The recipient of awards and commissions from the French & Italian Governments, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the City of Berlin, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ford, Rockefeller, Fromm, and Guggenheim Foundations, his music has been performed on the Warsaw Autumn Festival, the Darmstadt Summer Courses, the Almeida Festival (London), Tage für Neue Musik (Zurich), and the Foro Internacional de Musica Nueva (Mexico City).
In 1987 he founded the Center for New Music & Audio Technologies (CNMAT), an interdisciplinary facility linking all of Berkeley's disciplines related to sound (music, cognitive psychology, linguistics, computer science, and architecture). In addition to the teaching of composition, mixed media, and multicultural issues, he team-teaches in the School of Architecture and has developed a seminar in advanced orchestration based on psychoacoustics. In 1999, he received a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress.
Richard Felciano Richard Felciano's music was both prefaced and summarized by the title of his 1972 piece, I Make My Own Soul from All the Elements of the Earth.
One such element was magnetic tape, a material developed only a few years before his admission into the Mills graduate program in 1953. The catalogue of his music offered by The New Grove Dictionary of American Music in 1984 lists more than 30 works which use it. Another element was organ, an instrument invented two and a half centuries before the birth of Christ, which he employed in twenty pieces.
He used electronic technology (which changes daily), the violin (which has remained the same for three hundred years) and flute and tuba in And from the Abyss, Soundspace for Mozart, The Angels of Turtle Island, and Chöd.
He used carillon in Islands of Sound and The Tuning of the Sky, handbells in Mad with Love, gamelan in In Celebration of Golden Rain, an FM tuner and transistor radio in Background Music, five flutes in Volkan, five harps in Four Poems from the Japanese, visual projections in Signs, and a recorder in Alleluia to the Heart of Stone.
He was the first composer to use television as a compositional element (in Linearity for harp and electronics in 1968) and as an audience-participation event (in Trio for speaker, screen and viewer in 1968).
By 1984, he had finished nineteen choral pieces, many of which used texts from the Bible or religious writers such as Thomas Merton (Captives), Teilhard de Chardin (Alleluia to the Heart of [the] Matter, Signs, and Hymn of the Universe), Catherine of Sienna (Mad with Love), and St. John (The Not-yet-Flower).
The result, offering one of the most important collections of sacred pieces of the time, was notable for its size and musical unorthodoxy. In Sic Transit (1970), for example, he used strobe lights and projections, tape excerpts from speeches by Martin Luther King and John Kennedy, tone clusters produced by the organist's forearms, and a grid filled with pitch and rhythm alternatives which were
randomly chosen during the course of the performance.
("The major thrust," said Howard Hersh in the San Francisco Symphony Program Notes, "is the power with which he has fused his innovative techniques to the timeless elements of dramatic immediacy...Behind his music, whatever its external form, there stands a human — a humane — sensibility.")
Three-in-One-in-Three (1971) used a pair of mixed choruses, two organs, two sound speakers and tape, producing a double antiphonal effect. The encirclement of the congregation by the choruses linked the work to the stereophony in Stockhausen's Carr? and, at the same time, to the antiphonal singing practiced at the Cathedral of Padua in 1510. A series of short reiterative phrases was cued by stopwatch while the organ played other phrases at indeterminate points inside a series of one-minute time frames. The tape offered musical sounds and a voice which chanted the words "three-in-one" into divided channels projected through a stereo sound system. Susani was made out of an eleven-tone row in which one interval — the third prominent in the ancient carol on which the work was based — was repeated. The carol itself occurred later in the piece — after the child had fallen asleep — in a dream accompanied by the sounds of an imaginary carousel.
In The Angels of Turtle Island, an "environment" for soprano, flute, violin, percussion and live electronics, Felciano provided a "gentle, repetitive, non-exertive, trance-like" piece which explored constantly shifting timbres. But, to interrupt its trance-like character, he required the singer to shout ("suddenly, as though possessed, the voice coming in rapid explosive, irregular spurts") and to read a series of words which began "BAT t FOR KAY ZOOM BEAT BURN, KNOW, NOW..."
The work was commissioned by the NEA and the State Arts Councils of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There was no conductor or score --the piece progressed in large measure in response to the
choices made constantly by each of the players. ("Don't allow the piece to 'get stuck.' Keep new material coming" cautioned Felciano's instructions.)
Arthur Custer, writing in the Musical Quarterly, said that the nonsense words contained "hidden concrete meanings": "mee-you-mee-lie" could be read "Me-you, My Lai." "Wai-duy-we-tuo, tuo, tui" asks "why do we tuer" (or kill). The piece offers ear/eye/head music embracing several levels of meaning, said the journal, "and it works."9
The Quarterly's analysis obviously met with Felciano's approval: the score reprinted Custer's description of the music and his comment that one hears The Angels of Turtle Island as sonic heterophony--"repetitive yet changing, hypnotic yet commanding." The piece also provided a social commentary: Turtle Island is the Hopi Indian name for America, a culture which, by pursuing war, violated the constancy and stability which characterized many of its native communities.
In And from the Abyss, it is the tuba player who "speaks," making consonant and vowel sounds into his instrument until, by linking them together, he succeeds in pronouncing the words "tuba mirum" from the Dies Irae, a Catholic prayer for the Day of Judgement (when the earth will open and souls will come forth to be judged). The tuba is accompanied by pre-recorded tapes of animals and birds played at altered speeds.
In 1972 Felciano did an installation called the Municipal Box at Boston's brand-new City Hall in which observers, walking through a curtain of white light, passed into an area of white sound created by fourteen separate electronic channels. Depending on the listeners' whereabouts, they heard six channels at a time, or three or two. For those remaining in a single place, the experience became totally static (since each monitor presented a single tone, texture or reiterated pulse). Time is experienced, the piece thus told listeners, by movement through space. Louis Snyder, writing in the Christian Science Monitor said that, heard from the entrance downstairs, it sounded like an
"impressionistic cloud, borne in Technicolor." Orchestra, the piece done by the San Francisco Symphony in 1980, extended the composer's interest in the relationship of space to sound. "In the minute pauses between notes and the Grand Pauses in the central section..." he wrote, "the sound is listening to the hall."
He also told Ear that he started each piece by finding a dramatic gesture which he then subjected to a kind of stream-of-consciousness process. His concern with beginnings could have been learned from Stravinsky, who said in Poetics of Music that the most important thing was to limit one's possibilities (by establishing a starting point). Or he could have learned it from the succession of novel gestures with which Milhaud invested his music during the dadaist period, or from those which characterized the theater pieces done at the San Francisco Tape Center during the neo-dadist era. (Enthused by the advantages the studio offered, Felciano said he got up at four o'clock every morning in order to secure working-time there.)
By 1977 two doctoral studies of his music had been written--Serial, Aleatoric and Electronic Techniques in American Organ Music Published between 1960 and 1972 was submitted by J. R. Little to the University of Iowa in 1975 and The Sacred Choral Music of Richard Felciano by S. O. Christiansen to the University of Illinois in 1977. (Other Mills graduates who have been subjects of doctoral studies are William Bolcom, Stanley Silverman, Steve Reich and Richard Wernick).
He was composer-in-residence at the National Center for Experiments in Television (1967-71) and the City of Boston (1971-73) and a recipient of grants and fellowships from the French and Italian governments (in 1953 and 1958), the Wooley, Fulbright, Fromm, Ford, Guggenheim, and Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundations, and the NEA. In 1974 he received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Almost all his works, noted New Grove Dictionary in 1984, were the results of commissions.
Felciano, Richard, American composer; b. Santa Rosa, Calif., Dec. 7, 1930. He studied with Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland, California (1952) and subsequently at the Paris Cons. (1953-55). As a student living in San Francisco, he supported himself by singing in a liturgical choir of men and boys, during which time he twice sang the complete liturgical year in Dominican chant and from neumatic notation. This experience had a profound effect on his style, even in orchestral and electronic music, and it was reinforced by several residencies at the Abbey of Solesmes while he was a student in Paris. After a period of service in the U.S. Army, he studied privately with Dallapiccola in Florence. While there, he met and married Rita Baumgartner, a native of Zürich, who later, as Rita Felciano, became a recognized American dance critic. In 1959 he took his Ph.D. at the Univ. of Iowa. In 1964 he received a Ford Foundation fellowship to serve as Composer-in-residence to Cass Technical High School in Detroit, during which he composed a number of works for student ensembles, some of which employed aleatory techniques and graphic notation. Returning to San Francisco in 1965, he received a series of commissions for the Roman Catholic liturgy in the wake of the liberalizing directives of the 2nd Vatican Council (1964). One of these commissions, Pentecost Sunday, introduced electronic sound into
liturgical music and assumed a permanent place in its repertory. In 1967 he was appointed resident composer to the National Center for Experiments in Television in San Francisco, a pioneering effort by the Rockefeller Foundation to explore television as a non-documentary, non-narrative medium. As a participant in this project, he created Linearity, A Television Piece for Harp and Live Electronics, the first musical work using the technical properties of a television system as an instrumental component. In the same year, he joined the music faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1968 he received a Guggenheim fellowship and in 1971 a 2-year fellowship from the Ford Foundation as Composer-in-residence to the City of Boston. During that residency, he created a 14-channel electronic environment with light sculptures of his own design for Boston City Hall and Galactic Rounds (1972), an orchestral work whose climax deploys rotating trumpets and trombones to create Doppler shifts, an early indication of his interest in acoustics which was to become pronounced in later decades. In 1974 he received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1975 was a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation's International Study and Conference Center in Bellagio. From 1974 to 1978 he served as a panelist for the NEA and from 1976 to 1980 was an Art Commissioner for the City of San Francisco. In 1976 he
was commissioned to compose a work joining an Eastern with a Western instrument for the 12th World Congress of the International Musicological Society at Berkeley, a pioneering forum in the growth of East-West studies in music. The result was In Celebration of Golden Rain (1977) for Indonesian gamelan and pipe organ, a work which addressed the conflicting scales, design, and intent of the instruments of these two cultures as a problem of symbiosis rather than one of fusion, making a philosophical as well as a musical statement. Many subsequent works show the influence of non-Western cultures. In 1982-3 he was active at IRCAM in Paris, where his encounter with the new field of cognitive psychology in its musical applications gave a scientific articulation to a lifelong interest in acoustics. He returned to Berkeley and in 1987 founded the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), an interdisciplinary facility linking music, cognitive psychology, linguistics, computer science, and architecture. His interest in the latter is reflected in his musical analysis and commentary in M. Treib: Space Calculated in Seconds: The Philips Pavilion, Le Corbusier, Varèse (Princeton U. Press, 1996). In 1999 he received a Library of Congress Koussevitzky commission. His music reflects an acute interest in acoustics and sonority and an attempt to cast them in ritual, architectural, or dramatic forms.
...Felciano had interested himself with highly refined sonorities and with timbre as a constructive element. This interest led him, in 1963, to work in electronic music at the San Francisco Tape Center. His first major compositions utilizing electronic means came four years later: Crasis, for seven instruments and electronic tape, and Glossolalia, for organ, baritone voice, percussion and tape.
Crasis (San Francisco, June 2, 1967) was a response to what Felciano described as "one of the most powerful acoustical experience of my life." He was referring to a performance of a Noh drama by a visiting Japanese company. "The subtle gradation of the wailing voices... and the abrupt and cataclysmic explorations on the part of the drummers, interrupting and yet preserving a strange sense of stasis -- all these made an intense impression on me. The appropriateness of these materials to an electronic context seemed clear, and I set about writing a work which would be not programmatic but rather an attempt to build a structure in sound whose acoustical materials are derived from Noh."
...in his search for a common electronic basis for acoustical and visual elements, Felciano began experimenting with television by becoming resident composer of the nascent National Center for Experiments in Television in San Francisco. Linearity, for harp and electronics (1968; San Francisco, November 22, 1968), became the first musical work to use the television system as a compositional element, and Trio, for speaker, screen, and viewer (1968; San Francisco, November 1, 1968), was the first audience-participation television composition.
My work in electronic music began in the early sixties, as a part of the San Francisco Tape Music Center with Morton Subotnick, Ramon Sender and Pauline Oliveros. Possibly the most formative experience came in 1967-8 as the composer-member of a resident five-artist group at the National Center for Experiments in Television, established by the Rockefeller Foundation to explore the possibilities of television as a logical extension of each artist's craft. It was a heady time, with major figures such as Charles Olson, James Rosenquist, and Robert Creely passing through to participate in our debates (Is television unique or simply a means of broadcasting film- or theatre-like experiences to other parts of the community? What is the cognitive difference between television's direct light and the reflected light of virtually all other visual experience?) and our creative work. As a part of the Center, I composed Linearity--a Television Piece for Harp and Live Electronics (1968), in which the television system's extensive processing and memory capacities were employed.
Incorporating instructions for cameramen and control room, the score is composed in two passes, the first of which lays cues for the second, which overlays it. The result can be broadcast but not performed on a concert stage.
Around the same period, I wrote Glossolalia for baritone voice, percussion, organ and tape, a work which attempted to use the electronic medium with the same fluency and musicality of gesture as acoustical instruments, while addressing cognitive questions by employing "documentary" sounds as the material to modify (organ bellows, singer's voice) and phonemic deconstruction of the Latin text for timbral transfer to the instruments. Most of my music for the next decade and a half involved electronics.
Acoustics and architecture are my two other passions. In the early seventies I wrote Galactic Rounds, an orchestral work which used rotating trumpets and trombones dispersed throughout the orchestra to create Doppler shifts. Interest in acoustics led to an interest in non-Western instruments
(In Celebration of Golden Rain for Indonesian gamelan and organ; Opus One CD #155 which addressed the problem of multiple simultaneous tunings) and my encounter with David Wessell and cognitive psychology during a year at IRCAM in the eighties led to my efforts to create CNMAT after my return to U.C. Berkeley. In the nineties I developed a seminar in advanced orchestration based on psychoacoustics.
Architecture is a field to which sound can contribute creatively just as light does, but it is not studied with this in mind and architecture/music combinations are rare as course topics. An exception is my colleague Marc Treib, who has repeatedly asked me to participate in his studios when he has devised a music-related problem for his architecture students. Those collaborations led to his book, Space Calculated in Seconds: The Philips Pavillion, Le Corbusier, Varèse (Princeton University Press), to which I contributed an analysis and commentary on newly discovered manuscripts of the Poème éléctronique.