Another reason to love Infini-T

Over the past few years, as local businesses have tried to weather the recession, a number of my favorite haunts in New York, New Jersey, and even Boston/Cambridge have gone out. It’s been sad to see some terrific bookstores, recordstores, coffeehouses, and tea shops shuttered due to the general economic malaise and changes in the way that people interact and consume  - both food and media.

Happily, this Spring I have found a new place to enjoy in Princeton:  Infini-T Cafe and Spice Souk. It’s just a short walk from my office, has excellent espresso, a wide range of teas, enjoyable Mediterranean and veggies dishes, and an all too tempting case of pastries. Unlike Small World Coffee, a place I enjoy to grab and go rather than sit and ponder, Infini-T is an inviting place to read, write, and linger over a cup of something tasty and reviving.

But I really knew that it was Kismet when I saw Andy Akiho’s Innova CD for sale near the counter! And, I belatedly learned that Infini-T hosted his group Foundry back in April.

A caffeinated haven for new music – count me in!

Andy Akiho's new CD AND a mean dirty iced chai?

Andy Akiho’s No One to Know One, in all its steel pan inflected percussiveness, is out now on  Innova and is highly recommended listening.

So Percussion goes Maverick: gets Remixed, Celebrates Cage!




So Percussion recently released remixes of tracks from Amid the Noise, their recording of music by Jason Treuting. You can grab it for free via their Bandcamp site (embed below).

Treuting recently released sheet music for Amid the Noise, which can be purchased at Good Child Music.





This year, a great number of artists and ensembles are celebrating John Cage’s centenary – even Jessye Norman and Meredith Monk are getting in on the act as part of Michael Tilson Thomas’s revival of the American Mavericks series with the San Francisco Symphony. While it will be fascinating to see that some of these “out of the box” Cage performances will be happening, it’s also nice to hear that groups like So Percussion, who have a long track record performing Cage’s music, are celebrating the centenary in style. On 3/26, they are taking part in the American Mavericks series at Carnegie Hall (details here).

The concert will be the culmination of a tour by the group featuring Cage’s Third Construction as the centerpiece of Cage-themed program entitled We Are All Going in Different Directions.

There’s an equally imaginative recorded component So’s feting of the maestro of indeterminacy. On 3/27, Cantaloupe will release So Percussion’s “John Cage Bootleg Series.” The release includes a blank LP (the better with which to perform 4’33″!), a CD sampler, and a card with download codes that will enable listeners to obtain all of the group’s Cage bootlegs online. And the audio artifact lover in me delights in the handsome homemade feel of its handsome packaging. Top to bottom, Cage’s aesthetic is well manifested in So Percussion’s activities this Spring!


We Are All Going in Different Directions: So Percussion Celebrates Cage
Feb 28: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (Cage’s Third Construction)

March 2: The Royal Conservatory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

March 6 + 7: The McCullough Theatre, University of Texas, Austin

March 10: Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin (Cage’s Third Construction)

March 26: Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, NYC

Program

John Cage: Credo in US (1942)

Sō Percussion / Matmos: Needles (w/ Matmos) (2010)

John Cage: Imaginary Landscape #1 (1939)

John Cage: Quartet for Percussion, from She is Asleep (1943)

Cenk Ergün: Use (w/ Cenk Ergün & Beth Meyers) (2009)

Dan Deacon: “Bottles” from Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler (2011)

John Cage: 18’12”, a simultaneous performance of Cage works

-Inlets (Improvisation II) (1977)
-0’00″ (4’33″ No.2) (1962)
-Duet for Cymbal (1960)
-45’ for a speaker (1954)

Jason Trueting: 24 x 24 (w/ special guests) (2011)

John Cage: Third Construction (1941)


Guest post: Laurie San Martin

Laurie San Martin

Laurie San Martin teaches at UC Davis. She’s one of our featured composers on the fast approaching Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert (October 25 at Joe’s Pub). In the guest post below, she talks about her work Linea Negra, which will be performed on the program.

Linea Negra

The faint, dark, vertical line that appears on a very pregnant woman’s belly in the weeks before she bursts is called the linea negra.  So it seemed like a fitting title for the solo marimba piece that I was writing during the final weeks of my first pregnancy in the summer of 2004. Real-life deadlines work in my favor as a composer. That is to say, the countdown leading up to a big life change is an intensely productive time for me. Linea Negra is a piece I always associate with that particular time in my life. When most mothers would have been preparing the baby’s room or redecorating the house, I was making deals with my daughter while she was still in the womb. “How about you wait a few more days to come out and I can finish this piece.  Really, it’ll be much better that way.” She arrived a few days late, so I was able to finish the piece on time; I have the greatest daughter one could ask for (and the piece isn’t bad, either).

I compose from left to right. That is to say, I start at the beginning and pretty much write the musical events in the order that they happen. It probably comes as no surprise then that my music is very linear.  Linea Negra is just under five minutes in length, with an ABA structure. The outer sections are a fast and repetitive moto perpetuo while the middle section is slow and lyrical. The piece is quite virtuosic–the marimba player is asked to play very fast runs, leaps, and chords; audience members often describe the piece as “acrobatic.”

Linea Negra is written for percussionist Chris Froh, who premiered the piece in October, 2004 at the American Academy in Rome. Chris is an exhilarating performer, and I was very lucky to be able to work with him while writing the piece. Hearing the work in progress influenced the direction of the piece and helped me iron out some of the technical difficulties, and clarify the musical gestures.  Working with a musician of Chris’s dedication and commitment is such a privilege for a composer, not to mention, inspiring and rewarding.

So Percussion plays Steve Mackey (Video)

So Percussion

Steve Mackey: IT IS TIME

Cantaloupe CD/DVD

CA21076

RELEASED: 09/27/11

So Percussion’s latest recording (a CD/DVD set) is out this week on Cantaloupe.

IT IS TIME features the music of Steve Mackey. Mackey decided to make a four movement suite in which each movement serves as a “mini-concerto” for a different member of So Percussion. In addition to solo turns, there’s also plenty of formidably scored ensemble interactions. The piece has a diverse instrumentation, employing found objects, traditional instruments, metronomes, and more exotic components such as steel drums.

Indeed, it seems to include everything but the kitchen sink (as evidenced by the video below!). One is glad that the package includes a DVD, as this is a piece that is a feast for the eyes as well as a bedazzling battery for the ears.

IT IS TIME is a meditation on the ephemeral nature of our existence. The fleet-footed passage of time is underscored by its metronomic pulse-driven memento mori. But rather than allowing this trope to become too melancholic, Mackey instead chooses an affirmative celebration of polyrhythmic activity, underscored by So Percussion’s ebullient virtuosity.

MP3: Steel Drums

Tansy Davies’ Troubairitz (CD Review)

Tansy Davies
Toubairitz

Anna Snow, voice; Damien Harron, percussion; Azalea Ensemble; Christopher Austin, conductor
Nonclassical CD

A constant, if sometimes subtly articulated, pulse runs through much of British composer Tansy Davies’ Troubairitz, a portrait disc on the Nonclassical imprint. While percussionists Damien Harron and Adam Clifford perform their parts with sensitivity, and are seldom asked for a flurry of activity, their omnipresent exertions have certainly earned them overtime pay. Indeed, sometimes they are required to unfold multiple simultaneous tempi. The terse punctuations that undergird ensemble works such as Neon, Inside Out, and Grind Show demonstrate Davies’ affinity for experimental jazz and pop references. Like fellow British  composers Mark-Anthony Turnage and Oscar Bettison, she uses these vernacular references as a foil for the classical instrumentation and dissonant counterpoint that populate her works. Thus, listeners are apt to hear Radiohead and Matmos as much as Knussen and Andriessen serving as touchstones for these pieces. The result is a language that is pervasively energetic, at times spiky, but capable too of moments of delicate repose. The Azalea Ensemble, under the able direction of Christopher Austin, are keen interpreters of this supple and eclectic music.

Some of the most sensitively wrought pieces on the disc are its vocal selections. Again taking a cue from countrymen such as Peter Maxwell Davies and Gavin Bryars, Davies recalls early music in the title work, a song cycle based on 12th Century Provencal poems by female troubadours. Anna Snow’s voice,  deployed with sparing use of vibrato, seems ideally suited to “period informed” performance; yet she’s also able to conquer the postmodern pitch language and challenging tessitura of this work with assuredness.

Greenhouses, a setting of an excerpt from an email by Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist killed by Israeli forces while trying to prevent them from destroying Palestinian homes on the Gaza strip in 2003, is a thoughtful and touching piece. Davies is never heavy-handed in treating this delicate subject matter, but instead allows Corrie’s text a poignant, understated eloquence that is most affecting.

Alex Lipowski on Talea’s Tuesday concert

As I mentioned yesterday, Talea Ensemble will be giving a concert of works by Olga Neuwirth in New York City on Tuesday at 8 PM (Details/tickets here). The group’s percussionist, Alex Lipowski, was kind enough to talk with me about Talea’s activities of late and tomorrow’s show.

Alex Lipowski. Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

- This has been a busy season for Talea Ensemble. Do you feel that the group’s reach and activities are expanding of late?

The 2010-‘11 season has been an amazing collection of projects for Talea and we are so grateful for each of them.  One of our goals is to reach as wide an audience as possible and this season we were able to achieve that by collaborating with so many outstanding institutions such as Miller Theatre, Symphony Space, the Consulate General of Denmark, Scandinavia House, Korean Cultural Service NY, Columbia and New York Universities, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Czech Center New York, Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, the Roger Smith Hotel, and Bang on a Can.  Through all of these inspiring collaborations, we were able to introduce Talea’s programs to new audiences while bringing together diverse groups from the New York community.

- Tell me a bit about your recent gala event.

We recently had our second annual Gala which was at the Roger Smith Hotel.  Talea Gala is a special event for us because it gives us an opportunity to come together with our audience and supporters and celebrate the end of a season while launching the next.  Talea Gala includes dinner, a silent auction, performances, as well as pre-dinner and post-concert receptions.  The event gives all of the attendees the chance to get to know some of their fellow audience members as well as the Talea performers and board of directors.  This year, we were especially honored to have Norman Ryan from European American Music Distributors as our Guest of Honor.  It was a really special evening for Talea and we are deeply grateful to everyone who was a part of it.
- You recently gave a concert of works by Unsuk Chin. On Tuesday, you’re performing music by Olga Neuwirth. Both of these are composers that are well known on the international scene but they are still in the process of gaining acclaim here in the US. For our readers who don’t know much about Unsuk or Olga, where should they start to get to know their works?

We feel honored to have had the chance to collaborate with Unsuk Chin on a program of her music which was generously supported  by the Korean Cultural Service NY, and equally honored to now have the opportunity to work with Olga Neuwirth on an entire program of her pieces which is generously supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum.  Both composers have a significant presence in Europe but have not had the American exposure they deserve and we hope that these concerts will help bring some recognition to their music and that other ensembles, presenters, and listeners will take interest in it as well.  For many listeners, both composers are perhaps best known for their works for large ensembles and operas.  Unsuk Chin is well known for her opera Alice in Wonderland and Olga Neuwirth for her opera Lost Highway which was given its US Premiere at Miller Theatre.  Both composers have wonderful CDs on Kairos that I would highly recommend.

Talea rehearses Chin. Photo: courtesy Korean Cultural Service

- What was it like working in rehearsals with Unsuk Chin?

Unsuk Chin was great to work with for more many reasons but one of which is her intensity and focus in rehearsals.  She has a well-sculpted vision for her music and is able to communicate really well to performers.

Chin in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Korean Cultural Service.

- I understand that one of her works had quite a theatrical component and involved playing in the dark. How did you approach working on these components of her music?

One of Unsuk Chin’s pieces, Allegro ma non troppo for solo percussion and electronics which I played, is theatrical, and the soundworld as well as the theatrical nature of the piece depict a scene, as she put it in my case, of a “house-husband” cleaning the home while awaiting his wife’s return.  The opening scene of the piece begins with a large cardboard box in the middle of the stage which is torn open to discover that the contents of the box are colorful tissue papers which are then tossed into the air creating a colorful soundscape.  Playing percussion in itself is theatrical and having a chance to overtly take on a role is an exciting opportunity to explore an extension of musical performance.

Olga Neuwirth. Photo credit: Priska Ketterer.

- What will listeners hear by Neuwirth on Tuesday night? What has it been like working with her on these pieces?

Tuesday’s Olga Neuwirth Portrait Concert will feature a retrospective of Olga’s music and feature her works ranging from solo to large ensemble pieces.  Featured on the concert will be Talea’s pianist Steve Beck playing incidendo/ fluido for solo piano and electronics, as well as bassoonist Adrian Morejon playing torsion: transparent variation for solo bassoon and large ensemble. Additionally the program will include Neuwirth’s…ad aduras… for violin duo and wood drum, AKROATE HADAL for string quartet, and In Nacht und Eis for bassoon, cello, and ring modulator. The program also features a special in-concert interview with the knowledgeable and well-versed, Bruce Hodges.

Working with Olga on her music has been such a pleasure because she knows exactly what she wants in each score.  Her sound world is incredibly detailed because she has a deep understanding of each individual instrument’s sonic capabilities.  Her positive energy is contagious too and she is inspiring for the ensemble.

- What’s in store for the Talea Ensemble this summer and next season?

This summer, Talea will tackle its largest project yet, and will team up with the Bang on a Can Marathon to present the US Premiere of Fausto Romitelli’s last and largest work, An Index of Metals for soprano and large ensemble which will feature the outstanding Tony Arnold.  We will be making a formal announcement of the 2011-12 season’s projects in July, so stay tuned to www.taleaensemble.org

Aaron Siegel: new recording on Lockstep (review)


Aaron Siegel
Science is Only a Sometime Friend
Lockstep Records (CD/Digi)

Mantra Percussion recently recorded Aaron Siegel’s Science is Only a Sometime Friend for his Lockstep imprint. The version that appears here, a single, continuously played forty minute long piece for eight glockenspiels and organ, is somewhat different from the original conception of the piece. In its outdoor live version, passersby were invited to contribute improvisatory additions on extra instruments (one can see examples of this on YouTube).

While the studio version may not capture the delightful aleatory of its sister conception, it is a strong piece in its own right. Siegel certainly owes a debt to minimalism, in particular to works by Steve Reich such as Music for Mallet Instruments and the more recent Mallet Quartet. It shares an affinity with some of the drone partials of works byLa Monte Young and even the upper harmonics employed in certain spectral works as well.

But it also channels more recent innovations. It’s tintinnabular halo of overlapping glockenspiel lines take on more futuristic timbres, at turns mimicking micro-polyphonic synthesis and the homemade instruments of Tristan Perich. Indeed, this is music that is less about repetition as pulsating ostinato and more about its ability to create resonant accumulations, sonic washes, that gradually morph. It’s an elegantly shaped and often beguiling sound world. While Siegel’s view of Science as a fair weather companion is a common one in our skeptical era, there’s no doubting that the supple organicism of this work, outdoors or on the hi-fi, is well nigh irresistible.