program notes

postcard design by Melissa Gould

THE MILHAUD CHAIR is a mixolydian dance reminiscent of the Lambada - a dance rage which turned out to be a hoax propagated by a group of Brazilian avocado farmers on a summer vaction in France in 1987. The chair itself was patented by Gesualdo and Fats Waller during a historical meeting near Antalya in southern Turkey, and finally approved and licensed with an updated operating system by Les Six, one foggy night in Paris. Hence it carries a distinguished international mythology. At that meeting in Paris, Germaine Taillefaire, the only woman in the group, is reported to have said: "Darius, cher maitre, you will some day go to the new world, and there you will find a special chair; when you find it take it and sit on it, and when you are finished sitting, let others sit there after you." Unlike Louis XIV's chair which he used to stand on to swat mosquitoes and unlike the Ed Norton chair that Cage sat on at Harvard in 1988 and later decorated in misostic lettering on a background of burnt-siena, the Milhaud chair-in spirit closer to Ionesco's - was more humble, yucky-yellow, and apparently without pedigree or insurance when it fell of the back of a rundown pickup truck on interstate 580 near the Grand Lake Theater exit in Oakland. Just then Pauline Oliveros was driving her Deep Listening Van and swerved to avoid this flying yellow object which produced a whooshing sound - similar to a fifth in just intonation as it landed intact in the kudju green landscaping. Some years later when Curran was invited to furnish his new office in the Mills College pasta department, which coincidentally was the same moment he was looking for new ways to spacialize sound; his eye caught this somewhat mournful yellow swivel chair in a heap of demoralized office furniture...and as if he had just come from a lesson with Satie, enthusiastically said: "I'll take it, just like it is and with it I will open a spacialized furniture-music center, i will then make complex counterpoint from Sofas, hospital beds (with a crank) and Bauhaus bar-stools; my furniture and my music will be indistinguishable...I will research and diseminate all that I can concerning Musique d'Ameublement. I will sit or recline according to the wisdom of the ancients and according the season as Scelsi loved to tell of his sleeping in an old musty amoire in a paris hotel room because the street noise drove him crazy, when in fact is was Messaien who had come to the hotel to pay a him (maestro Scelsi) a visit and arrived with a flock of 117 mynah birds.....Back in Oakland, Mme Milhaud was instructing Trisha Brown on the secrets of making a perfect omelette aux fines herbes; in the adjoining room Darius lit a cigarette and began putting the first notes down to his renowned "La Creation du Monde."

These stories could go on, for beneath them there a various intersecting truths and fantasies, but the fact is, this concert is simply an occasion to put Pauline Oliveros and myself on stage together as an act of friendship and musical necessity to celebrate our own 3 year partnership in and around the Milhaud Chair - now become somewhat of a monument to the musical wealfare of our nation.

The music composed for THE MILHAUD CHAIR is inspired by sonic derivatives of the Chair itself in the classical American experimental style, redesigned by Seth Cohen and performed by dancer Alyssa Wilmot. This unadorned beginning leads to a fanfare of 5 chords and a biblical percussion exchange between two families of timbrels, over which the sound of Maitre Milhauds "Creation du Monde" will emerge in updated remix. In short an extended dramatic prelude to a most pacific interchange of tones around the B flat axis. A blast on the Shofar, the ritual ram's horn of the ancestors points toward home, and a pacific and introspective collective tuning lead by Pauline.

Pauline Oliveros, accordion, Alvin Curran, shofar (rams horn) and electronics, Cenk Ergun, powerbook; Jen Baker trombone, Chris Bobrowski, french horn; Gene Baker and Terri Card Trumpets; Shelley Burgon and Heather Heise, harps; and William Winant and Sam Ospovat timpani.

finale note: Whether with birds, harps, swivel chairs, ram's horns, electric guitar or computers, every sound in this concert will be produced also as a conscious act of resistance to the out of control attack on human reason, life and recognized sources of life currently threatening everyone, everywhere and particularly in the middle east at the moment of this writing.

alvin curran/ March 30, 2002

home | upcoming | biography | writings | works | discography | installations | solo performance | scores | listen | search