David Tudor: Rainforest (1968/69)
Gordon Mumma: Four Mographs (1962–1964), Two sections from Gestures II (1960–1961), Song Without Words (1996)
This historic recording features the first-ever release of the two earliest surviving recordings of David Tudor’s seminal work, Rainforest. Sandwiched in between are six keyboard works by Gordon Mumma in recordings featuring the composer and his close collaborator, Tudor. Together, these works constitute a fascinating and historically important document of the 1960s avant-garde in America.
In early 1968, Merce Cunningham created a new dance whose apparent impetus was Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People, with its account of life among the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Forest in Zaire. For the music, Cunningham turned to Tudor and for the first time asked him for an original work. When he learned that the dance was to be called Rainforest, Tudor said, “Oh, then I’ll put a lot of raindrops in it.” Raindrops were just the beginning: using audio transducers originally designed by the navy for hearing under and above water simultaneously-eight small objects programmed with signals from sound generators, phonograph cartridges, and two sets of speakers, Tudor created a world of sound in perpetual but unpredictable motion, a steady state at once abstract and evocative. The first recording, made from the Teatro Novo orchestra pit on July 30, is an excellent document of the sound character of Tudor’s Rainforest work when it was performed with the Cunningham Dance Company in those early years.
The second recording documents the first concert performance of Rainforest, in March 1969, several months after the Rio de Janeiro dance performance. The venue was a large conference space at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The equipment was set on tables in the center of the space, with the audience seated around the performers. Four separate channels of sound were used and widely spaced, with two in the foreground and two in the background. The sound sources had also expanded from the earlier Cunningham performances, with Tudor now adding recordings of small sounds from insects and birds, in conjunction with the previous electronic sounds, all modified by his acoustical resonant devices. The interactive circuitry was fundamentally the same as previously, but expanded with new devices and interactive connections.
Gordon Mumma’s Gestures II and the Mographs are two sets of pieces for two pianists, composed between 1958 and 1964. During the 1960s Robert Ashley and Gordon Mumma toured with their concerts of New Music for Two Pianos, including parts of Gestures II and some of the Mographs. Later, some of these two works were performed in recording experiments by Mumma and David Tudor. Two sections from the Mumma and Tudor recordings, X and 7, are presented on this CD. Each of the eleven completed Mographs includes the year of composition in its title. The first two words of each title indicate the general length of that particular composition, ranging from Very Small Size Mograph 1962 to the only solo piece, Large Size Mograph 1962. The structure and activities of each Mograph were derived from seismographic recorded P-waves and S-waves of earthquakes and underground nuclear explosions. These seismograph patterns were part of 1960s cold-war research that attempted to verify the differences between their seismic disturbance sources.