Manipulação

$5.00

for solo guitar (2002)

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Duration

3 min.

Program Notes

Although Manipulação is scored for only one instrument and lasts barely over two minutes, it has taken me more than three years to actually compose it. And on some levels, I’ve been working on it even longer, perhaps since my childhood…

I’ve spent virtually my entire life in New York City, but I was born in Miami, Florida, and I returned there to live on and off for a two-year period when I was in elementary school. Apart from figuring out that I never wanted to live anywhere else besides New York City for the rest of my life, I picked up a few other lifelong personality flaws during that time.

It was the early 1970s, and my mother sent me to guitar classes at a strip mall about two miles away from the trailer park where we were living. The guitar is the only instrument I ever studied formally with a teacher, and to this day it is the only instrument I can play somewhat that I feel uncomfortable playing.

Before I was 10, I was barely aware of the world around me much less the musical world—until Nixon was forced to resign I thought the Watergate scandal referred to a broken pipe at a hotel—but music has a way of creeping in to the subconscious whether wittingly or unwittingly. For years afterwards, even long after realizing I was a composer (for better or worse), I was never able to write a piece that wasn’t infested with major seventh chords, much to the chagrin of anyone who held the European classical music traditions of the 18th and 19th centuries in high esteem. But, no matter what they said, I just couldn’t dislodge those wonderfully emotionally manipulative chords which were ubiquitous on 70s AM radio (Paul McCartney’s “My Love,” “Day By Day” from the cast album of the Broadway musical Godspell, “My Cherie Amour,” “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” or just about anything else ever done by Stevie Wonder, etc).

In fact, the negativity toward major sevenths made me uninterested in classical music until I heard Philip Glass repeat them relentlessly in North Star, which I was first exposed to on a PBS television documentary as a sophomore in high school and safely back in New York City. A few years later I was a Columbia undergrad (in the early ’80s) where liking Glass was not a way to curry favor with the guardians of dodecaphonic atonality. At the time it felt like an intractable divide, but nowadays many composers including myself treat minimalism and serialism as two branches from the same tree.

In fact, the negativity toward major sevenths made me uninterested in classical music until I heard Philip Glass repeat them relentlessly in North Star, which I was first exposed to on a PBS television documentary as a sophomore in high school and safely back in New York City. A few years later I was a Columbia undergrad (in the early ’80s) where liking Glass was not a way to curry favor with the guardians of dodecaphonic atonality. At the time it felt like an intractable divide, but nowadays many composers including myself treat minimalism and serialism as two branches from the same tree.

I’ve always wondered if major sevenths have been so reviled by classical music traditionalists because they’re not resolvable. The developmental nature of the standard repertoire is all about resolution. From a functional tonality standpoint, a major seventh chord (a major triad played simultaneously with its tonic’s leading tone) is dissonant and dissonances have to be resolved, yet major seventh chords sound just fine where they are. They actually sound like they shouldn’t go anywhere else, except to maybe another major seventh chord and resolving them any other way sounds awkward (which is probably why the inverted major seventh chord at the end of the development section of the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica, one of the chord’s few manifestations in the “legit” canon, still sounds startling 200 years after he wrote it).

I’ve always wondered if major sevenths have been so reviled by classical music traditionalists because they’re not resolvable. The developmental nature of the standard repertoire is all about resolution. From a functional tonality standpoint, a major seventh chord (a major triad played simultaneously with its tonic’s leading tone) is dissonant and dissonances have to be resolved, yet major seventh chords sound just fine where they are. They actually sound like they shouldn’t go anywhere else, except to maybe another major seventh chord and resolving them any other way sounds awkward (which is probably why the inverted major seventh chord at the end of the development section of the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica, one of the chord’s few manifestations in the “legit” canon, still sounds startling 200 years after he wrote it).

I’ve always wondered if major sevenths have been so reviled by classical music traditionalists because they’re not resolvable. The developmental nature of the standard repertoire is all about resolution. From a functional tonality standpoint, a major seventh chord (a major triad played simultaneously with its tonic’s leading tone) is dissonant and dissonances have to be resolved, yet major seventh chords sound just fine where they are. They actually sound like they shouldn’t go anywhere else, except to maybe another major seventh chord and resolving them any other way sounds awkward (which is probably why the inverted major seventh chord at the end of the development section of the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica, one of the chord’s few manifestations in the “legit” canon, still sounds startling 200 years after he wrote it).

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is a composer and music journalist based in New York City whose syncretic compositional style has been described as “distinctive” in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. His compositions include: Fair and Balanced, a saxophone quartet in quartertones premiered and recorded by the PRISM Quartet; Imagined Overtures, for rock band in sixth-tones recorded by the Los Angeles Electric 8; Love Games, settings of poems by Elizabethan sonneteer Mary Wroth premiered at SubCulture by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City conducted by Francisco Núñez; and Versions of the Truth, a 12-song cycle based on the poetry of Stephen Crane for dual-voiced singer and piano commissioned by the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and premiered by Phillip Cheah and Trudy Chan (The Cheah Chan Duo). MACHUNAS, Oteri’s performance oratorio created in collaboration with Lucio Pozzi and inspired by the life of Fluxus-founder George Maciunas, premiered under the direction of Donatas Katkus during the Christopher Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2005. Other interpreters of his music include pianist Sarah Cahill, harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky, guitarists Dominic Frasca and David Starobin, the Ray-Kallay Duo, Pentasonic Winds, Sylvan Winds, Magellan String Quartet, the Locrian Chamber Players, and Central City Chorus. In addition to his compositional activities, Oteri is the composer advocate at New Music USA and the co-editor of NewMusicBox, a web magazine he founded which has been online since May 1999. An outspoken crusader for new music and the breaking down of barriers between genres, he has written for numerous publications and is also a frequent radio guest and pre-concert speaker. Oteri is a graduate of the High School of Music and Art and holds a B.A. and an M.A. (in Ethnomusicology) from Columbia University where he served as Classical Music Director and World Music Director for WKCR-FM. In 2007, he was the recipient of ASCAP’s Victor Herbert Award.


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