Ben Stapp, an in-demand tubist in New York City and a composer and performer that continues to turn heads, has built up a versatile and extensive resume over the years. Most recently he performed with TILT in John Luther Adam’s premier “Sila” (2014) at Lincoln Center. His group the Zozimos won 1st place in the Bob Stewart Tuba Competition at the 38th Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. He has performed with Red Baraat, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Anti-Social Music among many others. His recent recordings have been with Joel Harrison’s 19 (Sunnyside), Stephen Haynes’ Quintet (New Atlantis) featuring, Warren Smith, William Parker and Joe Morris, Mino Cinelu’s newest project with Tony Grey and Jamshied Sharifi, Jeff Newell’s Quartet featuring Alan Ferber and Brian Woodruff. With his own group, Zozimos, he has played at the Stone, Cornelia Street Cafe, the Tea Lounge and at Roulette where he received a large ensemble commission for his premier of Eight Houses (2011) featuring Satoshi Takeishi, Shoko Nagai and Nate Wooley among many others.
Ben Stapp and the Zozimos’ current project is his opera Myrhha’s Red Book based on an original narrative derived from Carl Jung’s Red Book. The premier of this work was seen in August 2013 but since its inception further development of the work has brought forth several chamber formations and reconstructions as the piece continued to reach for its potential manifestations.
The opera in 2 Acts with an intermission, is a musical setting to a play by Peter Bulmer called “Myrrha’s Red Book.” The narrative explores the real as well as the imagined realms of the characters as the sequence of events unravels in a Sandman-esque, pyschological thriller. The original play is inspired by Carl Jung’s Red Book, which is more or less a journal of his writings when he dissected his own unconscious to allow himself to walk the precipice of delirium. “Myrrha’s Red Book,” takes place in a hyper-realistic world where memories can be implanted and dream states and wakeful ones are often confused. A woman awakes unsure of her reality later to find out a psychologist had been carrying out Jung’s unanswered questions concerning the mind, on her. As the woman starts to understand her reality, strange things start to occur to herself and those around her. As the story unfolds and the fantastic and real world begins to meld the audience becomes aware of what kind of Pandora’s box was unleashed by the psychologist’s experiments, giving way to something out of a Lovecraftian tragedy.
A guiding principle in the composition is coordinating improvised sections as well as asynchronistic layers in the style of Ives, Lutoslowski and Corigliano. This facet serves to to allow spontaneous moments to occur more easily and gives the improvisers more ownership of the material so that improvisation is a more indelible component of the composition.
As a composer writing for such an amazing group of musicians and most importantly, incredible improvisers, this piece has become a study for me in writing parts that allow the necessary room for such an ensemble to thrive, while at the same time, adhering to a narrative form.
Peter Bulmer: Writer
Ben Stapp – Tuba
Kristin Slipp – Myrrha, Orpheus
Christopher Johnson – the Doctor, Fortune Teller, Detective
Kenny Warren – Trumpet
David Smith – Trumpet, Flugel
Dustin Carlson – Guitar, Pedals
Justin wood – Flute, Clarinet, Alto
Oran Etkin – Bass Clarinets, Clarinet, Alto Sax
Vasko Dukovski – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Hulusi
Satoshi Takeishi – Percussion
Shoko Nagai – Piano, Moog, Pedals, Electronics
Tomas Cruz – Orpheus and the Detective
Ben Stapp + The Zozimos‘ performance is made possible with support from Jerome Foundation.
The Jerome Foundation, a long-time supporter of young composers, was a mainstay in Roulette’s early development and continues to help us fulfill our mission by presenting ambitious work by promising artists. Each year, the Jerome Foundation supports four artist residencies and five commissions at Roulette. These artists are consistently some of the strongest in our repertoire, and we are delighted to honor the Jerome Foundation’s 50th Anniversary grant.