12/21: AME prepares for the “End of the World”

According to Mayan reckoning and eschatology, Friday, December 21st, 2012 will be the end of the world. Many of us hope that Mayan prognosticating proves overly pessimistic. But American Modern Ensemble and Talujon aren’t taking any chances. At 8 PM EST, they’re ringing in doomsday with a concert of clarion percussion works and other modern chamber music at the DiMenna Center in New York.

Below, check out program details and a video for Robert Paterson’s “Stealing Thunder,” one of the pieces on the program.

Program:

Daniel Iglesia – Hard Square
percussion quartet
Hannah Lash – Glockenliebe*
percussion quartet
Eric Nathan – Four to One
string quartet
Robert Paterson – Stealing Thunder**
percussion sextet & tape
George Rochberg – Contra Mortem et Tempus
flute, clarinet, violin, piano
Daniel Wohl – Slow Wave
percussion quartet

*World Premiere / **NYC Premiere
On-stage discussion with Selected Composers

Friday, December 21st, 2012, 8 PM
DiMenna Center – Cary Hall
450 West 37th Street, New York, NY
Ticket info here

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


Monday: NJPE Premieres works by Morris and Jarvis

The New Music Series at William Paterson University has long been one of the most interesting musical destinations in the Garden State. On Monday, November 26th, its director, Peter Jarvis, along with the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble and guest pianist Taka Kigawa, present an ambitious evening of music that includes works by leading lights Boulez, Ligeti, Babbitt, Carter, and Stravinsky. In addition, 21st century composers Daniel Levitan, Evan Hause, and Gene Pritsker are also represented on the program.

If that weren’t enough, the concert features two premieres. Jarvis conducts his Concerto for Vibraphone and Percussion Sextet; WPU faculty member John Ferrari will play the solo part. Guest composer Robert Morris has contributed another pocket concerto for percussion ensemble to the proceedings. His Stream Runner (2007), written for marimba soloist Payton MacDonald (also a member of WPU’s faculty). will conclude the evening.

Event Details

Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
7:30 PM in Shea Center’s
Shea Auditorium
Suggested contribution $5
(Free for students)

William Paterson University
College of Arts & Communication
Department of Music
present
New Music Series
Peter Jarvis, Director
music
with guests
Robert Morris – Composer
Taka Kigawa – Pianist
and featuring
The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble
with soloists
John Ferrari, Payton MacDonald, and Peter Jarvis

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)

Mantra Percussion visits Lowes




NPR Music shares footage from Mantra Percussion’s recent visit to a Lowes in Alexandria, Virginia. An ad hoc performance of Michael Gordon’s Timber was involved.





Mantra will give the West Coast premiere of Timber on September 21-23 at the Carlsbad Music Festival.

Pecou’s Tremendum

Pecou tremendum

Thierry Pécou: Tremendum

Ensemble Variances and Percussions Claviers de Lyon

Harmonia Mundi

Harmonia Mundi’s third release of music by French composer Thierry Pécou (b. 1965) features the “carnival concerto” Tremendum (2005-’10) as its centerpiece. The version presented on this recording was revised to highlight the considerable talents of its interpreters: Percussions Claviers de Lyon. The influence of Brazilian carnival is overt, with boisterous syncopated rhythms clamoring for attention amid whistles and mallet percussion in a jubilant, dancing celebration. Cast in two movements Arbre des Fleurs (2010) for percussion quintet retains the carnivals sense of relentless energy and occasional whimsy,  but the dissonance quotient is upped to create a spicier harmonic palette. More angst-filled too, and effectively so, is Soleil-Tigre (2009) for cello and piano, a piece that contains the ostinati which are Pécou’s signature; but these contend with the cello line’s throbbing, angular melodic gestures.

Paseo de la Reforma (1995-2011, perhaps the latter date implies a revision of an earlier piece?) is relentless in its reiteration of jazzy riffs. There is elegance in the instrumentation of the work, but the repetitions don’t transform as interestingly as the material tends to do in his more recent works. Another earlier piece, Danzón for solo flute, incorporates microtones, key clicks, harmonics, and multiphonics seamlessly in a pliant dance with considerable charm. Manoa (2005) features bass flute, employing a considerable array of technical extensions, in another composition that brings together traditional dance rhythms with gestures of the avant-garde: a microcosm of Pécou’s considerably wide ranging domain.

Thursday: John Cage Day at MoMA

I’ve been greatly enjoying Third Coast Percussion’s new CD/DVD release on Mode. John Cage: The Works for Percussion 2 captures some of Cage’s early music in which he assisted both in the development of the percussion ensemble but also formulated a musical aesthetic in which rhythm took primacy over pitch; “noise” became a welcome part of music’s sonic spectrum. Third Coast’s rendition of the Constructions (particularly the First Construction “in Metal”) and their beautifully filmed, lighthearted yet earnestly delivered version of Living Room Music are can’t miss contributions to the spate of Cage releases in his centennial year.

As luck would have it, we still haven’t worked out that “cloned reviewer” thing. On Thursday, August 9th, I’m heading up to the Berkshires to Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music. Down here in New York at MoMA, Third Coast are the featured performers for the museum’s “John Cage Day.” At 6:30, they will perform a set in the Sculpture Garden that features the New York premiere of Renga: Cage: 100, a group of short (5-7 seconds) pieces commissioned by Third Coast to celebrate the Cage centennial. Works by Augusta Read Thomas, David Smooke, Paul Lansky, and many others are fleetingly featured!


2 new CDs by JL Adams (Reviews)

John Luther Adams

Four Thousand Holes

Scott Deal, Percussionist;

Callithumpian Consort; Stephen Drury, director and pianist

Cold Blue CD CB0035

Songbirdsongs

Callithumpian Consort; Stephen Drury, director and pianist

Mode CD Mode 240

Alaskan (by way of New York) composer John Luther Adams was long known as the “other Adams” of contemporary concert music, overshadowed by Californian (by way of Massachusetts)  John Coolidge Adams, composer of the operas Nixon in China and Dr. Atomic and the Pulitzer prizewinning On the Transmigration of Souls. The balance of recognition seems to be shifting, as the Alaskan Adams has created several large scale works that have raised his public profile, such as the spatial percussion piece Inuksuit and museum installation (with an accompanying book) The Place Where You Go to Listen. Adams frequently speaks of “creating ecologies of music.” Both of the aforementioned pieces are based on aspects of Alaska: the former the traditional music of its native inhabitants and the latter shifts in the region’s weather patterns and tectonics (with an implicit demonstration of the impact of climate change on its environs).

Boston’s Stephen Drury and the Callithumpian Consort, whom he directs, are staunch advocates of JL Adams. Two recent recordings present different aspects of his music-making, as well as still more contrasting facets of his adopted state. The tintinnabulation of percussionist Scott Deal’s vibraphone and chimes, Drury’s piano (which plays major and minor chords throughout), and a haloing electronic aura courtesy of the composer mimic the shifts in light and many crags found in a wilderness’ varied terrain. Within the half hour duration, Adams never allows this limited palette to grow stale; he continually refreshes the sound world with shifts of tonality and varied interactions between percussion and piano. Its companion piece …And Bells Remembered… takes the tintinnabulation still further. Alongside Drury, five percussionists use both mallets and bows to craft a slowly evolving tolling of bell sounds both high and low. Is it meant as a memento mori or as a secularized ritual or meditation? We aren’t told in the booklet’s aphoristic notes, but we are left with an incandescent sonic shimmering that again indicates a sweeping vista to the mind’s eye.

Many composers have incorporated birdsong into their music. Perhaps the most famous of these is the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-92), who was an amateur ornithologist and travelled the world to collect birdsongs; they appear in most of his compositions. Even Messiaen’s transcriptions of these arias of the animal world are somewhat limited by Western ideas of notation: they occur at a precise moment in the piece that is studiously indicated as a conventional (if complicated) rhythm. Adams has taken the incorporation of birdsong materials further in conception. Rather than prescribing when they are to occur, he gives the musicians phrases (transcribed in the field) as well as detailed indications of the habits and movement patterns of the various species which sing them. Thus, the musicians are tasked with accommodating their playing to approximate the birds’ preferences and the space in which they reside; not the other way around. Thus, creating an ecology of music involves much more than what’s printed on the page: it requires empathy, study, and imagination. While Messiaen is to be commended for paving the way towards this aim, songbirdsongs dispenses, insofar as is possible, with human expectations of formal trajectory and “pretty Polly” mimicry, instead replacing it with something wild, unfettered, and, in the performance captured hear, often enthralling.

-Christian Carey

5/30: Amy X. Neuburg debuts at the Stone

This month, Gyan Riley is curating for New York venue the Stone. One of the San Francisco residents that he’s invited to visit the Big Apple for a gig is avant-cabaret artist Amy X. Neuburg, who performs there tonight (details below).

Neuburg eschews the usual instrumentation of a cabaret performer, instead using an electronic drumset. But the music isn’t isolated to percussive utterances; rather the synth drums serve as a control surface with which she can trigger live recording and overdubs. Thus, a drum hit might ‘sound’ like drums, or it might just as easily trigger backing vocals or synth patches.

Using this setup, Neuburg often creates multiple loops, each with its own place in the sound field. Her set at the Stone (her first appearance there) will introduce some new works, but also revisits her back catalog, updating several pieces to accommodate this ”spatialized” aesthetic.

Amy X. Neuburg at the Stone

May 30 at 8 PM

The Stone,

Corner of Avenue C and Second Avenue

NY, NY

Tickets: $10 at the door