Top 100 Composers: Alice Shields

At 1st, I included Shields. Then I excluded her - providing the following explanation on the "Top 100 Composers" index:

"I really wanted to like Alice Shields's work. She's one of the 1st female composers of electronic music. That goes a long way for me. I put her on this list before listening to her work again. I started with the CRI release of "Apocalypse - An Electronic Opera" (1993). I didn't like it. I consider it to be barely a notch above "Jesus Christ Superstar" & other such drek. I listened to "Wildcat Songs" (1966), more disappointment. "Rhapsody for Piano & Tape (Homage to Brahms)" (1984), mediocre. "Coyote" (1980), ok I liked this one. "The Transformation of Ani" (1970), another one I like. "Dance Piece No. 3" (1969), somewhat generic electronic music but in a way I enjoy, still, not that good of a piece. "Study for Voice and Tape" (1968), one of the better ones.

"Alas, the mediocre or downright crummy pieces overpower the ones I like. Away from the list she goes. A part of the problem here is that she was involved with the Columbia-Priceton Electronic Music Department. That was arguably the most important academic electronic music studio in the US in its heyday. Bülent Arel, Milton Babbit, Matio Davidovsky, Charles Dodge, Halim El-Dahb, Otto Luening, Ingram Marshall, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Daria Semegen, Pril Smiley, Vladimir Ussachevsky & many others produced work there. &, yet, I never liked most of it, partially because I never liked the sounds of the RCA synthesizer there. I tell stories like this to let you, dear reader, know that I'm giving people a chance, I listen to just about eveything I have by the composers whose work I don't remember that well before I decide YAY or NAY. "

Then I included her again, removing the above from the index introduction. Why so much uncertainty?! The 1st piecee I ever heard from her was probably "The Transformation of Ani" on a Columbia-Princeton collection. I liked it.. it had an eerieness to it that I liked. After decades of hearing very little by her, I was excited to find the CRI CD of selections from her "Apocalypse" opera, I was glad to finally hear something other than just short pieces. Alas, I didn't completely dislike it but there're things like very banal chord progressions à là a Broadway musical & I found those almost insufferable.

On the back of the CD it's described as "Spawned from Heavy Metal Rock and Indian Classical Music". Ok, that's an interesting hybrid but I hear more heavy metal in there than anything - but not even really that, more, as I already wrote, Broadway musical. I don't really like heavy metal OR Broadway musicals so that's not very promising to me.

When I 1st listened to what I have by her in my collection I was listening to it piecemeal, just listening to the pieces separately as I found them. Finally, I decided to organize them chronologically on a tape retrospective to give them a listen in the order that the work developed. That helped me appreciate them more.

"Wildcat Songs", the earliest work I have by her, is for piccolo & soprano. That cd be interesting. Alas, the piccolo part just seems like noodling. My used copy of the Opus One record that it's on seems to be missing the liner notes insert. On her website, , she describes it as "On a Native American shaman's poem." That interests me, that Shields wd work from such a source so early on. I like her for that.. &, yet, the work isn't very powerful to me. Making matters worse, is that it hints in a potentially New Age direction & I strongly dislike the vapid spiritualism of New Age.

So far, so bad, right? It seems like I cdn't possibly like Shields's work.. &, yet, it 'grows on me'. A picture of her on her website shows her standing on what appears to be a mountainside park road looking up. Her 1980 piece "Coyote" uses actual coyote sounds, she seems to be influenced by, & loving of, the western US.

"Wildcat Songs", "The Transformation of Ani", "Coyote", & "Apocalypse" cd all be taken as spiritual in some way - w/ "Wildcat Songs" & "Coyote" potentially inter-related, w/ "The Transformation of Ani" quoting from "The Egyptian Book of the Dead" & "Apocalpyse" "on Greek, Gaelic, and Sanskrit texts, in which a woman seeks spiritual knowledge" - to quote from her website again.

The multi-lingual nature of "Apocalypse" appeals to me. I'm not a huge opera enthusiast but I've always admired the multi-lingual skills of the singers. Shields is an opera singer.

In the long run, she is distinct. I've been won over.

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE; December 10, 2017E.V.


Alice Shields Retrospective: 1966-1994:

Side 1: 1966-1994:

01. "Wildcat Songs" - 1966 - 9:00

02. "Study for Voice and Tape" - 1968 - 5:17

03. "Dance Piece No. 3" - 1969 - 5:46

04. "The Transformation of Ani" - 1970 - 9:00

05. "Coyote" - 1980 - 13:07

06. "Rhapsody for Piano and Tape (An Homage to Brahms)" - 1984 - 6:02

07. "Apocalypse" - 1994 - total time: 67:58

a. "Sacrifice" - 9:58

Side 2: 1994:

07. "Apocalypse" - 1994 - total time: 67:58

b. "The Sea" - 3:51

c. "First Greeting" - 19:16

d. "Here" - 1:18

e. "Truth" - 3:12

f. "On the Dark Mountain" - 3:35

g. Final Question: Aeon" - 5:20

h. "Dismemberment and Eating" - 2:45

i. "Someone, I say, will remember us" - 1:52

j. "Someone Spoke of Your Death" - 3:44

k. "Apocalypse Song" - 2:51

l. "Heat Drum" - 2:26

m. "Organ Screaming" - 6:25

n. "The Dawn Wind" - 1:11









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