Archive for the “Composers” Category
Posted by Chris Becker in Cello, Chamber Music, Classical Music, Composers, Concerts, Contemporary Classical, Houston, Piano, Strings, Violin, tags: Gryphon Trio, Houston Friends of Chamber Music, Leonard Cohen, Ottawa Chamberfest, Patricia O'Callaghan, piano trio
The Gryphon Trio
(Houston, TX) Next week here in Houston, contemporary music rears its terrifying head in the form of Canada’s Gryphon Trio on two very different concerts presented by the Houston Friends of Chamber Music. On Sunday, February 10, the Trio and special guest soprano Patricia O’Callaghan present and evening of contemporary cabaret music in support of their recent CD collaboration Broken Hearts and Madmen, which includes stunning arrangements of songs by Laurie Anderson, Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Astor Piazzolla, and Elvis Costello. On Tuesday, February 12, the Trio performs a program of piano trio music at Rice University, including contemporary works by Christos Hatzis and Valentin Silvestrov, accompanied by projected visuals by artist Stephen Hutchings.
From its inception the Trio, Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello), and Jamie Parker (piano), has been committed to playing and programming concerts that equally combine classical and contemporary repertoire.
“Although the very first piece we played together was Beethoven’s Opus 70, No. 1, the ‘ghost’ trio,” says Borys, “it wasn’t long after that that we gave our first world premier. There was never any sort of aversion to contemporary music. That kind of resistance to contemporary music is such a thing of the past. We knew many composers as friends and were very keen to work with them and have them write pieces for us.”
The trio’s name was chosen to signal their interest in all of the arts, not just classical music.
“We wanted to be careful to choose a name that allowed for artistic diversification,” says Borys. “We enjoyed the fact that this creature, the gryphon, was the guardian of treasures and a combination of cosmic energies.”
Hutchings, who previously created a series of paintings for the Trio’s performances of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, is one of several artists who collaborate with the trio to create their symbiotic presentations of visuals and sound.
“He has an incredible sense of what’s out there in the contemporary music world and is very curious,” says Borys of Hutchings. “His practice as a visual artist is very much tied to and inspired by music. He almost always listens to contemporary music when he’s painting.”
Soprano Patricia O’Callaghan
“People are so led by what they see,” Borys continues. “Visuals are such a powerful thing in general. When we create these pieces with visuals, we’re very conscious of that. We’re trying to create a visual environment that stimulates the person having the experience in such a way that it leads to their hearing the piece in a more intense way.”
O’Callaghan, who has performed with the Trio on several projects, occupies a unique place in the world of contemporary song performance. She initially began her career thinking she would sing opera.
Says O’Callaghan, “I did my degree, I got a grant, and went to study in Austria and began auditioning for opera houses. And I thought that that was what I was going to do, live in Europe and be an opera singer. But I really felt like I didn’t fit into that world. I really felt like an outsider, and even a little bit hemmed in by it.”
O’Callaghan then began a transition out of classical and operatic singing into a style better suited for the repertoire that was truly resonating with her, including songs by Kurt Weill, songs made famous by the great Edith Piaf, and the aforementioned Cohen, who she pays tribute to on her album MATADOR: The Songs of Leonard Cohen.
“It’s a completely different way of singing,” says O’Callaghan of her particular brand of contemporary cabaret. “Since I sang in rock bands before my classical days, I guess I could sort of reverse. But that kind of (classical) training just doesn’t disappear. It really gets in to your body.”
“A lot of the experimentation with singing happened for me in the recording studio,” she continues. “I would hear something, and then play it back and go, ‘No, I’ve gotta do something more laid back, more subtle.’ It’s been a really long learning process, trying to figure out how to sing the repertoire in a way that is natural. It’s about finding your own voice.”
Both Borys, who also directs Canada’s long-running Ottawa Chamberfest, and O’Callaghan agree that in the world of post-music conservatory performance, in concert halls and clubs across the world, the walls between classical performance and other idioms are coming down.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, to bridge genres,” says O’Callaghan. “Every genre has its strengths and weaknesses in terms of training as a musician. But I just find you can learn so much if you do bridge genres, if you do work with musicians from different disciplines. But not everyone can do it, and not everyone can do it well.”
“I would still say that we are on the cutting edge,” O’Callaghan concludes. “But I do feel like there is a trend to doing this more and more in the world today.”
Houston Friends of Chamber Music present The Gryphon Trio, Sunday, February 10, 7:30 p.m. at the Main Street Theater, Chelsea Market, 4617 Blvd. with special guest Patricia O’Callaghan, performing songs by Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello and others, and February 12, 7:30 p.m. at Stude Concert Hall, Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, performing chamber music of Valentin Silvestrov, Christos Hatzis, Antonín Dvořák, and Joseph Haydn.
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Le Train Bleu, conducted by Ransom Wilson, will present Toy Stories, a concert on Wednesday, February 6 – 7:00 PM at DROM, 85 Avenue A (between 5th and 6th) in New York, N.Y.
The evening will feature the World Premiere of Lawrence Dillon’s Seven Stories for soprano and eight instruments. The piece was composed to an original text. The composer writes, “A stuffed animal falls from an apartment window. As it falls, it peers into each passing window, trying to create stories from what it sees.” Read his recent blog post about it at http://www.sequenza21.com/dillon/?p=1962. The new work will be sung by soprano Mary Mackenzie. Visit Lawrence Dillon at http://www.lawrencedillon.com/.
Toy Stories explores mankind’s endless variety of play and playthings. The concert will also include Thomas Ades’ Living Toys, a journey through the fantasies of a child, for 14 instruments, accompanied by a new video by Adam Kendall, Matt Marks’ Sex Objects, a set of three songs about unique characters and their intimate relationships with inanimate objects, with vocal performances by Mary Mackenzie, Matt Marks, and Jeff Gavett, and the World Premiere of Eric Nathan’s Toying, a virtuoso exploration of the full range of possible sounds and techniques produced by the trumpet, played by Le Train Bleu’s Hugo Moreno.
Visit Thomas Ades at http://thomasades.com/. Matt Marks is at http://mattmarksmusic.com/ and Eric Nathan at http://www.ericnathanmusic.com/Home.html.
Tickets for the February 6 event are $20, and are available at http://www.ticketfly.com/event/205653. For more information, call 212-777-1157 or visit http://www.dromnyc.com/.
Le Train Bleu is a musical collective formed by conductor and flutist Ransom Wilson. The musicians are among the most exciting young players in New York, and are chosen for their brilliance as well as their expressive qualities. Recently named a resident ensemble of the Galapagos Art Space, the ensemble continues plans to present performances of new and interesting music. The New York Times said of their debut performance: “Under Mr. Wilson’s baton, the Train Bleu ensemble was both incisive and joyous in execution.” In the 2011-12 season, the ensemble presented a 4-concert series at the Galapagos Art Space, as well as collaborating with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in a 2-week season at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. They also participated in a 15-month creative residency at the Park Avenue Armory, along with soprano Lauren Flanigan. Visit them at http://letrainbleu.org/.
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For years now, long-time WPRB radio host Marvin Rosen has brought the world (though it’s in Princeton, New Jersey, it also streams live over the web) all manner of “Classical Discoveries” every Wednesday from 5:30 to 11 AM ET. But from 11 AM until 1 PM “Classical Discoveries” switched gears to become “Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde“, serving up the newest — and often by radio standards, the “difficult” — works to an enthusiastic audience eager to hear what’s going on today in contemporary classical music. Often there were also interviews with established and up-and-coming composers and performers as well.
The broadcast landscape for such stuff is already so very tiny in the vast radio world of “safe” music, talk, news, sports, etc; unfortunately it’s about to shrink even more, as Marvin’s “Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde” slot is being shut down by the WPRB powers-that-be in favor of other programming. Joe Barron over at the “Liberated Dissonance” blog has more on the story. Marvin is truly one of the most warm and selfless people I know, working so hard each week to bring his listeners this stuff — even when stylistically it might not be his personal cup of tea — simply because he really loves our living music of today in all its forms, and feels so strongly the need to share that enthusiasm with the wider world.
Marvin’s “Classical Discoveries” show will remain a WPRB Wednesday-morning fixture, but the last “Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde” is this Wednesday, 11 AM until 1 PM. Tune in if you can, broadcast or online, and a huge round of applause to Marvin for what he was able to bring both the living composers and adventurous listeners these past five years.
[Update: the management of WPRB has responded with some further amplification, in the comments at the end of this post.]
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Posted by Chris Becker in Classical Music, Composers, Contemporary Classical, Houston, Piano, Recordings, Review, tags: Expansions, Frozen Heat, Kris Becker, Nu-Classical, Rice University
Pianist and composer Kris Becker (photo by Bhavin)
(Houston, TX) “Ah! Expression!” That’s the first thing that came out of my mouth when I cued up and heard “Elegy,” the poignant, yet unsentimental first track on Houston-based pianist and composer Kris Becker’s
new recording Expansions
. Becker is a classically trained pianist and composer with a passion for both 19th century and prog-rock piano and a compositional vision well served by his formidable technique. Like the song says, “Oh, yeah! The boy can play!” But it’s the range of expression in Becker’s playing and writing that ultimately resonates with me.
Real quick, let me explain the name thing. Kris and I are not related, although we are definitely brothers in spirit. We’ve even performed on the same bill, albeit separately, me on laptop cuing and mixing electronic and sample-based sounds to accompany avant-garde films, and Kris on Nord playing both what he calls his “nu-classical” repertoire and rock influenced songs. When I first relocated the Houston, the local press managed to mix the two of us up at least once (my photo appeared above Kris’ name in an ad for a gig with his rock band Frozen Heat). So just to clarify, it’s Kris with a “K,” okay?
Okay. Now back to the music. Expansions features 13 tracks, 11 of them compositions for solo piano. “Covenant” is a feisty dialogue for clarinet (played by Sarunas Jankauskas) and piano, and the title track is a seven and a half minute theme and variations for solo flute beautifully performed by Victoria Hauk.
There’s no question Becker’s formidable (that word again) piano skills have everything to do with generating the compositional material he has shaped into an award-winning, body of work. But there’s heart and soul in the man’s music, not just technical fireworks. His compositions, especially the compositions on Expansions, are intensely programmatic and poetic, a fact one can gather not only from Becker’s liner notes but the expressive and dynamic directions you see in his scores (a couple of my favorites include “scintillating and terrifying” and “twisted”).
Expansions closes with a four-movement monster of a of a piece “Piano Sonata No. 1,” which is dedicated to Becker’s Rice-era piano instructor Robert Roux. Becker appreciated my description of this piece as a “monster,” and told me that in fact that’s how the piece struck him after he first heard it back in its entirety. Several tempo and meter changes, as well as the breadth of expressive demands on the player, sets the piece firmly outside of the camp of this generation’s latest batch of post-minimialists. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. At times, especially in the first movement, I’m reminded of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, though Becker is quick to name check Keith Emerson as he is Chopin and of the usual 19th century long hairs. “Piano Sonata No. 1” deservedly won the 2012 National Federation of Music Clubs Emil and Ruth Beyer Composition Award.
Like any good romantic, Becker is determined to realize his music, his way, maintaining what a friend of mine calls “aesthetic ownership” of a very personal musical vision. Sure, Becker can tear up Mozart and Beethoven, but why play it safe? His drive compels him to a road a little less traveled. It’s a hard road, but many classically trained musicians these days are similarly deciding to forgo the traditional and instead cut their own artistic path. So Kris with a “K” is in good company!
Becker’s Expansions is available now on CD Baby and iTunes.
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Posted by Chris Becker in Composers, Concerts, Contemporary Classical, Dance, Electro-Acoustic, Experimental Music, Flute, Houston, Improv, Women composers, tags: FALKOR, Michelle Yom, Nameless Sound, Neverending Story
Houston-based flutist, composer, and improviser Michelle Yom
(Houston, TX) This Sunday, Houston-based flutist, composer, and improviser Michelle Yom presents FALKOR, an interactive music and dance composition featuring Yom on flute and four dancers, Kriten Frankiewicz, Erin Reck, Leslie Scates, and Sophia Torres. FALKOR utilizes video motion tracking and a wireless system triggering audio samples based on the colors of the costumes worn by the dancers as well as their movements. FALKOR takes place at Studio 101 as part of the ongoing electronic music series Brave New Waves.
Fantasy film fans (not to mention fans of 1980s pop music) will no doubt recognize the name Falkor (i.e. Falkor the Luck Dragon) from the film Neverending Story, which tells the story of a young boy who, through reading a magical book, enters into another world called Fantasia, a world sustained by human imagination. Yom uses the names of different characters and creatures from the film, each of whom represent some facet of humanity, as “venture points” to explore “the relationships between emotions, noise, sound, silence, and nothingness.”
Says Yom, “Falkor is luck and joy, Swamps of Sadness is sadness, Engywook is intellect, and Morla is cynicism. I use these characters as general ground to inspire the improvised music and dance. It seems linear, but I hope to show other sides of seemingly one-sided notions of emotion. For example, we treat sadness as a negative feeling, but it actually springs from hope in the first place, and when destroyed, begins something new.”
As a frequent participant in concerts of freely improvised music presented by the Houston organization Nameless Sound, improvisation is a crucial component to Yom’s compositional vision. Each of the four dancers in FALKOR are experienced improvisers as well. The wireless system triggering audio in response to their movement and costume colors will scramble the audience’s perception of what has been composed and what is being improvised, as well as time itself.
“I’ve been exploring silence,” explains Yom. “Different types of silence with factors like physical movement and the inevitably strong role it plays in our perception of time in a concert. I’d like to push the length of silence in a musical piece without losing the audience.”
Sunday, January 27, Brave New Waves presents Michelle Yom’s FALKOR at Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street, Houston, Texas, Houston, Texas 77007. Doors open at 7:45 p.m. the performance begins at 8:05 p.m. $10 cover.
Tune in to KTRU Saturday at 6:00 p.m. CT for an interview with Michelle Yom.
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Have you seen the leaden snark about new music that recently passed for a column on Huffington Post? Penned by composer Daniel Asia, it was ostensibly about John Cage’s centenary year celebrations, but was really just a rehash of reactionary vitriol against experimental art.
Aren’t we yet tired of attacking those whose aesthetic viewpoints differ from our own? Can’t we composers all just get along? Apparently not. My reply to Huff Post follows below.
With all due respect to Daniel Asia, it is very easy to write an essay excoriating a dead man and griping about centenary festivals: both are easy targets. It is not so easy to create a body of work that outlives you and continues to provoke thought. John Cage’s music may not suit Professor Asia, but it certainly engaged audiences throughout the world in 2012.
I wrote about several of the events and came away with a very different impression (from that portrayed in the article above) of Cage’s music and the music of those who admired him. Much of it I found invigorating, stimulating, and yes, often entertaining.
Assistant Professor of Music
Westminster Choir College,
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Posted by Chris Becker in Broadcast, Classical Music, Composers, Contemporary Classical, Experimental Music, Houston, Radio, tags: Chris Becker, Composer Talk, Hsin-Jung Tsai, KTRU, Paul Connolly, Scordatura, Thomas Helton
(“Composer Talk” co-hosts Chris Becker and Hsin-Jung Tsai with Trio Oriens)
Some of you may remember that a little over two years ago I relocated from New York City to Houston, TX. Since then, I have been enjoying what is truly a lively and diverse music and arts scene (clap, clap, clap, clap) “deep in the heart of Texas!” This past year in particular has been especially stimulating and busy for me as a composer, performer, writer, and DJ.
Yes, DJ. As in radio DJ. As in, “Tune in Saturday, December 29th, 2012, 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 PM central time for Composer Talk at 90.1 HD2 KPFT and streaming live on the web at ktru.org!”
“Composer Talk” is a spin-off of KTRU’s contemporary music program Scordatura which airs Saturdays from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM CT. The current Scordatura hosts include composer Paul Connolly, bassist and composer Thomas Helton, and pianist and composer Hsin-Jung Tsai. Awhile back, Hsin-Jung interviewed me for an edition of Scordatura, and she and I had so much fun talking about music that we decided to make it a regular thing. Hence, “Composer Talk,” a monthly radio show that features the two of us playing recordings of and talking about contemporary music. Just music and talk, you know, no big whoop.
For each edition of “Composer Talk,” Hsin-Jung and I bring in whatever music we think needs to be shared with the world that month (we always bring more music than we have time to play) and just let it roll. There’s no script. We play raw recordings of premier performances, unreleased recordings by friends far and wide, deep vinyl cuts, and CDs that come to us from great independent labels including Innova, New Amsterdam Records, American Modern Recordings, Cantaloupe Music, and many others.
We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing guest artists in the studio for “Composer Talk,” including Houston’s own Trio Oriens, marimba player Wei-Chen Lin, composer Joseph Phillips, and pianist Robert Boston.
Some of our listeners enjoy just checking in for a few minutes at a time, while others let the show play in its entirety. Unfortunately, the show isn’t archived, so any unplanned alchemy that happens only happens once, kind of like music: ephemeral and (we hope) fun.
“Composer Talk” airs this Saturday, December 29th, 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Central Time) in high definition at 90.1 HD2 KPFT and streaming live on the web at www.ktru.org.
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The Donald Sinta Quartet, performing here in 2010 with the University of Michigan Symphony Band in Shenyang, China
It is my pleasure to announce the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet’s first ever Composition Competition! The Donald Sinta Quartet (Dan Graser, Zach Stern, Joe Girard, Danny Hawthorne-Foss) is based in Ann Arbor and was handpicked from Donald Sinta’s Classical Saxophone studio at the University of Michigan, the same studio that produced the world-famous PRISM Quartet.
This competition coincides with the DSQ’s Paris debut in April, and the winning pieces will be performed at the Paris Conservatory, the Selmer Show Room in Paris and at other domestic performances. The competition’s deadline is February 15th, there is no application fee and more specific details regarding submissions can be found here on the DSQ’s website.
The members of the Donald Sinta Quartet have demonstrated a strong commitment to new music and living composers as long as I’ve been in Ann Arbor. Ron Amchin, a senior composition student whose work, Hot Foot, is part of the DSQ’s Spring tour commented, “They’re awesome! They will play anything you write and love challenges.”
I caught up with the DSQ’a frontman, of sorts, Dan Graser (soprano saxophone) and asked him about the group’s goals for this competition, along with the importance a new works by American composers to the growth and strength of saxophone quartet repertoire. Our conversation presented below.
Enjoy, and don’t forget to submit your best saxophone quartet piece to the Donald Sinta Quartet’s Composition Competition!
S21: What are your goals and parameters of the competition?
DG: The primary purpose of the contest is to generate several great new works for saxophone quartet from young American composers. When we were given the opportunity to perform in Paris for one of the finest saxophone studios in the world, we wanted to showcase everything that both American saxophonists, and American composers are capable of. While there is a great tradition of French saxophone repertoire that all saxophone quartets perform, our purpose with this contest is to begin establishing a greater repertoire from American composers and create a renewed national interest in writing for saxophone quartet.
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C4. Photo: Keith Goldstein.
For those of us here in New York and New Jersey, the past few weeks have been challenging. In the wake of Storm Sandy, we trust that better days are yet to come, but the present’s outlook is a bit dodgy. Some forward thinking optimism, particularly of the musical variety, is keenly welcome.
This weekend, C4 Ensemble, a collective of composers, conductors, and singers committed to new music (most wearing multiple hats in terms of their respective roles in the group), presents Music for People Who Like the Future.
Spotlighting the North American premiere of Andrew Hamilton’s Music for People Who Love the Future (hmm… I wonder if this title gave them the idea for the name of the show …), the program also features music by Chen Yi, Michael McGlynn, Sven-David Sandström, Phillipe Hersant, and Ted Hearne along with C4’s own Jonathan David, Mario Gullo, David Harris, and Karen Siegel.
Friday, November 16, 2012
The Church of St. Luke in the Fields
487 Hudson Street, NYC 10014
$15 advance / $25 day of event/ 10 $4 “Rush” admissions 30 minutes advance at the door
Closest Subway: 1 to Christopher Street/Sheridan Square
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Mary Flagler Cary Hall at The DiMenna Center
450 W. 37th Street, NYC 10018
$15 advance / $25 day of event / 10 $4 “Rush” admissions 30 minutes advance at the door
Closest Subways: A/C/E to 34th Street/Penn Station
Reception to follow
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Violinist Mari Kimura has built a career fearlessly taking the violin to places still little-explored. from her work with sub-harmonics (using precise but difficult bowing techniques to obtain notes up to an octave below the normal violin range), to the integration of all manner of digital and electronic interweavings, to playing everything from from the ferociously difficult to the frenzied soaring to the freely improvised, Mari has made her violin sing like few others in our generation.
Likewise for Elliott Sharp and his exploration of the guitar in all its many shape-shifting forms. Elliott has become such a New York institution as to give the Statue of Liberty a run for her money (though to be fair, Lady Liberty doesn’t do too many new-music concerts). Edgy and restless, Sharp’s work attacks a lot of our notions of what a guitar is supposed to do, while always still reminding us of the roots it and we come out of.
These two wonderfully complex performers and creators will be found together on the same bill this Friday, Nov. 16 at 8pm, at Glenn Cornett’s intimate Spectrum concert space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (121 Ludlow, 2nd Floor, tickets $15 suggested donation).
Mari Kimura will present her recent works using Augmented Violin, IRCAM’s bowing motion sensor technology. Kimura’s Meteo-Hahn is a new work in collaboration with data visualization specialist Bruce Hahn, and is an interactive audio/visual work using weather patterns and data. Her other premiere is Poly-Monologue, a work-in-progress version of her large-scale multimedia project “ONE” which will tour in 2013. In Poly-Monologue Kimura collaborates with singer Kyoko Kitamura; the trilingual (English, French, Japanese) texts and Kitamura’s vocalization interact with Kimura’s Augmented Violin. Kimura will also perform works by François Sarhan, an intriguing European composer/theater director/encyclopedist: Un Chevalier (2007) and Oublée (Forgotten, 2012) for solo violin. The works are based on the text by Russian poet Daniil Harms (1905-1942), expressing the pressure on intellectualism during Stalinism.
Elliott Sharp will present Octal, a collection of pieces for the Koll 8-string guitar-bass built exclusively for Sharp. These pieces function somewhere between etudes and jumping-off points for improvised explorations. Not academic, these performances are filled with free-jazz energy and burning bluesy extemporizations using Sharp’s signature extended techniques.
Extra bonus — Kimura and Sharp will also improvise together during the concert. There’s going to be a lot of magic on this bill, and Spectrum is a wonderfully homey and intimate place to catch a concert. So if at all possible head on over and treat yourself to some musical bliss.
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