Archive for the “Chamber Music” Category
We’re pleased to introduce cellist Maya Beiser’s performing the Michael Harrison composition “Just Ancient Loops,” with film by Bill Morrison, which will receive its premiere at the Bang on a Can 25th Anniversary Marathon this coming Sunday in NYC.
This is just one of many performances that will occur over the marathon’s 12 hours of free live music-making: check out the complete schedule online here.
Congrats to the can bangers – may you have many more seasons of marathoning!
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Our friends at RCRDLBL
are sharing an MP3 of “Lots” by indie classical composer Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon’s new full length recording, America, is out August 28th via Domino Records.
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Report by Tyran Grillo (between sound and space)
Photos by Evan Cortens
Music: Cognition, Technology, Society set a formidable intellectual task before participants of the selfsame conference at semester’s end on the quieting campus of Cornell University. Under the attentive care of organizers Caroline Waight, Evan Cortens, Taylan Cihan, and Eric Nathan, what might have been an overwhelming conceptual storm proved smooth sailing through a series of back-to-back panels. The lack of overlap meant that everyone in attendance could take in the full thematic breadth and draw connections that might otherwise have been missed in the three-ring circus of a larger conference, thereby allowing interaction, a building of new relationships while strengthening the old, and dialogue conducive to the intellectual goals at hand.
I had the privilege and the honor of presenting first in the opening Friday morning panel, entitled Patterns, Schemata and Systems, for which I was joined by Bryn Hughes (Ithaca College) and Joshua Mailman (Columbia). I did my best to set a tone in my discussion of Modell 5, a museum installation piece by Vienna-based duo Granular Synthesis, whose eponymous approach to motion capture and digital manipulation of synchronous sound and image activated, I hope, our shared interest in the intersection of technology and sonic arts. Hughes was interested in more mainstream sonic outlets. In problematizing expectation in rock music through harmonic progression as both a function of context and of socialization, he asked: Does harmony behave in a universal way? Why do some chord progressions sound “wrong” and how do we gain knowledge of these rules?
Hughes plotted a matrix of influences on such choices, discovering through controlled testing that expectations are genre-specific (diatonic successions, for instance, are preferred by classical over blues listeners) and that the impact of voice leading, lyrical (a)synchronicity, and other variables must also be taken into account. Mailman took a more phenomenological approach to music as a site lacking in expectation, advocating a cybernetic model of listening and feedback practices. In positing retrospection as an active shaping force of musical experience, Mailman privileged context over convention in musical structure. By looking at otherwise undeterminable aspects of musical form and development—what Boulez might group under the term “listening angles”—as a means of analysis, Mailman made a provocative case for cybernetic phenomenology as a viable site for sonic inquiry.
Qualities emerge through change and exist by virtue of being measured as such. Hence the assertions of David Borgo (UC San Diego), who in the second session on Improvisation challenged the dominant paradigm of musical spontaneity as an individual act, seeking rather to enlarge the notion of agency to its extra-corporeal aspects. Because action of response happens more quickly than consciousness can grasp, our interpretations of the very same can only come a posteriori, subject to the same misinterpretations as any and all memory. Consciousness, argued Borgo, is autopoetic and under constant perturbation. Improvisers must therefore negotiate contingencies in all directions. To locate them at the center of webs as amorphous as their melodic constitutions is as difficult as it is to locate the true center of a universe that is forever expanding.
Neither are improvisational gestures simply plucked from the ether, as Jeremy Grall (University of Alabama at Birmingham) showed in his exploration of the hierarchies at work in seemingly indeterminate music-making. Grall’s interest was the divide (or lack thereof) between composition and improvisation and whether or not the two can be subject to the same analytical vocabularies. For him, improvisation is an already problematic term, one that may be absorbed into composition insofar as improvisation abides by underlying schemata. In order to negotiate the ambiguities of perception and the phases of concrescence therein, he looked to 16th-century improvisational models and their inherent blend of immediacy and indeterminacy.
A fascinating Demonstration Session kicked off the conference’s first evening. William Brent (American University) gave us a visual and aural tour through his Gesturally Extended Piano and Open Shaper, while Mailman returned with Columbia colleague Sofia Paraskeva for a demonstration of their “comprovisational” interface. Both of these technologies take advantage of the primacy of the body in communicating information at once inter- and intra-musical. Read the rest of this entry »
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Garth Knox, viola & fiddle
with Agnès Vesterman, cello & Sylvain Lemêtre, percussion
ECM Records CD 2157
Dance music in multiple forms, from the saltarello, a Venetian dance dating back to the Fourteenth century, to Breton and Celtic folk music, as well as transcriptions of medieval era compositions, Renaissance era consort music, and contemporary fare, are featured on Saltarello, violist Garth Knox’s latest ECM CD. Among the early music slections, Particularly impressive is a Vivaldi concerto, performed in a duo arrangement for viola d’amore and cello. Its interpreters, Knox and Agnès Vesterman, take this continuo less opportunity to accentuate a supple contrapuntal interplay between soloist and bass line. Equally lovely is a piece that combines music by Hildegard and Machaut in a kind of medieval style mash-up. Also stirring is this duo’s version of John Dowland’s most famous piece, Lachrimae, perhaps known best in its incarnation as the song “Flow My Tears.”
Knox, who is a past member of both Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Arditti String Quartet, also performs the disc’s newer material with consummate musicality: he also has the bedeviling habit of making virtuosic writing sound far too easy to play (his poor violist colleagues!). Knox’s own composition, “Fuga Libre,” combines jazz rhythms and neo-baroque counterpoint with ever more complicated harmonic tension points and several instances in which Knox demonstrates various extended playing techniques. Meanwhile, Kaaija Saariaho’s Vent Nocturne, an eerily evocative and tremendously challenging piece for viola and electronics, is given a haunting, sonically sumptuous rendering.
Tomorrow night, Knox celebrates the release of the CD at LPR (details below). Early music, new pieces by and for Knox, and lovely comestibles on menu and on tap? Sounds like my evening’s planned!
Tuesday May 22nd – Doors open at 6:30, show starts at 7:30
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street, NYC| 212.505.FISH
music of Hildegard von Bingen, Guillaume de Machaut
John Dowland, Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, Kaija Saariaho, and Garth Knox
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Posted by Polly Moller in Big Band, Chamber Music, Composers, Contemporary Classical, Events, Experimental Music, Festivals, Improv, jazz, Piano, Premieres, San Francisco, Saxophone, Sound Art, Women composers
The San Francisco Bay Area’s underground music scene will come together this coming July in an annual celebration of its tremendous range of styles, its love of improvisation, and its collective obsession with new and unusual timbres and techniques. It’s the 11th Annual Outsound New Music Summit! All events will take place at the San Francisco Community Music Center at 544 Capp Street near 20th Street in the Mission District, and tickets can be ordered online from Brown Paper Tickets or purchased at the door.
The ever-popular Touch the Gear Expo kicks off the Summit on Sunday July 15, 7-10 pm. It’s designed especially for anyone who’s longed for a closer look at an experimental musician’s gear on stage, and for the opportunity to mess with it. 25-30 sound artists will be there to demonstrate everything from oscillators to planks of wood with strings attached and answer questions. Visitors of all ages have free rein to make sound and experience how these set-ups work, and best of all, it’s free.
The second Summit night is also free, and this time the composers take over. In the Tuesday night Composers’ Symposium (July 17, 7-10 pm), John Shiurba, Christina Stanley, Benjamin Ethan Tinker, and Matthew Goodheart will all discuss how they navigate modern compositional techniques, while combining them with improvisation and their own individual forms of experimentation. The public is invited to talk freely with the composers and ask them questions.
Performances begin at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, July 18th with the first of four themed concerts – Sonic Poetry. This night is curated by Outsound Board members Amar Chaudhary and Robert Anbian, who’ve recruited three leading poets to collaborate with Bay Area improvising musicians to create new word and sound compositions. Words are by Ronald Sauer, rAmu Aki, and Carla Harryman, with music by Jacob Felix Heule, Jordan Glenn, Karl Evangelista, Jon Raskin, and Gino Robair.
The Tuesday night Composers’ Symposium prepares everyone for the second performance evening on Thursday, July 19th – The Composer’s Muse. Christina Stanley, Matthew Goodheart, and John Shiurba will all premiere new works running the gamut from graphic scores for string quartet, to prepared piano with sonified metal percussion, to a major work for large ensemble celebrating the newspaper.
Thwack, Bome, Chime on Friday night, July 20th, curated by Outsound Board member Pete Martin, will feature the world of percussion in all its coloristic and dynamic glory. David Douglas will combine percussion instruments with custom-built delays, loopers, samplers, and other effects to create The Walls Are White With Flame, a series of highly spatialized sound sculptures. In Seems An Eternity, Benjamin Ethan Tinker will assemble three percussion trios of metal and skin percussion to explore the same musical material in canon. And finally the San Francisco percussion ensemble Falkortet will show off its versatility combining traditional percussion, hand drums, and electronics with influences from Indonesian music, Brazilian music, Jazz, minimalism, and rock.
The final day of the Outsound Summit, July 21st, will be a big one starting with a 2-4 pm Harmolodics workshop led by Dave Bryant. Dave will share material from his years of Harmolodic Theory performance and study with Ornette Coleman, plus his own compositional and improvisational techniques developed on his own and with his ensembles. The 8 pm final concert, Fire and Energy, curated by Outsound founder Rent Romus, will feature Dave Bryant with his Trio, along with Jack Wright, the Vinny Golia Sextet, and Tony Passarell’s Thin Air Orchestra.
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“How can music ‘speak’ and how do we have knowledge of it? What is its potential to express, represent, and communicate? How has changing expertise concerning sonic and musical knowledge shaped these questions across time and space?”
These are the questions that inspired the interdisciplinary conference entitled “Music: Cognition, Technology, Society” that will take place at Cornell University this weekend, May 11 – 13.
Pictured: Tod Machover
The conference will spotlight Tod Machover (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in a dual-role as guest composer and keynote speaker. Other keynote speakers include Eric Clarke (University of Oxford), Ichiro Fujinaga (McGill University) and Robert Gjerdingen (Northwestern University). The Argento Chamber Ensemble serves as the conference’s guest ensemble-in-residence and will perform electroacoustic and acoustic works selected through an international call-for-scores.
Drawing on a wide range of scholarship across multiple disciplines, and featuring both musical performances and paper presentations, the MCTS Conference will present four keynote lectures, three performances, and seven paper sessions, covering a diverse works and broad range of aesthetics. Highlights include:
Friday, May 11 at 1:00 pm: The Cornell Avant-Garde Ensemble (CAGE) performs free improvisations using acoustic and electronic instruments.
Friday, May 11 at 2:30 pm: Robert Gjerdingen’s keynote lecture, “Schema Theory Today: Challenges and Opportunities.”
Friday, May 11 at 7:15 pm: Tod Machover’s keynote lecture, “Extending Performance: Onstage, Inside, Interconnected.”
Friday, May 11 at 8:30 pm: The Argento Ensemble performs Machover’s Another Life for mixed chamber ensemble, and other chamber works by Christopher Chandler (the resonance after…), Bryan Christian (Walk), Sean Friar (Scale 9), Amit Gilutz (Miscellaneous Romance No. 1), Juraj Kojs (Re-route), and Eric Lindsay (Town’s Gonna Talk).
Saturday, May 12 at 1:30 pm: Eric Clarke’s keynote lecture, “Explorations in Virtual Space: Music Perception and Recorded Music.”
Pictured: Argento Chamber Ensemble
Saturday, May 12 at 8pm: Concert featuring electroacoustic and fixed electronic media works by Taylan Cihan/Eliot Bates (Zey-glitch), Nicholas Cline (Homage to La Monte Young), Nathan Davis (Ecology No. 8), Peter Van Zandt Lane (Hydromancer), Stelios Manousakis (Megas Diakosmos), Nicola Monopoli (The Rite of Judgment), Christopher Stark (Two-Handed Storytelling).
Sunday, May 13 at 11:45 am: Ichiro Fujinaga’s keynote lecture, “The Research Program at the Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries Laboratory.”
Paper presentation session topics cover a variety of topics, such as “Patterns, schemata and systems,” “Improvisation,” “Text, technology and the voice,” “Psychology and the sonic object,” “Instruments and soundscapes,” and “Music Informational Retrieval.”
For a full schedule we invite you to visit our website.
This conference was organized by graduate students in the Department of Music at Cornell University – musicologists Evan Cortens and Caroline Waight; composers Taylan Cihan and Eric Nathan. We hope to see you in Ithaca.
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Pictured: Chai Shuai
Performing a program entitled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern, including folk and Chinese Opera works as well as contemporary works by both Chinese and Western composers such as Xie Wenhui and Victoria Bond, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble (pronounced HWA SHA) makes their Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, May 7 at 7:30pm.
Founded in 1995, and currently touring the United States with performances in New York and Boston, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble of the China Conservatory has become one of the most dynamic and technically impressive chamber ensembles of China. Under the strong leadership of Professor Zhang Weiliang and Maestro Tsung Yeh, the ensemble has achieved international acclaim. Its musicians, who are mainly young conservatory teachers, have won numerous instrumental competition awards in China and abroad. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese folk music and Chinese opera music to contemporary Chinese and international classical music. The ensemble has recorded several CDs and has performed in the United States, France, Portugal, Australia, and in Asia and Africa. For this performance, the program will feature six world premieres commissioned by the ensemble for this US tour.
The Program includes:
Lang Tao Sha (Traditional)
Feng Qiu Huang, by Liu Qing (World Premiere)
Five Impressions, by Gao Ping (World Premiere)
Wild Geese in the Sandbank (Traditional)
Graceful, by Wang Dan Hong (World Premiere)
Nodes, by John Mallia (World Premiere)
Deep Night (Traditional Chinese Opera)
Less, but More, by Xie Wen Hui (World Premiere)
Bridges, by Victoria Bond (World Premiere arrangement for this ensemble)
Victoria Bond talks about her piece Bridges and its newly expanded arrangement:
“Bridges is something I wrote for John Yeh, clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony. He is of Chinese ancestry, born in this country, and he and I have known each other ever since we were in school together. He also had an ensemble that was composed of both Western and Chinese instruments, so I wrote it orignially for him, for quartet–clarinet, bass clarinet, erhu, and pipa. Then, when I got a request from the China conservatory, I made an expanded arrangement so that now it encompasses several other Chinese instruments such as ediza (another flute) and a number of western instruments–violin, cello, piano and percussion, which consists of both Western and Chinese percussion instruments. Even though the title is really a philosophical one, bridging East and West, I decided to base it on several real bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Stone Bridge in China, and a railroad trestle bridge, and the story behind that is that 2 of the Chinese instruments, the erhu and the pipa, sound to me like banjo and fiddle, and it reminded me of a connection to American bluegrass and country music. It uses both American folk and Chinese folk music which are both largely related through the pentatonic scale, so making a merger between those two musics was not that far-fetched, both because of the timbre and of the nature of the music itself.”
Performers include: Huang Mei (guqin); Wang Yidong (Chinese percussion); Mark Baekbum Yee (cello); Chai Shuai (erxian & erhu); Qiu Ji (zheng); Ge Yong (pipa); Chen Yue (flute); Wu Huanghuang (yangqin); Huang Mei (ruan); Chen Yue (flute); Tomoya Aomori, Justin Doute (western percussion); Zhang Weiliang (xiao); Han Shi (violin), Eric Umble (clarinet), Sun Pei (piano). Tsung Yeh, conductor, Zhang Weiliang Artistic Director. Zhao Talimu, President of China Conservatory, serves as leader of this delegation.
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Sean Shepherd with the Claremont Trio. Photo: Michael Lutch
In the Kaleidoscope: the Music of Sean Shepherd
April 23, 2012
Music Mondays at Advent Lutheran Church
NEW YORK – Sean Shepherd’s music was featured in last week’s Music Monday concert at Advent Lutheran Church on New York’s Upper West Side. One of the fast rising stars of contemporary classical music’s thirty-something set, Shepherd has already been performed by the New York Philharmonic, on their Contact contemporary music series, and is currently in residence with both the orchestras Cleveland and Reno. Upcoming performances of his works are this summer at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music and in the Fall with the National Symphony (both under Oliver Knussen). His publisher – a little house you may have heard of – Boosey and Hawkes.
Although the aforementioned accomplishments indicate that Shepherd is making a name for himself as a composer of orchestral music, the concert at Advent Lutheran demonstrated that he’s also creating compelling works for chamber forces. The centerpieces of the program were two oboe quartets – Mozart ‘s K. 370 paired with a new piece by Shepherd. In discussing the work in an onstage interview, the composer mentioned his undergraduate degree in bassoon performance as an entry point into composing for winds and as a reason for his selection of the Mozart work as a companion piece to his own music on the concert. Another inspiration surely was oboist Liang Wang (of the New York Philharmonic), whose superlative control in the Mozart buoyed a supple performance with many lovely dynamic shadings.
Shepherd’s Oboe Quartet (2011), which received its New York premiere, takes inspiration from the Mozart; but not in any direct or referential sort of way. Rather, the graceful balance of elements found in the earlier piece serves as a totemic point of reference, allowing Shepherd’s postmodern language to be imbued with large-scale formal clarity. Wang adopted a more mysterious tone quality here, befitting the arcing filigrees that characterized his more virtuosic passages. His collaborators, violinist Miranda Cuckson, violist Jessica Meyer, and cellist Julia Bruskin were also impressive in the work’s darting counterpoint and frequent tightly coordinated entrances.
Cuckson, joined by pianist Aaron Wunsch, gave a performance of Shepherd’s Dust (2008) that underscored its variegated moods, ranging from diaphanous Impressionist verticals to fierily angular melodic ricochets. Dust encompasses both Shepherd’s flair for the dramatic and his capacity for fetching lyricism.
The Claremont Trio was on hand to give the New York premiere of a brand new piano trio, written for them by Shepherd. Some of the signature elements found in the evening’s earlier pieces were here too: quickly rendered angular passages in rhythmic sync, wide contrasts of mood between more ruminative sections and those busily attired with nervous energy, and a varied harmonic palette that encompasses passages that, while not exactly tonal in orientation, provide a sense of lyricism and centricity, as well as places where the pitch language is replete with dissonance. But more heightened here than elsewhere on the concert was the sense of multiple time streams and a catalog of metric shifts that I presume may be architectural in design (I hope to get my hands on a score to verify this presumption). Regardless, it’s one of Shepherd’s most thoughtfully constructed works to date. The Claremont Trio plays it throughout with assuredness and enthusiasm. Collectively and as soloists, Shepherd has given them many places to shine: and shine they do. Dare we hope that a studio recording is forthcoming?
Incidentally, Music Mondays hosted a packed crowd for this event. While it doesn’t hurt that admission is free, whatever they are doing to get out the word is working!
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(from Left to Right) Line Upon Line Percussion's Matt Teodori, Cullen Faulk and Adam Bedell
This coming Friday, May 4, marks the beginning of Austin-based percussion trio Line Up Line’s Xenakis festival, dubbed “Perspective: Xenakis” (go here for ticketing information). While most fans of 20th/21st-century music have come to know Xenakis’ music as a staple of the percussion repertoire, the program for “Perspective: Xenakis” is surprisingly broad, featuring, among other chamber pieces, a complete performance of Xenakis’ string quartets by the renowned JACK Quartet.
I caught up with Matt Teodori, one of Line Upon Line’s founding members, and dug a little deeper into how this festival came about. As he explained to me, the impetus behind their programming began by looking at Xenakis’ entire chamber output and locating different paths the composer pursued in his career. Line Upon Line wanted to illustrate these paths as best as they could, and designed the festival’s three evenings of performances to account for the remarkable sonic diversity Xenakis’ output. According to Mr. Theodori, involving the JACK Quartet was, “a no-brainer”, because their reputation performing Xenakis’ music is, “extraordinary”, and the works they bring to the table enable Line Upon Line to showcase a wider range of Xenakis’ oeuvre than otherwise possible.
In addition to this weekend’s concerts, Line Upon Line is providing a couple non-musical experiences for concertgoers who are interested in learning more about Xenakis’ life and personality. Prior to each performance, the Line Upon Line is presenting the BBC’s 1991 documentary Something Rich and Strange: The Life and Music of Iannis Xenakis; and, following the concerts, Xenakis scholars Nouritza Matossian and Benoît Gibson will join that night’s performers in an open conversation with audience members. These opportunities are meant to, “illuminate [Xenakis] as a man and composer”, and should be a worthwhile supplement to the festival’s musical offerings.
Friday and Saturday’s evening concerts begin at 7:30 PM, with Saturday’s afternoon performance running from 1-2 PM. For those who are interested, the documentary runs about 50 minutes and is shown one hour before each concert. The events are housed at Austin’s Floating Box House, St. Elias Eastern Orthodox Church and Angelou residence, respectively. The first two performances feature the members of Line Upon Line Percussion, with the JACK Quartet closing the festival on Saturday evening with a presentation of Xenakis’ complete quartets.
If you are interested in learning more about the “Perspective: Xenakis” festival, visit Line Upon Line’s website.
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Cutting Edge Concerts
Great Noise Ensemble
Conducted by Armando Bayolo
Guest soloist, Cornelius Dufallo
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, NY
April 16, 2012
DC’s Great Noise Ensemble made a vibrant and yet intimate New York debut at Symphony Space. The contemporary music ensemble, performing in the smaller room known as Leonard Nimoy Thalia, and the ensemble not having its full lineup on this occasion, presented a night of works for varied paired-down ensemble setups. Each of these selections was presented by composer Victoria Bond, who acted as emcee and conducted interviews with each composer of the program’s works that was present (Save for the absent Marc Mellits, who conductor/composer Armando Bayolo spoke for–Bayolo also interviewed Bond for her piece).
The most memorable moments during the evening were the world premiere of Cornelius Dufallo’s short violin (with pickup and loops) concerto Paranoid Symmetry. Written for Great Noise and inspired by a real story involving someone in his family, the piece is Neil’s meditation on one’s sanity and examines human conditions that range between paranoid delusion, psychosis and love. The 15-minute piece displays great dynamics in both virtuosity and versatility, going from the 1st movement’s post-modern layered drone, to a classical arpeggio during the cadenza, to blues-oriented phrases during the coda.
Marc Mellits’ Five Machines, originally written for the Bang On a Can All-Stars, was in equally capable hands on this occasion. Mellits’ work, with some superb percussion and wild time signatures, reminded me that there was a reason that progressive rock had to happen at some point in history.
I even had gooseflesh from the duet between the cello and bass violin.
The Way of Ideas, composed by Baltimore’s Alexandra Gardner, was an ornate piece reminiscent of her own Electric Blue Pantsuit, sans the electric loops and featuring more players, and is reflective of the process from a composer’s point of view.
Victoria Bond’s Coqui was another throwback to classics for me for its violin yelps reminiscent of Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto, except here they represent the voice of the Puerto Rican tree frogs.
Another favorite piece was Carlos Carrillo’s De la brevedad de la vida (The Brevity of Life), a chilling meditation kicked off perfectly with a wavering clarinet.
The dry, intimate sound of the Thalia seemed to serve these pieces and their settings fittingly. Great Noise made a great New York debut, and I hope to hear their brand of noise many more times in these parts.
Great Noise Ensemble.com
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