Righteous Girls Rescheduled to 1/14

Thrilled that Gina Izzo and Erika Dohi haven’t had their Righteous Girls performance at Cornelia Street Cafe thwarted by Storm Sandy. Then venue was kind enough to reschedule the show to January 14 at 8:30 PM. They will be giving the first live performance of my duo “For Milton:” written in memory of Milton Babbitt.

Event Details
Classical at the Cornelia
Righteous Girls- Gina Izzo, flute, and Erika Dohi, piano,
plus artist Zlata Kolomoyskaya and pianist Tristan McKay
Music by John Cage, Paul Brantley, Judd Greenstein & Randy Woolf
as well as new pieces by Christian Carey, Tristan McKay & Michael Patterson

Monday January 14 at 8:30 PM
Cornelia Street Café
29 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212.989.9319
$10.00 cover plus $10.00 minimum

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

Robert Paterson: Marimba Plus Six Mallets

Robert Paterson may not be the first or only person to use six mallets on the marimba; but he’s fast becoming a proselytizing percussionist for the technique. He has developed it based on the Burton grip with two additional mallets and is composing works to help expand the repertoire for sextuple sticking.

 

Christian Carey: Hi Rob. Thanks for talking about your unusual approach to playing the marimba. Lots of marimba repertoire is playable with a mallet or two in each hand. When did you first try adding two additional mallets to your technical routine? What did you feel this approach allows you to do at the instrument?

 

Robert Paterson: I first began exploring using six mallets when I was an undergrad student at the Eastman School of Music. It actually started out as an accident: there happened to be six mallets lying on top of my marimba, so I quickly grabbed all of them and began fooling around with a waltz-type figure to try and impress a girlfriend. I just happened to pick up the mallets in a way that worked, and I was immediately hooked.

 

Six-mallet technique allows for expanded harmonic possibilities, so for example, I can play triads in each hand. I can also quickly alternate mallets, so if you number them left to right, 1, 2/3, 4, 5/6, or whatever combination works. I can also play one-handed rolls quite easily, and play ripple roll chords that sound much more robust. You can also hold different mallets from left to right, so for example, a large rubber mallet as mallet 1, then five hard yarn mallets, so that the lowest note sounds very full and distinctive. There are seemingly limitless possibilities. Basically, anything that can be done with four mallets can be done with six, and with six I can do so much more.

 

If there’s one single goal I have with this new album, it’s to prove that six mallet technique is not a gimmick: I am definitely not just playing block chords on the naturals (i.e., the lower bank of notes), and I can really move the mallets around quite freely. The one thing I can’t do super fast if use mallets like piano fingers. I can do that to a certain degree, and at a moderate tempo, but it’s usually easier to alternate notes in melodic runs left hand to right hand.

 

CC: How has being a percussionist and marimba specialist impacted your work as a composer?

 

RP: There are certain technical aspects of composing I definitely obsess over, probably more than if I had grown up playing the violin or any other instrument. I am fascinated with resonance, and how notes ring. I also like bell sounds, and often ask non-percussionists to play cup gongs (temple bowls or Tibetan bowls), finger cymbals and other hand-held percussion instruments. A recent piece I wrote entitled A New Earth for orchestra, chorus and narrator requires certain players to play custom-tuned wind chimes, the kind you might have on your back porch. I am not sure if this stems from a sort of secret desire to bring other performers to the dark side of percussion land (although most of the time they really enjoy it), or that I just can’t disregard my roots, or something else entirely. Perhaps the main reason is that I really wish orchestras and other ensembles had larger percussion sections, so maybe this is my way of compensating, a sort of back door approach.

 

CC: Just in terms of your composing career, you’re a busy guy, with residencies, commissions, and involvement in running an ensemble (the American Modern Ensemble). How do you keep in shape as a performer?

 

RP: That’s a great question, and one I constantly struggle with. As I started receiving more commissions, residencies, and so on, and also started to conduct more, I eventually had to cut way back on performing, and only do what I really wanted to do, which at this point, happens to be marimba playing (often with six mallets) and occasionally new music by other composers. When I was younger, I definitely played my share of Messiah timpani parts and road shows for a variety of orchestras and chamber ensembles, and even rock gigs, but I eventually decided to leave all that behind so I could focus more on what I really love to do.

 

For me, the key to keeping in shape is to play a little every day (or a lot, obviously, if I am preparing for a concert). Admittedly, I think this is easier for percussionists than brass or wind players, or even string players. I can get back in shape pretty quickly, but that’s also because I have a pretty solid technical foundation and practiced a ton when I was younger, so it’s not too difficult.

 

CC: Wednesday night is the release show for not one, but two CDs, one showcasing your six-mallet marimba playing technique, another by Makoto Nakura that includes a new four mallet work you wrote. How did this confluence of releases come about? Also, you’ve been writing works including marimba for a while. Why did it now seem to be an opportune time to showcase these pieces on a single disc?

 

RP: The double release idea just sort of happened. I have been planning on releasing this Six Mallet Marimba album for years, but never had enough music, without including pieces that have nothing to do with marimba or six mallets. Many of my six mallet pieces are on the short side, so you need a bunch of them to make a full album. I finally had an album’s worth of pieces, so this seemed like the right time.

 

As for Makoto’s album, recently, my indie record company AMR (American Modern Recordings) signed a deal with him to re-release his older albums and also release Wood and Forest, his new album. Makoto commissioned me to write a new four-mallet piece, and since this was happening all around the same time, we decided to combine the events. We are cross advertising to each other’s followers and audiences, which is great. It’s not every day that you hear two marimbas together, particularly in the Rubin Museum of Art, so we thought audiences might enjoy that.

 

CC: What will attendees get to hear on the show?

 

RP: I am performing a marimba solo entitled Komodo (inspired by Komodo dragons), Braids for violin and marimba, with my wife Victoria (written for her, and inspired by watching her braid her hair and musical forms based on different braiding styles), Duo for Flute and Marimba, a three movement work that I’ll play with flutist Sato Mougalian  (the NY premiere), the world premiere performance of Stillness for oboe and marimba with oboist Keve Wilson, and finally the world premiere of a new marimba duo entitled Mandala, that was commissioned by Makoto. It is inspired by the theme of “happiness” and a Hevajra Mandala image in the Rubin Museum’s art collection.

 

Makoto will be performing four works: Mandala (with me), Forest Shadows for solo marimba, the four mallet piece I wrote for him, and two works by other composers. The first is Arbor Una Nobilis for marimba and violin by Jacob Bancks, which he will play with violinist Jesse Mills, and the second is Winik/Te’ for solo marimba by Carlos Sanches-Gutierrez. All in all, it will be a an exciting fascinating program, and I am really looking forward to hearing Makoto play live, and also to play this duo with him! It will be a complete thrill.

 

CC: AME seems to be going really well: getting lots of attention both for their live performance and recordings. What’s coming up next for the ensemble?

 

RP: Our next concert after this one is entitled The End Of The World, and it’s a collaborative event with Talujon, a NYC based percussion ensemble. AME will be performing works by a variety of composers, including George Crumb and George Rochberg, and Talujon will be performing works by Daniel Iglesia, Hannah Lash, and Daniel Wohl. Finally, next March, we will be presenting a concert tentatively titled Concertos & More, featuring works by Steve Mackey, Sean McClowry, a piece by me entitled Looney Tunes and a piece by Eric Nathan, the winner of our 2011-12 composition competition. We are also excited that we just became the official new music ensemble-in-residence at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, so we will be working with the composers at that institution as well.

 

We also have a few other recordings in the works, including a second two piano album (appropriately titled Powerhouse Pianists II) with Stephen Gosling and Blair McMillen, featuring piano duos by various excellent composers, a chamber vocal album of some of my music, and we will be on an album that will be released on Bridge Records with works by Steve Mackey. We have many other albums planned, but since we put a lot of love and care into each album, we try to only release them when they are good and ready and everyone is confident that they represent AME and AMR (American Modern Recordings) well. AMR thinks of itself as an indie boutique classical record company that releases the highest possible quality albums of contemporary music, so if we’re getting any attention, we’d like to think it’s because we have put so much love and care into what we do.

Event Details
American Modern Ensemble
Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
$15.00 in advance / $30.00 day of
Member Price: $13.50
The Rubin Museum of Art is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City
on 17th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.
(Rubin Museumwebsite here)

Thursday, November 8: Duos at Symphony Space

On Thursday at Symphony Space, string duo Laurie Smukler (violin) and Joel Krosnick (cello) present a concert that includes both classical and contemporary duets. The program features one of the first musical tributes to Elliott Carter since his passing on Monday: the late work Tres Duetti. Krosnick, a former member of the Juilliard Quartet, collaborated closely with Carter, premiering and performing a number of his works. Another American composer with whom he worked closely was the self-styled “Radical Traditionalist” Ralph Shapey. Thursday’s concert has Duo Variations, a work by Shapey composed for Krosnick, slated for performance as well. Below, the cellist shares some words about knowing and working with Carter.

“For those of us who grew up as American musicians in the 1950′s playing the music of our time, and who have continued to do so until now,  Elliott Carter has been a seminal philosophical presence in our entire lives as musicians.  From the appearance of the astonishingly massive Quartet No. 1 in 1951, through the four other quartets culminating with the 5th Quartet in the late 1990′s, Mr. Carter has been, for just a small example, an integral part of the life of anyone who loved and played string quartets.  The Juilliard Quartet premiered the 2nd and 3rd Quartets of Mr. Carter, and of course played them all.  (We will play the 5th String Quartet at a Juilliard School concert on December 19, which was to be a celebration of Mr. Carter’s 104th birthday.)

“My first memorable experience with the music of Elliott Carter was of course the Cello Sonata from 1948, perhaps the most important cello sonata of my lifetime as a musician.  I had the great good fortune to be allowed by Mr. Carter to make an early recording of that great work in the mid 1960′s with the pianist Paul Jacobs for Nonesuch Records (followed in the 1990′s by a second recording of the work with my pianist partner, Gilbert Kalish, for Arabesque Records).  And since that time, I have had the privilege of being a part of innumerable performances over many years of the Cello Sonata, all five of the String Quartets, the Harpsichord Sonata, the Triple Duo, the Oboe Quartet, the Figment No. 1 for Solo Cello, the Tre Duetti for Violin and Cello,  the Piano Quintet, and the Clarinet Quintet (written for and premiered by Charles Neidich and the Juilliard String Quartet).

 

“As I have said, Elliott Carter has been a major presence in my life as a musician, almost from the start.  Even considering his advanced age of 103, it is suddenly astonishing that he will no longer be with us writing his great music.”

Event Details
In the Salon at Symphony Space
Laurie Smukler and Joel Krosnick
Thursday, November 8 at 7:30 PM
Nimoy Thalia Theater
Tickets here

Arts at the Park Celebrates Cage (Concert Review)

Concert Review: John Cage Centennial Celebration

Arts At the Park -Park Avenue Christian Church

September 29, 2012

 

By Christian Carey

 

2012 has been chock full of celebratory events marking John Cage’s centennial year. There have been a number of performances in Mr. Cage’s honor, several of them including his Sonatas and Interludes (1948) for prepared piano; there have also been a steady stream of new recordings and reissues of this work. What fascinates me is the durability of the piece, which withstands numerous interpretations; alongside a pliability in which each performer can supply an individual take on the piece. This is not so remarkable when one is considering a piece by a canonical composer, say, a sonata by Beethoven. But when one considers the dampening and percussive character brought out by the piece’s requisite preparations, the variety of interpretations seems striking.

 

Vicky Chow’s performance of Sonatas and Interludes at the Cage Centennial Celebration on the Arts at the Park series shared yet another way of performing the piece. Chow’s attention to details of dynamic nuance included delicately shaped hairpins and fastidious attention to the numerous markings in the score. The pianist also reveled in the gamelan-like textures that the preparations produce, gearing her articulations to render the maximum amount of percussiveness from the instrument. Thus, this was a Sonatas and Interludes that provided delicacy balanced by a zesty tang: an impressive and engaging performance.

 

Composed in 1978, Etudes Boreales is one of Cage’s pieces created using chance operations; its title comes from Cage’s use of a star chart from the Atlas Borealis as a chance element to determine some of the registral parameters of the work’s piano part. It may be performed either as a solo cello piece, solo piano piece, or as a duo for both instruments. Cellist Jay Campbell presented a solo version in which he inhabited the work with intensity, negotiating wide leaps and angular lines with pinpoint placement.

 

Supply Belcher’s book The Harmony of Maine (1794), a collection of part-songs in the vein of Billings, Read, and the other “Yankee Tunesmiths,” is the generating material for Cage’s Some of the Harmony of Maine (1978). The piece requires an organist and three assistants – one for each manual of the organ tasked with changing stops for the organist (sometimes rapidly!). Paul Vasile, along with three dutiful deputies, gave a short talk about what the audience would hear – quite an unconventional composition, especially when compared with service music – and then forged ahead. The piece’s frequent shifts between tunes from the book and stop combinations created a resplendent display of the timbral capabilities of the organ at Park Avenue Christian Church. And while their fragmentary deployment would cause one to struggle to pick out the tunes, Cage’s Harmony retains some of the grandeur and rhythmic swagger that exemplifies Belcher’s music.

27’10.554”, a piece for solo percussion, was played by Payton MacDonald to close the concert. One of Cage’s earliest chance pieces, its structure is derived from a poem by Lao Tzu. Instead of specifying which instruments to use, the battery of instruments is divided into wood, metal, skins, and “others,” creating the possibility of numerous interpretations of the piece. Thunderous drumming, thrown objects, crashing cymbals, and snippets of playback from a recording of a soprano singing were interspersed with moments of silence (made all the more palpable by the saturated musical passages).

 

Like the other pieces on the program, 27’10.554” demonstrates Cage’s penchant for taking materials, or enabling performers to choose them, and placing them in unexpected contexts: screws inside a piano, a cello leaping through a star chart, Supply Belcher played with a kaleidoscope of sounds, and a Lao Tzu poem banged out on percussion instruments. Besides the composer’s ingenuity, what makes the music work is due in no small part to the dedication and imagination of its interpreters, which was abundantly evident here.

Tonight at Tenri: Counterinduction

counter)induction

Tonight, one of New York’s finest contemporary ensembles, counter)induction, joins forces with Washington Square Contemporary Music Society to present “American Explorations,” a program featuring three generations of American composers, at the Tenri Cultural Institute. 

Carson Cooman

The program includes premieres by composers Louis Karchin and Brian Fennelly, as well as works by Carson Cooman, Jesse Jones, Kyle Bartlett, and Yehudi Wyner. Given the composers on offer, one should expect a stylistically diverse and challenging program. Given the performers involved, one should expect those challenges to be met handily.

Program Details

counter)induction

Taka Kigawa, piano
Miranda Cuckson, violin
Max Mandel, viola
Chris Gross, cello
Benjamin Fingland, clarinet

FennellyKythera Variations

KarchinTwo Lyrics for Solo Cello

CoomanMadaket Dreaming

JonesSnippet Variations

WynerRomances for Piano Quartet

BartlettSpell

$15 general admission/$10 seniors/$5 students

Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC

Brian Fennelly

43A W 13th St
New York, NY
(between 5th and 6th avenues)

Louis Karchin

Jonathan Harvey Review in Musical America

Dissonance Meets the Divine

My review of last Thursday’s Jonathan Harvey Composer Portrait at Miller Theatre, featuring Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman, was published today in Musical America.

You can read it here (subscription required, but the magazine offers a short term free trial – why not kick the tires?)

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.

 

Sounding Beckett Sounds Good

Holly Twyford in Sounding Beckett. Photo: Jeremy Tressler.

Three of Samuel Beckett’s late one-act plays (from his “ghost period”) are the source material for Sounding Beckett, an interdisciplinary collaboration that is entering its second (and final) weekend of New York performances at Classic Stage Company on September 21-23.Theatre director Joy Zinoman has enlisted a fine cast of actors and resourceful design team, Cygnus Ensemble directed by guitarist William Anderson, and composers Laura Kaminsky, John Halle, Laura Schwendinger, Scott Johnson, David Glaser, and Chester Biscardi to create a production that is both respectful of the playwright’s work and imaginative in its incorporation of music.

Beckett was quite specific about what sounds and music are to be added to his plays: one can’t just insert incidental music willy-nilly without running afoul of his estate. Sounding Beckett avoids this pitfall, instead allowing composers to have the last word: after the actors have left the stage. Each of the plays - Footfalls, Ohio Impromptu, and Catastrophe – has been supplied with a musical “response” by two different composers. A composition is played directly after the performance of each play (the “cast” of composers rotates. This past Sunday afternoon, the show I attended featured music by Schwendinger, Halle, and Kaminsky).

In a talkback after Sunday’s performance, Schwendinger underscored that the pieces we heard were meant as musical responses to the plays: not necessarily programmatic outlines or storytelling. Thus, her piece responded to the strong emotions churning under the surface of Footfalls with sustained passages of controlled, but angst-imbued dissonance. After seeing actor Holly Twyford’s simmering performance in the play, one could readily understand Schwendinger’s poignant, elegantly crafted response.

Halle’s piece after “Ohio Impromptu” featured a more effusive language, with arcing lines surging towards, but never quite reaching, a place of closure and repose. Again, while not mimicking the action on the stage, his music seemed like a kindred spirit to Ted van Griethuysen’s mellifluous reading of a tragic story of love lost;  it also resonated with the silent, but facially expressive, performance of actor Philip Goodwin. I was also quite taken with Kaminsky’s composition, which nimbly captured the emotional content portrayed by Catastrophe’s three disparate characters.

Cygnus Ensemble (Anderson, guitarist Oren Fader, flutist Tara-Helen O’Connor, oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Pauline Kim, and cellist Chris Gross) were impressively well-prepared; they performed all of the compositions with top notch musicality. Anderson, a composer himself, has supplied a multifaceted overture and economical music for scene changes. His work draws upon the sound world of modern classical music in a way that is simpatico to the compositions of the featured composers, while also referencing the type of incidental music one hears in current productions of plays in New York. If Anderson needs another hat to wear, he might consider creating incidental music for more plays!

Details

SOUNDING BECKETT will perform Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from September 21 to 23.  Tickets are $50 and $75 and go on sale starting July 20.  Tickets can be purchased by calling Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111 or on online at www.soundingbeckett.com