Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound. Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.

He has been commissioned to write music for the Scorchio Electric String Quartet, ModernWorks! (funding from Meet the Composer/ Commissioning Music USA), the Auros Group for New Music, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, David Holzman, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the InterEnsemble of Padova, Italy. His work has also been featured on the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” series. Cornicello’s works have also been performed by the Chicago Civic Symphony, Parnassus, ALEA III, Composers Concordance, Madeleine Shapiro, Robert Black, among many other outstanding groups and solo performers. His music has been presented as part of the Darmstadt International Festival of New Music as well as the June in Buffalo Festival.

Cornicello’s Second String Quartet has been recorded by the Atlantic String Quartet; the Second Sonata for Piano by David Holzman (Centaur). More recently, his Post-Modern Waltz was recorded by Eric Moe for Albany Records. A portrait CD of Cornicello’s works is scheduled for 2006 release on Albany Records.

As a performer, he has conducted or played piano in his own works on numerous occasions. While a graduate student at Rutgers, he formed and directed the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music. More recently, Cornicello has begun performing on the laptop, using a variety of interfaces and the Max/MSP program. Those performances, mostly with EEE!, have had a notable impact on his music, as EEE!’s music ranges from hip-hop to experimental noise. EEE! is based at Eastern Connecticut State University, where Cornicello is an Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Lab.

Cornicello received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, and Martin Boykan. His teachers also include Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey, and Richard Beirach.

His current fields of interest include developing unusual interfaces for live computer music performances, as well as continuing to investigate resonance and spatialization. His recent and current projects (mostly for string instruments and electronics) have been exploring the latter two, and the series of experimental works ReZenant Garden, performed by EEE! have operated on all three areas of interest. Future projects will include works for instrumental groups or soloists and electronics, as well as turntablists.

Cornicello's works are published by C.F. Peters Corporation and APNM, and he is a member of BMI.

Sunday, March 22, 2009
When reviewers go bad.....

Okay, I'm not going to talk about reviewers who are overly critical - you know the type! They've just heard someone blast through a program of unbelievable virtuosity, and they'll find some nuance they didn't like. They are truly annoying, but not the subject of my post today.

No, I'm talking about a reviewer who is clearly out of his or her league, but refuses to admit it. This is more like the poor chap who is used to reviewing folk music suddenly having to review a Keith Jarrett concert. Or, apparently, what happened to Lief Ellis, a composer in the Hartford, CT area.

So, Lief is an electronic music composer. No one is going to call this 'easy listening' music - it's certainly unusual, but well within the confines of what we've come to know as electronic music. It's got a certain Experimental bent to it (hey, we've got Alvin Lucier down the road, so it's bound to rub off on all of us!). He does a number of performances as part of the Hartford Sound Alliance, one of which was 'reviewed' by the Hartford Advocate last year. See this link, and you'll see what I mean. Lief has it on his website as well, listed as a "less than friendly review."

Now, the Hartford Advocate is an odd beast. It tries to be counter-cultural, as much as one can be counter-cultural these days. I say that, because most of what it embraces is either 'green culture' (good, but becoming more and more mainstream), and varieties of a post-punk/rock culture. It's a bit difficult for me to embrace many of these bands as counter-cultural - they're really just a few steps away from American Idol. (I'm not saying they're not good, but they're not exactly the Mothers of Invention on the scale of counter-cultural-ism.)

So, their reporter shows up, obviously trying to be hip and counter-cultural. He went in with a predefined notion of what electronic music is, and proceeded to review the event based on that idea. Now, Dan Barry (the reviewer, that is), can you please tell me what the following artists have in common: Steve Reich, Radiohead, DJ Olive, Pauline Oliveros, David Tudor, Autechre, Amon Tobin, and John Cage? Yes, they all make significant use of electronics in their artistic endeavors. They'd all create music that would essentially be called electronic.

He even says: "I was hoping for a performance that might demonstrate that electronics could be warmer and friendlier, and percussion colder and more mechanical, than how we normally think of each." Okay, this is something I tell anyone going to a new music concert of any sort: leave your expectations home. You'll never know what you're going to hear - especially if there are artists which whom you are unfamiliar. Sure, we know what to expect from, let's say, Wuorinen or Michael Gordon - for the most part. They may surprise you, though.

Worst of all, this reviewer should have really turned down the review, based on his own ignorance. Case in point: I've got a few students who are in a local band called "Tip the Van" Now, I like what I've heard of them - "Tip the Van" is a ska band. If, say, the Hartford Advocate found that all their reviewers were suddenly taken ill and started frantically calling people to review concerts, would I be the best choice to review "Tip the Van"? Even if I were to set aside my previous interaction with the band members (who, I should add, are bunch of nice people), would I be able to produce a good review? Well, I'd certainly be able to comment on the night's performance - "they sounded good", or "wow, was that tune great!". But, would I be able to deftly compare it to other ska bands? If I were, maybe I'd find how "Tip the Van" fits into the ska genre - or how they're unique in certain ways. But I certainly wouldn't do what the reviewer did for the Advocate - shrug my shoulders and go to the gig.

Of course, I'd rather have seen Mr. Barry done a little basic research. A quick perusal of Lief's website would have yielded some names that might have placed the listener in the right context. And, it would have certainly tipped off a reviewer that this music is connected to a genre of contemporary electronic music. And, in many ways, you'd realize that it's not that off-the-wall. If you've been to the Spark Festival or SEAMUS, you're going to see a lot of music that has similar qualities - not to diminish what Lief is doing, of course. But when you see these commonalities, you're a little more able to make intelligent comments about the music.

Do you think the review was at all fair? Mind you, I'm not saying a review must be positive - I'm just hoping that the reviewer would have approached this with a little more awareness.

NOTE: Many years ago, I recall seeing a Far Side cartoon with the caption "When Mayonnaise goes bad". The jar of mayonnaise had gone "bad" as in gangster, and was holding up the lettuce and tomato. I thought it would have been fun to post an image of that cartoon. Apparently, Gary Larson is incredibly vigilant about these sort of things. Many websites have been 'asked' (by, I'm sure, a Luca Brasi-type) to remove similar Far Side images.

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