The great creative artists embrace the totality of existence — joy and sorrow, passion and powerlessness, life and death. In his masterwork Duino Elegies, celebrated German poet Rainer Maria Rilke posits his conclusive statement on humanity's complex relationship with the spirit forces that both haunt and guide our “heart-work” with their supreme consciousness. Rilke expounds on his own clear-eyed clairvoyance in “The Fourth Elegy” as an ability to know “flowering and fading simultaneously,” a sight that invokes both exultation and lamentation.
Just as Rilke sought a deeper connection to the pulse of being by attempting to push his perceptive powers beyond the ordinary, so too does Bay Area saxophonist, composer, and poet Phillip Greenlief. At this weekend's Evander Music Summer 2000 Festival — a celebration of local jazz/ new-music artists and the saxophonist's Evander record label — the artist will debut Music for Rilke's Duino Elegies, an ambitious suite of compositions with melodic lines sculpted after the famed poems. No stranger to the unusual discipline of translating serious literature into serious sounds (in the early '90s the composer triumphed with his performance “Love Songs to the Episodes of James Joyce's Ulysses“) — the saxophonist's wind trio with Steve Adams (flute) and Ben Goldberg (clarinet) does not need a singer to suggest an eloquence and mystical beauty arguably on par with Rilke's own. Speaking from the heart, Greenlief's Elegies aim for transcendence.
The Evander Music Summer 2000 Festival takes place Friday, June 2, at 8 p.m. at Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez (at 23rd Street), with an evening of new compositions for trio from Alex Candelaria and Phillip Greenlief's Music for Rilke's Duino Elegies. Tickets are $10 (general) and $8 (student with ID); call 282-2317. The second night is Saturday, June 3, at 8 p.m. at Temescal Art Center, 511 48th St. (at Telegraph), Oakland, with an evening of improvised music by Phillip Greenlief, Vinny Golia (winds), Miya Masaoka (koto), and Myles Boisen (guitar). Tickets prices same as Friday; see www.evandermusic.com for more details.