Preben Antonsen

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Ordinary Evening

Performed by Maia Cabeza, Anna Wuttig, Charlotte Steiner, and Tessa Seymour.

I wrote An Ordinary Evening at the Yellowbarn Young Artists Program during the summer of 2009. My goal for the piece was to create music that was driven by textures and timbres rather than harmonies or even rhythms. I tried to bring this about by simplifying my harmonies and rhythms to an almost embarrassing degree. A device I employed throughout was a short but powerful swell, iterated repeatedly. This was inspired by the so-called sidechaining effect that gives the sensation of centrifugal pumping to French house music (Daft Punk, Justice, Danger, and others), which I had been listening to at the time of writing.

I want to thank Steve Coxe, my teacher at the program, for his support, as well as my performers—Maia, Anna, Charlotte, and Tessa—without whom this piece would never have been heard. 


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Comments [17]


There are parts that remind me of Johnny Greenwood's soundtrack work on There Will Be Blood. This is great.

Aug. 20 2010 03:40 PM

Whoah, beautiful!

Aug. 20 2010 03:38 PM

I have loved this piece ever since I first heard it performed at Yellow Barn. Bravo Preben!

Aug. 07 2010 12:45 AM

Immediately engaging and compelling piece. Every time I thought I knew what it was up to it shifted on me. I love the cumulative build and found myself moved in ways I didn't see coming.

Jul. 23 2010 05:13 PM
Evan from Denver

Congratulations, Preben. And to the quartet. This is a delightful piece. Maybe I need to listen to more Justice, but I don't hear the "swell" as as a reference to anything specific. If anything, the pumping affects a sort of hoedown feel from time to time. It'd be interesting if this were to become one movement in a suite and we got to hear some contrasting/complimenting motives explored -- that's a wink and a nudge, panel!

Jul. 20 2010 06:10 PM
irene andrews from Killeen, TX

I have only my love of sounds, music and movement to go on. No formal training on an instrument. 1st listen: fascinated by how those performers are creating those sounds, those slurs and jabs and rubs. 2nd listen: Visuals of hide and seek in thick woods. 3rd listen: Now I see dancers, whose bodies can't contain the energy and must move. Still listening and still discovering. Preben, instead of presenting the listener a painted picture, your music is the act of placing the brush in my hand. Thank you!

Jul. 19 2010 03:31 AM
P. Falcon

Echoing M..from SF, I am struck by the strong narrative quality. I'm not sure about the House connection -individual voices making clear statements, maybe - but this reminds me of some of my favorite French music. If Mr. Antonsen is trying to avoid melodicism as well as harmony, it's a hopeless task - melody in his bones. This is suspenseful. It could be dance music, or a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I look forward to hearing more of his music. I'm sure I will.

Jun. 29 2010 07:31 PM
Chris from Chico

I like the piece quite a lot, although it took a few hearings to grow on me. The very beginning is interesting in a moody, prescient sort of way; the following phrase that reappears throughout was a bit annoying at first - initially I wanted it to move on to something denser. The change-up that comes around 2:40 is very beautiful, arresting. After listening a few times I began to like how the music veers from that main phrase in ways that are by turn comic, shrill and ominous - a weird hoe-down that builds in tension, breaks, returns to the phrase in an odd little cattywampus march and finishes with a bit of off-balance ballet.

Jun. 29 2010 01:42 AM
Mark Livingston from People Republic of Berkeley

I couldn't help wondering, first off, about the title's evocation of Wallace Stevens (I propose: 'Large Saurids Limbering Up,' myself). Perhaps Preben was only playing with notions on just such an evening, whether in New Haven or elsewhere. Or with those 'less legible meanings of sounds, the little reds Not often realized, the lighter words [sc: notes] In the heavy drum of speech [sc: music]', etc. I enjoy the marginal tonality of the melodic fragments or motifs, some almost folkish, in any case, straying from Schubertian opening bars to the Bartokish cadence: which seemed then to be set 'going through their paces'---I might've guessed variations or passacaglia or such as the genus: not sure that I picked up on textures & timbres as the driving forces, however. Maybe we musical unwashed are over prepared with assumptions about The Notes being the main carriers of musical DNA, the primary code? An engaging study, meantime.

Jun. 27 2010 05:40 PM

Very cool piece. I like it better each time I hear it. Preben takes a couple of motives which at first seem unpromising, and uses some remarkable craftsmanship to make a really satisfying, moving, and original work. I've certainly never heard anything like it.

Jun. 27 2010 03:30 PM
M........................ from SF

I am not a music expert, so I will respond more from my own cerebral taste: There is definitely a progression—a telling of a story. I was intrigued by the revealing, intensity, the gradual build. It definitely captures joyous moments as well as painful unsettlements. I think it is a very honest and brave exploration of the artist…

Jun. 27 2010 01:51 AM
Sara from San Francisco/Italy

I truly enjoyed the piece, its strength and turns. I actually didn't mind the harmony at all, I found it pleasant, and smoothing some sharp angles. It seems that the ordinary evening welcomes and follows some unexpected excitement sneaking in from an open window. Bravo to you.

Jun. 26 2010 07:21 PM
Alicia Springer from Chico CA

Maybe it's the literal-mindedness in me or my own interests, but I hear so much nature in this -- tree frogs and cicadas and birdsong and dawn chorus. It's lyrical and playful in a way that evokes the natural world to me too. A pleasure.

Jun. 26 2010 07:12 PM

This is a very nice miniature. While the harmonies exist within a narrow band, I think they're still interesting (not embarrassing!) & for me the rhythms are as well (including the "pumping" the composer mentions). Really enjoyed this (& have listened multiple times). @Bill: not sure the intent of this forum is to market the composers' resumes. It seems to me there's already enough of the American Idol type popularity contest in this process, no?

Jun. 26 2010 01:16 PM
Bill from Boston

I've known Preben's work ever since he was 16, and now at 19, he is the strongest undergraduate composer in the country, arguably the most talented and accomplished college-level composer I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is a protege' of John Adams, who was able to recognize his talent when Preben was barely 10. A great composer.

Jun. 25 2010 03:04 PM
Dr. Scott Giles from Sacramento, CA

There are some neat sounds here and the impression of a development. The idea of working primarily with textures and timbres, of course, is not a new one and it has been done much more successfully in the past. This could have been a more interesting piece.

Jun. 21 2010 03:44 PM

Having trouble hearing the connection with the French House music. Have to admit my interest in the piece was still driven by the harmonies and rhythms despite your best efforts!

Jun. 19 2010 06:42 PM

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