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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution
Hildegurls: (l. to r.) Elaine Kaplinsky, Lisa Bielawa, Eve Beglarian, Kitty Brazelton (foreground) Grethe Barrett Holby, director.
Hildegurls is a unique and powerfully beautiful performance by four women composer/singers -- Eve Beglarian, Lisa Bielawa, Kitty Brazelton, and Elaine Kaplinsky -- working to bring 21st-century perspectives to bear on the music of one of the first documented woman composers, the 12th-century visionary and abbess Hildegard von Bingen.
Hildegard (1098-1179) composed at least 77 liturgical chants for the nuns in her abbey, and wrote treatises on science and philosophy. Her Ordo Virtutum (The Play of the Virtues) is the first known morality play, and arguably, the first opera. In the course of a prelude, four acts, and a postlude, the Devil tempts a Soul away from an angelic host of twelve Virtues; the Soul returns, bedraggled, to grace; and the Virtues bind and cast out the Devil.
Each of the four composer/singers has set one of the four acts, resulting in four radically distinctive high-tech soundtracks that support their live voices. Each composer sings the Soul in her section of the play, and all four women also sing collectively and individually to represent the Virtues. Their portrayals of the Devil are stylistically varied, yet integrated into a seamless whole.
The text mostly remains in the medieval Latin as Hildegard wrote it, and the Devil's lines are occasionally translated into German, French, or English for simultaneous delivery with the Latin. Hildegard's melodies are always present, though sometimes transformed in unexpected and imaginative ways.
Hildegurls follows paleographer/musicologist Audrey Ekdahl Davidson's edition of the play regarding rhythmic and temporal considerations. However, the resulting music will never be mistaken for "authentic performance practice" or "historical reconstruction." Hildegurls' Ordo Virtutum embodies the drama and emotion of this 900-year-old masterpiece with an intensity we think Hildegard would love.
Eve Beglarian is a composer, performer, and audio producer whose work has been performed in the United States, Europe, Mexico, South America, Asia, and the Baltic States, and in the most mainstream concert halls and theaters as well as in clubs and lofts. Her chamber music has been commissioned and performed by the California EAR Unit, Relâche, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Crosstown Ensemble, and the New York New Music Ensemble, among others. Her experience in music theater includes collaborations with Shi-Zheng Chen (with the China National Beijing Opera Theater) and Terry O'Reilly (with Mabou Mines.) She recently traveled to Vietnam as an APPEX Fellow (sponsored by UCLA and the Ford Foundation). Her performing duo, twisted tutu, with keyboard player Kathleen Supové, blends high technology with theater. Recordings of her music are available on CRI Emergency Music, OO Discs, Atavistic, Accurate Distortion, and Kill Rock Stars. In addition to her composing and performing work, Eve directs and produces audiobooks of authors including Stephen King and Anne Rice for Random House and Simon & Schuster.
Lisa Bielawa's compositions include concert works for orchestra, chorus, and solo voices, and music theater pieces and operas with playwright Erik Ehn. Recent works have evolved out of research into the writings of William Blake, Gertrude Stein, the Berlin Dadaists, and documentary histories of teenage girl visionaries. Grants, fellowships and awards include the New York Foundation for the Arts 1996 Greg Millard Fellowship in Music Composition, three ASCAP Young Composers Competition Awards, the the Omaha Symphony International Competition, and the Foundation Royaumont in France. In 1997, her music theater piece Phrenic Crush, with librettist Erik Ehn, received its premiere production in San Francisco through the Haas Foundation Creative Work Fund. Recent and current commissions include the Western Wind, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the University of Minnesota Wind Ensemble, the Association of Anglican Musicians, and the University of Iowa Theatre Department She is the co-producer of the Music at the Anthology concert series in New York, which commissions and premieres works by young composers. Since 1992, she has recorded and performed internationally as the vocalist in the Philip Glass Ensemble.
Kitty Brazelton is a composer and improviser, mezzo soprano, flutist, and leader of the nonet Dadadah (its debut Rise Up! was released by Accurate Records in 1994); she also has a high-tech riot-grrrl trio What Is It Like To Be A Bat? Kitty received her doctorate in composition from Columbia University in 1994, where she created sanglikeabelllikeafrog at the Electronic Music Center; she's drawn on everything from medieval plainchant to funk ostinati since founding the band Musica Orbis in the 1970s. Her compositions have been presented in New Music America, the USArts (Berlin), Knitting Factory "What Is Jazz?" and Bang On A Can festivals; by the League-ISCM, Friends & Enemies of New Music, Absolute Ensemble, NewBand, New Music-Theater Ensemble (Minneapolis), Terence Trent D'Arby and Joan Jett. Piano duo Double Edge premiered her Yalum' ta Vinahel (Roots of the Sky) at the Whitney Museum/Philip Morris in 1996; Kitty also produced marathon concerts beyond category in her Real Music Series at CB's 313 Gallery in 1993. She currently teaches music history at New York University, is BMI Composer-in-Residence at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, a teaching artist with the Lincoln Center Institute, and writes for dance, orchestra and electronic media.
Elain Kaplinsky is an active composer and performer on synthesizer and piano in Manhattan's downtown music scene. With improvisation at the core of her creative process, she explores the musical vocabularies which have influenced her-jazz, new music, rock, and world music-in league with her traditional classical education. Elaine is committed to both acoustic and electronic music; besides Hildegurls, her projects include Trousers with Elise Kermani and Christine Bard, (hailed by the Village Voice as "the definitive women's electronic improv trio"), a long musical association with microtonal composer David First; her jazz-influenced Kaplinsky Quartet, and the transatlantic Koan Pool, with David First and Berlin musicians Ulrich Krieger and Maurice de Martin. Elaine's recent recordings include: dice2 (Ishtar Records), a compilation featuring works by Trousers; and David First's The Good Book's (Accurate), and Jail of Escape Dust Coordinates (O.O. Discs). She has toured extensively in Europe and the U.S., and has received continued support from Meet the Composer.
Hildegurls: Elaine Kaplinsky, Lisa Bielawa, Eve Beglarian, Kitty Brazelton.
To reach Hildegurls via Hillary Jackson
photos by Adriano Fagundes