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Promotional Materials for

Stephen Travis Pope's 

Ritual and Memory

The following materials are available on the web site and DVD-ROM:

For more material and technical references, see http://HeavenEverywhere.com/RitualAndMemory

Stephen Pope, Santa Barbara, June, 2006

Biographical Notes

Stephen Travis Pope is active as a composer and software consultant. He was born in 1955 in New Jersey, USA, and studied at Cornell University, the Vienna Music Academy, and the "Mozarteum" in Salzburg, Austria, receiving a variety of degrees and certificates in electrical engineering/computer science, recording engineering, and music theory and composition. He has taught both music and computer science at the graduate level, and has worked as a composer, software engineer, and performing musician. He has carried out his R&D projects at Stanford, U. C. Berkeley, U. C. Santa Barbara, The Technical University of Berlin, The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Mozarteum Academy in Salzburg, the Vienna Music Academy, Xerox PARC, Eventide, Inc., Yamaha Corp., the Swedish Institute for Computer Science, IRCAM (Paris), STEIM (Amsterdam), and as a consultant for a variety of industries. From 1988 through 1997, he served as editor-in-chief of Computer Music Journal, published by the MIT Press.

His research interests are music representation languages, distributed programming, digital audio signal processing, and object-oriented analysis and design. Stephen has over 90 publications on topics related to music theory and composition, computer music, artificial intelligence, graphics and user interfaces, integrated programming environments, and object-oriented programming. He has realized his musical works at studios in America (Toronto, Stanford, Berkeley, Santa Barbara) and Europe (Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin). His music is available from Centaur Records, Perspectives of New Music, Touch Records, SBC Records, Disc0 records, and the Electronic Music Foundation.

Stephen currently makes his home in Santa Barbara, California with his beloved wife Barbara Fields, and is also a practising Quaker, an active conscientious objection counsellor, a trained Reiki practitioner and a facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Project.

See also: his business site FASTLabInc.com and his production company and record label HeavenEverywhere.com.

Introduction to the Program Notes by Tom Lane

Ritual and Memory is not so much a survey of Stephen Pope’s music as it is a reframing in an unfolding series of sound and visual dreamscapes. This music invokes the greater self that communicates with us in dreams, as well as the rituals through which we communicate with that greater self. Since what we perceive is already past by the time we become aware of it, experience is actually a memory— a waking or sleeping dream. These works, as the collection’s title indicates, are memories and rituals, which is to say they are dreams meant to wake us up.

Angels are everywhere in Rituals and Memory, and though angels are currently in danger of becoming trivialized “New Age” celebrities, Stephen Pope’s music restores their mystery and power. Perhaps angels run through Rituals and Memory because angels, according to mystics from Plotinus to Swedenborg, are in fact everywhere. They are divine messengers immanent in all that we perceive, and who embody what they communicate—just as this music does.

“Jeder Engel ist schrecklich.” (Every angel is terrible.) Stephen’s musical angels are also Rilke’s—sublime, with a terror and beauty that emerge out of and are inseparable from one another. The “quiet ritual music for processing one’s grief,” “hymns for slow movement,” and requiems we find here demonstrate a keen awareness of Virgil’s “lacrimae rerum” (the tears of things). Yet, as in Eternal Dream’s “affirmative symphonic pandemonium,” Stephen obviously believes in the cosmic giggle. These angels are as interested in play as they are in leading us to back to our existential cores. Perhaps they want to show us that these two activities are quite the same.

Stephen is clearly also a rock fan, although the influence of the musics he loves is usually more subliminal than obvious. Day: An Improvisation is a bubbling spring of not only gamelan but Sunshine Pop. Bat Out of Hell, a rhapsody for bells, draws on “classic rock” and heavy metal. It reminds us that many of the epitomes of the form, from Led Zeppelin to Iron Butterfly, evoke a Wagnerian marriage of opposites, of the graceful and the grave. As does 4: Ballet Music for My Siblings’ soothing but mind-bending juxtaposition of the languid and the staccato.

These pieces return repeatedly to the musicality of the spoken voice, never more so than in Paragraph 31: All Gates Are Open, a hymn in an invented language. (There’s that cosmic giggle again, emanating from the polity of the imagination.) Leur Songe de la Paix makes one of Martin Luther King’s most radical speeches a prophetic jeremiad, turning multiple sonic foils into a setting capable of reminding us of the power of oratory in a time of “aw-shucks” doublespeak. Stephen’s compositions— and this one is no exception—are inseparable from his Quakerism, breathing life back into the homily that the personal is the political.

Stephen’s music persists at the edge of a self-inventive technology featuring myriad new programming languages and sound synthesizers, but his engineering is a feat of bricolage that never loses its sense of human—and angelic—connection, whether through the voice in speech and song or the body in dance. The recurrence of bell tones evokes church and college carillons as well as the etheric, electronic emanations of a mind turned inside-out.

And how about those videos? The DVD tour of Stephen’s scores—surprisingly readable even for the uninitiated—brings its own intellectual pleasure, as well as intimations of a synesthesia that is fully plumbed in the graphical score of WAKE and above all in Eternal Dream: A Ritual. Comparisons to Koyaanisqatsi and its brethren are inevitable here. But, by way of equally remarkable contrast, the underlying tone of Stephen’s work is always uplifting, though never superficially so.

Even the terrifying aspects of Stephen’s angels are cathartic, resonating the dream from or to which we are trying to awaken with good vibrations. To paraphrase Chuang-Tzu: “Are we dreaming the angels or are they dreaming us?” Or are those angels and we listeners but two sides of the same coin, like waves and particles or form and emptiness? When we listen to Stephen’s music, we get a glimpse—or take a sounding—of the answers to these questions.

                Tom Lane, Ojai, California, August 2006


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