In a two-part concert, cellist Charles Curtis will present solo works created for and with him by Éliane Radigue, Alvin Lucier and Alison Knowles. Radigue's Naldjorlak (2005) is a nearly hour-long, continuous exploration of the acoustical properties of the cello, centered around a tuning of the cello to its own intrinsic resonance. All of the strings are brought into alignment with the cello's "wolf tone"; the entire corpus of the cello is engaged to elicit a complex, closely related spectrum of harmonics and resonances. Lucier's Slices for Cello and Pre-recorded Orchestra (2011) sets the solo cello against a sustained chromatic tone cluster in 52 orchestral instruments, arrayed as a Supercollider patch. By outlining the cluster in various melodic orderings, the solo cello erases and re-inscribes the orchestral cluster in a slowly unfolding process. Alison Knowles' Rice and Beans for Charles Curtis (2008) is a graphic score made of hand made rice paper, beans, lentils and bits of fabric and string. Curtis interprets this work of visual art in a performance analogous to the making of the score, working over the "score" of the instrument in several passes, seeking out unsuspected resonances by tapping, rubbing and stroking the instrument with bare hands.
Éliane Radigue (born 1932) is one of the pioneers of electronic music and music of long duration. Naldjorlak is her very first work for an acoustic instrument.
Alvin Lucier (born 1931) is an American experimental composer who directly engages the physical properties of sound in space. Works of his such as "I am sitting in a room" and "Music for Solo Performer" are landmarks of late twentieth-century art.
Alison Knowles (born 1933) is a first generation member of Fluxus and an internationally acclaimed visual artist, poet and musician. Her work elaborates John Cage's ideas of indeterminacy in rigorous and surprising new applications.
Called by ArtForum "one of the great cellists" as well as "spellbinding and minimal," Charles Curtis (born 1960) is an internationally acclaimed cellist of new and experimental music, with a special emphasis on the interpretation of post-John Cage American avant- garde music. He has worked extensively with pioneers of new music La Monte Young, Alvin Lucier and Éliane Radigue in collaborations which straddle the boundaries between concert performance, installation and sound art. Curtis has premiered and commissioned works that re-define the cello, re-frame its basic acoustics, and place the fundamental physics of instrument and performance space in a new light. Curtis has led La Monte Young's legendary Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble for nearly two decades, and he is a member of The Just Alap Raga Ensemble, the performance group of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. Alvin Lucier's compositions dedicated to Curtis include works for solo cello and pre-recorded orchestra, cello and sine waves, and cello and piano. Éliane Radigue, a pioneer of tape music composition since the 1950's, created her very first work for an acoustic instrument, Naldjorlak, specifically for Curtis. Fluxus artists Alison Knowles and Mieko Shiomi have also created original music for Curtis, including graphic and text-based scores.
As Professor for Contemporary Music Performance at UC San Diego since 2000, Curtis regularly leads graduate and undergraduate performance ensembles in the realization of unconventionally notated scores, including works by groundbreaking timbral experimenter Robert Erickson, English activist composer Cornelius Cardew, as well as John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff. He is also artistic director and cellist of Camera Lucida, a performance project focusing on the tradition of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century chamber music.