Contact! at Symphony Space

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Andy Akiho. Photo: Aestheticize Media.

I had mixed feelings about the Dec. 22nd Contact! concert at Symphony Space. The first concert curated by the New York Philharmonic’s current composer in residence, Christopher Rouse, it featured two commissioned works for sinfonietta and a New York premiere, all by fast rising composers, as well as Counterpoise by Jacob Druckman (1928-’96). Having studied with and sung music by Druckman, I was glad to hear the Philharmonic revisit his music: a superb orchestrator who knew how to control the balance and pacing of an orchestra piece better than most in recent memory.

One was reminded by comparing Counterpoise to some of the newer music on the program just how difficult it can be to cultivate these skills. This is particularly true today,  an era in which, even for very talented composers, opportunities such as Contact! are few and far between. My favorite moments came in Andy Akiho’s Oscillate, a commission for the NY Philharmonic that featured imaginative writing for the sinfonietta’s percussion cohort. Akiho himself is a virtuoso percussionist and he supplied dazzling parts for pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments and also had pianist Eric Huebner perform inside his instrument with fistfuls of credit cards: perhaps a more constructive use for them than holiday overspending! In places, the string writing was less successful, but Oscillate’s attractive harmonic palette and gestural ebullience contained flashes of brilliance.

(Re)New Amsterdam: an Interview with Doyle Armbrust

As many of you know, during Storm Sandy New Amsterdam Presents and New Amsterdam Records’s headquarters in Red Hook, Brooklyn was decimated by flooding. Ever since, the label’s staff, led by co-directors William Brittelle, Judd Greenstein, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, have been working on rebuilding. Not only have they been concerned with their own business, but the community minded folks at New Amsterdam have also been advocating for aid to help their neighborhood in Red Hook.

New Amsterdam’s plight hasn’t gone unnoticed by the broader new music community. And not just in New York. On December 16th, Chicago musicians are presenting (Re)New Amsterdam (ticket info here), a benefit to raise money for the organization. One of the concert’s organizers, Doyle Armbrust, violist, writer, and curator of the (Un)Familiar Music Series at Chicago’s Empty Bottle, spoke with Sequenza 21 about the show.

Christian Carey: Hi Doyle. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about the upcoming benefit for New Amsterdam Records. How did the idea emerge for musicians to give a concert in Chicago to help out a record label that’s based in Red Hook, Brooklyn?

 

Doyle Armbrust: The idea for a New Amsterdam fundraiser came from the generous brain of Marcos Balter, whose scores have been recorded on the New Am label. This year, I’ve launched a new-music series, (Un)familiar Music, with the sole purposes of artist advocacy and breaking the new-music scene out of the concert hall setting. With its policies of allowing artists to retain the rights to their music as well as 80% of an album’s proceeds, the philosophies of New Am and (Un)familiar are wonderfully congruous. It was an obvious fit as Marcos and I saw it. Much more important than all of that, though, the Chicago new-music scene is a far more collaborative than competitive one. We believe in this often quixotic and illusory career path, and specifically the music being written today, and when we hear that our colleagues in another state are suffering, our hearts break. I moved back to Chicago after living in Los Angeles and Miami in large part because I missed this compassionate spirit of my home city. I’m grateful that the passionate response by the new-music community here has proved the point for me once again.

 

 

CC: How did you go about assembling the artists putting on the show? Which groups are participating?

 

DA: Once we secured the date with The Empty Bottle, (Un)familiar’s home base, calls and emails went out to just about every new-music ensemble in Chicago…and just about every new-music in ensemble immediately agreed to play. In some cases we have members of ensembles performing solo works, or smaller chamber pieces, due to availability and the size of the venue, but the program is an absolute knockout. Performers include: Abominable Twitch / Access Contemporary Music / Can I Get An Amen / Chicago Q Ensemble / CUBE / Dojo / Eighth Blackbird / Ensemble Dal Niente / Ensemble Vulpine Lupin / Fifth House Ensemble / Fulcrum Point / Gaudete Brass / Grant Wallace Band / Searchl1te / Spektral Quartet / Third Coast Percussion.

 

 

CC: Was there a collaborative or thematic aspect to selecting the program? Any highlights among the selections you’d like to preview for us?

DA: When programming (Un)familiar shows, my aim is to have the ensembles perform whatever they are most amped about. Marcos and I have continued that trend here, and I’m happy to report there will be no filler anywhere in this 4-hour show. I can’t possibly pick a most-anticipated entry, because the setlists are so dynamite. That said, as a Beat Furrer fanatic, I’m looking forward to hearing Ensemble Vulpine Lupin (a recent addition to the Chicago family) dig into “Invocation VI” and because this is a Cage year, I can’t wait to see Third Coast Percussion destroy with “Third Construction.”

CC: Any chance that the concert will be recorded?

WFMT will be recording the concert.

CC: What ways would you suggest non-Chicagoans help New Amsterdam and others affected by Storm Sandy?

 

DA: I wouldn’t presume to tell folks specifically how to donate, but I will say that I did have a wrestling match in my cranium over the often fraught issue of aid. There will always be someone in more dire need of assistance, as there is in the case of now-homeless victims of Sandy. I can also return from a record-buying binge and realize that someone won’t eat today, but I HAD to have that Harry Partch first-pressing. It’s a constant hypocrisy that most of us deal with on a daily basis. In the case of this event, I see an opportunity to help in some small way fellow musicians with whom I share similar artistic struggles. I have resources to magnify that aid, through my series and the generosity of my friends here in Chicago. We can rally together and throw a monster of a concert that people will excitedly pay to come witness. Together, through this incredible music we’ve dedicated our lives to championing, we can effect some tiny degree of relief.

 

 

Composer Concordance Festival Starts Friday

Celebrating the “Growing Diversity of Music,” Composers Concordance, a new music consortium and record label, presents its second festival from Nov. 30 – Dec. 7. Over the course of five concerts, one will get to hear works in a variety of styles and different forces: electroacoustic, chamber music, amplified ensemble music, and works for chamber orchestra.

On Friday the 30th, CC joins forces with Vox Novus, presenting a “60X60″ mix of one-minute electroacoustic works. I just learned on Monday that my “Gilgamesh Variation” is one of the pieces in the mix. The show is at Spectrum (details below).

Festival Details

Concert #1: 60 x 60
Instrumentation: Electronic Music / Multimedia
60 Electronic Composers
Friday, November 30th at 8pm at Spectrum
121 Ludlow Street, 2nd floor, NYC – Tickets $10

Concert #2: Soli
Instrumentation: Solo
Kathleen Supové, Eleonor Sandresky, & Jed Distler
Saturday, December 1st at 7pm at Faust Harrison Pianos
207 West 58th Street, NYC
Free Event – Note: seating is limited. RSVP: info@faustharrisonpianos.com 

Concert #3: Composers Play Composers Marathon
Instrumentation: Solo, Duo, Trio
30 Composer-Performers
Sunday, December 2nd from 3pm to 7pm at Drom NYC
85 Avenue A, NYC
Tickets $15 (includes one drink)

Concert #4: Nine Live
Instrumentation: Ensemble
Composers Concordance Ensemble
Tuesday, December 4th at 7:30pm at Shapeshifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn
Tickets $10

Concert #5: Legends
Instrumentation: Chamber Orchestra
Composers Concordance Chamber Orchestra (CCCO), Lara St. John – violin, Valerie Coleman – flute, Thomas Carlo Bo – conductor
Friday, December 7th at 8pm at DiMenna Center – Mary Flagler Cary Hall
450 West 37th Street, NYC
$20 day of performance, $15 students and advance tickets
Tickets: http://ccco_evolution.eventbrite.com/

MATA Call for Scores

We don’t generally post calls for scores with age limits, as suggesting that composers stop emerging or requiring organizational support at an arbitrary age is, in our view, discriminatory and foolish. But since one of the MATA organization’s principal mandates is to help young composers, we’ll make an exception. Guidelines for their “Under 40″ call listed below.

Music at the Anthology (MATA)

Application Deadline: January 15, 2013

MATA seeks submissions from composers under age 40 for our 2014 festival and commissioning program. We accept all music: sound art, video, electronic, found instruments, toys, installations, fully notated, improvised, and everything in between. A panel of distinguished composers, performers, and conductors will select approximately 20 participants for our four-day festival in New York City. Selected composers will either receive a performance of their pre-existing work or a commission to write a new piece. Performers come from a constantly rotating roster of ensembles that in years past has included full orchestra, chorus, piano soloists, chamber groups ranging from 2-18 musicians, and much more.

Please submit links to scores and recordings of your two best works; a current CV; list of compositions; and contact information through our website http://www.matafestival.org. We will only accept digital submissions. There is no entrance fee.

Audio: we accept either links to a personal website or through SoundCloud. In both cases, links must be streaming, not downloads.

Scores: we accept links to PDF documents either through your personal website or Issuu, a free publishing platform that allows you to upload PDF’s and provides a link for anyone to view the PDF online.

PLEASE BE SURE that your links remain in operation indefinitely, as the review process will not take place until the spring of 2013. Do not provide links that will expire after any period of time.

If you have any questions about the digital submission process, please do not hesitate to call our office at 212-563-5124 or email info@matafestival.org

Further details can be found at our website: http://www.matafestival.org

Keeping Jersey Strong: A Hurricane Benefit Comp

For $5 (or more if you’re so inclined) you can purchase Keep Jersey Strong: A Hurricane Benefit Comp from Bandcamp. It includes 53 tracks by area artists, including Real Estate, The Everymen, Cinema Cinema, Nicole Atkins, and more. All of the proceeds go to the American Red Cross’s efforts to help victims of Storm Sandy.

Friday and Saturday: C4 Ensemble

C4. Photo: Keith Goldstein.

For those of us here in New York and New Jersey, the past few weeks have been challenging. In the wake of Storm Sandy, we trust that better days are yet to come, but the present’s outlook is a bit dodgy. Some forward thinking optimism, particularly of the musical variety, is keenly welcome.

This weekend, C4 Ensemble, a collective of composers, conductors, and singers committed to new music (most wearing multiple hats in terms of their respective roles in the group), presents Music for People Who Like the Future.

Spotlighting the North American premiere of Andrew Hamilton’s Music for People Who Love the Future (hmm… I wonder if this title gave them the idea for the name of the show …), the program also features music by Chen Yi, Michael McGlynn, Sven-David Sandström, Phillipe Hersant, and Ted Hearne along with C4’s own Jonathan David, Mario Gullo, David Harris, and Karen Siegel.

Event Details 
Friday, November 16, 2012
The Church of St. Luke in the Fields
487 Hudson Street, NYC 10014
8 P.M.
$15 advance / $25 day of event/ 10 $4 “Rush” admissions 30 minutes advance at the door
Closest Subway:  1 to Christopher Street/Sheridan Square

Saturday, November 17, 2012
Mary Flagler Cary Hall at The DiMenna Center
450 W. 37th Street, NYC 10018
8 P.M.
$15 advance / $25 day of event / 10 $4 “Rush” admissions 30 minutes advance at the door
Closest Subways:  A/C/E to 34th Street/Penn Station
Reception to follow

Monday 10/15: Thomas Larcher premiere at ACF

Thomas Larcher. Photo: Richard Haughton.

This Fall, Austrian Cultural Forum continues to celebrate their 10th anniversary season with a variety of events. The concert they are presenting on Monday, October 15th seems somewhat to have fallen off of mainstream classical’s radar. More’s the pity, because it features a world premiere by Thomas Larcher, who is fast becoming one of Europe’s important composers.

What makes one an important composer? Sometimes critical apparatuses equate “bigger” with more “important:” operas, orchestra pieces featuring multiple tam tams, multimedia spectacles, etc. By that metric, Larcher is an unlikely heir to the Euro zone’s big guns. But for those willing to countenance the notion that more intimate works for smaller forces can also be compositions of great significance, Larcher is your man.

He is also a pianist, and much of his oeuvre is chamber music that features his instrument. The ACF commissioned a chamber work from Larcher, but one that doesn’t include piano. French/German cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and French violinist Nicolas Dautricourt, both members of Chamber Music Society 2, will premiere Larcher’s duo for strings alongside pieces by Ravel, Kodály, and Schnittke.

Event Details: The concert is at the Austrian Cultural forum on Monday at 7:30. Tickets are free, but you should reserve seats here.

 

Thursday: Harvey Uptown and Fairouz in Brooklyn

Among Thursday’s offerings, two composer portrait concerts compete for the attention of New York audiences.

Photo by Maurice Foxall.

I’m writing about the Jonathan Harvey concert for Musical America. Performed by Ensemble Signal at Miller Theatre, it features two of his large scale, spiritually inspired ensemble pieces, Death of Light/Light of Death (1998) and Bhakti (1982) (event details here).

Bird Concerto with Plainsong, Jonathan Harvey’s recent CD on NMC, is one of my favorite discs thus far in 2012.

Mohammed Fairouz is having his portrait concert  at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn. It is being produced by the folks at Issue Project Room. The program includes three world premieres and features the Borromeo String Quartet, Cygnus Ensemble, Elizabeth Farnum, pianists Kathleen SupovéBlair McMillen, and Taka Kigawa, and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert. (event details here).  


Hot off the presses is Fairouz’s debut on the Bridge imprint, Sumeida’s Song, an opera about peacemaking and tolerance, written when the precocious composer was only twenty-two years old.

Hurray for Haas

The scuttlebutt around Columbia University’s new senior composer hire seems to be true. As Alex Ross reported on The Rest is Noise yesterday, Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas will be joining Columbia’s faculty sometime during the 2012-’13 academic year, replacing Tristan Murail, One revels in the possibilities, not only for graduate students in composition, but for the rest of us too; we’ll likely get to hear some terrific programs during his time stateside!

The Wellesz Theatre is streaming Haas’s 2011 opera Bluthaus in its entirety via YouTube (embed below).

Our friend Thomas Bjørnseth has some terrific musical selections by Haas on his Atonality.Net website.

Letter to the Editor

Norman Lebrecht broke this story earlier today. I wrote the letter below to the New York Times this afternoon. I hope others will follow suit and ask for Allan Kozinn to be reinstated as music critic. Letters may be directed to the attention of Jon Landman.


Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Dear Editor:

I am writing to express my disappointment at learning that Allan Kozinn has been removed from the position of music critic and reassigned to the culture desk at the New York Times. Since his arrival at the Times in 1977, Kozinn has been one of the hardest working writers on music that the paper has ever had. Moreover, he is one of very few writers on contemporary classical music who has the knowledge and expertise to explain the inspiration for and intricacies of a wide variety of newer repertoire. Never hectoring or obligating listeners to expand their comfort zones, he effectively communicates why they should engage with the music of our time. It would be a great loss for the paper and many of its current and future readers if Mr. Kozinn were not allowed to do what he does best: write about music.

Sincerely,

Christian Carey

Assistant Professor of Music, Rider University

Managing Editor, Sequenza 21 (www.sequenza21.com)