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Smart Hubris

by David Borden

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K216.01 A 09:32
K216.01 B 08:25
K216.01 C 06:15


The title SMART HUBRIS (2005) was derived from and is an anagram of Ritsu/Brahms. Violinist Ritsu Katsumata asked me to write a piece for her using the violin part from Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Op. 108. Ritsu is primarily a performer on electric violin, so composing this piece for her, accompanied by synthesizers, was a natural choice. Ms. Katsumata was also familiar with my work as a performer with Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co., my synthesizer ensemble.

Johannes Brahms composed the violin part and I composed everything else. The idea of borrowing material from other composers and adapting it to one’s own use has been a part of music history from the beginning. In Composers at Work by Jessie Ann Owens, composer Heinrich Isaac (C. 1445-1517) is noted for his technical mastery of working with pre- composed melodies by leaving the original untouched while adding florid voices around it. Bach lifted bass lines from Handel (The Goldberg Variations) and transcribed and transformed concertos from Vivaldi. Charlie Parker kept the harmonic content of tunes by composers like Gershwin, Cole Porter and others while supplying new melodies or heads for them which totally transformed their character while giving him the needed harmonic context for improvisation.

K216.01 (2003) is, like much of my work from that era, a polyphonic composite utilizing a melodic part from another composition. In this case, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major. While there are precedents for this kind of work, it has not been in vogue since the 15th century outside of the Baroque Chorale-based pieces. Also, this is a more radical approach since it does not alter the original part in any way. These works receive their inspiration from Buckminster Fuller’s definition of synergy ( . . . behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately) and by the work of painters Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein and George Deem. Close starts with a photograph whose content and structure he then transforms into a unique painting. Some of Lichtenstein’s work (like Femme Au Chapeau) is based entirely on paintings from history. George Deem has based many of his paintings on Vermeer’s work. In addition his Art School series quotes various aspects of paintings from many artists throughout history. In all cases this method forces the use of techniques different from those normally at the artist’s command. The results are surprisingly different from the catalysts. I hope this is the case with these musical works as well. – David Borden


released August 27, 2021

David Borden - synthesizers and samplers
Martin Davids - electric violin


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Cuneiform Records Washington, D.C.

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