Friday, March 28, 2014

Well, it's been a while . . . but WE ARE BACK! We know that hundreds of people each month visit the Pytheas Center's website, and we thank all our supporters and visitors, composers and performers, and the whole new music community for making the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music a reality. Now, back to the music . . .

According to composer Dmitri Tymoczko, "When I was young, my parents found a small table made from a printer's typecase, divided into a hundred little compartments meant to contain metal casts of the letters of the alphabet. Each of the little compartments had been filled with a unique mineralogical treasure—a strange crystal, a piece of iron pyrite, a shark’s tooth, or a fossilized trilobyte. I used to stare and stare at this cabinet of wonders, amazed by the sheer variety of its contents, and overjoyed that we had an actual shark’s tooth in our very own house. In thinking about how to capture these memories, I hit on the idea of a collection of little movements, each complete in itself, but producing a sense of form through their juxtaposition. Most of the seven movements are just about two minutes long, just enough to make a relatively coherent artistic statement, but not long enough to sustain much development. I tried to weave the movements together in a way that created a larger trajectory of energy and mood and texture, building structure in an intuitive and associative way, without much recourse to explicit recapitulation. "Russian Metal" reflects my sense that there is an affinity between Russian modernism and heavy metal, both of which favor a darkened ("more minor than minor") harmonic palette. Unable to shake the image of Shostakovich orchestrating Black Sabbath, I decided to exorcise my demons by writing them down". Watch a performance of Dmitri Tymoczko's Russian Metal" from his "Typecase Treasury" (2010) played by the Amernet String Quartet . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Albert Schnelzer is appreciated by musicians for his inventiveness, his personal tonal language as well as his idiomatic but at the same time deeply original way of writing. His music is outgoing and openly communicative, sometimes minimalistic, at times even dance-like. His musical influences comes from widely differing styles such as Stravinsky, Iron Maiden and Balkan music, but there is also room for fragile and lyrically expressive moments. Furthermore Schnelzer has been greatly influenced by literature. For instance his Symphony No. 1 – Azraeel, his second string quartet Emperor Akbar and the oboe concerto The Enchanter were all inspired by Salman Rushdie’s books. During the past few years Schnelzer has scored successes with his chamber as well as his orchestral music. The concert opening piece A Freak in Burbank has been especially successful and is frequently performed. It received its UK Premiere at the Proms in August 2010. The oboe concerto The Enchanter was premiered, also in 2010, to great critical acclaim with French virtuso Francois Leleux as soloist. His collaboration with The Brodsky Quartet, for which he composed Emperor Akbar, has also attracted a great deal of attention. Next in the pipeline is the world premiere of his cello concert Crazy Diamond in December 2011 composed for Claes Gunnarsson on commission by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Future commissions include a Violin Concerto for Hugo Ticciati to be premiered in London in spring 2012, and a joint commission between the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Swedish Radio SO for the season 2012/2013. Hear a performance of Albert Schnelzer's "A Freak in Burbank" (2007) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

According to Peter Bates (@ Audiophile Audition), "I have been listening to Judith Zaimont for fifteen years, when her Zones CD was released on the Arabesque label. I saw her then, as now, as a master of the chamber music form, able to pull delight out of the unexpected". Her String Quartet (subtitled “The Figure”), demonstrates this by starting in one direction and, rather than following it in an expected way, abruptly turns right or left when least expected. 'The Figure' is divided into two movements of equal length, 'In Shadow' and 'In Bright Light'. The subtitle refers to a three-part figure at the beginning of the work which gives rise to all the other material. The first movement is the more dramatic, the second the more lyrical, but otherwise both sections are fairly similar, by turn ruminative and vivacious, in both cases darker and less contrastive than the section titles indicate, but no less productive for it. Performing Zaimont's works is the Harlem Quartet, with the help of pianist Awadagin Pratt. The Harlem Quartet has advanced diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Their mission to share their passion with a wider audience has taken them around the world; from a 2009 performance at The White House for President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, to a highly successful tour of South Africa in 2012, and numerous venues in between. The musically versatile ensemble has performed with such distinguished performers as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Fred Sherry, Misha Dicter, Jeremy Denk, and Paquito D’Rivera. Their most recent recording, Hot House, with jazz master Chick Corea and percussionist Gary Burton was a 2013 multi-Grammy Award winner. Listen to the Harlem Quartet perform Judith Zaimont's "String Quartet - The Figure" (2007) . . . it's our Pytheas FEATURED NEW MUSIC RECORDING.

Jeremy Siskind (@ Miscellany from a Siskind) writes, "Miriam Gideon’s 'Of Shadows Numberless' takes its title from a phrase in John Keats’ poem, 'Ode to a Nightingale', and each of its six movements, likewise, draws inspiration from a phrase in Keats’ work. 'Ode to a Nightingale' addresses the popular Romantic trope of a bird as an idealized version of a poet, a version who – according to Shelley’s analogous work, 'To a Skylark' – 'pourest [his] full heart in profuse strains of unpremeditated art.' Keats’ poem focuses on the bird-poet dichotomy by following the fanciful journey of a depressed subject who is thrown into further despair when confronted with the unreachable beauty of the nightingale’s “plaintive anthem.” Gideon's 'Of Shadows Numberless,' like the poem, is full of shadows and mazes. Whereas Keats writes of “verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways,” and “fad[ing] away into the forest dim,” Gideon writes dense, dark music filled with half-step, major seventh, and minor ninth relationships, crowded clusters, and incessantly mumbling inner voices. Although the melodies are tuneful and usually simple, Gideon often includes some oddity in the phrasing or intervallic structure that makes the tune feel just out of reach, transported a step beyond the realm of ordinary music. Listen to a performance of Miriam Gideon's "Of Shadows Numberless" (1966) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The fifth annual Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival takes place this weekend at the Portland Conservatory of Music, located in the Woodfords Congregational Church at 202 Woodford St., Portland, Maine. This year there will be five concerts and a composer's rountable discussion: Friday, April 12th, 7:00pm - The first concert in the Festival features new music by Maine composers Gia Comolli, Beth Wiemann, William Matthews, PCM Assistant Director Mark Tipton, and a work by Mark Piszczek of Peterborough, NH; Saturday, April 13th, 1:00pm Lecture/Performance - Bowdoin College Professor Vineet Shende, Guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan, and the Oratorio Chorale join forces to present a preview of Pravasa: Travels of the Guitar, a new work by Vineet Shende commissioned by the Oratorio Chorale; Saturday, April 13th, 3:00pm Student Concert - PCM students will perform contemporary music by professional composers as well as compositions of their own; Saturday, April 13th, 7:00pm Concert - This concert will highlight the festival’s Featured Composer, John McDonald, performing selections from his recent piano music. Other composers whose work will be presented on this program include: Elliott Schwartz, Joshua DeScherer, Daniel Sonenberg, and Joshua Newton; Sunday, April 14th, 3:00pm Composer's Roundtable - A roundtable discussion will be presented, during which time a representative panel of composers from the festival will discuss their work. Also being discussed will be the topic: The World of Contemporary Music and Musicians in 2013; Sunday, April 14th, 7:00pm Final Concert - Featured Composer John McDonald will be joined by Flautist Elizabeth Erenberg to perform selections from his compositions for flute and piano. This program also features the USM Composer’s Ensemble, and chamber works by composers Peter McLaughlin, Abriel Ferreira, Gay Pearson, and Joshua DeScherer. For more information, please call 775-3356 . . .

Luigi Nono achieved prominence after World War II as an uncompromising modernist seeking to revolutionize music in Europe. Along with fellow Italians Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna, Nono attended the influential Darmstadt Summer Courses and became associated with other young modernists such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In many ways, Nono was the most radical of them all, choosing to combine a keen political engagement with a musical orientation that mixes austere beauty with fierce intensity. Watch a performance of Luigi Nono's . . . sofferte onde serene (1976) played by pianist Markus Hinterhäuser . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Manuel de Falla composed the Fantasia bætica in 1919, at the close of his second Madrid period. It was commissioned by and dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein. The abstract, large-scale work is a celebration of Andalusian culture and history, but not an historical evocation. Its influences draw from Falla's knowledge and experience of the the flamenco culture that evolved in Andalusia. Provinicia Baetica was the old Roman name for Andalusia and so a translation of the title might be "Andalusian Fantasy."  Although the materials used are original with Falla, they strongly evoke the folk music of southern Spain: the strident, sombre cante jondo sung in oriental-sounding scales, chords derived from guitar tunings, and a harsh percussive quality reminiscent of castanets and heel stamping. The tonal originality of the Baetica is a result of Gypsy, 'Middle Eastern', Sephardic, Indian and subtle French influences woven into the harmonic language [notes by Paul Jacobs]  . . . it's one of this week's PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Welsh born (and now upstate-New York based) Hilary Tann writes of her piece Shakkei (2007): "Shakkei, a term used in Japanese landscape design, means 'borrowed scenery.' Two well-known examples of shakkei underlie my piece. The first movement, marked slow and spacious, is inspired by Mount Hiei as viewed from Shoden-ji, a temple with a dry landscape garden. The second movement, marked leggiero, is inspired by the hills of Arashiyama as viewed from Tenryu-ji, a temple with a lush stroll garden. In musical terms, the sparse landscape of the first movement is complemented by an 'overgrown' second movement. In both movements I could not resist lightly 'borrowing' from Debussy’s Nuages, since the idea of borrowing was part of the identity of the piece and an English horn was at hand." Watch at performance of Hilary Tann's Shakkei (2007) played by alto saxophonist Susan Fancher (the work was originally written for oboe solo) and the Thailand Philharmonic conducted by Allan McMurray . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

In 2009 the percussion ensemble Tambuco collaborated with visual artist Kevork Mourad in a work they called Pencils. Members of Tambuco share some of their thoughts on the project: "Of the instruments that we regularly hear when we attend a concert, we found that percussion instruments are certainly those whose visual appeal gives them added value. Modern percussionists attribute the success of their performances in a way similar to sound artists who explore  musical ideas via the combinations of sounds, colors and textures, often not written down, while accompanied by the great visual presence and appeal that percussion instruments generate in such a scenario. Listeners are often fascinated by this type of experience, and percussionists strive to discover the best ways to utilize the shapes, sizes, materials, sticks, etc. capable of producing such a wide variety of sounds. We can say, then, that a percussion concert becomes a powerful visual and auditory experience." Kevork Mourad has developed a special technique of spontaneous painting, in which he shares the stage with Tambuco, creating his artwork in counterpoint to their music. Using acrylic paint, he draws images that are projected onto a large screen behind the musicians. The result is spectacular: the narrative aspect of the music grows, reinforced by the strength of the plastic elements created. The opportunity to see an artist like Kevork Mourad performing on stage, watching his approach to painting, his strokes, producing images and textures, makes us think that his work as a scenic artist is very similar to a musician, who similarly prepares textures, long lines, colored with different forms of attack and dynamic, in an exposition, development and conclusion. Watch a performance of Pencils (2009) with Tambuco and Kevork Mourad . . . it's our SOUND ART for the week.

Conlon Nancarrow was an iconoclastic American composer who wrote in an utterly new way using new instrumental resources. While isolated from the main currents of music, he was virtually ignored by the public and his colleagues until the 1970s. He is primarily known for his 50 studies for player piano, which combine a quasi-improvisatory likening to jazz pianists Art Tatum and Earl Hines, with dazzling rhythmic complexity rendered at tempos that exceed the capabilities of human performers. Nancarrow adopted the player piano as his instrument of choice because of its ability to exactingly reproduce his complex rhythmic layers -- sometimes up to 12 layers simultaneously -- and because of his relative isolation from performers while living in Mexico. Composed in 1986, Nancarrow's Piece No. 2 for Small Orchestra begins with an enthusiastic, bright, but stumbling, march tempo, followed by various stops and starts, interruptions, jazzy pizzicato bass lines, a coquettish oboe solo, and a very tenuous bassoon and trombone duet. The music gradually tries to reassemble itself by drawing together fragments in multiple tempi; and though not quite succeeding, it does recreate a new body that seems satisfied enough to proceed with a strong ending cadence. A delightful piece and an interesting extension of Nancarrow's rhythmic compositional procedures he employs in his works for player piano [notes thanks to]. Listen to performance of Nancarrow's Piece No. 2 for Small Orchestra played by the ensemble Continuum . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

London born Cecilia McDowall has been described by the International Record Review as having "a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music." Often inspired by extra-musical influences, her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism and is, at times, intensely moving. She has won many awards as well as being short-listed for the 2005 and 2008 British Composer Awards. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide. She is currently composer-in-residence at Dulwich College School, and is an Oxford University Press composer. Watch a performance of Cecilia McDowall Now May We Singen (2007) by The Virginia Chorale . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

During 2012 Scottish born composer Anna Meredith wrote HandsFree as a PRS/RPS 20x12 Commission for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. It was performed by them at the BBC Proms, Barbican Centre and Symphony Hall as well as numerous flashmob performances around the UK. Meredith's HandsFree showcases the National Youth Orchestra in an unusual situation - performing with no instruments at all. The piece reveals the talented teenagers' audacious musicianship and virtuosity through beat boxing, singing, body percussion and clapping. According to The Guardian, “Pitched somewhere between classical and performance art, HandsFree is essentially a work about body percussion, fantastically planned and choreographed. The players clap, stamp, shuffle, shout and sing. The rhythmic sound patterns are mirrored by platform routines of considerable complexity. Meredith throws in a few Ligeti-like ululations to form points of stasis or relaxation, but the overwhelming impression is one of mounting exhilaration..” Watch a performance of Anna Meredith’s HandsFree (2012) by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Elizabeth Brown combines a successful composing career with an extremely diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her chamber music, shaped by this unique group of instruments and experiences, has been called luminous, dreamlike and hallucinatory. After hearing the instrument on a concert tour of Japan, Brown began studying shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute) in 1984 and its music has been a major influence on her musical language. She is celebrated both here and in Japan for her compositions combining eastern and western sensibilities. In her piece Seahorse, written in 2009, Brown “traces the activities and dreams of a typical seahorse. A solo theremin swims in an ocean of Partch instruments [a harmonic canon, guitar, chromolodeon, diamond marimba, bass marimba, juststrokerods, and a zoomoozophone].” Seahorse was dedicated to Dean Drummond and commissioned by Montclair State University for its Harry Partch Ensemble. Listen to a performance of Elizabeth Brown’s Seahorse (2009) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Of all Pierre Boulez's works, only Le Marteau sans maître (1953-55) has achieved worldwide recognition as a modern masterpiece, partly because of the praise lavished on it by fellow composers and critics, but also because the public responded to the piece with uncommon openness to its rarefied expression and fascination with its fresh timbral palette. The work was choreographed in 1973 by Maurice Béjart, who wrote “Le Marteau sans maître is an abstract work based solely on the relationship between the musical score and motion. Six musicians and a singer on stage find their match in the person of six dancers and a ballerina. The counting geometry does not yet lyrical without underlying metaphysical and extensions. But it is the public to interpret the symbols and build a path through the universe of shapes and sounds. The choreographic style is a symbiosis between test sequences by conventional successive series of precise mathematical and non traditional aesthetic and metaphysical movements inspired by the Far East also reworked material as serial.” Watch a performance of the dance version of Le marteau sans maître with Béjart Ballet Lausanne . . . it's this week's DANSES PYTHEUSES.

Jacob Druckman's Reflections On The Nature Of Water (1986) for solo marimba was commissioned by William Moersch, a champion of solo marimba music, the man responsible for commissioning much of the American repertoire for the instrument. Druckman used Reflections On The Nature Of Water as an homage to Claude Debussy, whose Preludes had inspired the young Druckman, and whose own piece Reflections In the Water (from the Images, Book One/1905) was inspired by Monet's painting Reflections on Water. Druckman likewise paints the musical text for the listener by titling each of the work's six pieces: Crystalline, with its thematic material, paints a picture of a change in the water's consistency; Fleet, quick of pace, with sharp interruptions punctuating and disrupting the flow of the piece with a calculated persistence; Tranquil, a pulsating, almost hypnotic and meditative entity of its own, this music has a sustained and forward-moving quality; Gently Swelling offers a different style in its spirited dancing - graced with splashes of new color and timbre, yet it remains constant in its motion; Profound, returning the entire work to a level of stately depth and consciousness, the music suggests a definite complexity within a mask of simplicity; and finally, Relentless, somewhat reminiscent of the music in Gently Swelling, here Druckman concludes his exploration of a new, romanticized Impressionism [notes thanks to David Brensilver/All Music Guide]. Watch a performance of Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water (1986) played by Tomasz Kowalczyky . . . it's this week's BANG, CLANG and BEAT - New Music for Percussion.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Born in a church tower in the village of Polička in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands, Bohuslav Martinů began violin lessons aged 7 and was sent to the Prague Conservatory, funded by the Polička villagers. In 1923 he moved to Paris to study, and stayed for 17 years, absorbing the avant-garde as well as jazz influences. He fled Paris for the USA following the German invasion of 1940, taking up teaching posts at Tanglewood and at Princeton University. Settling in New York, he was championed by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Martinů's prolific output of over 400 works crosses all genres – from piano solo to opera, from chamber music to ballet and film music – and his unclassifiable style has contributed to his works falling into neglect. Among his masterpieces is the cantata The Epic of Gilgamesh (1955) and the operas Julietta (1938) and The Greek Passion (1959). Also among his most significant works is the Piano Concerto No. 4,  (1956), subtitled "Incantation". The work is in two movements and the subtitle of the work definitely guides us through this fantastic, incantatory music. Martinů wrote program notes to his Sixth Symphony (subtitled "Fantaisies symphoniques") and his thoughts surely hold true for the Piano Concerto No. 4: "I wished to write something for Charles Munch (conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra). I … like his spontaneous approach to the music where music takes shape in a free way, flowing and freely following its movements." Watch a thrilling performance of Bohuslav  Martinů's Piano Concerto No. 4 (1956), "Incantation" played by pianist Ivo Kahanek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting  . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

The career of Joseph Schwantner is perhaps as prestigious as that of any living American composer at the turn of the twenty-first century. Although trained in the high-serialist school, the mid-1970s saw Schwantner abandon that style in favor of a distinctly coloristic, harmonically rich, but solidly tonal (albeit often "pantonal") sound. His voice throughout the 1970s and 1980s is often characterized by rich, dark brass scoring, lurching polyrhythms, and mesmerizing ostinati. One favorite technique is the employment of "ringing sonorities," or sounds that are articulated loudly then suppressed and sustained. These sounds resonate with Schwantner's evocative titles like From a Dark Millennium (1980), Aftertones of Infinity (1978), and Wild Angels of the Open Hills (1978). His timbral palette is further enhanced by the use of nontraditional instruments like crystal glasses, water gongs, and bowed cymbals. Schwantner's style in the 1990s combined occasional excursions into disorienting atonal and vaguely serialist areas with weighty and often overpowering tonal blocks, and continued to explore new timbres. His honors include a Pulitzer Prize (1979), a Guggenheim Fellowship, and no less than six Composers Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Hear the interview Joseph Schwantner made for the Ford Foundation's "Made in America" commission series - Made in America Interview (or check here). . . it's this week COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Mario Verandi is an Argentinean born composer, sound and media artist. He primarily works with new technologies as an aid to exploring and expanding the boundaries of sound, space, perception and meaning. A distinct characteristic of his work has been the exploration of the poetic and evocative potential of concrete and environmental sounds and their incorporation in sound compositions, audiovisual installations, live performances and radio art pieces. His works have received prizes and awards in the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France), Musica Nova Competition (Prague), CIEJ Electronic Music Awards (Barcelona), Prix Ars Electronica (Linz), Stockholm Electronic Art Awards (Sweden), SGAE Electroacoustic Music Competition (Spain) and the European Bell Days Composition Prize (ZKM, Karlsruhe). He has a long-standing interest in interdisciplinary projects and as a result has created music and sound designs for art installations, dance, theatre, films and the radio. Verandi has collaborated among others with the American visual artist Catherine Ferguson, German choreographer Helge Musial, Polish theater director Grazyna Kania, German film-maker Harun Farocki, German visual artist Corinna Rosteck, Berlin-based visual artitst Lillevan and Russian visual artists Igor and Svetlana Kopystianski. Listen to Mario Verandi's electroacoutic work Prague - Imaginary Fragments (2006) . . . it's our SOUND ART for the week.

Anna Meredith is a composer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. Meredith's music has been performed everywhere from the Last Night of the Proms to flashmob performances in the M6 Services, Soundwave Festival to London Fashion Week, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to the Ether Festival, and broadcast on Radio 1, 3, 4 & 6 She has been Composer in Residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, RPS/PRS Composer in the House with Sinfonia ViVA, the classical music representative for the 2009 South Bank Show Breakthrough Award and winner of the 2010 Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers. During 2012 Meredith wrote HandsFree as a PRS/RPS 20x12 Commission for the National Youth Orchestra which was performed at the BBC Proms, Barbican Centre and Symphony Hall as well as numerous flashmob performances around the UK. Her debut EP - Black Prince Fury was released on Moshi Moshi records to critical acclaim including Drowned in Sound's Single of the Year. Listen to Anna Meredith's Nautilus (2012) (part of that debut EP) . . . one of our PTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

 Composer Gareth Farr was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Farr studied composition and percussion performance at Auckland University, Victoria University of Wellington and at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where his teachers included Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse. Farr's music is particularly influenced by his extensive study of percussion, both Western and non-Western. Rhythmic elements of his compositions can be linked to the complex and exciting rhythms of Rarotongan log drum ensembles, Balinese gamelan and other percussion music of the Pacific Rim. In addition to his music for the concert chamber, Farr has written music for dance, theatre and television. Talking about the Bali movement from his piece Kembang Suling, Farr writes, "On the magical island of Bali, flowing gamelan melodies intertwine with the sound of the 'suling' (Balinese bamboo flute) to form rich colourful tapestries. The marimba and flute start out as one, their sounds indistinguishable. Bit by bit the flute asserts its independence, straying further and further from the marimba melody. An argument ensues – but all is resolved at the climax".  Listen to a performance of Gareth Farr's Kembang Suling (1995) played by Patricia and Greg Zuber . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Choreographer Hans van Manen began his career in 1951 as a member of Sonia Gaskell's Ballet Recital. In 1952 he joined the Nederlandse Opera Ballet, where he created his first ballet, Feestgericht (1957). Later he joined Roland Petit's company in Paris. He began to work with the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1960, first as a dancer (until 1963), next as a choreographer, then as Artistic Director (1961- 1971). For the following two years he worked as a freelance choreographer before joining Het Nationale Ballet in Amsterdam in 1973. From 1988 to 2003 Hans van Manen was a resident choreographer of NDT, in 2003 he joined the Dutch National Ballet as a resident choreographer. His body of work counts more than 120 ballets, each carrying his unmistakable signature. Clarity in structure and a refined simplicity are the elements in his work which have earned him the name "the Mondriaan of dance".Outside of the Netherlands, he has staged his ballets for such companies as the Stuttgart Ballett, Bayerisches Staatsballett München, Berlin Opera, Houston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Pennsylvania Ballet, English Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, State Opera in Vienna, Tanzforum in Cologne, Compañia Nacional de Danza and Alvin Ailey. Watch an excerpt from Hans van Manen's dance piece Déjà vu (1995), to music by Arvo Pärt . . . it's this week DANSES PYTHEUSES.

Multimedia artist and composer Paola Lopreiato is originally from Calabria, Italy. She studied in Florence where she graduated from Conservatorio Cherubini (piano) and from Accademia of Belle Arti (painting). In 2006 she specialized in electroacoustic composition at the Department of Music and New Technologies in Florence. She now works mainly as a composer creating works, which combine a variety of media. Her multimedia creations were realized in different theatre and festivals: SANTARCANGELO 39, 7 stanze in cerca di autore (MANTOVA), Marino Marini Museum (Firenze), Palazzo Strozzi (Firenze); and exhibited in: UK (University of Chester, University of Bournemouth, Sheffiel, Drama Studio); USA (University of Miami SEAMUS 2011, New York City Electro acoustic Music Festival, NY University, Stedman Art Gallery NJ, Department of Fine Arts of Rutgers University, MONTANA State University); Canada (Winnipeg University); Greece (Corfu,  Academia Yonica); Italy, Firenze (Palazzo Strozzi, Marino Marini Museum, Piazza della Signoria Festival della Creativita' 2010 and 2009, Conservatorio Cherubini); and Mexico, Fonoteca National December 2011 . She recently finished her MPhil in composition at University of Sheffield. Listen to Paola Lopreiato's electroacoustic work con forze che si svolgono sferiche (2010) . . . it's our SOUND ART for the week.

Composer, musician, author, satirist — Peter Schickele is internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. His works, now well in excess of 100 for symphony orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, voice, movies and television, have given him “a leading role in the ever-more-prominent school of American composers who unselfconsciously blend all levels of American music” (John Rockwell, The New York Times). Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa, and brought up in Washington, D.C., and Fargo, North Dakota, where he studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He graduated from Swarthmore in 1957, having had the distinction of being the only music major (as he had been, earlier, the only bassoonist in Fargo), and by that time he had already composed and conducted four orchestral works, a great deal of chamber music and some songs. He subsequently studied composition with Roy Harris and Darius Milhaud, and with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma at the Juilliard School of Music. Then, under a Ford Foundation grant, he composed music for high schools in Los Angeles before returning to teach at Juilliard in 1961. In 1965 he gave up teaching to become the freelance composer/performer he has been ever since. In his well-known other role as perpetrator of the oeuvre of the now classic P.D.Q. Bach, Schickele is acknowledged as one of the great satirists of the 20th century. Listen to Peter Schickele's three Elegies for Clarinet and Piano (1974) performed by clarinetist Sean Osborn and pianist Blair McMillan . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gloria Coates is an American composer, living in Munich, Germany, since 1969, who has the honor of being the most prolific woman symphonist we have today. She also studied with Alexander Tcherepnin and has been a tireless advocate for American music overseas and at home, where she also maintains a residence. Kyle Gann, critic, composer, and vocal supporter of contemporary music, has served as an advocate of Coates and her music for many years. Her music is quite difficult to categorize. One might say that she remains at the forefront of "modern" music, and one cannot approach her work in a traditional manner. She relies heavily on string glissandos, and if you heard only one of her pieces you might think it mere gimmickry. However, the technique is found everywhere in her work, and so the conclusion must be that there is something about it that she feels really expresses something deep down [notes by Steven Ritter @ Audiophile Audition]. Watch a performance of Gloria Coates' Nightscape (2008) played by Christine Hoock (double bass) and Dianne Frazer (piano) . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Here's an interesting perspective on Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks from arturs86, a member of the Discussion Forum: "As a Latvian, myself, I would like to try to show Pēteris Vasks from my point of view. He always was against the Soviet Union, its system and its aggression etc. But Vasks never made his music offensive. Rather he included semantic meaning in his music - using chorals, songs of a birds, motives or characters of Latvian folk songs etc. After the Soviet era, the main idea  in Vasks' music is still the same - spirituality over everything. His father was a pastor, so Christian ideology and that point of view is an essential part of his music. Vasks finds his greatest inspiration in nature. He also feels closer to God 'in nature' than 'in church'. The main topics in his music are: (1) The Latvian nation, its faith. Homeland. Also its history. His music often uses folk motives, but he would rather use the intonation and feeling of folk music than an exact quotation of it; (2) the Beauty of nature. Seasons of a year, voices of birds etc.; (3) Birds. They are symbols of time, nature, life and freedom. Unlike Olivier Messiaen, though, Vasks does not use the voices of specific birds. They are just associative; (4) Human Existence, life as a wonder. And also the presence of death; (5) Silence. You can find a lot of extreme examples of silence in Vasks' music; and (6) Light in all possible types. Usually gentle, radiant. As a hope, as a way out, as a faith or conviction" [check the whole conversation out at]. And please listen to a performance of Pēteris Vasks' Landscape with Birds (1980) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

The conceptual and multifaceted composer Tan Dun has made an indelible mark on the world's music scene with a creative repertoire that spans the boundaries of classical, multimedia, Eastern and Western musical systems. Central to his body of work, Tan Dun has composed distinct series of works which reflect his individual compositional concepts and personal ideas - among them a series which brings his childhood memories of shamanistic ritual into symphonic performances; works which incorporate elements from the natural world; and multimedia concerti. Opera has a significant role in his creative output and of his many works for film, the score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, received an Oscar for best original score. Hear Tan Dun talk about his life and music . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

. . . and listen to more from Tan Dun - his 1992 composition Circle . . . another of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.