David Borden and his all-synthesizer ensemble Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company will be visiting Brooklyn on Wednesday (details below). They’re presenting excerpts from Borden’s The Continuing Story of Counterpoint and Easter, his minimalist epic for Moog synths.
Gear heads: beware of missing out. Among their keyboard arsenal are a vintage Mini Moog and its more recent cousin, the Moog Voyager.
Barton McLean’s latest release finds the composer/pianist/electronic musician presenting works that draw upon a variety of inspirations. These range from local to more exotic geographies, from field recordings to laboriously crafted computer sounds from customized software, and from live performances to overdubbed studio-wrought virtual ensembles. What brings these seemingly disparate works together is McLean’s distinctive ear for timbre, and his delight in creating various sonic echoes and digitized instrumental doppelgangers.
The earliest completed piece, 1989′s Demons of the Night, explores the darker side of a summer evening in rural New York. Various dark denizens, real or imagined (we can’t be sure!), are evoked by cackling saxophone and agitated synthesized glissandi.
On Concerto: States of Beingg (2009), McLean serves as piano soloist while the “Petersburgh Electrophilharmonica” provides a virtual accompaniment. The three movements – “Wonder,” “Attainment,” and “Tranquility” – each evoke a different stage of life or state of mind. The solo part is fluidly rendered and, given the subject matter, suitably wide ranging. The accompanying timbres are equally multifaceted in makeup, but generally favor echoing reverberations that trail the piano’s attacks and bell-like sonorities. Magic at Xanadu is a showcase for McLean’s electroacoustic prowess, particularly his facility with MAX/MSP (from which the work takes its title). Its blending of more atmospheric timbres with ostinatos crafts a work of variegated texture and intriguingly intricate formal design. More exploratory still is the live electronics piece Ice Canyons, which blends ephemeral wisps of melody with string pads and ambiguous harmonies blurred with glissandos.
More acoustically based is Ritual of the Dawn, a chamber sextet for the Syracuse Society of New Music. It is a contemplative millennial work that features shimmering pitched percussion, insistent gongs, McLean’s virtuosic pianism, and soaring wind duets. It captures both the nervous excitement and reflective moments that can take hold of us, sometimes in quick succession, at times of significant change. Finally, Rainforest Images II makes successful use of field recordings and natural sounds in a sound installation; a genre that is often rife with cliche is here given considerable compositional focus. Thus, the CD presents many facets of McLean without ever diluting the impression of a composer with keenly refined vision.
I was so pleased to see that Wendy Richman’s upcoming “Viola &” recital (1/24 at 8 PM at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn) got a very nice mention in this week’s issue of Time Out NY. The program includes premieres by Arlene Sierra, Lou Bunk, and yours truly, and features works both for singing violist and viola plus electronics. Thanks very much to Steve Smith for listing the show.
Thanks too to Armando Bayolo for taking the time, amidst packing and preparing for a big trip to Europe, to interview Wendy on the Sequenza 21homepage. And ICE for plugging the show too.
This Friday, also at the Bushwick Starr, is the opening of Gilgamesh Variations. The play is an adaptation by eleven playwrights of the stone tablets depicting the ancient Mesopotamian tale the Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve contributed the incidental music: a score featuring electronics, prepared piano, percussion, and singing.
The show runs for two weeks – you can grab tickets here.
Those up for a gig in Brooklyn tonight should check out Music at First (details below). Flanigan is performing pieces from Amplifications. She shares the bill with bassist Eleanor Oppenheim, who’s doing a set of pieces for electronics and double bass.
BROOKLYN’S “MUSIC AT FIRST” featuring ELEONORE OPPENHEIM & LESLEY FLANIGAN
Franck Vigroux & Ars Nova Instrumental
Broken Circles Live D’Autre Cordes CD
French composer and electronic musician Franck Vigroux has done a number of projects that straddle the boundaries between avant-pop and experimental concert music. His latest recording, Broken Circles Live enlists the help of the chamber ensemble Ars Nova Instrumental. It also features vocalist Geraldine Keller, keyboardist Matthew Bourne, and electric guitarist Marc Ducret. Vigroux contributes live electronics.
Broken Circles is a five-movement suite of pieces that feature moments of free improvisation and electronics interwoven into a composed score. Keller, in particular, is a standout. Her part is written like Pierrot Lunaire plus Circles on a psychedelic, steroid-tinged cocktail. Filled with swoops, shrieks, and sprechstimme, it is a daunting part for any soprano to assay. Keller makes a formidable and committed interpreter. Ars Nova and the instrumental guests weave a supportive accompaniment, creating a sound world that dips into both second modernist constructions and free-wheeling avant jazz excursions. Often, they match Keller’s intensity: one is particularly drawn to the dissonant crunches and soaring interplay of the suite’s final movement.
Thus, Broken Circles serves as an excellent starter kit for Vigroux’s music, as well as a bracing excursion into post-millennial polystylism.
The Exploding Piano
Major Who Media
Kathleen Supové’s latest recording The Exploding Piano, is a collection of works by Randall Woolf, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Michael Gatonska, and Dan Becker. While, thankfully, nothing blows up, the piano is subjected to a wide range of preparations, alterations, and dramatic exertions.
Supové is a dynamic performer, willing to try new and different things. Some of the pieces, like Mazzoli’s “Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos” and Becker’s “Revolution,” mix samplers and synths into the pianistic equation. Woolf’s “Sutra Sutra,” (live video below) combines jazzy inflections and spoken word components, skirting the edges of performance art and playing to the pianist’s charismatic onstage strengths. Clyne’s “On Track” instead focuses on inside the piano plucks and punctilious semitone clusters. For Gatonska’s “A Shaking of the Pumpkin,” the performer prepares the piano by placing a bass drum under the lid.
While this is a piano recital where the piano doesn’t necessarily often sound like a piano, The Exploding Piano is an intriguing display of fascinating sound worlds. Supové deserves kudos for fearlessly exploring the depths of these disparate works.