Conspiracy: Art Songs for Improvisers

This project was conceived in 1999 as a way to explore the meeting place between composed music and improvisation in song. It was premiered by Kate Hammett-Vaughan and her ensemble in December 2000 at the Western Front in Vancouver and then performed once again in June 2001 on a double bill with Steve Lacy’s group. All of the composers are based in Vancouver. Following the text, you will find biographical sketches of all of the composers.


It Will Be A Long Night

music: Kate Hammett-Vaughan
text: John Sobol

It will be a long night
to slide for miles,
and the moon will cast
long shadows
and everywhere it will be
highest brightest winter.

A long deep winter
to slide for icy miles,
and the sun will even shiver
with nowhere to hide from the
steepest starkest winter.

What a long slide.
Over icy hills and miles
past sleeping lovers sighing
as wint’ry nights collide.


music: Andrew Czink
text: Jack Spicer

A violin is following me.
In how many distant cities are they listening to its slack-jawed music.
This slack-jawed music.
Each of ten-thousand people playing it.
It follows me like someone that hates me.

Oh my heart would sooner die than leave this slack-jawed music.
They in those other cities, whose hearts would sooner die.
It follows me like someone that hates me.

Or is it really a tree
Growing just behind my throat
That if I turned quickly enough I could see
Muted immutable neighboring music

Bone Thirst

music & text: Grace McNab

I never knew that
bones could drink
as mine did today.
They plumped like moistened wood
swelling at their very centres.

I learned the meaning
of the word quench
as I drank in the green
and smiled to glimpse
the beloved aura
out of the corner of my eye.

I never knew that
bones could drink
until mine today.
I felt their marrow
plump up with gratitude.

Nor did I know the meaning
of the word quench
until today,
when the strain behind my eyes
let go into cool unteared

Like the green fields
at which I gazed
over your shoulder.

The Moon on the 13th Day of the 9th Month

music: Mark Nodwell
text: Matsuo Bashi

At night, quietly
A worm in the moonlight
Digs into a chestnut.

Botanical Garden

music: Mark Armanini
text: Carolyn Zonailo

These two monarch butterflies
Know exactly how to make music.
They fly in tandem
O’er the flower border
O’er the fountain,

Swoop down and hesitate
then soar into the air
above my head
and out of sight.
still flying together.

They know exactly
how to make music
with their wings
and they do it
with incredible

Long Enough

music: Bradshaw Pack
text: Muriel Rukeyser

Long enough,
Long enough
I heard a woman say.
I am that woman who too long under the web lay
Long enough in the empire of his darkened eyes
Bewildered in the graying silver light of his fantasies.

And I’ve been lying here too long
From shadow begin to shadow began
Where stretches over me
The subtle rule of the floating man

A young man and an old young woman
My dive in the river between
And rise the children
Of another country
That riverbank
That green

But too long,
too long is the journey through the ice
And too secret are the entrances
to my stretched hiding places

Walk out of the pudor web
Into a lifetime
Said the woman
And I sleeper, began to wake
And to say my own name.

The Moldy Moldy Man

music: Ron Samworth
text: John Lennon

I’m a moldy moldy man,
I’m moldy through and through.
I’m a moldy moldy man,
You would not think it true.

I’m moldy ‘til my eyeballs,
I’m moldy ‘til my toe.

I will not dance, I shyballs,
I’m such a humble Joe.

Shattered Mind

music: François Houle
text: Jane Bowles

Note from the comoser: The music was composed for a project entitel Cryptology, which concerns itself with parallels between systems of musical notation and and the study of encoding and deciphering texts. The instrumental version of this composition was 'Hive Mind'. In adapting Jane Bowles' text to the music, I felt compelled to change that titel to 'Shattered Mind'. – François Houle, 2000

The text of this piece consists of Jane Bowles’ final letters to her husband Paul Bowles from her hospital bed in Malaga, Spain in 1973. She had suffered a stroke which severely affected her ability to speak, write, and imagine.

Tennessee Williams considered Jane Bowles to be themost underrated wrtier in American literature. To John Ashbury, she was "one of the finest modern writers of fiction, in any language."

Jane Bowles was born in 1917, aand married Paul Bowles in 1937. In August 1957, she was admitted to hospital in London, suffering from very high blood pressure, a condition she had had for a long time, and an inoperable brain lesion. Soon afterwards she began to experience epileptiform seizure. In September of 1957 she was treated with electroshock and suffered a stroke. In June 1968, Paul Bowles rook Jane out of a hospital in Tangiers, where she had again received shock treatment, and arranged for her to stay in a pension run by an American expatriate in Granada. After ten days, he had her admitted to a casa de reposo, the Clinica fd Los Angeles.

Her last letters are written from the Clinica. where she remained until her death in 1973. From 1967 on, her letters were hand-written in a disordered script that is barely decipherable. The transcriptions included here include not only vagaries of spelling and punctuation but also notations of crossed out words.

See ' Out In The World', selected letters of Jane Bowles 1935-1970, edited by Millicent Dixon.

I. Jane Bowles to Paul Bowles

Dear Paul,
I miss you very much and I miss not having here from you for so long. Please come and see me and get me if possible to get me.
Could you come [right now? crossed out] and then we will see. E [?] Dr. says the [word crossed out] orders you should take me. Please [write crossed out] come soon.
Much love

II. Jane Bowles to Paul Bowles

Dearest Paul Just right me another [/] note and when you have written as here [to a wom crossed out] talk to a woman called ‘Rrgennia [?] — which is the way a Mexican would spell her name but do it soon —

Lots of love

I’ll finish this off [word crossed out]. If I wanted to spend more time [unclear crossed out] time [if crossed out] I would let you know – about any

III. Jane Bowles to Paul Bowles

Darling Paul,

[I wonder if I wonder if crossed out] I don’t know what I was [several words crossed out] going to ask you but I certainly know that I miss you [desperdat crossed out] [you crossed out] very much and please come and get [me crossed ou] her to see me and to get me if that is possible. I want so badly to go home.


Tobacco Road

music: Rodney Sharman
text: Joan Skogan

You’ve been so long,
long and hot and easy,
easy to hold on to.

(German) Du bist so long,
so heiss,
(English) so nice,
easy to hold on to.

I’ve been your slave,
you made it easy
Easy to want to walk down
Tobacco Road with you.

Got a light?

When I was young
with my back to the wall,
and you in my mouth
on fire and all.
That smokin’ love, I never knew you meant it for life
Never knew you were counting your price.

You were my Marlboro man,
So easy to hold on to.

I’ve been your slave,
you made it easy
Easy to want to walk down
Tobacco Road with you.

(German) "Hast du Feuer?"

Breathe you in the night
with coffee or red wine.
At home or on the dark sea.
I thought you were mine
in daylight and in bed.
We were so good,
such good company.
But I was wrong,
you’re the one who owned me.

(Dutch) Jej bent zo long,
zo heet,
(English) so great,
easy to hold on to.

You were my Players for love,
so easy to hold on to.
I was your slave from the start.
Too easy to want to walk down
Tobacco Road with you.

(Dutch) " Heb je’n vuurtje?"

There’ll be smokin’ in heaven
We’ll be together again.
Until then, I’m cutting
the chain bound me to you.
Made you so easy to hold on to.

We’re through now,
But I can’t say
Say I don’t want to walk down
Tobacco Road with you.

The Moon

music: Mark Armanini
text: Carolyn Zonailo

Where my belly cirves
your hand rests
At this moment
You love
that curve of flesh.

I want the moon,
your hand,
the moon’s light
illuminating this room.

I want, as well,
the mystery
of that illumination.

Not Much Change

music: Peter Hannan
text: Alex Ferguson

Not much change in the weather.
Nothing’s exciting or strange.
Another predictable
season of storms.
There’s not much change
in change.

Revolutions come and go.
The treasury’s full or it’s drained.
There’s wealth enough,
but you don’t own the stuff.
There’s not much change
in change.

A friend of mine
said the dawn of time
Was no different from the dusk.

You take a breath
You make a breath
In between you do what you must.
Not much change in my pocket.
Not much blood in a stone.
Not much left to talk about
when the earth has covered your bones.

Einstein proved that time
hasn’t really changed its face.
If the cosmos is round,
what goes still comes around.
There’s not much change
in change.

Not much chance
to get out of this rut
Even romance is showing its age.
He promises passion,
then pulls a fast one.
There’s not much change
in change.

Not much change in change.

composer biographies

Mark Armanini

A native Vancouverite, Mark Armanini has received two Jean Coulthard Scholarships for Composition, and has a catalogue of over 40 works for choir, voice, chamber and orchestral ensembles. In 1990, he began composing for various combinations of Western and Oriental instruments. This past summer, Mark, in partnership with pianist Paul Plimley, premiered and ‘improvised piano concerto’, Fingertips to Freedom, At the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. He recently received a performance of his work, Scented Flowers, in Taipei, Taiwan.

Andrew Czink

Andew Czink is a composer/pianist based in Vancouver and a co-director of earsay productions. His primary training was of a classical bent, with early excursions into jazz and popular forms. His compositional education was heavily rooted in the contemporary avant–garde. Along with exposure to and study of various Asian and African musics, this suite of influences continue their hold on his musical thought. His music has been performed and broadcast in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and Canada where he has received numerous awards and commissions. He also teaches synthesis, MIDI and digital studio operations at the Centre for Digital Imaging & Sound (CDIS) and currently produces the radio program Musica Nova on Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO 102.7 FM.

His past projects include the composition, performance, and production of the music-theatre piece Kalends in 1985, a decade of composing and performing live electronic music with composer/performer Paul Dolden (1981-91), commissions to composer and perform live electroacoustic music for various Vancouver-based choreographers (1982-1993), and visiting lecturer and composer at the Symposium of the International Musicological Society, 1988. Since 1993, Mr. Czink has returned to the piano, composing dense, intense, gestural music that appears on his solo CD Escape Velocity released on the earsay label in March 1998. Mr. Czink is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre.

Kate Hammett-Vaughan

Kate’s forays into composition have been few, most of them written as vehicles for her long-time improvising trio Garbo’s Hat and her duo Cheep and T’Audrey with guitarist Ron Samworth. She looks forward to continuing to explore the meeting ground of music and text.

Peter Hannan

Peter is a composer and performer on recorder and MIDI instruments. He has written numerous works in both acoustic and electronic media for Icebreaker, the Vancouver and Winnipeg Symphonies, Hemispheres, Arraymusic, Colin Tilney, Marc Destrubé and Lori Freedman. His opera The Gang was produced in June 1997 by Vancouver New Music and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. His works have been performed at many of the major new music events, series and venues in North America and Europe, and numerous radio recordings of his works have been broadcast in Canada and by many European networks.

François Houle

A founding member of Standing Wave and a member of the Vancouver New Music Ensemble, François Houle’s playing has garnered critical acclaim in Canada, the United States and Europe. He has commissioned and premiered several works by Canadian and International composers in the fields of contemporary music and musique actuelle. His recordings have received high praise from the international press, and have been nominated for Juno and West Coast Music awards.

Grace McNab

Grace is known mainly for her imaginative theory lectures and versatile musicianship in Vancouver’s college classrooms. Though not many of her works have been performed , she has been composing since the early ‘80s, and feels privileged to offer s etting of one of her own texts for this occasion.

Mark Nodwell

Mark took his B.A. in InterArts/Music at Boulder's Naropa Institute (where his teachers included Art Lande, Jerry Granelli, and Cecil Taylor); he also studied with Paul McCandless and Fred Hersch. Active as a bandleader and organizer in Vancouver's young creative jazz scene, Mark has performed with the NOW Orchestra and its guests George Lewis, Vinny Golia, and Paul Cram. His style suggests interests in minimalism, meditative states, and shakuhachi music. His debut CD, (co)-incidents, was released in 1999 on Songlines. He currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Bradshaw Pack

Vancouver based composer/guitarist Bradshaw Pack holds a Bradshaw Pack holds a Masters degree in composition from UBC. He has studied with Nikolai Korndorf in Vancouver and with David Lang and Julia Wolfe in New York. As a guitarist, he has toured Canada, Europe and the Middle East, while appearing on radio, television and a number of recordings. As a composer, Bradshaw has been the recipient of commissions, scholarships, and awards, including First prize in Vancouver New Music's Competition for Young Composers. He has composed works for the Vancouver New Music Ensemble, Sal Ferreras, the Standing Wave Ensemble, Talking Pictures and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.

Ron Samworth

Ron Samworth a Vancouver–based composer/performer who leads the acclaimed quartet Talking Pictures and co-leads the NOW Orchestra. He writes music for improvisers and well as for theatre dance and film. His main compositional goals are to explore the relationship between structure (composition) and improvisation. The compositions featured in tonight’s program are inspired by and dedicated to John Lennon.

Rodney Sharman

Rodney Sharman is the Vancouver Symphony's Composer/Music Advisor. He was Composer-in-Residence with the Vancouver Symphony from 1997 to 2000. Performances of his work this season include a week-long run in New York City of "The Garden", a music theatre piece with text by Peter Eliot Weiss (Sex Tips for Modern Girls), written especially for pianist/performance artist Anthony de Mare. Sharman's orchestral work, "Scarlattiana", was performed in November, 2000, by the National Arts Centre Orchestra at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Gala.