Tuesday, December 29, 2009

KRAPP’S ENDGAME, by Shinji Eshima

Recently I had the great pleasure of hearing a great new work for bassoon, it was not enough that the piece was great but also two great local musicians and good friends were responsible for the project. The great bassoonist Steve Dibner commissioned and performed the latest work of the great bass player and composer Shinji Eshima, both bay area musicians. "KRAPP'S ENDGAME" for bassoon,string quartet, and optional Buddhist monk was composed for Mr.Dibner who asked for a piece that somehow expressed the writings of Samuel Beckett, specifically his one-man play "Krapp's Last Tape". In this play, a man is reviewing his life through recordings he has made of himself on each of his birthdays, chronicling his achievements and goals throughout the years. He comes to the conclusion that instead, he should have spent his life experiencing love and human touch. The last section of Mr. Eshima's work is inspired by Allen Ginsberg's poem Song." The following is an excerpt:
The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction
the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.
This is Mr. Eshima's offering as a "solution" to Krapp"s circumstance.

The opening statement in the piece is marked "Crying despair" this marking should give you a clue to how powerful the work is, I was mesmerized by the emotional content of the work, Mr. Dibner played with such passion that he almost had me in tears, this does not let down thru most of the piece, Mr. Eshima makes use of the wide range of the bassoon effectively and passionately, bending the high register and alternating fingerings for a great effect. Just when you think nothing else can happen all of a sudden the quartet starts to chant while they play, all of theses effects are not gimmicks but help tell a story. This is a deep work almost spiritual. The work is accessible to most advanced bassoon players on a technical level, however on a emotional level one may have to have a bit of life experiences to get the most out of it. I highly recommend this work. Bravo and thank you Mr. Eshima and Mr. Dibner for this new exciting bassoon piece.....Rufus Olivier

You can find this piece at: trevcomusic@msn.com www.trevcomusic.com

SHINJI ESHIMA, a graduate of Stanford University and of the Juilliard School, he is currently a double-bassist in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and associate principal with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. He is on the faculty at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. As a composer, he composed the music for the 450 Geary Theater's production of "The Snow Queen," which ran for three seasons. The San Francisco Examiner described his music as "ranging from bucolic pipings to full scale ecclesiastical gothic..." In 1995, he was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing for which he wrote "August 6th." This premiered at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on that anniversary. He composed two hymns for the Buddhist Churches of America which were published and were recorded by opera singers Elizabeth Bishop and Hector Velasquez. He also released a CD of his music based on Buddhist gathas. In 2000 the Ensemble en Sol in Mexico commissioned him to write a chamber piece which received its San Francisco premiere at a Donald Runnicles and Friends performance. In 2001 the percussion ensemble Adesso, premiered his "Generations" at the Old First Church. In 2002 Gary Karr premiered "Grat-etude" and Liben Publishers published another solo bass work "If it's tuesday it must be up-bow," a tribute to his former teacher, David Walter, along with a CD recorded by the composer. His trio "Despot's Rage a Slave's Revenge" for Violoncello, Marimba and Piano, composed for famed Bay Area 'cellist Emil Miland received its premiere in 2003 at Old First Church. His Trio C-E-B, "The Toadfish," written for the TRIAD Trio, Including Carey Bell, clarinet and Bryndon Hassman, piano as well as Emil Miland, had its premiere at the Noe Valley Chamber Series. His scores for Liebe Wetzel’s Lunatique Fantastique’s productions of “Nutcracker, Nutz and Boltz,” “Chicken Stock” and “E.O.9066” are performed at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco. In 2008 ERM Media selected his score for “August 6th” for string orchestra to be recorded by the Millennium Symphony and conducted by Robert Ian Winston. This CD, a compilations of several composers entitled “Made in the Americas” was released in 2009. Most recently, his piece “Krapp’s Endgame,” commissioned and composed for Steven Dibner, premiered also at Noe Valley in a benefit performance for the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and has subsequently been published by TrevCo Music in December 2009.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bay Area Musicians Mourn Tragic Death of Bassoonist

Bay Area Musicians Mourn Tragic Death of Bassoonist
By Rufus Olivier Jr.

The San Francisco Bay Area music community recently lost one of their own when bassoonist David Bartolotta died tragically in a car accident on June 13th while visiting a friend in North Carolina. He was 61 years old.

David was a member of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra for over 30 years and formerly held the position of music librarian there for over 10 years. David frequently performed with the San Francisco Opera, played with various chamber groups and recorded in the studios of George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. He graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and honorably served a stint in the U.S. Navy.

But David’s life was filled with more than music. His friends and colleagues were awed by the incredible, impromptu feasts that David was so eager to prepare in between music services. The aroma of his favorite ingredient, garlic, often signaled to others that a magical Bartolotta creation would soon delight the palate. Friends remarked that David was a perfect candidate to host a cooking show on network television; because his wit, humor and timing were uncanny.

Although David was not technically a chef, his ties with top Bay Area chefs were unique. They consulted David for advice about the flavors, texture and safety of specific mushrooms being considered for their own culinary creations. David was a mushroom expert and beloved member of the Mycological Society of San Francisco; and he was routinely contacted by law enforcement authorities when local mushroom poisonings occurred. He was passionate about mushrooms – especially foraging for them and exploring new ways to enjoy them in his own cooking.

As a musician, ‘chef’, mushroom expert, military veteran and friend, David will be fondly remembered by many as a man who spent his life in the limelight, but who allowed that light to shine brilliantly for others.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Visit with Jazz Bassoon Great Paul Hanson

Last Summer I had the privilege of having Paul Hanson over for a chat and exchange of ideas. Paul has a great amount of energy and spirit. Ive decided to publish our visit in the form of an interview. Paul is a real bassoonist playing jazz, that is to say his sound and the way he gets around the horn is amazing, this is not just a passing hobby. Paul is in Japan playing with Cirque du soleil. If you get a chance you must check out his recordings. Rufus Olivier

Here we go:
RO: what's it like to be the first bassoonist in a Cirque show.

PH:It is totally amazing. I did play a bassoon part in a previous show (SALTIMBANCO) but that was only a short part. This role was offered to me as a bassoonist because they had
scouted me and decided to put me in the band. My audition included playing english horn,tin whistle, bass clarinet, clarinet and bassoon but it seemed like to me that they really wanted bassoon the whole time. My wife (also a bassoonist)remembers them asking me in 2006 (in Buenos Aires) if I would want to go
to Tokyo. They by then had seen my audition DVD. They are always looking
for musicians who can improvise and play any styles.

RO: what's it like to be part of the creation process of a Cirque show
PH:It was interesting but too long. Too much time sitting around in Montreal at their world headquarters in the winter playing 5 tunes a day and then doing nothing much else. The director (Francois Girard, THE RED VIOLIN) wanted us there to help inspire the gymnasts and acrobats. I suppose we did-we also had to do Yoga and movement classes which I guess were helpful. We did try a lot of music eventually and as a band we tried different approaches and
arrangements all the time. Every one of us came up with ideas and lines that ended up in the show.

RO: what's it like to perform day in and day out this show.
PH:It is very incredible-I wish everyone could see this fantastic show (I'll put the show URL on the bottom of this article)The music is very central to the show. As musicians-we are seen and heard individually a lot more than on most Cirque shows. Our show sound design is in surround sound (170 speakers in the house) and there's a lot of attention to the soloists. Our violinist (Paul Lazar of Paris) and I are featured a lot-we kind of parallel our soprano and tenor singers.
The whole band appears twice onstage at the end of the show-for the trapeze act where we are set behind the trapeze act on a parallel 40 feet in the air-and at the finale where we come out of the stage on a riser and then we go on a revolving ring.So we are seen much more than on most Cirque shows. That is so cool! The endurance of playing this show is an issue. The part was designed around things I do so naturally they wrote a lot of english horn-type parts way up high (I play parts up to Eb and often in solos go to high G). I just recently decided to switch
bocals for a number because the main bocal was sharp in the tenor register. Now I have solved that problem by switching bocals and I'm glad I did. During Creation I never thought my part was hard-but during weeks of performance I learned that it is quite a part endurance-wise.

RO: what's it like to do what you do (play jazz/fusion/world music/classical) on bassoon with your special equipment (FRAP microphone, effects) with Cirque.
PH:It's very special to me. They really wanted a combination of my musical energy, creativity and bassoon playing for this gig. They don't even know at Cirque that it is totally uncommon to have a FRAP microphone for the bassoon! To them it's just like seeing a violinist with a pickup-but they quickly learned that the quality of sound I get with the mic is perfect for such a big venue (2100 seats). I do have an overhead mic but it's not the primary sound source of the bassoon for them-the overhead helps maintain an acoustic feeling when they need it. When I go onstage I have a wireless setup that works well too. They have some of the most advanced sound equipment imaginable and it's very complex. They have worked on my sound and my wife Cynthia Hanson who you all know was most impressed with the quality of the sound. Without getting too technical-we are all linked by a click track and time code and different scenes that are maintained by our programmer (our guitarist) and managed by our bandleader. We hear our mix through in-ear monitors. As a band-we really don't like having to play with backing tracks but this is the modern way Cirque does everything-we're just glad that you can also hear the band too atop the pre-recorded orchestra. Isn't that a trip? They go to Romania to record an orchestra and that orchestra is played 380 times a year as backing tracks for us! It's a weird business isn't it?.... Oh well.

RO: what's it like working and living in Tokyo

PH:Fantastic. Sometimes we miss things like Honey Nut Cheerios and the Napa Valley, the Redwoods and all that wonderful Bay Area stuff.
But this is a fantastic adventure and there's so much going on in Tokyo. We have gotten out in the summer to the coast and the beaches
are wonderful. Cirque Du Soleil has their own school for performer's children and our daughter Bella attends the school-she's thriving.
Our son Zach also goes to school-the international preschool 3 blocks away. It's a very nice neighborhood that Cirque put us up in-we
are staying in a wonderful condo with a great view of Tokyo Bay.

RO: what are your hopes and dreams for the future there.
PH:My hopes are that we continue to get to know people here and the town and get Cynthia into some playing situations too! The kids
love going to Disneyland as often as they want and they are starting to make friends. I hope to stay here awhile but I'm not sure
exactly how long that will be. I hope that when I leave there is another hungry bassoonist who wants this fantastic job!