the bus driver didn’t change his mind

02.11.02

Hi Bus Driver Visitors:

One of many emotions that has come up for me post 9/11 is an intense form of feminist rage, something I feel quite uncomfortable about, if I can be honest, having always thought myself quite beyond all that. But when I got this Bang on a Can commission, the first thing I thought of was this poem by the Bangladeshi troublemaker Taslima Nasrin. (She had a fatwa issued against her in the mid-90’s and seems to have pretty much disappeared from public life.) Originally I was going to set it in the piece, but I decided not to. Here’s how it goes:

Character

You’re a girl
and you’d better not forget
that when you step over the threshold of your house
men will look askance at you.
When you keep on walking down the lane
men will follow you and whistle.
When you cross the lane and step onto the main road
men will revile you and call you a loose woman.

If you’ve got no character
you’ll turn back,
and if not
you’ll keep on going,
as you’re going now.

The harmonic language is mostly built of diminished seventh chords, in reference to that cool climax in the first movement of Mahler’s Second, which I was listening to because I’d been hanging out with Berio’s Sinfonia because of the “keep going” connection between the Beckett/Berio and the Nasrin text.

The pre-recorded material is constructed solely from samples of the pipa, a Chinese instrument that is conventionally played by cultivated young ladies performing elevated music for the delectation of the upper classes.

The title of the piece comes from something I read yesterday in a profile of the American troublemaker Al Sharpton in this week’s (2/18-25/02) New Yorker:

“The bus driver didn’t change his mind, Rosa Parks changed hers.”

The piece is dedicated to the memory of Samia al-Rumn.

Eve Beglarian

horizontal rule

the bus driver didn’t change his mind is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can hear the Bang on a Can All-Stars premiere performance by visiting August 22nd.

horizontal rule

Here is a score of the piece in pdf format, and here’s a set of parts. I’m open to you reorchestrating it for your ensemble; let me know what you have in mind.

As part of your process in learning the piece, I urge you to listen to my sketch of the piece, where I sing the Nasrin text that later became the clarinet part. It will tell you many things that can’t be embedded in the score.

In order to play the piece, please order a copy of the backing track by following the paypal link, and thank you for your interest in the bus driver didn’t change his mind.

All U Got 2 Do

All U Got 2 Do was inspired by a sermonette by Reverend Milton Brunson which appears on a 1990 release called Black Gospel Explosion.

all you got to do is
stand still
study yourself
be real

and god’ll give you the power
won’t he do it?
somebody know what I’m talking about?
won’t he give you
power?

power to live right
power to think right
power to speak right
power to do right

god’ll give you
power

• Reverend Milton Brunson

horizontal rule

Along with the Brunson text, the piece uses a transformed recording of the introduction to the Benedictus of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The live player tries to follow the Reverend’s advice by playing as few notes with as much attention as possible. The piece was originally written for Hammond organ, but it has been played on violin and on clarinet. Other instruments might work as well, I’m open to you trying it. The score is minimally notated: you will want to shape the expression of the piece in your own way. The best performances will create a fragile balance between immobility and hope.

All U Got 2 Do is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear David Steele’s clarinet version at 3 August, along with the video by Matt Petty, which is part of our multimedia show, Lighten Up.

horizontal rule

Here is a performing score in pdf format.

After you click the donation button below, you’ll get all the necessary materials to perform the piece.

Landscaping for Privacy

Landscaping for Privacy was written in August-September 1995 for twisted tutu (Kathleen Supové, keyboards and Eve Beglarian, vocals) while we were in residence at the Bellagio Center in Italy under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation. The poem is by Linda Norton. The keyboard part was written to be played using the arpeggiator function of a synth keyboard, sort of like a new convertible with an automatic transmission. I tried to capture the fragile elation urban types feel at driving out of the city on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring.

Landscaping for Privacy

Make a pagoda of thyself!
–Herman Melville

Ultima multis
–inscription on a medieval sundial

The hedges along the parkway, the trees, the trees–
They sashay, they nearly genuflect, they breathe.
It’s good to breathe; it’s good to get away in summer,
It makes you feel clean. The city, the squalor, the mess,
That’s what’s killing us. Did I tell you about the rat
I saw in the subway last night? It had a swollen belly
And no fear, it went right for a transvestite in heels!
Enough; I know; not here, not now; I should relax,
Shut up, let go. Oh, yes, Long Island’s very fresh and nice;
Do they have rats out here, or just field mice? And I forget,
What do people do with themselves in the suburbs?
The streets are empty, the lawns unused. If I lived here,
I’d spread out, I’d hang a hammock, I’d keep sheep,
I’d dig a well. I’d build hummocks to my own
Specs, I’d be positively pastoral.

But you’re right, of course. Of course, you’re right.
I couldn’t keep sheep, there’s probably an ordinance,
They’d shoot me for ruining property values.
But what’s property, anyway? Years ago
I read about a pillar of roses in an English garden
And so I own it, I have the deed by heart.
Speaking of which, pull over, look,
Here’s a surprise for you. Check out my bicep.
Do you like my new tattoo?

What do you mean, “What is it, did it hurt?”
It’s a miniature gazebo! Of course it hurt!
Note the incredible detail, the wicked craftsmanship.
See–it’s a garden pagoda for me and you,
With ivy, and grass, and a snake in the grass.
Hey, what are you doing? Oh yes, that’s good,
Yes, kiss it and make it better. Because
It did hurt a bit. In fact, it hurt like hell
(Remember that night when you touched me
And I yelled?)

OK, let’s drive, let’s tour the hydrangeas
And the lawns. What could be more suggestive
Than a grassy mattress? Maybe that TV glowing
In a darkened den, shades nearly drawn.
Slow down, slow down–that’s strange: a sick room,
A suburban tomb, on a day like this,
With the clouds all starched and bustling
In a Disney sky. Look, they have a gazebo, too,
Jam-packed with rusted rakes and trash.

If I had their lawn I’d soak it and sun bathe on it,
I’d sleep out under the stars, I’d walk to the mall
And strap a sack of fertilizer to my back and hike
All the way home. We’ve lived in the city far too long,
Yes, that’s what’s killing us. That, and this monument
To love we lug, this brick inscribed FOREVER.
Let’s let it sink. Let’s kiss. Give me the wheel,
I’ll drive so you can look at clouds.

“All clouds are clocks,” bulldozing time.
Do you remember who said that?
A pauper? A philosopher?
Well, he was right,
Those pretty clouds are bullies–

Bouffant armada,
Fluffy but cruel,
Ushering last days for many.

–Linda Norton

horizontal rule

There are three versions of the piece: the original version for narrator plus the PC88 keyboard’s arpeggiator; a version for narrator with acoustic piano and playback; and an ensemble version (voice, alto flute, bass clarinet, vibes, marimba, and piano.)

A recording of Landscaping for Privacy is on my CD Tell the Birds and also on the compilation CRI Emergency Music.

Landscaping for Privacy is May 30th in my ongoing project A Book of Days.

horizontal rule

score of piano (plus playback) version –> (.pdf)
score of all-acoustic ensemble version –> (.pdf)
score of original arpeggiator version –> (.pdf)

And you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:

LIGHTEN UP

LIGHTEN UP is a new, evening length multimedia song cycle created by New York composer Eve Beglarian and Louisiana video artist Matthew Petty. Commissioned by the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, LIGHTEN UP will premiere in March of 2018. Performed by the LIGHTEN UP quartet, this 80 minute concert combines video projections with lighting and set elements that invoke the force and imagery of the visual artists it honors.

Initially inspired by the life and work of Houston’s Flower Man, LIGHTEN UP explores the visions of visual artists whose life and work re-shape the American Dream in imaginative, powerful, and healing ways. While sometimes called “outsider artists,” these artists’ work springs from sources deep in the ground of the places they live, and inside their deepest selves.

LIGHTEN UP is more a fantasia on the work of these visionary artists than a conventional documentary. Matt Petty’s videos include footage of the work of Cleveland Turner, aka the Flower Man, Pastor Juanita Leonard, Prophet Isaiah Robertson, Jeff McKissack (the Orange Show), Kenny Hill (Chauvin), Dr. Charles Smith, and others. Eve Beglarian’s music sets texts by Louise Glück, Ezekiel, and Reverend Milton Brunson as well as the artists themselves. The piece also explores the way Eve’s and Matt’s lives have been transformed by their relationships with these artists and their work.

The music is performed live by the LIGHTEN UP quartet comprised of James Allen (keys and vocals), David Steele (clarinets and other reeds), Matt (trombone and vocals), and Eve (vocals and electronics).

Eve and Matt began working on LIGHTEN UP in the spring of 2015, under the auspices of the Marion International Fellowship for the Visual and Performing Arts. This year-long development and travel grant culminated in a workshop showing of a first version of LIGHTEN UP performed by the quartet of Eve, James, David, and Matt at the Alley Theatre in Houston, TX in June 2016.

For the premiere, the quartet will create original music and color guard choreography to be performed by students of an under-resourced school band program in the Greater New Orleans area. Along with the high school residency, younger children will work with Pastor Juanita Leonard, one of the visionary artists featured in LIGHTEN UP, to create visual environments from found materials. These artworks will be featured as set elements in the live performance.

Touring performances of LIGHTEN UP can optionally include a two week residency during which the quartet works with the band program in a local high school to master original live music and and color guard choreography. The student marching band will perform their segment alongside the quartet of Eve, James, David, and Matt at the local venue.

Additionally, Sister Juanita Leonard offers residency activities that target children in settings such as homeless shelters, after school programs, and boys’ and girls’ clubs. A residency by Ms. Leonard can last three days to two weeks, and will invite the participating children to explore how our relationships can transform and be transformed by our communities, and how healing can happen through inclusive art-making.

horizontal rule

Please click on the titles below to experience three of the existing pieces in LIGHTEN UP.

Dust

footage: Prophet Isaiah Robertson’s home and church,  Niagara Falls, NY | Aug 2015 • text: Ezekiel • music & vocals: Eve Beglarian • video: Matt Petty

horizontal rule

All U Got 2 Do

footage: parishioners at Juanita Leonard’s Church, Montgomery, LA & St. Matthew’s MB Church, Houston | Oct & Dec 2015 & May 2016 • text: Reverend Milton Brunson • music: Eve Beglarian (and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis) • clarinet: David Steele • video: Matt Petty

horizontal rule

Enter In To My Heart

footage: Kenny Hill’s Chauvin Sculpture Garden, Chauvin, LA | Dec 2015 & Mar 2016 • music: anonymous harmonica player in New Orleans | Dec 2015 processed and mixed by Eve Beglarian and Matt Petty • video: Matt Petty

horizontal rule

LIGHTEN UP: Artist Biographies


According to the Los Angeles Times, composer and performer Eve Beglarian “is an idealistic rebel and a musical sensualist.” She was awarded the 2015 Robert Rauschenberg Prize from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts for her  “innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation.”

Beglarian’s current projects include LIGHTEN UP, a multimedia music-theater piece about visionary visual artists in America;  a new collaboration with writer/actor Karen Kandel about women in Vicksburg; the long-term undertaking A Book of Days, text/music/visuals, one for each day of the year; and BRIM, the ensemble she has created to perform the repertoire she has created in response to her 2009 journey down the Mississippi River by kayak and bicycle.

Beglarian’s concert music has been commissioned and widely performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the American Composers Orchestra, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the California EAR Unit, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, Third Angle, Contemporaneous, loadbang, the Guidonian Hand, Newspeak, and many individual performers.

Highlights of Beglarian’s work in music theater include music for Mabou Mines’ Obie-winning DollhouseAnimal Magnetism, Ecco Porco, Choephorai, and Shalom Shanghai, all directed by Lee Breuer; Forgiveness, a collaboration with Chen Shi-Zheng and Noh master Akira Matsui; and the China National Beijing Opera Theater’s production of The Bacchae, also directed by Chen Shi-Zheng.

She has collaborated with choreographers including Ann Carlson, Robert LaFosse, Victoria Marks, Susan Marshall, David Neumann,  and Take Ueyama, and with visual and video artists including Cory Arcangel, Anne Bray, Barbara Hammer, Kevork Mourad, and Shirin Neshat.

Recordings of Eve’s music are available on ECM, Koch, New World, Canteloupe, Innova, Naxos, Kill Rock Stars, CDBaby, and Bandcamp.

New York Times profile

horizontal rule

Sister Juanita Leonard was born at the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana and has been a Louisiana resident all her life. She currently resides in Montgomery, Louisiana (population 795) where she owns and operates Closer to Christ Ministries, a roadside church located off of Highway 71, that she built herself from salvaged materials. Sister Juanita focuses on serving the homeless, sick, and poverty- stricken members of the community, as well as released prisoners, and at-risk children. She provides daily free meals from her home and healing services for those in need, and has done so since 2001.

As an artist, Sister Juanita has been painting since she was 17 years old. Her artwork has expanded into other forms including sculptures, architecture, quilting, hat-making, and basket weaving. Her work has been featured in numerous shows and museums across the state of Louisiana, as well as the The Pennsylvania Museum of Art, in Erie, PA; The Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA; and Roff Graves’ Gallery in Lodi, CA. She has been awarded the title of Recognized Tradition Bearer by the State of Louisiana in 2016, and has also appeared in two books including Juanita Leonard’s Hard Times Bus by Jason Neville, and When the Spirit Speaks: Self-Taught Art of the South by Margaret Day. Additionally, Sister Juanita has appeared in publications by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, CBS, Raw Vision Magazine, The Folk Art Messenger, SPACES Archives, and The American Folk Art Museum.

Raw Vision profile   |  Folk Art Society of America profile

horizontal rule

Matt Petty is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and video artist based in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He is a graduate of Northwestern State University, where he received degrees in Music Education and Trombone Performance. Matt Petty uses low-fi gear to create music-based multimedia productions involving sound, video and live performance. Matt is an alumnus of New York’s Watermill Center, where he worked as a performing artist, collaborator, and technical assistant; and was influenced by artists such as theater director Robert Wilson, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and the American freak-folk band CocoRosie. He is also a founding member of the experimental-Americana ensemble Kisatchie Sound, with clarinetist and co-founder, David Steele; a group that creates music with a sense of place.

As a collaborative artist, Matt has worked with numerous visual artists and musicians across the U.S. performing concerts and making video pieces. He has screened experimental video in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California, New York, and Vermont. Additionally, Matt is the creator of the feature documentary, Sacred as Folk, about the life of Louisiana artist, Brother Michael David Elvestrom. Most recently, Matt is traveling across the country working with and documenting visionary artists for a grassroots multimedia collaboration with composer Eve Beglarian titled LIGHTEN UP—a project that promotes diversity and healing through art as a social practice. Additionally, Matt was one of 25 international artists selected as Lucas Artist Fellows in Music at Montalvo Arts Center, in Saratoga, CA. Matt currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Music and Fine Arts at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. For more information, visit Matt’s Vimeo page.

ADDITIONAL COLLABORATORS

James Allen is the music director and organist at First St. Matthew’s Missionary Baptist Church in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. A singer since the age of three, he graduated from Madison High School of Houston in 2003, and from Alcorn State University in Mississippi in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Music Performance. His home church is Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church. James has performed as a musician and collaborator with Eve Beglarian and Kisatchie Sound as part of LIGHTEN UP’s workshop performance at The Alley Theater in Houston, Texas, in the Summer of 2016. Additionally, James works as a lifeguard and swim coach at the YMCA of Houston.

horizontal rule
David Steele
, a native of Houston, Texas, has been part of the music faculty at Northwestern State University since August 2012 where he teaches clarinet, woodwind methods, and fine arts. He is also a founding member of the chamber ensemble, Kisatchie Sound. While clarinet is his primary instrument, David plays the chalumeau, various woodwind instruments and several folk instruments. He plays an active role as a director, instructor, choreographer, and visual technician throughout the Louisiana/Mississippi Color Guard and Percussion Circuit for area marching bands and color guards. David studied at Northwestern State University, the University of New Mexico, and the University of North Texas. He has worked for Popejoy Hall, New Mexico’s premiere performing arts venue, in the Education and Outreach Department. His teachers include Dr. Malena McLaren, Mr. Keith Lemmons, and Dr. Kimberly Cole Luevano.

While at Northwestern State University, David performed with the university’s Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, and Jazz Orchestra. He has played principal clarinet with the University of New Mexico’s Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. While attending the University of North Texas, David performed and recorded with the U.N.T. Wind Symphony as principal clarinet under the direction of Dr. Eugene Corporon. Additionally, David has performed with several professional groups such as the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Roswell Symphony Orchestra, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Texarkana Symphony Orchestra, South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Many Chamber Orchestra, and the Northwestern Faculty Quintet. He has also performed as a musician, color guard performer, and visual artist at the Alley Theater in Houston, and as a woodwind specialist and technician in the pit-orchestras at Long Lake Camp of the Arts in New York. He is a recipient of the McCutchens Award for Musical Excellence, the Magale Award for Musical Excellence, the Bess McNeely Award for Outstanding Musical Performance, and the Albuquerque Community Education and Outreach Award.

As a recording artist, David has recorded with renowned brass players Joe Alessi, Sam Pilafian, Marshall Gilkes, and J.D. Shaw. He has recorded with composer, Eve Beglarian, and the chamber ensemble, Kisatchie Sound. David’s playing is featured in the sound track of the documentary film, Sacred as Folk. His playing and color guard choreography is featured in the multimedia production of LIGHTEN UP

horizontal rule

Christina Giannelli is a Houston-based lighting designer. Her work in Opera and Ballet lighting design has taken her around the world and gained her national recognition.  She has been the Resident Lighting Designer for Houston Grand Opera, Cleveland-San Jose Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, Houston Ballet and most recently for the Metropolitan Opera. Firmly committed to furthering the growth and development of the Arts in Houston, Ms. Giannelli has served on the Boards of Zocalo Artists Yard, Infernal Bridegroom Productions, the DiverseWorks Artists Board and is the founder and president of Dance Source Houston, a service organization that supports and promotes Contemporary Dance.  She is also the co-proprietor of a guest house for visiting artists and innovators located in EaDo.

horizontal rule

Island of the Sirens

The Island of the Sirens (2011) is a piece about defective transcription and the failures of translation.

I started with a recording of a warning siren I heard in Plaquemine, Louisiana, while I was traveling down the Mississippi River in the autumn of 2009. I sliced the warning siren into eight layers of partials and then asked the computer to transcribe those eight recordings into musical notation. Because the computer’s transcription algorithm was confused by the sounds, the resulting scores were quite strange. I recorded eight women singing these transcriptions, and mixed them in quasi-unison against the eight layers of electronically transformed siren. I then made three separate submixes of the electronics, which are fed into three sets of headphones for the backup performers, who can be instrumentalists or singers. The backup chorus is asked to perform in real time what they are hearing in their headphones, a task at which they will invariably fail to fulfill entirely successfully, creating yet more quasi-unison layers that deviate from the actual sound of the transformed siren.

The lead vocal, a setting of Rilke’s poem about the impossibility of describing an experience to those who haven’t shared it, is the only notated music in the piece. It also incorporates elements I heard in the siren recording, filtered through my own biases and limitations.

When his hosts would ask him late in the evening
to tell of his voyages and the perils they brought,
the words came easily enough,
but he never knew

just how to convey the fear and with what startling
language to let them perceive, as he had,
that distant island turn to gold
across the blue and sudden stillness of the sea.

The sight of it announces a menace
different from the storm and fury
which had always signaled danger.
Silently it casts its spell upon the sailors.

They know that on that golden island
there is sometimes a singing–
and they lean on their oars, like blind men,
as though imprisoned

by the stillness. That quiet contains
all that is. It enters the ear
as if it were the other side
of the singing that no one resists.

Rainer Maria Rilke, from New Poems
Joanna Macy, Anita Barrow, translators

The Island of the Sirens was written for the New York ensemble loadbang, and is dedicated to the band with vast affection. The piece is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can hear the Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble‘s live performance on December 10th in A Book of Days. loadbang’s premiere studio recording of the piece is available here.

horizontal rule

In order to perform The Island of the Sirens, you need a lead singer who sings this score, along with three instrumentalists or singers, who listen to individual headphone tracks and imitate what they’re hearing as well as they can. The piece is set up already in Ableton Live, and after you click the donation button below, I’ll send you all the materials you need to perform the piece using Ableton or the DAW of your choice.

On the Battlefield

On the Battlefield was inspired by the memory of a visit I made to the Vicksburg National Military Park during my journey down the Mississippi River in 2009.

The November afternoon I was there, I ended up in a miserable long-distance phone argument with my then-lover in Athens. The site of one of the iconic struggles of the war between the states felt entirely personal and intimate to me that afternoon.

Six years later, I spent an afternoon at that same battlefield with my friend and collaborator Matt Petty as he filmed the footage he used to make the video for On the Battlefield.

On the Battlefield is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can watch and listen to Matt’s trombone version by visiting 23 November.

horizontal rule

The piece can be performed by any brass or wind player. You can play back my spoken part or mute it to perform with a live actor, male or female. Whatever you play into Ableton Live will be transformed simultaneously into clusters and also a drone. I have not composed your music: you will want to respond to the text, the visuals, and the live processing. It’s possible you will want to be thinking of “taps” as you play, but you definitely won’t want to be corny about it.

In order for the Ableton session to work properly, you probably need the full version of Live. You will also need to download and install the free plugins you can find here.

You will want to switch the monitor buttons to IN on the first two tracks, called CLUSTERS and DRONE, and make sure your playing levels do not cover the spoken voice. The video is embedded in the Live session; in order for the video to display, you need to be in Arrangement view, not Session view.

horizontal rule

To purchase the Ableton session needed to perform the piece, please click the button below. And thank you for supporting this low-key way of publishing:

Machaut in the Age of Motown

Machaut in the Age of Motown (2005) is a transcribed mashup of two pre-existing works: The Bells, written by Marvin Gaye (1970) as sung by The Originals, and Tels rit from the Remede de Fortune (1340) written by Guillaume de Machaut as sung by the Project Ars Nova Ensemble. It’s the fifth piece in a series called Machaut in the Machine Age, which I have been making every now and then since 1986 in response to the music and poetry of Guillaume de Machaut, the fabulous 14th century French composer.

Originally scored for soprano sax, clarinet, violin, bass, bells, vibes, piano, and drumset, I am happy to adapt the piece for your forces. You can download the score and listen to a live performance:

And you can listen to the original mashup of Marvin and Machaut on 7 November in A Book of Days.