Archive for March, 2006

I received a rather unusual announcement about 93-year old singer Marta Eggerth performing at the Scandinavia House (58 Park Avenue between 37 and 38 Streets) with her son, concert pianist Marjan Kiepura, on Thursday, April 6, between 2 and 4 PM.

Ms. Eggerth gives master classes in the US and Vienna and performs regularly.

To find out more details about this program, sponsored by New York University, call
212-998-7171 (Tickets are $25.00).

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EL: If you had your choice, what would you be doing primarily? Composing, performing, recording, what kind of pieces?

MM: I began my musical life as a performer – though I was composing songs with my sister way before I touched the viola. It was a very organic process to composing, when I realized my musical tendencies were towards something that I wasn’t being taught in school. So my “alternative” electro-acoustic viola playing developed on a parallel path to my improvising and composing. Therefore, composing and performing are on the same level. Of course, the wonderful thing about being a performer is that I can also perform other composers’ works while as a composer I can only compose my own! Recording is an extension of both composing and performing – very humbling and satisfying when I can record my own works and gratifying when I record other people’s music.

EL: Do you ever contemplate harmonizing lifestyle and creative goals?
MM: I discovered a long time ago that music is my career and my primary hobby. I’ve set up my lifestyle in this way – consciously or not. The important thing to realize is that it’s always a matter of choice. A violist friend of mine is also a serious mountain climber – she makes time to do this and it balances her life. I’ve taken up yoga and it’s a wonderful gift I give to my mind, body and spirit.

EL: What constitutes success for you? for others?
MM: Peace of mind. There’s a lot under that blanket, but if you have peace of mind, it means everything else has fallen into place.

EL: Do you think you may have done more if you were a male? Do you think there is a hidden glass ceiling for females? Did any of that affect you at any point?
MM: For myself, I’ve never let the glass ceiling allow me to not pursue my endeavors. My course in life has been to create, challenge, overcome, etc. I have seen many glass ceilings – gender, racial, social, etc. so I know they exist. If anything has held me back from my goals it’s that I may be too considerate and polite to push my way up! Time always tells who was ultimately qualified – one only hopes it happens during one’s lifetime!

EL: What pieces of yours are most important to you?
MM: “Most important” is different than “favorite” I suppose. Each piece I have created has been part of my evolution, so they are all important – whether they are good or not is something else. When I was in college at SUNY Albany I composed the theme song for the annual telethon to support children with disabilities. It won first prize in the song competition and I got to perform it at the opening show on local TV. Everyone in the audience, including the kids, were given the words and they sang along with me. It’s called “Special Children with Special Dreams”. Some other milestones are “News” which is the first solo piece I wrote and notated, “Terminal Baggage” which was recently made into a music video by filmmaker Ian Ross, “Café Mars” which is the title track of my duo CD with guitarist Randy Hudson. My two string quartets also have great significance: “Quantum for Quartet” is my transcription (with new material) of the original piece for electric viola and electric guitar, and it’s been performed electrically by my electro-acoustic string quartet SCORCHIO and had it’s acoustic premiere by the Staten Island Chamber Players (3 of whom were former teachers of mine as a young student growing up in Staten Island). It was a wonderful moment for teachers and student alike! Another quartet, “Circa 5” will be performed by members of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s on April 1 and 2 as part of their “Second Helpings” series curated by Joan Tower.What are your criteria for appreciation of other people’s music?

EL: Do you sometimes feel we are so busy dealing with our own music that there is not too much aural space left for anyone else, and that it may be necessary in order to maintain one’s identity?
MM: My only criteria for appreciating someone else’s music is if it speaks to me on any level. I like to listen to and play as much music as I can. I’ve had weeks where one night I’m playing a Beethoven symphony and Mozart overture, recording a Philip Glass film soundtrack the next day, that night play a Broadway show (I’m currently subbing on 4 shows) and the next sit in with my friend Marc Anthony Thompson (a/k/a Chocolate Genius) at Joe’s Pub. For me, it’s like eating a balanced diet. It’s good for the soul. I can’t imagine not playing or listening to other people’s sounds.

EL: What kind of institutional support would you recommend? What is it like to be a Yamaha-sponsored artist? Does this entail compromise or is it cool?
MM: I am proud to be a Yamaha Performing Artist/Clinician. They are very supportive of music in education and contribute a great deal of resources to that end. I signed on with Yamaha when they had only the prototype of their first electric violin and they’re now several generations forward and ongoing. I’ve consulted with their design team and work closely with the band and orchestra division. I recently returned from Kansas City where I presented 2 clinics (“Violas on the Verge” and “Playing with Five, strings that is”) at the 2006 American String Teachers Association National conference. In June I will be a featured artist at the 2006 International Viola Congress in Montreal – also sponsored by Yamaha. They have been solid in their commitment not only to education, but also to the development and expansion of string instruments in all styles of music. At my (strong) suggestion, Yamaha has had a table at the past two Chamber Music America conferences. For me this was significant as a “crossover” (another term I’m not fond of – along with “alternative”) player to have electric strings on display at a conference that still has such strong traditional roots. I played a Yamaha 5-string electric custom made viola at Zankel Hall in November with the American Composers Orchestra. Composers (other than myself) are beginning to write for this medium (I’ve already premiered about a dozen new works for electric viola by fellow composers). It’s only a matter of time…

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It was at the A.I.R. Gallery, all the way on the West side on 25th Street, in a modern, concrete building but with the feeling of the old seventies Soho. The walls were action-packed with hundreds of small pieces of all possible styles: from the grim, ars povera pieces like pages of an old book stacked up and waxed, to pink ceramic rotund shapes, to abstract watercolors, to pieces so delicately woven they could have been worn as jewelry, in every material, set of colors, style, even three-dimensional self-portraits in the most unexpected rendition – 354 artists total, all women. The list is too large for me to reproduce here. The vitality of the art aided by the cleverness of the curating makes for a great spring eye-opener. There is also an online ’silent auction’, and since the pieces are priced from $100 – $500 on average, one could even contemplate owning one of these remarkable women’s works.

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A different kind of event took place at the NYU Skirball Center on Monday, March 6: Mark Adamo, composer du jour, demonstrated how he directs singers, with several scenes excerpted from his operas Little Women and Lysistrata.

The fact that a composer has the opportunity to stage his own work is a sign of progress in my book – no more wasted energy in collaborative discussions or arguments, power plays and ego battles… When it comes to opera, the composer should be in control. And Mark Adamo certainly is, grooving back and forth between music, libretto, lyrics and staging, all at his fingertips.

Another aspect of this type of workshop is that through repeated performances of a scene, one obviously comes to a deeper understanding of the work, whereas watching the entire performance for the first time, some of the details can be missed, especially if the music is unfamiliar.

Mark Adamo’s attitude as director is at both confident and humble. He places more emphasis on the emotional subtext than on the physical gestures.

Lysistrata, soon coming up at the NYCO, is unquestionably the ‘in’ event of the season – even the Guggenheim Works in Process preview performance is already sold out.

The only thing I don’t quite get is why is Lysistrata being presented as a love story in the publicity materials. I thought it was a humorous anti-war protest. I mean, love is part of the subtext, as a basic human emotion that is present in most operas, but is the political content of the piece being downplayed or even censored? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Many years ago I was amazed when for the first time, I heard Baroque music performed with the original temperaments and instruments. However subtle, if you have ears, you will enjoy the difference – it’s like looking at a painting with the perfect lighting.

This year the American Festival of Microtonal Music is presenting classics with that same enjoyable twist: AFMM researched the authentic and most appropriate temperaments for each piece – and prompts you to rediscover the Moonlight Sonata performed by Joshua Pierce in Kirnberger III (practical just intonation) and Georg Philipp Telemann’s Sonata in F minor for bassoon and harpsichord in 1/6th comma meantone, performed by Rebecca Pachevsky and Johnny Reinhard.

The two concerts will take place on March 25th and May 6th (8PM) at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields down in the West Village (487 Hudson St at Grove Street).

The Micro Fest will also feature premieres by Joel Mandelbaum, John Eaton and Johnny Reinhard, and a tribute to Tui St George Tucker.

And if you can’t make it to the concert, you can get a copy of Early, one of the releases on Pitch, the AFMM label ( with pieces by JS and JM Bach and Werckmeister (who is better known for his tunings than his compositions). Also worth noting is the Charles Ives’s Universe Symphony as realized and conducted by Johnny Reinhard (

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