Archive for the “Contemporary Classical” Category
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/.
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.
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.
It is no secret that violinist, violist, and sometime vocalist Miranda Cuckson is one of File Under ?’s favorite contemporary music performers on the New York scene. An excerpt of her recent Nono recording can be heard on our December Mix (see embed below).
Miranda has started a new non-profit music presenting organization called nunc. On Friday at Mannes College of Music, nunc has its maiden voyage. Miranda is joined on an 8 pm concert by mandolinist Joseph Brent, percussionist Alex Lipowski, bassoonist Adrian Morejon, mezzo Mary Nessinger, and pianists Matei Varga and Ning Yu. The program includes music by Michael Hersch, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, Georges Aperghis, Sofia Gubaidulina, and more.
You can read read Miranda’s program notes here. Admission is free.
File Under ? December 2012 Mix by Christian Carey on Mixcloud
Strutting their stuff, before and during the duel Photos: Matthias Bothor
The 19th century virtuoso was familiar with the idea of proving one’s prowess at the keyboard with gusto, by competing against another virtuoso. Thalberg/ Liszt are perhaps the most famous example of having such a duel, facing each other down -keyboard to keyboard.
German pianists Andreas Kern and Paul Cibis pick up their own Piano Battle, delivering both an amazing entertainment-factor to their audiences, in accordance with some powerful competitive talent demonstrating hair-splitting virtuosity.
Now they are ready to not play it safe here; Kern and Cibis will bring their novel concert-concept for the first time to the United States. Following an invitation from the Goethe-Haus, they will perform Piano Battle in Washington, at the Embassy of Austria, on January 18th.
While neither of the two accomplished, classically trained pianists are huge fans of the traditional competition arena, Kern’s search for the pursuit of different ways to present piano music on stage started long before Piano Battle. He had always looked for an intensified congregational effect between the audience and what was happening on stage. He enjoyed integrating verbal, explanatory sections into his early recitals, sensing that the audience felt more at ease when they learned something which connected them further with the performance and the performer, rather than through formal printed programs. “Even the way those programs are usually constructed requires some familiarity with the musical material – or at least with the names dropped within the biographies of the artists– which creates a rather condescending effect, “mentions Kern, when the three of us met in New York. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes a phone interview is the way to go, even if you live in the same town. And so it was on a rainy Friday afternoon this past December that San Francisco-based composer and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and I “sat down” for a chat about her latest music theatre collaboration Your Body Is Not A Shark, which ran 7 11-13 January in San Francisco, and 17-20 January in Santa Cruz The celebrated and much sought after musician was the Kronos Quartet cellist from 1978 until 1999, when she “retired ” due to having been diagnosed with MS, which she’s been successfully battling ever since. With such a broad musical history behind her, plus a solo career as a composing and performing cellist and music theatre collaborator before her it’s hard to know how to begin. But how did it feel to play and record the second cello part in Vladimir Martynov’s Schubert-Quintet ( Unfinished ) ” after” Schubert’s Quintet in C D.956, with Kronos two years ago? ” We had so much fun. I really enjoyed playing with them again. It was like I’d never left, ” she recalls in a voice which still has a tinge of her Memphis, Tennessee roots. ” And I’ve always loved the cello because it’s such an expressive instrument, and composing–though I’d never thought of being a composer before–became a way of being really involved in music and playing.”
Her current music theatre adventure seems to have as many texts and sub-texts as music itself. And the focus of the project, which involves three other “gals –Cid Pearlman, choreographer; Denise Leto, poet; and Maya Barsacq, who conducts seven string members of the chamber orchestra, Cadenza, in Jeanrenaud’s score– is human fragility, in both body and spirit. That should be something everyone can relate to, or as the composer puts it “all of us have issues to deal with and the interesting thing is how you take that and make it your own,” which in her case means living with MS, which felled conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim’s cellist wife Jacqueline Du Pre, but also involves Leto, who’s disabled, and whose words will be projected as she writes. The piece casts the net even further by using a dance company of six, which ranges in ages from 18 to 62, and Jeanrenaud says that the navigation of Pearlman’s moves will naturally be more effortful for the 62 year old. The 10 section piece, which the composer calls ” a collage of interesting elements,” will also feature ace new music percussionist William Winant, “and there are a couple of sections of just me and Willy which are quite rhythmic.”
There’s a strong visual look as well. “One piece has the orchestra creating a bed of sound, and there are staging elements like a bed platform that moves around,. Stairs and chairs are used, and there’s a desk where Denise will be seated while the audience watches her.” Jeanrenaud has also added sound files to her score, which though not a visual element, will likely add both space and sonic weight to this intensely collaborative whole. It’s an ambitious and hopefully pertinent work for our increasingly fragile time where everybody either puts on a tough face or gets in touch with what’s really happening around and in them. But one thing’s certain. The composer-cellist is one of the most gifted musicians of her generation, and like any true artist, or human being for that matter, she’s here to learn. She put it this way in a firming up e-mail regarding her time with the great French cellist Pierre Fournier who was renowned for the elegance and depth of his playing. ” Working with Fournier was a great transition from being a student to becoming a professional musician.My lessons were very clarifying regarding technical issues I would be uncertain of in my own practice. It was wonderful working with him! “
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As the Director of the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts, overseeing the 92Y’s concert series and Unterberg Poetry Center endowed by the Tisch Family, Hanna Arie-Gaifman indulges her deep love and knowledge of literature and music. “I came to the 92Y in 2000,“ shares Gaifman, sitting at her small desk, loaded with papers, messages, and catalogues, in her office on the 4th floor of the Y. The building she works in inhabits a Lexington Avenue city block between 92nd and 93rd street, and represents a staple of its surrounding community, as well as a buzzing cultural center. “It is an amazing combination of everything I love, in its presentation of excellence in literature and music. It has a long history and tradition of being true to itself, carrying on its own integrity with an honest search for changing responsibilities within its community and reaching out beyond its margins, to society at large.”
Having studied piano at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, Gaifman certainly could have considered a career in music performance herself, but did not, feeling that her skills could allow her to make a bigger difference in other areas of the music field. It is precisely her talent for bringing concepts and cultures together that has shone through the many different roles she held as music presenter, long before making her impact at the 92Y.
As dean of the Mozart Academy in Prague, director of artistic management and international relations of the Czech Philharmonic, and director of Prague’s annual Musica Judaica Festival from 1993 -2000, Gaifman showed her skill for international cooperation and management, as well as her keen talent for enriching cultural life in post-communist Czechoslovakia. Read the rest of this entry »
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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It takes real enthusiasm and a vision to bring about the change politicians speak about. In real life, it is only the most invigorated doers, like YCA’s Susan Wadsworth, who are able to implement new strategies and changes that have an enduring significance for the future.
It all started on the ground floor loft space of a restaurant on Waverly Place in New York’s Greenwich Village. The owner, a young Armenian architect, liked the idea of Susan curating concerts at his venue. So, on his off-days he cleared away the tables and added aYoung Concert Artists sign to his own sign board, and simply raised it up in front of Harout‘s, to promote the budding concert series.
“Steinway charged me 100 dollars for cartage each way and gave me a great gift… a beautiful concert grand piano that could stay at the venue during the whole season,” says Susan Wadsworth, an energetic powerhouse of small stature and hefty goals.
A trained classical pianist herself, she had studied with pianists-pedagogues Mieczyslaw Munz, Jean Casadeus and Nadia Boulanger, and was always surrounded by musician friends, some of whom she had met during her years at the Mannes College of Music, studying with Frank Sheridan.
But while she admired some of her friends’ amazing talent and felt deeply connected to music and its world, she rejected the pursuit of a career as concert pianist for herself. The decisive moment came, she explained, “When I was asked to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, A-major with the Mannes orchestra. I quickly realized that I really did not want to perform,” she confesses, with relief in her voice. Read the rest of this entry »