Earlier this Spring, the documentary film Andrew Bird: Fever Yearwas screened at fourteen festivals. Containing interviews, concert footage, and capturing rehearsals of works in process, it looks to be a fascinating corollary to Break it Yourself, Bird’s latest studio album (out now via Mom and Pop). Would love to review a screener of the film (anyone?).
Tonight, the Alabama Symphony, conducted by Justin Brown, appears at Carnegie Hall as part of Spring for Music, a week long celebration of out-of-town orchestras with adventurous programming aesthetics. Many of them are making their Carnegie Hall debuts; all of them are bringing programs of interest and demonstrating that, despite the oft-reported economic vicissitudes in the world of classical music, there remains a tremendous vitality of orchestral music making throughout North America.
In addition to a repertory standby, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the ASO presents two New York premieres of pieces they commissioned: Avner Dorman’s Astrolatry and Paul Lansky’s Shapeshifters. The latter work is a double piano concerto for the duo Quattro Mani.
The same forces recently recorded it, as well as two other pieces by Lansky, for Bridge . The disc, titled Imaginary Islands, shows off Lansky’s music at its most colorful, filled with virtuosic passages for the soloists and formidably propulsive post-minimal writing for the orchestra. The composer’s take on minimal figuration is a fascinating marriage of an “enhanced” harmonic palette, one evocative of Messiaen as often as it is of Adams, with crackling ostinati and pileups of syncopation.
The recording demonstrates how far the ASO has come in a relatively short period of time: less than twenty years ago (in 1993), the orchestra had declared bankruptcy and its future was very much in doubt. The musicians and Brown, who soon departs from his position as their music director, should be proud of the successes the ASO has enjoyed in recent years. The standard of playing has risen, the orchestra’s programming has included a number of new works including several commissions, and they have been featured on several recording projects. This week’s visit to Carnegie Hall: a well-deserved victory lap!
My review of Kronos Quartet’s concert at Zankel Hall ran this past Friday on Musical America. The program featured a “one night only” reunion with former Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, performing music by Vladimir Martynov, which was marvelous, and “Secret Word,” a piece dedicated to Pee Wee Herman, which was not so marvelous…
If you missed the concert (or even if you didn’t!), I strongly suggest checking out Kronos’s latest Nonesuch CD, a Martynov portrait.
Dark UrrrU/Waterfinder - cassette split (via the sadly now defunct Peasant Magik): A generous helping of drones, post-psych reverberations, spoken word and caterwauling from Portland, Maine supergroup.
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (Out this week via Jagjaguwar). Her last album was indeed Epic; and this one has breakout hit all over it. Check out L Magazine’sarticle on Sharon: she’s interviewed by Wye Oak’s vocalist Jenn Wasner.
Sharon Van Etten
Tim Berne -Snakeoil (ECM Records): Also out this week, alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s most “chamber music” flavored foray to date. Ches Smith, Oscar Norieaga, and Matt Mitchell join Berne on his first studio recording in years, creating supple, dynamic, and adventurous renditions of a set of new original compositions.
Johann Johannsson -The Miners’ Hymns (FatCat): From February 8-14 at Film Forum on West Houston Street in NYC, there will be screenings of Bill Morrison’s film The Miners’ Hymns: a portrait of the inexorable winds of change that beset a British mining town, forever changing its residents’ way of life. The score was released last year, but its evocative mixture of organ, brass ensemble, and string textures is well worth revisiting, even sans Morrison’s touching cinematography.
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.
One of our favorite out indie songstresses, Julianna Barwick, guests on An Album By Korallreven, (out now on Acéphale), the debut LP of Swedish electronica duo Korallreven. Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjäder (of The Radio Dept) incorporate Barwick’s soaring layered vocals alongside droning guitars, synth brass stabs, and chanting refrains, all mixed over a bed of warm keyboard pads and acidic drum beats. Hear the single below as an embed via Soundcloud. The band is promoting the CD with their first US tour dates (below).
You can also hear Julianna’s new song “Never Change” via Soundcloud (courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty).
Korallreven Live in Concert
3/4 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
3/5 – Washington DC – Black Cat
3/6 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
3/7 – San Francisco, CA – Independent*
3/8 – Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex*
My interview with Dennis Russell Davies, who is conducting the ACO concert, is up on Musical America’swebsite (subscribers only).
If you’re looking for a terrific way to celebrate PG’s birthday, Brooklyn Rider’s latest CD on Orange Mountain Music includes Glass’s first five string quartets. The earthiness with which they play the music may surprise you at first, but it provides a persuasive foil for some of the more motoric, “high buffed sheen” toned performances of minimalism that are out there. In a 2011 video below, they give a performance of a more recent work, a suite of music from the film Bent.