Henry Cowell


mode 101

Dancing With Henry



mode 101 Henry COWELL, Vol. 2: “Dancing with Henry: New Discoveries in the Music of Henry Cowell” – Suite for Small Orchestra (1934); Heroic Dance (1931); Sound Form No. 1 (1937); Ritournelles from “Marriage at the Eiffel Tower” (1939); Reel No. 2 (1934); Dance of Sport (“Competitive Sport,” 1931); Atlantis (1926) [all first recordings]; Suite for woodwind quintet (1934); Four Combinations for Three Instruments (1924) – California Parallèle Ensemble/Nicole Paiement, conductor and director

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Dancing With Henry
Program notes by in English, German and French linked to from resource. California Parallèle Ensemble, Nicole Paisment, conductor ; Josephine Gandolfi, piano ; Cowell Quintet ; Picasso Ensemble ; Patrice Maginnis, soprano ; Wendy Hillhouse, mezzo-soprano ; Leroy Kromm, baritone. Recorded in 2000.

Suite for Small Orchestra (1934)*
Largo (1:42)
Chorale (lento cantabile) (4:34)
Vivo (0:55)

Heroic Dance (1931?)* 4:37

Sound Form No. 1 (1937)* 4:51
Leta Miller, flute; Mark Brandenburg, clarinet;
Jane Orzel, bassoon; Russell Greenberg and Michael Strunk,

Ritournelle (Larghetto) from “Marriage at the Eiffel Tower” (1939)*
Josephine Gandolfi, piano

Reel No. 2 (1934)* 3:30

Dance of Sport (“Competitive Sport,” 1931)* 4:56

Two Ritournelles from “Marriage at the Eiffel Tower” (1939)*
Andante  1:32
Allegretto  2:40
Josephine Gandolfi, piano

Suite for Woodwind Quintet (1934)
Allegretto  1:08
Allegro  1:01
Adagio cantabile  1:37
Allegretto con moto  0:55
The Cowell Quintet

Four Combinations for Three Instruments (1924)
Allegretto  1:36
Largo  1:57
Allegro  0:35
Largo  2:20
Picasso Ensemble

Ritournelle (Larghetto; abridged version; 1939)* 0:59
Josephine Gandolfi, piano

Atlantis (1926)*
Introduction  (2:47); The Shooting of the Moon Arrows  (2:16); The Weeping of the Arsete of the Moon  (1:15); Birth of the Sea Soul  (0:53); Temptation of the Sea Soul by Monsters  (1:30); Pleasure Dance of the Sea Soul  (1:26); Withdrawal of the Sea Soul to the Sea  (1:08); Combat between Sea and Earth Monsters  (2:17); The Triumph of the Sea Monster  (2:48)
Patrice Maginnis, soprano; Wendy Hillhouse, mezzo-soprano;
Leroy Kromm, baritone

California Parallèle Ensemble
Nicole Paiement, conductor and director

Some of the most revered compositions of the twentieth century arose from the collaboration of composers and choreographers. Henry Cowell sought solutions that would treat both art forms with equal respect.

Works on this disc-the majority of which are recorded for the first time, many from unpublished manuscripts-were composed for Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman (Dance of Sport), Bonnie Bird, and Martha Graham (Heroic Dance and Suite for Woodwind Quintet).

Atlantis was envisioned as the prologue of a three-part drama on a libretto by Alice Pike Barney to be choreographed by Doris Humphrey. The three singers are treated as colorful instruments within the orchestral fabric, the singers enunciating only moans, wails, sighs, grunts, and squeals of ecstasy.

The three piano Ritournelles stem from a performance of Marriage at the Eiffel Tower (text by Jean Cocteau), choreographed and produced by Bonnie Bird at the Cornish School in Seattle in 1939. John Cage organized the music for Marriage on the model of Les Six’s 1921 collaboration in Paris, but in this case with only Les Trois: Cowell, George McKay of the University of Washington, and himself.

Sound Form No. 1, a short quintet for woodwinds and percussion, was intended to accompany the 1937 article in the Dance Observer in which Cowell first proposed the use of elastic forms in the first place.

The recording is completed by the delightful Reel No. 2 (1934), evoking Cowell’s Irish heritage, and by two pieces not specifically associated with dance: Four Combinations for Three Instruments (1924) and the Suite for Small Orchestra (1934). The title of Four Combinations refers to the work’s diverse scoring: violin and cello in movement 1, violin and piano in movement 2, cello and piano in movement 3, and all three instruments in movement 4. Both this composition and the compelling Suite for Small Orchestra show Cowell’s more serious side. His use of dissonant counterpoint in these works may well reflect his studies with Charles Seeger, who pioneered this approach to polyphonic expression.

Program notes are from noted musicologist, Cowell scholar and flutist Leta Miller, who also organized the project and repertoire.


Henry Cowell
Dancing with Henry
The California Parallèle Ensemble. Cowell Quintet. Picasso Ensemble.
Mode 101
4 stars

Dancing with Henry recoge las contribuciones – la mayoría en primera grabación absoluta – de Henry Cowell a la música coreográfica. Coreografía que en estas breves piezas se apoya en formulaciones ora abstractas (Four Combinations for Three Instruments) ora tradicionales (Suite for Small Orchestra). Eran los años veinte y treinta, y el ballet empezaba a respirar nuevos aires. Sobresale por su originalidad y experimentalismo Atlantis (1926), en donde las voces son utilizadas como instrumentos. Xenakis también ha tenido sus antecesores.
— S. R.



Henry Cowell on Mode:
Mosaic (mode 72/73, 2 CDs)