Janice Giteck

(b. 1946)

mode 14

Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky; Thunder Like a White Bear Dancing; Callin’ Home Coyote


mode 14 Janice GITECK: Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky; Thunder Like a White Bear Dancing; Callin’ Home Coyote – John Duykers, AndyNarrell/New Performance Group. Available on CD & Chrome Cassette. Composer Supervised

Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky; Thunder Like a White Bear Dancing; Callin' Home Coyote - CD

1. Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky – Ten Meditations (1980, revised 1984)  30:23

New Performance Group

2. Thunder, Like a White Bear Dancing – Performance Ritual (1977)  13:39
Thomasa Eckert soprano
New Performance Group

3. “Callin’ Home Coyote” – A Burlesque (1978)  9:02

John Duykers tenor
Andy Narrell steel-drums
Deborah Deloria string-bass

First recordings of these works from Seattle-based composer Janice Giteck, supervised by the composer. Greatly influenced by Native American music, her compositions are in turn rhythmic and meditative, ritualitsic and serene. Ms. Giteck’s works strive to recapture the ancient musical attributes of ritual and trance, exploring ways in which music can be a truly healing experience.

Giteck has studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud, with subsequent studies of Indonesian Gamelan music with Daniel Schmidt and percussion with the master drummer from Ghana, Obo Addy.

Guest artists with the New Performance Group of the Cornish Institute (Seattle) include the popular Windham Hill recording artist Andy Narrell on steel drums and tenor John Duykers, who appeared as Chairman Mao in John Adams’ Nixon in China.

Released 1988.

Language : French, German. Selections sung in English.


‘Janice Giteck’s name seems to come up a lot these days, and now that I finally get to hear her music, I’m not disappointed. …Giteck is refreshingly versatile as to style, and I enjoy the nonchalant air which she can turn from static tonality to discontinuous gesture, from religious ecstacy to ribald humor. It’s too theatrical a disc to make good background listening; but for those who’ll pay close attention, Giteck’s warm and very individual musical personality will delightfully repay the effort.”
—Kyle Gann, Fanfare

“…contemplative and scored with considerable individuality.”
San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 4, 1988

“It will come as no surprise to fans of Janice Giteck, composer in residence at Cornish College of the Arts, to hear that this is a first-rate CD. Those who don’t know Giteck’s work could have no better introduction than this disc…”
—Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Time, Nov. 6, 1988

“The New Performance Group plays this music with great virtuosity, and Giteck’s compositions show an intense insight as well as a vigorous sense of wonder–and humor.”
—John Baxter, Option Magazine

“Callin’ Home Coyote” reminds me of Harry Partch’s good-humored eccentricities, without sounding in the least like watered-down Partch. The ten “Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky” (there are no vocals) are purely delicious. “Thunder, Like a White Bear Dancing” with instrumentalists and voices, achieves a dream-state, while “Coyote”, no less fantastic, indulges in jazzy hi-jinks.”
—Mike Silverton, Fanfare

“Seattle-based composer Janice Giteck demonstrates a fresh, quirky sensibility and a strong sense of color and proportion in the three works presented here. “Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky” is the strongest work; a set of ten post minimal/world music-influenced miniatures. Each segment is so sharply etched that one hopes for continuation or development just as that segment comes to a close.”
—Jeff Talman, Ear Magazine

Janice Giteck
American Composer: Janice Giteck
Mode 14

A sunny presence in rain-soaked Seattle, Janice Giteck has led a quiet career by temperament and choice. In 1979, after she had studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud, the San Francisco Symphony commissioned her for an ambitious four-movement work called Tree, which no less than Dennis Russell Davies conducted. Giteck seemed headed for big-time orchestra circles. But then she stepped away from that track, and found her center in a long, intimate, very Asian-sounding chamber work called Breathing Songs from a Turning Sky. She refused to take the glamorous route if it made her deviate by one note from her own, inward-seeking path. And that’s why, today, Giteck is not as well known outside West Coast circles as everyone once expected her to be.

Which is not to say she’s less of a composer for it: quite the contrary. Giteck’s music glows with inner spirituality. Her melodies are heartfelt and memorable, her drones comforting, her textures utterly original. Perhaps the most outlandish example of the latter is the fifth movement from Breathing Songs: the pianist and two percussionists pound out a light, jingling ostinato at 200 notes per minute, while flute, bass clarinet, bassoon, and cello play a warm, mournful melody at an independent sixty-six beats a minute. It’s like watching a cobra dance behind a gently swinging bed curtain.

The seventh movement is even more of a surprise: a brief, silent meditation on the Kabala, Judaism’s mystical text. It is typical of Giteck in that it creates a spiritual ambience for the audience, but in other ways, it is difficult to call any of her music typical, because her different works reach out to so many cultures. Her Jewish roots are only one of many sources.

Of Russian Jewish stock (she has a photo of her great-great-grandfather, a klezmer musician, standing in the palace of the last Czar), Giteck was born and bred on Coney Island. As a girl she delighted in the buzz of Orthodox Jews chanting their daily prayers on the boardwalk, and in the great cantors who sang at her parents’ synagogue. She had already been composing for a few years when, at the age of twelve, she relocated with her parents to Tucson, Arizona. Here she discovered the quite different spirituality of the Papago, Pima, and other Amerindian tribes in the desert. That influence would bear fruit in the 1970s, in works such as Thunder, Like a White Bear Dancing (based on Ojibwa Indian songs), and Callin’ Home Coyote, a raucously joyous theatre piece.
— Kyle Gann


Janice Giteck on New Albion
New Albion Records web site

New Performance Group Profile