Monday, August 16, 2010

"The mesmerizing two-part Offrandes (1921) is possibly the most direct statement Edgard Varèse ever made of his tormented inner world. It's that tremor of personal pain, pulsating through all the vividly colored din, that Stravinsky was reacting to when he said that the first harp attack in part two nearly gave him a heart attack. He called it 'the most extraordinary noise in all of Varèse' (All Music Guide)." Watch a performance of this contemporary music classic by soprano Anna Steiger and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, with Pierre Boulez conducting . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

According to composer Alejandro Viñao, "For some years I have listened to the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He was perhaps the greatest exponent of Qawwali, the music of the sufi mystics. This music in general, and Ali Khan’s singing in particular, are characterised by remarkable rhythmic and melismatic subtlety. The Kahn Variations (2001) are a set of 8 rhythmic variations based on a traditional theme from Qawwali music as sang by Ali Kahn. The basic pulse and ‘feel’ of the music has lingered in my mind ever since I first heard a recording of it in the early 1990’s. I developed each of the 8 variations - which are played as a continuous piece - exploring a different rhythmic and melodic aspect of the original theme. However, from the harmonic point of view the piece is rather static, respecting the lack or harmony - in the western sense - of the original traditional theme. As I look at the score now, I can recognize a range of influences from Conlon Nancarrow, tango music, and my own previous pieces for marimba. All these influences have one thing in common: the articulation of pulse, or multiple simultaneous pulses to create a dramatic musical discourse." Watch a performance of the Kahn Variations by Colin Bunnell . . . our second FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Karlheinz Stockhausen emerged early on as one of the most influential and unique voices in the post-WWII European musical avant-garde and his prominence continued throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21stt. Combining a keen sensitivity to the acoustical realities and possibilities of sound, rigorous and sophisticated compositional methods expanded from integral serialism, innovative theatricality, and a penchant for the mystical, Stockhausen remains one of the most innovative musical personalities to span the turn of this century. Hear Stockhausen talk about his music in an interview with Lawrence Pollard . . . our PYTHEAS COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec wrote his Mortal Flesh (2008) for the recorder quartet Quartet New Generation (QNG). Impressed by all the recorder sizes the QNG members play, Moravec composed Mortal Flesh so that 20 instruments are employed, moving from the largest and lowest-sounding to the smallest and highest-sounding, and requiring very quick and tricky instrument changes. It's a terrific piece, well thought out for recorders, and at once serious and witty. Watch a performance of Mortal Flesh by Quartet New Generation . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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