Marianne Gythfeldt: Only Human


Clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt’s “Only Human” is a collection of recordings of works with electronics written for her by colleague composers John Link, Mikel Kuehn, David Taddie, Elizabeth Hoffman, Eric Lyon, and Robert Morris. Featuring music involving fixed and live interactive electronics, these pieces demonstrate varying contexts within the electro-acoustic medium, from tightly interwoven dialogues between live and pre-recorded material to establishment of acoustic environments within which a soloist steps to the fore. Gythfeldt’s virtuosic and sensitive performances are present throughout as a constant on this dynamic release.


“Only Human” chronicles several electro-acoustic works written for clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt that encapsulate the dynamism and variety that exists within the genre. The electro-acoustic format inevitably engages with questions of technology’s role in relation to the live performer, as well as contextualizing degrees of interdependency of musical lines versus hierarchy of accompanimental versus soloistic roles. John Link’s title track engages with these issues directly, putting Gythfeldt’s live clarinet directly in dialogue with pre-recorded, manipulated samples of her playing. The title is a pun of sorts - Link’s treatment of the electronics (which is not processed aside from volume adjustments and panning) is such that we often cannot distinguish between which sounds are “only human” and which are “more than human”, and yet, it alludes to the fact that all the sounds are indeed generated in a pure sense from a human source. Link’s piece is the perfect opener to a collection that proceeds to take a Davidovskian model as its starting point, exploring the subtle aesthetic implications of changing parameters in this delicate format.

Mikel Kuehn’s Rite of Passage uses live electronics, and takes its title from Stravinsky’s famous bass clarinet passage in Rite of Spring. Using several different styles of live processing, Kuehn builds a sonic world that takes Gythfeldt’s live playing and creates an enveloping halo around it as it explores the subtleties of the deconstructed source material.

David Taddie refers to a slang Big Band era term for clarinet in the title of his work, Licorice Stick Groove. Written as an homage to Benny Goodman, the electronic part in Licorice Stick Groove is timbrally distinct from the live clarinet, despite being manipulations of pre-recorded clarinet samples. A syncopated middle section echoes Goodman’s rhythmically inventive playing, if inhabiting a somewhat more futuristic sonic landscape.

Elizabeth Hoffman’s And when white moths were on the wing takes its inspiration from a Yeats poem. Hoffman’s electronics process the live performer’s signal live, partially through pre-determined algorithms but also by the composer as she adjusts the processing in real time. The result is the most exploratory and improvisational music on this recording, as Hoffman built an environment to facilitate her ongoing collaborative relationship with Gythfeldt.

Little History of Photography by Eric Lyon is a commentary on the similarity between the art of photography and some of the characteristics of the live electronic format. By taking “snapshots” of passing moments of Gythfeldt’s performance of this virtuosic part and processing those short excerpts, Lyon effectively turns the microphone into a sonic camera, documenting ephemeral events and magnifying them and transforming the relationship between performer and microphone.

Robert Morris describes his work On the Go as a “concerto for clarinet and virtual orchestra.” Unlike the other fixed media pieces on this program, Morris intentionally steered clear of using clarinet samples for his electronic part, drawing a stronger conceptual distinction between the role of live performer and pre-recorded music. As such, the work unfolds along lines more typical of a Romantic concerto, with a live protagonist driving the narrative, resisting pressure to relinquish her individuality in the face of the powerful multitudes. Morris’ work brings this recording full circle in a reverse evolution of sorts, ending with a piece that looks back towards traditional models even as it uses technology to generate its materials.

Gythfeldt’s deft navigation of these varied electro-acoustic scenarios and her virtuosity and musicianship shine throughout this collection of works that hopefully find their way into the repertoire of many other performing clarinetists.

– D. Lippel

Executive Producer: Marianne Gythfeldt

Recording engineer: Ryan Streber (#1, 2, 4-7), David Taddie (#3), Michael Farrington and

Mary Lee Roberts (#8)

Producers: John Link (#1), Mikel Kuehn (#2), David Taddie (#3), Elizabeth Hoffman and Marianne Gythfeldt (#4-6), Eric Lyon and Marianne Gythfeldt (#7), Michael Farrington and Mary Lee Roberts (#8)

Recording locations: Oktaven Audio, Mount Vernon, NY (#1, 2, 4-7), Gore Recital Hall at the University of Delaware in 2011 (#3), Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in 2003 (#8)

Mixing engineer: Ryan Streber (#1, 2, 7), David Taddie (#3), Elizabeth Hoffman (4-6), Michael Farrington and Mary Lee Roberts (#8)

Mastered by Ryan Streber of Oktaven Audio

Post-production Advisor: Daniel Lippel

Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York

Design and Layout: Aestheticize Media

Photo Credit: Marco Ceruso

Marianne Gythfeldt

Clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt has played a central role in the music scene of New York City over the past 25 years, both as an ensemble player and as an electroacoustic music soloist. Winning the Naumburg chamber music award with New Millennium Ensemble in 1995 launched a wide-ranging career as clarinetist with Ensemble Sospeso, SEM ensemble, Absolute Ensemble, Collide-o-scope Music, Zephyros Winds and Talea Ensemble. As a freelance performer, she has performed with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and many others. Academic positions include William Paterson University, the University of Delaware and Brooklyn College where she is currently Associate Professor and head of woodwinds. Marianne can be heard on recordings by CBS Masterworks, CRI, Albany, Innova, New World Records, Koch and Mode Records.

John Link

John Link (b. 1962) is a composer and writer based in New York City. His music has been commissioned and performed throughout the United States and in Japan, and is recorded on the New Focus Recordings, Bridge Records, and 60x60 labels. His scholarly writings on the American composer Elliott Carter (1908-2012) have appeared in journals in the United States, Italy, and the U.K. including Tempo, Sonus, the Journal of the Society for American Music, Chicago Review, and Music and Letters. He is currently a Professor in the Music Department at William Paterson University.

Mikel Kuehn

The music of American composer Mikel Kuehn (b. 1967) has been described as having “sensuous phrases... producing an effect of high abstraction turning into decadence,” by New York Times critic Paul Griffiths. A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, he has received awards, grants, and residencies from ASCAP and BMI (Student Composer Awards), the Banff Centre, the Barlow Endowment, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (First Hearing Prizes), Composers, Inc. (Lee Ettelson Award), the Copland House, the International Destellos Competition on Electroacoustic Music, the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University, the Flute New Music Consortium, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard, the League of Composers/ISCM, the MacDowell Colony, the Ohio Arts Council, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. His works have been commissioned by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Ensemble 21, Ensemble Dal Niente, Flexible Music, the International Contemporary Ensemble, violist John Graham, clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt, cellist Craig Hultgren, guitarist Daniel Lippel, Perspectives of New Music, pianist Marilyn Nonken, Selmer Paris, and the Spektral Quartet, among others. Kuehn received degrees from the Eastman School of Music (PhD, MA) and the University of North Texas (BM). His music can be heard on his previous New Focus Recordings portrait album, Object/Shadow (2016), as well as on ACA Digital, Centaur, Erol, ICMA, MSR Classics, and Perspectives of New Music/Open Space labels. He is the author of the computer music application nGen.

David Taddie

David Taddie is Professor of Music at West Virginia University and director of the Electronic Music Studio. He has written music for band, orchestra, choir, solo voice, and a wide variety of chamber ensembles as well as electroacoustic music. His music has been widely performed in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia by numerous soloists and ensembles. He has received several prestigious awards including ones from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Fromm Foundation, and the Music Teachers National Association.

Elizabeth Hoffman

Elizabeth Hoffman composes electroacoustic music (including multi-channel sound) and acoustic music. She is particularly interested in music that exists in a liminal space between explicit notation and implicit freedom amidst contextual cues with attention to tuning, timbre, and micro-temporal detail. Her publications include topics of narrative viewpoint in electroacoustic music and spatialization as interpretation. Recent research includes a focus on relationships between gender and approaches to designing and using technology. She teaches in the Department of Music, Faculty of Arts and Science, at New York University. She has received recognition from Bourges and Prix Ars Electronica, International Computer Music Association, and the American Composers Forum organizations, and is a MacDowell and NEA recipient.

Eric Lyon

Eric Lyon’s work focuses on articulated noise, chaos music, spatial orchestration, and computer chamber music. He is the author of “Designing Audio Objects for Max/MSP and Pd.” His publicly released software includes FFTease and LyonPotpourri, collections of externals for Max/MSP and Pd. His music has been recognized with a Giga-Hertz prize, MUSLAB award, the League ISCM World Music Days competition, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Lyon has composed for such artists as Sarah Plum, Margaret Lancaster, The Noise Quartet, Ensemble mise-en, String Noise, The Crash Ensemble, Esther Lamneck, Kathleen Supové, Marianne Gythfeldt, and Seth Parker Woods. Lyon has taught computer music at Keio University, IAMAS, Dartmouth College, Manchester University, and Queen’s University Belfast. He currently teaches in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, and is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

Robert Morris

Robert Morris (b. 1943) has composed over 180 works including concert, computer, improvisational, and outdoor music. His music has been performed throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In addition, Morris has written many books, articles and reviews contributing to theories of musical analysis and aesthetics, compositional design, electronic and computer music, and South Indian Classical music. Morris is Professor of Composition and affiliated faculty member of the theory department of the Eastman School Music at the University of Rochester.



Vital Weekly

Norway-born Marianne Gythfeldt is a clarinetist specialised in performing chamber and orchestral music mostly by contemporary composers. She was introduced to electro-acoustic music in 2003 by Robert Morris and his composition On the Go, which is also on this release. The CD documents her research that started from then on: discovering the possibilities of electro-acoustic world as a clarinet-player. She performs works by colleague composers John Link, Mikel Kuehn, David Taddie, Elizabeth Hoffman, Eric Lyon, and Robert Morris, composed between 1999 and 2017. All composers work with interactive electronics and clarinet, featuring different aspects of interaction between clarinet and electronics. "Interactive and fixed media pieces, varying levels of dialogue and role-playing between instrument and electronics." Exciting work that gives insight into how different composers, using different procedures, offer very different panoramas.

-Dolf Mulder, 12.3.18, Vital Weekly


Avant Music News

At first glance, the title of clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt’s Only Human would appear to be ironic. The album is a collection of work for clarinet and bass clarinet augmented by electronics in various capacities; the resulting sounds are more than just what human breath produces when vibrating a reed. But in fact there’s no irony: the technology never overshadows the essentially human rhythms underlying the music and the equally human urge to convey, though sound, an expressive message from one person to another.

Gythfeldt brings a depth of experience to the music here. She is on the faculty of the Brooklyn College Conservatory as well as a member of the Zephyros Winds ensemble; her repertoire is diverse, encompassing classical and contemporary chamber music as well as the kind of work represented on Only Human. The album shows something of Gythfeldt’s history with electroacoustic music, since earliest composition on the CD, Robert Morris’ 1999 On the Go, was also the piece that introduced her to the possibility of integrating electronics with her clarinet. In structure if not in the particulars of sound, Morris’ work is fairly conventional. It is modeled on a concerto for solo clarinet on one side and a lush, yet unmistakably synthetic quasi-orchestra on the other; the two parts seem to move with a high degree of independence, but in doing so they throw off a counterpoint that seems as inevitable as it is unpredictable.

The CD’s title track was composed for Gythfeldt in 2005 by John Link. The piece, for clarinet and stereo sound, has Gythfeldt playing against a virtual ensemble made up of prerecorded, largely unprocessed samples of herself. The multiplication of voices turns a fractured, register-leaping lead line into a series of echoing hockets and long harmonies. Like Only Human, Mikel Kuehn’s Rite of Passage (Hyperresonance V) of 2014 was composed for Gythfeldt. Here she plays bass clarinet, threading her way through a more or less dense thicket of electronic sound as she circles around a bass clarinet part taken from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Elizabeth Hoffman’s And when the white moths were on the wing (2017), a three-movement work for clarinet and live electronics, was composed for Gythfeldt through a collaborative process of improvisation and conversation. The collaborative spirit of the piece’s composition translates out into its sound: the clarinet and electronics are dynamically balanced and well-integrated, with each voice serving as an atmospheric complement to the other. Eric Lyons’ Little History of Photography (2015), for clarinet and interactive computer, takes Gythfeldt’s real-time performance as input for live manipulation. Gythfeldt’s part consists of a vigorous, rising and falling flurry of notes embroidered at the edges with timbral effects courtesy of computer processing. Licorice Stick Groove by David Taddie matches live clarinet with a prerecorded soundtrack that cycles through a series of energetic rhythms.

-Daniel Barbiero, 1.7.19, Avant Music News

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