Avant Garde Entices Oberlin With Mixed-Media 'L'sGA'

An article by Wilma Salisbury.

"Blow your mind (and 50c) on the mixed media concert in Finney Chapel," suggest signs presently posted on the Oberlin College campus.

Featured on the avant-garde program tonight at 8:30 will be a staged performance of "L's GA" ("Lincoln's Gettysburg Address") by Salvatore Martirano, a theater peice for gas-masked politicos, helium bomb, three movie projectors and two-channel tape recorder.

Describing his notorious composition to a group of Oberlin students yesterday, Martirano said, "It starts with eight minutes of low sound that actually vibrates the floor (you get a massage), and ends with an organ version of 'My heart at thy sweet voice' from 'Samson and Delilah.' It gives a very exalted feeling."

The 24-minute piece, the composer explained, also incorporated Lincoln's speech recited in several dialects, films of faces, flowers, tongues and other things, and electronic sound from 24 speakers.

"It's not too loud for people who are accustomed to rock," he said.

The original impetus for "L's GA," which also exists in recorded and filmed versions, came from a lecture Martirano heard opposing the use of political subjects in art works. So negative was the former Marine's reaction that he decided to write a work showing that "it could be done."

Completed in 1968, the piece has received 35 performances in a variety of geographical locations and physical environments.

The audience reaction is different every time," Martirano said. "At the Electric Circus in New York, people were shouting and cheering. But in Portland, Ore., they just sat there, stunned."

Martirano reports, however, that his music has never stimulated violent responses.

"I try to make connections with the audience," he said. "I start with something they know - texts by Lincoln, Shakespeare, Dante - and then translate word inflections into many different sounds. Generally, people like my music - because it's easy."

Martirano's career as a composer began more than 20 years ago when he was a student of Herbert Elwell at Oberlin. After completing his undergraduate degree, he attended the Eastman School of Music where he studied with Bernard Rogers. He then received a Fulbright fellowship to Italy where he worked with Luigi Dallapiccola.

Numerous fellowships, grants, awards and commissions followed. And today as composer-in-residence at the University of Illinois, Martirano is securely entrenched in the university complex, which he regards as "a very enlightened place to be."

To an impressive list of compositions for orchestra, chamber ensemble, chorus, voice, electronic tape and mixed media, Martirano will soon add a new work scored for large orchestra, controller and bunny.