KPFA-FM Music Dept. ➔ Maritime Rites: A Series of Soundscapes by Alvin Curran and 10 Soloists, 2 of 3

Analog Audio

Event Type
Program Length
156 min
2 of 3
1986-07-07 | broadcast
| 402 | created
Maritime Rites is a series of ten environmental concerts for radio composed by Alvin Curran. This series features the Eastern Seaboard of the United States as a musical source in collaboration with improvised musical performances by ten distinguished artists in the American new-music scene: John Cage, Joseph Celli, Clark Coolidge, Jon Gibson, Malcolm Goldstein, Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, Leo Smith, and Alvin Curran. The programs use specifically recorded natural sounds as musical counterpoint to the soloists, whose improvisations are freely restructured and mixed by Curran. As nature is spontaneous and unpredictable, so is the music of man. Curran simply brings the two together in a common radiophonic sound-space letting both chance and intention make the music.

Program 1 features composer and multi-instrumentalist Wadada Leo Smith playing trumpet and seal horn in his composition “World Music”. This solo is mixed with the sounds of passing boats and foghorns. In this fantastic horn concert, the trumpet is fused almost unrecognizably with giant ship horns and magnificent foghorns.

Program 2 features composer and accordionist, Pauline Oliveros, performing her piece “Rattlesnake Mountain”. Mixed with her solo are the sounds of the whistle buoys, gongs, and foghorns. Also heard is the voice of the only female lighthouse keeper in America, Karen McLean of the U. S. Coast Guard, Doubling Point, Maine. This program is quiet and meditative with a rhythm close to breathing.

Program 3 features composer and soprano saxophonist, Steve Lacy, playing his work “Coastline”, the melody of which is inspired by the foghorns on the Italian coastline near Sperlonga. Combined with his solo are the foghorns and Coast Guar personnel Jim Baker of Portland Head; John Richardson of West Quoddy; and Eddie Calhoun of Cove Point. An exciting melody takes the listener on a journey from coast to coast.

Program 4 features Clark Coolidge, experimental sound-text poet, reading from a recent work entitled “Mine.” Also heard is Arlan Coolidge, retired Chairman of the Music Department of Brown University, reminiscing about Block Island, Rhode Island, in 1918, and playing on violin a portion of the song “Smiles” from the same period. This material is mixed with a variety of foghorns, which combined with words, images, sound and memory all converge in a lyrical voyage.

Program 5 features Joseph Celli, composer and oboist, playing reeds, English horn, and a mukha veena, an Indian double-reed instrument. His solo is combined with the haunting, almost ghost-like night sounds of plovers, a bell buoy, loons, peepers, frogs, and the foghorns. Also heard is the ambient sound of the radio room at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Little Creek, Virginia, and an original sea chantey sung by dancer Simone Forti.

Program 6 features Jon Gibson, composer and soprano saxophonist, playing his composition Soft Shoulder against a mixture of foghorns.

Program 7 features Malcolm Goldstein, composer and violinist, playing his composition “From Center of Rainbow, Sounding” against sounds of two bell buoys, seals and eider ducks, a foghorn, and the voices of lobstermen Phil Raynes, retired, and Clive Poole, both of Camden—an unusual dialogue between an old salt and a new-music violinist.

Program 8 features George Lewis, composer and trombonist. His solo virtuoso soundings falling somewhere between human and animal expression is mixed with a ship horn, wave-activated whistle buoy, and the voice of Captain Ken Black leading us through his Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine. Composer Anthony Braxton is also heard reciting five words.

Program 10 features Alvin Curran, composer and the vocal soloist in this twenty-five-minute program of symphonic dimensions. The first section features the natural sounds of more than sixty foghorns and bells, gongs, whistles, and ships’ horns, which are blended into an ever thickening texture creating an imaginary panoramic soundscape. Of special note are the horns from Boothbay Harbor in Maine and a recording of the now dismantled Brenton Reef (Rhode Island) Lightship diaphone made by Peter Kilham of Foster, Rhode Island, in the 1950s. Also heard is a play on the word “rite” by composer Elliott Carter and reflections on foghorns by Senior Chief Daniel Warrington of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation School on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. The second section begins with the high-pitched malfunctioning horn of the Race Point Light on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and features an improvised chorale of voices (all Curran) against the mysterious, almost humanlike vocal sound of the Brooklyn Bridge, which is caused by its vehicular traffic (drastically muted in the following decade to appease residents of lower Manhattan, this unique sound no longer exists); conch shells, and a concluding foghorn concert with horns from Upper New York Harbor. The program ends with folklorist Bill Bonyun of Westport Island, Maine, who sings a traditional American sea ballad, “Rolling Home,” accompanying himself on the concertina-like bandoneon.

Program 10 features John Cage, poet and composer, reciting five monosyllabic words of his own choice. These are mixed—in a rigorous exercise in silence—with the famous diaphone horn of the Nantucket II Lightship and the broken horn of the Edgartown Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, which was recorded from the interior of the structure through a hole in the outer wall.

Program notes adapted from description by Alvin Curran, with Melissa Gould.
Found at:
New music
Musical Selections
Maritime Rites: No. 5 [featuring horn and mukhavīṇā solos by Joseph Celli] (ca. 1985) (10:46) / Alvin Curran -- Maritime Rites: No. 6 [featuring “Soft Shoulder” by Jon Gibson] (ca. 1985) (10:54) / Alvin Curran -- Maritime Rites: No. 7 [featuring “From Center of Rainbow, Sounding” by Malcolm Goldstein] (ca. 1985) (10:46) / Alvin Curran -- Maritime Rites: No. 8 [featuring trombone solo by George Lewis] (ca. 1985) (11:02) / Alvin Curran
Joseph Celli, English horn, and mukhavīṇā (No. 5)
Simone Forti, voice (No. 5)
Jon Gibson, soprano saxophone (No. 6)
Malcolm Goldstein, violin (No. 7)
Phil Raynes, voice (No. 7)
Captain Clive Poole, voice (No. 7)
George Lewis, trombone (No. 8)
Anthony Braxton, voice (No. 8)
Captain Ken Black, voice (No. 8)
New music
Aleatory music
Soundscapes (Music)
Improvisation (Music)
Musique concrète
Music, concrete
Horn music
Mukhavīṇā music
Saxophone music
Violin music
Trombone music
Funding for the preservation of this program made possible through a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.