In December 2010, as I was still adjusting to the climate change between Houston, Texas and Ann Arbor, Michigan, I heard a piece that has stuck with me ever since. I wrote about it here, along with two others, and called this particular work, which was performed with video and dance, “the most well executed student production of ANY KIND I have seen.” This piece is Music in Pluralism by William Zuckerman, a former University of Michigan composition student who is currently freelancing in New York.
On April 11th at 8 PM, in the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Hall, Music and Pluralism comes to life as part of the opening performance of the 2012 Tribeca New Music Festival. The event is also functioning as a CD release party for a recording of Music Pluralism William has worked on for over two years. Moreover, the April 11th concert is the debut of Mr. Zuckerman’s hand-picked ensemble, “Symphony Z”. I caught up with William and asked him a few questions about Music and Pluralism, Symphony Z and his life as a freelance composer; but, before I get to his eloquent responses, I want to set the stage for what Music in Pluralism has to offer its audience.
In the piece, William handles immense proportions with the deftness far beyond his years, and ties together a diverse cadre of musical influences – everything from Pop Rock to Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor! – with the compelling and cogent force of his artistic vision. David Bloom, the charismatic busybody behind the group Contemporaneous (who share the stage with Symphony Z on April 11), conducts Symphony Z, and is similarly impressed with Music in Pluralism’s scope, eclecticism and coherence. He told me in an e-mail, “[i]t’s [Music in Pluralism’s] coexistence of unity and variety that makes the piece so compelling.”
When I got the CD of Music in Pluralism in the mail, I must admit I was a little apprehensive. Part of what moved me so much about its December 2010 performance was how beautifully William and his collaborators mixed the media of dance, music and video of the course of the work’s 45-minute duration. Obviously, the audio version lacks these non-musical elements, and I was concerned their profundity may have skewed my initial feelings about William’s music. As I will espouse more verbosely in an upcoming review of the Music in Pluralism CD: I am happy to report the piece stands – more effusively, triumphs – on its own.
Tonight, Hotel Elefantmakes 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.”
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 isone 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.
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)
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
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
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.
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)
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.
ACFbegins 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!
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.
2011 was an great year for freelance composer/cellist/conductor Peri Mauer. Premiere performances of her work this past year included her trio AFTERWORDS, for clarinet, cello, and piano; BLOGARHYTHM: Scenes 1 & 2 for 24-piece chamber ensemble (which she also conducted) RHAPSODANCE, for clarinet and piano; BLOGARHYTHM ON THE ROCKS, for chamber ensemble, as part of Make Music New York 2011 in Central Park in June; and MORNING IN A MINUTE, in the Vox Novus Concert Series at Jan Hus Church in October. In 2011 her music was heard on the radio for the first time as well. Just this past January brought the world premiere of her piece for three cellos in Composers Concordance Festival 2012, and she’s about to have the world premiere of PIXELIANCE this Sunday, Feb. 5th at 3 pm, St. Mark’s Church in- the- Bowery (131 East 10th St.), as part of a New York Composers Circle concert paying tribute to composer Dinu Ghezzo, and also featuring works by Elliott Carter, Robert Cohen, Debra Kaye, Nataliya Medvedovskaya, Nailah Nombeko, and Matt Weber.
I asked Peri to answer a few questions from me, and she was happy to oblige:
Besides your usual hectic rounds as a freelance cellist/conductor, you’ve had a pretty good and busy year for performances of your own music. How did all of these things come together?
Being a constant presence on the musical scene and getting in on just about every opportunity I come across is the main reason I get so much work. My motto is “Seize the moment”, and there is so much opportunity, so many amazing people to hook up with. I see myself as part of a larger picture, and the possibilities for so much creativity and actualization are everywhere.
Your piece BLOGARHYTHM had a couple really well-received performances (in very different venues, I might add!). Could you tell me a little more about the title/inspiration, and the form of the piece?
Overall, BLOGARHYTHM is what I think of as an “umbrella piece”. I can adapt it to different performance situations and will keep adding scenes to it when given an opportunity to present it. It is totally my own project, my musical blog set to performance, and I enjoy it tremendously. Plus I get a chance to conduct and put ensembles together, which I also really enjoy. With it, I can integrate all the various facets of my musical life.
With all those previously-mentioned hectic rounds, where do you find the time to really sit down and compose? How hard is it to keep a good balance between playing and composing?
Doing both playing and composing are extremely important to me. At times it can be very difficult to maintain the balance (like right now, having just returned home from a three-hour rehearsal for a concert), but I do my best. It is like having two children that you love equally and want to be sure they get equal time, one is not favored over the other, etc. The result is I am always working on some project. This is what I do, this is my life.
You’re a life-long New Yorker? Does your life now resemble whatever plans you were laying for it back when you were just coming up through school? You’ve seemed to avoid the standard, safer course of sticking with teaching; was that a conscious decision?
Yes, I am a life-long New Yorker. Truth is, I never made any plans. I just kept going! I began piano when I was 5, cello at 11, went to the High School of Music & Art, and just never stopped. I am a bit unusual as far as composers go, in that I love to perform and miss it terribly if I let it go. I am miserable when things fall into an everyday sameness, so I never sought out either a steady orchestra or teaching gig. It would drive me crazy to have a regular ongoing routine.
When you look back at musical life in New York when you were just coming out from The Manhattan School of Music, and what you see going on now, what seems different/same, easier/harder?
The internet has definitely made everything a lot easier. I am amazed at how easy it is to learn of opportunities, to create them, to hook up with them, and get them going creatively.
What influences have been the guiding lights and inspiration for your own music language?
My own ear : ) … I’ve always liked the sound of 12- tone music. Discovering Webern was very pivotal for me. Although my own music isn’t serial, it is 12-tone. I write from my life, and therefore my work is dramatic and emotionally relevant.
One thing you wish I’d ask you…..
Hmm, not sure! : ) My life is a musical one, this is what I do.
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My interview with Dennis Russell Davies, who is conducting the ACO concert, is up on Musical America’swebsite (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.
From Bora Yoon's "Weights and Balances." Photo: Julia Frodahl
Many of us waited with bated breath during the recent breakdown of talks between management and the orchestra at NYC Opera. Even though the season is proceeding, the company’s plan to keep themselves afloat (if not artistically viable) seems dubious at best. No music director, draconian cuts for the players and chorus, and no base of operations. Instead NYCO will present a truncated season at several venues. After hearing how shabbily the company has treated its employees – while George Steel continues to make in excess of $300,000 – why would they expect their audience to follow them around town? It portends difficult days to come for opera – and opera goers – in the city. Take nothing away from the Metropolitan (although its recent conductor troubles are noteworthy): but a city with New York’s operatic history would seem to have room for more than one major company.
Fortunately, as Zachary Woolfe points out in a recent excellent article in the NY Times, several smaller companies are attempting to fill the void left by City Opera’s vicissitudes. Opera Omnia, Gotham Chamber Opera, DiCapo Opera, and others are making it possible to hear a plethora of works from the repertoire that are unlikely to be programmed any time soon, either at the Met or languishing NYCO: baroque gems, less known Mozart, neglected bel canto, and the like. The remaining challenge, and it’s a daunting one, is to nurture operas by living composers.
To further the efforts of those working towards that end, three longtime champions of contemporary works – HERE’s Kim Whitener and Artistic Director Kristin Marting and Beth Morrison ofBeth Morrison Projects (BMP) – have recently announced a promising new venture. Prototype:Opera/Theatre/Now, a festival that they plan to be an annual event, debuts in January 2013.
Unlike NYCO, Prototype will have a single performance venue, HERE’s space in Soho, for which they will try to build an audience. And, also unlike City Opera, the festival, with steady hands at the rudder, will pursue a coherent artistic vision, presenting chamber operas in the contemporary classical/post-classical vein. Some of the names being mentioned as participants in the Prototypes‘s initial presentations should be familiar to those who’ve attended recent editions of VOX: David T. Little, Byron Au Yong, and Bora Yoon.
Dare we hope for an open call for proposals for new chamber operas? More information about Prototype as it’s available.