Archive for the “Music Events” Category

Report by Tyran Grillo (between sound and space)
Photos by Evan Cortens

Music: Cognition, Technology, Society set a formidable intellectual task before participants of the selfsame conference at semester’s end on the quieting campus of Cornell University. Under the attentive care of organizers Caroline Waight, Evan Cortens, Taylan Cihan, and Eric Nathan, what might have been an overwhelming conceptual storm proved smooth sailing through a series of back-to-back panels. The lack of overlap meant that everyone in attendance could take in the full thematic breadth and draw connections that might otherwise have been missed in the three-ring circus of a larger conference, thereby allowing interaction, a building of new relationships while strengthening the old, and dialogue conducive to the intellectual goals at hand.

The Panels
I had the privilege and the honor of presenting first in the opening Friday morning panel, entitled Patterns, Schemata and Systems, for which I was joined by Bryn Hughes (Ithaca College) and Joshua Mailman (Columbia). I did my best to set a tone in my discussion of Modell 5, a museum installation piece by Vienna-based duo Granular Synthesis, whose eponymous approach to motion capture and digital manipulation of synchronous sound and image activated, I hope, our shared interest in the intersection of technology and sonic arts. Hughes was interested in more mainstream sonic outlets. In problematizing expectation in rock music through harmonic progression as both a function of context and of socialization, he asked: Does harmony behave in a universal way? Why do some chord progressions sound “wrong” and how do we gain knowledge of these rules?

Hughes plotted a matrix of influences on such choices, discovering through controlled testing that expectations are genre-specific (diatonic successions, for instance, are preferred by classical over blues listeners) and that the impact of voice leading, lyrical (a)synchronicity, and other variables must also be taken into account. Mailman took a more phenomenological approach to music as a site lacking in expectation, advocating a cybernetic model of listening and feedback practices. In positing retrospection as an active shaping force of musical experience, Mailman privileged context over convention in musical structure. By looking at otherwise undeterminable aspects of musical form and development—what Boulez might group under the term “listening angles”—as a means of analysis, Mailman made a provocative case for cybernetic phenomenology as a viable site for sonic inquiry.

Qualities emerge through change and exist by virtue of being measured as such. Hence the assertions of David Borgo (UC San Diego), who in the second session on Improvisation challenged the dominant paradigm of musical spontaneity as an individual act, seeking rather to enlarge the notion of agency to its extra-corporeal aspects. Because action of response happens more quickly than consciousness can grasp, our interpretations of the very same can only come a posteriori, subject to the same misinterpretations as any and all memory. Consciousness, argued Borgo, is autopoetic and under constant perturbation. Improvisers must therefore negotiate contingencies in all directions. To locate them at the center of webs as amorphous as their melodic constitutions is as difficult as it is to locate the true center of a universe that is forever expanding.

Neither are improvisational gestures simply plucked from the ether, as Jeremy Grall (University of Alabama at Birmingham) showed in his exploration of the hierarchies at work in seemingly indeterminate music-making. Grall’s interest was the divide (or lack thereof) between composition and improvisation and whether or not the two can be subject to the same analytical vocabularies. For him, improvisation is an already problematic term, one that may be absorbed into composition insofar as improvisation abides by underlying schemata. In order to negotiate the ambiguities of perception and the phases of concrescence therein, he looked to 16th-century improvisational models and their inherent blend of immediacy and indeterminacy.

A fascinating Demonstration Session kicked off the conference’s first evening. William Brent (American University) gave us a visual and aural tour through his Gesturally Extended Piano and Open Shaper, while Mailman returned with Columbia colleague Sofia Paraskeva for a demonstration of their “comprovisational” interface. Both of these technologies take advantage of the primacy of the body in communicating information at once inter- and intra-musical.  Read the rest of this entry »

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“How can music ‘speak’ and how do we have knowledge of it? What is its potential to express, represent, and communicate? How has changing expertise concerning sonic and musical knowledge shaped these questions across time and space?”

These are the questions that inspired the interdisciplinary conference entitled “Music: Cognition, Technology, Society” that will take place at Cornell University this weekend, May 11 – 13.

Pictured: Tod Machover

The conference will spotlight Tod Machover (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in a dual-role as guest composer and keynote speaker. Other keynote speakers include Eric Clarke (University of Oxford), Ichiro Fujinaga (McGill University) and Robert Gjerdingen (Northwestern University). The Argento Chamber Ensemble serves as the conference’s guest ensemble-in-residence and will perform electroacoustic and acoustic works selected through an international call-for-scores.

Drawing on a wide range of scholarship across multiple disciplines, and featuring both musical performances and paper presentations, the MCTS Conference will present four keynote lectures, three performances, and seven paper sessions, covering a diverse works and broad range of aesthetics. Highlights include:

Friday, May 11 at 1:00 pm: The Cornell Avant-Garde Ensemble (CAGE) performs free improvisations using acoustic and electronic instruments.

Friday, May 11 at 2:30 pm: Robert Gjerdingen’s keynote lecture,  “Schema Theory Today: Challenges and Opportunities.”

Friday, May 11 at 7:15 pm: Tod Machover’s keynote lecture, “Extending Performance: Onstage, Inside, Interconnected.”

Friday, May 11 at 8:30 pm: The Argento Ensemble performs Machover’s Another Life for mixed chamber ensemble, and other chamber works by Christopher Chandler (the resonance after…), Bryan Christian (Walk), Sean Friar (Scale 9), Amit Gilutz (Miscellaneous Romance No. 1), Juraj Kojs (Re-route), and Eric Lindsay (Town’s Gonna Talk).

Saturday, May 12 at 1:30 pm: Eric Clarke’s keynote lecture, “Explorations in Virtual Space: Music Perception and Recorded Music.”

Pictured: Argento Chamber Ensemble

Saturday, May 12 at 8pm: Concert featuring electroacoustic and fixed electronic media works by Taylan Cihan/Eliot Bates (Zey-glitch), Nicholas Cline (Homage to La Monte Young),  Nathan Davis (Ecology No. 8), Peter Van Zandt Lane (Hydromancer), Stelios Manousakis (Megas Diakosmos), Nicola Monopoli (The Rite of Judgment), Christopher Stark (Two-Handed Storytelling).

Sunday, May 13 at 11:45 am: Ichiro Fujinaga’s keynote lecture, “The Research Program at the Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries Laboratory.”

Paper presentation session topics cover a variety of topics, such as “Patterns, schemata and systems,” “Improvisation,” “Text, technology and the voice,” “Psychology and the sonic object,” “Instruments and soundscapes,” and “Music Informational Retrieval.”

For a full schedule we invite you to visit our website.

This conference was organized by graduate students in the Department of Music at Cornell University – musicologists Evan Cortens and Caroline Waight; composers Taylan Cihan and Eric Nathan. We hope to see you in Ithaca.

 

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Pictured: Chai Shuai

Performing a program entitled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern, including folk and Chinese Opera works as well as contemporary works by both Chinese and Western composers such as Xie Wenhui and Victoria Bond, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble (pronounced HWA SHA) makes their Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, May 7 at 7:30pm.

Founded in 1995, and currently touring the United States with performances in New York and Boston, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble of the China Conservatory has become one of the most dynamic and technically impressive chamber ensembles of China. Under the strong leadership of Professor Zhang Weiliang and Maestro Tsung Yeh, the ensemble has achieved international acclaim. Its musicians, who are mainly young conservatory teachers, have won numerous instrumental competition awards in China and abroad. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese folk music and Chinese opera music to contemporary Chinese and international classical music. The ensemble has recorded several CDs and has performed in the United States, France, Portugal, Australia, and in Asia and Africa. For this performance, the program will feature six world premieres commissioned by the ensemble for this US tour.

The Program includes:

Lang Tao Sha (Traditional)
Feng Qiu Huang, by Liu Qing (World Premiere)
Five Impressions, by Gao Ping (World Premiere)
Wild Geese in the Sandbank (Traditional)
Graceful, by Wang Dan Hong (World Premiere)
Nodes, by John Mallia (World Premiere)
Deep Night (Traditional Chinese Opera)
Less, but More, by Xie Wen Hui (World Premiere)
Bridges, by Victoria Bond (World Premiere arrangement for this ensemble)

Victoria Bond talks about her piece Bridges and its newly expanded arrangement:

“Bridges is something I wrote for John Yeh, clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony. He is of Chinese ancestry, born in this country, and he and I have known each other ever since we were in school together. He also had an ensemble that was composed of both Western and Chinese instruments, so I wrote it orignially for him, for quartet–clarinet, bass clarinet, erhu, and pipa. Then, when I got a request from the China conservatory, I made an expanded arrangement so that now it encompasses several other Chinese instruments such as ediza (another flute) and a number of western instruments–violin, cello, piano and percussion, which consists of both Western and Chinese percussion instruments. Even though the title is really a philosophical one, bridging East and West, I decided to base it on several real bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Stone Bridge in China, and a railroad trestle bridge, and the story behind that is that 2 of the Chinese instruments, the erhu and the pipa, sound to me like banjo and fiddle, and it reminded me of a connection to American bluegrass and country music. It uses both American folk and Chinese folk music which are both largely related through the pentatonic scale, so making a merger between those two musics was not that far-fetched, both because of the timbre and of the nature of the music itself.”

Performers include: Huang Mei (guqin); Wang Yidong (Chinese percussion); Mark Baekbum Yee (cello); Chai Shuai (erxian & erhu); Qiu Ji (zheng); Ge Yong (pipa); Chen Yue (flute); Wu Huanghuang (yangqin); Huang Mei (ruan); Chen Yue (flute); Tomoya Aomori, Justin Doute (western percussion); Zhang Weiliang (xiao); Han Shi (violin), Eric Umble (clarinet), Sun Pei (piano). Tsung Yeh, conductor, Zhang Weiliang Artistic Director. Zhao Talimu, President of China Conservatory, serves as leader of this delegation.

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New York-based new music collective West 4th (aka W4) are garnering a wonderful reputation in being very active and decisively creative in concepts for their concert series. This coming June 8th, they will put on an all-cello program titled “Cellophilia” where they will feature music not just for solo cello, but for multiple cellos of 2-8 at a time. There are eight cellists scheduled to appear, among them are
Mariel Roberts, who is also a co-producer of the concert, and Bang On a Can All-Stars’ Ashley Bathgate.

The concert is being funded via Kickstarter. Please click here or on the link at the bottom to donate.

Composer and W4 co-founder Molly Herron (pictured second from left; although her music is not featured in this concert, she’s also co-producer for the show) and cellist Mariel Roberts (pictured below) both sat down and spoke to me via Skype about the upcoming concert. “It was basically an idea”, stated Molly. “We like to do themes for our concerts, give something to tie it together with something to sink your teeth into, and so the theme for this concert was just ‘works for cello ensemble’. We’ve got a couple of solos on there, but it’s mostly groups of cellos. We’ve got 2 octets, a septet, a quartet, two duets–We just wanted to get together big hunks of cellos, and create new music together”.

The works that are scheduled to be performed (along with pieces by W4’s charter members Matt Frey and Tim Hansen) are written by composers such as Sarah Kirkland Snider, John Zorn and Michael Gordon.
The repertoire is a mix of new and pre-existing pieces. Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint makes a rare appearance, and was perfect for a concert of this criteria.

Molly explains. “We really wanted to do the Reich piece for eight cellos, which is so rarely done live with everybody there, and Mariel really helped us a lot with what was already established”. Read the rest of this entry »

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(from Left to Right) Line Upon Line Percussion's Matt Teodori, Cullen Faulk and Adam Bedell

This coming Friday, May 4, marks the beginning of Austin-based percussion trio Line Up Line’s Xenakis festival, dubbed “Perspective: Xenakis” (go here for ticketing information). While most fans of 20th/21st-century music have come to know Xenakis’ music as a staple of the percussion repertoire, the program for “Perspective: Xenakis” is surprisingly broad, featuring, among other chamber pieces, a complete performance of Xenakis’ string quartets by the renowned JACK Quartet.

I caught up with Matt Teodori, one of Line Upon Line’s founding members, and dug a little deeper into how this festival came about. As he explained to me, the impetus behind their programming began by looking at Xenakis’ entire chamber output and locating different paths the composer pursued in his career. Line Upon Line wanted to illustrate these paths as best as they could, and designed the festival’s three evenings of performances to account for the remarkable sonic diversity Xenakis’ output. According to Mr. Theodori, involving the JACK Quartet was, “a no-brainer”, because their reputation performing Xenakis’ music is, “extraordinary”, and the works they bring to the table enable Line Upon Line to showcase a wider range of Xenakis’ oeuvre than otherwise possible.

In addition to this weekend’s concerts, Line Upon Line is providing a couple non-musical experiences for concertgoers who are interested in learning more about Xenakis’ life and personality. Prior to each performance, the Line Upon Line is presenting the BBC’s 1991 documentary Something Rich and Strange: The Life and Music of Iannis Xenakis; and, following the concerts, Xenakis scholars Nouritza Matossian and Benoît Gibson will join that night’s performers in an open conversation with audience members. These opportunities are meant to, “illuminate [Xenakis] as a man and composer”, and should be a worthwhile supplement to the festival’s musical offerings.

Friday and Saturday’s evening concerts begin at 7:30 PM, with Saturday’s afternoon performance running from 1-2 PM. For those who are interested, the documentary runs about 50 minutes and is shown one hour before each concert. The events are housed at Austin’s Floating Box House, St. Elias Eastern Orthodox Church and Angelou residence, respectively. The first two performances feature the members of Line Upon Line Percussion, with the JACK Quartet closing the festival on Saturday evening with a presentation of Xenakis’ complete quartets.

If you are interested in learning more about the “Perspective: Xenakis” festival, visit Line Upon Line’s website.

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Music/Words, an interdisciplinary series founded and curated by NYC-based pianist Inna Faliks, continues its fourth season on Sunday, April 22, 2012, at 6 PM with a performance at New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe featuring Faliks and guest pianist Clarice Assad at the piano along with soprano Samantha Malk and poet Irina Mashinski. The program will explore the sensuousness of early Schoenberg (with the Stefan Georgy poetry used in the songs), along with the passion of Mashinski’s poetry and Assad’s Brazilian music. The program includes Schoenberg’s Drei Klavierstucke, opus 11, his songs from Book of Hanging Gardens, and various improvisations by Ms. Assad based on Brazilian piano music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cutting Edge Concerts
presents
Great Noise Ensemble
Conducted by Armando Bayolo
Guest soloist, Cornelius Dufallo
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, NY
April 16, 2012

DC’s Great Noise Ensemble made a vibrant and yet intimate New York debut at Symphony Space. The contemporary music ensemble, performing in the smaller room known as Leonard Nimoy Thalia, and the ensemble not having its full lineup on this occasion, presented a night of works for varied paired-down ensemble setups. Each of these selections was presented by composer Victoria Bond, who acted as emcee and conducted interviews with each composer of the program’s works that was present (Save for the absent Marc Mellits, who conductor/composer Armando Bayolo spoke for–Bayolo also interviewed Bond for her piece).

The most memorable moments during the evening were the world premiere of Cornelius Dufallo’s short violin (with pickup and loops) concerto Paranoid Symmetry. Written for Great Noise and inspired by a real story involving someone in his family, the piece is Neil’s meditation on one’s sanity and examines human conditions that range between paranoid delusion, psychosis and love. The 15-minute piece displays great dynamics in both virtuosity and versatility, going from the 1st movement’s post-modern layered drone, to a classical arpeggio during the cadenza, to blues-oriented phrases during the coda.

Marc Mellits’ Five Machines, originally written for the Bang On a Can All-Stars, was in equally capable hands on this occasion. Mellits’ work, with some superb percussion and wild time signatures, reminded me that there was a reason that progressive rock had to happen at some point in history.
I even had gooseflesh from the duet between the cello and bass violin.

The Way of Ideas, composed by Baltimore’s Alexandra Gardner, was an ornate piece reminiscent of her own Electric Blue Pantsuit, sans the electric loops and featuring more players, and is reflective of the process from a composer’s point of view.

Victoria Bond’s Coqui was another throwback to classics for me for its violin yelps reminiscent of Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto, except here they represent the voice of the Puerto Rican tree frogs.

Another favorite piece was Carlos Carrillo’s De la brevedad de la vida (The Brevity of Life), a chilling meditation kicked off perfectly with a wavering clarinet.

The dry, intimate sound of the Thalia seemed to serve these pieces and their settings fittingly. Great Noise made a great New York debut, and I hope to hear their brand of noise many more times in these parts.

Great Noise Ensemble.com

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Fast Forward Austin directors (from left to right): Ian Dicke, Robert Honstein and Steven Snowden

The 2012 Fast Forward Austin contemporary music festival begins its 8-hour marathon of performances this afternoon at Austin, Texas’ versatile ND-501 studios. This year’s event, the second installment of the Fast Forward Austin (FFA) idea, features performances by local and nationally-acclaimed performers including renowned pianist Vicky Chow and Graham Reynolds, considered, “Austin’s own new music wizard”. Today’s musical menu features established names from the last few decades of new music – David Lang, Louis Andriessen and Iannis Xenakis – alongside brand new works by up-and-coming composers – Shawn Allison, David Biedenbender and Christopher Cerrone – culled from the festival’s 2011-12 call-for-scores.

Last Thursday, I caught up with Fast Forward Austin’s founders, composers Ian Dicke, Steven Snowden and Robert Honstein, and learned, among other things, that a series of “satellite events” have led to tomorrow afternoon’s marathon performance. These appearances, designed both to promote this year’s festival and strengthen the collaborations on display this afternoon, began with a performance of Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night last December. Austin is the second city Mr. Snowden has successfully introduced to Unsilent Night, a staple of New York’s experimental music circles for two decades, and the event represented more than just a way to draw advanced attention to tomorrow’s marathon string of concerts.

The kind of community involvement manifest in the Unsilent Night performance lies at the heart of Fast Forward Austin’s goals. As Mr. Honstein told me in our chat Thursday evening, “first and foremost, we’re a local festival.” In addition to featuring Austin-based musicians, FFA has a tradition of supporting local, musically oriented charities. Last year, the festival donated all its proceeds to Anthropos Arts, a non-profit organization that provides free music lessons to economically disadvantaged young people in East Austin. This year, FFA has partnered with Austin SoundWaves, a local iteration of the famed “El Sistema” initiative. SoundWaves will receive a portion of FFA’s proceeds and some of the children served by the charity will participate in a performance with Graham Reynolds. Beyond philanthropy, FFA’s founders see this kind of outreach as a way to build an audience. Mr. Dicke, in particular, emphasized the potential for young people to enjoy and be inspired by contemporary music, suggesting opportunities, like those fostered by both Fast Forward Austin festivals, could be benefit all American composers in the long-term, were they to be replicated across the country.

As Fast Forward Austin has grown since last year, its founders have worked to expand the festival’s presence on a regional and national level. This broader scope is no better represented than by FFA’s collaboration with renowned pianist and Bang-On-A-Can All-Star Vicky Chow, who will be performing this afternoon. As Mr. Dicke and Mr. Honstein explained, they’ve been cultivating a relationship with Ms. Chow for some time. Both of them met her at different festivals, and then last year, when the Bang-On-A-Can All-Stars came to Austin, Mr. Snowden and Mr. Dicke showed Ms. Chow around town and convinced her to work participate in this year’s festival. The connection between Vicky Chow and Fast Forward Austin is reciprocal – Fast Forward Austin held a preview show in New York this February as part of Ms. Chow’s Contagious Sounds series. Much like the Unsilent Night event, this performance was simultaneously a promotional tool for today’s marathon of performances and a way to foster a deeper bond with a community – the contemporary music community in New York.

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By now, the members of the San Francisco Symphony, their director Michael Tilson Thomas, and the rest of the musicians responsible for the orchestra’s magnificent “American Mavericks” Festival have left Ann Arbor for New York and the next stop on their tour: Carnegie Hall. In immediate relection, I’m confident the concerts lived up to the title bestowed upon it by Alex Ross: “the major musical event of the winter/spring season” – though, in Ann Arbor, I argue the “Mavericks” share that spotlight with January’s presentation of Einstein On The Beach.

Immeasurable credit is due the Symphony and MTT for the sheer audacity of their programming and the high level of their performances. The music they shared with us energized Ann Arbor’s concertgoers to a level I’d never before witnessed, and I believe all those who attended feel indebted to the University Musical Society for bringing this once-in-a-generation event to our Midwestern haven.

In the mold of the 17 American composers featured on the tour, the Symphony’s four concerts were blisteringly unapologetic and daring – almost to a fault, in fact. Personally, the composers who shined the most in my ears were (in alphabetical order) Mason Bates, Henry Cowell, Lukas Foss, Meredith Monk and Carl Ruggles, but there was lots of music to go around for every concertgoer’s taste. I was heretofore uninitiated to the work of these last three composers, and, thanks to their pieces Echoi, Realm Variations and Sun-Treader (respectively), I am determined to listen to Mr. Foss, Ms. Monk and Mr. Ruggles’ music more regularly.

Before last week I was also rather unfamiliar with Mason Bates’ work, but my encounter with him, and his new choir/organ/electronics piece Mass Transmission, could not have been more impressive. Mr. Bates is, obviously, one of the most successful living composers in America, but this fact only makes his unfailingly down-to-earth character more endearing. He was very candid when he presented to us students, opening his chat by declaring his near indifference for being dubbed a “Maverick”, and later revealing his desire to achieve more lyricism in his music – something he excels at in Mass Transmission.

The Festival also gave me an opportunity to meet another top-flight American musician: renowned pianist Jeremy Denk. Charming, witty and articulate, Mr. Denk is as gifted a performer as he is a wordsmith, crafting two spectacular performances, and one stellar presentation to the UM Composition Department, while he was in Ann Arbor. Last Thursday night, Mr. Denk brought Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto to life, and, yesterday afternoon, took part in performing Lukas Foss’ raucous and virtuosic Echoi – a work he sarcastically described in his master class as, “the hardest piece ever written”.

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The Avant Music Festival, a 5-night event being held at The Wild Project in NYC between Friday, Feb 10th and Saturday the 18th, promises to be a compelling series of shows of music in the vein of avant-garde. Along with music by living composers Randy Gibson (whom you are about to hear from), Eve Beglarian (Songs From The River and Elsewhere) and Jenny Olivia Johnson (After School Vespers), there is a performance of Schoenberg‘s ground-breaking work Pierrot Lunaire and a 2-part show on Saturday the 11th celebrating the 100th Birthday of John Cage at 4 PM and 8 PM respectively (This concert, by the way, features Vicky Chow performing the great Sonatas and Interludes on prepared piano). Randy, who is one of the curators of the event, spoke briefly about the festival as well as himself. Read the rest of this entry »

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