For today’s post we have a 1983 collection of contemporary classical pieces produced by the Minnesota Composers Forum. We chose the first piece on the album, which is by Eric Stokes, who founded the University of Minnesota’s electronic music laboratory and taught in the music department for 29 years. Stokes is also the composer of seven operas, several of which debuted here in Minnesota.
Stokes passed away in an auto accident on Interstate Highway 94 in 1999. He was remembered by a colleague as “a rebel … but also one of the least cynical people I’ve ever known. He was very positive and I think his music showed that too.” Stokes counted Charles Ives, John Cage and Harry Brandt as his primary influences as a composer, and his music was often highly percussive as in this piece and a performance at the Walker Art Center’s old stage titled “Rock and Roll (Phonic Paradigm 1).” In that work rock were rolled around the stage and hit together by several performers.
These Minnesota Composers Forum records are really interesting, and there are four other pieces on this particular one. Here’s an excerpt from the notes to Tintinnabulary (Phonic Paradigm IV) by Stokes, which you can hear below. The performers are Stokes and Jay Johnson.
In composing such a piece, several orders and types of struck, reverberant objects were used. The resulting sounds were recorded. By means of simple procedures, unique properties of these recorded sounds found distinctive places in the compositional plan. Composition therefor, in this instance, was and is a function of foresight & afterthought.