Composer Jerome Kitzke Unveils First All-Kitzke Album in 15 Years Today
American composer/storyteller JEROME KITZKE celebrates today's release of his new album The Paha Sapa Give-Back (Innova Records). Known for creating works that are uniquely and bracingly American, where freedom and ritual converge, Kitzke shares his career-long dedication to social justice in a new recording featuring some of his best work composed over the past 15 years. The composer's convictions are remarkably interwoven within the music and text of three intensely theatrical pieces that collectively take listeners on a piercing journey brimming with ceremonial power and beauty.
Kitzke's ongoing concern with the American landscape and how we live in it manifests in full flower on The Paha Sapa Give-Back, which speaks to a quest for friendship, a call for justice, and a protestation of war. It brings stinging, tender and humorous language to life. "I have always believed in the non-static quality of history and in the healing powers of love and friendship," says Kitzke. "The pieces on this record manifest these beliefs in one way or another."
Influenced by the spirit of Plains Indian song, driving jazz, Beat Generation poetry, and contemporary classical music, this disc showcases Kitzke's inimitable musical language of vocalizing instrumentalists, theatrical speaking, extended techniques, and hard driving drumming, all notated in beautiful hand-drawn scores. The album begins with The Green Automobile, a free-wheeling musical account of Allen Ginsberg's 1953 poem of the same name. A story about friendship and love, it describes an imagined cross-country trip taken in a green car from California to New York City. Performed by Kitzke, it's the third of his five pieces for amplified speaking pianist. The Green Automobile is a tour de force comprised of whistling, laughing, and rapid-fire recitation combined with intricate piano playing.
On the title track, Kitzke's band, The Mad Coyote, gives a pounding musical sermon to give the "Paha Sapa" (trans. Black Hills) back to the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho nations, thus honoring the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. Scored for four percussion and piano, this piece combines the hard percussiveness of the piano and the echoes of military snare drums and northern plains drum circles with the hauntingly shouted, whispered, and prayed incantations of "Paha Sapa."
Rounding out the record, actor Jennifer Kathryn Marshall teams with premier string quartet ETHEL and bass drummer Barbara Merjan in a searing performance of Kitzke's anti-war work Winter Count. Arranged into 18 parts, musical interludes alternate with recited texts by Aeschylus, John Scott, Anonymous, Helen Mackay, Harold Pinter, Walt Whitman and Rumi, offering timeless and universal reflections on war during Aeschylus' time, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the first Gulf War. This sequence organically flows from chittering vocal sounds and noisy free jazz-like riffs to simple lyricism and meditative calm.
About Jerome Kitzke
Jerome Kitzke lives in New York City but grew up along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, where he was born in 1955. Since his first work in 1970, he has thought himself to be as much a storyteller as he is a composer. His music has been performed in North and South American, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia by many different ensembles and soloists, and has been featured on WNYC's New Sounds Live with John Schaefer as well as Mr. Schaefer's ZOOM Series. Kitzke has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Millay Colony, the Civitella Ranieri Center, the Copland House, the Bellagio Study and Conference Center, the Ucross Foundation, the Brush Creek Foundation, Banff, VCCA, Djerassi and the Ledig House. In 2005, he was the Macgeorge Fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia. His latest work, Buffalo Nation (Bison bison), for singer, actors, sound effects chorus and chamber ensemble and commissioned by Present Music, received it New York City premiere in excerpt form in May of 2014 on the Music at First Series in Brooklyn, NY.
His music has been recorded by today's top artists including Lisa Moore, ETHEL, Guy Klucevsek, Sarah Cahill, Anthony de Mare, The Mad Coyote, Zeitgeist, and percussionist Bonnie Whiting Smith, to name a few. In 2013 his 1999 album The Character of American Sunlight was rereleased on Innova. At once exuberant and carefully crafted, Kitzke's music amply demonstrates he "has the makings of an American original" (Fanfare). According to the Village Voice, "new music offers no more joyous phenomenon than the irrepressible, earth-worshipping Kitzke."
Currently he is working on a commission from the New York City group thingNY. His music is published by Peer Music in New York and Hamburg.