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Sixty Postwar Pieces to Study

Recently, a couple of the undergraduate composers in the program at Westminster Choir College asked me for lists of postwar pieces to study. Given the vocal and choral emphasis in our program, I’ve compiled the list below to provide a different vantage point. Hence the emphasis on instrumental music and a preponderance of post-tonal composers that they might not encounter when learning their own recital repertoire. Given a different student population, composers like Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, and Donnacha Dennehy could just as likely appear on a listening list such as this.

And, of course, it is frustrating what one must leave out to keep a list manageable in size. Indeed, I’ve had to leave off a number of sentimental favorites. Note that I am not attempting to give them the “greatest hits” of the past sixty-five years. Instead I strove for a diversity of selections, both watershed masterworks and vibrantly interesting pieces that merit attention, even if they may not be the first ones that come to mind for the given composer. On a different day, we could come up with sixty different pieces: a composer must be prepared for a lifetime of listening, score study, and learning. Even after that, they must also be humbled by the fact that they will only get to a fraction of all the good stuff out there!

Let’s say that an undergraduate composer began working with this list or a similar one at the beginning of their junior year; listening to and, if possible, studying the score for one of these pieces every week. Between their own performance experiences, WCC’s theory and history courses, and this survey of recent works, by the time that they were ready to consider applying to graduate programs in their senior year, they would have a decent grounding in the repertoire.

1-    Adams, John C. Nixon in China (1987)

2-    Adams, John C. Chamber Symphony (1992)

3-    Adams, John Luther. Red Arc/Blue Veil (2002)

4-    Andriessen, Louis. La Passione (2002)

5-    Babbitt, Milton. Philomel (1964)

6-    Babbitt, Milton. Arie da Capo (1974)

7-    Berio, Luciano. Circles (1960)

8-    Birtwistle, Harrison. Secret Theatre (1984)

9-    Boulez, Pierre. Le marteau sans maître (rev. 1957)

10-  Boulez, Pierre. Répons (1984)

11-  Cage, John. Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948)

12-  Cage, John. Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958)

13-  Carter, Elliott. String Quartet No. 1 (1951)

14-  Carter, Elliott. String Quartet No. 5 (1995)

15- Chin, Unsuk. Akrostischen-Wortspiel (1993)

16- Crumb, George. Ancient Voices of Children (1970)

17- Czernowin, Chaya. String Quartet (1995)

18-  Davies, Peter Maxwell. Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969)

19-  Feldman, Morton. Rothko Chapel (1970)

20- Feldman, Morton. For Samuel Beckett (1987)

21-  Ferneyhough, Brian. Bone Alphabet (1991)

22- Ferneyhough, Brian. Terrain (1992)

23- Foss, Lukas. Echoi (1963)

24- Glass, Philip. Satyagraha (1980)

25- Grisey, Gérard. Les espaces acoustiques (1985)

26- Haas, Georg Friedrich. In Vain (2002)

27- Harrison, Lou. La Koro Sutro (1973)

28- Kurtág, György. Kafka-Fragmente (1986)

29- Kurtág, György. Stele (1994)

30- Knussen, Oliver. Where the Wild Things Are (1983)

31-  Lachenmann, Helmut. Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (1990)

32- Lang, David. Little Matchgirl Passion (2007)

33- Ligeti, Győrgy. Atmosphères (1961)

34- Ligeti, Győrgy. Violin Concerto (1993)

35- Lim, Liza. City of Falling Angels (2007)

36- Marshall, Ingram. September Canons (2003)

37- Messiaen. Olivier. Éclairs sur l’au-delà… (1991)

38- Monk, Meredith. Songs of Ascension (2008)

39- Nancarrow, Conlon. Three Canons for Ursula (1989)

40- Nono, Luigi. …sofferte onde serne… (1976)

41-  Pärt, Arvo. Fratres (1976)

42- Penderecki, Krzysztof. Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960)

43- Reich, Steve. Music for Eighteen Musicians (1976)

44- Reich, Steve. Different Trains (1988)

45- Riley, Terry. In C (1964)

46- Saariaho, Kaija. L’amour de loin (2000)

47- Scelsi, Giacinto. Prânam 2 (1973)

48- Sciarrino, Salvatore. Vento D’Ombra (2005)

49- Schoenberg, A Survivor from Warsaw (1947)

50- Shapey, Ralph. Millenium Designs (2000)

51-  Stravinsky, Igor. Variations (Aldous Huxley in Memoriam) (1964)

52- Stockhausen, Karlheinz, Kontakte (1960)

53- Takemitsu, Tōru. From me flows what you call Time (1990)

54- Turnage, Mark-Anthony. Blood on the Floor (1996)

55- Xenakis, Iannis. Pléïades (1978)

56- Xenakis, Iannis. Tetras (1983)

57- Varèse, Edgard. Poème électronique (1958)

58- Wolpe, Stefan. Quartet for Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone, Piano, & Percussion (1954)

59- Wuorinen, Charles. A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky (1975)

60- Young, LaMonte. The Well-Tuned Piano (1964-present)

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Our friends (and the performers on the last Sequenza21 concert) ACME appeared at All Tomorrow’s Parties last week. Quite a coup for the indie classical group, which is enjoying increased crossover success. Below check out video footage of them performing Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” live at ATP.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWapzwPAxmU&feature=related[/youtube]

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Tonight, Hotel Elefant makes its debut concert at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music (a venue that’s just celebrated its one-year anniversary). The concert features two works by David T. Little. Sequenza 21′s own James Holt will be on hand to host the event; he’ll conduct an onstage interview with Little.

Below, check out one of several preview videos from the ensemble’s YouTube channel (there’s interview footage with several of the program’s composers): composer Leah Maria Villarreal and violinist Andie Springer discuss preparing a new multimedia work entitled “The Warmth of Other Suns.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdbA8NI_h_s&context=C4314331ADvjVQa1PpcFNz3zMqRTkDBl6aFxh7lVlR6vZXMo72GbY=[/youtube]

Event Details

Thursday, March 15, 2012 – 8pm

Season I | Remembrance

Inaugural Concert featuring composer DAVID T. LITTLE

with works by
CHINARY UNG
PETER BUSSIGEL
LEAHA MARIA VILLARREAL
MARY KOUYOUMDJIAN

Tickets at the door: $15/$10 students with valid ID

The DiMenna Center for Classical Music
Norman S. Benzaquen Hall
450 W 37th St. New York, NY

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Bake Sale Committee (L-R): Ross Marshall, Eileen Mack, David T. Little, Lainie Fefferman, Matt Marks. Photo by Isabelle Selby.

Cookies (and other Goodies) for a Cause

On Sunday March 11, 2012 from 4 PM to Midnight, a plethora of organizations gather at Roulette in Brooklyn for the Third Annual New Music Bake Sale.

Ten bucks gains you entry to the event plus a raffle ticket. There’s music being performed every hour on the hour by artists such as Newspeak, Gutbucket, the Janus Trio, and more. Check out the event’s website for a complete listing of performers, sponsors, and organizations manning the tables.

Dessert, plus music, plus prizes? Sounds like this third installation of the Bake Sale is triply pleasurable!

Roulette is on 509 Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn.

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Congratulations to pianist Peter Poston for winning the David Lang 2011 Competition.

Below is his award-winning entry, a performance of Wed, submitted via YouTube:

Poston will get to perform as part of an all Lang program at le poisson rouge in New York City on May 6, 2012 at 5pm. The concert at LPR includes Andrew Zolinsky performing selections from the CD, a new 4-hand piano work premiered by Zolinsky and Poston, a new 6-hand piano piece for the 3 runners-up – Catarina Domenici, Katherine Dowling, and Denise Fillion – and performances by guitar legend Derek Johnson and other special guests.

This Was Written by Hand

Piano Music by David Lang

Andrew Zolinsky, piano

Cantaloupe Music CD

Wed, the audition piece for the David Lang 2011 Competition, is featured on This Was Written By Hand, David Lang’s latest CD, a recital disc recorded for Cantaloupe by pianist Andrew Zolinksy. It is one of eight “Memory Pieces” included on the disc. This group serves as postminimal “Characterstucke,” an attractive and mercurial group of contrasting miniatures.

Then there is the touching title work. One of Lang’s most organically constructed pieces, it was, indeed, written by hand and intuitively constructed. A meditation on the ephemeral nature of life, it captures a similar poignancy to Lang’s recent vocal work “Little Matchgirl Passion,” but writ smaller, more intimately. To both this and the Memory Pieces, Zolinsky brings a fluid grace and subtlety that abets the spontaneous, almost improvisatory, character of the material.

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New York-based C4 Ensemble is a choir that specializes in new music. Most of its members are composers or conductors, or both!

On Thursday March 1 and Saturday March 3, the group is performing a program entitled “A Loss for Words: An Evening of New Choral Music on Alternative Texts” (info and tickets here). Since I’m away this weekend at a conference in Dayton, C4 was kind enough to let me sit in on one of their recent rehearsals.

The group’s dynamic is a lesson in exceeding expectations. The member’s take turns leading warmups and rehearsing pieces, allowing for several conductors to direct works on each concert. I was impressed that, despite the occasional oneupmanship that’s inevitable to find when having that many conductors in a room, they do quite a good job of sharing and passing authority from one person to the next. Indeed I’m so glad that C4 is around: They seem to revel in the challenges that other choirs avoid like the plague. One person to a part in polytonal divisi? No problem. Finding your pitch out of nowhere after clouds of clusters? Sure! Singing in three different meters at once? What else you got?

For music without conventional texts, these pieces have a lot to say. The program features guest soloist Toby Twining, performing with the choir in a beautiful piece of his from the late 80s, “Hee oo oom ha,” a multicultural essay featuring Twining’s flexible countertenor scatting, African polyrhythms, and sepulchral shamanic incantations from bass Hayes Biggs. A new piece by Tim Brown juxtaposes spoken word clips from adverts and news headlines that overwhelm a chorus resembling a Sondheim waltz, seeking desperately to blot out the chatter.

“The Blue of Distance,” by Zibuokle Martinaityle, is a beautiful and intricately woven score with many divisi humming lush polychords, set against keening ostinatos. I was quite taken with Martha Sullivan’swork on the program, which features earthy melismas and folk music references.In addition, C4 will be singing John Cage, Huang Ro, Thomas Stumpf, Jaako Mantyjarvi, David Harris, and Karen Siegel. If you’re in town, this promises to be an exciting and varied concert program.

Thursday, March 1, 2012 @ 8pm Church of St Luke in the Fields 487 Hudson Street (south of Christopher St.)
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @ 8pm Tenri Cultural Institute 43A West 13th Street (bet. 5th & 6th Aves)


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Many of us love to see musical works created to accompany choreography performed with dancers involved. But this weekend finds musicians approaching these pieces from another vantage point. Ne(x)tworks, Greenwich Music House’s ensemble-in-residence, presents “Music Without Dance,”  a festival of works originally written for dance that are abstracted from movement and performed as absolute music.

What’s revealed about these pieces by listening to them while imagining (or even avoiding thinking about) the dances to which they were originally attached? Curation by subtraction: I like it!

Ne(x)tworks Presents the “Music Without Dance” Festival

Saturday, February 25th: 7:30PM concert

Sunday, February 26th: 6:00PM free panel discussion, 7:30PM concert

at Greenwich House Music School

(46 Barrow Street at Bedford, 212-242-4770)

Concert tickets: $15 at door, Students/Seniors $10 (no advance sales)

Event Link

“Music Without Dance” Program:

Saturday, Feb. 25, 7:30PM

Concert program:

Moving Spaces (2002)  by Christian Wolff

Migrations (2008) by Miguel Frasconi

Future Sight (2010) by Shelley Burgon

Relative Calm (1981) by Jon Gibson

Sunday, Feb. 26, 6:00PM

FREE panel discussion on the relationship between music and dance.

With choreographers Yoshiko Chuma, Katherine Beyar, Nai-Ni Chen, Erica Essner,

and composers Joan La Barbara, Miguel Frasconi, John King, Annea Lockwood.

Sunday, Feb. 26, 7:30PM

Concert program:

Stuplimity No. 3 (2007) by Christopher McIntyre

Desert Myths (2006) by Joan La Barbara

Jitterbug (2007) by Annea Lockwood

DELTA (dreamdeepdown) (2002) by John King

Ne(x)tworks is: Joan La Barbara (voice), Shelley Burgon (harp & electronics), Yves Dharamraj (cello), Miguel Frasconi (glass instruments & electronics, Director), Ariana Kim (violin), Christopher McIntyre (trombone), and special guest Jenny Lin (piano). Learn more on the Ne(x)tworks website  www.nextworksmusic.net.

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So Percussion recently released remixes of tracks from Amid the Noise, their recording of music by Jason Treuting. You can grab it for free via their Bandcamp site (embed below).

Treuting recently released sheet music for Amid the Noise, which can be purchased at Good Child Music.





This year, a great number of artists and ensembles are celebrating John Cage’s centenary – even Jessye Norman and Meredith Monk are getting in on the act as part of Michael Tilson Thomas’s revival of the American Mavericks series with the San Francisco Symphony. While it will be fascinating to see that some of these “out of the box” Cage performances will be happening, it’s also nice to hear that groups like So Percussion, who have a long track record performing Cage’s music, are celebrating the centenary in style. On 3/26, they are taking part in the American Mavericks series at Carnegie Hall (details here).

The concert will be the culmination of a tour by the group featuring Cage’s Third Construction as the centerpiece of Cage-themed program entitled We Are All Going in Different Directions.

There’s an equally imaginative recorded component So’s feting of the maestro of indeterminacy. On 3/27, Cantaloupe will release So Percussion’s “John Cage Bootleg Series.” The release includes a blank LP (the better with which to perform 4’33″!), a CD sampler, and a card with download codes that will enable listeners to obtain all of the group’s Cage bootlegs online. And the audio artifact lover in me delights in the handsome homemade feel of its handsome packaging. Top to bottom, Cage’s aesthetic is well manifested in So Percussion’s activities this Spring!


We Are All Going in Different Directions: So Percussion Celebrates Cage
Feb 28: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (Cage’s Third Construction)

March 2: The Royal Conservatory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

March 6 + 7: The McCullough Theatre, University of Texas, Austin

March 10: Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin (Cage’s Third Construction)

March 26: Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, NYC

Program

John Cage: Credo in US (1942)

Sō Percussion / Matmos: Needles (w/ Matmos) (2010)

John Cage: Imaginary Landscape #1 (1939)

John Cage: Quartet for Percussion, from She is Asleep (1943)

Cenk Ergün: Use (w/ Cenk Ergün & Beth Meyers) (2009)

Dan Deacon: “Bottles” from Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler (2011)

John Cage: 18’12”, a simultaneous performance of Cage works

-Inlets (Improvisation II) (1977)
-0’00″ (4’33″ No.2) (1962)
-Duet for Cymbal (1960)
-45’ for a speaker (1954)

Jason Trueting: 24 x 24 (w/ special guests) (2011)

John Cage: Third Construction (1941)

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Composer Bernhard Lang

Some of the arts organizations in New York are venerable establishments. Others may be relative newcomers, but take little time to install themselves as intrinsic parts of the music scene. It has only been here since the early aughts, but many of New York’s performers and concertgoers would have a hard time envisioning musical life here without the countless collaborations and imaginative programs brought to fruition at the modest-sized, yet mightily influential, Austrian Cultural Forum.

ACF begins its tenth season with a celebration: a concert this Friday at Bohemian Hall: a more commodious space. At Bohemian Hall, they have an enlightened take on the acquisition of celebratory libations: according to the press release, ”Concert-goers can buy a glass of wine, liquor or Czech beer to enjoy at the performance. The bar at Bohemian National Hall will be open before, during and after the concert.”  Beat that Avery Fisher Hall!

Bernhard Gander

Appropriately enough, the event spotlights three Austrian composers: Clemens Gadenstätter, Bernhard Gander, and Bernhard Lang. The program, which includes two US premieres, will be performed by the Talea Ensemble with guest vocalist Donatienne Michel-Dansac. Both Lang and Gander will be in attendance. They will join Columbia University professor George Lewis for an onstage discussion. And did we mention that this event, as well as the nine subsequent programs on ACF’s season, are free of charge?

For those of you unfamiliar with soprano Donatienne Michel-Dansac, she’s a highly regarded performer of European composers from the second moderns school. Check out the video clip below of her performing an excerpt of a work by Georges Aperghis.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DAHv88nces[/youtube]

Event Details

February 17, 8:00 pm: Talea Ensemble with soprano Donatienne Michel-Dansac

Bohemian National Hall at Czech Center, 321 E 73rd St., New York, NY

Program: Works by Clemens Gadenstätter (US premiere), Bernhard Gander (US premiere) and Bernhard Lang

Clemens Gadenstätter

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Philip Glass is 75 today. The American Composers Orchestra gives the American premiere of his 9th Symphony at Carnegie Hall tonight.

My interview with Dennis Russell Davies, who is conducting the ACO concert, is up on Musical America’s website (subscribers only).

If you’re looking for a terrific way to celebrate PG’s birthday, Brooklyn Rider’s latest CD on Orange Mountain Music includes Glass’s first five string quartets. The earthiness with which they play the music may surprise you at first, but it provides a persuasive foil for some of the more motoric, “high buffed sheen” toned performances of minimalism that are out there.  In a 2011 video below, they give a performance of a more recent work, a suite of music from the film Bent.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6990pYvaHQk[/youtube]

 

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