The two living American composers who share the name John Adams were the big winners at last night’s Grammy Awards.
John Adams, of Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer fame, won the Best Orchestral Performance for the second year in a row with the Saint Louis Symphony, conducted by David Robertson, being selected for its recording of his latest scores: City Noir and the Saxophone Concerto. Last year, the San Francisco Symphony’s recording of his Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine took home the award.
The Seattle Symphony received the Best Contemporary Classical Composition award for its recording of John LUTHER Adams’s Become Ocean. The orchestral work, inspired by the Pacific Ocean and the effects of climate change, was premiered by the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot in 2013. Last year it won the Pulitzer Prize for music.
The wonderful Hilary Hahn and the pianist Cory Smythe shared a Best Chamber Music Grammy for “27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores,” a two-CD set of 27 short, diverse pieces that the violinist commissioned. .
A Lifetime Achievement Award went to the conductor, composer and 26-time Grammy winner Pierre Boulez, whom the announcer on the televised broadcast insisted on calling “BOU-LAY.”
For those you anticipating posthumous fame, the most encouraging selection of the evening was a Best Classical Compendium Grammy for late American maverick composer and inventor Harry Partch. Accepting the award for his recording of Partch’s Plectra & Percussion Dances, producer John Schneider noted that his musicians had to learn the composer’s daunting 43-note scale as part of their preparation. Congratulations and thank you to the great people at Bridge Records.
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Carnegie Hall will mark its 125th anniversary next season by launching a new music project that will commission 125 new works over the next five years. Carnegie will present 15 world premieres next season, two American premieres, and 19 New York premieres by composers including Magnus Lindberg, John Adams, Olga Neuwirth, Jonathan Leshnoff and the composing collective Sleeping Giant, which is made of composers Andrew Norman, Robert Honstein, Ted Hearne, Jacob Cooper, Christopher Cerrone, and Timo Andres.
Carnegie named the Kronos Quartet its creative chair for the season and said that as part of the newmusic project it would jointly commission 10 new works a year with the group for the next five years.
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The Lincoln Center Festival schedule is out and, as usual, it has lots of goodies for new music lovers. The festival opens with Danny Elfman’s music from the films of Tim Burton, July 6-12. Expect lots of fans dressed as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorshands and, alas, Batman. Of more interest to the hardcore, the Queens-based piano and percussion chamber ensemble Yarn/Wire will debut new works from three extraordinary contemporary French composers—Tristan Murail, Misato Mochizuki, and Raphaël Cendo—at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse.
For the really hardcore, there’s two events featuring the music of Harry Partch: In Harry Partch: Bitter Music on July 23, David Moss performs a portion of Partch’s musical text in a hybrid lecture-performance and on July 23 and 24, Heiner Goebbels will lead Ensemble Musikfabrik in Partch’s final large-scale work, Delusion of the Fury. For us older people, the Cleveland Orchestra will perform Messiaen’s Chronochromie and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5 on July 16.
There are also some dances and plays and stuff.
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The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) has received a $450,000 award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support OpenICE, a new initiative, that will yield more than 150 new concerts featuring more than 60 newly commissioned works over the next three years. The concerts will be presented through seasons in ICE’s home cities of New York and Chicago, as well as new seasons in cities and rural areas throughout the United States, and will extend internationally to diverse corners of the world including Greenland and the Amazonas region of Brazil that have little to no access to contemporary music.
Read the full press release:
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Next to the early and unlikely appearance of Mr. Eliot’s cruelest camellias, the most anticipated January event for many of us wintering in the Low Country is the arrival (in the other mailbox out by the street) of the annual printed Spoleto USA program. For those of you who may not know much about it, Spoleto USA is one of the world’s major arts festivals–bigger and better, for example, than the annual summer Lincoln Center Festival, whose programming is similar. It is safe to say that Spoleto USA has been a key factor in making Charleston, SC–also blessed with great winter weather, gloriously inventive southern cooking, and Bill Murray–the biggest little city in America.
We have the composer Gian Carlo Menotti to thank for that. He founded the festival in 1977 as a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy. Over the early years, budgets were overrun, deficits mounted, philistines were elected to the board. There were the usual artist vs. accountant hissy fits and Menotti bailed for the good in the mid-1990s. The philistines and the angels have generally played nicely together since with the result that the programs are still excellent and finances are much more stable.
The program for the 17-day, May-June festival are a combination of classical and jazz music, dance, theater and a curious category called Physical Theater, which features the kind of tumbling, and acrobatic circus sort of dance, sort of not dance that I thought had disappeared with the Ed Sullivan Show. But, apparently not.
Not sure who to credit (I suspect John Kennedy) but there is also an especially generous amount of new music to heard each year. The featured opera this year is the world premiere of Huang Ruo and Jennifer Wen Ma’s opera Paradise Interrupted, featuring Qian Yi. May 22, 24, 27, 29, 31. And they’re also doing Huang’s The Lost Garden Chamber Concerto on May 23. There’s a conversation about the opera with Huang and Wen at the Charleston Library Society on May 24.
Bank of America sponsors a great series of 11 Chamber Music concerts which are usually sprinkled. with a healthy dose of music by composers who are still, more or less, breathing. This year’s composer-in-residence is Mark Applebaum, who will be premiering a piece. The St. Lawrence String Quartet will celebrate its 20th year of Spoleto USA residency. Alisa Weilerstein will be there.
Joe Miller’s Westminster Choir Concerts at St. Luke’s and St. Paul usually pair old and new works. Urmas Sisask’s Oremus and Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine join Montiverdi’s Si Ch’io vorren morire and the opening chorus of Bach’s Cantata 79 on May 24 and 27. David Lang’s marvelous The Little Match Girl Passion, with choreography by Poitus Lidberg, is scheduled along with Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte for May 30 and May 31.
The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, directed by John Kennedy, will do Bill Morrison/Michael Gordon’s Decasia (that old thing–just joking, just joking) on June 1. Kennedy is also directing a great-looking series of concerts called Music in Time that features the aforementioned Huang Ruo, Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata , Hans Otte’s concert-length piano suite The Book of Sounds, an evening of new commissioned works by Christopher Cerrone, Anna Meredith, Adrian Knight, Timo Andres, Nicole Lizzee and Samuel Carol Adams and–finally, for the hardcore–an evening called Quarter-Tone Shredding featuring the Living Earth Show, San Francisco’s electric guitar and percussion duo–performing Damon Waitkus’ North Pacific Garbage Patch, Brian Ferneyhough’s Renvoli/Shards, Ken Ueno’s WATT and assorted other stuff.
I’m sure I missed some things so take a look at the online program, get yourself some tickets, and get on down heah. You heah?
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At Window Rock: ETHEL’s Kip Jones, dear friend James Bilagody, Jesse and Fiona Sherman.
For the past decade, the nationally acclaimed string quartet ETHEL has served as the Ensemble-in-Residence of the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP). To date, ETHEL’s residency has impacted almost 18,000 students, premiered over 150 works by Native American children, and touched more than 15 schools throughout Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. For about three weeks, the quartet conducts intense, one-on-one tutorial sessions, readings and rehearsals to help student composers refine their works. They then showcase the children’s pieces at school performances, all culminating at the public performances at the Grand Canyon Music Festival, which are recorded and sometimes later aired on National Public Radio (NPR). In the post that follows, ETHEL founding member, artistic director and viola Ralph Farris reports on the quartet’s most recent residency.
by Ralph Farris
From late August through early September, NACAP students (ages 13-21) participate in composition intensives in schools across Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, under the expert tutelage of superstar Native American composer Raven Chacon and his brilliant associates Trevor Reed, Blair Quamahongnewa and Mike Begay. Resident ensembles then visit these schools and workshop with the young composers on their new works, working out all the nitty-gritty details in service of the composers’ intentions. This new music is then performed at school assemblies – showcasing the young local talent, and celebrating these students’ work, right there, in their home communities. The resident ensembles then pick up and drive 100+ miles to the next school, and do it all again the next day.
After a fortnight of criss-crossing the Southwest, the resident ensembles ultimately arrive at Grand Canyon National Park, where the festival presents ALL of the new student pieces in a marathon concert. Each year there are some 30 pieces presented; the event is recorded and each student is provided a CD of their own work – for future study, for college applications, for sharing with grandmother…
Several of our NACAP students are now in music school; several of them are pursuing other career paths. All of them have been deeply moved – as has ETHEL – by their work with NACAP. Through this festival, these young people see themselves anew – they find their voices. And in turn, ETHEL has found new depth, new color, new joy – in ours.
NACAP itself has received numerous honors, including NewMusic USA’s New Music Educators Award, Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and an Award from The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities(!). Our NACAP students have even been visited by John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
What an amazing thing that happens each year in the Southwest! What a gift it has been for ETHEL to be a part of this extraordinary program!
ETHEL has enjoyed inspired collaborations with groups and soloists through our tenure with NACAP. In 2011, we were very pleased to welcome the Sphinx Organization’s powerhouse Catalyst Quartet as the NACAP Fellowship Quartet. This season, we were thrilled to work with trombone ensemble the Guidonian Hand, as well as ETHEL’s former (and founding) member, Mary Rowell. Under the auspices of this festival, ETHEL has toured the Southwest with Hawaiian slack-key guitar virtuoso Jeff Peterson, Bluegrass legend Dean Osborne, and Taos Pueblos’ master of Native American flute, Robert Mirabal.
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A reminder of the muscular, haunting style of Peter Schulthorpe, who passed away a couple of days ago.
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Vijay Iyer and the Brentano Quartet in a live performance of sections from Mutations at Greene Space
Over the past two decades, Vijay Iyer has recorded some 18 albums of bold, genre-defying and original music that navigates the fine line between composition and improvisation, between jazz and New Music. Although his restless musical imagination roams easily through both Carter and Monk territory, unearthing insights that evolve and morph over time, the gestures have largely been identifiable as jazz. His new and first ECM recording—Mutations—unveils more of the composer side of the 42-year-old New Yorker’s prolific bag. The title composition–for string quartet, piano and electronics—was written nearly 10 years ago but is recorded here for the first time, with considerable care, by Iyer and top chamber players Miranda Cuckson, Michi Wiancko, Kyle Armbrust and Kivie Cahn-Lipman, under the magic ear of Manford Eicher.
Is Mutations jazz or is it contemporary classical or some sort of Third Stream, as envisioned by Gunther Schuller? Does it matter?
“I find myself at the intersection of several music communities where people have different understandings and assumptions about what music is,” he says. “When you talk about genres you’re really talking about different communities of people each of which has people who have a shared understanding of music. But, those assumptions shift as we are exposed to different approaches and sounds so we are constantly redefining what music is. ”
In other words, he isn’t much interested in labels or categories.
“As you can imagine, from the perspective of an artist who makes music and has lived pretty intimately in both the jazz and classical worlds it is not useful think about labels or categories. It’s more useful to think about what can I do with these particular people. Because when you talk about genres you’re really talking about communities and people who have a shared understanding about what is music. When you’re exposed to something new, that can expand or alter your perceptions.”
Lately, Iyer has become the Pharrell Williams of the New Music community—a musician who has worked over 20 years to become an overnight success. Although Iyer’s music is unlikely to dominate the planet in the same resistance-is-futile way that Williams has, he has plenty to be “happy” about, too. In the last two years, he’s won a MacArthur Genius Award, gotten a tenured teaching position at Harvard, landed a big commission and retrospective at BAM this coming December and released an extraordinary new album on ECM.
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Sign up for the New York Philharmonic’s eNews for a chance to win a pair of tickets to hear the New York Philharmonic in a concert featuring the World Premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 4 and Violinist Midori on your choice of Thursday, June 5, 2014, at 7:30 PM or Saturday, June 7, 2014, at 8pm at the first-ever NYPHIL BIENNIAL! 2 winners will be selected on May 31, 2014. The winners will be notified by the email address provided on the form. One entry per email address.
Read about the concert here.
Read about Christopher Rouse below.
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The American Composers Forum–in partnership with the super cool So Percussion, has announced the finalists in the 2014 American Composers Forum National Composition Contest: Michael Laurello (Yale School of Music), Todd Lerew (CalArts), and Kristina Warren (University of Virginia). In addition to a cash prize, the three finalists get to compose an 8 – 10 minute piece for So Percussion, and travel to Princeton to hear it workshopped and premiered on July 20 as part of the So Percussion Summer Institute 2014. One of the works will be chosen to receive the final prize, which includes an additional cash award and future public performances by So Percussion.
The National Composition Contest is open to composers currently enrolled in graduate and undergraduate institutions in the United States; this year’s installment drew more than 250 applicants from 39 states. Each finalist receives an award of $1,000 plus an additional stipend of $750 to help defray expenses associated with attending the workshop and studio performance. Along with further performances of his/her piece, the winning composer will receive an additional $2,000.
The competition began during the 2010-11 season as the Finale National Composition Contest, partnering with the group eighth blackbird. JACK Quartet was the ensemble for 2011-12. The competition went on hiatus last season, returning in September 2013 under its new name, the American Composers Forum National Composition Contest.
A B O U T T H E F I N A L I S T S
Michael Laurello (b. 1981) is an American composer and pianist. He has written for ensembles and soloists such as the Yale Baroque Ensemble, Sound Icon, the 15.19 Ensemble, NotaRiotous (the Boston Microtonal Society), guitarist Flavio Virzì, soprano Sarah Pelletier, pianist/composer John McDonald, and clarinetist and linguist/music theorist Ray Jackendoff. Laurello is an Artist Diploma candidate in Composition at the Yale School of Music, studying with David Lang and Christopher Theofanidis. He earned an M.A. in Composition from Tufts University under John McDonald, and a B.M. in Music Synthesis (Electronic Production and Design) from Berklee College of Music where he studied jazz piano performance with Laszlo Gardony and Steve Hunt. He has attended composition festivals at highSCORE (Pavia, Italy) and Etchings (Auvillar, France), and was recently recognized with an Emerg ing Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation (Boston, MA). In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Laurello is a recording and mixing engineer.
Todd Lerew (b. 1986) is a Los Angeles-based composer working with invented acoustic instruments, repurposed found objects, and unique preparations of traditional instruments. Lerew is the inventor of the Quartz Cantabile, which utilizes a principle of thermoacoustics to convert heat into sound, and has presented the instrument at Stanford’s CCRMA, the American Musical Instrument Society annual conference, the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech, and Machine Project in Los Angeles. He is the founder and curator of Telephone Music, a collaborative music and memory project based on the children’s game of Telephone, the last round of which was released as an exclusive download to subscribers of music magazine The Wire. His solo piece for e-bowed gu zheng, entitled Lithic Fragments, is available on cassette on the Brunch Groupe label. H is pieces have been performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Wet Ink Ensemble (New York), the Now Hear Ensemble (Santa Barbara), and the Canticum Ostrava choir (Czech Republic).
Composer and vocalist Kristina Warren (b. 1989) holds a B.A. in Music Composition from Duke University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies from the University of Virginia. Recent works include Three Sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (soprano, electronics), Folk Studies No. 1 (Up in the A.M.), No. 2 (Vimeda Sakla), andNo. 3 (Shousty) for voice-based electronics, and Pogpo (electric guitar quartet). Warren’s research interests include voice, electronics, and questions of aleatory and performance practice in conjunction with various non-Eurocentric musics, such as folk music and Korean p’ansori. Warren’s compositions have been performed across the US and in Europe, and she has been fortunate to study composition with Ted Coffey, Judith Shatin, Anthony Kelley, Scott Lindroth , and John Supko.S
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