Forma: Live on WBAR 4/1/12 (SoundCloud)




Last week, one of our favorite Brooklyn-based indie/electronica collectives, Forma, played on Barnard College Radio. They’ve been kind enough to share the set on their SoundCloud page (embed below).

Forma also has several shows coming up (dates below). The band’s self-titled debut has been released via Spectrum Spools (Editions Mego), and is for sale at Boomkat.






UPCOMING SHOWS:

Saturday, April 14, 2012 – 9pm:
Auditorium
Acme Studio
63 North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 – time TBA:
with Gary War, Ancient Ocean & Plexxus Dor
Big Snow Buffalo Lodge
89 Varet Street
Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, April 28, 2012 – 2-10pm:
WBAR-B-Q
Barnard College radio
Free summer concert and barbecue
Lehman Lawn, Barnard College
117th and Broadway
New York, NY

Friday, May 11, 2012 – 8pm:
with SSPS, Keith Fullerton Whitman & Pete Swanson
285 Kent Ave
Brooklyn, NY

Composer & Conductor Discuss Resurgence of Wind Ensembles

Jeff W. Ball

Brooklyn Wind Symphony Artistic Director Jeff W. Ball interviews Dr. David Maslanka on the music of the late composer John Barnes Chance, “channeling” the composer, and the growing prevalence of commissioning consortiums among wind ensembles.

JWB:  When did you first hear a composition by John Barnes Chance?

David Maslanka

DM: My first contact was “Incantation and Dance.”  It was around 1965.  I was a first-year grad student at Michigan State and the band there was playing the piece.  I wasn’t in the band, but heard rehearsals and performance. The piece was “hot” that year – everybody was playing it.

JWB: Has your impression of this piece changed over time?

DM: It was, and remains, an attractive piece. I liked its fresh percussive rhythmic nature, and clear instrumental colors. Working with it many years later for the Illinois State University recording was still a positive experience.

JWB: How did that project come about?  What was your role?

DM: Dr. Stephen Steele, conductor of the Illinois State University Wind Symphony, was asked by Susan Bush of Albany Records if he would be interested in making a CD of select Chance works. Susan thought this would be a timely CD, one that many people would find interesting. This is a nice recognition of the enduring quality of some of Chance’s music. Steve’s first step was to send me all the scores he had collected of Chance’s wind music – about a dozen. I reviewed them all, and came up with what I termed an “A” list. My recommendations included Incantation and Dance, Variations on a Korean Folk Song, Symphony No.2, and the piano concerto piece. In rehearsals and the recording session I acted as the “presence of the composer.” It was my job to read the score and be the reminder for basic stuff like tempos, dynamics, and qualities of articulation – to insist on these, and to offer thoughts on qualities of style. There is what is printed in scores, and then there is what has accumulated as performance practice over the years. My job was to bring things back to the score. The most interesting piece for me was Symphony No.2, a piece that Chance never heard in his lifetime. I felt like I was “channeling” Chance, allowing him to be present, both to hear his music for the first time, and to offer the suggestions he would have made for performance. This assertion certainly cannot be proven, but it was a very curious experience for me.

JWB: Why do you think that Albany Records recording has been so successful?

DM: Chance’s music is still fresh and likeable, and a large number of people remember it fondly from their younger band days. It has also not left the repertoire. Steele’s recording of this music is simply very good. It is exactingly performed and well recorded.

JWB:   Has the music of Chance (and his contemporaries) influenced your growth as a composer?

DM: I would certainly say that Chance’s music, and that of people like Clifton Williams and Vaclav Nelhybel, and my teacher, H. Owen Reed, influenced my early growth as a composer. This was different music than the so-called mainstream of the time, which was serialism and significant branching off with people like Penderecki and Berio.  Chance and other band composers were more “down home” outgrowths of school music. It has taken all the years since Chance for wind band music to attain something of mainstream status. The influences on current wind band music are as varied as world music itself, but I would say that the music of the “early modern” wind band composers pointed in a fresh direction that many of us found attractive.

JWB:   Chance was a percussionist and this heavily influenced his writing style. What was your primary instrument growing up?

DM: I was a clarinetist, and had both band and orchestra experience as a high school and college student. I had more band than orchestra, and I guess that the band sound was in my ear when I thought about writing for larger ensembles. Playing clarinet has certainly been central to my writing for winds. Being in the center of an ensemble as a performer is a major factor for any composer writing ensemble music. The influence of clarinet on my writing style is certainly there, but the factors influencing writing style are many and varied. Many people are convinced that I am a percussionist, which I am not in the least. Composers have to learn the languages of all the instruments, and then absorb and transform in themselves all the music they come in contact with.

JWB:   What do you think Chance’s music would sound like today if he hadn’t tragically passed away at the age of 39?

DM: There is no knowing how Chance would have evolved!

JWB:  Chance’s Second Symphony serves as the centerpiece for the Brooklyn Wind Symphony’s annual Modern Wind Symphony Concert. Do you believe it is important to continue writing symphonies for wind bands?

DM:   I don’t necessarily think that it is important for composers to continue to write symphonies for wind band.  Composers need to write whatever they need to write.  I happen to write symphonies (now seven of them for wind band) but that is something I have felt the urge to do since Symphony No.2 in 1985. Wind bands do not need symphonies in order to be “important”, to try to lift themselves to “orchestral” status.  They need powerful music, well-crafted for the medium, music which inspires the players and their audiences. This has been happening for quite some time now, and the grass roots wind band movement has become a world phenomenon. Wind bands need to program significant works, regardless of length or form, because players and audiences are intensely hungry for deeply nourishing and affecting musical experience.

JWB: Most wind band commissions occur at the collegiate level. Do you think it is important for community based wind bands and secondary schools to commission new music?

DM:  Most wind band commissions occur at the college level because they have figured out how to do consortiums. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. One person takes the lead and enlists a number of other conductors to share the burden of cost. This has resulted in a huge number of new pieces that immediately have more than a single use.  Not all of the music is good, but the simple fact is the more pieces that are written the high likelihood that a percentage will be outstanding. Regarding consortiums, there is no difference between a college band and a community band, except possibly the sense of being connected with other bands. The College Band Directors National Association offers college directors immediate connection to hundreds of other conductors. The CBDNA national and regional conferences, and other events like the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, allow for very intense networking among conductors. Community bands can simply join in if they wish.  Anyone can join CBDNA. Commissions are now starting from high schools as well. There is the realization that the band world is all one big family, and colleges, community bands, and high schools are willing to help each other out.

JWB: The Brooklyn Wind Symphony is happy to be leading a consortium to commission a new work from you. What do you look for and take into account when requested to write a piece for a specific ensemble?

DM:   The energy and seriousness of the conductor involved is a high consideration. I deeply respect people who are trying hard to build or do something, and I am interested to work with them. For me this has included ensembles all the way from small school groups to major recognized names.

Brooklyn Wind Symphony presents an 80th birthday concert in honor of John Barnes Chance on Saturday, March 24, 2:00 PM. Grand Street High School, 850 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. $10 suggested donation.

This Weekend: Brooklyn Village at Roulette




The hot ticket this weekend is in Brooklyn, about Brooklyn, and performed by Brooklynites. Check out the trailer for Brooklyn Village below.



A multimedia piece starring the Brooklyn Phil and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, it features repertory standards, new pieces by David T. Little, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Matthew Mehlan, and a tale as old as the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, slightly older: its story concerns the buildings razed to make way for said bridge. All that plus Mellissa Hughes and Sufjan Stevens: talk about bringing out the star power!


Event details

Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue
Tickets: $20-$35 (www.roulette.org)

Performers:

Brooklyn Philharmonic; Alan Pierson, conductor

Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Dianne Berkun, director

Mellissa Hughes & Lauren Worsham, sopranos

Program:

Beethoven: Scherzo from Symphony no. 3 (1804)

Copland: Prelude to Symphony no. 1 (1924/8)

Sufjan Stevens: The B.Q.E. mvt. 6: Isorhythmic Night Dance With Interchanges (2007)

Shape Note song for chorus with audience participation (early 19th century)

Plus three world premieres:

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Here (2012, commissioned by Brooklyn Youth Chorus)

David T. Little: Am I Born (2012, co-commissioned by Brooklyn Phil & BYC)

Matthew Mehlan: Canvas (2011/12)

Sunday at Roulette: New Music Bake Sale III

Bake Sale Committee (L-R): Ross Marshall, Eileen Mack, David T. Little, Lainie Fefferman, Matt Marks. Photo by Isabelle Selby.

Cookies (and other Goodies) for a Cause

On Sunday March 11, 2012 from 4 PM to Midnight, a plethora of organizations gather at Roulette in Brooklyn for the Third Annual New Music Bake Sale.

Ten bucks gains you entry to the event plus a raffle ticket. There’s music being performed every hour on the hour by artists such as Newspeak, Gutbucket, the Janus Trio, and more. Check out the event’s website for a complete listing of performers, sponsors, and organizations manning the tables.

Dessert, plus music, plus prizes? Sounds like this third installation of the Bake Sale is triply pleasurable!

Roulette is on 509 Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn.

FRKWYS Vol. 9: “Happy Song” (Soundcloud)



Who thought up the idea of of bringing together Los Angeles post-psychedelic artists M. Geddes Gengras and Sun Araw with famed Jamaican reggae vocal group the Congos to record on the latter’s home terrain? Judging by the first track shared via their label’s Soundcloud page (embed below), “Happy Song,” this is yet another inspired collaboration in FRKWYS’ series of inspired collaborations.



From FRKWYS Vol. 9 – Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras meet The Congos – ICON GIVE THANK.

Available April 10th, 2012 from RVNG Intl.

www.igetrvng.com

Released by: RVNG Intl.
Release/catalogue number: FRKWYS09
Release date: Apr 10, 2012

Tim Berne; new CD and Snakeoil Tour

Today I interviewed saxophonist Tim Berne in Brooklyn for a feature article that will appear in the next issue of Signal to Noise Magazine, the journal for improvised and experimental music. In a beleaguered market for print publications, particular for music magazines, I’m so pleased that StN editor and publisher Pete Gershon is working hard to keep the publication alive. The hope is that there will be two issues this year.

Snake Oil, Tim’s first CD on ECM as a leader (he’s supported David Torn and Michael Formanek on other ECM releases) is out this week (2/7/12). A quartet date, the personnel includes Berne playing alto saxophone, Oscar Noriega playing clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell playing piano, and Ches Smith playing drums and a number of other percussion instruments.

An enthusiastic collaborator who has been in many more bands than a blog post can contain, Berne brings a “chamber jazz” aesthetic to this project, with gig-tested charts that have rigorous compositional structures but leave plenty of room for improvisation and on-the-spot inspiration. A gracious interviewee, Tim spoke about this project and several other current endeavors. Pete has given us a generous word count (how often do writers get that these days), and I’m really looking forward to covering Snakeoil and a host of other subjects in the article.

Below, you can see another incarnation of this group, the Los Totopos band, playing live via YouTube.  We’ve also included dates for the tour Berne is undertaking in support of Snakeoil on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tour dates

Feb 16 Boston, MA Regattabar

Feb 17 New York, NY Rubin Museum

Feb 18 Baltimore, MD An die Musik live!

Feb 19 Washington DC Bohemian caverns

Feb 24 Austin, TX

Feb 25 Los Angeles, CA Blue Whale

Feb 27 Santa Cruz, CA Kuumbwa

Feb 28 Oakland, CA Yoshi’s

Feb 29 Eugene, OR The Shedd

Mar 1 Seattle, WA Seattle Asian Art Museum

Mar 2 Portland, OR Alberta Rose Theater

Mar 14 &15 London,Vortex, United Kingdom

Mar 16 Munich, Unterfahrt, Germany

Mar 17 Forlì—Italy

Mar 20 Ljubljana Cankarjev Dom, Slovenia

Mar 22+23 Paris, Triton, France

Mar 24 Bergamo—Italy

Mar 25 Cologne, Stadtgarten,  Germany

Mar 26 Berlin A-Trane, Germany

Mar 27 Rotterdam Lantaren Venster, Netherlands

Mar 28 Amsterdam, Bimhuis, Netherlands

Mar 29 Dublin—Ireland

Gilgamesh Variations EP (Bandcamp)




I’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to offer some of my recordings on Bandcamp. The Gilgamesh EP includes incidental music from Immortal: the Gilgamesh Variations, a 2011 adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, produced at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn. I made the score using electronics, prepared piano, piano, voices, and percussion. It was great fun to hear my music as part of a play, albeit on tape.

The next step for the Gilgamesh project: creating a concert suite from the score for live instruments. On August 24 at Riverside Church in New York, Locrian Chamber Players is going to premiere Gilgamesh Suite, a newly composed work based on selections from the incidental music. Written to celebrate the 2012 Cage centenary, its touchstone work is “Sonatas and Interludes.” The score, written for the entire Locrian cohort, will feature prepared piano, harp, and string quartet.

You can stream all of the tracks on the EP at Bandcamp and the bonus track “Duo” is available for free download. But, if you are so inclined to buy the EP (name your price), all of the proceeds will go towards funding the Gilgamesh Suite project. Hope you enjoy!


Expensive Looks: “Nothing More” (Vimeo)




Brooklyn-based imprint Group Tightener recently released “Dark Matter,” the latest recording from chill wavers Expensive Looks. Yesterday Pitchfork didn’t much like the cut of Alec Feld’s jib, but I think they undersell this slice of moody, skittering electronica. Check out the appropriately shaky and diffusely ordered video for “Nothing More” below.


Long Distance Poison: Gamma Graves (Cassette Review)

Long Distance Poison

Gamma Graves

Ecstatic Peace Cassette

Gamma Graves is a prime example of the kind of release that has helped to fuel the cassette resurgence on the indie/experimental music scene. Produced by a variety of sources, from bedroom DIY collectives and small tape-only labels to established imprints like Ecstatic Peace, the audio cassette format, long thought extinct, is back. Tapes have been unassumingly encroaching their way onto the shelves of connoisseur collectors and music critics (no less than Steve Smith is a devotee): even record sellers such as Insound and Other Music have made room for them again.

The Brooklyn triumvirate of synthesizer performers Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury and prepared guitarist Casey Block comprise Long Distance Poison. Armed with vintage gear by Moog, Arp, and Roland, they create experimental soundscapes with a sense of history, referencing everyone from David Borden and early Philip Glass to Keith Rowe, Alva Noto, Ryoji Ikeda, and Derek Bailey. Drone-based foundations are overlaid with coruscating ostinato loops and distressed with pointed interjections.

Gamma Graves is the type of music that would have been just fine to distribute digitally (or via CD). Indeed, some purists might argue that cassette is an inherently inferior audio format to hi-res digital played through good equipment (by no means do most consumers play their MP3s through good equipment). So, why do I like having it on cassette? I find the noise imparted by tape and deck to do no harm to this music: in fact, it adds another, subtle, layer of drones to the proceedings that is consonant with the musical intentions of the work.

The tape as artifact yields something important too. Limited runs of handmade cassettes are often lovingly attired with artwork more expansive and, obviously, more tangible than any JPEG can provide. They are a reminder of a bygone era in which the physical release WAS the release, in which tape-trading and digging in bins for rarities was a hobby to enthusiastically pursue: not something simulated in online forums and furtively grasped at brick and mortar outposts now few and far between. Long Distance Poison (and Ecstatic Peace) acknowledge their debt to history not only via musical reference points, but through the resonances found in a cassette as relic and artwork. Try finding all that in a computer file.