Lincoln Trio at LPR tonight

Notable Women

Trios by Female Composers

Lincoln Trio

Cedille Records

One of my favorite recent CD acquisitions is Notable Women, the new Cedille recording by the Lincoln Trio. It’s a portrait disc featuring some of today’s most important female composers: some well established and others rising stars. The program includes works by Lera Auerbach, Stacy Garrop, Jennifer Higdon, Augusta Read Thomas, Laura Elise Schwendinger, and Joan Tower.

While a diversity of styles is represented, a unifying thread is the intensity of the disc’s program. Many of the works feature gritty harmonies, intricate counterpoint, and compositional narratives filled with tension and conflicts. The old (and ludicrous) saw about “feminine” music somehow being inherently gentler or less determined than music written by the men is thoroughly refuted by the compelling works shared here.

It also helps to break down preconceptions that one might have about some of the included composers based on their more famous works. Thomas’ Moon Jig, while just as thoroughly intricate in terms of construction as her orchestral music, adopts a lilting, at times playful, demeanor, that revels in the title’s idiosyncratic dance. Think Jennifer Higdon’s music is lush through and through? Check out “Fiery Red,” the second  movement of her Piano Trio, which adds some modernist angularity and Bartókian syncopation to the mix!

The trio are formidable advocates, playing with impressive command and unrelenting energy throughout. Recommended.

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You can experience the energetic performances of the Lincoln Trio live tonight at Le Poisson Rouge (details below).

Lincoln Trio

WHAT: The Lincoln Trio present Notable Women: Trios by Today’s Female Composers

WHERE:  (Le) Poisson Rouge158 Bleecker Street (between Thompson and Sullivan)

WHEN: Wednesday, October 26th, 6:30 pm

More info here.

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.

Dale Trumbore: Snow White Turns Sixty (CD Review)

Snow White Turns Sixty
Gillian Hollis, soprano
Dale Trumbore, piano
Dissonant Gorgeous Productions CD/DL

In the call for scores for the Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert, we were smitten with twenty-something West Coast (by way of New Jersey) composer Dale Trumbore’s music. We’re thrilled that her string quartet How Will it Go is going to be performed by ACME on the concert (10/25 at Joe’s Pub: have you reserved your free seat yet?).

My own enthusiasm for Trumbore’s work recently received further confirmation when her debut CD arrived in the mail. Snow White Turns Sixty includes three of Trumbore’s song cycles, all of them settings of contemporary female authors. The musical language is post-romantic in tone, peppered with reference points ranging from high brow musical theater such as latter day Stephen Sondheim to the lush art songs of Dominic Argento and Daron Hagen. Occasionally, as in the song “Hazel tells Laverne,” one encounters a breezy jazzy cast, similar in temperament to that found in the cabaret songs of William Bolcom (but written for Gillian Hollis’ high soprano voice). Hollis sings with great flexibility, and never allows the punishingly high tessitura of some of the songs to deter her from poise-filled musicality. Trumbore performs the piano parts with a pleasing, delicate touch and in supportive fashion. While the disc strikes me as more gorgeous than dissonant, it whets my appetite for more music from this talented emerging composer.


Björk’s new “Crystalline” Video + Biophilia 12″ vinyl series

A video for Björk’s new song “Crystalline” was released on Tuesday. It’s part of Biophilia, her ambitious new recording/multimedia app project for Nonesuch.

Also announced was a 12″ vinyl series featuring variations on the music from Biophilia.

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

MATA Festival starts tonight!

The 2011 incarnation of the MATA Festival starts tonight with a salon at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in Chelsea (details here). Free to festival pass holders – and $50 for single tickets (aren’t you glad you signed up for the festival pass?) – the evening will include discussions with composer Aaron Jay Kernis, Brooklyn Philharmonic director Alan Pierson and three of the festival’s commissioned composers. Metropolis Ensemble will be on hand to provide musical excerpts and there’s a wine and cheese reception.

Salons are fun and all, but the meat and potatoes music-making of MATA begins in earnest tomorrow night at LPR (details here), with a concert titled “Multinational Conglomerate: New Music from Around the World.” ACME, L’Arsenale, Hu Jianbing and Bao Jian perform pieces by Christopher Adler (from the exotic environs of San Diego), Alex Freeman (Minnesota?), Gudmundur Gunnarsson, Mauricio Pauly, and others. In case you’re as confused about the geographic profile of this event as I was, the works by Americans are inspired by music from elsewhere. Chris’ piece uses Chinese mouth organ, Alex’s explores his abiding interest in Finnish music, etc.

MATA continues through 5/12, and we’ll have more coverage here. Outside NYC? Don’t feel left out. Q2 is broadcasting the 5/11 concert live (including a real-time webchat) and recording the shows on 5/10 and 5/12 for future presentations.