Classical Music Buzz > Sequenza21/
The Contemporary Classical Music Community
1315 Entries

marvin_rosenIt’s that time of the year again, my composer friends! …When Marvin Rosen, WPRB’s champion of contemporary composers (far and wide, high and low, in or out, he likes you all!) is preparing his yearly “VIVA 21st CENTURY” 25-hour radio marathon, playing works from — well, you! Send along you recording by the December 5th deadline and you too can be a part of the big show. Full details below:


To be presented during the 1?1th Live Marathon (10th devoted to 21st century music) curated and hosted by Marvin Rosen, host of the award-winning program, Classical Discoveries and presented on WPRB, Princeton NJ at 103.3 FM or on line at:

The title of this year’s radio extravaganza is “24 HOUR PLUS – VIVA 21st CENTURY” will start Saturday, December 2?6th at 2:00pm (EST time) and will go nonstop, live, until 3:00pm on Sunday, December 27th, and yes, this year’s Marathon will run like last years did – 25 hours.

This year Marvin is requesting composers to send him recordings of works completed between 20?06- 201?5.

Only recordings on CD (no MP3’s, no downloads) will be accepted and must be received by Marvin no later than ?Saturday, December 5, 2015. The maximum length of each work submitted should be no more than 15 minutes. All private recordings must have good sound quality and released for radio broadcast by the owner of recording (a statement from submitting person is sufficient). Marvin knows that in today’s time many music transactions are done via downloading etc., but since he has a full time job, as well as other volunteer duties, the recording submission process has to be done as conveniently for Marvin as possible.

If you are interested in being part of this crazy annual new music marathon please e-mail Marvin directly for more instructions at:

10 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

Last month, I heard the second installment of Anthony De Mare’s Liasons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano project at Sheen Center. De Mare has commissioned dozens of composers to fashion arrangements of Sondheim songs. The results are as fascinating as they are eclectic.

On Thursday at Symphony Space, De Mare completes his live presentations of the commissions with a third concert. Among the featured composers are Steve Reich, David Rakowski, Paul Moravec, and Duncan Sheik. The concluding arrangement is by De Mare himself: “Sunday in the Park – Passages.” Sondheim will be on hand and the ECM recording, a 3-CD set, will receive its official release.

There are some tickets left to the performance (buy here).

11 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

WasteLAnd1On October 30, 2015 WasteLAnd presented Study for Eurydice, a concert at Art Share LA in downtown Los Angeles. A nice Friday night crowd filled the restored industrial performance space for an evening of new music.

The first piece, Relay/Replay by Yiheng Yvonne Wu, featured Rachel Beetz on flute. A computer played recorded flute sounds through speakers mounted above the performance area. Relay/Replay began with a brief high-pitched tone from one of the speakers, answered in kind by the flute. A short silence followed and the sequence repeated. A pattern of call and answer continued and the electronic part gradually changed as the replies by the became more varied as if a conversation were occurring in a different language. A low trill from the flute was mimicked by similar sounds from the speaker, like birds calling back and forth. Towards the end of the piece there were sounds from both speakers that ultimately resolved into a low, pure tone. This was actually a recording of the flute – greatly slowed down – that added a mysterious feel. The flute passages that followed felt more organic and brighter by contrast. The low tone increased in volume, becoming dominant and more assertive as the piece ended. Relay/Replay is an intriguing combination of flute playing and electronic sounds derived from the flute, artfully uncovering both similarities and differences.

Susurrus by Panayiotis Kokoras for violin, cello and piano followed, beginning with a series of sharp rapping sounds from the players on their respective instruments. The result was a sort of unsettled clatter that was soon joined by the amplified strumming of strings inside the piano. There was an active and tense feel to all of this – there were no musical tones heard initially, but rather the rhythmic rattle of various extended percussive techniques. Eventually a sustained cello note was heard that slowly decreased in pitch and some piano strings were plucked to form identifiable notes. At one point the musicians voiced the sounds of rushing air using their breath and this added a remote, windswept feeling to the proceedings. Apart from a few notes heard now and then, there was no conventional melody, beat or regular rhythm and this gave an edgy, feral feel to the ensemble. The coordination between the players here was remarkable given how far this piece stands outside the bounds of conventional music. Susurrus is a journey that takes the listener past the limits of ordinary musical practice and into to new levels of expression.


Study for Eurydice, by Erik Ulman was next, performed by Mark Menzies on the violin. The opening passage was gently played and soft, ending with a quiet, questioning tone. This set the stage for the work and the gentle bowing by Menzies produced a continuous, low murmur of irregular phrases as the piece progressed. The dynamics never rose above a whisper and yet the tones seemed to decrease in volume even further as this unfolded. Menzies was able to deliver some impressively quiet passages without any loss of intonation or continuity, greatly focusing the concentration of the audience. More significantly, these very soft sounds were not simply a quieter version of normal violin playing but rather they assumed a unique character  –  we were hearing something completely new. At the end the sound diminished still further, becoming airy and insubstantial – like watching smoke rise and disperse into nothingness. Study for Eurydice takes us to that place where extremely quiet dynamics drastically alter our perception and hearing of the sound. A remarkable performance by Mark Menzies.

After an intermission the premiere of Sections 1-20 by Michelle Lou was heard and this consisted of electric guitar and amplified cello along with a wide array of foot pedals, buttons and pick-ups connected to each instrument. The adaptation to electronic processing was amazingly complete and the sounds rendered were wonderfully distant from the familiar. The opening notes by the guitar were a rapid series of quacks and clucks. This resulted from some sort of feedback or process effect – the movement of the fingers and hand on the strings was very slight. There was no regular rhythm or beat, but the sound seemed like unfold like conversation amongst a crowd and the words flew by in clusters of very fast notes. The guitar became a human interface for the electronics rather than for the playing of tones by hands and fingers on the strings. As the piece progressed the pitches got lower and the feeling became more industrial, as if a mechanical process was close by. The entrance of the cello added to this by creating a light tone that sounded like one of the higher harmonics of a rotating bearing. The guitar now added a low rumble, distant thunder in a mechanized landscape. This rumble morphed into a sustained roar as the cello emitted a series of high, ray-gun like bursts that gradually lowered in pitch creating the feel of combat or battle as the piece ended. Sections 1-20 takes the audience to new territory – the acoustic instrument as human electronic interface – and produces a completely new listening experience.

EurydiceThe concert concluded with Purple Quartz, by Timothy Harenda featuring bass flute, bass clarinet, cello, piano and vibraphone. This also included electronic processing and irregular passages and the players all were equipped with headsets or ear buds that provided a beat for coordination. Purple Quartz began with a flash of rapid notes with a pure, a bell-like quality from the domination of the vibraphone. The piece then proceeded in a series of fast, spiky passages that felt like being inside a box full of glass shards and metal fragments that was being shaken. The complex texture and surges of sound made for a vivid listening experience. Occasional piano notes were heard but this piece remained tense and anxious primarily because of the percussion and jagged nature of the phrasing. The tightness of the ensemble was impressive given the absence of any guiding beat. Purple Quartz is a strikingly expressive piece that is the product of imaginative writing and excellent playing.

The partnership of electronics and acoustic instruments continues forward and the pieces performed in this concert explored new modes of expression that combined excellence in performance and innovation in composition.

The performers for Study for Eurydice were:

Rachael Beetz, flute, bass flute
Mark Menzies, violin
Derek Stein, cello
Richard Valitutto, piano
Nicholas Deyoe, electric guitar
Brian Walsh, bass clarinet
Justin DeHart, vibraphone

Photos courtesy of Micki Davis,  Copilot Arts Documentation (used with permission)

21 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

On Thursday, October 22nd at the new downtown New York venue the Sheen Center, an acoustically generous and attractive performance space, we heard the second of three concerts presenting selections from Anthony de Mare’s ambitious commissioning project Liasons: Reimaginings of Sondheim from the Piano. De Mare has recorded the 36 commissioned pieces for ECM Records, which has released a generously annotated 3 CD set of them.

De Mare is an ideal advocate for this music. His touch at the piano is at turns muscular, dexterous, and tender, well able to encompass the many demeanors the commissioned composers adopted when interpreting Sondheim’s songs. De Mare’s experience as a teacher (at Manhattan School of Music) was on display as well. Abetted by brief video interviews with a few of the featured composers, he gave short explanations of each piece from the piano. For the students and devotees of musical theatre on hand, these explications were no doubt an invaluable introduction to a number of composers and an integral part of the experience. For those of us familiar with the classical composers commissioned for the project, there were a number of anecdotes and musical details that revealed intriguing pieces of information about the genesis of the programmed pieces and their creators’ interest in particular aspects of Sondheim’s work.

With such an embarrassment of riches on display, it is difficult to pick favorites. For me, Ricky Ian Gordon’s take on “Every Day A Little Death,” from A Little Night Music, was truly lovely, and it was given a nearly impossibly gentle rendition by De Mare. Nils Vigeland’s imaginative version of material from Merrily We Roll Along was a standout: compositionally well structured, balancing thematic transformation with retaining a sense of the title tune’s “hummable” character. Phil Kline took material from a lesser-known Sondheim musical, Pacific Overtures, and made “Someone in a Tree” an especially memorable offering. Nico Muhly’s “Color and Light,” from Sunday in the Park with George, gave De Mare a motoric, post-minimal workout. In “Birds from Victorian England,” based on material from Sweeney Todd, Jason Robert Brown had the pianist playing with three overdubbed instruments, while Rodney Sharman’s “Notes of Beautiful” from Sunday, judiciously included playing inside the piano.

De Mare plays the final concert of the Sondheim triptych at Symphony Space on November 19th. Based on his performance at the Sheen Center, it is a “can’t miss” event.

25 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

This past Saturday night, Kobacker Hall, on the campus of Bowling Green State University, came alive with the sounds of Jennifer Higdon’s compositions for wind ensemble and orchestra. The culminating performance of Bowling Green’s annual New Music festival, Saturday’s concert marked a rare opportunity to hear a program of large ensemble music focused on the works of a single living composer, and both Higdon, and her compositional craft, were aglow in the spotlight. As the featured guest composer of this, the 36th annual new music festival at BGSU, Higdon shared herself, and her music, with students are audiences in numerous performances, per-concert talks, and lectures. In a conversation during intermission, Kurt Doles, who directed the festival from his post as head of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, praised Higdon for her warmth and generosity as a guest, noting, “she has been a wonderful presence all week long.”

Me (left), Jennifer Higdon (center), and soprano Hillary LaBonte (right), who performed earlier in the festival, after Saturday’s large ensemble concert (photo credit: Carolina Heredia).

The concert’s program featured three works of Higdon’s, the flashy wind ensemble work Fanfare Ritmico, the virtuosic Oboe Concerto, and the absolutely masterful Violin Concerto, which earned Higdon the Pulitzer Prize five years ago. Each piece was terrific, thanks to the talents and hard work of Bowling Green’s students, faculty soloists Nermis Mieses (oboe) and Caroline Chin (violin), as well as wind ensemble director Bruce Moss and orchestra director Emily Freeman Brown. Chin, a new addition to BGSU’s school of music, also performed Carolina Heredia’s Dujarte Caer, for violin and and electronics, earlier in the afternoon, and could not have been more impressed with the quality of the festival’s other concerts. “All the performances were excellent,” Chin shared with me after the concert, in the midst of a stream of well-deserved congratulations from other audience members and players.

As much as Chin was the star of the evening (after all, she delivered a thrilling and dominant performance), her tour-de-force was made possible by the superlative quality of Higdon’s Violin Concerto. For me, the work hits every mark of a great concerto. The first movement is stunning and almost coy with the way in introduces the listener to Higdon’s design for the solo violin part, a destiny that unfolds in the most brilliant way in the successive movements. Empowered by the composer’s genius, Higdon’s Violin Concerto blends vibrant imagination, along the lines Jacob Druckman’s Viola Concerto, with stately grandeur, in the manner of Barber’s Violin Concerto, into a work that seems both modern and timeless. At a time when so many high-profile American composers are writing violin concerti, or works that pit violin soloists against a large ensemble, Higdon’s Violin Concerto represents, in my estimation, the undoubted gold standard (Kristin Kuster’s Two Jades, for violin and symphony band, is also extraordinary, though smaller in scale).

When Jennifer Higdon ascended to the stage to receive her standing ovation, and congratulate violinist Caroline Chin and conductor Emily Freeman Brown on a truly spectacular performance, it became clear to me that I had witnessed a very special event. Higdon’s music and the splendor of Bowling Green’s New Music Festival are both treasures in the landscape of American contemporary music. The University, Kurt Doles, and all the students and faculty members who made this year’s festival possible, all deserve to be heralded for their personal and institutional commitment to  this important tradition.

30 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

Dean Rosenthal is an east-coast composer, lecturer, and current co-editor of the wonderful online The Open Space contemporary music magazine. About a year ago, his friend Richard Skidmore suggested that Dean take his 2012 piece Stones/Water/Time/Breath and make a “pocketcard” from it. As the piece is verbal notation and so open to performers of all stripes, it seemed a nice thing to share with others as a kind of hand out. The card shows interpreters how to perform the piece at the water with stones, in a group or on their own.

Dean applied for a local grant and with the help of the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council created the cards and a site to go with them, and is encouraging anyone who performs it to document, register and share that performance at the site. With enough participation, it could be a lovely repository of a varied but collective meditation. So check out the site, download the score, and make what you will. Now you can be a stoner down by the lake, stream, river or ocean, and still do something productive!

30 days ago | |
| Read Full Story

Last night marked the launch of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams’ weeklong residency at the University of Michigan. Adams’ time in Ann Arbor, which will include performances as well as lectures on environmental advocacy, began with an evening of his chamber music at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The museum’s apse has been site of may memorable concerts over the years, but none may have taken advantage of this setting as well as yesterday’s program of Adams’ resonant and ravishing compositions. In one of the handful of interstitial interviews between Adams and University of Michigan Musicology Professor Mark Clague, the composer described his music as, “all about sound and space.” And, Adams later added, “I want to make strange and beautiful new places…make them empty, without my footprints in them…so the audience can find their way through them.”

From left to right: conductor Oriol Sans, composer John Luther Adams, conductor Jerry Blackstone (photo credit: Patrick Harlin)

From left to right: conductor Oriol Sans, composer John Luther Adams, conductor Jerry Blackstone (photo credit: Patrick Harlin)

The hundreds in attendance Monday night had a terrific opportunity to experience these characteristics in Adams’ works Strange Birds Passing, Dark Wind, The Farthest Place, In a Treeless Place, Only, and in four selections from his massive choral work Canticles of the Holy Wind. In between the pieces, Adams shared evocative and endearing anecdotes related each work’s origins. These included the revelation that the Strange Birds Passing was inspired by the paisley wallpaper decorating Adams’ Alaskan cabin’s refrigerator in the 1980s, or that the selected movements from Canticles of the Holy Wind reflect his more recent observations of parhelia and other celestial phenomena in the sky above the arctic and Mexico.

The concert’s program was, essentially, chronological, and enabled Adams to recount his sense of his growth as a composer. Fond of and familiar with his music, I listened for large-scale similarities and differences across the evening’s offerings. Certainly, The Farthest Place and Dark Wind – which Adams denoted as two of his, “color field pieces,” – work through deeply similar designs. The oldest piece, Strange Birds Passing, was the most overtly melodic composition, yet it evinced the same ambling, symmetrical form expressed by In a Treeless Place, Only Snow and Canticles of the Holy Wind. Altogether, Monday’s concert was a terrific aperitif to the culmination of Adams’ time in Ann Arbor: the University Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Become Ocean, which represents the work’s Midwest premiere. Even that piece, Adams’ most recent and celebrated, had ancestors of last evening’s program, as one could here embryos of Become Ocean in Dark Wind’s trembling opening.

In the end, as much as Adams’ music amazed, the setting of its performance was almost more stunning. At the very least – and as Adams admitted – the museum’s acoustics had as much a hand in the beauty of the evening’s performance as did the talented instrumentalists and vocalists of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, or Adam’s compositional artistry. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the concert was Adams’ willingness to collaborate with, and have his listeners’ experience so heavily influenced by, the space surrounding the performance. As Adam’s described, it seems he tries, in all his pieces, to remove himself as much as possible from the music, from the center of the audience’s attention. I think many composers aspire towards the humility needed to even consider this kind of rhetorical positioning, but few live in it like Adams seems to. And, though I doubt it is even possible for any composer to disappear fully from a listener’s experience of their music, Adams’ efforts to this end, like his compositions, are, indeed, superlative.

1 month ago | |
| Read Full Story
Photo Credit: Janette Beckmann Caption: Members of the Da Capo Chamber Players (Left to Right:) Curtis Macomber, violin, Patricia Spencer, flute, Jay Campbell, cello, Meighan Stoops, clarinet, Blair McMillen, piano

Photo Credit: Janette Beckmann
Members of the Da Capo Chamber Players
(Left to Right:) Curtis Macomber, violin, Patricia Spencer, flute, Jay Campbell, cello, Meighan Stoops, clarinet, Blair McMillen, piano

On Thursday October 1st, the Da Capo Chamber Players commemorate the hundredth anniversaries of two recently deceased American modernists: Milton Babbitt and George Perle. They will perform Babbitt’s When Shall We Meet Again and two works by Perle: Sonata a Quattro and Nightsong. David Fulmer, a Babbitt student, contributes the world premiere of Cadenza, a piece built out of his violin concerto’s hyper-virtuosic solo part. Rounding out the program are Jason Eckardt’s After Serra and Fred Lerdahl’s Times 3.

Though it is more modest in scope than other centennial tributes one can hear this season – particularly Juilliard’s Focus Festival, devoted entirely to Babbitt – the Da Capo event features several players who collaborated closely with Babbitt and Perle. Indeed, both of the Perle works were written for the ensemble. It promises to be an intimate evening filled with finely honed performances.

Thursday, October 1st at 8 PM
Merkin Concert Hall,
129 West 67th Street, NYC, NY

1 month ago | |
| Read Full Story

acf5-jeffsummersThe Los Angeles chapter of the American Composers  Forum (ACF-LA) held its annual meeting and concert over the weekend of September 11-12, 2015 at newly-refurbished Clausen Recital Hall on the campus of  Los Angeles City College in Hollywood. Many of the groups in Los Angeles doing new music participated, and the resulting concert was over three hours long, requiring two intermissions. The 200 seat venue was completely filled, mostly by performers and composers. The night before there was another ACF-LA concert by wildUp at REDCAT in Disney Hall, so in just a couple of evenings you could have enjoyed a good cross-section of the local new music scene.

The evening began with greetings from Jack Van Zandt, ACF-LA Chapter President and Dr. Christine Park, Chair of the Music Department at LACC. Each performing group also had a spokesperson give a short introduction about the music and goals of their respective organizations.

The first to present was People Inside Electronics and Brightwork newmusic came on stage to perform like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment, by Benjamin Broening. The electronic re-processing of the acoustic sounds from the Brightwork ensemble gave this a shiny, shimmering feel that contained some lovely tones. Silences between the passages allowed the electronics to deliver ghostly echoes that added to the ethereal feel. There was a beautiful flute solo and some bowing of the vibraphone bars that seemed to cast a spell. Benjamin Broening was present – as were most of the composers – and he acknowledged the applause and the fine reading by Brightwork.

The second piece presented by People Inside Electronics was Sad Trombone, by Isaac Schankler. The group gnarwhallaby was on hand in their trademark black coveralls to reprise this work, having premiered it in March of this year. This is a trombone concerto that includes piano, clarinet and cello in addition to reprocessing electronics. Sad Trombone is a fearsome combination, with dark textures, piano crashes, lively syncopated tempos and primal trombone sounds supplied by Matt Barbier. All of this is taken into the microphones, reprocessed, amplified, and returned to the speakers mounted over the stage. The result was a powerful, complex sound that washed over the audience in great waves. The ensemble playing was excellent given the difficulty of the music and the strong presence coming from the speakers. The energy and power in Sad Trombone and the muscular playing by gnarwhallaby was enthusiastically acknowledged by the audience.

WastLAnd followed and their first offering was Invisibility for solo cello by Liza Lim and performed by Ashley Walters who began playing this piece with the hair of the cello bow wound around the shaft. This produced a raspy, complex sound, yet one that always seemed under control. The coarse texture and the rough, scratchy sounds gave a characteristically gritty feel to this. Midway through, a conventional bow was substituted by Ms. Walters and the sounds became smoother and more purely musical while still retaining the complexity of the opening. The tempo slowed and the sound became a bit thinner and then Ms. Walters began playing with both bows at the same time on the open strings. The combination of rough and smooth textures was very engaging and the audience cheered this remarkable display of virtuosity as Invisibility concluded.

Soprano Stephanie Aston followed to sing Dithyramb (from Tongues) by Jason Eckardt and this began with a series of high notes in vocalise and then a roller-coaster series of pitches. Clicks, chirps, clucking, word fragments and hissing sounds were heard and these were combined with pure musical tones . It was as if some foreign language was being used in an attempt to communicate. The rapid shifting between vocal sounds and musical pitches was deftly handled by Ms. Aston, who displayed exceptional focus in this challenging piece.

The talents of Stephanie Aston and Ashley Walters were combined in Hin und Weg by Brigetta Muntendorf. This piece included a wide variety of extended techniques on cello with a complicated mixture of pitches, vocalized sounds, German words and short phrases in the voice. The result was a complex sound that achieved a surprisingly even balance between cello and voice. The communication between Ms. Aston and Ms. Walters was impressive and there was a fine precision in the ensemble as the rapid, rhythmic passages unfolded. Hin und Weg proved to be an excellent showcase for these two fine artists.

Pacific Serenades was next and performed Batik, a piece for piano and violin by Mark Carlson inspired by an immigrant’s story of coming to the United States from Indonesia. The violin was played by Tereza Stanislav with Aron Kallay at the piano. This piece consisted of two movements and the first, Waves, began with a low, elegant tone in the violin and a dark undercurrent of arpeggios from the piano. A sense of the unknown was present in this and at times there was a sense of danger and drama as well. The piano was in a supporting role here and the violin writing was extraordinary for the range and intensity of emotions that were touched. The second movement, The Homeward Heart, began more optimistically with a bright sunny piano riff. A mournful feeling, however, was heard in the violin that suggested homesickness with a touch of bittersweet sadness. The violin part was again very powerful and moving, reminding us how much emotion can be extracted from this most empathetic of musical instruments.

Synchromy was up next and they offered several varied works. The first of these was Five oh Won See 3, by Jason Barabba. This was an inventive piece that consisted of the dry, legalistic text of Synchromy’s 501c official non-profit status acceptance letter set to music. Scott Graff provided the clever baritone vocals with Aron Kallay on piano and Nick Terry on various and sundry percussion. This playfully entertaining piece was a nice interlude from the serious music of the evening and great fun for the audience.

Subtone by John Franzen followed and this featured the recorded sounds of what seemed to be a subway line, complete with the roar of heavy machinery, flowing water and the squeal of brakes. This created a sense of powerful movement against which Brian Walsh’s clarinet wove tones in and out of the electronic tracks – the clarinet phrases seemed to be making a commentary on the background rumble. Gradually a voice emerged from the jumble of industrial sounds, sounding chillingly like a train announcement: “We cannot contract out of humanity” – and the piece ended. Subtone is a fervent editorial against the hyper-mechanization of our daily life.

The Nap Dragon by Kenji Oh was next and this was scored for flute. clarinet, violin and cello. This had an open, organic feel and motion in the strings with bright sounds in the woodwinds. The summery, sunny sense of this piece made for a good contrast with Subtone. Mbira, a piano piece by Vera Ivanova followed and this featured a mysterious, repeating phrase that had a slightly sinister feel. Close harmony, mesmerizing rhythms and an active melody added to the Halloween feel. Aron Kallay, whose workload in this concert seemed only to grow, performed in his usual solid fashion.

Quiet Harbor by Nick Norton followed and this was also scored for flute clarinet, violin and cello. This opened with pizzicato notes in the cello and a high, piercing dissonance in the woodwinds. A series of violin passages imposed a certain calmness and melancholy that was complimented by a solid bass clarinet line. The eclectic mix of timbres was solidly orchestrated and there was a nice tutti passage that sounded faintly Coplandesque. Quiet Harbor proved to be a smooth and elegant anchorage.

The Salastina Music Society presented one of the more interesting compositions of the evening, String Quartet, by Reena Esmail. Brian Lauritzen of radio station KUSC introduced this music which was four movements of classical Indian ragas as played by the standard western string quartet. Each of the traditional ragas – or scales – were sung prior to each movement and the string quartet followed with a sort of prelude based on the tones. As the sections progressed, more complex interpretations evolved and the sound at times was reminiscent of early 20th century music. The use of the western string quartet was a brilliant stroke – traditional Indian instruments can make this music sound so exotic that it can be hard for the uninitiated to absorb. Coming through the familiar lens of violins, viola and cello however, it is clearer to westerners how subtle and sophisticated this music can be.

The final presentation of this long evening was from Tuesdays@Monk Space . Endangered Voices: Wayaná Songs by Jason Heath was performed by Brightwork newmusic. This piece featured woodwinds, strings, piano and percussion that was activated by sounds sensed by a transducer that seemed to be filled with liquid. As drum brushes were rotated around the sensor, the unattended snare drum suddenly erupted in a rapid roll. The other instruments added a remote, exotic feel and as the piece progressed it was as if the percussionist had become a magician, activating the snare and other drums by gestures and movements, seemingly out of thin air. This created a convincing sense of mystery as if we were journeying through an exotic and magical landscape. Endangered Voices: Wayaná Songs is an intriguing example of the contribution interactive instruments will make in the future of new music.

The American Composers Forum concert was a convivial and festive event that brought together those who are most active in new music in Los Angeles. It was a way for each organization to preview their coming season and add to the critical creative mass here on the West Coast.

Performing in the ACF concert were:

Brightwork newmusic
Sara Andon, flute
Brian Walsh, clarinet
Nick Terry, percussion
Aron Kallay, piano
Tereza Stanislav, violin
Roger Lebow, cello

Brian Walsh, clarinet
Matt Barbier, trombone
Richard Valitutto, piano
Derek Stein, cello

Stephanie Aston, soprano
Ashley Walters, cello

Salastina Music Society
Kevin Kumar, violin
Mala Jasper, violin
Rob Brophy, viola
Peter Meyers, cello

Guest Artist
Scott Graff, baritone

Photo by Jeff Summers (used with permission)

2 months ago | |
| Read Full Story

southland1On Friday September 11, 2015, the Curve Line Space Gallery  in Eagle Rock was the venue for a concert titled Collaborations 1.1 featuring the works of Gerhard Stäbler and Kunsu Shim as performed by members of the Southland Ensemble. Stäbler and Shim, German experimental composers, are on a three-city tour of the US, sponsored in part by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and the Goethe Institute. Seven pieces composed between 1986 and 2007 were presented, ranging from conceptual works to those with graphical scores and standard notation. The warm evening and exquisite acrylic paintings by Sue Tuemmler complimented the amiable atmosphere present in the audience and the gallery.

The first piece was by Kunsu Shim In Zwei Teilen – I, and this was performed by violin, viola, cello and recorder. The first notes were barely audible – a light, high arco sound from the cello followed by about a minute of silence. A short chord from the strings and recorder was heard and then another long, soft tone from the cello. The combination of quiet sounds and long silences worked to focus the listening and the result was a sense of keen anticipation. More hushed tones from the cello followed and with a pleasantly dissonant final chord from the strings and recorder, the piece concluded.

Hart Auf Hart by Gerhard Stäbler was next and this had several performers scattered around the floor with portable radios and a graphical score consisting of bar codes overlaid by a grid of numbered coordinates. A series of numbers and letters were called out – much like a bingo game – the performers consulted their scores, and some began tuning their radios. The tuning proceeded fairly rapidly, and short bursts of voices and music were heard as well as loud static. The voices coming from the radios were fragmentary and did not add any sort of narrative. For some performers the score indicated silence, and the radio was turned off. The piece continued in this way, coordinates were called out at intervals and radio sounds were heard coming from different corners of the performance space. All of this produced an interesting texture, if not any definite form. The changing patterns and locations of the sounds produced an intriguing sense of space and movement for the stationary listener. Towards the end of the piece, the performers gathered around an open microphone and all of the radio sounds were now projected from a single speaker, flattening the previous sensations of distance and location. With a burst of loud sounds and static the piece suddenly ended.

The third piece on the program was Gerhard Stäbler’s ]and on the eyes black sheep of night[ for piccolo, clarinet and violin. This was a conventionally notated piece that began with a dissonant tutti chord and gave off a feeling of remote loneliness. The piccolo played two alternating high notes and the others joined in similarly in their registers. The effect was like listening to a clockwork oscillating back and forth with a sort of familiar regularity. The coloring became more intense, adding a bit of anxiety. A sudden and almost painfully loud dissonant chord in the violin and piccolo disrupted the calm and captured everyone’s attention. There was a brief return to the more gentle feeling, but ]and on the eyes black sheep of night[ ended on a second tense chord as if to underline the journey from the comfortable to the anxious.

Luftrand, by Kunsu Shim, followed and this was for violin, viola and cello. Soft, muffled tones – almost a whisper – were heard, followed by silence. The players began each passage together and the quiet chords had a mysterious and secretive feel. Everything was soft and tentative, with never a strong bowing action or loud note. The players exhibited good ensemble and a soft touch to produce the delicate sounds that felt like a series of quiet sighs. Midway through, the string tension on each instrument was reduced and this produced a new sound – less purely musical perhaps, but more evocative. The now-lower notes seemed to be enveloped in a thick fog that greatly added to the mystery. Luftrand with its subtle, muted tones invites a deeper and more rewarding concentration from the listener.

In contrast to the quite stillness of Luftrand, Happy for No Reason, also by Kunsu Shim, began with a loud series of excited shouts, thumps and crashes as six performers moved about the gallery space throwing objects, screaming and otherwise creating a wild commotion. These outbursts occurred in episodes followed by period of silence. At length soft, sustained tones from the cello, violin and recorder were heard and these had a warmly optimistic and comforting feel after the preceding tumult. One of the performers slowly uncoiled a roll of masking tape about waist-high through the performance space so that it crossed the room and connected two of the players. One of the string players began bowing an empty soup can and this produced a very intriguing sound in combination with the others. The quiet, mystical feel of the second half of Happy for No Reason was prepared and intensified by the noisy prelude and provided a valuable object lesson in listening psychology.

X (February ’94) by Gerhard Stäbler followed and this began with four performers sitting on the floor surrounded by a series of articles that were either fasteners or closures. Items such as a stapler, a roll of shipping tape, various pieces of clothing with buttons, laces or zippers and other such objects were at hand – a stopwatch timer was used to begin. At certain times, dice were rolled by the performers and, depending on the outcome, a list was consulted and a task utilizing the fasteners and closures was begun. Sometimes the dice indicated no action and a performer would remain still. Typically three of the four would be engaged with their objects while the fourth was unoccupied. There were no musical tones, per se, but the sounds and bustle of the various articles and activities produced a continuous, if irregular, rhythm. Watching all this was mildly engaging, as almost any sort of physical activity can be, and at times the tempo of the hands and objects increased or slowed down. Eventually all of the activity ceased and the performers gathered up the items and made their exit. Overall it seemed that while there was constant activity, it did not seem particularly purposeful, prideful or creative – but at the same time it looked a lot like what many of us do every day. Perhaps this was the metaphor and the message.

The final piece of the program was In Zwei Teilen – 2, by Kunsu Shim, an extension of the opening piece of the concert. This had a similar feel with soft, simple chords followed by a period of silence. At one point the the flute produced a low whistling sound that added a haunting feel. The strings added a gentle, comforting sound and with a sustained note from the recorder the piece concluded.

This concert was an edifying experience in the uses of contrast in performance practice. The contrasts between loud, soft and silence, between the overt and the subtle or between agitation and serenity that occurred throughout these pieces sharpen the perceptions of the listener and open new ways to apprehend the composer’s intentions.

The Southland Ensemble continues to bring important new perspectives to the Los Angeles new music scene through concerts such as this.

The Southland Ensemble is:
Casey Anderson
Jennifer Bewerse
Eric KM Clark
Orin Hildestad
James Klopfleisch
Jonathan Stehney
Cassia Streb
Christine Tavolacci

The next performance by the Southland Ensemble will be Friday, September 25 featuring work of contemporary British composers Howard Skempton, Laurence Crane and Sarah Hughes at Automata in Chinatown.

2 months ago | |
| Read Full Story
1 - 10  | 123456789 next