San Diego Reader 2/24/1994 – Burning Dreams

by Jeff Smith

My barely legible notes from the S.D. Rep’s Burning Dreams read like a hallucination. Some examples: “recuerda”, “breathe secret”, “bald dude in long johns serenades dead hand”, “fronds from Henri Rousseau’s ‘The Dream’ painting infold into votive candles”, “Gina graces glasses of water”, “is Sigismundo having an out-of-body experience, or are you?” Also, “the moon is down, and the dark side’s all mathematics”, “much pulling on invisible ropes”, “the heart is a lonely apple”, “return of the prodigal one-third frame”. and “me acuerdo”.

As I review my notes, however, they begin to make sense. “Recuerda” is a Spanish injunction to remember (also “to awaken from sleep”). And although very little is obvious at the beginning of Burning Dreams, it’s clear that, in order to discover the truth about herself, Rosaura must recollect her past. She has no idea how much she doesn’t know. And at the end, “me acuerdo” – literally, “I remember myself” – comes from the Spanish verb acordar, which also means “to tune musical instruments”, “to compose figures in a picture”, and “to come to an agreement”. By the end of Burning Dreams, Gina Leishman’s splendid score, a host of haunting theatrical images (my notes also mention “eggs of sand from the fridge”), and Rosaura’s nonlinear journey through the dreamscape of her past become tuned, composed, and in accord with the truth about who she is…

The real star of Burning Dreams is Gina Leishman’s music. The piece is an opera, often atonal. it is sung throughout and accompanied by quirky instruments. Along with clarinets and saxes, there’s a charango, a surdo, a “naive trumpet” (which makes one wonder why) and Leishman’s trademark accordion. Leishman, who also scored the wonderful music for the Rep’s Red Noses in 1988, also plays a “glass armonica”, running her fingers over spinning glasses of water and creating ethereal resonances. The music (is) the real narrator of the story, the primary language…

…If you love exciting, fearless, relentlessly experimental theater, go to the Lyceum, read nothing, and find out what it feels like to be “half child, half grown, half me, half unknown.”

PULSE Magazine – Kamikaze Ground Crew – The Scenic Route

by Marc Weidenbaum

That line between classical and popular music is the crux of a musical philosophy that led to the formation of CounterCurrents, a year-old subsidiary of New World Records.

CounterCurrents was created by Arthur Moorehead in an attempt to expand New World’s perspective on American classical music.

Though Moorehead despises the term “chamber jazz”, it describes much of the CounterCurrents’ output, including work by the Jazz Passengers, Butch Morris, Tom Varner, Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg, and the New York Composers Orchestra. Moorehead explains his aversion: “If only because it’s a term that’s primarily associated with European classical music, and when I hear that term I think it’s an attempt to legitimize jazz, and I don’t think it needs it. The music is not played in chambers; it’s played in clubs. I prefer small-group music.” Perhaps the series’ two strongest efforts not coincidentally evidence the strongest European flavor: the Kamikaze Ground Crew septet’s intoxicating debut, The Scenic Route, includes a Stravinsky cover and an explicit ode to Satie and Chopin; and multi-instrumentalist Marty Erlich’s Dark Woods Ensemble, heard on Emergency Peace, mates his saxophones and wooden flutes with a cello and string bass, evoking strong tonal, if not compositional, affinities with the string quartet.

Having been suggested to that the Kamikaze’s effort stands above the rest of CounterCurrents’ releases, Moorehead responds enthusiastically: “There’s a group that really defines my idea of what ‘jazz’ should be, and that is it’s heavily compositionally influenced. The role of improvisation is something that comes after the context of the composition is outlined, and the improvisation fits into the compositional framework of the pieces. It’s not, ‘Let’s play heads, everyone blow three choruses, head out.’ There’s clearly a design.”