Archive for the “Click Picks” Category

kurtag & ligetiRecent postings here notwithstanding, I swear I’m not on a complete György Ligeti kick; but it just so happens that the German-news-in-English website Sign and Sight has printed the translation of a speech György Kurtág gave in remembrance of his great friend, fellow Hungarian and fellow composer. (The occasion was Kurtág’s receiving the Ordre Pour le Merite in Berlin.)

The German version was originally published in August this year, in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. As a bonus, this article includes all the extra stuff that Kurtág never got to say during the ceremony.

It’s a beautiful, intensely intimate memoriam.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing musicians that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, since they’re nice enough to offer so much good listening online:

Strange and intimate places via Myspace

Rather than go in-depth on one or two musicians, we’re going to play epicurean. The back-stories and other works of each of these musicians may (or sometimes, may not) be found easily enough with a few clicks around; I’ll leave that up to you. Right now, it doesn’t matter; I only want to lead you to a specific track on their individual Myspace pages, tracks that keep echoing around in my mind long after the first encounter.

None of these are truly “classical”; yet none are quite pop, jazz, etc. etc… they all inhabit the cracks in between, with no apologies or justifications other than that they exist. They’re also each one “intimate”. By that I mean we feel a kind of “beside-ness” with the artist, drawn into their space rather than simply presented to. Simple or complex, across all cultures, that drawing-in is one of the greatest achievments of any art. So simply find the suggested title on the flash player on each page, click and listen, and see where each leads you.

10-D PJ  (UK)  “My tears are for you” — Exquisite mix, match & mash of completely different Asian-and-otherwise recordings, creating some entirely new place in the world.

Charles Reix  (Montréal) “Contemplation” — Brilliantly dark, serpentine duo for shakuhachi and ‘cello.

Thomas Leer  (Scotland)  “Blood of a Poet” — The voice of Charles Bukowski, placed just so into the perfect “frame”.

Sylvain Chauveau and Felicia Atkinson (France)  “How the Light” — The simplest of songs: a few chords and figures, no sung melody. Yet a completely absorbing emotional “space”.

Olivia De Prato  (Wien-Venezia-NYC)  “Ageha Tokyo” — Over and over, a nervously unstable play of string and electronics suddenly refracts into hopefully radiant textures.

Samson Young[Update: Due to the flaky options Myspace offers for putting anything other than pop songs on the site, I passed over the tiny bit that tells me that “Ageha Tokyo” is actually a piece by the composer Samson Young (Hong Kong, but currently finishing his study at Princeton). A wonderful piece nonetheless, and Olivia’s is a fine performance. Samson’s own website, with much more information and listening is at]

Maxim Moston (Moscow-NYC)  “Myrtle Blue” — A solo guitar, with just a few chords, out-Harold-Budds even Harold Budd.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online:

sound. from SASSAS (Los Angeles)

Rüdiger CarlIn 1998, L.A. artist Cindy Bernard and friends started a series of concerts and installations that became the non-profit organisation SASSAS, the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound. Their goal is “to serve as a catalyst for the creation, presentation, and recognition of experimental art and sound practices in the Greater Los Angeles area”.

Most of the concerts are held at the landmark Schindler House, a mid-century experimental home that has sliding walls opening the whole structure up to the back garden area. It provides an airy, casual and free-flowing space for both the artists and audience. Lately SASSAS has also been able to run a few concerts as well at both the Ford Ampitheater and REDCAT.

Mitchell/JarmanThe list of performers is long and varied, from Pauline Oliveros and James Tenney to Chas Smith and Rick Cox; Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman to Jessica Rylan and Tom Grimley; Harold Budd, Petra Haden, Tetuzi Akiyama, Phil Gelb, etc… even my much-admired internet buddies Johnny Chang and Jessica Catron. If you’ve been spending all your time sitting in the concert hall listening to Wuorinen, here’s you’re chance to loosen up — and catch up — on all kinds of other vital forms of new music in the here-and-now.

Because SASSAS hasn’t just been presenting these concerts; they’ve also been pretty diligent about documenting them with recordings, photos and even video! The link in the title of this post will take you to the sound. mainpage. There you’ll see links to streaming Quicktime archives of many of these concerts, plus scrapbooks of notes and photos from them as well. And over on YOUTUBE, you’ll find another whole archive of video, that’s just begun and is sure to grow.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online.

Time to leave our standard classical composers and performers behind for a second, to hear what the writers can do:

Liesl Ujvary – Ann Cotten – Hanno Millesi (Austria): “Ghostengine – Speech without Language” (2005)

Ujvary-Cotten-MillesiLiesl Ujvary (1939-, Pressburg/Slovakia) moved to Austria in 1945 and spent her childhood in Lower Austria and Tyrol. She studied Slavonic, old-Hebrew literature and art history in Vienna and Zurich. After some visits in Moscow she finished her dissertation on Ilja Ehrenburg’s ‘Julio Jurenito’ at the University in Zurich in 1968. She held a university teaching position for Russian language and literature at the Sophia University in Tokyo, and lives as a writer in Vienna since 1971.

Ann Cotten (1982-) was born in Iowa, but her family moved to Austria when she was five. After growing up in Vienna, she just moved to Berlin last year, having stirred up a raft of critical attention with her first book of poetry, Fremdwörterbuchsonette (“Foreign Dictionary Sonnets”). The Frankfurter Rundschau interviewed her recently, and an English version of that article can be read at Sign and Sight.

Hanno Millesi (1966-, Vienna) studied art history in Vienna and Graz. From 1986-1992 he worked with Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna; from 1992 to 1999 assisted Hermann Nitsch’s “Orgien Mysterien Theaters”; 1999-2001 hung out at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien; all the while working at his own writing (as well as his guitar, in the band ALBERS).

— OK, preliminaries out of the way, why tell you about these three Austrian writers on our trusty new-music site? Because among Ujvary’s kalideoscopic interests and activities is music and sound art, which for the last ten-plus years she’s been broadcasting on radio and issuing on CD. The link on her name above will take you to her main website; from there the “musik” button will send you to a whole compendium of these, most available as free MP3 downloads as well as standard CDs. But clicking the other link above this post will take you directly to the 2005 CD Ghostengine – Sprechen ohne Sprach (“speech without language”). In this essay Ujvary, Cotten and Millesi all interact with an Etherwave theremin, trying to create a a kind of intuitive, wordless “speech”. Ujvary also processes this using a Kaoss pad — a wonderfully fun device from Korg, that lets you control all kinds of processing in realtime, with a few movements of your fingers. Interleaved between the solo “speeches” are four mixes by Ujvary, where she combines, varies and elaborates the three solos.

Mahler it most certainly is NOT; but it is a wonderful soundscape, that somehow captures a bit of each of its collaborators.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online:

Virgil Moorefield (b. 1956 — US)

Virgil MoorefieldWith not only an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in composition from Princeton, but a B.A. and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia (with a bit of Juilliard thrown in), you might expect some “high-concept” mixing with the music in Virgil Moorefield’s work, and so there is. But Virgil has a powerful weapon for keeping that ivory tower from becoming a tomb: he’s also a drummer. Not just any drummer, either; that’s him in the upper-center of the lower photo, the one-man motor driving Glenn Branca’s 100 guitars in Branca’s Symphony #13, “Hallucination City” (in a pic from the 2006 L.A. performance), a role he’ll be reprising when the symphony is done again this Oct. 12th at The Roundhouse in London. Toss in his time with The Swans, Elliot Sharp, Damage et al, and there’s just no way the academic cobwebs are going to close in on his compositions.

Virgil’s officially an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but with his performing it just might be hard to catch him in a classroom there. Where you can catch him compositionally is at his website linked above, which includes a fair number of complete MP3 files of enitire pieces and/or movements. These are culled from his excellent and varied discography, which just happened to grow by one this year thanks to the Innova release Things You Must Do To Get To Heaven. Whether as a CD or as downloads from your MP3-site-of-choice, I can wholeheartedly recommend having this stuff around your house.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online:

Fuhong SHI (b. 1976 — China / Canada)

Fuhong SHIOfficial blurb: “A native of Shenyang, Fuhong learned to play the piano at the age of eight, and began to study composition at fourteen. She graduated from the music school affiliated with the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in 1995, where she received the highest entrance exam score on the National Examinations for admission to the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in Beijing. At the CCOM she studied composition with Jianping TANG, and received a Bachelor’s degree in composition in 2000. She then earned a Master’s degree in composition under the direction of John Celona and Dániel Péter Biró at the University of Victoria in 2005. In the fall 2005, she began her doctoral studies with Gary Kulesha at the University of Toronto.”

Fuhong’s all-flash site has a built-in player that allows you to hear a number of her excellent pieces, from 1998 all the way up to this year. Her music is very beautiful, but never “pretty”; whether quiet or full-bore, there’s always a feeling of something tense and alert.

Larry Matthew Gaab (b.1950 — US, CA)

Larry GaabThem thar hills are alive with composers!… Like Larry Gaab out in the “wilds” of Chico, California (O.K., more valley than hill, but what the hey): family and marital counselor by day, experimental electroacoustic musician by any-other-time. Spare with biographical and other details, about all he’ll tell you is that he “blends treated acoustic sources and electronic instruments into works which are in part composed and in part improvised. The electronic instruments are invented and played live by various extended techniques.”

What he doesn’t mention is that he creates a kind of electronic music that has an intensely “orchestrated” feel. Even in the sounds that might seem simple, there’s a spirit of un-compromise in how he unfolds a piece, that can’t help but catch my ear. Larry recently switched to a new site; where there were once many full-length recordings to be heard, there are now a couple long segments and some shorter excerpts. Here’s hoping that the collection of listening regrows over time. If you’re intrigued, drop him a line and I’m sure he’d be able to send some complete works your way.

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online:

Mayke Nas (b. 1972 — Netherlands)

Mayke NasMayke studied piano and composition with Martijn Padding, Gilius van Bergeijk, Daan Manneke, Alexandre Hrisanide and Bart van de Roer at the conservatories of Amsterdam, Tilburg and The Hague. In 2004-2006 she was composer-in-residence with the Nieuw Ensemble. During the summer of 2005 she spent three months as artist-in-residence in Aldeburgh, England supported by a scholarship from Arts Council England, and in 2003 and 2006 she took part in the European interdisciplinairy workshop ‘Ziel 1 = Kunst’ in Oslip, Austria as representative of the Netherlands. Visit the link above and you’ll know exactly why Thea Derks wrote:

“[Nas’] music titters on the edge of sound and noise, but now and then puts a firm fist on the table as well; often there’s a comical side to it. Mayke Nas doesn’t like over-seriousness, but playfulness and ambiguity. She explores the bounderies of music with fearless energy and imagination, that also characterizes her personality. Instead of a biography, she sends two scores, a cd-rom and a link to her weblog. On it we find thoughts and reflections like ‘A puzzle of which half of the pieces are missing: that is a real puzzle’, and ‘Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap’. By ways of illustration she sends ten pictures of her hands counting to ten on the keys of the piano, along with the same amount of reasons to compose.”

For me, Mayke’s work is chock-full of wonderfully clever ideas, but realized in ways that go beyond making simply “clever” music; that’s a fairly rare combination. A number of the MP3s at the site are only excerpts, but poke around and you’ll find some complete things to hear (and see) as well.

David Coll (b.1980 — US)

David CollDavid’s recently been dropping by to comment, both at S21 and NewMusicBox (howdy, David! Y’all come back’n set a spell, hear?…). But since he’s new enough to not be one of our “regulars”, I thought I’d introduce you to his excellent work — by turns dark, contemplative, moody and even violently voluptuous. The link above will take you to his website/blog, which includes a number of complete MP3s (and a couple M4a’s for you iTunes folk). For a little info, I’ll let him tell it:

The music of David Coll reflects an interest in the energy, range and character inherent in the sounds of instruments, while questioning their conventions of performance. His compositions exhibit extended instrumental techniques and both open-ended and highly-specified notation. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, David obtained a M.A. at the University of California-Berkeley. Before continuing on for a PhD he is at IRCAM in the year-long cursus. This coming year he will continue there, working on a second piece.”

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, with so much good listening online:

The British — reserved wet-blankets all, right? Ha! There’s an ecstatic light that burns in each of these composers’ work, though in very different ways:

The laser: Brian Ferneyhough (b. 1943)

Brian Ferneyhough

“Brian Ferneyhough is a composer whose every work probes afresh and ex nihilo the extremes of the musically and technically feasible and stretches the limits of notation. His music is conceived as an ongoing process of transcendence, a constant crossing of boundaries. Each composition is a flight into a virgin land, into uncharted territory. And he is a musical thinker to whom art, rather than existing for its own sake, represents what he himself calls Erkenntnisform — a ‘vehicle of knowledge’.”  — Dieter Borchmeyer



The mirror-ball: Jonathan Harvey (b. 1939)

Jonathan Harvey

“Jonathan Harvey’s music – ecstatic, inspired, filled now with contemplative rapture, then suddenly with exuberant, joyful dance, and always beautiful – has long stirred me. Among contemporary composers there is none except Stockhausen who can so regularly ‘with sweetness, through mine ear, dissolve me into extasies, and bring all Heav’n before mine eyes’.”  — Andrew Porter




The soft translucent glow: Laurence Crane (b. 1961)

Laurence Crane

“In Laurence Crane’s music the material chosen is familiar; mostly consonant, often tonal, triads, elementary chords, old well-used intervals rescued from a previous unjust ignorant redundancy. The familiar sound or image is abstracted by being placed in a new, clean and often isolated context, like a museum glass case. Its innate value is respected by it remaining alone, unornamented and unaffected during the course of the piece by any development or transformation; the image staying as and where it is by being gently reiterated or prolonged so that it holds our full attention.”  — Tim Parkinson

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A quick addendum to my recent “click pick” visit to the Eastern Front:

My good and long-time i-friend Rudy Carrera pointed me in the direction of the young Russian composer Dmitry Subochev (b.1981), who’s posted a couple frenetically fun (and challenging) Moscow performances on video at YouTube. Cheglakov and His Shadow was made in collaboration with Subochev’s fellow composer and cellist Dmitry Cheglakov:


As well, Subochev teams up with Tatiana Mikheeva to terrorize the inside of a piano in Pandora’s Box:


Whether as something integral or as optional accompaniment, my very really grand prediction is that video will become ever-more essential to both performers and composers, and not just in the “big” places. Bone up now or chew the dust at the back of the pack…

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Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, since they’re nice enough to offer so much good listening online:

Let’s go a little further east, via a couple netlabels (online labels that offer freely downloadable, full-length MP3 “CD”s, usually with accompanying notes and cover artwork) 

Nexsound (Ukraine) 

logoThey’ll tell you: Nexsound has been dedicated to the unusual and experimental music, both acoustic and electronic, that could be of any style and trend released on CDs and MP3 files. The term that describes music released by Nexsound best is probably “environmental music”, and it is often like “indocile ambient”. Nexsound music envelops you, listening to it feels like immersing into the very special atmosphere that this music creates, and thus it is intended rather for private listening. We pay the very special attention to the package of CDs released, so they look and feel very nice.

From the year of 2003 we’re also responsible for organizing concerts in Ukraine. From May, 2005 Nexsound hosts international festival for electronic music and visual arts – Detali Zvuku. Founded in 2000 by Andrey Kiritchenko in 2000 in Kharkiv city, Ukraine, Nexsound is currently being operated by Dmytro Fedorenko (Kotra) as well.

Besides traditional “for-sale” CDs, there’s a whole section of MP3-only releases; for the modern classical folks I’d especially recommend To Escape, To Breathe, To Keep Silence, by the young composer Alla Zagaykevych.

Musica Excentrica (Moscow) logo

Like they say: Musica Excentrica is a netlabel, based in Moscow, Russia, producing selected avantgarde post-music in non-entertainment genres (acoustic as well as electronic). In general, we are making music distribution in the internet as online label.

Mainly electro and improv, this label also carries a compilation of pieces composed as tributes to the memory of Iannis Xenakis, as well as Polina Voronova’s Luxurious, awarded an “Honorary Mention” in the digital music category at the Prix Ars Electronica / International Competition for CyberArts 2007.

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