Zeitgeist, the Twin Cities’ own new-music force, returns to the Walker Art Center stage with the world premiere of Pine Eyes, a dark and delightful evening-length multimedia work based on Carlo Collodi’s beloved The Adventures of Pinocchio on Saturday, June 3, at 2 and 8 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Composed and narrated by Martin Bresnick, directed by Robert Bresnick, and featuring animation by Leslie Weinberg, Pine Eyes is a rich mixture of music, words, and film—a compelling adventure for the imagination that captivates audiences of all ages. Co-commissioned by the Walker, Timothy Beyer, Andrew Rindfleisch, and the Zeitgeist Commissioning Collective.
Pine Eyes is part of Martin Bresnick’s body of work, Opere della Musica Povera or Works of a Poor Music. Begun in 1991, these compositions explore themes of poverty, extremity, and loss. Musically and visually, this concern manifests itself in the determination of all three artists to use limited (impoverished) visual and musical resources to create a work of simplicity, depth, and captivating immediacy. On one level, Pine Eyes is a fantastic tale of transformation and discovery with plenty of bewitchment, thievery, adventure, and heroism typical of a good fairy tale. Delving deeper into Martin Bresnick and Puppetsweat’s treatment of the tale, it is also an exploration of human nature—our capacity for deceit and treachery as well as our capacity for self-sacrifice and unconditional love.
At nearly 30 years old, Zeitgeist is one of the oldest and most successful new music groups in the country and is the most established new music performance presence in the Twin Cities. Throughout their history, they have enjoyed an international reputation for their superb craftsmanship, virtuosic performance, and unique repertoire. Zeitgeist’s members are Heather Barringer, percussion; Patti Cudd, percussion; Patrick O’Keefe, woodwinds; and Anatoly Larkin, piano.
Founded in 1977, Zeitgeist’s nascent aesthetic sympathies resonated strongly with minimalism, leading the ensemble to establish enduring relationships with composers Terry Riley and Frederic Rzewski. In addition to performing at the Walker Art Center, Zeitgeist performed at venues and festivals throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, New Music America, the Zagreb Biennale (with John Cage), The Gulbenkian Foundation, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Michael Tippet Centre. While still embracing its minimalist roots, Zeitgeist spent the following decade pursuing a more diverse repertoire. In partnership with the Walker, Zeitgeist commissioned works from Harold Budd, La Monte Young, and Terry Riley. Through the Music in Motion program, Zeitgeist developed new work with Eleanor Hovda, Fred Ho, Claudio Tripputi, Jerome Kitzke, David Mahler, and Jarrad Powell, and performed in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Seattle. Other key performances include two European tours (Gothenberg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Cologne, and the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival) and appearances at the Lied Center in Lincoln, Merkin Hall in New York City, Duke University, and numerous venues throughout the Midwest. Zeitgeist released three CDs during this period—She’s a Phantom, music of Harold Budd; Intuitive Leaps, music of Terry Riley; and A Decade, music of Frederic Rzewski. Zeitgeist also began devoting more energy to its presence in the Twin Cities, developing a concert season of four annual events plus a number of audience-building programs, including the Eric Stokes Song Contest program (an amateur composition contest), Zeitgeist: Back to School (compositional and improvisational activities for K-12 students), and a performance/discussion series (now titled Lowertown Listening Sessions).
In this new millennium, Zeitgeist has continued to embrace the many voices that make up the music of our time. Recent performances include work by Arthur Kreiger, Magnus Lindberg, Morton Feldman, Jon Jang, Libby Larsen, and Conlan Nancarrow, as well as Frederic Rzewski, Eric Stokes (their CD Eric Stokes was released in 2001), and Terry Riley. If Tigers Were Clouds (innova recordings), released in 2004, includes works by Pauline Oliveros, Annie Gosfield, Beth Custer, and Eleanor Hovda. Seeking to move beyond the boundaries of the traditional chamber music concert form, Zeitgeist developed a number of multidisciplinary collaborations and large-scale theatrical productions, including Movement, Sound, and Fury, a collaboration with Borrowed Bones Dance Theater, Beth Custer’s Vinculum Symphony, with 10 Twin Cities sculptors/instrument builders, and Sound Stage, an evening-length music theater work by Paul Dresher with text and direction by Rinde Eckert. In June 2004, Zeitgeist premiered an evening-length electro-acoustic work, Shape Shifting: Shades of Transformation, a collaboration between Zeitgeist, composer Scott Miller, and poet Philippe Costaglioli. Shape Shifting, their sixth CD, was released in March 2005.
This season’s local productions featured works by Carol Barnett, Eric Stokes, Charles Ives, Giacinto Scelsi, Conlon Nancarrow, Hermeto Pascoal, Captain Beefheart, Paul Dresher, Phil Fried, and Bill Banfield, as well as works resulting from the popular Eric Stokes Song Contest and Webster Magnet School Band Project. In addition, Zeitgeist’s touring production Shape Shifting: Shades of Transformation will tour the region.
Composer Martin Bresnick was educated at the High School of Music and Art, the University of Hartford (B.A. 1967), Stanford University (M.A. 1968, D.M.A. 1972), and the Akademie für Musik, Vienna (1969–1970). His principal teachers of composition include György Ligeti, John Chowning, and Gottfried von Einem. Presently Professor of Composition and Coordinator of the Composition Department at the Yale School of Music, he has also taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (1971–72) and Stanford University (1972–75). He has served as the Valentine Professor of Music, Amherst College (1993); the Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music, Duke University (1998); the Cecil and Ida Green Visiting Professor of Composition, University of British Columbia (2000); Composer-in-Residence, Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp (2001 and 2004); International Bartok Seminar, Director of Composition (2001); Visiting Professor of Composition, Eastman School of Music (2002–2003); Visiting Professor, New College, Oxford (2004); Housewright Eminent Scholar and Featured Guest Composer, Florida State University (2005); and Visiting Composer, Royal Academy of Music, London (2005). Bresnick was elected to membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006.
Bresnick’s compositions cover a wide range of instrumentation, from chamber music to symphonic compositions and computer music. His orchestral music has been performed by the National Symphony, Chicago Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Münster Philharmonic, Kiel Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Radio Televisione Italiana, Orchestra New England, City of London Chamber Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonika, and Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka. His chamber music has been performed in concert by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Sonor, Da Capo Chamber Players, Speculum Musicae, Bang on A Can All Stars, Nash Ensemble, MusicWorks!, Zeitgeist, Left Coast Ensemble, and Musical Elements.
Leslie Weinberg and Robert Bresnick
Leslie Weinberg and Robert Bresnick, artistic collaborators for the past 20 years, are the co-founders of both Azdak’s Garden and Puppetsweat Theater. Weinberg was the first woman accepted into the MFA program in puppetry at the University of Connecticut under Professor Frank Ballard. Bresnick received a Fulbright scholarship to study theater in Berlin and was the founder of the Protean Theater in Hartford, Connecticut.
Azdak’s Garden/Puppetsweat Theater is committed to the exploration of ideas and social responsibility through performance. They create a theater of imagery using masks, puppetry, dance, acting, and object manipulation. They also employ shadow play, music, new vaudeville, and multimedia to create work in which the visual, aural, and textual are equally expressive.
Azdak’s Garden was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1991. Their first major works, collectively known as The City Play Project, were puppet-based theater pieces examining the history, growth, and development of three major cities in Connecticut—Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. These plays were developed and produced in conjunction with Fairfield University, Trinity College, and ACES/Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, and performed in all three locales. This project led to a New York City premiere in 1995 at Theater for the New City, where they produced Syneocism, a distillation and reworking of ideas about urban life developed in The City Play Project. Syneocism also heralded the premiere of Puppetsweat Theater, a company of artists dedicated to carrying out the mission of Azdak’s Garden through the medium of puppetry.
Other New York City performances soon followed. In 1996, Puppetsweat performed Der Signàl, an oratorio with shadow puppets, as part of the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater’s Late Night Cabaret. Later that year, they premiered Appetite: a revisionist telling of the Fisherman and his Wife for the Third Annual Toy Theater Festival at Los Kabayitos Puppet Theater. They were invited back to the Late Night Cabaret during the 1998 Henson Festival, where they presented MS Found in a Bottle, the first part of Three Tales by Poe, a performance that premiered at the National Puppetry Conference in Waterford, Connecticut. The complete Three Tales by Poe and Der Signàl were featured at the 2000 Henson International Festival at La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex) in New York. Buttons and Bows, the first part of a piece based on Jill Cutler’s memoir, A History of My Clothing, premiered in November 2000 at HERE Arts Center in New York as part of the Fifth Annual Toy Theater Festival.
Tickets to Zeitgeist and Martin Bresnick ‘s Pine Eyes are $15 ($12 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Free First Saturday: Flights of Fantasy
Performance: Musical Tales with Zeitgeist
Saturday, June 3
William and Nadine McGuire Theater, 11 am
Kids and families control the sound effects and help narrate a fairy tale reenacted by members of Zeitgeist, the Twin Cities’ own new-music force. Stick around as they present a scene from their world premiere of Pine Eyes, a dynamic mixture of music, words, and film based on The Adventures of Pinocchio.