THE MUSIC OF STEPHEN “LUCKY” MOSKO

THE MUSIC OF STEPHEN “LUCKY” MOSKO

"A unique and innovative composer, a brilliant teacher, and an inspiring conductor." Rand Steiger

Celebrated composer, performer and musical thinker Stephen “Lucky” Mosko influenced thousands of musicians with his work and teaching, including 35 years on the faculty of CalArts. The California EAR Unit and other colleagues of Lucky’s perform a program including Indigenous Music II (1984) and his last finished work, Thea’s Tune (2005) for his wife Dorothy Stone, who will play the work on multiple flutes, piano and clay pot. 

The Music of Stephen “Lucky” Mosko Tuesday, April 11, 2006, 8:30pm “A unique and innovative composer, a brilliant teacher, and an inspiring conductor.” Rand Steiger Celebrated composer, performer and musical thinker Stephen “Lucky” Mosko influenced thousands of musicians with his work and teaching, including 35 years on the faculty of CalArts. The California EAR Unit and other colleagues of Lucky’s perform a program including Indigenous Music II (1984) and his last finished work, Thea’s Tune (2005) for his wife Dorothy Stone, who will play the work on multiple flutes, piano and clay pot.

Performers: California EAR Unit personnel: Dorothy Stone, flute; Phil O’ Connor, clarinet; Mark Menzies, violin; Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, cello; Vicki Ray, piano; Amy Knoles, percussion.

With additional guests: Stuart Horn, oboe; David Johnson and Nicolas Terry, percussion; Lorna Eder, piano and keyboard; Arthur Jarvinen, conductor.

Program: All works by Stephen “Lucky” Mosko

J (2003)
I. Vows and Cons II.B III. MTN IV. 3.vi V. 4 VI. Oak Door Number 7 VII. Hawthorn VIII.Elder IX. S

Thea’s Tune (2005)

Indigenous Music II (1984)

Program Notes

J (2003)
I. Vows and Cons II.B III. MTN IV. 3.vi V. 4 VI. Oak Door Number 7 VII. Hawthorn VIII.Elder IX. S
From the inception, this composition was essentially influenced by three considerations. The first was my interest in the formation of the oldest Druid alphabet (Beth-Luis-Nion) which had 13 consonants and 5 vowels, each named after a tree or shrub of which it is the initial. Since the piece was always meant to be for the California Ear Unit, I speculated on how each letter (i.e., a tree and its properties) related to each member the group. I thought of the musicians each as parts of an alphabet evolving a musical language. It was my notion to write a journal about the experience of traveling together through a musical time and space in this language based on the EAR Unit’s amazing history. The ensemble is exceptional and unique; the piece was composed with my most sincere admiration. The composition, as a journal, has neither real beginning, nor conclusion. --Stephen “Lucky” Mosko

Thea’s Tune (2005)
Thea’s Tune is the fourth in a series of “J” or journal pieces. It was written over a period from May 22–July 17, 2005. The piece consists of 4 sections: “Plum Blossom Special” containing 4 movements; “Clematis’ Return” in 5 movements; “Triangle L” in one movement; and “The Longer Han” in 3 movements. The piece requires the flutist to play piccolo, flute bass flute, piano (sometimes simultaneously with the piccolo), voice and clay pot. The piece, both in form and content, reflects Lucky’s life-long fascination with the numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5. The first movement, “Plum Blossom Special” was written for the occasion of his brother Martin and his wife Alex’s marriage. In keeping with the style of the journal, each page is its own separate piece and some of the movements reflect the car trip we took that summer to go to the wedding. Thea’s Tune is the last piece Lucky wrote and he dedicated it to me and presented it to me on our wedding anniversary, August 2nd. --Dorothy Stone

Indigenous Music II (1984)
Indigenous Music II was completed in March 1984, and was specifically written for a new music group that had just formed, The California EAR Unit, and it is dedicated to them. I moved to a small rural town of 600, Green Valley, several years before. One day I realized the town had no music of its own, and I was the only “composer” in the area. Just beginning a choral work intended for the Christmas season, I decided to call itIndigenous Music. This seemed appropriate since I have lived most of my creative life in Southern California. This is the second work of the series and was begun in May of 1980.

“Indigenous” is a complicated term these days, as our influences are so multifarious. At that time I was extremely interested in Icelandic folk music, Sufi ceremonies, Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Indian music, the Carter Family, Janis Joplin, the Repercussion Unit, particle physics, etc. I neither cared to avoid or imitate these influences, since they were the make-up of my mind. I was also influenced by a piece at a show called “Art and Technology.” Entering a dark room, there was an extremely intense flash of very bright light, and for the next ten minutes you witnessed intense visions that were after-images only in your own mind.

“Indigenous Music II” is about these kind of after-images, articulated by large percussion attacks transforming melody into rhythm or chords in the shadow of the decay. The piece was composed to exist in multiple versions and consists of multiple movements.

I. Piano
II. Native Songs and Dances
III. Indigenous Music II: Flute (written for and dedicated to Dorothy Stone)
IV. Het Wapen van Amsterdam (Introduction, Cello Cadenza, Tutti) “Het Wapen van Amsterdam” was a ship from Holland that sank off of the coast of Iceland with an enormous amount of gold on board. It has never been found. This seemed appropriate since the EAR Unit solidified on a concert tour of Holland.

The text for the cello cadenza summarizes much of the intent of the work:

Chord, as mass, must merge with pulse
Making quantum leaps convulse
And the energy repulse
Any chance of cheap song

Stephen “Lucky” Mosko
by Rand Steiger

It is with great sadness I write that Stephen “Lucky” Mosko passed away on December 5, 2005, at the age of 58. Lucky was a unique and innovative composer, a brilliant teacher, and an inspiring conductor.

The performances he led at the remarkable CalArts festivals in the ‘80s still echo in the minds of all of us who were fortunate enough to attend them. He also conducted important premieres at the Aspen, Holland, and Ojai Festivals, and with the L.A. Philharmonic, Minnesota Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Schoenberg Ensemble, and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. His work with the San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players was particularly notable for the fascinating concerts he programmed, the recordings he made, and the commissions he brought about during the ten years he served as music director. He was highly regarded by many leading composers whose works he conducted and recorded, including Adams, Andriessen, Babbitt, Brown, Cage, and Feldman. Cage once wrote in a letter of recommendation “if you are searching for a conductor, he is the one you will find.”

Mosko’s compositions were delicate, intricate, and demonstrated a very personal and unique style. He drew on his many enthusiasms (from contemporary physics, to psychology, literature, even cuisine) as well as many different musical influences, from contemporary Western music and from unusual forms of indigenous music from around the world (he had a huge record collection) for inspiration. His works were performed infrequently, but by many leading ensembles including the Sacramento and San Francisco Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at the Aspen, Ojai, and Tanglewood Festivals. Arthur Jarvinen’s website exhibits his appreciation of Mosko’s music and gives more detail, quotes, and links to his discography, list of works, and audio excerpts. There are two excellent portrait CDs, by the EAR Unit on oodiscs and from the Southwest Chamber Music Society.

Lucky was an exceptional teacher, who could speak with enthusiasm and authority on a wide range of topics, from the details of combinatorial serialism laid out in Babbitt’s articles to the philosophy and chance procedures in Cage’s works (with a thorough knowledge from his life-long study of the I Ching). In those, and many other iconic examples he always demonstrated the same enthusiasm and encouraged us by his example to reject the polemical attitudes found in other places and to see the plethora of contemporary musical approaches as a garden of truth and beauty from which to learn and be inspired.

In addition to all of this, Mosko was also a leading expert on the folk music of Iceland, having received two Senior Fulbright-Hayes Fellowships to do research there. He documented this work on a thorough website with his analysis and recordings.

Stephen L. Mosko was born in Denver on December 7, 1947. As a youth he played percussion in a community orchestra conducted by the legendary Antonia Brico, who took him on as a student and gave him his first conducting opportunities. He then went to Yale, where he studied composition with Donald Martino and conducting with Gustav Meier, receiving his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in 1969. He began his graduate studies at Yale, but when Mel Powell departed to become the founding dean of the California Institute of the Arts School of Music, Lucky followed him there and studied with him, as well as with Morton Subotnick and Schoenberg protégé Leonard Stein. Mosko earned his MFA as a member of the inaugural class of CalArts in 1972, and then became a faculty member, teaching there for over 30 years, except for a two-year period in the late 1980s when he joined the faculty of Harvard.

It is very difficult to convey in words what a wonderful spirit Lucky had. He possessed a unique combination of genuine and infectious enthusiasm for a broad range of music, as well as a deep understanding of compositional procedures and extra-musical influences. These qualities made it a joy to perform with him and to attend his lectures. He taught us by example to both love and rigorously understand the music we performed and studied. For generations of CalArts students, everything changed after you encountered him.

Many people who passed through CalArts over the years have made the unforgettable pilgrimage up to his rustic home in rural Green Valley, California, where great hospitality, humor, and conversation were nourished by the fruits and herbs of his gardens and his fantastic cooking. Above all, Lucky was a wonderful, generous, spirited friend, and his absence will be deeply felt by all of us who knew him. 

 

Date/Time G ST CA
Tue 4.11.06 8:30 pm
$18 $14 $10

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff