Archive for the “Experimental Music” Category

Photo courtesy of Andre Penven for Coilhouse Magazine

Zoë Keating (Wow, what can I say??) has definitely cultivated a very respectable place in the new music and indie music circles. After rethinking a classical concert career as a cellist for working a tech job, she was intervened to perform with various friends, played in the band Rasputina, eventually went solo with a gorgeously layered, rhythmic cello sound. Zoë went on to sell over 40,000 copies of her CDs without distribution, a record label or management. And she has over one million Twitter followers. The internet loves her!

Besides her solo career, her other projects include music collaborations with various dance companies (Apex Contemporary Dance Theatre, American Repertory Ballet, Digby Dance), film scoring (or soundtrack performances; Warrior, The Secret Life of Bees, The Conspirator), scoring for varied TV programs and other medias, and makes guest appearances alongside artists such as Amanda Palmer, Paolo Nutini, Imogen Heap, and many more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Reich and Music for 18 Musicians comes to Disney Hall on Jan. 17

For the LA Weekly, I compiled a list of what appear to be the best classical music events next year in Los Angeles. (Of course, the 2012-13 seasons haven’t been announced yet, so there will likely be events in the fall that I’ll be crazy about, and REDCAT had not published its Winter/Spring concert schedule by the time I turned my copy into my editors)

Just about all my picks involve 20th/21st century music (there’s lots of pre-20th century music at Ojai, and although Mahler may not seem 20th-century to many classical music mavens, over half of his output was composed after 1901).  Here they are, in order of Most-To-Least Amount of Regret One Will Have For Not Attending The Event:

1) Steve Reich played by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and red fish blue fish, Jan. 17

2) The LA Philharmonic’s Mahler Project, but in particular the rarely performed 8th Symphony

3) The Ojai Festival–lots of new music, but especially the West Coast premiere of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit on June 7

4) Jacaranda’s March 17-18 concerts, featuring the LA premiere of Christopher Rouse’s astounding String Quartet no. 3, played by the group which commissioned it, the Calder Quartet

5) Violinist Shalini Vijayan will perform Cage’s One6 and One10 with musical sculptures by Mineko Grimmer (which Cage approved as appropriate companion works to his music), as the opening concert of Cage 2012

My story, along with lots of links and videos, can be read here.

Some observations and amplifications I couldn’t squeeze into a 500-word story:

  • REDCAT is doing a 2-night Cage Festival, including performances of 103 and Fifty-Eight on the first evening. But from what I can see right now, that and Southwest Chamber Music’s Cage 2012 are the only big birthday celebrations going on for Cage in his native city. Green Umbrella will present Cage’s Concerto for Prepared Piano, performed by Gloria Cheng and conducted by John Adams; the other works scheduled for that program include Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (the “Carnival of Venice” for new music groups) and a new work from Oscar Bettison which is more likely to be in Cage’s spirit than Stockhausen’s goofy Zodiac pieces.
  • The all-Andriessen Green Umbrella concert looks very promising–2 multimedia works, (the lurid Anais Nin and Life) plus the US premiere of La Giro. It’s worth attending just to see the riveting Cristina Zavalloni, who’s become one of Andriessen’s chosen interpreters
  • I feel sorry for all the other composers on the above Jacaranda program (Richard Rodney Bennett, William Schuman, and Leon Kirchner)–memory of their music will be completely obliterated by Rouse’s compositional juggernaut, his Third Quartet. There’s a video of the Calder Quartet ripping it up (the West Coast premiere) here. The Calder will also play Rouse’s Second Quartet, but the ending to that work has always struck me as contrived
  • Jacaranda has 2 other exciting programs coming up: the American premiere of Terry Riley’s Olson III, a work from the time of In C, and a January concert of chamber music by Dutilleux, Takemitsu, Ung, and Saariaho. It was a real coin toss for me to choose between Olson III or Rouse Third Quartet, but I ultimately went with Rouse because the Calder knows the work cold, and a successful performance is certain (unlike Olson III)
  • In addition to Inuksuit, JLA’s Red Arc/Blue Veil and the two-piano-plus-tape version of Dark Waves will be heard at Ojai. Marc-Andre Hamelin, a pianist I would not associate with JLA’s music, will be performing in the latter 2 pieces–I look forward to hearing what he does with the piece. I imagine he’ll get authoritative guidance from Steve Schick, his partner in Red Arc, and from JLA himself. Amusingly, John Adams’ Shaker Loops will be on the same program as Dark Waves. I wonder how many inattentive audience members will think they’re works by the same composer? Much more up Hamelin’s alley: Ives’ Concord Sonata and Berg’s Four Songs, op. 2, and following his performance of Dark Waves with Leif Oves Andsnes, the pianists will play Stravinsky’s 4-hand arrangement of Rite of Spring (done on 2 pianos, because the hand crossings and elbow bumpings are ridiculous)

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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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