Don’t Toy with the Noonday Demon

Much as I respect his work as a composer, I was upset by Keeril Makan’s post on the NY Times’ Score blog yesterday.

I’m not sure I buy Keeril’s suggestion that all composers battling with depression fear how it will impact their work if they are treated. In my discussion with creatives, I’ve come to learn that when you are in the grips of a major depressive episode, you may not be able to work at all. Indeed, those I know who are really dealing with depression don’t toy with it: they fear it as an unwelcome and unbidden visitor.

The notion that depression (or addiction) is a little seasoning to our creative juices is a pernicious one that has caused a lot of self-inflicted wounds by artists. Going after “dark moments” to spur your creativity, which is what is described in the article, is very different from experiencing brain chemistry gone haywire and completely out of your control. Having worked with blocked composers who deal with severe emotional issues, I can only hope that Mr. Makan doesn’t try and share this tidbit of “method acting” with his students.

I also steadfastly reject the notion that composers are inevitably reflecting their emotional life in their music. Some of Mozart’s most joyful works are written from the depths of mourning. It is a romantic notion, but it just doesn’t hold up for everyone. Keeril is free to explore his dark materials, but I’d urge other composers not to feel compelled to “emote all their notes.”

(Note: an abridged version of the commentary above appeared on the NYT blog here). 

 

Thursday: Beck plays Wuorinen at the Stone

Steven Beck.Photograph: (C) Beowulf Sheehan

Steven Beck.
Photograph: (C) Beowulf Sheehan

Charles Wuorinen is not only a formidable composer; he’s also a talented pianist. I remember well his playing during composition lessons I took with him at Rutgers: always up to tempo with nary a note dropped. Although his piano music is frequently quite challenging, it is also gratifying to play. Thus it is not surprising that estimable artists such as Garrick Ohlsson, Marilyn Nonken, and Alan Feinberg have championed his work. In recent years, Steven Beck has become another persuasive advocate on behalf of the composer. This Thursday at the Stone in downtown NYC, Beck will perform an all Wuorinen concert consisting mostly of solo works (cellist Jay Campbell guests on the duo Orbicle of Jasp).

Event Details
Steven Beck plays the music of Charles Wuorinen
January 10 at 8 PM
The Stone
Corner of Avenue C and 2nd Street
NYC
$10

Program

Orbicle of Jasp (1999) (with Jay Campbell, cello)
Bagatelle (1988)
Etude (for Chords and Dynamic Balance) (2011) – American premiere*
Capriccio (1981)
Josquin: Ave Christe (1988)
Haroun Piano Book (2009)

* commissioned by the Busoni Piano Competition

 

Best of 2012: Aaron Cassidy on NMC (Recording Review)

Aaron Cassidy
A painter of figures in rooms
NMC Recordings (digital EP)

American-born and UK-based composer Aaron Cassidy created the vocal ensemble work A painter of figures in rooms for Ex Audi as part of the New Music 20×12 Cultural Olympiad.  It continues his research into extended tablature notation. Using this approach, details of the physicality of performance are specifically addressed, perhaps even more so than more traditional musical features. In a vocal ensemble work, this means that issues such as vowel space, approach to breathing, mouth and lip position, and gesture feature prominently.

While this notational approach would, at first glance, seem to leave room for significant variances between performances, Cassidy’s body of work occupies a distinctive and recognizable sound world that suggests a clarity of utterance conveyed by the tablature. When comparing his vocal music alongside Crutch of Memory, a recent disc of instrumental works recorded by the Elision Ensemble for Neos, certain qualities of sound surface as stylistic touchstones. Cassidy’s notation allows for an exploration of sliding between pitches, timbral adjustments, and fine gradations of microtones that would likely be cumbersome to notate in traditional Western fashion. Thus, while extremely complex and requiring a great deal from the performers, the resulting music takes on elemental concerns in organic fashion. The visceral vocalisms and muscularly effusive gestural profile of A painter of figures in rooms belie the notion that music in the “new complexity” or “second modern” vein is primarily an intellectual exercise. Instead, it often suggests uninhibited sensuality.

Friday – Saturday: Viva 21st Century Marathon

classicaldiscoveries logo

From Friday 2 PM to Saturday 2 PM (EST), broadcaster Marvin Rosen will be hosting “Viva 21st Century,” a marathon of recent classical music on Princeton’s WPRB 103.3 FM (also on the web at www.wprb.com). The broadcast will include over eighty composers.

Marvin has informed me that my “Gilgamesh Suite EP” (out now on BandCamp) will be featured sometime between 7 and 9 PM on Friday.

More details below.

Viva 21st Century

Classical Discoveries will present the 10th Annual program and the 6th 24-Hour Marathon totally devoted to music composed in the 21st century.

VIVA 21ST CENTURY – INTERNATIONAL EDITION

24-HOUR LIVE WPRB RADIO BROADCAST with Marvin Rosen

starts: Friday, December 28, 2012 – 2:00pm
ends: Saturday, December 29, 2012 – 2:00pm.

Approximately 80 composers will have their works aired during this marathon.
Milosz Bembinow, Thomas Blomenkamp, Sylvie Bodorova,Christian Carey, Jennifer Castellano, Daniel Dorff, Hugues Dufourt, Rosemary Duxbury, Ivan Erod, Vladimir Godar, Ola Gjeilo, Jennifer Higdon, Matthew Hindson, Mary Ann Joyce-Walter, Lei Liang, Michel Lysight, Peter Machajdik, Franco Antonio Mirenzi, Andrew Rudin, Carl Ruttl, Somei Satoh, Ravi Shankar, Ylva Skog, Allan Stephenson, John Tavener, Giel Vleggaar, Joelle Wallach and many, many others.

For Internet listeners link to excellent Time Zone Converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-bin/tzc.tzc

Facebook event page here: RSVP and invite your friends!

Fantasy for cello and guitar III (SoundCloud)

Program Note

Written in Autumn 2012, in Three Fantasies for Cello and Guitar I sought to explore various techniques for playing the guitar and ways that the cello might imitate or replicate them. There are sections highlighting harmonics, pizzicato (plucked strings), single-note melodies, arpeggiated and block chords, and rasgueado (flamenco style strumming). Descriptive terms like misterioso (mysteriously), dialogo (dialogue), birichino (mischievously), and solenne (solemn) locate the motivation for these technical etudes in the realm of character pieces.

Some MIDI demos below via my SoundCloud page.

12/10 Premiere at Connecticut College

Monday, December 10
Percussion and New Music Concert.
Peter Jarvis, director
7:00 pm Evans Hall
Tickets $5; Students & Seniors $3, free to CC Students, Staff & Faculty

Program includes works by Elliott Carter, John Cage, David Saperstein, Gene Pritsker, and James Romig.

Program Note: Fuller Brush Music - Christian Carey

Fuller Brush Music for drum set is an etude for playing with brushes and for playing in a prevailingly soft dynamic range. The performer employs various brushes and dampening techniques to balance the kit for this more delicate sound world. Commissioned by Calabrese Brothers Music, it is dedicated to Peter Jarvis.

Composed 2010 in South Amboy, NJ and New York, NY.

 - Christian Carey


First Solo Release on Bandcamp

All proceeds from the sale of “Gilgamesh Suite EP” will benefit Locrian Chamber Players’ next concert season.

“‘Gilgamesh Suite ‘is a newly composed work based on selections from incidental music I contributed to the play ‘Gilgamesh Variations,’ produced at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr Theatre in 2011. Written to commemorate the 2012 John Cage centenary, its touchstone work is ‘Sonatas and Interludes.’ Instead of creating a trope on Cageian compositional practices, I focused on incorporating the rich sound palette of the work’s prepared piano into the play’s eclectic and highly gestural aesthetic.

The suite, composed for Locrian Chamber Players, is scored for flute, prepared piano, harp, and string quartet. The sixth movement embeds ‘Locrian Flourish,’ a work commissioned by the ensemble for flutist Diva Goodfriend-Koven, as an extended cadenza.” – Christian Carey

credits

released 09 December 2012
Locrian Chamber Players: Conrad Harris and Miranda Cuckson, violin; Daniel Panner, viola; Greg Hesselink, cello; Roger Wagner, bass; Diva Goodfriend-Koven, flute; David Broome, prepared piano; Lynette Wardle, harp. Artistic Director: David MacDonaldMusic by Christian Carey, published by File Under Music (ASCAP).
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Recorded August 24, 2012 at Riverside Church, New York.
Locrian Chamber Players (locrian.org)

Mastering: Robert Thomas (retmusic.com)
Artwork: Tyler Carey

For scores, parts, and more information about Christian Carey, please visit www.christiancarey.wordpress.com

tags





RIP Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)

English composer Jonathan Harvey, who had been ill for some time, also passed away yesterday at the age of 73. A composer with extraordinarily wide ranging interests – Babbitt, IRCAM, electronic music, myriad spiritual traditions, and meditation - which in turn manifested in his pieces in a panoply of interactions, creating a wonderfully rich and varied body of work.

In October, I wrote “Dissonance and the Divine” about Miller Theatre’s Composer Portrait concert spotlighting Harvey’s work. Read the article at Musical America’s website (subscription required).