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0910_scp_lgThose of you who are familiar with the contemporary arts scene in Seattle know that there are two organizations which have been dedicated to presenting new and interesting works from around the world for over 20-years: On the Boards and the Seattle Chamber Players.  And those of you who are familiar with me know that I have a special love for Seattle and all the interesting musical and artistic projects that are embraced there.  So, if you are in Seattle I would encourage you to check-out some upcoming SPC performances at OtB (especially since I can’t be there!).

February 26-28: SCP will be performing five concerts in three days featuring new music from Italy, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark, and Iceland.  It is all part of their Icebreaker series and this set of concerts is subtitled “Love and War” – all the details can be found here.

And then…

March 4-6: SCP return to On the Boards for special collaboration with Pacific Musicworks in a theatrical production of “Songs of War I Have Seen” by German composer and director Heiner Goebbels.  More information about these performances can be found here.

There is no question that the Seattle Chamber Players founder and flutist, Paul Taub, has been one of the most influential figures in Seattle’s contemporary music scene for a long time.  I was able to get Paul on the phone for a few minutes back in June and I’m happy to finally share it with all of you now.  Like most of my interviews with musicians, we talked about composer-performer relationships, but it’s also interesting to hear him speak a little about the Seattle Chamber Players’ dedication to contemporary music from Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union.  You can download or listen to the audio here.

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My two most recent posts have been about orchestras that specialize in performing contemporary music, ACO and BMOP.  In keeping with that theme, I thought I should also say a few things about the new contemporary music series by the New York Philharmonic, called CONTACT! (I know, I know – that concert was a couple months ago – what can I say, I’m a slacker.) In Music Director Alan Gilbert’s first press conference, he highlighted his plans for a New York Philharmonic new music ensemble this season, and as it turns out, this isn’t just a new music ensemble playing the past century’s greatest hits: they are performing seven pieces by seven composers, all of which are world premieres.  Not bad, Mr. Gilbert.  Not bad at all.

Strictly speaking, the December CONTACT! concert was not a full orchestra performance, but more of the Sinfonietta variety.  Basically one of every instrument represented on most pieces.  I don’t really want to talk about the pieces, but you can find out more about the program and the upcoming April concert here.  I really just want to give a tip-of-the-hat to the New York Philharmonic and other established orchestral organizations like the San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and I’m sure others, for not just recognizing the importance of bringing bloggers in to the concert hall, but also for realizing that blogs are not going away and are worth their attention.  This CONTACT! concert was the first time the New York Philharmonic invited bloggers to a performance and hopefully they will continue to do it in the future.  It goes without saying that they should do this again for the next CONTACT! performance, but it would be great to see the Philharmonic begin inviting bloggers to regular subscription concerts as well.  Here is a link to all of the other blog entries that were written following the December concert by twelve people who were obviously NOT slackers.

Finally, I love that the New York Philharmonic New Music Ensemble (is that really their name or can the ensemble have a shorter, snappier name?) is performing in some different locations around town.  Each of these CONTACT! concerts are being performed once at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and once at Symphony Space.  I have to wonder, though, if there is a better location than Symphony Space.  I appreciate that they may be making an effort to get away from the Lincoln Center campus, but if the renovated Alice Tully Hall is cool enough and hip enough for Alarm Will Sound, ICE, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, then isn’t it cool enough and hip enough for the Philharmonic New Music Ensemble?  And, wouldn’t the sound be so much better there?

In the end I think that the Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, and composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg should be congratulated on this new (and I’m sure somewhat scary or uncertain) venture.  I look forward to the April performance and especially to what they have in mind for the ’10-’11 season.

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derek_bermel2The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards are on Sunday night, here’s the list of all the classical music-related categories and nominees, and here are the composition-related categories and nominees.  Let’s give a shout-out to the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and to Derek Bermel for their nomination in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra.

I was able to spend some time talking with BMOP Artistic Director Gil Rose (audio here), and BMOP violinist Gabriela Diaz (audio here) about their experiences working with composers and about what music they are excited about… or at least were excited about back in October when we spoke.

I also noticed that Meet The Composer is making another push for their Music Alive program, which matches up composers with orchestral residencies around the country.  There are not many of these residencies available, but if you work for an orchestra that’s thinking about creating a composer residency, you should visit the Music Alive site.  The reason I mention all of this is because our friends at BMOP have a video up where Gil talks about their three-year collaboration with composer, Lisa BielawaThis link should also take you straight to that video.

Congratulations, BMOP!

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nextatlantiswebWe heard from Christian Carey last week that the American Composers Orchestra has brought on George Manahan as their new Music Director but that’s not until next season.  Fortunately you don’t have to wait until next season to hear the orchestra – they are performing THIS weekend in New York (Friday, January 29th – Zankel Hall. 7:30pm) and Philadelphia (Saturday, January 30th – Annenberg Center. 7:30pm) with Conductor Anne Manson.  I was able to get her on the phone for a few minutes last night to talk about the program, you can listen to our short conversation here.

The program includes two world premieres: Sebastian Currier’s Next Atlantis, inspired by New Orleans and written for string orchestra and pre-recorded sound, with video by Pawel Wojtasik; and Roger Zare’s Time Lapse, a piece for orchestra influenced by photographic techniques, commissioned by ACO as part of its Underwood Composers Readings for Emerging Composers.

Latin jazz innovator Paquito D’Rivera’s Conversations with Cachao is the centerpiece of the program, and receives its New York City and Philadelphia premieres in these performances. A tribute to Israel “Cachao” López, the Havana bass player who made Cuban Mambo a worldwide phenomenon, the piece is a double concerto featuring D’Rivera’s clarinet and alto sax in dialogue with the double bass, played by Robert Black.

I was also able to spend some time talking with Robert Black last spring about working with composers.  It has nothing to do with the ACO concert this weekend, but if you want to listen to him talk about some of his experiences working with composers you can get the audio here.

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Here are a few concerts worth checking out if you’re near New York City.

Friday, December 4th:
celebrates their 5-year anniversary at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, 6:00-9:00pm.  Also on Friday night in the West Village, Forecast Music spends the evening performing new works for voice at Greenwich House, 8:00pm.

Saturday, December 5th:
is presenting an evening of “continuous music, food, visuals, drinks, and fashion” at the Brecht Forum, 8:00pm.

Sunday, December 6th:
The Knights
are performing at the Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights, 3:00pm.

And I always like to mention shows happening OUTSIDE of New York City, so for those of you near Seattle this weekend… The Affinity Chamber Players have been around for just over ten years and on Saturday, December 5th they will be opening their season at the Good Shepherd Center, 8:00pm.  Just go.

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deChellywebDoes anyone remember the early August announcement that the American Composers Orchestra was going to begin a partnership with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to “Commission and Premiere New Music by Emerging American Composers”?  Well, whether you can wrap your head around that pairing or not, the first concert is happening on Monday night (November 30th) in Zankel Hall with Erin Gee’s Mouthpiece XIII: Mathilde of Loci, Part 1. Erin is the lucky recipient of the first commission through this new partnership.

There are two other world premieres on the program:

1)    Donal Fox: Peace Out for Improvised Piano and Orchestra.  Mr. Fox was the first African-American composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and he will perform as soloist, improvising his part along with a fully composed score for the orchestra.
2)    Curt Cacioppo: When the Orchard Dances Ceased. The work includes parts for Native American folk voice and percussion instruments, both of which will be performed by the composer.

And, of course, there’s more… there will also be two New York premieres:

1)    Huang Ruo’s piece, Leaving Sao, is written for soprano or high male voice in folk style and chamber orchestra in memory of his grandmother. Sao in Chinese means sorrowful predicament.  I’m not totally sure, but I think he will also be the one singing this vocal part.
2)    Charles Ives: Tone Roads Nos. 1 & 3.  It looks like this will be the only piece on the program in which the composer is not also performing.  Couldn’t the ACO find a way to get Charles there as well?!

You can also find lots of video and audio content about all of these works here.

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from the film (Untitled)

One of the totally unexpected perks that has come along with producing my podcast is all of the press releases that started showing up in my inbox, and even CDs in the mail once in a while.  Well, last night was another first for me: an invitation to screen a new film before its release.  I like films and like to follow what some of my favorite directors and screenwriters are up to, but I am far from an aficionado—so I won’t pretend to be one here.

If you hadn’t heard, there is a new film coming out this month about a hairy composer who writes “difficult” music (read: breaking glasses, ripping paper, dropping chains in buckets), and who is seduced by a tall, sexy, smart, blonde…wait for it…Chelsea art gallery owner.  What?!  Does that really happen?  Really?!  The composer is played by Adam Goldberg, and the gallery owner by Marley Shelton. But here’s the really great part: the music and score is by David Lang!

I have no idea how the general public will feel about this film; I think I’m too close the subject to be objective about it.  However, if you are a composer or artist, if you are an art collector or like to commission new music, if you curate a gallery or produce concerts–you will relate to the characters and their situations and struggles.  When you see the funny parts you’ll laugh because you’ve been there, when you see the artists and composers struggling you’ll sympathize because you’ve been there.  Again, I’m not going to say that this is a great film or a bad film–but, if you are part of this community at all, it’s worth seeing.  The movie addresses the questions we all ask ourselves about success: Is it okay if only six people show up to the concert?  Is it okay to be overtly emotional in our music?  Is it okay to steal your brother’s girlfriend?  All of your questions will be answered in this movie.

opens on October 23 in New York, Los Angeles and San FranciscoIt’s not clear if there are plans for it to open in other markets, so keep your fingers crossed if you don’t live near one of those cities. In the meantime, check out the trailer, the website, and join me in congratulating David Lang on his first film score!

Update on openings…
November 6: Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Washington DC.  November 13: Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Providence.  Enjoy!

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pre-season_party.jpg.w300h400I thought it might be nice to close out the month of interviews from Chicago by featuring a couple musicians from dal niente.  The ensemble has some great concerts planned for October, but I caught violinist Austin Wulliman and flutist Shanna Gutierrez back in June.

Austin’s episode is worth listening to just to hear him say, “I love me some Scelsi”.  You don’t hear that very often, but it’s true, oh so true.  Shanna talks a little in her episode about interesting experiences with composers, but the real value is in the seemingly endless list of resources she mentions if you are writing for flute, or are just thinking about writing for flute.

Listen to Austin’s interview here and Shanna’s here.  Subscribe to the podcast here.

Ensemble dal niente begins their season on Friday with what they are calling OKTOBERFest.  You can find all the details on their website.  How many groups are pairing Franco Donatoni with John Luther Adams, or Bach with Rihm, or Helmut Lachenmann one week and Arvo Pärt the next week?  They are doing it all in October – I wish I could be there!

Friday, October 2 – 7:30pm ($10/5)
Columbia College Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan Ave.

Sunday, October 4 – 3 pm ($5)
Sherwood Conservatory of Music at Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.

Sunday, October 18 – 2:00pm ($5)
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, 4802 N. Broadway Ave.

Sunday, October 25 – 3:00pm (FREE!)
Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

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nicholas_photinosLast week on the podcast: Cliff Colnot (download Cliff’s interview here).  This week: Nicholas Photinos, cellist in eighth blackbird (download Nick’s interview here).

Turns out that 8bb was just finishing up some studio sessions at the end of last month for Reich’s Double Sextet.  Unfortunately, we will need to wait over a year until we actually get to hear it.  (Incidentally, Galen has some commentary about how frustrating it is that we have to wait so long for these recordings here.)  Anyway, I don’t know how many ensembles think about their programming in terms of a five-course meal, but these guys do, and Nick tells us a little bit about that process.  More beer!

Check-in next week for the first of two interviews with members of the Chicago based new music ensemble, dal niente.

As always, you can subscribe in iTunes here, on the web here, or just click here to download Nick’s episode.

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I won’t be able to make it to most of these events, but hopefully you will.  Moving from the west coast to the east coast, here is some of what’s happening in September – mark your calendars.

Berkeley, CA.
Saturday, September 26 at 8pm and Sunday, September 27 at 7pm.  The American premiere of Evan Ziporyn’s new opera A House in Bali.  The Bang on a Can All-Stars, Gamelan Salukat, Balinese Dance Artists and Western operatic and Balinese singers come together in this staging of Colin McPhee’s 1947 memoir.  Pre-concert talk with composer and director, September 19 at 7pm.  Audio and video here.  Ticket information here.

Santa Fe, NM.
Thursday, September 17 at 7:30pm.  The Del Sol String Quartet.  Pawel Szymanski, Five Movements for String Quartet; Chris Jonas, silent film soundtracks “Automatic Moving Company” and “Pumkin Race” (arranged for String Quartet); Paquito D’Rivera, Wapango; Gabriela Ortiz, String Quartet #1; Chris Jonas, Garden (10 minute work-in-progress selection). Lensic Performing Arts Center, ticket information here. (concert repeated in NYC on October 1 at Symphony Space)

New York, NY.
Wednesday, September 9 at 5:00 and 8:00pm at the Museum of Modern Art.  Making its New York premiere, Elevated pairs five recent compositions by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang with five short films by artists Doug Aitken, Guy Maddin, Bill Morrison, Matt Mullican, and William Wegman. The compositions will be performed live by CONTACT Contemporary Music.  More information here.

New York, NY.
September 12-14. Moving Sounds is a 3-day festival of music, visual media and aesthetic dialogue, produced jointly by the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Music Information Centre Austria (MICA), and the Argento New Music Project.  All concerts, panel discussions, and parties happing at the Austrian Cultural Forum and Le Poisson Rouge.  More information here.

Boston, MA.
September 25-27.  Boston Modern Orchestra Project hosts the Voices of America Festival at Tufts University. Programing includes a broad range of works for voice and ensemble by Milton Babbitt, Aaron Copland, Jacob Druckman, John McDonald, Virgil Thomson, among others, as well as the complete songs, including several unpublished works, of Samuel Barber.  Ticket information here.

And for those of you not near any of these cities…
Check out which composers are receiving orchestral premieres this season, or if your local orchestra has scheduled any.  You can search by composer or orchestra for the ’09-10 season here.

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