Just a few weeks ago over at our CD Review section, Jay Batzner wrote about the new Julia WolfeDark Full Ride CD: “Each piece transfixes me. I am writing my own music differently because of this disc. I am so glad that Julia Wolfe exists, is writing music, and that such talented performers play the hell out of her stuff.” It’s a really interesting Ride, each piece intensely working over some greater or lesser multiple of the same instrument.
If you’re a skeptical “show me” kind of person, free as a bird tomorrow (Nov. 10th) in NYC and maybe just a little crazy, you can test your own reaction to all of these works and the performers. The normal CD release concert has been jettisoned for this one, instead having each of the four pieces performed separately in venues familiar and not-so, scattered around Manhattan:
At 11 AM Matthew Welch is guaranteed to absolutely fill the air as he plays LAD on bagpipe with 8 more bagpipes on tape, at Roulette, 20 Greene Street (between Canal and Grand);
At 12 noon, the title piece Dark Full Ride for 4 drumsets (manned by the Talujon Percussion Quartet — David Cossin, Tom Kolor, Michael Lipsey and Matt Ward) will pound out at Dauphin Human Design, 138 West 25th Street, 12th Floor (between 6th and 7th Avenues);
At 1 PM Robert Black and the Hartt Bass Band will rock Wolfe’s Stronghold for 8 double basses, at the Chelsea Art Museum, 556 West 22nd Street (corner of 11th Avenue);
Finally at 2:30 PM Lisa Moore, Lisa Kaplan, Blair McMillen, Timo Andres, Kate Campbell and Isabelle O’Connell, all conducted by Sam Adams, will undertake the epic my lips from speaking for 6 pianos at Faust Harrison Pianos, 205 West 58th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues).
Julia herself will be tagging along to each performance; if you happen to spot this face in the crowd you might go and say hi & thanks to the woman who penned all this glorious madness. It’s all free and open to whoever makes it, so pack a lunch, put on those walking shows and have a great hike!
So recalls Felix Heltmann of then-West Berlin, in a comment over at the BBC, “and without question I just started pounding away at the Wall. I was so excited that I got exhausted after some time and I gave the hammer to my other mate who started hammering away too. What a night…”
To celebrate that night on this night, NYers might want to head to Le Poisson Rouge, where admirable pianist Heather O’Donnell will be in town — she herself has lived in Germany now for some years — to give a commemorative concert thanks to the Wordless Music series. On the bill will be Walter Zimmermann‘s the missing nail (at the river), for piano & toy-piano, and Wüstenwanderung; Oliver Schneller‘s Five Imaginary Spaces and Tomorrow…, both for for piano & electronics; and Charles Ives‘ Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos (new version for piano & electronics).
Heather’s also taking her show on the road the next few days: tomorrow the 10th she’ll be at An die Musik in Baltimore with music of Schneller, Ives and Schumann; the 12th she’ll repeat that recital at the Goethe Institut in Boston; and the 15th she’s at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia doing Zimmermann, Ives and Schumann.
Amanda Palmer is a bona fide rock star. She first made her name as half of The Dresden Dolls, and has since struck out on her own with a solo album called “Who Killed Amanda Palmer.” In June of 2008 she teamed up with the Boston Pops for two nights, and this December they’re doing it again for a New Year’s Eve concert. Amanda has also been pioneering new models of how the rock music industry can work (staying in nearly constant contact with her fans via Twitter plays a key role), and I wanted to see if that ingenuity could be translated into advice for the classical scene. I interviewed her by phone last week, and we talked about the upcoming Pops show, her musical background and training, and her impressions of the classical music industry:
Amanda is performing in Singapore right now, and when she returns she has a series of shows along the Eastern Seaboard which culminate with the Pops concert on December 31.
P.S. Here’s the link to the Shadowbox repertoire discussionAmanda mentions.
[Ed. note: Composer and S21 regular Chris Becker sat down recently with the one and only Matana Roberts. I told him I'd love to feature his interview, and so here it is: ]
Saxophonist, composer, fanzine writer, and blogger Matana Roberts is the current artist in residence at Issue Project Room (NYC) where she is developing and presenting in a series of concerts material for her “large scale…sound narrative” COIN COIN. COIN COIN might be described as a multi-movement composition utilizing composed, improvised, and pre-recorded music along with elements of theater (projections, candles, chains) to give voice to a complex family history that extends from Louisiana to at least three other continents. Matana – a Chicago native – combines her Midwestern roots (including the influence of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians of which she is a member) with a very Southern-styled “collage” compositional technique to realize performances that (in Matana’s words) “…create an atmosphere where the people witnessing it feel enveloped into the experience.” Those words certainly describe the two COIN COIN performances I myself have witnessed, the most recent being last week (September 30) where Matana, on alto saxophone, clarinet, and vocals, was accompanied by drummer and percussionist Mike Pride.
Her recent CD The Chicago Project (2008) is a wonderfully varied collection of original compositions featuring Chicago musicians guitarist Jeff Parker (Chicago Underground Trio, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble), bassist Josh Abrams (Josh Abrams Quartet) and drummer Frank Rosaly (Ken Vandermark) and special guest tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. We talk a little bit about this recording in the interview that follows.
I first became aware of Matana’s work via her blog (Shadows of a People now called In The Midst of Memory). What I like about her writing is its immediacy and honesty whether she is providing details about her family ancestry or reacting to this country’s current confusions regarding race, gender, and class. Matana’s will to give voice to her experience as a creative artist in the 21st century, as well as to the history of her Southern, African, and European ancestors is one of the things that inspired me to reach out to her for this interview.
Please note: This interview was conducted and edited just before the untimely and tragic passing of Issue Project Room founder Suzanne Fiol. Matana is certainly not the only artist to speak highly of Suzanne, and I would like to express my sincere condolences to everyone who knew and loved her.
Chris Becker: As a composer and bandleader, can you talk about how you select musicians for a recording date or a Coin Coin performance? Do you compose with specific musicians in mind or do you go about the search and selection after the fact?
Matana Roberts: I like to compose with specific people in mind when I have the luxury to do so. Since I have been working on COIN COIN now for about 5 years as I re edit the work, I can pick and choose amongst sound makers that mean a lot to me not only as musicians but also as friends and almost honorary family. I put together The Chicago Project with every musician that is on that record in mind. I wanted it to be a very specific document about my Chicago roots and development and all of the people involved are people who made it possible for me to play at the level I am playing now.
The only exception on that record would be Frank Rosaly- Frank showed up in Chicago right after I left, but I wanted him on the record because I felt he represented the positive new influx of creative direction Chicago has been getting in the last 10 years or so, and I also just liked him as a person. I’m more interested in musicians as people first, sound makers second. If they are not compassionate and open and considerate as people, that means that their sound output will (to me) be just as cold as their probable personality in my opinion.
CB: Not to take anything away from the other musicians you play with, but one of the many exciting things about your CD The Chicago Project is the sound of Jeff Parker’s guitar playing alongside the sound of your alto saxophone. You each have a very distinctive sound that blends as well as contrasts with the other throughout the tracks. What do you anticipate musically from Jeff when he is playing with you?
MR: For whatever reason I have yet to figure out why Jeff and I have a very special musical connection that has always been apparent even in the little time we have played together. Maybe it’s because he has such big ears. He listens to some of everything and deals with the process of sound in so many different capacities – in collaborative groups, groups he leads, as a deejay. He’s one of the busiest sidemen in creative music and so I just feel like he internalizes so much that allows him to connect with someone weird like me in a really empathetic and eerily intuitive sense. He’s also just has an incredible big heart, the best laugh ever (Nicole Mitchell is a runner up to this though-her laugh comes from such an amazing wellspring of sound!) and speaks with such kindness about so many things, and knows how to speak on them with a tasteful brevity that I wish I could access more often… Read the rest of this entry »
Imani Winds decided some time ago to make their tenth anniversary special, by commissioning ten new works from ten very different composers of color. Titled the Legacy Project, each new work not only gets premiered, but added to Imani’s rolling repertory as they perform across the country and beyond. So far they’ve taken on pieces by Wayne Shorter, Roberto Sierra, Alvin Singleton, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Jason Moran; Danilo Perez, Jeff Scott and Simon Shaheen (and I suppose a mystery 10th composer) are in the wings.
But just now the latest offering is stellar jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris‘ Anatomy of a Box (A Sonic Painting in Wood, Metal and Wind). Imani already showed it off this past week at Iowa State and Penn State; now they’re about to give the West Coast their chance, with concerts Oct. 2, 8:00PM at Cal Poly Arts (Spanos Theatre) in San Luis Obispo, CA; and Oct. 4, 7:00PM at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Imani Winds has always put their impressive chops at the service not only of the ‘official’ canon, but also pieces that reach out to someplace in the wider world beyond the typical classical concert stage. Hey California, come and hear for yourself.
Nina Kotova premieres a new work by Christopher Theofanidis this weekend in Dallas. In the second part of looking at the new work, I spoke with the soloist about the piece, and learned more about how the piece came into being. Listen to our conversation:
Last week on the podcast: Cliff Colnot (download Cliff’s interview here). This week: Nicholas Photinos, cellist in eighth blackbird (download Nick’s interview here).
Turns out that 8bb was just finishing up some studio sessions at the end of last month for Reich’s Double Sextet. Unfortunately, we will need to wait over a year until we actually get to hear it. (Incidentally, Galen has some commentary about how frustrating it is that we have to wait so long for these recordings here.) Anyway, I don’t know how many ensembles think about their programming in terms of a five-course meal, but these guys do, and Nick tells us a little bit about that process. More beer!
Check-in next week for the first of two interviews with members of the Chicago based new music ensemble, dal niente.
As always, you can subscribe in iTunes here, on the web here, or just click here to download Nick’s episode.
The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival (SFEMF) kicks off next week, and several of its original founders will be performing in celebration of the festival’s tenth anniversary. One of them, Donald Swearingen, will take the stage on Thursday, September 17th along with Maria Chavez, Mark Trayle, and Mason Bates. The show starts at 8 pm in the Brava Theater, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online or at the door.
It’s hard to coax Donald Swearingen away from his many projects, but I did manage to get him to share some background and a few hard-to-find details about his upcoming SFEMF performance.
S21: How has the SFEMF evolved since you helped found it in 1999?
Now in its 10th year, the child has definitely come of age. It’s grown into larger (and progressively more comfortable) venues, and from embracing primarily Bay Area artists, to an impressive roster of local, national, and international talents, both obscure and well-known. All this is a result of the dedication and ongoing efforts of the steering and curatorial committees, whose vision and energy have been the essential ingredients in the success of the festival. I should mention that I personally have not been directly involved in these activities in recent years, serving only to offer a comment here or there. But I’m amazed at the amount of effort (and it indeed takes lots of effort) that goes into the planning and execution from year to year. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the simple rules for the podcast is that there is a new episode every two weeks. That rule was broken in July when all four members of ETHEL were featured. And, that rule is being broken again in September when four musicians based in Chicago will be featured.
The month starts out with conductor Cliff Colnot (best known for his work with Contempo, Chicago Symphony’s MusicNow, ICE, and others). Cliff is a unique person in that he feels so strongly about notation and rehearsal efficiency, that he has produced documents outlining the way he likes to see things as a conductor–and gives them away to anyone who asks. Some of his thoughts on the topic are rather controversial, but anyone who has met him knows that it is hard to find a more appropriate word to describe him than “efficient”. Even if you disagree with him on some of his points of view, it’s hard to argue with the fact that composers should be preparing scores and parts in a way that doesn’t waste rehearsal time. Cliff describes how to get these documents for free at the end of his episode.
As always, you can subscribe in iTunes here, on the web here, or just click here to download the episode.
Mauricio Kagel‘s 1984 “Der Eid des Hippokrates” (“The Hippocratic Oath”), for piano 3-hands. Kagel wrote:
This aphoristic composition was inspired by the publication in January 1984, in a medical magazine, of an article on my latest work. Whiling away the time in hospital waiting rooms, I began to think about the generous Hippocratic oath. I could not say if it was because I was wondering about the influence this Greek practitioner had — but there I was, writing a piece for two left hands, while also calling on the right hand [....] One hand keeps on providing a muted drumming, on a corner of the piano, as if transmitting extracts from the early oath in Morse code: “I swear by the doctors Apollo, Aesculapius, Hygieia and Panacea, by all the gods and the goddesses…”
The players here are András Hamary, Markus Bellheimand Armin Fuch, from a 2008 concert.