marlene mountain
reviews of mm


Werner Reichhold

freed from words, Choral Music of Mark Winges, CD,
published by the American Composer Forum, 332 Minnesota
St. E.-145, St. Paul, MN 55010. U.S.A. Order from: The San
Francisco Chamber Singers, P.O. Box 15576, Ca 94115 for $15.

In the folder that accompanies the CD, the composer Mark Winges
states: 'The pieces of this recording combine sung text and vocal
sounds in different ways. Sometimes the text is clearly presented in a
straightforward manner. Other times, the sound is the thing, with the
intelligibility of words and their meaning taking a backseat to the
music. Most of the pieces freely mix both approaches. There is one
exception: 'freed from words' is made entirely from phonemes, it
contains no text.'

For the Lnyx, readership orientated toward Japanese genres, and
familiar with the works here used by Marlene Mountain, John Wills,
Chuck Brickley, O. Mabson Southard and Eric Amann, I would also like
to repeat the explanations given by Winges:

'The haiku used in the Haiku Settings cover a broad range, from the
traditional 3-line, 17 syllable single moment / image poem, to the
'heightened' individual words of Marlene Mountain. All of the texts are
minimal, however, both in their use of few words to achieve their
effect, and in their presentation: text surrounded by a lot of blank
space on the page. I have tried to carry over the elements over to the
music: melody phrases tend to be brief, musical material is set off by
silence, and text of the haiku emerge from purely vocal sounds. A key
example of the latter is the way each movement begins: sustained
vowel sounds ('o', 'a', etc.) alternate with silence, and the text ('in the
woods / in her old voice') gradually emerges. Another element is the
use of haiku patterns in the music, specifically the 5 7 5 pattern (the
syllabic division of the traditional 3 line haiku), and the use of
seventeen as a 'unit'. This element is like the scaffolding not visible,
but a necessary part all the time.'

The 3-part composition, the Haiku Settings of Mark Winges is a
successful attempt to combine efforts once started in the first half of
the 20 th century. Here the music is the language. The echoes of
chorus works by Diestler, Carl Orff (Carmina Burana), later by Kagel
and others at that time and early works of the middle ages are
unmistakable part of Winges' own compositions. Whoever had the
pleasure to listen to the Gyuto Monks with their very special vocal and
chorus techniques can experience how powerfully Mark Winges tried
to put together the past and the present.

It's a little strange to the informed circles that Winges still emphasis
on a Japanese 5 7 5 syllable count, which guided him easily into a
conventional concept of harmonies not relevant anymore for western
haiku poets.

Clear intonations and a vast variety of vocal expressions make this
performance a joy to listen to. Musicians and poets of all genres may
have to learn quite a bit from Mark Winges.

lynx 28:1 february 2003

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