Morton Gould, 1913-1996


(from the folks at RCA/BMG:)

Morton Gould, composer, conductor, pianist and arranger, was born December 10, 1913, in Richmond Hill, New York. At the age of 4 he was playing the piano and composing; at 6 his first published composition appeared-a waltz called JUST SIX-and by the time he was 8 he was playing for radio broadcasts. At the same time he qualified for a scholarship to the Institute of Musical Art, and by 13 he had completed a two-year course in theory and composition.

In 1932 he became staff pianist at Radio City Music Hall; he moved to the staff of the National Broadcasting Company and then, at 21, was engaged by radio station WOR and the Mutual Network as conductor-arranger of a weekly series of orchestral programs. He subsequently conducted the very popular Cresta Blanca programs on CBS. While his lighter compositions and orchestral settings were becoming well known via radio, his major works were being performed and recorded by such conductors as Stokowski, Reiner, Rodzinski, Mitropoulos and Toscanini.

Morton Gould was both prolific and diversified in his creative career, his works ranging from symphonies and concertos through ballet scores and works for concert band to stage, screen and television scores and popular songs and instrumentals.

He was the recipient of numerous awards, including Kennedy Center Honors in 1994 and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for his STRINGMUSIC, commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and composed as a tribute to its music director, Mstislav Rostropovich.

Guest conducting took Mr. Gould to the major orchestras of this country and to Australia, Japan, Mexico and Israel; he also appeared frequently as a guest piano soloist, and he recorded extensively.


RCA's relrelease of Morton Gould on Living Stereo


JUNGLE DRUMS (1960)
Gould and friends safari through tropics of feverish rhythm and melodic
moxie, coaxing shrinking violets from the vine. Guaranteed to thrill and
chill - Serve straight up or on the rocks.

MOON, WIND, STARS (1958)
Catch a touch of stardust in this beguiling collection of nocturnal
favorites. Conjuring a web of winsome loveliness, Gould and his Orchestra
apply tones of luxuriant romance in the art of aural seduction.

BLUES IN THE NIGHT (1960)
Audacious rhythms and bewitching melodies reign supreme. With supple beats
and unblinking attitude, Gould's instrumental forces swing with polish.

CARMEN (1960)
Experience the perennially sexy saga CARMEN through the lens of late '50s
instrumental madness. Gould's captivating take on Bizet's seductive gypsy
siren is a must for fans of passionate, gutsy music the world over.

KERN / PORTER FAVORITES (1961)
At it again, suave bandman Gould spreads a little love over the
long-cherished tunes of inspired songsmiths Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.
With such enduring favorites as the sassy I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU and
bittersweet SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, Gould serves up an opulent banquet of
melodic brilliance in style.


Liner Notes from the original Morton Gould releases


JUNGLE DRUMS [NOTES BY GEORGE FRAZIER (1957)]:

To put it with what may well be deceptive simplicity, the rather modest
purpose of this album is to achieve a kind of stereophonic travelogue-an
intention, by the way, that is announced at the outset by the tom-toms in
Ernesto Lecuona's JUNGLE DRUMS. For all its seeming unpretentiousness,
though, this is a rather slipperier aim than one might think. There is the
fact, for instrance, that-except for RAPSODIA NEGRA, which was never recorded
before-none of the selections are exactly surprises or innovations. Thus,
Morton Gould-the noted American composer-conductor who has distinguished
himself in his serious compositions as well as in his numerous arrangements
and original popular works-had to demonstrate that familiarity need not
necessarily breed contempt. He accomplished this by approaching the material
as if it had never been heard before, utilizing it, so to speak, as a
kicking-off place from which to summon up the peculiar enchantment of the
exotic and tropical.

Take, for example, HAWAIIAN WAR CHANT, which was a glory of the Tommy Dorsey
band in the forties. Fundamentally it is a kind of musical poster art-a
bravura piece that had been reduced to mere bombast by too many
overformularized performances. Now, under Morton Gould's revitalizing
ministrations, it suddenly emerges as something arrestingly
different-something with the texture of a steel guitar. It scarcely need be
said that this would not have been possible prior to the advent of high
fidelity recording and reproduction. The vividness of Villa-Lobos' LITTLE
TRAIN, a delightfully whimsical, cross-rhythmed little portrait, also
benefits prodigiously from the technical advances of recent years.

This whole album, indeed, is as revealing of Gould's resourcefulness as it is
of the various composers' creative inspiration. The celebrated RITUAL FIRE
DANCE, for example, certainly is immeasurably enhanced by the fact that Gould
chose to interpret it with a hi-fi ear. SWAMP FIRE, on the other hand, owes
its effectiveness in this compendium to the fact that Gould chose, in his own
words, "to make the flames spread." As a result, a fairly modest little
number becomes a virtuoso, razzle-dazzle performance. In the case of his own
TROPICAL, however, he was content merely to emphasize its airy lyrical
beauty. With Duke Ellington's CARAVAN, on still another hand, he adopted a
highly stylized approach in order to heighten the fantasy and imagery.

Obviously, the common denominator of the 15 performances in JUNGLE DRUMS is
percussive. Every selection, whether it be sprightly, stately or swirling, is
underlined by strong rhythmic accents. But the percussion in this album-which
ranges from a Harlem resident's interpretation of an alien land in CARAVAN to
Falla's evocation of the primitive in the RITUAL FIRE DANCE; from the lush
potpourri by Lecuona to Mr. Gould's own diffident TROPICAL-is neither effete
nor intellectualized, unlike the drumming in modern jazz. Basically, indeed,
it betrays nothing more complicated than an urge to provide an irresistible
beat. And that, after all, is the way the drums were meant to be played. And
that, too, is why JUNGLE DRUMS seems so uncontrived and singularly
appropriate a title for the album.


CARMEN FOR ORCHESTRA [NOTES BY ROBERT A. SIMON (1960)]:

If someone were to award operatic prizes in approximately the number of
classifications in which film Oscars are voted, and if Bizet's CARMEN were a
competitor, and if it all happened now, the bets are that the story of the
fiery gypsy girl would carry away a shelf of trophies. The opera's rating in
the year of its premiere might not have been so impressive, because in 1875
CARMEN wasn't accepted generally as one of The Operas. However, it caught up
with many audiences within a few years. Since then, well, try to name the
standard popular operas without including Carmen in the top ten-or top three,
maybe! It's top opera from many angles, one of which is the orchestral.

Morton Gould, who has seen, heard and studied CARMEN for many a crowded year,
holds that the orchestral score is a masterpiece in itself and that it may be
enjoyed as a listening experience even by those who don't want their devotion
to music disturbed by any notion that there might be a story involved. In
this recording Mr. Gould presents excerpts from the CARMEN score as a
sequence of orchestral scenes, dances or, so to say, instrumental lyrics. The
Bizet orchestration has been retained as written, except for one measure
which has received a soupcon of reinforcement. Bizet's orchestral writing has
been supplemented with instrumentation only to project some of the melody
allotted in the opera to the singers. In some of the numbers there are a few
internal cuts or repetitions, but there are no variations from Bizet's
melodies, harmonies or rhythms.

The distribution of vocal lines to orchestral instruments, says Mr. Gould,
has been predicated entirely on euphonious orchestral sound, and there has
been no effort to indicate vocal timbre or to convert an instrument into an
actor. Two cornets and two baritone horns, which are not part of the original
scoring, have been added to the orchestra to take over some of the music
designated for the singers. There is no dramatic significance in the presence
of these supplementary brasses, Mr. Gould observes, and the choice of any
given instrument for any given music has no extra- or supra-musical
implications. Some of Carmen's music, for instance, is played on the oboe,
some by strings, some by other orchestral components; but there is no
mysterious "meaning" in the apportionment. The sound was the determining
element. In some excerpts there is no supplementation, because Bizet
occasionally "doubled the voices" in the orchestra.

Although the passages Mr. Gould has selected from the opera-and they are a
generous representation of the score-don't try to tell the Carmen story, they
remain in the order in which they appear in the opera. The recording opens
with the Prelude and then moves to music from the first act, including the
changing of the guard, with the children's chorus (an example of "doubling
voices" in the orchestra), the song of the cigarette girls, Carmen's entrance
and Habanera, the duet of Don Jose and his hometown sweetheart, Micaela, and
Carmen's Seguidilla that completes her persuasion of Jose to help her escape
an impending jail sentence. Entr'acte music leads to Act II and the Gypsy
Dance, with the voices of Carmen and her girl friends, Frasquita and
Mercedes, placed in a rollicking variety of woodwind and brass. Escamillo's
rousing Toreador Song is followed by Carmen's charming castanet song and then
the Flower Song, in which Don Jose tells Carmen of his love for her.

After the entr'acte there is the smugglers' march that begins the third act,
the Card Scene, in which Carmen finds omens of her death while Frasquita and
Mercedes see good fortune in the cards, then the vivacious smugglers' quintet
and Micaela's touching air of resolve and supplication. Another entr'acte
takes us to the final act for the parade music that precedes the bullfight,
the short romantic duet between Carmen and Escamillo and the final fateful
meeing of Carmen and Don Jose-and her death at Jose's knife stroke as the
toreador's triumph takes place in the nearby bull ring.

The dramatic thrust and intense color of the CARMEN score are vividly
conveyed under Morton Gould's sensitive, crisp direction. The impression of
stage perspectives, where they occur, has been projected skillfully. It is
orchestral music for its own sake-and at the same time a tribute to its value
as theater.


BLUES IN THE NIGHT [NOTES BY ROBERT A. SIMON (1960)]:

You, too, can create a blues theme. Perhaps you already have. It can happen
most any time after dark, when you suffer an attack of nostalgia. This is not
classical nostalgia, which is HEIMWEH, but Authentic Nostalgia, which
involves a ponderable quota of self-pity. It is likely to be engendered by
thoughts of an affront from someone who should have treated you better. It
needn't be that personal, of course, but it is more fun to make up a blues
theme about the someone who didn't understand (or, more poignantly, certainly
did!) than about discomforts, even though they be financial. You may find
words for your blues theme, but we're talkin' tunes now.

When you're suffering from Authentic Nostalgia, a blues theme can be an
agreeable palliative. You hum it or sing it or whistle it in musical
contemplation of your sentimental malaise. You keep on giving it voice or
vent, in an apparently definitive set of tones, but if you taped your first
venture in self-expression and your second, you might be astonished to notice
the changes in the theme. Perform it for a listener who might, in turn, sing
or play it, and there would be further variations on your scrap of melody. As
it passes from hand to hand, or, as some have remarked, from mouth to foot,
it continues to have a somewhat amorphous design. As Morton Gould observes, a
blues theme is "not set." It is, he believes, the kick-off for improvisation,
and almost everyone who deals with it is in some degree an improviser.

The "not set" nature of a blues theme is obvious in its uncertainty about its
tonality, which usually is ambivalent, not being convinced that it is all
major or all minor-or that this makes much difference. When the little theme
grows up to be a composition, it is likely to come to a major conclusion.
It's a not-too-rigid tradition of blues compositions, and has no special
implication concerning the major-minor dichotomy of blues themes.

The basic materials of the dozen settings collected here as BLUES IN THE
NIGHT are not simply blues themes and they don't contain anything made from
the home kit for blues manufacture. They are blues compositions, in which
musicians of gifts and skills have developed blues themes or suggestions of
blues atmosphere into successful songs and instrumental works. The initial
blues elements have indicated to Mr. Gould the treatments that you hear in
these presentations, but the entire composition is involved in the orchestral
fantasy that ensues. Some of them are not officially blues, but all have
within them an emotion that finds voice in MELODIE BLEUE. Six of them were
originally instrumental music; two began as unaffiliated songs, two were from
revues, one was from a film and one was from a musical play. It may be
pertinent to observe that one of the works, the NOCTURNE, is from Thomas
Griselle's TWO AMERICAN SKETCHES (the other sketch was a march), which won
the first prize of $10,000 in a Victor Talking Machine Company competition in
1928.

Let us revert, for a moment, to the subject at hand. Most blues concern a
personal unhappiness. And to expand a well-esteemed cliche, this unhappiness
becomes more agreeable when it is shared. When this sorrow is converted into
the writing of one of our leading American composers, and then translated to
a large orchestra, your sorrow is shared by so many people that the whole
transaction has become eminently attractive.

The fantasies, which, Mr. Gould remarks, develop from the periphery of the
blues, are improvisatory in feeling but written down on score paper as
precisely as if they were a four-movement symphony in G-flat minor, in which
key none of these is-or many symphonies, for that matter.

Even the electronic devices and techniques are part of the scores which Mr.
Gould has prepared. This, then, is an amalgamation of individual inspiration
and electric wizardry, but the free-jazz factor underlies Mr. Gould's
writing. It does so because many of these men, who are experienced and
resourceful in playing the symphonic repertory, are accomplished jazz artists
also. They can bring to the performance of music on paper not only the surety
of expert symphonic readers and stylists, but the necessary waywardness of
the popular improvisor. They can "play strict and keep loose," as the
early-nineteenth-century conductors used to say to their bands, if this has
been reduced to English correctly. The result is quite personal, both as to
Mr. Gould's settings and interpretations and as to your reaction. Some of the
compositions will have special associations, perhaps mnemonic twinges that
recall some blues moments of your own. Others will be simply a few minutes of
brilliant sound-and is that a misfortune?

What any blues composition-or even wispy blues theme that you became
possessor of-says to you is between you and the blues. It doesn't need to say
the same thing every time you hear it, and it may not even sound the same way
every time you hear it on the same recording! There are many shadings in
BLUES IN THE NIGHT. They won't seem quite the same to you always, depending
on your own mood as you play the recording. You know how it is with the
blues!


KERN / PORTER FAVORITES [NOTES BY DOM CERULLI (1961)]:

Jerome Kern and Cole Porter make everyone's list of top American songwriters.
They rank with such other giants as George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Harold
Arlen, Irving Berling and Vincent Youmans. They and their colleagues were
part of a dazzling assembly of composers who set the pace and the style for
the music of Broadway and Hollywood.

Kern and Porter contributed a good many melodies to the list of standard
songs America never tires of hearing, year after year. Each composer managed,
through his songs, to raise the level of msuical taste in the theater and in
motion pictures. And both were gifted with extraordinary melodic
creativeness.

Kern's music is without doubt the more romantic. Such songs as ALL THE THINGS
YOU ARE, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES and YESTERDAYS have strong, singing
melodies. True, they are tinged with a trace of melancholy, but the melodies
sing.

Porter's songs are more urbane. Some, like NIGHT AND DAY and I'VE GOT YOU
UNDER MY SKIN, are romantic. But they are also strongly rhythmic. They pulse
with a big-city kind of sophisticated love. Porter's songs can be wry or
wicked or witty. Often they sizzle with rhythms woven into and around the
melody.

Because the music of these two composers has been played and replayed in
every conceivable format, ranging from the improvisation of jazz to the lush
beauty of symphonic orchestrations to the blistering rhythms of rock-and-roll
groups, it becomes difficult for an arranger and a conductor to find a new
point of view for these well-worn melodies.

Morton Gould, himself a composer with rare melodic and rhythmic gifts, was an
ideal choice to bring freshness to Kern and Porter. He understands their
music; it is of his time and idiom. "I certainly don't feel patronizingly
about popular music," he wrote recently. "I enjoy it, and when I work with it
I give my fullest abilities and concentration. I try to transmit my pleasure
in this idiom through my performance and settings."

The settings here vary. Most of them draw on the wide palette of a large
symphony orchestra. ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE and CAN I FORGET YOU, however, are
performed by a smaller string ensemble with no violins, and SMOKE GETS IN
YOUR EYES by strings, celesta and harp.

Just as imagination and creativity went into the compositions of Jerome Kern
and Cole Porter, so they went into the sensitive arranging and conducting of
Morton Gould. For it is true in music as in all other endeavors, the best
deserves the best.