In this final piece on most prominent of the organizations that do noticeable programming of contemporary or near-contemporary music, I’ll deal with a variety of activities around the city.
Perhaps the most consistently interesting programming in Los Angeles is put together by Jacaranda. As implied by their subhead, “music on the edge of Santa Monica”, their programs do much more than give service to the idea that music is actually written and worthy today. (Yes, their performances are held within walking distance of the ocean.) This season they begin the first of two seasons focusing on the music of Olivier Messiaen, commemorating the centary of his birth in 1908. The first of the Jacaranda concerts, in two weeks, will include the performance of works by William Bolcom and Joan Tower that fairly directly invoke Messiaen, plus works by Elliott Carter and Steve Reich that offer indirect associations. Read their brochure. Season tickets for eight great programs are only $190.
I don’t subscribe to the Los Angeles Master Chorale because I can only take a little religious music in secular concerts without becoming tone deaf, and this makes half of the LAMC’s concerts pretty unappealing to me. But, oh, that other half! Their November concert includes the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in the premiere of Louis Andriessen’s The City of Dis plus God Protect Us From War by the Estonian Veljo Tormis whose work is new to me. The April concert programs Gorecki’s Five Marian Songs. The early May concert is entirely contmporary, with works by Gorecki, Morten Lauridsen, Salonen, Stucky, Judith Weir, Eric Whitacre, and the premiere of a work by David O. The mid-May concert of opera music includes the premiere of a choral concert suite from The Grapes of Wrath by Ricky Ian Gordon. Even the Christmas concert comprises music and arrangements by contemporary composers.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra includes a contemporary work in almost half of their programs, and they are active in promoting commissions of new music in a program enabling small donors to participate in commissions. It’s a model of a program. Pacific Serenades, a chamber group, seems to include the premiere of a new work in each of their concerts in a season, giving each program in three venues: one in Westwood, one in Pasadena, and one in a private home; season tickets are approximately $25 a concert. Their concerts seem to use the contemporary work as the spread in a sandwich between works of 18th and 19th century composers, which is a little more conventional than I like. But their list of premieres includes composers whose music I admire, and their site includes clips of several of the works.
REDCAT, the CalArts output in Walt Disney Concert Hall, provides an active music program edging to the avant garde. The major concert this fall will be in less than a week with California EAR Ensemble performing Andriessen’s Dubbelspoor plus works by Liza Lim, Franco Donatoni, and Raphaele Biston, whose work is new enough to avoid references to him in Google. The music program for the fall and winter is pretty adventurous, and it’s fun. CalArts also sends out regular emails of events at their campus in Valencia.
UCLALive, which has a great program of performances for theatre and dance, serving as the West Coast equivalent to BAM, comes close to ignoring contemporary music except for a few rare performers who have gained name recognition and whose music might have been described favorably in the New York Times (e.g., Kronos, Bang on a Can). The music programming is no more adventurous than the attitudes and positions of the speakers they bring in.
The Thornton School of Music at USC has a great program for the student audience, mostly by student performers. The calendar of events includes some programs that would really be worth going to. Noteworthy this fall is their Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Donald Crockett, performing Stephen Hartke’s Sons of Noah.
Too many events, too little money and time!