Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound. Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.

He has been commissioned to write music for the Scorchio Electric String Quartet, ModernWorks! (funding from Meet the Composer/ Commissioning Music USA), the Auros Group for New Music, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, David Holzman, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the InterEnsemble of Padova, Italy. His work has also been featured on the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” series. Cornicello’s works have also been performed by the Chicago Civic Symphony, Parnassus, ALEA III, Composers Concordance, Madeleine Shapiro, Robert Black, among many other outstanding groups and solo performers. His music has been presented as part of the Darmstadt International Festival of New Music as well as the June in Buffalo Festival.

Cornicello’s Second String Quartet has been recorded by the Atlantic String Quartet; the Second Sonata for Piano by David Holzman (Centaur). More recently, his Post-Modern Waltz was recorded by Eric Moe for Albany Records. A portrait CD of Cornicello’s works is scheduled for 2006 release on Albany Records.

As a performer, he has conducted or played piano in his own works on numerous occasions. While a graduate student at Rutgers, he formed and directed the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music. More recently, Cornicello has begun performing on the laptop, using a variety of interfaces and the Max/MSP program. Those performances, mostly with EEE!, have had a notable impact on his music, as EEE!’s music ranges from hip-hop to experimental noise. EEE! is based at Eastern Connecticut State University, where Cornicello is an Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Lab.

Cornicello received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, and Martin Boykan. His teachers also include Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey, and Richard Beirach.

His current fields of interest include developing unusual interfaces for live computer music performances, as well as continuing to investigate resonance and spatialization. His recent and current projects (mostly for string instruments and electronics) have been exploring the latter two, and the series of experimental works ReZenant Garden, performed by EEE! have operated on all three areas of interest. Future projects will include works for instrumental groups or soloists and electronics, as well as turntablists.

Cornicello's works are published by C.F. Peters Corporation and APNM, and he is a member of BMI.

Thursday, December 06, 2007
Eroica Trio at Eastern

Last week, the Eroica Trio came to Eastern Connecticut State University for a concert and master class. The event was sponsored by the Arts & Lecture Series at Eastern, totally out of our jurisdiction - basically, a note appeared to us saying that the Trio was coming, and we got the dates. Odd, but nice.

Oddly, I wound up turning pages for Erika, the trio's pianist. Oddly, because it was strange not having a student do it, but that's the way things worked out. Really odd, because my new eyeglass prescription had not yet been filled. (Yes, after 43 years, I have joined the bespectacled set.) I didn't have the heart to tell her this, particularly after she asked me to sit a little further back as she sometimes makes wide arm motions. Luckily, there were no miscues, but sometimes score following was a bit of a strain.

The concert started with what I thought was the best piece on the program: Rebecca Clarke's Trio, written apparently in the 1920s. (The Arts and Lecture Series is not at all big on program notes, something I've been meaning to bring up with them. It's not like they don't have their choice of experts in a given field here!) I don't know much about Clarke's music - surely, she's a neglected figure. The music itself was a curious mix of what would become Americana (open chord voicings) and the octatonic scale. So, there would be passages of one kind of octatonic scale, and then a quick shift into a different scale - maybe a direct major or minor scale, or a different kind of altered scale. Altogether, quite interesting, especially how it pre-dates a lot of trends. I know the octatonic scale has been around for many years prior to this 1921 piece, but I liked the way she made use of it! And, I was certainly happy that the Trio performed this piece. True, it's not cutting-edge music, but it's nice to see a group playing the work of a lesser-known composer.

On the same concert, they also played Café Music by Paul Schoenfield. I was a little less impressed with this piece. It was written in the 1980s, and from the description, I thought the composer would have had a post-modern breakthrough. Basically, in the midst of writer's block, the composer had heard music of a local jazz trio, and so began composing based on what he heard. Café Music seems to come from a composer who might enjoy jazz, but does not have a real appreciation of the genre. It sort of reminds me of the composers who did this in the 1920s: they obviously didn't spend much time playing jazz. As much as I enjoy that music, I chuckle when I think of someone like Stravinsky trying to take a solo on How High the Moon.

Schoenfield's piece also seemed a bit long to me. I know the Trio says it always gets an enthusiastic response, as it did in CT, and I will say they made the piece sound wonderful. Some pieces, no matter how well performed, can overstay their welcome.

The concert also included the Schubert Trio Op. 99, a staple of the Trio repertoire. Altogether, the Trio's concert was a beautiful combination of superior musicianship and grace.

The next day, two-thirds (pianist Erika Nickrenz and violinist Susie Park) of the trio showed up for a master class. Of course, I had to ask about their commitment to developing new repertoire. The only living composers (that I know personally) I could think of that have written for the piano trio were David Rakowski (Hyperblue, anyone?) and Leon Kirchner (although I wouldn't be surprised if Charles Wuorinen wrote one). I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they have done a substantial amount of new pieces, although it seems like they do more adventurous music outside the Trio.