River of 1,000 Streams   CB0050

The music

River of 1,000 Streams (2016) is a complex, slowly growing, densely textural piece for solo piano and up to 11 layers of “cascading echoes” (which are created in a live performance via a computer running a MAX patch). Each of the piece’s hundreds of “echoes” is a short moment (generally one to a few bars in length) of the piano solo that may reappear anywhere from a half-second to 25 minutes after the pianist first plays it. Floating sparsely amid the piece’s rich primary texture of tremolos, and appearing quietly, spectrally, are short moments of a more melodic, or less textural, nature.

This work, “conceived one early morning on the banks of the Yellowstone River” (Lentz), is more purely textural than most of Lentz’s recent work. Yet, like so much of his work over the past 40-plus years, its structure is that of a complex, almost kaleidoscopically woven tapestry of new and recurring fragments of music.

The composer

Daniel Lentz has been a fixture on Southern California’s new-music scene for more than 45 years, prolifically creating a very personal music that has either embraced or tipped its hat to a number of experimental and post-experimental styles. His music can be wild and relentless in its propulsion and juxtaposition of contrasting material, or simply lushly beautiful. Sometimes it hints at pop and jazz harmonies and rhythms, sometimes it toys with late Romantic gestures, and sometimes it offers Lentz’s distinct musical visions of Southern California—both the brightly lit, bustling urban landscape and the desolate, calm, expansive desert—while always reveling in a basic joy of music-making.

Lentz’s works have been commissioned and performed by noted ensembles and soloists around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Zeitgeist, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, Mobius, the Montagnana Trio, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as many organizations and individuals, including West German Radio (WDR), Cold Blue Music, and Betty Freeman. A prolific composer whose work is often characterized by intricate musical processes, a bit of theater, and an interest in the human voice, Lentz has written large- and small-scale works for most common instrumental combinations, many unique ones (such as ensembles of wineglasses), and the many ensembles (usually consisting of multiple keyboards, singers, and electronics) with which he has toured his music throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

Lentz won the First Prize in the 1972 International Composers Competition (Stichting Gaudeamus) in Holland. In 1979, he received a DAAD Artists in Residence grant to work in Berlin, Germany. In 2010 he received a composition grant from the Opus Archives and Research Center of Pacifica Institute. In 2012, he received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation with a residency at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy. Lentz is the recipient of numerous other awards and grants, including six National Endowment for the Arts grants, three Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund Commissioning grants, a California Arts Council composer grant, two Arizona Commission on the Arts composer grants, and six grants from the Laucks Foundation. His work has been seen on Alive from Off Center (PBS) and in the Preview Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, and via many TV broadcasts in the U.S. as well as in Japan, Holland, the UK, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Recordings of his music have been released on the Cold Blue, New Albion, Angel/EMI, Fontec, Aoede, Les Disques du Crépuscule, Gyroscope/Caroline, Icon, Materiali Sonori, and ABC labels. Lentz’s music appears on eight Cold Blue Music CDs, of which five are devoted exclusively to his work, including In the Sea of Ionia (CB0042), Point Conception (CB0026), On the Leopard Altar (CB0022), and Los Tigres de Marte (CB0017).

“When it comes to attempts at musical seduction, Daniel Lentz’s music is way out in front.”—Kyle Gann, Village Voice

“Lentz’s music inhabits what he terms a musical ‘state of becoming,’ where both new and reappearing musical and textual fragments are fused through complex layering processes. However, the real basis of his seductive music may be the dreamy impressionism of Debussy and the lyrical voice and keyboard interaction of Schubert’s lieder.”—John Schaefer, New Sounds, WNYC

“Daniel Lentz was particularly active and visible in the 1970s and 1980s, as one of the leading California composers of a Minimalist stamp. If Ingram Marshall was the moody, soulful voice of the Bay Area, with its fogs and mists, Lentz was the LA freeway on overdrive: bright, edgy, poppy sounds and rhythms hammered about by mostly electronic keyboards. The music, with its sudden (and often) changes of harmony, felt like a sort of cubistic Minimalism. And its sound was unforgettable.”—Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine

“Daniel Lentz’s work, with its…glossy, Pop Art–Southern California palette of colors…seems to reveal new facets with each encounter.”—Dusted magazine

“Intriguing his listeners at the same time he wreathes them in smiles, Lentz always comes up with something listenable and worthwhile.” —Gramophone

The performer

Vicki Ray, who has been described as “phenomenal and fearless,” is a leading interpreter of contemporary piano music. A longtime champion of new music, she has worked with some of the most prominent composers of our time, including György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Steve Reich, Elliot Carter, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen, Louis Andriessen, Steven Stucky, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and Chinary Ung. Ray has commissioned and premiered numerous works from both emerging composers and such established artists as John Adams, Morton Subotnick, Stephen Hartke, David Rosenboom, Paul Dresher, Rand Steiger, Kamran Ince, and Eric Chasalow.

Ray’s concerts often include electronics, video, recitation, and improvisation. As noted by Alan Rich, “Vicki plans programs with a knack for marvelous freeform artistry…what she draws from her piano always relates in wondrous ways to the senses.” As a founding member of Piano Spheres, a concert series dedicated to exploring the less familiar solo piano repertoire, she has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times for “displaying that kind of musical thoroughness and technical panache that puts a composer’s thoughts directly before the listener.”

Ray was the keyboardist in the California E.A.R. Unit and Xtet ensembles, and she has performed frequently on Los Angeles’s Dilijan, Jacaranda, and Green Umbrella concert series. She performs regularly on the famed Monday Evening Concert series. She has been heard in major solo roles with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the German ensemble Compania, and the Blue Rider Ensemble of Toronto, with whom she made the first Canadian recording of Pierrot Lunaire.

Vicki Ray’s numerous recordings cover everything from the premiere release of Steve Reich’s You Are (Variations) to Wadada Leo Smith’s semi-improvised structures to the elegant serialism of Mel Powell to the austere beauty of Morton Feldman’s Crippled Symmetries. She may be heard on Tzadik, Bridge, Nonesuch, Innova, Cold Blue, CRI, New World, New Albion, Mode, and other labels.

She is currently head of the piano department at CalArts, where she has been on the faculty since 1991 and was awarded the school’s 2010 Hal Blaine Chair in Music Performance. For the past six years Ray has served on the faculty at the Bang on a Can summer festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.