Our weekly listen and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, since they’re nice enough to offer so much good listening online:

John Mark Sherlock (b. 1970 — Canada)

I first discovered John’s work years ago on the venerable MP3 site Vitaminic. It’s often intimate, long, subtle and irrational; from some other things I’ve heard out of there, I think the breath of Feldman blew out of Buffalo, took a detour around Montréal, and ended up finding a home in Toronto. From an article by Michael Maclean: ….John Mark Sherlock is connecting to the music as well. The Toronto composer toils happily, if somewhat obscurely, in the city’s contemporary music scene, writing commissioned pieces for performers and small dance companies. He is in love with old electronic keyboards: Hammond organs, Rhodes pianos. His music blends their sounds with traditional orchestral instruments. His works are a response to the music he loves, from pop songs to classical works to jazz. Composing for him begins with what he envisions as a kind of musical shipwreck, “with all this flotsam and jetsam floating around on the surface, and I’m just hanging on to a piece of something”. A generous selection of listening awaits under the “audio” button.

Ava Mendoza (US)

I’ll just let Ava’s own direct, no-B.S. words do the talking:

“I am a guitar player, composer and quasi-electronic musician in Oakland, CA. I play improvised music/weird rock/original compositions. Improvised music was the first type of music that I got seriously interested in as a teenager, and I suppose any musical roots I have are in free improvisation.. That said, some of my music does not involve any improvisation at all — I indulge the anal retentive side of my personality by composing tape (fixed media electronic) pieces, and also sometimes very through-composed instrumental pieces. Some of my solo guitar compositions draw a lot from early country and blues music, sort of reworked in my own way. I am an extremely curious person and love a lot of very different sorts of music. I started improvising as a teenager, when I luckily met some socially-ostracized kids who introduced me to free jazz. At the time I was at Interlochen Arts Academy studying classical guitar. Soon after, I happily abandoned the classical guitar and began improvising on electric guitar. (My first electric guitar was a Peavey Raptor, which is not a very good guitar at all.) I graduated from Mills College, where I studied electronic music with John Bischoff and Maggi Payne. I spent a lot of my time at Mills ignoring my guitar and focusing on tape (electronic) composition. I call myself a quasi-electronic musician because I really don’t do much with electronics live, I though I’ve worked intensively on tape pieces. My recent focus has been on playing amplified acoustic guitar and trying to get a range of electronic-like textures out of the instrument without using many effects. I’ve been working a lot on playing solo, both fixed compositions and freely improvised.”

Don’t visit expecting to hear chamber concertos, but do expect some young, unafraid and vital soundplay.

Federico Rueben (b. 1978 — Costa Rica / EU) & Mauricio Pauly (b. 1976 — Costa Rica / EU)

Two composers, both native to Costa Rica but currently living in Europe (Rueben in the Netherlands and Pauly in England), team up to share this website. Quick bio sketches:

Federico Reuben trained as a pianist since the age of 9. He studied politics for two years at the Universidad de Costa Rica in San José before leaving to the United States in 1999 to study composition with Lawrence Moss at the University of Maryland. Since September 2002 he has been living in The Netherlands and studying at the Koninklijk Conservatorium with Gilius van Bergeijk and Martijn Padding where he earned his Bachelors Degree in 2003. Currently he is enrolled as a postgraduate student at the same institution studying composition with Louis Andriessen and Richard Ayres.

Mauricio Pauly studied composition in San José (Costa Rica), Miami and Boston (USA) with Lukas Foss, Richard Cornell, Fredrick Kaufman and others. As a bass player, Mauricio recorded two live albums with Costarican pianist Manuel Obregón and toured most of Central America with the legendary José Capmany and Café con Leche. In the US, he worked as a free-lance bassist and teacher. Currently is in the process of moving to the UK to begin a research-based PhD at the University of York. He is a founding member of the áltaVoz ensemble, a group of five composers of Latin-American origin who are now spread around America and Europe, organizing concerts in collaboration with other ensembles and performers, for the promotion of their music.

Don’t let the quirky website (navigation on the right half calls up stuff on the left) defeat you; each has a link to “works” that will give you lots of listening to highly varied and imaginative pieces. (Rueben’s are marked as MP3s; Pauly’s recordings are found as ZIP files by clicking on the work’s title). The site also chronicles other projects they’re involved with, with some further listening.

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