Developing "If Tigers Were Clouds" with Eleanor Hovda

September 30, 2014

This weekend, Zeitgeist will present the first concert of our 2014-2015 season. Included among many compelling musical selections will be If Tigers Were Clouds by Eleanor Hovda. Eleanor wrote If Tigers Were Clouds in collaboration with Zeitgeist in 1994, during a residency at the Fleisher Art Music in Philadelphia. 

Our work together was made possible through the Music in Motion program created by Joseph Franklin, then artistic director of the Relache New Music Ensemble. Music in Motion placed a new music ensemble and two composers in select communities for three weeks throughout a year. We developed new work together and held sessions to introduce new work to audiences. Music in Motion was an amazing program that resulted in enduring artistic alliances and wonderful new works. 

Eleanor Hovda was living in Minnesota at that time, and we had long sought an opportunity to work together on a new piece. All of us thought it was quite funny that it took being transported to South Philly to get us in the same room. As it turned out, being sequestered together away from our home base gave us the space to discover each other on a deeper level than if we had remained in the confines of our day-to-day lives. If Tigers Were Clouds would certainly not have been such a strong work if we had not had the early morning breakfast conversations, hours of experimentation, considerable feedback from listeners, and many, many shared meals at Ralph’s Italian Restaurant. Seriously, I had to discard several items of clothing after our residency year was finished because the olive oil stains were simply too pervasive. That place was amazing, and it is still a mainstay of South Philly dining. Do dine there if you visit Philadelphia. 

Eleanor started her creative life as a dancer, and she used physical imagery and movement as much as aural descriptors to communicate her compositional intent. I remember finding it initially very difficult to translate what she wanted on my instrument, but in the end, I got it. The flurry of chop-busting mania that opens If Tigers Were Clouds is the result. Eleanor and Robert Samarotto, our clarinetist, had no problems discovering a common language. Eleanor was entranced with Bob’s ability to coax the softest, most haunting micro-tones out of his instrument. They feature prominently throughout the piece. In the first week, we discovered these and other musical ingredients that would eventually make up the piece. In our second week held months later, we worked to determine an order of events, tonal centers, and pacing. In our third week, we refined our work and presented it in performance. Our audience loved it then, and still do. In the twenty years since its premiere, If Tigers Were Clouds has endured as one of Zeitgeist’s favorite works to perform. 

During our 1993-1994 Music in Motion residency, Zeitgeist’s members were myself and Jay Johnson; percussion, Thomas Linker, piano; and Robert Samarotto, woodwinds. Participating composers were Eleanor Hovda and the indomitable Fred Ho. Fred passed away this past year, Eleanor in 2009, and Bob in 2003. How bittersweet are these memories. 

--Heather Barringer

Eleanor Hovda

Zeitgeist: New Discoveries, Old Favorites
Oct. 3-4, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5, 2 p.m.

Studio Z, 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200
St. Paul

$10 Friday & Sunday 
$20 Saturday*

Zeitgeist kicks off the 2014-15 season with the debut of the ensemble’s newest member, pianist Nicola Melville. A concert of favorites both old and new, the season opener features the world premiere of From Afar, the Dragon Calls by Minnesota composer Jeff Lambert, new music by Justin Rubin, Joshua Harris and Doug Opel, and long-treasured works from Eleanor Hovda and George Crumb.

Works include:
Jeff Lambert: From Afar, the Dragon Calls
Eleanor Hovda: If Tigers Were Clouds
George Crumb: Mundus Canis 
Joshua Harris: OCT 21 2015 
Doug Opel: Playtime with Elvis and Krispy
Mike Olson: Breathing Voltages
Justin Rubin: The armed man should be feared… and other lessons from the Renaissance

*Saturday’s performance includes wine and hors d'oeuvres, a special solo performance by pianist Nicola Melville, and a post-concert reception with Melville and composer Jeff Lambert.


Jeff Lambert's "From Afar, the Dragon Calls"

September 29, 2014

Guitarist and composer Jeff Lambert has recently completed a brand new work written for Zeitgeist entitled From Afar, the Dragon Calls. The work will received its world premiere this weekend at Zeitgeist's season opener at Studio Z. We were delighted to chat with Jeff about his new piece and his work as a composer and performer. 

Tell us about the new piece you wrote for Zeitgeist. 

From Afar, the Dragon Calls is scored for soprano saxophone, piano and 2 percussion (marimba, cymbals, snare drum...

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Lisa Ragsdale's "September Skies"

September 11, 2014

This Sunday, September 14, The University of Minnesota Wind Quintet will perform September Skies, a concert of works by Minneapolis composer Lisa Ragsdale. Lisa has composed works for mixed chorus as well as a variety of solo and chamber ensemble works for winds and brass, with a special emphasis on woodwinds. Sunday’s concert includes four premiere performances and the reprise of “In a Dark Time,” her second wind quintet. Lisa shares the inspiration behind these new works below. 


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Zeitgeist's 2014-15 Season

September 8, 2014

Zeitgeist is pleased to announce its 2014-15 series of cabarets, performances and celebrations to take place at Studio Z in Lowertown:

New Discoveries, Old Favorites
Oct. 3-4, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 5, 2 p.m.

Zeitgeist kicks off the 2014-15 season with the debut of the ensemble’s newest member, pianist Nicola Melville. A concert of favorites both old and new, the season opener features the world premiere of From Afar, the Dragon Calls by Minnesota composer Jeffrey Lambert, new music by Joshua Harris ...

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Zeitgeist Announces Pianist Nicola Melville

August 25, 2014

Zeitgeist is pleased to introduce the newest member of the ensemble, pianist Nicola Melville! Zeitgeist is delighted to welcome Nicola into the ensemble as they look ahead to a season of new music and new collaborations. Stay tuned for details about Zeitgeist’s 2014-2015 season to find out when you can meet Nicola and hear her perform! 

US-based New Zealand pianist Nicola Melville has been described as “having an original and intelligent musical mind” (Waikato Times), “a marvelous pian...

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Inuksuit: Clues for Listening

August 14, 2014

Zeitgeist and Caponi Art Park will team up to bring 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams’ major work Inuksuit to the Caponi Art Park Summer Performance Series on August 17. Before you go, Zeitgeist offers some background, insight, and clues for listening to and experiencing the work. 

is a 70-minute musical work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams. Adams lived for decades in Alaska, and the seasons and landscape of the arctic infuse his creativ...

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Zeitgeist's Jazz Commissions at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival

June 24, 2014

Known for their 35+ year history as an acclaimed new music ensemble, Zeitgeist is always eager to explore new artistic frontiers and is dedicated to the creation and production of new and diverse music. This year, Zeitgeist has commissioned four new works from local jazz artists Chris Bates, Steve Kenny, Zacc Harris and Davu Seru to be premiered at the 2014 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. The ensemble is collaborating with each of the artists this week in rehearsals and will welcome them to the st...

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Spitting Image Collective Concert Preview

June 4, 2014

Spitting Image, a brand new composer collective in the Twin Cities, will make their debut this weekend with their The Hear and Now concerts at Studio Z in Lowertown St. Paul and Honey in Northeast Minneapolis.

Spitting Image was formed in 2013 by composers Katherine Bergman, Ted Moore and Daniel Nass with a mission of bringing together composers, performers, and listeners in order to strengthen the Minneapolis/St. Paul new music community. Their work includes commissioning new work from local ...

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Notes on høle in the skY

May 16, 2014

Høle in the skY is an artistic response to climate change and the specter of ecosystem collapse and extinction. With this work, Kathy McTavish uses film, music, poetry, narrative, and scientific data to create a world on the brink of a bleak and awful reality. In this world, the environment is changing dramatically, living things are disappearing, and hope is dwindling. Is this our world? Are we Martha? Is collapse inevitable?
The musicians of Zeitgeist, her fellow collaborators, enter this ...

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Interview with Kathy McTavish

May 14, 2014

We caught up with Duluth composer/cellist/sound artist Kathy McTavish for a look at her unique path as an artist, activist, and environmentalist and to hear the back-story for her new work høle in the skY. Drawing on McTavish’s past work in ecosystem modeling, the work considers the delicacy of ecosystems, our human quest to recover those systems, and what it might mean to be the last of a species left alive. Zeitgeist will present the world premiere of høle in the skY this weekend, May 1...
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