Fellows' Presentation, Performances

Concert: Sideshow (2009–2015)

For Amplified Octet and Electronic Playback in Five Movements
Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo

Part of the 2015–2016 Fellows' Presentation Series

Concert by Steven Kazuo Takasugi RI '16

Featuring the Talea Ensemble:

Barry Crawford, flute
Rane Moore, clarinet
Ryan Muncy, saxophone
Yuki Numata Resnick, violin
Beth Weisser, viola
Chris Gross, cello
Stephen Gosling, piano
Alex Lipowski, percussion, vocals
David Adamcyk, electronics

This event is free and open to the public.

Sideshow was commissioned by the Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik sponsored through the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.

Steven Kazuo Takasugi
Sideshow (2009–2015)
for amplified octet and electronic playback in five movements
Text: Karl Kraus



Based on the dark sideshows of Coney Island's amusement parks in the early part of the 20th century, Sideshow is a meditation on virtuosity, freak shows, entertainment, spectacle, business, and the sacrifices one makes to survive in the world. A cycle of six aphorisms by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus (1874–1936) is embedded as a subtext running through the work. They are as follows:

  1. "Ein Gourmet sagte mir: was die Crême der Gesellschaft anlange, so sei ihm der Abschaum der Menschheit lieber."
    (A gourmet once told me: he preferred the scum of the earth to the cream of society.)
  2. "Wenn Tiere gähnen, haben sie ein menschliches Gesicht."
    (When animals yawn, they have a human face.)
  3. "Der Fortschritt macht Portemonnaies aus Menschenhaut."
    (Progress makes wallets from human skin.)
  4. "In einen hohlen Kopf geht viel Wissen."
    (Much knowledge fits in a hollow head.)
  5. "Die Technik ist ein Dienstbote, der nebenan so geräuschvoll Ordnung macht, daß die Herrschaft nicht Musik machen kann."
    (Technology is a servant who makes such noisy order in the next room that his master cannot make music.)
  6. "Wien hat eine schöne Umgebung, in die Beethoven öfter geflüchtet ist."
    (Vienna has beautiful surroundings, to which Beethoven often escaped.)

Table of Contents

Part I: "The Destinies of Hallucinations"

Movement I: "The Man Who Couldn't Stop Laughing"

A. Lead-in 0:00
B. "The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing" 0:08
C. Kraus Aphorism I: "A Gourmet Once Told Me…" 1:32
D. "The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing, Part II" 3:21
E. Interlude I: "A Queasy Ascent" 6:03
F. Kraus Aphorism II: "When Animals Yawn…" 7:15.5
G. Kraus Aphorism III: "Progress…" 8:29

Movement II: "Sodom by the Sea" or "Mildew of an Inner Room of the Eternal Return of the Same"

H. Interlude II: "Premonition: Morning after the Inferno (with View of Sea)" 9:52
I. "The Contortionist" 14:52
J. Kraus Aphorism IV: "In a Hollow Head…" 16:08
K. "The Sideshow Giant" or "The Fat Man" or "The Obese Genius" 16:29
L. Interlude III: "Night’s Glimmering City" 17:19

Part II: "Hard Times and a Happy Ending" or "A Laboratory for Self-Destruction"

Movement III: "Electrocuting an Elephant"

M. Interlude IV: "A Helix of Breath" 18:35
N. "The Circumstances Surrounding the Event" 20:20
O. Kraus Aphorism V: "Technology is a Servant…" 21:47.5
P. "Frenetico" 23:29
Q. "Stomp" 24:14
R. "AC or DC?" 24:39
S. Solo: "Innocent Animal" 25:11
T. "Behind a Curtain" 25:49
U. "March to the Scaffold" 27:36
V. "AC or DC?: Evidence for Edison" 29:10
W. Solo: "Last Parade" 29:56
X. "A Mouse among the Spectators" 31:.02
Y. "Electrocuting an Elephant" 32:03
Z. "Glimpse into the Abyss" 33:05
AA. Interlude V: "A Second Helix Followed by a Coordinate Geometry of Breath" 33:46.5

Movement IV. "A Surgical Procedure: The Human Fish"

BB. "The Financial Worries of a Sideshow Proprietor" 35:38
CC. "Brutal Competition and the Insufferable Uncertainty of Hard Times" 37:28
DD. "A Spark of Hope: An Idea for the Greatest Show on Earth" 38:33.5
EE. "One Night, a Strange Dream (Freud in Dreamland)" 39:54
FF. "The Man Who Couldn't Stop Laughing, Pt. III: The Myriad Rooms and Doors of a Major Clinic" 40:36
GG. "Too Many Teeth" 42:04
HH. Aria: "A Surgical Procedure" 43:18
II. "Fish Boy" or "The Human Fish" 44:38
JJ. "The Blowoff" 45.25

Movement V: "Mourning Glory" and "Parade Clothes"

KK. Adagietto: "Loyal Sideshow Guard Dogs Escort Mahler to Heaven" 45.34

B1. ("Still of This World, for This World") 45:34
B2. ("The Onset of Dilation and Inflation") 46:33
B3. ("Ascent (into the Ether)") 47:19

LL. "Von Dunkel Zu Dunkel" 49.22

LL1. ("The Advent of Darkness") 49:28
LL2. ("The Horizon and Approach of Darkness") 50:20
LL3. ("The Darkness Beneath") 51:08
LL4. ("The Residence of Breath") 51:54
LL5. ("Darkness behind Darkness") 52:47

MM. "Grand Parade: The Clothes, We Have" 53.42

MM1. ("First Attempt at Marching") 53:42
MM2. Kraus Aphorism VI: "Vienna Has Beautiful Surroundings …" ("Second Attempt at Marching") 54:56.5

NN. "Parade Heard from Inside the Tent" 55.38
OO. "As if Nothing Has Happened" 56.12 (End: 56.50)

Steven Kazuo Takasugi

Steven Kazuo Takasugi, born 1960 in Los Angeles, is a composer of electro-acoustic music. This involves the collecting and archiving of recorded, acoustic sound samples into large databases, each classifying thousands of individual, performed instances collected over decades of experimentation and research, mostly conducted in his private sound laboratory. These are then subjecting to computer-assisted, algorithmic composition, revised and adjusted until the resulting emergent sound phenomena, energies, and relationships reveal hidden meanings and contexts to the composer. Against this general project of fixed-media is the addition of live performers, described as an accompanying project: "When people return . . ." This relationship often creates a "strange doubling" playing off the "who is doing what?" inherent with simultaneous live and recorded media: a ventriloquism effect of sorts.

Takasugi received his doctoral in music composition at the University of California, San Diego. He is currently an Associate of the Harvard Music Department and Managing Director of its Summer Composition Institute. He is the Riemen and Bakatel Fellow for Music at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and is the recipient of awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, two Ernst von Siemens Foundation Commissions, and a Japan Foundation Artist Residency. His work has been performed extensively worldwide. Takasugi is also a renowned teacher of composition associated with master classes in Singapore, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Darmstadt, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has taught at the University of California, San Diego, Harvard University, California Institute for the Arts, and the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo. Takasugi is also an extensive essayist on music and was one of the founding editors of Search Journal for New Music and Culture. He has organized numerous discussion panels and fora on New Music including colloquia and conferences at Harvard Music and the Darmstadt Forum.

Talea Ensemble

“Championing works like these, and playing them with a compelling lucidity, is precisely what Talea Ensemble does best.”
—New York Times

Talea Ensemble has been labeled “. . . a crucial part of the New York cultural ecosphere” by the New York Times. Recipient of the 2013 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the ensemble has given many important world and US premieres of new works by composers including Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Olga Neuwirth, John Zorn, Unsuk Chin, Rand Steiger, Beat Furrer, and Fausto Romitelli. Talea has performed at Lincoln Center Festival, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, Warsaw Autumn, Wien Modern, Contempuls, Newport Jazz Festival, La Ciudad de las Ideas (Mexico), Art Summit Indonesia (Jakarta), and the International Contemporary Music Festival (Peru). Radio broadcasts of performances have been heard on ORF (Austria), HRF (Germany), and WQXR’s Q2. As an active collaborator of new music Talea has joined forces with the Austrian Cultural Forum, Consulate General of Denmark, Korean Cultural Service NY, Italian Cultural Institute, and the Ukrainian Institute. Assuming an ongoing role in supporting and collaborating with student composers, Talea has served as ensemble in residence at Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, Ithaca College, Cornell University, and New York University. Talea has recorded works on the Living Artists Label, Gravina Musica, Tzadik, Innova, Wergo, and New World Records.