2011 was an great year for freelance composer/cellist/conductor Peri Mauer. Premiere performances of her work this past year included her trio AFTERWORDS, for clarinet, cello, and piano; BLOGARHYTHM: Scenes 1 & 2 for 24-piece chamber ensemble (which she also conducted) RHAPSODANCE, for clarinet and piano; BLOGARHYTHM ON THE ROCKS, for chamber ensemble, as part of Make Music New York 2011 in Central Park in June; and MORNING IN A MINUTE, in the Vox Novus Concert Series at Jan Hus Church in October. In 2011 her music was heard on the radio for the first time as well. Just this past January brought the world premiere of her piece for three cellos in Composers Concordance Festival 2012, and she’s about to have the world premiere of PIXELIANCE this Sunday, Feb. 5th at 3 pm, St. Mark’s Church in- the- Bowery (131 East 10th St.), as part of a New York Composers Circle concert paying tribute to composer Dinu Ghezzo, and also featuring works by Elliott Carter, Robert Cohen, Debra Kaye, Nataliya Medvedovskaya, Nailah Nombeko, and Matt Weber.
I asked Peri to answer a few questions from me, and she was happy to oblige:
Besides your usual hectic rounds as a freelance cellist/conductor, you’ve had a pretty good and busy year for performances of your own music. How did all of these things come together?
Being a constant presence on the musical scene and getting in on just about every opportunity I come across is the main reason I get so much work. My motto is “Seize the moment”, and there is so much opportunity, so many amazing people to hook up with. I see myself as part of a larger picture, and the possibilities for so much creativity and actualization are everywhere.
Your piece BLOGARHYTHM had a couple really well-received performances (in very different venues, I might add!). Could you tell me a little more about the title/inspiration, and the form of the piece?
Overall, BLOGARHYTHM is what I think of as an “umbrella piece”. I can adapt it to different performance situations and will keep adding scenes to it when given an opportunity to present it. It is totally my own project, my musical blog set to performance, and I enjoy it tremendously. Plus I get a chance to conduct and put ensembles together, which I also really enjoy. With it, I can integrate all the various facets of my musical life.
With all those previously-mentioned hectic rounds, where do you find the time to really sit down and compose? How hard is it to keep a good balance between playing and composing?
Doing both playing and composing are extremely important to me. At times it can be very difficult to maintain the balance (like right now, having just returned home from a three-hour rehearsal for a concert), but I do my best. It is like having two children that you love equally and want to be sure they get equal time, one is not favored over the other, etc. The result is I am always working on some project. This is what I do, this is my life.
You’re a life-long New Yorker? Does your life now resemble whatever plans you were laying for it back when you were just coming up through school? You’ve seemed to avoid the standard, safer course of sticking with teaching; was that a conscious decision?
Yes, I am a life-long New Yorker. Truth is, I never made any plans. I just kept going! I began piano when I was 5, cello at 11, went to the High School of Music & Art, and just never stopped. I am a bit unusual as far as composers go, in that I love to perform and miss it terribly if I let it go. I am miserable when things fall into an everyday sameness, so I never sought out either a steady orchestra or teaching gig. It would drive me crazy to have a regular ongoing routine.
When you look back at musical life in New York when you were just coming out from The Manhattan School of Music, and what you see going on now, what seems different/same, easier/harder?
The internet has definitely made everything a lot easier. I am amazed at how easy it is to learn of opportunities, to create them, to hook up with them, and get them going creatively.
What influences have been the guiding lights and inspiration for your own music language?
My own ear : ) … I’ve always liked the sound of 12- tone music. Discovering Webern was very pivotal for me. Although my own music isn’t serial, it is 12-tone. I write from my life, and therefore my work is dramatic and emotionally relevant.
One thing you wish I’d ask you…..
Hmm, not sure! : ) My life is a musical one, this is what I do.
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Hilary Hahn is at it again, working her way through chats with all of the composers commissioned for her “In 27 Pieces” collection of encores. This time up it’s a bright, young up-and-comer by the name of Jennifer Higdon (OK, maybe not quite so young, and maybe she’s pretty much arrived, but she’s still pretty darn bright!)
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S21’s intrepid reporter-in-the-field (oh yeah, and superstar violinist, too!) Hilary Hahn just happened to virtually bump into the dean of (very young) American composers, Nico Muhly. …Well, maybe there was a little advanced planning, but let’s keep this casual, shall we? Here they muck-de-muck for a friendly quarter-hour, about the musical life and the pieces Nico’s composed for Hilary.
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[Ed. Note: Please welcome composer (and long-time S21 supporter) Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, and sit back as he spins a tale for the ages (and yet all quite true!), of how he managed to conceive, write, and finally produce his very own opera in the (semi) wilds of Vermont.]
In the past week I’ve received emails from other composers, many of whom had doubted that my opera Erzsébet would ever be mounted. After two decades of promises, nearly two years of faltering fundraising, three directors, and a flood that pushed us out of our home, opening night seemed distant and dim. How did it happen for me? Could they finally get to mount their operas?
The opera’s genesis is long & convoluted. When I was a child in the 1950’s, my adoptive father Zoltan Bathory had mentioned an evil family ancestor. In 1983, I was given a copy of Dracula Was a Woman, Raymond McNally’s biography of Elizabeth Bathory. She was a vampiric, serial killing, blood-bathing countess with male and female lovers who died walled up in her torture chamber! The Tigress of Cséjthe! Hungary’s National Monster! What could be better for an operatic tale? In 1987 Erzsébet was scribbled onto my compositional to-do list.
Coincidentally, I’d heard that poet and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu was working on a biography of Erzsébet based on new research. I got in touch; Codrescu was interested in writing the libretto.
But soon my life was in turmoil, with my failed computer company and failed personal life and broken compositional dreams and a falling out with Codrescu, whose biography ended up as an attempt at a Tom Robbins-esque novel. Beyond that, Vermont was not a friendly place for new music in the 1980’s, even though my pseudo-csárdás piano sketch for the opera overture had been commissioned and performed. My new partner Stevie (now my wife), her daughter and I left for Europe in 1991. A rare opportunity brought us into then Czechoslovakia at Cachtice, home of Erzsébet’s most notorious castle.
I sketched some scenarios for the opera, considering chamber and grand-opera versions. I’d written an opera before — Plasm over ocean, with libretto by David Gunn, my cohort on Kalvos & Damian’s New Music Bazaar — but this new one would be less avant-garde and more actual storytelling and drama.
On returning to Vermont, my boxes of Erzsébet research—books, articles, novels, stories, photosgraphs, videos, postcards, trinkets—became the impetus to create an online home for the opera project. That led to a connection with a Czech sculptor living in America, Pavel Kraus. We had similar artistic sensibility and soon worked together on Sex and Death: Offerings in Burlington, Vermont, and later at Prague’s Mánes Museum, newly restored after the dreary Communist years. Pavel would be the opera’s visual designer, and was the earliest team member who stayed with the project.
In 1999, Lisa Jablow, singer, conductor, and aficionado of new music, became interested in the Báthory story and wanted to sing the lead. She suggested a monodrama written specifically for her, and that became the manageable version of the opera—small enough to afford, intimate enough to create a powerful atmosphere. Read the rest of this entry »
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We’ve profiled and interviewed composer Michael Hersch before here at S21. Unlike a lot of composers who lineage and influences I get pretty easily, In Hersch’s case there’s something coming from a place that I don’t get. And I tell you now, that’s a good thing. There isn’t a big grab bag of the latest tricks and fashions; the style could almost be called traditionalist. Yet there’s something at work that is so “interior”, an almost hermetic voice that owes nothing to anyone but the composer himself, that makes for a slightly unsettling but endlessly fascinating listen.
And tonight, for the first time since 2001, Michael Hersch himself is coming to NYC to play his own work. His recording of his sprawling, 2-hour piano work from 2005, The Vanishing Pavilions, was pretty highly praised here on its release; tonight Hersch plays his new 1-hour version, at Merkin Hall (8pm, details & tickets here), on a concert with his After Hölderlin’s ‘Hälfte des Lebens’ for viola and cello, played by the always-marvelous Miranda Cuckson and Julia Bruskin (this piece was premiered at a memorial concert held inside the Pantheon in Rome, just two months after September 11, 2001).
Here’s a small taste of The Vanishing Pavilions, Hersch playing movement 27 of the large version:
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About to turn the ripe old age of 8, Matt McBane‘s crazy idea of a 20-something composer/performer creating an annual new-music festival in a bump in the road north of San Diego has not only survived but thrived. Something about a last late-summer outing, to an idyllic village parked right at a Pacific beach, seems to consistently draw a crowd from both Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south for this three-day affair. And, well, maybe it’s just a little about the music, too… Excellent string quartets, pianists and ensembles mix it up with rock bands, ethnic groups, open-air jams and units that fit into all and none of the above. Given that Matt’s main going concern is the genre-melding group BUILD, all this variety turns out to share threads of the same impulse: “Mr. Classical-Gorbachev, tear down this wall!!”
This year marks the biggest change to date: for the first time the entire Festival will be held completely in the Village of Carlsbad. As Matt tells it, this
means we can present a broader array of music than in the past: from the thoroughly modern classical music of the Calder Quartet and pianist Vicky Chow, to the chamber-music inflected indie-rock of My Brightest Diamond, to the genre-crossing music of Build, Florent Ghys, Lukas Ligeti, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden, to the African electronica of Burkina Electric, to the site-specific installations of Red Fish Blue Fish and Terry Riley’s In C. Yet, while the scope of the music presented has expanded, the Festival maintains its traditions that I have found most appealing: the hand-picked artists, the tradition of musicians from different groups collaborating, the Composers-in-Residence (5 this year!), and the commissioning and presenting of new works.
Speaking of composers and commissioning, The video at the top of this story shows this year’s Composers Competition winner, Jacob Cooper. His Big Black Bottom Kind will be part of the grand-finale concert given by the Calder Quartet, which also includes quartets by Thomas Adès and Jacob TV.
Matt, you have a few more words?…
In addition to its hand-picked programming, a big part of the Festival every year is the interaction with the community. Prior to the festival weekend, many of the festival musicians give always-hugely-popular performance-demonstrations for music students in the Carlsbad middle and high schools. This year with the Festival’s new format there will also be many free events open to everyone including the Music Walk and the Picnic Concerts, and there will be many performances by musicians from the community around the Village throughout the weekend.
It all kicks off this Friday, September 23, running through Sunday, and everything you need to know about the who’s, what’s and where’s can be found here.
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On an Overgrown Path‘s Bob Shingleton gives an intriguing sketch of the Vietnamese composer Ton-That Tiêt (b. 1933), well worth exploring. A small interview with the composer is here.
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Many instruments have their 99-cent toy counterpart: tiny play trumpets, cheap plastic recorders, pint-sized accordions, even mini drum-kits with cymbals the size of espresso saucers. But it’s only the toy piano that has graduated to the big leagues, with an large and diverse repertoire and even a dedicated group of high-caliber performers to boost its status. I really think this all came about from two sources: John Cage‘s modest 1948 Suite for Toy Piano, and the instrument’s inclusion in George Crumb‘s highly influential Ancient Voices of Children (1970). Both of these works had (and still have) a certain vogue; pianos were obtained, kept around, and led to performers and composers thinking “now that I’ve got it, what else can I do with this thing”? Fast-forward a few decades and we now find a whole body of work from composers big and small, with piano solo, duo, trio and beyond, accompanied by everything from a few trinkets to elaborate interactive electronics. Entire concerts of toy piano music take place now, with a variety pieces and forces equal to any other chamber music concert.
Like this one… Co-Directors and composers David Claman and Matt Malsky are presenting The Extensible Toy Piano Festival at Bargemusic, with another of those said dedicated toy-piano performer/composers, Phyllis Chen— this Sunday, June 12, at 3pm (Fulton Ferry Landing near the Brooklyn Bridge / Tickets: $25 ($20 Seniors; $15 Students). Claman and Malsky started The Extensible Toy Piano Project a number of years ago, sponsoring concerts, commissions, contests and even symposia (I told you this little instrument done all growed up!). This iteration will also feature guest performers Nancy Newman and mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers, and works by Chen, Claman, Malsky, Karlheinz Essl, Konrad Kaczmarek, John McDonald, and Atsushi Yoshinaka. Here’s Chen performing one of her works that will be on the concert, Double Helix:
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We Remember September 11 // 24 Hour WPRB Live Radio Marathon
At the 10th anniversary of September 11, Classical Discoveries with Marvin Rosen will present a 24 hour live radio marathon, totally devoted to music written by composers from many countries as a reaction to the unforgettable events of that day. The program will air on WPRB 103.3 Princeton and around the world at www.wprb.com and will start on Saturday, September 10 at 7:00pm ET until 7:00pm the next day, Sunday, September 11, 2011. Marvin has already in quite impressive collection of 9/11 works some of which have already been broadcasted on his program, but he would like to get other compositions as well.
The call is for music written as a reaction to 9/11 that is within the Classical Discoveries and Avant-Garde Edition format, for any combination of instruments, voices and electronics. Non-commercial recordings are accepted as long they have good quality sound and are on CD (no MP3 and DVDs).
If you are sending a private recording:
§ You must have the name of the composer, title, and timing marked on the CD
§ all information including performers, composers bio, notes about work, should fit in the CD tray.
§ CD should be placed in a plastic CD case to prevent scratching
§ Broadcast release form should be attached
Each composer whose work is selected will be notified prior to the broadcast.
Unused CDs will be not returned to composers, except if prepaid envelope is attached
Before sending any recordings, please contact Marvin for his postal mailing address at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Marvin has established this special e-mail address so that no mail will be lost. He will answer within 10 days of each inquiry, but if no answer is received please resend your email.
Deadline for accepting recordings is Friday, August 12, 2011.
For more information closer to the Marathon check the Classical Discoveries website, or Marvin’s new blog MarvinTheCat.
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Daniel Wolf’s appreciation is better than anything I need to muster, so I’ll just say Happy Birthday Alvin Lucier, wonderful milestone, and thanks for some of the most beautifully pure musical and sonic revelations ever conceived.
Update: While I still don’t have much to add, I will point you to this wonderful discovery… In 1972-3, When (now long & well-established) experimental composer/performer Nicolas Collins was a fresh-faced freshman in college, he took Lucier’s Introduction to Electronic Music class. Good student he was, Collins also took copious notes on what Lucier taught them during those two semesters. Collins has gone ahead and scanned this unedited notebook to PDF files, and he shares it on a special page at his website. As Collins writes, “I am no Ned Rorem — this notebook does not reflect a particularly interesting life — but I think it provides a rare window into Lucier’s teaching and the musical culture of the day, both of which are very interesting indeed, and — secondarily — it documents my gradual conversion from student to acolyte.“
Virtually thumbing through this document is definitely worth any composer’s time.
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