre los instrumentos perfectamente bien balanceados.”
El Nuevo Dia

“Judith Shatin’s powerful Akhmatova Songs are luminous settings of three poems by the iconic Russian poet. While handsomely contrasting in mood, all three songs boast crystalline text settings and an ear for darkly glittering instrumental sonorities. The arresting second song, All Is Plundered, speaks of how the void left by an unnamed catastrophe is filled by an improbable sense of hope. Shatin sets the text with gleaming vocal lines that soar high above a roiling cauldron of strings, woodwinds, and piano. Pamela Dellal was the excellent vocal soloist….Shatin’s work was a standout…” – The Boston Globe

“The composer’s notes on this piece, a three-and-a-half minute elaboration of the word “Alleluia,” associate it with the September 11 terrorist attacks, saying that her intent is “to express a blend of comfort and defiance, to sing against the dark, but in knowledge of it.” Although the tempo indication is “Gently,” I find the effect of the piece to be more in the direction of “relentless,” or at least, “inexorable,” but I don’t mean that pejoratively. The voices, frequently yoked in pairs (especially SA/TB), move in and out of various ostinato patterns, the rhythmic texture well-leavened with triplets. If performing forces are a worry, it may help to know that the soprano solo lasts only five  bars. This is not musical comfort-food, but it does have something powerful to say that is not necessarily out of place amid the C major of Eastertide, particularly in war-time” – The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians

 

“…Pieces by Brooklyn native Jennifer Higdon, flutist Katherine Hoover, and China’s Jing Jing Luo serve as appetizers to the disc’s centerpiece — University of Virginia professor Judith Shatin’s 20-movement tour-de-force “Chai Variations”….”
–The Palm Beach Post

“…The most substantial work featured on the disc is Chai Variations, a 20-movement, 21-minute tour de force for solo piano by Judith Shatin that was inspired by the Jewish folksong “Eliahu HaNavi.” Chai, the 18th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is often used to represent the number 18 as well as life, hence Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and this set of 18 brief variations with a theme at the beginning and a recapitulation of the theme at the very end. Ernst shows a particular affinity for this music, having previously recorded a whole disc of Shatin’s music with violinist Hasse Borup which included the formidable solo piano piece Widdershins….”
–New Music Box (Frank J. Oteri)

“…a shapely, convincing set.”
–CD Reviews (Steve Hickman)

“…incredibly imaginative creations….”
–Terapija (terapija.net) (translated from the Croatian)

“…Judith Shatin’s music has been well received in the pages of this magazine, including by myself. I have commented on her strong ability to create a narrative pulse in her work, calling her a natural story teller. That quality is much in evidence in this large and compelling composition. Chai Variations takes its main theme from Jewish liturgical music (and its name from the Hebrew word for life). The brooding theme is followed by 18 variations, with such titles as “Yearning” and “Pensive,” reflecting differing aspects of the human condition, before settling back to the original theme.” –Peter Burwasser, Fanfare

“…The most substantial work featured on the disc is Chai Variations, a 20-movement, 21-minute tour de force for solo piano by Judith Shatin that was inspired by the Jewish folksong “Eliahu HaNavi.” Chai, the 18th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is often used to represent the number 18 as well as life, hence Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and this set of 18 brief variations with a theme at the beginning and a recapitulation of the theme at the very end. Ernst shows a particular affinity for this music, having previously recorded a whole disc of Shatin’s music with violinist Hasse Borup which included the formidable solo piano piece Widdershins….”–Frank J. Oteri, New Music Box

“….a shapely,convincing set.” -Steve Hickman, CD Reviews

“…a new virtual landscape, completely natural and alive with a quiet serenity so powerful one can almost  smell the cherry blossoms…”
– The Clarinet Review 

“The quietude and spaciousness of Judith Shatin’s Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing are wonderful things. Cherry Blossom has rich and sumptuous electronics that envelope the clarinet in a blissful and dreamy sonic fabric.” – Sequenza 21 

“…a new virtual landscape, completely natural and alive with a quiet serenity so powerful one can almost smell the cherry blossoms.” – The Clarinet Review, Eric Mandat

“Judith Shatin’s elegant Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing; After Hokusai, for amplified clarinet and multi-channel audio…aptly evoked the sensibilities of the original art and was easily the best piece of the many performed by Errante at the conference. – SEAMUS, Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner

“Shatin’s Civil War Memories: Inside Out was one of the more compelling works. The audio electronically manipulates a short spoken text telling of the looted bodies of Civil War casualties. – The Miami Herald

Clave sounds like a deconstructed West Side Story, capturing the tropical heat and playfulness of the bomba beat” – The Kansas City Star

“Judith Shatin has a strong musical personality, an assurance made firmer by this CD; it’s a major release.” – New Music Connoisseur

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“There is an earthy, even primeval energy in such pieces as Stringing the Bow and The Passion of St. Cecilia that breaks from the shackles of formality. This music has both a savage roar and, as appropriate, a gentle purr…She seems to be at heart a storyteller.” – Fanfare

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Dreamtigers is like a conversation with someone smarter than you, on a subject about which you know little — but instead of making you feel dumb, it sparks your curiosity and your intellect.” – Splendidezine

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“…these are far from simplistic pieces; even the lilting Gazebo Music, which tries its best to be a lighthearted affair, turns into a crashingly contrarian beast. More excellent work from one of America’s most underrated composers.” – The Orlando Weekly

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“Two new CD’s of music by Judith Shatin…offer convincing proof that she is a leading figure among composers in this country….Her mastery of colorful and imaginative instrumentation and subtle compositional technique are evident.” – C-ville Review

“….the risk they [Kronos Quartet] run with an almost encyclopedic repertoire was more than compensated by the discovery of…Judith Shatin, of whom we appreciated a splendid Elijah’s Chariot.” – Il Gazzettino (Vicenza)

“….More interesting was Elijah’s Chariot by Judith Shatin, which used the taped sound of the shofar (the rams’ horn used by Jews during a High Holidays service) to generate a dense and affecting musical dialogue. Using the shofar’s proud, vaulting dissonance as material, Shatin draws the quartet into ever tighter thickets of sound, which climax and then dissipate as Elijah is transported to heaven….”- The San Francisco Chronicle

“The instrumental pinnacle was Judith Shatin’s Elijah’s Chariot, a symphonic poem for string quartet, with the four instruments representing the wheels of the prophet’s fiery conveyance to Heaven.” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The Shatin work…is a single long movement based on the sound of a shofar, a ram’s horn blown in the Jewish liturgy. That ancient sound is ingeniously manipulated electronically and serves as the point of departure for exploratory sonorities in the string quartet. In addition, the traditional Hebrew melody “Eliahu HaNvai” is introduced, developed and repeated in simple and elaborate variations at the end, played and hummed by the Cassatt Quartet. The work is inspired by the story of the biblical prophet Elijah and reflects his religious intensity. Shatin reveals her mastery of the union of the electronic medium and live performance in projecting a visionary experience.” – Charlottesville Weekly

“…Having commissioned composer Judith Shatin to rework her piano concerto “The Passion of St. Cecilia” into a solo version, Henry performed the new piece, “Fantasy on St. Cecilia” in its world premiere at this recital. Opening with spine-tingling lower register reverberations, the piece seemed little more than a presentation of slightly outdated ideas. However, any initial concerns were dispelled as it progressed into a complex, impressionistic middle section and a very satisfying resolution. Shatin’s ideas are far from time-worn, and she presents them in a unique and riveting manner… “

Gazebo Music, Judith Shatin’s flute and cello piece composed for an open-air performance, effectively evokes a nature scene without resorting to blatant pastoral imitation.” – The Washington Post

Judith Shatin’s Grito del Corazón combined washes of harmony in tape and saxophone …with a video whose shifting shapes moved with convincing (and often disturbing) physicality. The music and video grew together over the course of the work – the sax into melodies, and the video into human and animal forms dimly emerging. Both music and video evoked the terror and intensity of Goya’s Black Paintings compellingly. – Journal SEAMUS

 

“….With the distinguished exception of “Hearing the Call,” a brief, effective fanfare in the form of double duet for two snare drums and two trumpets by Judith Shatin, this was an all-Beethoven program….” –Washington Post

“….Judith Shatin’s two-minute Hearing the Call – smartly, crisply scored for two trumpets and two snare drums – is the eponymous work for this collection, and is the perfect ceremonial attention-getter. She follows this work up with Fantasìa sobre el Flamenco for two trumpets, two trombones, and tuba (1998), a clash of bright and dark melodies borne by regimented and free-flowing rhythms….

What performances! The brass players of St. Mary’s Brass are culled from St. Mary’s faculty members and Maryland/New Jersey/New York area musicians, who are all profiled individually in notes in the back of the program booklet. Brass enthusiasts everywhere: This is grand stuff, with sound and invention” – Stephen Ellis, FANFARE

“The other recent piece here is Ignoto Numine, a fine 15-minute work by the intriguing Judith Shatin. The profusion of musical ideas is both engaging and splendidly controlled; and it gets a committed reading.” – San Francisco Chronicle

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“Judith Shatin is Professor of Music at the University of Virginia. Her quarter-hour, single-movement work explores ‘the mystery of musical ideas’ by creating its own gloss on typically classical devices: a theme is clearly announced; development begins immediately, quickly fragmenting and transmuting it beyond recognition. At times the three instruments sound together as one organ-like mass; elsewhere they play as a trio and have solos. The direction is from simplicity to complexity, clarity to mysticism. Tension builds to a final coda where instruments can no longer contain it, and the players are forced to join in vocally. This is another intriguing piece, in another very personal idiom.” – Fanfare

“[Ignoto Numine]…The direction is from simplicity to complexity, clarity to mysticism . Tension builds to a final coda where instruments can no longer contain it, and the players are forced to join in vocally. This is another intriguing piece, in another very personal idiom.”   –Fanfare

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“The other recent piece here is Ignoto Numine, a fine 15-minute work by the intriguing Judith Shatin. The profusion of musical ideas is both engaging and splendidly controlled… –San Francisco Chronicle 

“Shatin engages complex rhythms and timbre-play to create a fascinating palette of sound for what is essentially an orchestra-narrator duet. Maestro Steven Smith was attuned to this balance, and, just as importantly, to the shape of the music on its own….In the first movement, Political Passion, rhythms crackled like the fire in front of which Jefferson sat to write about his vision of a bill of rights. At one point in the second movement, the woodwinds passed around a pensive melodic line, effectively telling the emotional story behind Jefferson’s constructed argument between Head and Heart, the movement’s title. The third movement Justice Cannot Sleep, contrasted roiling agitation with lyrical bits, while the brass delightfully closed the fourth movement, Freedom of Reason, with a fanfare”.  – Richmond Times Dispatch

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“Shatin’s large-scale, impressionistically colorful orchestration evokes misty Blue Ridge vistas in its quieter and more contemplative moments, but more often enlarges, with some turbulence, on the text’s suggestions of Jefferson’s inner emotional life. The portrait that Shatin paints is far from the usual picture of an enigmatic and cerebral man. This performance by conductor Steven Smith and the Richond Symphony played up the color and drama of Shatin’s score.”  – LETTER V, The Virginia Classical Music Blog

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“Judith Shatin’s Jefferson in His Own Words gives American orchestras a rare opportunity–the chance to represent real-world issues, in a meaningful way, in a symphonic context. Judith Shatin has selected some of the most powerful and poignant texts to come from Jefferson’s pen, arranged them so that a non-musician may serve as narrator, and accompanied them in a way our audiences found spellbinding.”  – Benajmin Rous, Associate Conductor, The Virginia Symphony

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“Judith Shatin has written a dramatic and provocative work; her choice of Jefferson’s letters is diverse and interesting, and her music beautifully illuminates the text to offer a fascinating portrait of the man and his times”  – Kate Tamarkin, Conductor, The Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra

“Two works by Judith Shatin, her LíÈtude du Coeur for Solo Viola (1984) and her Doxa for Viola and Piano (a world premiere; both are dedicated to Glyde) proved musically riveting and brilliantly devised for the instrument.” – The Strad

“…The works by Shatin are more challenging technically, but are worth the extra effort for their unusual and attractive atmospheres. Gabriel’s Wing won the National Flute Association’s Published Music Competition in 1992. …Judith Shatin (b.1949) is an American composer and flautist. familiar with the possibilities of the instrument in both traditional and extended techniques. She is known equally for her dramatic acoustic compositions and for her imaginative use of computer-generated sound.”

“…Judith Shatin’s Gabriel’s Wing, for flute and piano (1989), likewise conveys in its nine minutes a well-crafted sense of ecstatic climax. Fasting Heart, for solo flute (1987), its title taken from a Taoist discipline, follows a similarly programmatic path in attempting to express “listen[ing] with the breath.” And meditatively this charmer does play, embellished along the way by simultaneous vocalizing.”

“Fasting Heart (1987) for solo flute. This piece begins with a haunting use of singing into the flute reminiscent of Crumb’s Voice of the Whale. The contemplative music which follows is interrupted by much more active, even violent, music. Shatin sees a connection between these in creating music. ‘A process in which there is a linking of inward journey and outward manifestation.’

Kairos (1991) for flute, computer and effects processing. The relationship of the flute and its player’s singing voice to the electronic medium is unique to this work. Several extended techniques are used by the live performer, but even more exotic transformations are achieved by the manipulation of all the sound material by a computer via MIDI and by a voice processor, Quadraverb. This sets the music off on a Ulysses-like journey containing all the challenges and dream-sequences a true adventure should have.”

– Kate Lukas, Pan (The Journal of the British Flute Society)

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Kairos, for flute, computer and effects processing (1991), at 15:50 differs from Musgrave’s Narcissus by eight seconds. I would love to draw further parallels but cannot. Shatin’s electronic effects conspire by and large in the creation of a preternatural space for the flute’s sentimental journey. We again at moments hear Spencer’s voice, albeit much processed. (The notes go into good technical detail.)  ‘Kairos’ is a Greek word signifying the most propitious moment for a new undertaking, as in Ulysses setting out on his journey. [This] suggested [to me] a compositional journey on several levels: an adventure into a new medium, a shaping of the musical sojourn, and a particular relationship between the flute and the electronic aether.

Much of this program makes difficult demands, and I hear no tentativity, reach, or strain; a strong sense, rather, of Patricia Spencer’s skillful empathy. If it’s a rapturous mood you’re after. this well produced Neuma provides it in high-quality abundance.”
– Mike Silverton, American Record Guide

“…Judith Shatin’s childlike round “Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin” … sweetly echoes the spinning of the Hanukkah dreidel.” – Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman

“…Judith Shatin… writes in the most advanced style among these five works (using, for example, a prepared piano), but her writing is accessible and sustains interest throughout. Her Ockeghem Variations is not really in variation form at all, but includes five self-contained movements titled “Lustrous,” “Ringing,” “Electric,” “Floating,” and “Resounding.” The work is based on the Kyrie from Ockeghem’s Missa Prolationum, but I suspect that few purchasers of this disc will have that tune firmly implanted in their minds. This is the most distinctive work on the CD, and is an excellent choice to close the recital, as Shatin’s imaginative music will resonate in my mind for some time. I have no doubt that I will be coming back to it and the other works on this CD repeatedly, not only for the quality of the music, but for the outstanding performances that these pieces receive at the hands of the Hexagon Ensemble. Highly recommended for any lovers of adventurous tonal music.” – David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare 

“After the intermission, Ockeghem Variations received yet another excellent performance….The ensemble playing was both rock solid and quite beautiful. The variations – Lustrous, Ringing, Electric, Floating, and Resounding – were full of charm, jazzy exuberance, and moodiness….” –Susan Miron, www.artsfuse.org

“Two new CD’s of music by Judith Shatin…offer convincing proof that she is a leading figure among composers in this country….Her mastery of colorful and imaginative instrumentation and subtle compositional technique are evident.” – C-ville Review

“The evening’s high point came midway through the second half, with the premiere of Judith Shatin’s exuberant and captivating Piping the Earth. Vividly orchestrated and bursting with imaginative detail, the piece grabs a listener’s attention right from the opening moment…the score is exactly proportioned but still left a listener eager for more. – San Francisco Chronicle

“The musical firestorm of Piping the Earth, a new one-movement work by Judith Shatin, dazzles with its array of active sound surfaces an shapes.” – San Francisco Examiner

“It hardly prepared one for the musical firestorm of Piping the Earth, a new, one-movement work by Judith Shatin. Apparently conceived as an investigation of the way sound changes in space, the finished work does propose an active and ever-changing soundscape over a constant (if hardly static) harmonic base. It also enthralls. There’s no sense of detached solipsistic, intellectual enterprise in this work, which dazzles with its array of active sound surfaces and shapes…The performance was breathtaking.” – San Francisco Herald

“[Stringing the Bow] is a marvelously inventive piece, informed with a fine sense of musical logic and a precise knowledge of the special qualities of string instruments and what makes them sound good in ensemble.  The music showed a composer fully in control of her material at all points and attuned to what makes an audience come back for more.” – The Washington Post

“The evening’s high point came midway through the second half, with the premiere of Judith Shatin’s exuberant and captivating ‘Piping the Earth.’ Vividly orchestrated and bursting with imaginative detail, the piece grabs a listener’s attention right from the opening moement, an ominous stillness in which a low wind can be heard creeping through the bassoons, cellos and bassdrum.

Shatin’s writing is rhythmically urgent (percussive outbursts punctuating the score are among the many echoes of early Stravinsky, especially ‘The Rite of Spring’) and pursues a course both logical and surprising. Evocations of the wind, for example, recur periodically, associated with a fundamental pitch, and there are other clear structural points. At the same time, there are wonderful bursts of inspiration, such as a silvery dominant-seventh chord that courses up and down like a crystal fountain through the woodwinds and strings. At nine minutes, the score is exactly proportioned, but still left a listener eager for more.” – San Francisco Chronicle

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“…It hardly prepared one for the musical firestorm of ‘Piping the Earth,’ a new, one-movement work by Judith Shatin. Apparently conceived as an investigation of the way sound changes in space, the finished work does propose an active and ever-changing soundscape over a constant (if hardly static) harmonic base. It also enthralls. There’s no sense of detached, solipsistic, intellectual enterprise in this work, which dazzles with its array of active sound surfaces and shapes. Falletta’s sure grasp of the work allowed it to take its multi-directionaly course with confidence about its outcome. The performance was breathtaking.’ – San Francisco Herald

“Piping the Earth is a colorful and crowd-pleasing piece that works well in many concert contexts. It was a great pleasure for me and for the Richmond Symphony to discover this score, and our audiences loved the color, sweep and drama. It comments nicely on other orchestral pieces, or stands well by itself.” –Conductor Mark Russell Smith

 

“Pieces like Michael Horvit’s “Even When God is Silent” and Judith Shatin’s “Adonai Ro’i” were beautifully shaped and provided a calm relief from the cheery folk styles. The best composition and performance of the night was probably “There Will Be Rest,” Frank Ticheli’s extended setting of two stanzas by Sara Teasdale.” – Joseph Dalton, Timesunion.com

 

“Adonai Roi (Psalm 23) for a cappella SATB chorus was composed by Judith Shatin. It was written during the week after November 4, 1995 which marked the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, then Prime Minister of Israel. The text of Psalm 23 is sung in Hebrew with simplicity of texture and harmonic language. While the words of the text attempt to provide comfort to those morning this tragedy, there is an undercurrent of sadness and loss. There are many nice moments of texture and register contrasts in this accessible work.” – Maryanne Rumancik, Journal of the IAWM Volume 9, No. 2, 2003

“Adonai R’oi (1995): A short four-minute statement for mixed voices written in reaction to the 1995 assassina- tion of Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel. Adonai R’oi is the Hebrew text of Psalm 23. This remembrance is pre- sented in simple, homophonic fashion meant to comfort. Written as a lament, the close harmony in parallel move- ment keeps the text in the foreground.” – The Kapralova Society Journal

 

 

“In Judith Shatin’s monodrama ”Carreno” (not to be confused with Pamela Ross’s one-woman show of the same name running Off Broadway), Ms. Innerarity took the stage by storm.

Teresa Carreno (1853-1917), a famous Venezuelan pianist, singer, conductor and composer, was something of a dynamo herself, and Ms. Innerarity, an accomplished actress and soprano and a passable pianist (reasonably convincing even in snippets of virtuoso concertos on a battered out-of-tune spinet), gave a gripping portrayal of the solitary older woman, reliving her public conquests and personal failures and misfortunes.” – James Ostreich, New York Times

Premier Of COAL – Anna Larson:

February 1995 ILWC Journal 

It was Clara Boone’s idea to get up a carload of musicians and friends and take a Sunday drive out to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to see the premiere of Judith Shatin”s new composition, COAL. The fall weather was exquisite, and as we travelled westward into the mountains, I had no idea what an interesting cross-cultural event we were about to experience.

Funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Program (which has the stated goal of developing audiences for contemporary arts), by Shepherd College, and by many community groups, “COAL” turned out to be not just a musical composition, but a two-year program subtitled “A Blueprint for Understanding 20th Century Music.” It included four one-week residencies in which Judith offered lectures and concerts, both chamber and orchestral, centering principally, but by no means entirely, on her own work. The project then culminated in the production of her oratorio of the same name. The project’s artistic director was pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst, who last year gave one of the recitals featuring several 20th century women composers.

It was evident to us from the moment we entered the Frank Arts Center Theater and saw the crowded theater and stage that this was an event with considerable community impact. Dominating the stage was the Masterworks Choral conducted by Jay Stenger and made up of both students and community singers. Performing with them were the Heritage Musicians, a traditional Appalachian band consisting of fiddle, guitar, banjo, and hammer dulcimer, with Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwartz on “vocals.” There was a synthesizer for piano and organ sounds, and speakers for special electronic effects were placed on each side of the wide stage.

Judith told me later that she considered herself a poet before she ever took up music composition. Her comprehensive libretto is a testament to that fact. She researched her subject through books and through much personal contact with miners, with experts on occupational safety, and with people of the region. She chose to draw occasionally upon traditional words or tunes, and even the writings of others, such as the moving words of J.N. York used at the opening and closing of her piece, “Just stop and think who suffered for that little lump of coal.” Along the way the libretto constitutes a journey, both emotional and informative, into the world of the coal regions: about coal itself, what it is, what it makes; about the people who toiled in the mines, why they loved it, why they hated it, how in years past it devastated their families, their health, their children. It tells how the coal companies bought the rights to their land, leaving the farmers with little more than the right to pay taxes on it. When the land became so damaged they could not farm it, their only recourse was to cease farming and become miners, under terrible conditions. The injured and sick (and there were many because of the lack of health and safety codes) were unceremoniously thrown out. Unions were formed to help, but even they at times became corrupt. Although we understand that many of these conditions have been ameliorated through union efforts and government regulation, Shatin’s work goes on to refer to current efforts by unions to fight for the jobs of miners threatened by mechanization.

As a musical form, COAL seemed closest to an oratorio. Judith says she set out to “intertwine” musical styles. And indeed, her own contemporary musical language was given expression only in certain parts of the choral writing, with the traditional band playing exclusively in their own style. She says she specifically wanted to keep that separation, to have musicians “write in their own language.” The fact that the players were not sight-readers surely affected her decision. (Some of them went through the entire oratorio with no music in front of them.) As a result, Judith’s most interesting writing came in the choral parts, where she used angular rhythms, in one case with the chorus stamping their feet, and some delicious cluster chords. One of the strengths of this piece is it’s range, from explanatory to descriptive to dramatic, from traditional to contemporary.

Electronics were used mainly as transitional material: between sections the sharp sound of pick axes striking the coal face was heard leaping rhythmically from right to left speakers. At one point Shatin took those sounds, and, using a computer language called HACK developed by Pete Yadlowsky at the Virginia Center for Computer Music (which she founded and heads), shaped them gradually into something that sounded almost like a banjo, which briefly echoed a tune we had just heard. This was a wonderful effect, and I wished there had been more like it. The climax of the oratorio, “Fire in the Mine” and “Oh God, Why?”, which included sung dialogue dramatically passed around to individuals in the chorus, was effectively enhanced by sounds of fire and explosion from the speakers. Just after that came what for me was a high point, when Ginny Hawker quietly sang, without accompaniment and in her earthy, focused country twang, “My head and ‘stay is took away, and I am left alone.” Using a text from the Primitive Baptist tradition, Judith set all five verses starkly and traditionally, allowing even the last verse to end on the dominant. The song, its placement and its delivery were stunning.

The chorus and conductor were impressive, with especially sweet tones achieved by the sopranos. My guess is that this is a work they will live with a long time, and as they get to know the more complex choral parts better, they will be able to be more aggressive in places that call for crisp rhythmic emphasis and unhesitating forward motion, such as in the dramatic climax or in such parts as “What Coal Makes.”

It could be said that COAL is a gift from all who contributed (and especially from Judith Shatin) to the people of West Virginia. It was evident that the audience was very moved by the work. Just as the some of the local people involved were getting their first taste of a contemporary musical sounds and hearing their life’s concerns made into something artistic, listeners like myself were treated to a fresh understanding of the Appalachian people and their music. Mary Kathleen told me that one of the miners attending the concert (Cynthia Ray, who was one of the people interviewed during Judith’s research) remarked, “This piece gives my job dignity.

“Luminous seems the best word to describe this piece. I Am Rose shimmers and lingers, using harmonic clusters and repeating rhythmic figures to create what the composer refers to as ” a kind of mantra.” While this is not to neglect the sections of the work indicated as “whimsical,” “playful,” or “joyous,” the smooth and dreamy sections arethe true hallmarks of this work, winning one over with their feeling of timelessness.

I Am Rose is scored for tape and six-part women’s voices, and is ideal
for teaching part independence. The twentieth-century harmonic language includes the liberal use of tone clusters, which originate as unisons. Several exposed chords are more clearly tonal to the ear. Meter changes are frequent, but the quarter-note pulse is steady throughout, presenting few rhythmic challenges. The electronic accompaniment is available from the publisher in either cassette or DAT format, and cues are provided for rehearsal with keyboard.

The various meanings of the word “rose” – name, flower, color, and even verb should lead singers into engaging discussions of interpretation. Conductors will enjoy investigating and performing the spectrum of colors and emotions in the work, and audiences should be fascinated by the result.”   –Robert K. Demaree, The Choral Journal

The Jabberwocky, by Judith Shatin, English text, ECS, 6977, TTBB a cappella. This fanciful, creative work is brilliantly conceived and constructed to the famous poem by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). The piece opens with appropriate nonsense syllables on fast rhythms that must be sung with extreme accuracy. Humor is extremely important as you work to create an effective performance. Changing meters dominate and help with the proper text versification. The text painting is driven by well-conceived rhythms, melodies, and harmonies. Collectively they build a unified conception of tremendous poetic and musical expression. The harmonies are brilliant but approachable. A perfect choice for the ending of a concert, this is a great addition to the men’s choral repertory. Difficulty rating 4.” – The Choral Room, Choral Newsletter

 

“In pieces by Stravinski, Ross Whitney, Vytautas Miskinis, Stephen Smith, Morten Lauridsen and Judith Shatin, Huszti drew out inner voices by emphasizing excellent diction, and his reading of the mass, which started slowly, hit its stride in the changing moods of the credo. Dunaway, working with more transparent textures in the women’s set, molded splendid unisons and enlisted a fine group of soloists from the ensemble.” – Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post, April 18, 2011

 

 

“Judith Shatin…shows a rich and disciplined imagination in her … Ruah (‘Air, Wind or Breath’) for flute and orchestra. In Hebrew, as in many other languages, the word for ‘breath’ is also the word for ‘spirit’ (which is the Latin word for ‘breath’), and Ruah is, in fact, a multifaceted essy on the human spirit, its windlike freedom of movement and volatile changes of mood, summarized in the titles of the three movements: SoaringSerene, and Impassioned. It is beautifully performed and recorded…by flutist Renee Siebert, for whom it was composed, with Robert Black conducting the Prism Orchestra.” – The Washington Post

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“The music sounded alluring and vital at every step….” – San Francisco Chronicle

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“Judith Shatin’s music for flute and chamber orchestra [Ruah, second movement] has a worn, expressionistic edge–it strikes plaintive chords that dissipate like smoke.” – The Village Voice

***

“…But it was the performance of flutist Sara Stern, playing Ruah, a flute concerto by Virginia composer Judith Shatin, that held the audience spellbound. From the first movement, Soaring, which portrayed all manner of things in flight from the tiniest creatures to the most majestic angels, through the pensive second movement and on to the work’s final movement, Impassioned, flutist and orchestra breathed as one being. Conductor Cal Stewart Kellogg’s solid musicianship held in one hand complete control of his orchestra, and in the other full understanding of this remarkable opus.

The work is all about air. Ruah is a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath.’ With flawless technique, Stern executed wide, leaping intervals, interspersed flutterings, and haunting, silver-threaded melodies. Did the work inspire the perfomer to such heights? Or did the performer bring physicality to mystic beauty? The answer is: both.” – Mount Vernon Gazette

“…is beautifully performed and recorded on the Composer’s Recordings label by flutist Renee Siebert….it is a multifaceted essay on the human spirit, its wind like freedom of movement and volatile changes of mood, summarized in the titles of the three movements: SoaringSerence, and Impassioned. ” – Washington Post

“…Judith Shatin takes an evident delight in the textural possibilities of sound, and her Secret Ground played freely with techniques for flute, clarinet, cello and violin. But Shatin never used effects for their own sake. This was highly inventive music on every level: hugely enjoyable and deeply involving, with a constant sense of surprise.” – Washington Post

“Judith Shatin is a nationally-and internationally-known composer, recipient of many commissions and awards, and a professor of music at UVA. She has composed electronic music as well as music for conventional instruments and voices. Singing the Blue Ridge combines all these media with superb success.  It can be described as a cantata in four movements for mezzo-soprano, baritone, large orchestra and electrronic tape, with an environmental message.…Taped sounds of animals, birds and insects are integrated with the orchestra in a successful symbiosis. The vocal parts, one movement each for the two singers and two movements for both together, were highly expressive and beautifully sung. Colorful, atmospheric and intense, the performance relied on the intrinsic musicality of its ingredients, including traditional tonality and masterful orchestration.   – C’ville Weekly

“From a very simple initial concept, Judith Shatin carves a brief but very effective little piece, Spin. Scored for a sextet comprising flute, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, and cello, Shatin explores multiple types of spin as applied to music, from chords that unfold and collapse back onto themselves through to dance rhythms that spin between groups of instruments. Each of the work’s two sections ends with a section that “spins like a top.” The players here seem to enjoy the lighthearted gaiety of it all….
All performances are lovingly sculpted and delivered with the utmost dedication. The recording is well balanced, with a nice sense of focus and depth.” –Fanfare 

“Judith Shatin’s Spin is a slightly jazzy piece that is light on its feet…”  – All Music

“ The ensemble [Da Capo Chamber Players] closed the program with Judith Shatin’s Spring Tides (2009), a rich evocation of the power of nature, with technical effects (creating wind sounds by blowing almost tonelessly into a flute and clarinet) giving way to lush textures that blended instruments with their distant-sounding electronic echoes.” – The New York Times

“[Stringing the Bow] is a marvelously inventive piece, informed with a fine sense of musical logic and a precise knowledge of the special qualities of string instruments and what makes them sound good in ensemble.  The music showed a composer fully in control of her material at all points and attuned to what makes an audience come back for more.” – The Washington Post

Study in Black is a well written composition for flute and percussion and would require two mature and musical players to perform it. It would be appropriate for either a college flute recital or a percussion recital. The publisher is to be commended on the printing of the work.”  – John Beck , Percussive Notes

“…performer Ronald Schneider played the visually more spectacular impala hord, which only lent to the grandeur of Judith Shatin’s Teurah,  a premiere commissioned by the ;festival and the Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles. Similar to her fascinating chamber work, Elijah’s Chariot, …Shatin wonderfully used the other instruments in Teruah  to extend the essence of the shofar.

…After an opening round of stout tekiah blasts…the brass played a dark, dissonant and gritty chord, infused with flutter tonguing, creating a musical metaphor for how the shofar has inspired worshippers during the High Holidays for centuries. A gorgeous Rosh Hashanah melody that emerged in the horns only drove that further, serving as the emotional response to the sound….Shatin…is a thoughtful and inventive composer who doesn’t write in an academic, rebarbative style. Her music pulls one in with artistic embrace. ” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fanfare Review 1

SHATIN Glyph.1 Time to Burn. 2 Grito del Corazón. 3 Sic Transit. 4 Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom. 5 Elijah’s Chariot6 • 1James Dunham (va); 1Margaret Kampmeier (pn); 2Aaron Hill (ob); 2, 4I-Jen Fang, 2Mike Schutz (perc); 3F. Gerard Errante, 3D. Gause (cl); 1, 6Cassatt Str Qrt • INNOVA 845 (75:08)

Over the course of a mere 75 minutes, this disc introduces the listener to the sheer depth and variety of Judith Shatin’s music. The above interview speaks much about interdisciplinary modes of inspiration and the use of either obscure instruments (shofar) or technology (electronics, CADI). It is interesting to note that the first piece, Glyph (1984, for solo viola, string quartet, and piano), begins in rather welcoming fashion. This movement is marked “Luminous” (the others are “Flickering,” “Ecstatic,” and “Incandescent”). The playing here by soloist James Dunham is stunning: resonant and vital. The first movement invokes large open spaces (of time, possibly, as well as space); the more spiky “Flickering” offers excellent contrast and is superbly performed, especially in the virtuosity of the speedy pizzicatos. The ecstasy of the third movement is quite reverent in nature; the virtuosity of the beautifully, skillfully written finale is most satisfying.

The piece from which the disc takes its name, Time to Burn (2006), is far more overtly Modernist. Scored for oboe and two percussionists, it is a visceral reaction to world events, including holocausts and racism. The title refers back to the burnings of witches. The oboe part presents huge challenges (including multiphonics), magnificently overcome here by Aaron Hill, while the percussion element provides a terrifically exciting sense of momentum.

The Goya-inspired Grito del Corazón (2001) for two clarinets and electronics is far more than atmospherics. Again, there is a clear narrative thread that moves us through the piece’s five-minute duration. Sic Transit (2011) is the piece for percussionist and CADI (it is worth searching out the video mentioned in the interview above, also, just to see how it all comes together). Here, I-Jen Fang is the intrepid percussionist. As a critic who sometimes feels he has been exposed to too much percussion-only music in his time (and who has tended to relegate these pieces and discs to a space of interest only really open to percussionists), it is quite something to say that this piece grips throughout. The 1990 piece Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom (1990, “Darkness upon the face of the deep”), for electronics, musically depicts the birth of a world. As Shatin points out above, it is not quite Wagnerian in that there are depictions also of lightning; but the link seems to remain, for this listener at least.

The ancient sounds of the shofar make the final piece, the 20-minute Elijah’s Chariot of 1995, a most stimulating experience. The sudden juxtaposition of the shofar’s primal sound and that of string quartet (which, some would claim, is the very embodiment of civilization itself) is marked. This is the longest piece on the disc and demonstrates clearly how Shatin’s feel for narrative can sustain longer timescales. The performance is magnificent, exuding confidence at every turn.

Colin Clarke
This article originally appeared in Issue 37:6 (July/Aug 2014) of Fanfare Magazine.


Fanfare Review 2

Judith Shatin is a true sound artist. She applies sound to the airwaves in the same way a painter applies colors to canvas. She is not trying for melodies that the listener will walk away singing, but she uses melodic material for dramatic effect. The holder of advanced degrees from Juilliard and Princeton, she is professor of music at the University of Virginia where she founded and now directs the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Glyph is a four-movement study in light and shadow with the emphasis on various qualities of light and reflection. Light is represented by close harmonies between the solo viola and the members of the string quartet. There is some correspondence with Debussy and Impressionist music, but its movement is constantly surging forward into the diverse rhythms of the late 20th century. “Luminous” is lyrical, but “Flickering” is spicy and hard to pin down. Her music reminds me of the Norse legendary character Loki. “Ecstatic” brings its own atmosphere along for the memorable ride that culminates in the driving force of “Incandescent.”

Written in 2006, Time to Burn speaks of holocausts, not just the one in Germany, but more recent ones that no one has succeeded in stopping. Shatin likens the ethnic and religious hatred of our own time to the Inquisition and the burning of witches. Her piece for oboe and percussion gives a moving description of 21st-century religious persecutions. Grito del Corazón (Cry of the Heart) is a 2001 piece inspired by Goya’s most disturbing paintings. His “black” paintings are fearsome works he created in old age to exhibit the inhumanity of war. Shatin describes their dark themes with intense music for two clarinets and intriguing electronic sounds.
The score of Sic Transit calls for a single percussionist and a Computer Assisted Drumming Instrument that reflects the interaction of time and human beings. To the listener, the sounds seem to occur surrounded by spaces of varying sizes that produce constantly changing rhythms. This is quite a fascinating piece that seems different at each hearing. In Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom (Darkness upon the Face of the Deep) Shatin provides a musical creation myth as she describes the formation of the world out of chaos and infinite darkness. Sounds and matter coalesce. Tones strengthen and ooze out of the abyss. There is lightning, and eventually, life. Elijah’s Chariot is perhaps the easiest of Shatin’s works for a neophyte to grasp at first hearing because it tells a story. For this work she uses the sound of the ancient ram’s horn, the shofar, usually heard on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She processes the notes of the horn electronically in order to obtain the bright and rousing sounds that describe the prophet being swept up into the heavens in a glowing chariot drawn by fiery steeds. To finish the story, she adds the melody of a familiar folksong, Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) in which the people invite him to return with the Messiah. When you listen to her piece, you feel as though you too are being swept up to Heaven by strong winds. Shatin’s music is powerful and most distinctive. As performed here and recorded in Innova’s clear sound, it is also most inviting. I think anyone who is interested in the creation of new music should sample her offerings.

Maria Nockin
This article originally appeared in Issue 37:6 (July/Aug 2014) of Fanfare Magazine.


“There is something stable, solid, in the music of American composers. In contrast to the thousand-year European tradition, they are mere babies; but that makes no difference: even a little over 100 years are enough, it would seem, to build a corpus that has character and is convincing. Not that there is a distinct essence of American musicality that one can define, quantify and classify stylistically. Nevertheless, it has something – a certain indefinable confidence. The works of the composer Judith Shatin always radiate such confidence, as it does in her new CD, to be officially released at the end of April, and is therefore now only distributed as a promo on the Net.

The album Time to Burn is about light and fire, and not necessarily about their positive aspects – especially not in the work after which the CD is named (from 2006) for oboe (Aaron Hill) and percussionists (I-Jen Fang and Mike Schutz). This is a work Shatin composed, she says, in response to the holocausts that continue to plague the world, and widespread acts of violence that remind us of dark times such as the burning of witches and the Inquisition. It so happens that this work is one of the less interesting on the CD: it is nervous, bright and sharp, and although it may capture well the mood of catastrophe that its name suggests, it does not elicit a desire to listen to it.

Another work that has a certain strangeness is Elijah’s Chariot, [based on the story of Elijah] who as is well known, rose to the Heavens in fire and smoke. Here Shatin draws upon a pseudo-folkishness, which takes her to the edge of the precipice of orientalism. The music begins with an expressive cello, as it were ‘Jewish,’ followed by the emergence of human voices with a mideastern effect, and after after which comes a theme in the same spirit, a kind of galloping Hora that is cut short by a bleating shofar electronically transformed, which in turn breaks into a quiet section – and as if that were not enough, the melody Eliahu HaNavi emerges after that. This search for the different and the ‘other,’ arouses a sense of forgiveness, one that only someone who has a ‘first-person perspective’ – such as Israelis – can feel towards those with good intentions who observe the culture from outside.

But these works do not diminish the value of the wonderful music on this CD, and above all the opening work, Glyph (from 1984), which means a kind of carving.This work consists of beautiful, sweeping, imaginative music in four movements titled Luminous, Flickering, Ecstatic and Incandescent. The delicate piano performance of Margaret Kampmeier; James Dunham, with his viola, which is all song and virtuosity without showing off, and the French (sic) Cassatt Quartet, which can proudly stand beside the famed Kronos Quartet that commissioned Elijah’s Chariot and premiered it. This tonal, romantic music shows how little style is the measure of good music, and how one can write romantic music and be at the same time contemporary. True, this is not likely, but it is nevertheless possible – and rare as it may be, here the possible comes into being.

Grito del Corazón (The Cry of the Heart) from 2001, for 2 clarinets and electronics, inspired by the Black Paintings of Francisco de Goya; Sic Transit, premiered in 2011, for percussionist and six robotic arms – whose repetitive rhythm moves from fulfillment of expectation to surprises, and explores our relation to time; and Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom for electronics, from 1990 – they too are beautiful works that reveal Shatin’s originality and her ability to say in sound something uniquely personal. Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom shows this: electronic music in which the noise of chaos moves and breaks as its sounds collide; and then a lightening flash triggers a wild storm, eruptions of lava, from which emerges a sound of definite pitch – and then stability.

Judith Shatin, born in 1949, studied at Juilliard and Princeton, among other schools. She is a professor at the University of Virginia and founder and head of the Center for Computer Music there. According to her, the social aspects of music, the sounds of the world, as well as literature and visual art, find their place in her work. In an interview on the American Music site, she explains that she is looking for new sounds – “I live my life with my musical antennas up,” as she says, but that all her works have a direct and deep connection with music of the past: “sometimes I have the feeling that the past is the present,” she says.”

–Ha’Aretz (Noam ben Ze’ev, Trans. Michael Kubovy)

****
The title track “Time to Burn” is an engaging work for oboe and two percussionists. Extended techniques make the oboe sound almost like an electronic instrument in places. The interplay between the three instruments, and the imaginative way in which they’re used gives the music a sense of energy and even urgency. –WTJU Classical Comments (Ralph Graves)


Terapija Netmjuzik Review

Judith Shatin is a great role model and inspiration for Mary Kathleen Ernst, who you have had the chance to meet through the recently released album “Keeping Time,” and therefore, besides music and a general creative reach, it is very interesting to observe how the teacher is more nimble than her student, although they spent some time together in Juilliard School. Also, after many years, they jointly made a much acclaimed album “Tower of the Eight Winds” (2010), and renewed cooperation on the aforementioned album in which Kathleen remade several of Shatin’s compositions.

Just to refresh our memories and renew our knowledge: Mary Kathleen is a pianist. Judith is a very versatile artist with a rich discography behind her, and she has covered many musical genres – classical and abstract, even experimental in the domain of modern classical music, as evidenced by her numerous awards. Moreover, from the years 1989 to 1993 she was the President of the Association of American Women Composers. The scope of her genre is very wide: using computer electronic and acoustic music, constantly cooperating and making various collaborations with various soloists and ensembles, with a main focus on instrumental performances.

Here, on her third album for Innova Recording, through almost 80 minutes of music, she presents a trans-genre scenario of acoustic and electronic music, dividing compositions into separate sessions of acoustics and electronics, with just a few of them arranged as a combination of both expressions. She seems very peaceful and calm, focusing on improvisation of accompanying musicians (solo viola, string quartet, piano, percussion, drums, oboe, clarinet …) with her own inspirations of electronic enterprises, using the imagination of real instruments produced by computer programs. In other words, why bother playing some conventional instruments when they can be adapted to chords and notations in a binary system?

This whole collection of different things which alludes to “live” music undisputedly associated with electro-acoustical achievements from half a century ago (or even longer) is impregnated with exhibitions in which there is no virtuous legalities of the “classics”: it focuses on melody, rhythm and harmony. We are talking about these factors in the traditional sense, but in her music, all of this exists on a completely different level – where a skilful skill of improvisation comes to its full expression. The first four mutually interrelated themes: Glyph – I. Luminous, Glyph – II. Flickering, Glyph – III. Ecstatic, and Glyph – IV. Incandescent, played by violist James Durham, pianist Margaret Kampmeier and the Cassat String Quartet, are differently painted pieces with constant changes of stylish performances in clean formats, and then, in the main one called “Time to Burn” a picturesque sifting and screening of I-Jen Fang percussion follows in [extended techniques] of the oboist Aaron Hill, also continuing in the dark “Grito del Corazon” inspired by Goya’s “Black Paintings,” where an electronic drone background has been used as well.

In “Sic Transit,” she plays again with I-Jen Fang percussion, including this time computer-controlled instruments, while strangely named “Hoshech al p’ney HaTeh” is a real electronic mini-symphony with psycho-drone attributes about the birth of the world, the creation of a relationship between dark and light, and the exit out of chaos and the beginning of life. The last piece – “Elijah’s Chariot”- screams for a full 20 minutes with combinations of the amplified Cassatt String Quartet and electronic processors, suggestive of fiery combustions of the mythical fiery chariots of Elijah and thundering rides on the heavens.

Just saying that the whole material affects us as simply steady and balanced would be too little. Here we have Judith presenting herself, again, as a versatile artist who manages to connect alongside both traditions and conventions with current underground stylizations of electronics, absorbing essences and important items from both sound worlds. She is clearly focused on themes and plots, she allows games and improvisations, and she creates chaos and unravels it in very calm layers of elevations, but then again swirls all of them with excitement and ecstasy.

She is playing within her own control and permits a lot to an enjoyable series of different stylistic flourishes, which only sometimes and periodically repeat.

Her horizons and spectrums are very rich and impressive, and after you finish listening to the last, a very interesting and dramatic theme of “Elijah chariot” (with shorter “dumb” vocal arias!), the whole impression irresistibly compels you to press the replay key.
–Trans Mirela Savic-Fleming

“There is something stable, solid, in the music of American composers. In contrast to the thousand-year European tradition, they are mere babies; but that makes no difference: even a little over 100 years are enough, it would seem, to build a corpus that has character and is convincing. Not that there is a distinct essence of American musicality that one can define, quantify and classify stylistically. Nevertheless, it has something – a certain indefinable confidence. The works of the composer Judith Shatin always radiate such confidence, as it does in her new CD, to be officially released at the end of April, and is therefore now only distributed as a promo on the Net.

The album Time to Burn is about light and fire, and not necessarily about their positive aspects – especially not in the work after which the CD is named (from 2006) for oboe (Aaron Hill) and percussionists (I-Jen Fang and Mike Schutz). This is a work Shatin composed, she says, in response to the holocausts that continue to plague the world, and widespread acts of violence that remind us of dark times such as the burning of witches and the Inquisition. It so happens that this work is one of the less interesting on the CD: it is nervous, bright and sharp, and although it may capture well the mood of catastrophe that its name suggests, it does not elicit a desire to listen to it.

Another work that has a certain strangeness is Elijah’s Chariot, [based on the story of Elijah] who as is well known, rose to the Heavens in fire and smoke. Here Shatin draws upon a pseudo-folkishness, which takes her to the edge of the precipice of orientalism. The music begins with an expressive cello, as it were ‘Jewish,’ followed by the emergence of human voices with a mideastern effect, and after after which comes a theme in the same spirit, a kind of galloping Hora that is cut short by a bleating shofar electronically transformed, which in turn breaks into a quiet section – and as if that were not enough, the melody Eliahu HaNavi emerges after that. This search for the different and the ‘other,’ arouses a sense of forgiveness, one that only someone who has a ‘first-person perspective’ – such as Israelis – can feel towards those with good intentions who observe the culture from outside.

But these works do not diminish the value of the wonderful music on this CD, and above all the opening work, Glyph (from 1984), which means a kind of carving.This work consists of beautiful, sweeping, imaginative music in four movements titled Luminous, Flickering, Ecstatic and Incandescent. The delicate piano performance of Margaret Kampmeier; James Dunham, with his viola, which is all song and virtuosity without showing off, and the French (sic) Cassatt Quartet, which can proudly stand beside the famed Kronos Quartet that commissioned Elijah’s Chariot and premiered it. This tonal, romantic music shows how little style is the measure of good music, and how one can write romantic music and be at the same time contemporary. True, this is not likely, but it is nevertheless possible – and rare as it may be, here the possible comes into being.

Grito del Corazón (The Cry of the Heart) from 2001, for 2 clarinets and electronics, inspired by the Black Paintings of Francisco de Goya; Sic Transit, premiered in 2011, for percussionist and six robotic arms – whose repetitive rhythm moves from fulfillment of expectation to surprises, and explores our relation to time; and Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom for electronics, from 1990 – they too are beautiful works that reveal Shatin’s originality and her ability to say in sound something uniquely personal. Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom shows this: electronic music in which the noise of chaos moves and breaks as its sounds collide; and then a lightening flash triggers a wild storm, eruptions of lava, from which emerges a sound of definite pitch – and then stability.

Judith Shatin, born in 1949, studied at Juilliard and Princeton, among other schools. She is a professor at the University of Virginia and founder and head of the Center for Computer Music there. According to her, the social aspects of music, the sounds of the world, as well as literature and visual art, find their place in her work. In an interview on the American Music site, she explains that she is looking for new sounds – “I live my life with my musical antennas up,” as she says, but that all her works have a direct and deep connection with music of the past: “sometimes I have the feeling that the past is the present,” she says.”

–Ha’Aretz (Noam ben Ze’ev, Trans. Michael Kubovy)

****
The title track “Time to Burn” is an engaging work for oboe and two percussionists. Extended techniques make the oboe sound almost like an electronic instrument in places. The interplay between the three instruments, and the imaginative way in which they’re used gives the music a sense of energy and even urgency. –WTJU Classical Comments (Ralph Graves)

SHATIN Glyph.1 Time to Burn. 2 Grito del Corazón. 3 Sic Transit. 4 Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom. 5 Elijah’s Chariot6 • 1James Dunham (va); 1Margaret Kampmeier (pn); 2Aaron Hill (ob); 2, 4I-Jen Fang, 2Mike Schutz (perc); 3F. Gerard Errante, 3D. Gause (cl); 1, 6Cassatt Str Qrt • INNOVA 845 (75:08)

Over the course of a mere 75 minutes, this disc introduces the listener to the sheer depth and variety of Judith Shatin’s music. The above interview speaks much about interdisciplinary modes of inspiration and the use of either obscure instruments (shofar) or technology (electronics, CADI). It is interesting to note that the first piece, Glyph (1984, for solo viola, string quartet, and piano), begins in rather welcoming fashion. This movement is marked “Luminous” (the others are “Flickering,” “Ecstatic,” and “Incandescent”). The playing here by soloist James Dunham is stunning: resonant and vital. The first movement invokes large open spaces (of time, possibly, as well as space); the more spiky “Flickering” offers excellent contrast and is superbly performed, especially in the virtuosity of the speedy pizzicatos. The ecstasy of the third movement is quite reverent in nature; the virtuosity of the beautifully, skillfully written finale is most satisfying.

The piece from which the disc takes its name, Time to Burn (2006), is far more overtly Modernist. Scored for oboe and two percussionists, it is a visceral reaction to world events, including holocausts and racism. The title refers back to the burnings of witches. The oboe part presents huge challenges (including multiphonics), magnificently overcome here by Aaron Hill, while the percussion element provides a terrifically exciting sense of momentum.

The Goya-inspired Grito del Corazón (2001) for two clarinets and electronics is far more than atmospherics. Again, there is a clear narrative thread that moves us through the piece’s five-minute duration. Sic Transit (2011) is the piece for percussionist and CADI (it is worth searching out the video mentioned in the interview above, also, just to see how it all comes together). Here, I-Jen Fang is the intrepid percussionist. As a critic who sometimes feels he has been exposed to too much percussion-only music in his time (and who has tended to relegate these pieces and discs to a space of interest only really open to percussionists), it is quite something to say that this piece grips throughout. The 1990 piece Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom (1990, “Darkness upon the face of the deep”), for electronics, musically depicts the birth of a world. As Shatin points out above, it is not quite Wagnerian in that there are depictions also of lightning; but the link seems to remain, for this listener at least.

The ancient sounds of the shofar make the final piece, the 20-minute Elijah’s Chariot of 1995, a most stimulating experience. The sudden juxtaposition of the shofar’s primal sound and that of string quartet (which, some would claim, is the very embodiment of civilization itself) is marked. This is the longest piece on the disc and demonstrates clearly how Shatin’s feel for narrative can sustain longer timescales. The performance is magnificent, exuding confidence at every turn.

Colin Clarke
This article originally appeared in Issue 37:6 (July/Aug 2014) of Fanfare Magazine.

Judith Shatin is a true sound artist. She applies sound to the airwaves in the same way a painter applies colors to canvas. She is not trying for melodies that the listener will walk away singing, but she uses melodic material for dramatic effect. The holder of advanced degrees from Juilliard and Princeton, she is professor of music at the University of Virginia where she founded and now directs the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Glyph is a four-movement study in light and shadow with the emphasis on various qualities of light and reflection. Light is represented by close harmonies between the solo viola and the members of the string quartet. There is some correspondence with Debussy and Impressionist music, but its movement is constantly surging forward into the diverse rhythms of the late 20th century. “Luminous” is lyrical, but “Flickering” is spicy and hard to pin down. Her music reminds me of the Norse legendary character Loki. “Ecstatic” brings its own atmosphere along for the memorable ride that culminates in the driving force of “Incandescent.”

Written in 2006, Time to Burn speaks of holocausts, not just the one in Germany, but more recent ones that no one has succeeded in stopping. Shatin likens the ethnic and religious hatred of our own time to the Inquisition and the burning of witches. Her piece for oboe and percussion gives a moving description of 21st-century religious persecutions. Grito del Corazón (Cry of the Heart) is a 2001 piece inspired by Goya’s most disturbing paintings. His “black” paintings are fearsome works he created in old age to exhibit the inhumanity of war. Shatin describes their dark themes with intense music for two clarinets and intriguing electronic sounds.
The score of Sic Transit calls for a single percussionist and a Computer Assisted Drumming Instrument that reflects the interaction of time and human beings. To the listener, the sounds seem to occur surrounded by spaces of varying sizes that produce constantly changing rhythms. This is quite a fascinating piece that seems different at each hearing. In Hoshech Al P’ney HaTehom (Darkness upon the Face of the Deep) Shatin provides a musical creation myth as she describes the formation of the world out of chaos and infinite darkness. Sounds and matter coalesce. Tones strengthen and ooze out of the abyss. There is lightning, and eventually, life. Elijah’s Chariot is perhaps the easiest of Shatin’s works for a neophyte to grasp at first hearing because it tells a story. For this work she uses the sound of the ancient ram’s horn, the shofar, usually heard on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She processes the notes of the horn electronically in order to obtain the bright and rousing sounds that describe the prophet being swept up into the heavens in a glowing chariot drawn by fiery steeds. To finish the story, she adds the melody of a familiar folksong, Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) in which the people invite him to return with the Messiah. When you listen to her piece, you feel as though you too are being swept up to Heaven by strong winds. Shatin’s music is powerful and most distinctive. As performed here and recorded in Innova’s clear sound, it is also most inviting. I think anyone who is interested in the creation of new music should sample her offerings.

Maria Nockin
This article originally appeared in Issue 37:6 (July/Aug 2014) of Fanfare Magazine.

“There is something stable, solid, in the music of American composers. In contrast to the thousand-year European tradition, they are mere babies; but that makes no difference: even a little over 100 years are enough, it would seem, to build a corpus that has character and is convincing. Not that there is a distinct essence of American musicality that one can define, quantify and classify stylistically. Nevertheless, it has something – a certain indefinable confidence. The works of the composer Judith Shatin always radiate such confidence, as it does in her new CD, to be officially released at the end of April, and is therefore now only distributed as a promo on the Net.

The album Time to Burn is about light and fire, and not necessarily about their positive aspects – especially not in the work after which the CD is named (from 2006) for oboe (Aaron Hill) and percussionists (I-Jen Fang and Mike Schutz). This is a work Shatin composed, she says, in response to the holocausts that continue to plague the world, and widespread acts of violence that remind us of dark times such as the burning of witches and the Inquisition. It so happens that this work is one of the less interesting on the CD: it is nervous, bright and sharp, and although it may capture well the mood of catastrophe that its name suggests, it does not elicit a desire to listen to it.

Another work that has a certain strangeness is Elijah’s Chariot, [based on the story of Elijah] who as is well known, rose to the Heavens in fire and smoke. Here Shatin draws upon a pseudo-folkishness, which takes her to the edge of the precipice of orientalism. The music begins with an expressive cello, as it were ‘Jewish,’ followed by the emergence of human voices with a mideastern effect, and after after which comes a theme in the same spirit, a kind of galloping Hora that is cut short by a bleating shofar electronically transformed, which in turn breaks into a quiet section – and as if that were not enough, the melody Eliahu HaNavi emerges after that. This search for the different and the ‘other,’ arouses a sense of forgiveness, one that only someone who has a ‘first-person perspective’ – such as Israelis – can feel towards those with good intentions who observe the culture from outside.

But these works do not diminish the value of the wonderful music on this CD, and above all the opening work, Glyph (from 1984), which means a kind of carving.This work consists of beautiful, sweeping, imaginative music in four movements titled Luminous, Flickering, Ecstatic and Incandescent. The delicate piano performance of Margaret Kampmeier; James Dunham, with his viola, which is all song and virtuosity without showing off, and the French (sic) Cassatt Quartet, which can proudly stand beside the famed Kronos Quartet that commissioned Elijah’s Chariot and premiered it. This tonal, romantic music shows how little style is the measure of good music, and how one can write romantic music and be at the same time contemporary. True, this is not likely, but it is nevertheless possible – and rare as it may be, here the possible comes into being.

Grito del Corazón (The Cry of the Heart) from 2001, for 2 clarinets and electronics, inspired by the Black Paintings of Francisco de Goya; Sic Transit, premiered in 2011, for percussionist and six robotic arms – whose repetitive rhythm moves from fulfillment of expectation to surprises, and explores our relation to time; and Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom for electronics, from 1990 – they too are beautiful works that reveal Shatin’s originality and her ability to say in sound something uniquely personal. Hosech Al P’ney HaTehom shows this: electronic music in which the noise of chaos moves and breaks as its sounds collide; and then a lightening flash triggers a wild storm, eruptions of lava, from which emerges a sound of definite pitch – and then stability.

Judith Shatin, born in 1949, studied at Juilliard and Princeton, among other schools. She is a professor at the University of Virginia and founder and head of the Center for Computer Music there. According to her, the social aspects of music, the sounds of the world, as well as literature and visual art, find their place in her work. In an interview on the American Music site, she explains that she is looking for new sounds – “I live my life with my musical antennas up,” as she says, but that all her works have a direct and deep connection with music of the past: “sometimes I have the feeling that the past is the present,” she says.”

–Ha’Aretz (Noam ben Ze’ev, Trans. Michael Kubovy)

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The title track “Time to Burn” is an engaging work for oboe and two percussionists. Extended techniques make the oboe sound almost like an electronic instrument in places. The interplay between the three instruments, and the imaginative way in which they’re used gives the music a sense of energy and even urgency. –WTJU Classical Comments (Ralph Graves)

“…Of Thursday’s two world premieres and Friday’s two D.C. ones, Judith Shatin’s Tower of the Eight Winds, in four movements for violin and piano, stood out for it’s acuity and engaging vivacity as music one would like to hear again…” – The Washington Post

“…View from Mt. Nebo, whose fervor recalls Shostakovich with a carefully wrought tension that raised more than bow hairs.” – The Washington Post