Articles and Reviews

1) “Sadness, Wisdom Course Through Diablo’s ‘Veins'”
Review of Robert Moran’s “Open Veins”  [ballet version of orchestral work]

2)  The mega-website, Internet Movie Database ( has a  listing for Moran/Kubrick, containing the following statement:

 Stanley Kubrick, cofile://localhost/Users/bob/Desktop/Strahlender%20Glanz.pdfntacted Moran’s agent about using music from his opera _Desert of Roses_ in his next film, but died soon after he completed “Eyes Wide Shut”.

 3) Robert Moran’s “Angels of Silence”                                                                      

Review of a performance of work for chamber orchestra

4)  Robert Moran on INNOVA, from GRAMOPHONE, April 2005

1) “Sadness, Wisdom Course Through Diablo’s ‘Veins'”
Caniparoli dance highlights Zellerbach program

Octavio Roca, Chronicle Dance Critic

Monday, January 15, 2001

The West Coast premiere of a powerful 1997 ballet by Val Caniparoli was the highlight of Diablo Ballet’s return to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday night. “Open Veins,” originally choreographed for the Atlanta Ballet, entered the Diablo repertory alongside revivals of ballets by Nikolai Kabaniaev, Norbert Vesak and Kelly Teo. It was a fine and varied program, and there was a delicious take on Kabaniaev’s little jazz gem “Bach de Trois” danced by Corinne Jonas, Lauren Jonas and Richard Marsden. But it was definitely Caniparoli’s show.

“Open Veins” is set to Robert Moran’s 1986 score of the same name, and both music and dance are inspired by the suicide of Petronius in Nero’s Rome. Neither Caniparoli nor Moran set out to retell the story of the controversial Petronius or of his great novel, the “Satyricon,” but the writer and his writing informed the spectacle at Zellerbach.

Minerva’s owl takes wing at dusk, wisdom drenched in sadness attending the dimming of a great civilization’s light. Petronius, who lived and died at the end of Rome’s glory, captured that feeling in ways no writer before and few since have done. While acquaintance with Petronius’ unsettling masterpiece is by no means a requisite to enjoying Caniparoli and Moran’s work, it can only deepen one’s admiration for the achievement of “Open Veins” on first impression.

“Open Veins” began in silence, with four men dressed in black showing us the
bandages on their wrists as they walked downstage. The style was presentational, ritualistic and never ironic: The four unwrapped their black bandages, offered up their spread hands and then their whole bodies, walked offstage one by one. Suddenly, as Moran’s violent percussion and insistent strings seemed to explode on tape all over the theater, the men returned. They were feverish, frantic.

Viktor Kabaniaev, Richard Marsden, Kelly Teo and Christopher Young were  dressed by Sandra Woodall in open silk shirts and elegant pants. The lighting by Lisa Pinkham, beginning with a spray of red on an empty stage, washed the men in harsh white light until the end, when the redness of blood seemed inevitable.

The moves, too, emerged in their desperation as the only response to the music: deep plies resolved in sudden convulsions toward the sky, soaring jumps and athletic plunges, arabesques with hands cupped together as if in prayer, curved arms suggesting the memory of gentler times. The men moved in unison but never touched, each alone in his own death. There was even a hint of serenity by the end, especially in Kabaniaev’s musicality.

The inevitability of each gesture was ineffably sad, the precision of the choreography almost cruel in its clarity. The melancholy resignation of beauty and truth in the face of senseless decay, the devastating sadness and wisdom that permeate Petronius’ novel have found a fleeting but nevertheless true kinetic equivalent in this dance.

Caniparoli is nothing if not prolific, and this season alone in the Bay Area his ballets have been danced by the Oakland Ballet and the Lawrence Pech Dance Company as well as Diablo, with a world premiere in store from San Francisco Ballet next month. He said recently that he considers “Open Veins” one of his best works, and it was easy to see why.

2) “Survivor from Darmstadt”
by Nora Post

(This article first appeared in the Journal of the College Music Society, Symposium, 1985.
It is reprinted here with permission. To view the article, please click on the link below)

3) Robert Moran’s “Angels of Silence”

by Michael Walsh
Music Critic
San Francisco Examiner Newspaper
November 1980

Moran’s ‘Angels’ is 23 minutes long, and consists almost entirely of evenly spaced, tonally oriented chords that change slowly, tending to be melodically, rather than harmonically related.  Composed for chamber orchestra, the piece got its first performance in 1975 at the Styrian Autumn Festival in Graz, Austria, and is the second part of a trilogy that also includes SILVER AND THE CIRCLE OF MESSAGES (published by Schott and Sons, Mainz), and EMBLEMS OF PASSAGE, commissioned in 1974 by the San Francisco Symphony.

There is a fine sensibility at work here, and a refreshing non-emphasis on novelty.  We’ve heard all of these chords before, and they are produced in conventional ways.  Yet the effect is distinctive; you don’t feel as though you’ve encountered the piece before. The result is ravishingly beautiful. Gerhard Samuel and the San Francisco Orchestra played it quite beautifully.

4)  INNOVA and MORAN, Gramophone, 2005

“from the earthy to the ethereal, music that tempers its wit with emotion.”

From the ridiculous to the sublime, the earthy to the ethereal, this collection reveals the many faces of this composer, with contrasts that make his work seem that much richer.

Philadelphia-based Robert Moran lives close to, but apart from, New York, and the remove is palpable in his music.  The problem is not that he has no recognizable style, it’s that he taps into so many of them.  Several minutes into a Philip Glass dance piece and suddenly you’re in the hyper-romantic world of other composers.

A composer’s voice is hardly the same as his technique, however, and once beneath the surface style Moran’s voice rings loud and clear.  Neither the minimalists nor the tonalists are known for their sense of humor, yet Moran’s irrepressible wit would fall headlong into camp if it were not tempered by the nakedness of its emotional content.

In this collection, largely rereleased from the defunct Argo label, the highly rhythmic violin concerto Open Veins finds pathos in the darkness of Petronius’s suicide.  the minimalists roots of his excerpts from the opera Desert of Roses unfold into an uncommonly vocal bloom, only to do a dramatic about-face in 32 Cryptograms, a veritable freight train of a piece that builds on top of the Purcellian bass line from Dido’s lament a tower of pitches derived from the I-Ching.  The driving rhythms of Cryptograms, originally an orgiastic offering to Derek Jarman as the filmmaker was dying of AIDS, give way to Moran’s elegiac side in Stimmen, a 23-minute monument of serenity that makes its first recorded appearance.



sfSoundSeries / August 10, 2008

The Sixties Are Alive

By Jonathan Russell

At the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco’s Mission District, sfSoundSeries presented a Sunday concert centered on works composed for the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Founded in 1961 by composers Morton Subotnick and Ramón Sender, the Tape Music Center was at the heart of the city’s musical counterculture in the 1960s. It was the premier venue not only for cutting-edge technologies involving tape loops and electronics, but also for other musical experiments, from early minimalist pieces such as Terry Riley’s In C, to multimedia and performance art works.

The concert featured works composed some four decades ago by four of the Center’s most important figures: Subotnick, Sender, Robert Moran, and Pauline Oliveros. Although some elements of these works came across as dated, on the whole they stood the test of time well, in many ways sounding as fresh and surprising as they must have when they were first performed.

Robert Moran’s 1967 work Divertissement no. 1, the first of the four to be performed (it was preceded by three pieces not affiliated with the Tape Music Center), featured a popcorn popper as its lead instrument. The sfSoundGroup gathered around an elevated electric pan in a semicircle while trumpeter Tom Dambly cautiously approached and poured a bag of popcorn kernels into it. All the players then proceeded to don wacky, oversized, brightly colored sunglasses, tune, and then … wait …

A long silence ensued until the first pop of popcorn from the pan, which was followed immediately by imitative noises from all the instruments. As the pops accelerated and became more frequent, the noises from the instruments followed suit. Especially loud pops or far-traveling pieces of popcorn elicited appropriately more intense sounds from the ensemble, building to a cacophony at the peak of the popping. Eventually, the popping started slowing down, finally stopping, the instruments likewise petered out, and the piece was over, leaving the stage strewn with popcorn. It was a delightful experience, eliciting many chuckles from the audience. In addition to being the best-smelling piece of music I have ever seen, it successfully illustrated the potential music to be found in a mundane event.


THE JUNIPER TREE in New York City 



NEW YORK CITY — The Juniper Tree, Alice Tully Hall, 3/20/07

June  2007 , vol 71 , no.12

On March 20, Alice Tully Hall witnessed the New York premiere of Philip Glass and Robert Moran’s collaborative opera The Juniper Tree, first heard at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre in 1985. Collegiate Chorale’s finely graded choral singing formed the gentle backbone to a satisfying evening. The two composers’ styles dovetail remarkably well — Moran waxing more angular and illustrative, Glass supplying his patented arpeggiated fantasias, like Janácek ostinatos blissing out on peyote — to form a score perhaps not riveting but attractive and touching. Glass and Moran set a libretto adapted with ingenuity by Arthur Yorinks from the gruesome family story “Von dem Machandelboom” in the Brothers Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen — on one level an unsettling fantasy of fatherhood unencumbered by wives or mothers, since both the “good” and “bad” maternal figures end up dead.

Both received inspired embodiment in this well-cast performance. It was wonderful to see and hear the dynamic, striking-voiced Stella Zambalis back in New York, painting the Stepmother in trenchantly limned phrasing but attractively dark-hued tone. (Why exactly aren’t we still hearing this gifted, attractive artist at Lincoln Center’s opera companies?) Ilana Davidson’s crystalline soprano, scrupulous musicianship and expressive diction — all evoking comparison with Dawn Upshaw in her radiant early years — made the doomed Wife an appealing figure of dignity and pathos.

Though his spoken contributions were less surely weighed, Kevin Deas (Husband) provided strong presence and a pleasant-sounding bass. Two good, contrasting lighter sopranos were slightly undermined by mike placement: the fast vibrato of Anita Johnson lent her Son/Juniper Bird an aptly androgynous quality, while Elizabeth Hillebrand’s Daughter showed a bright, girlish timbre suggesting a classic Broadway ingenue. Of the three gift-givers who sang Glass’s wordless countermelody below the Bird’s repeated lovely/grisly song (“Mama killed me, Papa ate me…”), the ear-catching voice belonged to bass-baritone Lawrence Long as the Goldsmith.

Collegiate Chorale’s simple, effective presentation (supervised by Roger Rees) could not have been much improved upon. Michael Riesman, a Glass associate for more than three decades, conducted with authority a fine team of instrumentalists from the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s: percussion (Barry Centanni and William Trigg), flute (Elizabeth Mann) and keyboards (Nelson Padgett and Kenneth Bowen) deserved bonuses for underpinning the strong ensemble work, and Anna Reinersman’s harp made a thrilling Guillaume Tell-style entry to mark the start of the Son’s resurrection. Ellen Keel provided excellent projected titles, running them with crack timing, doubtless challenging in so (deliberately) repetitive a score. The titles worked in visual counterpoint with Wendall Harrington and Ron Amato’s projections of charming but haunting original illustrations by Maurice Sendak, whose suggestion originated this unusual collaborative project.




by John W. Lambert
The name of composer Robert Moran is probably not familiar to many of our readers, but he’s an American (b.1937 in Denver) and he’s still alive and kicking, and UNC-CH is celebrating his music this year with not one but two events. The first, reported above by Roy Dicks, was a performance of “Points of Departure.” The festivities continue in April, when UNC’s Opera Workshop presents two performances of his opera “From the Towers of the Moon.” We met and interviewed Moran during a UNCSO rehearsal on October 3. Tonu Kalam will conduct the opera, and the production will be directed by Terry Rhodes. Moran missed the performance reviewed above due to a prior commitment in Munich.

Moran doesn’t know Roger Hannay, distinguished composer emeritus of UNC, but
the two have much in common. Both had singularly wild periods of activity early in their careers; both later seem to have embraced the realities of contemporary performance and the needs of our increasingly aging concert audiences–in America, at least.

Moran seems to have known everybody who was anybody and to have studied with many of ’em. An early convert to opera (thanks in part to the Met’s radio broadcasts), he credits 12-tone specialist Hans Erich Apostel (an acolyte of Schoenberg), Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud among his principal teachers but was a friend of such diverse artists as Janis Joplin, John Cage, and members of The Grateful Dead (before the group assumed that name). His first huge splash was an extraordinary San Francisco happening in August 1969 that this writer, returning from Viet Nam, missed by just two months. The event was a city-work for the entire Bay Area that, according to a blurb at his website (at

involved “100,000 performers, 2 radio stations, 1 tv station, 30 skyscrapers, 6
airplanes, dance ensembles in the streets, etc.” He readily concedes that such a thing could not happen now, in the wake of September 11.

The full-orchestra “Points of Departure” (1993) was prepared for a CD recorded by David Zinman in Baltimore. It is based on an earlier dance work of the same name for chamber orchestra that has proven to be one of Moran’s most enduring scores.

Rehearsals are the workshops in which music comes to life, so when time permits we tend to seek them out. (Please note that aside from the NC Symphony’s “open” rehearsals, students and other interested citizens may arrange to attend many of our preparatory sessions at no charge.) The UNCSO rehearsal of October 3 was revelatory in many respects. Kalam is an outstanding conductor who each season must rebuild his mostly-student ensemble from the ground up. He doesn’t confine his programming to mainstream works although for many of his players things like the Swan Lake Suite are “new” discoveries. The Moran is tricky but gelled quickly and made a big impression. As Dicks has noted, it is both catchy and danceable, and
it ends “with a searching, uplifting theme.” It also sounds American, but American as colored by the best of the great 20th-century French school. There’s a touch of influence of the so-called minimalist composers but this is no minimalist piece. This is understandable in the context of one of Moran’s most telling remarks: he observed that the first great example of what we now call minimalism is the introduction to Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

It will be interesting to experience a live performance of one of Moran’s operas, and the April 19-20 renditions of “From the Towers of the Moon” will give local audiences that opportunity. As the composer’s website notes, the one-act work features a libretto by Michael John LaChiusa, was commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera in 1992, is based on an ancient Japanese legend of the Moon Goddess, who comes to Earth, and lasts approximately 80 minutes. It is scored for flute/piccolo, oboe/English horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, horn, trombone, three synthesizers, one percussionist (playing one timpani, triangle, two suspended cymbals, large tam, suspended car coil, vibraphone, chimes, two timbales, and two sets of bongos) plus two violins, viola, cello (or strings without bassi). The revised version of the opera includes roles for soprano, two mezzos, three tenors, two baritones, a bass, and a mixed chorus portraying various moon gods, the court, etc. Watch CVNC’s calendar for details.


Two Salzburg Festival 2014 (Aspekte, Neue Musik) notices concerning “Buddha goes to Bayreuth” (complete evening’s work)



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