Archive for the “Experimental Music” Category

Cory Smythe and Amy X Neuburg; Photos courtesy of Glenn Cornett

Amy X Neuburg/Cory Smythe
Roulette
Brooklyn, NY
Dec. 13, 2011

It’s East Meets West…coast, that is.

On the stage of the old-school charming Roulette in Brooklyn was yet another creatively edgy program, put on this time by the pairing of West-coast avant-cabaret artist Amy X Neuburg and New York’s own pianist-composer, ICE’s Cory Smythe. Presented without an intermission, the show was almost entirely electronic or electro-acoustic in nature (with the exception of a refreshing burst of Fats Waller’s “Handful of Keys” from Mr. Smythe), and most of the pieces were composed and/or arranged by both of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Tuesday, December 13, Bay-area artist Amy X Neuburg will collaborate for one-night only with NY-based pianist/composer Cory Smythe at Brooklyn’s Roulette on Atlantic Ave.

Neuburg’s brand of music, which has been dubbed “avant-cabaret”, promises to be an interesting blend with Smythe’s improvisational work as they will play a majority of the evening together, as well as some portions solo.

AMY X NEUBURG

Amy told us recently in an interview what to look forward to in this unique show:

We’re each performing a few solo songs, but the bulk of the evening will be brand new and collaborative. Much of our music leaves room for improvisation, and most of it involves live looping of the piano and the voice. You’ll hear a “cabaret improv” song about rat experiments, a completely whack song Cory has written which I am to sing in a country twang while looping piano chords in multiple odd time signatures, a duo of new songs (about personality disorders) constructed of simple layered lines, two composed songs that we played earlier this year in Milwaukee, and an unusual interpretation of “Gretchen am Spinnrade” that we have convinced ourselves Mr. Schubert would appreciate.

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Judith Berkson performing “Vor an Sicht” (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Reddin)

Vital Vox: A Vocal Festival (Vital Vox 2011)
Roulette
Brooklyn, NY
Sat, Nov 5 & Sun, Nov 6, 2011

I guess there was no better way to kick off the Vital Vox Festival than with a primal scream. Gelsey Bell and her partner for this performance, composer/performer Paul Pinto, actually gave us several of them separate and together at the start of the song cycle Scaling, and they seemed to be the sound that signified both the power of vocal performance and the experimental nature of the festival as well.
In general, the festival is a huge emphasis on artists that recognize the human voice as an instrument, an instrument that has just as much range and capability as any great violin, piano or guitar, and works wonderfully as a duet with other instruments or other voices. These artists are all equally gifted as vocalists as they are composers or musicians of other instruments, and they all put on compelling performances. Read the rest of this entry »

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The following are extended versions of the interviews I had with Toby Twining and Iva Bittova, who are both appearing at the 2011 Vital Vox Festival (Both will be performing on Night 2: Vocals + Strings)

First up, Toby Twining talks about his beginnings and inspiration as well as the new and current material.

CM: How did you go from roots in country-swing to rock to the other-worldly music you’ve been making for various instruments, including voices and chamber ensemble?

TT: This is a long story—I’ll attempt a Reader’s Digest version.

I grew up in Houston and my maternal grandparents were both pro musicians—grandad played guitar, pedal steel, string bass; grandmother played gospel piano like Liberace/Debussy mix. As a teenager, I played guitars, bass, and keys in rock bands. All the kids played Texas blues as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iva Bittova

The 3rd annual Vital Vox Vocal Festival, this year being held at Roulette in Downtown Brooklyn (Sat, Nov 5th and Sun, Nov 6th, 8 PM), is not just about singers, but those that are equally skillful at creating music. On November 5th and 6th, there is a sensational lineup of artists that are gifted at both of those as well as skirting genre lines between new classical, indie, jazz and world music. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Kerrytown Concert House

As those of you who regularly read my reports from Ann Arbor know, most of the new music I cover is related to the University of Michigan, usually in the form of a student composer concert, a performance by the resident Contemporary Directions Ensemble or the appearance of a contemporary work or two on a Symphony Band concert. Beyond these highly active groups at the Michigan School of Music, our town is gifted with two wonderful concert presenting organizations who regularly feature contemporary music on their programs: the University Musical Society and the Kerrytown Concert House.  Last year I attended several UMS events, but hadn’t stepped inside KCH as an audience member until last week when composer Ezra Donner invited me to hear the Aurea Silva Trio premiere his work Variations for Flute, Bassoon and Piano.

More so than UMS, the Kerrytown Concert House focuses on experimental programming and intimate presentations, garnering recognition from the Nation Endowment of the Arts for their important role in the music community of Southeastern Michigan and, frankly, the whole country. Unbeknownst to me, KCH has hosted a new music/jazz festival called “Edgefest” for fifteen years, which wrapped up last month. Although, I missed out on an opportunity to report on that concert series, I was able to catch a bit of new music there last week with the aforementioned recital by the Aurea Silva Trio.

Commissioned for the Trio, Variations reflects a consistent theme in Mr. Donner’s music: the influence of his upbringing in the Rust Belt of western Pennsylvania. To my ears, the connection was apparent in the first, expansive sonority of the piece, which ascends from the rumbling depths of the bassoon’s lowest register to the higher ranges of the flute and the piano. This section is the theme of what Mr. Donner called a, “classically oriented theme and variations” in pre-concert remarks, and does more than establish the root of all the subsequent music, it introduces bassoonist Gareth Thomas as a very prominent figure in the narrative of the work. Beyond the structure, the only stylistic allusion to classical tradition occurs with one variation I noted as a, “demented waltz”. I found the link impossible to ignore thanks to the section’s typifying meter and accompanimental pattern in the piano, though the passage’s melodic material is more of a grotesque caricature of than a respectful homage to traditional waltz music. As the variations continue, the ‘waltz’ music returns in a decayed form while the bassoon maintains its status as the principle melodic figure in the work – until the theme comes back. With the bassoon relegated to its lowest range, pianist David Gililand and flutist Brandy Hudelson are given an opportunity to expand on what we’ve heard before, leading to a rousing conclusion that caused one attendee – luminary America composer William Bolcom – to call out “good!” before the Trio could take its first bow.

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Too Many Concerts and Cloning is Still Illegal!

Tricentric Orchestra. Photo: Kyoko Kitamura

October in New York is becoming an embarrassment of riches in the new music world. So many wonderful concerts to hear in town! But the plethora of notable events can be a source of frustration too: sometimes you wish you could be in two places at once. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Steve Smith has figured out a way to do this!) So, while we won’t get to review everything, there’s nothing saying we can’t preview as many events as possible! What follows are some, but rest assured not all, of the excellent upcoming goings on.

-        Starting Wednesday evening (Oct. 5) running through October 8 at Roulette is one of the biggest festivals celebrating the music of Anthony Braxton yet seen in the United States.  It includes performances by the Tricentric Orchestra, the US debut of the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio – Anthony Braxton (reeds, electronics), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), and Mary Halvorson (guitar) – and two world premieres. The first, Pine Top Arial Music, is an interdisciplinary work integrating music and dance. The second, which is the culmination of the festival, is a concert reading of Acts One and Two of Trillium E, Braxton’s first opera. Those who can’t make the festival, or who want ample Braxton at home as well as live, can enjoy two new recordings of his music. The first is a freebie: a Braxton sampler featuring a diverse array of pieces (including an excerpt of the opera) that’s available for download via the Tricentric Foundation. The second is a recording of Trillium E in its entirety, available from Tricentric on October 11 as a download or 4 CD set.

-        On October 6, Ekmeles, everybody’s favorite New York group of experimentally inclined youngster vocalists, shares a triple bill with Ireland’s Ergodos and Holland’s Ascoli Ensemble at Issue Project Room’s new 110 Livingstone location (details here). Ekmeles will perform Kaija Saariaho’s Sylvia Plath setting From the Grammar of Dreams, two short pieces by James Tenney, and two US premieres. The first, Madrigali a Dio by Johannes Schöllhorn, incorporates singing, spoken word, and even boisterous shouts in a vocal work that explores counterpoints between pitched and un-pitched vocalizations.  Peter Ablinger’s Studien nach der Natur explores a plethora of sounds from the natural world as well as manmade noises: mosquitoes, quartz watches, the Autobahn, smoking, electric hums – all replicated by the human voice. Mr. Ablinger was kind enough to allow us to share a small score excerpt below.

-        Also on Thursday, October 6 (drat it to Hades!) is the premiere of the Five Borough Songbook at Galapagos. Twenty composers were asked by Five Boroughs Music Festival to each contribute a single work to this project. Participants include Daron Hagen, Tom Cipullo, Lisa Bielawa, and other heavyweights in the songwriting biz.

-        On October 8 at 7 PM at the Tenri Cultural Institute (ticket info here), the Mimesis Ensemble is doing a program of “Young Voices,” featuring three youngish composers who specialize in vocal music.  It’s a program that’s a bit more traditional in approach than is, say, Ekmeles’ wont, but it presents some noteworthy repertoire. Thomas Adès’ Three Eliot Landscapes and Gabriel Kahane’s current events inflected Craigslistlieder are featured alongside several works by Mohammed Fairouz.

-         On October 9 at 7:30 PM, Sequenza 21′s own Armando Bayolo will make his Carnegie Hall debut (as the kids say, whoot!). Armando’s Lullabies, a newly commissioned work, will be premiered at Weill Recital Hall by Trio Montage (more information here).

-        Just around the corner is the ACO’s SONiC festival, Ekmeles’ concert on 10/21 at Columbia (a humdinger of a program!), Bridge Records’ Anniversary Concert at NYPL, and, yes, the Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert at the newly revivified Joe’s Pub on 10/25. But those previews will have to wait for another post! In the meantime, there are pieces to compose, papers to grade, and both my wife’s and my birthdays this weekend. October is the month that keeps on giving: it’s good to be busy, right?

Peter Ablinger's Studien Natur (a wee excerpt)

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Pat Muchmore

Some festivals have a curatorial vision that takes pages and pages of press releases and program notes to explain. Other curators, like Glenn Cornett, revel in the whimsy of amusing composers’ names. Why organize a one-night Nono, Muchmore, and Warp(ed) mini-marathon? The names sounded fun together and the players are the bee’s knees.

Glenn Cornett

The evening will feature music by Italian modernist master Luigi Nono, New York cellist/composer and Anti Social Music member Pat Muchmore, and San Francisco based composer/sound designer Richard Warp. With a 7 PM start time, the show is three and a half hours long, and is full of noteworthy fare for adventurous souls.

Starting things off is a set by Muchmore, featuring members of Anti Social as well as Ken Thompson (Gutbucket, Slow/Fast) premiering new pieces for strings and winds.

Cornett and Warp join electroacoustic forces on Warp’s in-progress piece “Illustrations,” a chamber work loosely based on Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man.” Pianist Taka Kigawa, violinist/composer Caroline Shaw, and bass clarinetist Jonathan Russell pitch in.

Miranda Cuckson

One of New York’s finest violin soloists, Miranda Cuckson, joins sound artist Christopher Burns in Nono’s “La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura”, one of the composer’s last compositions (1988-9). According to Cornett, this is likely to be the first New York performance in which the violinist performs the optional vocal part. Singing, playing, coordinating with electronics – all this while moving throughout the space.

Event Details
The New Spectrum Foundation
presents the
Nono Muchmore Warp(ed) Festival
Saturday 17 September 2011
James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, Broadway at 121st Street, Manhattan

Presenting music by Luigi Nono, Pat Muchmore and Richard Warp
Several world premieres
Accomplished performers from both coasts (and in between)

Time: 7 to 10:30 PM on Saturday 17 September 2011.

Place: James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary. Enter via door on Broadway at 121st
Street.

Advance tickets ($12 for students and underemployed; $20 for others) are at:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/197540

Tickets purchased at the performance will be $15 for students and underemployed; $20
for others.

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“New Roulette” INTERVIEW SERIES: Joan La Barbara, Jon Gibson, Phill Niblock from Roulette Intermedium on Vimeo.

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