This week we continue with more conversations featuring innova artists. In the spotlight today, is composer/sax player David Crowell, whose disc Spectrum will be released on February 23 .

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What’s your pet’s name and why?

I don’t have a pet, but I recently fostered a dog and named her Denali, which is the Athabaskan name for Mt. McKinley. This reminded me of all my fantastic adventures in the 49th state!

How do you spoil yourself?

I go to an amazing Italian restaurant in the village for chocolate mousse cake. In general, New York is an amazing place to experience food from many different cultures.

If you weren’t making music as a career what would you be doing?

I can’t imagine being anything other than a musician.

Where do you live and how does that affect your music and the way you make it?

I live in New York City. The biggest advantage is that I can write anything and have it performed well. There are so many incredible musicians capable of extraordinary technical feats and beautiful interpretations. The diversity of talent here also means that I know musicians who excel in many different styles so I can tailor pieces (or my saxophone playing) to specific ensembles or situations. With my group, I’m lucky to have the best of all worlds. They improvise well, are accomplished technicians, and have a deep sense of groove.

What is your first sound memory?

The first records I remember hearing were the Brandenburg Concertos and Graceland by Paul Simon. Not a bad place to start!

Name ten Desert Island discs (or MP3s), recordings that you feel especially close to.

This is one of those impossible questions, but a fun one to think about. Definitely subject to change”¦

1) Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
2) Thomas Mapfumo, Chamunorwa
3) Tom Petty, Wildflowers
4) Habib Koite and Bamada, Foly! Live From Around the World
5) Herbie Hancock, Thrust
6) Philip Glass Ensemble, Music in Twelve Parts
7) J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos
8) John Luther Adams, Red Arc/ Blue Veil
9) Beatles, Abbey Road
10) Bill Frisell/Kermit Driscoll/Joey Baron, Live

What has been your most memorable or inspirational performance and why?

As a composer, I recently had a great experience working with the JACK Quartet. They premiered my new work for string quartet, The Open Road, which was the winner of this year’s ClefWorks composer competition. The performance was full of energy, vitality and precision and received a standing ovation! It was particularly gratifying not only because it is one of my favorite pieces, but because I waited a long time to hear it performed. I wrote the piece in about a month, but then continued to revise and perfect it over the next year. Finally working with JACK was an excellent example of delayed gratification! The last two performances by the David Crowell Ensemble have also been very inspiring. It’s thrilling to present authoritative versions of highly detailed, intricately composed music alongside improvisational passages where everyone in the ensemble can forget about reading music and just let loose. I think that uniting the precision of musical intent inherent in notated music with the freedom and excitement of improvisation gives any performance a different edge and level of intensity.

Describe your most mind-blowing art experience (in any art form), something that instantly changed your life.

About three or four years ago I saw Thomas Mapfumo perform at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The concert fundamentally altered the way I thought about music and sent me off in directions that affect my creative life to this day. The depth of groove and the feeling I got from listening to Mapfumo and his band was indescribable and beyond anything I had previously experienced. Over the course of the concert I found it was affecting me deeply and almost mysteriously, as if it contained some sort of magical quality impossible to totally decipher. I still remember leaving that concert in a happy daze.

What is your greatest fear?

I fear nothing!

What has been your career low point?

There’s never been a time when I said to myself, “OK, I’m at a low point right now.” There are ups and downs, but in the end it’s not a big deal. Bad experiences are far out-numbered by the good.

What were your first compositions like? How have they changed?

They were aggressively dissonant with more of a jazz sensibility. I’ve moved away from that; for one thing I often write for chamber ensembles now. Of course, those pieces are completely notated and usually come from a tonal new music angle. In my own group, I’ve been writing a lot of material that explores rhythmic cycles and counterpoint. Generally speaking, it’s been my goal for a few years now to write music of rhythmic complexity that also feels natural. In other words, to capture that feeling I had when I heard Thomas Mapfumo in Prospect Park. I want people to get the sense that if they dig deeper into a piece they might discover new ways of hearing or listening to it, but that they don’t necessarily have to in order to enjoy it in the moment.

What did you learn from your teachers? Any words of wisdom to share?

I think every teacher serves an important function in the development of a musician. Some teachers are so inspiring that you just want to emulate them, while others basically teach you what you shouldn’t do. All of it is valuable. Of course, I’m only 29. I have a lot left to learn! That’s what makes music so thrilling and endlessly inspiring. My only words of wisdom are: always play and compose the music that moves you the most and don’t be afraid of unconventional approaches. Great music is uniquely expressive and always comes from the heart.

How are you like your music? Would an outsider see/hear any similarity between your personality and your music?

That’s a tough question to answer. What I am constantly changes, and the emotions I feel, like anyone else, are complex and difficult to define. I think that every piece captures a particular moment in time in a person’s life but doesn’t necessarily represent them in any kind of comprehensive way.

Tell us about your new release and some of the thinking behind it.

Spectrum travels through a number of different compositional approaches and emotional landscapes but ultimately exists as a cohesive musical statement. I wanted to create a story that unfolds over the course of the album. The interplay of composition and improvisation is the main defining characteristic of Spectrum. The pieces are either fully notated, completely improvised, or some combination of the two. This approach allows for a significant degree of control over the sound of the group while still allowing room for spontaneous creation and moments of unplanned beauty. For instance, the 2nd track, Point Reyes is a notated composition for six alto saxophones (which I overdubbed in the studio). The piece explores a lot of the rhythmic ideas I talked about earlier, with the combination of parts creating a dense contrapuntal weave. There is an optimistic yet melancholic feeling to this work. The following track, Long Goodbye, is improvised by the ensemble yet functions as a natural continuation of the mood and emotional character of Point Reyes. Great Wide Open is largely composed yet contains an improvised section that references musical textures similar to Long Goodbye.

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On Spectrum

David Crowell – alto saxophone & compositions
Grey Mcmurray -electric guitar
Mike Chiavaro – electric bass
Jason Nazary – drums

+ special guest Red Wierenga – keyboards

Current David Crowell Ensemble:

David Crowell – woodwinds & compositions
Grey Mcmurray – electric guitar
Andrew Smiley – electric guitar
Greg Chudzik – electric bass
Jason Nazary – drums

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The King’s Singers will give a special Valentine’s Day concert February 14, 2010 from the beautiful Westminster Presbyterian church in Nashville, TN. ClassicsOnline will stream video of 6 songs along with the dedications supplied by ClassicsOnline users. At approximately 8pm CST the video becomes available for streaming to registered users only–it costs absolutely nothing to register.

Click HERE to register at ClassicsOnline (no credit card required to register). Contestants that enter will have the chance to get their dedication read and a song performed in honor of that ’special someone’ by The King’s Singers, AND will receive a confirmation email with a promo code good for 20% off any of The King’s Singers titles below. So please visit our contest page and enter your dedication to that The King’s Singers serenade your loved one!

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Now, did I say that loud enough for everyone? On February 23, Chandos is releasing (in the U.S.) a new disc from its acclaimed Opera in English series featuring, you guessed it, GERALD FINLEY (Great Operatic Arias/CHAN 3167). Now, to say I’m happy is clearly an understatement. 095115316726In addition to arias from operas by Bizet, Donizetti, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Weber, the recording also features arias from two contemporary operas for which Finley created the lead roles: John Adams’ Dr. Atomic (“Batter my Heart”); and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie (“O Bring Me to a Pint of Wine”). The disc concludes with Richard Rodger’s beloved classic from South Pacific, “Some Enchanted Evening.”

To sweeten the pot for us Finley-lovers, he will be signing his new CD at the Lincoln Triangle Barnes and Noble (1972 Broadway at 66th Street) on Thursday, February 25 at 7:30 PM; an interview and Q & A with Opera News‘ Editor in Chief–the always marvelous–F. Paul Drisoll will precede the signing. Mark your calendar.

More Marvelous Gerald:

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I’m going to bypass the two articles which prompted my headline and send you to a terrific blog, Proper Discord. If you want to read Anne Midgette’s
and Norman Lebrecht’s articles (if you haven’t already), there are links to them on the site. To be clear, I am not making any comment about either writer–I love Anne and read her blog and Washington Post articles regularly. I did not, however, agree with this particular post.

Here: In Defense of the Billboard Charts and Here: I Finally Flame Norman Lebrecht.

Frankly, I’m surprised we’re still talking about this.

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Alive and Composing: the Wonderful World of innova; where we ask artists on
the label to hint at what makes them tick.

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Innova: Neel Murgai

What’s your pet’s name and why?

We had a dog when I was little, a Lhasa Apso named Ke-chung, which means ”˜small dog’ in a Polynesian language. He was little too so it made sense.

How do you spoil yourself?

When feeling indulgent, I read and watch science fiction and fantasy films and books.

If you weren’t making music as a career what would you be doing?

I actually have a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering that I abandoned to go study sitar in India. So I guess that I would be an engineer, but I hated it! I discovered my passion for music only while I was pursuing this degree.

Where do you live and how does that affect your music and the way you make
it?

Brooklyn, New York. Need I say more? New York City has all the music of the world. I have always been drawn to diverse sounds and have learned to develop my own style by working and jamming out with talented musicians of many traditions. New York also has a strong Indian classical music community, a vital aspect to learning this difficult art form. My music is rooted firmly in this tradition, but it is inspired by so much more and New York is fertile ground for this inspiration.

What is your first sound memory?

I remember my mother’s voice, singing softly or speaking in that high pitched way that people use to speak to babies.

Name three Desert Island discs (or MP3s), recordings that you feel
especially close to.

Sitarist Nikhil Bannerjee’s “Raga Hemant”, Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s “Passages”, John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational performance and why?

A couple years ago I was performing regularly with the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company. We had one show in the Celebrate Brooklyn series in Prospect Park. Bill had asked me to play solo intro and intermission music, so I was on stage playing for well over two hours in front of many thousands of people. The memorable moment though, came towards the end of the performance, when I (more than warmed up) had the greatest experience of the “chills” in my life. The music and dance were climaxing to spectacular heights. I was in ecstasy and it felt as if we were taking the crowd with us. They responded in kind when the last beat of music hit with the last movement of the dancer and the crowd erupted like I have never heard before. It has become my goal to attempt to scale these heights in every performance since.

Describe your most mind-blowing art experience (in any art form), something
that instantly changed your life.

One night, when I was in high school, driving around with some friends and up to no good, we changed the radio station and heard the most unique music that any of us had ever heard up to that point. We had to pull over. I have never heard it or found it again since. I think it was called “Symphony of the Cars”. Looking back now, I realize that it was a minimalist piece. Car names were chanted repetitively over car and industrial sounds. For the first time we heard music that did not have melody. It used the sounds of our environment and everyday. I had no idea that music could be like that. It opened me up to another world.

What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to play music anymore.

What has been your career low point?

I subbed once for a sitarist at an Indian restaurant that shall remain nameless. They wanted me to play for some 5 or 6 hours for little money and paired me up with a tabla player who could barely play the instrument. On top of that, they grudgingly gave me any food and no drinks, not even tea. I was so angry that I had to go to the bar next door to have a shot during my breaks in order to get through the night!

What were your first compositions like? How have they changed?

My first compositions using sitar as my main instrument were admittedly naïve. I was treading new ground and there were some necessary growing pains. New breeds of cross-cultural music require “fusion” at the molecular level in order to be successful. I had not yet internalized the Hindustani music or found my own voice. Now after years of intensive study and experience playing in many styles, I am very clear about what I want. I have achieved the molecular fusion as these styles seem to have coalesced within me and I can produce a sound that is whole and yet unique, the ancient future traditional.

What did you learn from your teachers? Any words of wisdom to share?

My two most important teachers have been my sitar guru, Pundit Krishna Bhatt, and my composition instructor, Edgar Grana. Krishna has taught me in the most traditional way, where lessons are not planned. The teacher improvises/composes material based on the mood and talent of the student and the feeling of the moment. In this way each student learns a little differently but remain part of the tradition. Interestingly many of my lessons with Edgar were similar in that they were tailored to my interests and needs.

How are you like your music? Would an outsider see/hear any similarity
between your personality and your music?

My music reflects my own identity as an Indian-American, and as a diasporic, continental drifter with many influences. More substantially there is perhaps a certain melancholy to my being that is reflected in the music: a bitter/sweet dichotomy that never quite resolves.

756coverTell us about your new release and some of the thinking behind it.

This is my first release as a band leader. As such, the material is somewhat retrospective, with some reworked ideas from my initial forays as well as several new pieces. Three of the pieces are clearly based on specific ragas but take them to new places through chordal analysis, the creation of textures and other ideas that the musicians use for group improvisation and supporting each others solos. It is the improvisational discourse between performers, listening, reacting and responding to each other in real time, that is at the very heart of this ensemble’s music. Therefore, I compose music indeterminate with respect to its performance, depending upon the musicians to bring the themes to life with their own expression, guided by my road maps. “Panchatantra” utilizes the minimalist technique of offset repetition playfully rendered and elaborated upon. “Coi Umeed” is actually a Eastern European gypsy song that I heard in the movie Latcho Drom. I set the basic melody to chords and 18th century Urdu lyrics from a form of poetry known as Ghazal. Rounding out this CD is one straight ahead Hindustani classical piece, “Raga Khammaj” and finally “Ngong” where I perform overtone singing and frame drumming along with the rest of the band in a freely improvised context.

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On Monday, Feburary 1 (from 7: 30 – 9:00 PM), Metropolis Ensemble, led by conductor Andrew Cyr, and featuring mandolinist Avi Avital, will perform Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto at the former Tower Records, 692 Broadway at West 4th Street. After the performance, members will meet and greet, and sign their new Naxos CD. If you want to attend, please go to the Metropolis website to RSVP. Attendees will receive a free CD. Metropolis’ conductor and founder Andrew Cyr shares his thoughts below .

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I met composer Avner Dorman in May of 2006, a couple of months after Metropolis Ensemble’s first concert. My cousin emailed me the day of a CD release party/concert that featured his solo piano music “Come hear”. So I went to check it out.

I was deeply struck by how orchestral this music sounded, especially in the hands of pianist Eliran Avni. I left intrigued and hungry to hear more of Avner’s music and I listened to a live recording of his Piccolo Concerto on his website. His approach to color, rhythm, invention, and structure (an often ignored topic) was masterful and inventive: he truly possessed a distinct voice. In addition to all that, I simply loved his music.

About 6 months later, we met again. I was approaching him to explore a potential new commission, but he was wanting to steer me in a different direction. Avner was in the process of writing a new mandolin concerto for a young Israeli/Moroccan virtuoso mandolinist, Avi Avital. Describing how they were Skyping daily about mandolin techniques and relaying ideas back and forth across the Atlantic, I was intrigued and decided to wait to hear the results.

One year after, nearly to the day after I had heard Avner’s piano music for the first time, Metropolis Ensemble gave the U.S. premiere of his Mandolin Concerto, with Avi himself playing. I was so passionate about this piece and Avner’s music, as were our amazing players, we investigated how to find a way to record it in studio.

During that process, we had invited Grammy-winning producer David Frost to attend the premiere and after the concert, he signaled to us that we were ready to record this music. Really, for real? It was our third concert project as a performing group, but that gesture of faith from David was a transformative moment for the ensemble. Five months later, we recorded 4 of his chamber orchestra concerti in 2 short days that were perhaps the longest of my life. I am so thrilled to share this great CD showcasing the fantastic music of Avner Dorman and the extraordinary talent and commitment of our musicians.

Listen here for more of Avner Dorman’s music on KBAQ, Arizona:

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For all Sequenza21 readers who live near or in New York City, composer-conductor Pierre Boulez will be signing his new CD on the CSO Resound label — Pulcinella/Symphony in Three Movements/Four Etudes — at the Lincoln Triangle Barnes and Noble (1972 Broadway at West 66th) on Friday, January 29 at 1:30 PM. Before the signing, he will be interviewed by Ara Guzelimian, dean of The Juilliard School.

Maestro Boulez leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in two concerts at Carnegie Hall this weekend: Saturday, January 30 at 8 PM and on Sunday, January 31. If there are any tickets left, the programs for both performances are superb.

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This week the Naxos blog will include postings by artists from two of our most exciting distributed labels: New Amsterdam Records and Innova.

This posting is by electric guitarist Grey McMurray, part of the ensemble itsnotyouitsme (along with composer/violinist and Caleb Burhans). Their new CD fallen monuments comes out tomorrow (January 26). itsnotyouitsme’s debut album, walled gardens, also is available on New Amsterdam Records (NWAM 006).

At the end of this month, itsnotyouitsme releases fallen monuments. Our second album on New Amsterdam Records, this collection captures a different aspect of our musical identity than its predecessor, walled gardens. The first album contained material that we’d been playing for a year. The tracks therein helped us figure out how to play together and show us what our sound would be. This record represents the improvisational core of our interaction and a more fluent real-time command of our looping devices. The songs are culled from performances and scoring sessions over the past two years.

“Kid Icarus (little jam)” finds us in the holiday spirit. Recorded on the eve of Christmas’s eve, this track was performed in Caleb’s apartment. Our holiday, however, is filled with a falling tragedy; hope burned out of the sky, but not fully extinguished. All of our music tries to convey the bleak muted drama of the everyday, with a healthy dose of an undying hope for tomorrow. A longer version will appear on our next studio album, hence, “little jam.”

“Music for a blue whale documentary” is not music for a blue whale documentary. Recorded in St. Peter’s church in midtown manhattan, this song/improvisation finds us reveling in a vast physical space. The sound quality of the recording gives the song its title, but the vastness of the environment – our first church performance as this band – gave us the musical direction. The only recording device is a mic placed 3 stories above our amps. The hazy actual reverb/room sound is the vastness we felt, as well as the reason for the “lo-fi” character of the recording.

“Dead men make good heroes” also finds us in a church in midtown manhattan. However, this time there are more than two mics overhead. This song/improvisation was taken from a performance opening for the post-rock, ambient music luminaries, Stars Of The Lid. This song moves through a series of sonic snapshots – melodic and textural cells – with limited layers/loops so as to keep the fabric spare and again, utilize the physical space we were playing in. The last minute and a half of this song is a gentle ascent – very literally a scalar ascent – that layers a number of loops, but never gets too dense and never quite arrives. This want of memory – literally, to reinstate loops that had been moving in and out of the fabric into a dense melodic climax – is what defines this song. Seeking and being inspired by what or who is gone. Though their mental or aural stamp remains on our motives, their influence will not be wholly present to world around us.

The next three songs were recorded for a documentary about Artemesia Genteleschi called A Woman Like That. “Vanity stays my hand” is a progression of Caleb’s that we build layers on, arriving at a melodically dense place before returning to the original theme, now sonically in a distant room. The slow neighboring motion of the arpeggiated progression masks the loop’s repetition, and allows the mostly diatonic layers to surprise the listener.

“Lost nation municipal airport” contains recorded distortion at one point in slowly ascending guitar loop. That spare, crunchy repetition gives the title image its aural mirror. This song was actually the end of the improvisation that was, “vanity stays my hand.” Listening back, these two songs felt like two very distinct ideas that might better serve a listener as separate children.

“Season’s greetings” is the shortest track on this set. This song benefits from the most studio produced sound on the album, allowing the simple character of the guitar and violin haze to be clearly defined.

“We are the sons of our fathers” finishes the album. The longest song we’ve recorded, and one of the more uneventful on the surface, is also one of the most meaningful to us. This track was recorded in Caleb’s apartment on a slow bright summer afternoon and has the same character as a hot day in the city, homebound, without electricity; movement occurs with only absolute necessity. This song moves through two melodic areas over its near 20 minute length. Caleb’s casio drones are present throughout, an aspect of our ever-present memory. We fiercely guard this nostalgia – in this case, that of our dead fathers – as if it may disappear; the drones/ambience never really leave. This music happens, these melodies happen, with us or without us. We move through these two melodic areas with such deliberation, as if we’re trying, delicately, to physically hold them. The result is that these melodies become the drone, become the ambience of this music. It is heartening to think that our memory needn’t be so protected, that the memory isn’t so frail, that our nostalgia is here with us or without us. This music is our therapeutic reminder – or hope – that these memories breath in some the way, just as their fallen counterpart did.

Click here to preview a track from fallen monuments:

season’s greetings

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Sam Sadigursky is a saxophonist, multi-reedist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. He has received grants and awards from ASCAP, the Puffin Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and Chamber Music America. He performs internationally and appears on over twenty albums as a sideman. Visit his own blog, The One Seat, for more of his writing.

I’m very excited to release Words Project III: Miniatures (New Amsterdam Records) on January 26, with a release concert on the 29th at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, NY. I figured I would take this opportunity to talk about the general process and the evolution of The Words Project, which is comprised of settings of poems to text to song and has thus far been my focus as a leader and composer. You can visit the New Amsterdam website to read more about me as a player and composer and listen to tracks from the previous two albums.

I wish I could say that I’ve been a lifelong reader of poetry and that this venture evolved naturally out of that. This couldn’t be less true, actually. I’ve always loved fiction and language, but never could achieve the quietness of mind that poetry demands. I read and memorized the requisite poetry fed to us in school, but beyond that I wasn’t exposed to much of it. Given how marginalized it is in our culture it’s relatively easy to ignore. I can’t even say that I was ever very interested in song lyrics, even. I’ve always loved listening to music of any style with singers, but generally I tended to ignore lyrical elements in favor of musical ones.

I spent a number of years in New York in search of what my own contributions here would be, dipping my feet into as many waters as I possibly could. I was involved with a few groups with singers and started to feel a shortage of new vocal pieces that involved lyrics (rather than wordless vocals), and many of the newer works I heard didn’t have very challenging lyrics or content. Having long loved the art-song tradition, I set out to find some initial poems to set, and started calling singers over to sing through my work. The directness to the human voice and its mysteries were thrilling for me, and I found myself thinking and working differently than ever before. Fortunately, I also began to discover a deep well of talented young singers eager to take on new material, which furthered my interest in this venture.

The first pieces I set were by Lithuanian-Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, whose work I’ve continued to set to this day. There’s a certain simplicity to his work that makes it highly typical of the kind of work I enjoy setting. The ideas in his work are by no means simple, but the use of language has a direct quality that makes his work conducive to musical setting. When poetry reaches a certain level of abstraction, there’s no longer room for the kind of music that I would like to write. Similarly, there’s a lot of poetry that tells something akin to literate story, which also doesn’t intrigue me as a composer. It’s difficult to define what lies in the middle of these two extremes, but I do tend to know whether I can set a work within the first few lines of it.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether it’s the poetry that I set to music or music I set to poetry. It’s probably a little of both… There have been times when everything has started simply with the words in front of me, a musical gesture or phrase that arises from the first stanza, with nothing else preconceived. Other times, there is a more intentional process, where I’ll employ a musical idea I’ve been toying with or use a certain stylistic notion in crafting a piece.

I don’t tend to dwell too much on the meaning of a poem before I start working with it. Perhaps this is out of impatience or over-eagerness, but I feel strongly that my job is not to filter the meaning of any work for the listener. I try my best not to interpret these poems or put any sort of definitive stamp on them. I simply want to color them and make them come alive in a unique way. Great works of poetry, like great works of music, can mean different things to us at different times. This is one of the beauties of art in genearal. Certain works can fill us with sadness one hour and be completely exhilarating the next. We bring our own experiences to whatever we take in, and it’s not my intention to subjugate this process by governing the experience of a poem. By the time it lands in my hands, the poem is a complete work of art on its own. It doesn’t need my efforts to be read or to thrive. It already exists in its full flowering, and this is a humbling thing that I always try to keep in mind.

One of the greatest challenges of this genre for me continues to be how to fit all this into the jazz continuum, one that is based on improvisation. Many of the longer works I’ve set demand long forms and it’s difficult to know where improvisation should fit in, or whether there’s a place for it at all. Personally, it’s unappealing to simply use words as a launching point for extended improvisation. I’ve always wanted to frame my work primarily around the poems themselves, and always have them be at the center of my work. Thus, I want any solos or improvisation to function somehow within the poems themselves, to make this all feel like one, creating the illusion that the words and the music came out of the same mind. All the principles of tension and release in music really come to the forefront. Sometimes improvised sections function as a release and other times they build tension or intensity from a place where there was not before. Other times they simply function as a breath within the poem, a chance for the listener to take in what has come before.

Melodically, my own voice tends to guide me when I write. I do my best to forget my background as an instrumentalist and try to think like a singer. I also keep the use of melody in everyday speech in mind. We all use varying degrees of pitch inflection and rhythm when we speak, and thus we’re so easily able to accept lyrics that are sung as a natural extension of everyday speech. Perhaps this is what makes so many of us want to be singers, to further the expression that language allows us, and possibly communicate things where speech falls short. To this effect, I tend to use mostly close intervals in my writing that mirror the intervals of everyday speech.

Words Project III: Miniatures comprises material that I’ve written spanning back to 2006, primarily songs that had never fit into the framework of what I’ve done previously both live and in the studio. The project started quite spontaneously…. I called Michael Leonhart to sing through some songs I had written for male voice, and he hit the record button and we started tracking. A few months later, vocalist Sunny Kim was in New York, and I decided to bring her into Michael’s studio to record a few things. Based on how well these two experiences went, not long after I chose material for an entire record of short songs.

Sometimes I had conceived arrangements and instrumentation before going into the studio, and other times these things came together as we worked. Most of the tracking was done individually, which allowed Michael and I plenty of room for editing and experimentation. I wanted to create a unique world of sound for each piece on the record, and used a lot of uncommon instruments and sounds in order to achieve this. Sometimes I had a good idea of what a piece would end up sounding like and other times tracks unfolded themselves from something more unknown.

The miniature aspect to each piece is really what holds this record together through all the changes of texture and instrumentation. These are musical portraits or glimpses, maybe akin to a collection of short poems or stories. I’ve always loved listening to collections of short pieces, whether they be art song or piano preludes. I love the way each one can leave you wanting a little more but eager to hear what’s next. The broad mix of styles reflects the many kinds of music that have shaped me, perhaps never so apparently as on this record. There are very few improvised solos on any of the tracks, but to me the way this record was recorded gives it the feel of a jazz record, and most everybody who appears on it comes from a jazz background, although they all bring much more than that to the table. In any case, I’ll leave this to the listeners to decide…

For more information, please visit newamsterdamrecords.com or samsadigursky.com. The CD will be available on iTunes and Amazon on January 26th. The release party will be January 29 at 8 PM at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn as part of the Archipelago (http://archipelagoseries.com/) series.

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On February 1, 2010, Metropolis Ensemble celebrates the release of their new Naxos CD, Avner Dorman: Concertos for Mandolin, Piccolo, Piano and Concerto Grosso, with a release party and performance at No Longer Empty, a non-profit organization that organizes site-specific public art exhibitions in vacated storefronts and properties in New York City, located in the former Tower Records on Broadway and West 4th Street. The event will feature a performance of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto, featuring mandolinist Avi Avital.

Naxos’ second recording of works by the award-winning Israeli composer Avner Dorman features the Metropolis Ensemble, led by Music Director Andrew Cyr. In addition to Dorman’s 2006 Concerto for Mandolin, the recording also features three world premiere recordings: the 2001 Piccolo Concerto, with piccolo soloist Mindy Kaufman and pianist Eliran Avni; Concerto Grosso (2003) with Arnaud Sussmann and Lily Francis, violins; Eric Nowlin, viola; Michal Korman, cello; and Aya Hamada, harpsichord; and the composer’s 1995 Piano Concerto, a work he penned when he was only nineteen years old, also featuring pianist Eliran Avni, whose 2006 NAXOS recording of Avner Dorman’s piano works was critically acclaimed.

WHAT: Metropolis Ensemble CD Release Concert and Release Party:
WHERE: Location: The former Tower Records (Broadway and West 4th)
WHEN: Date/Time: Mon, February 1st, 7:30pm (doors 7pm)
DETAILS: All attendees will get a free CD, Wine reception with CD signing to follow.
RSVP: http://metropolisensemble.org

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