From the Mundane 

to the Macabre



Sight meets sound in IonSound’s second program of the season, “From the Mundane to the Macabre.”  Packed with world premieres, this concert represents the first installment of IonSound’s Leaving a Legacy project--a fundraising initiative to finance new compositions.  The group will perform commissions by three Pittsburgh composers, Christian Kriegeskotte, Philip Thompson, and Nizan Leibovich.  Each work on the program is inspired by, or created in collaboration with a visual art form as promised by this season’s theme:  “aMuse, a Season of Inspiration and Entertainment.”  

The range of inspiration spans from 16th century woodcuts to a brand new video collaboration.  Christian Kriegeskotte’s “Dances of Death” explores the sonic possibilities of unusual instrument pairings, and are inspired by the wonderful miniature illustrations of 16th century German painter and engraver Hans Holbein.  In stark contrast, Nizan Leibovich’s “Schéhérazade - "...Elle vit apparaître le matin. Elle se tut discrètement" is inspired by the colorful and joyous papercut work by French painter and artist Henri Matisse.  The title roughly translates to:  "...She lived to see the morning appear. She discreetly fell silent", and evokes the intrigue and mystery of the compelling tale of Arabian princess Scheherazade that has influenced artists and composers for centuries.  The third world premiere on the program, Philip Thompson’s “Kecow hit tamen” is driven by the rhythmic and melodic subtleties of this Native American phrase meaning either “What is this?” or “What is your name?”  Artist Ryan Day presents his original animation conceived as a visual translation of the rhythmic undulations of the text and the music.

A visual collaboration between Rob Frankenberry’s new arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition  and a presentation of musically inspired artwork by students from the Falk School completes the program.   IonSound musicians will visit with the students in the preceding weeks to encourage them to create artwork that focuses on two main ideas--recreating their own versions of Hartmann’s existing artwork, the inspiration behind Pictures at an Exhibition and replicating the experience of viewing an exhibit through video.  Join us on Sunday, November 20th at 7:00 pm at Bellefield Hall Auditorium in Oakland for this exciting program!

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at the door.  For more information and concert updates please visit

Editors Please Note:

From the Mundane to the Macabre
Sunday, November 20, 2011
University of Pittsburgh
Bellefield Hall Auditorium 7:00 pm

IonSound Project
Ryan Day, Artist
Artwork by students at The Falk School

CHRISTIAN KRIEGESKOTTE Dance of Death No. 2 for Cello and Clarinet
Dance of Death No. 3 for Piccolo and Percussion (world premiere) 
PHILIP THOMPSON Kecow hit tamen (world premiere)
NIZAN LEIBOVICH Scheherazade - ". . . Elle vit apparaitre le matin. Elle se tut discretement" (world premiere)
MODEST MUSSORGSKY arr. Robert Frankenberry Pictures at an Exhibition


From Nizan Leibovich

Schéhérazade - "...Elle vit apparaître le matin. Elle se tut discrètement"*
for chamber ensemble

* roughly translates to: "...She lived to see the morning appear. She discreetly fell silent"
this is text that Matisse wrote into his piece "One Thousand and One Nights"

From Christian Kriegeskotte:

"The Dance of Death" is a cycle of duets inspired by the wonderful miniature illustrations of 16th century German painter and engraver Hans Holbein.  Holbein worked primarily for the Tudor King Henry VIII in England, but gained equal notoriety as an engraver and illustrator on the Continent.  The series of miniatures from which this work draws its inspiration appear in a manuscript published at Lyons in 1538 entitled "Images and Illustrated Facets of Death,” or "Le Danse Macabre."  "Dance of Death No. 2" is scored for Cello and Clarinet, and "Dance of Death No. 3" is scored for Piccolo and Percussion.

And for further reference, here are the complete notes from the score:

"Hans Holbein the Younger (1497—1543) lived in a time when death was a common and exposed theme in society.  At any time, persons of any social class could view public executions and the plague, taking its toll across Europe, made the sight of a corpse lying in the street totally commonplace.  Holbein, born in Augsburg, Germany, became most famous for his miniature woodcuts and innovations in book design, and for having served as court painter to Henry VIII during the English Tudor period.  Holbein was single handedly responsible for our “sense of the physical characteristics of the important men of Henrician England.”   In 1538, Holbein published a book of 41 miniature woodcuts at Lyons (accompanied by an extensive text on the subject) entitled “Images and Illustrated Facets of Death,” better known as Le Danse Macabre or The Dance of Death.  In this work of staggering detail and unique beauty Holbein presents the topic of inescapable mortality as a reminder to all people from popes, bishops and kings to merchants, peasants and elderly commoners.  His wonderful woodcuts are at times playful and at times deeply dramatic and profound and always a somber reminder of the Latin phrase memento mori or “Remember that you will die.”

From Philip Thompson:

About Kecow hit tamen
My father is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, a tribe whose history is far more difficult to ascertain than that of other eastern native peoples. Modern Lumbee trace their ancestry to Eastern Soiuan, Cherokee, and Tuscarora, with one of the enduring legends being that the tribe is descended, at least in part, from the intermarriage between members of Raliegh’s Lost Colony and the Hatteras. The Carolina Algonquian phrase “Kecow hit tamen?” means either “What is this?” or “What is your name?” The phrase was recorded by Thomas Hariot during Raliegh’s initial expedition, and, given the competing theories on Lumbee history, seems like an appropriate starting point for my own reflections on that history.
Thomas Hariot’s vocabulary of Roanoke and additional vocabulary derived from John White’s annotated watercolors supply the best samples we have of the language spoken the by native peoples they encountered. Sadly, only a hundred or so words remain of a much larger effort and these describe mostly the local flora and fauna.
I approached the composition of Kecow hit tamen almost as I would a vocal piece, sketching a melodic fragment for the question itself and for each of Hariot’s and White’s words. These fragments then became the basis for a series of overlapping micro-variations that constitute the instrumental layer, while audio samples surround the listener with approximations of how the spoken language might have sounded.
The idea of developing Kecow hit tamen as a multimedia work emerged when my good friend Ryan Day and I were discussing his Translation series of paintings, works that “translate” the rhythm of texts into color patterns. The idea of a visual artist and composer both working with the same non-narrative text turned out to be a fruitful one, and we developed the piece collaboratively from start to finish. I will leave the detailed description of the art to Ryan, but to me, one of the most exciting aspects of this digital painting is the subtle, but continuous animation that transforms the work as the music unfolds.
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