Monday, September 20, 2010

According to David Weininger (Boston Globe), composer "David Rakowski is a laid-back, slightly geeky, funny guy who writes some very difficult music. Or, as Rakowski puts it on his home page, music that has "lots and lotsa notes." Rakowski never planned to add so many works to such an artistically suspect genre. He wrote the first étude, E-Machines, in 1988, more or less on a challenge from his then-roommate. "That turned out to be a fun piece and people actually liked it even though I thought it was worthless at the time. Well, I don’t know about worthless but certainly useless." Soon other pianists began asking for more; so did the publisher C.F. Peters. "And I would just write them as technique builders in between pieces or when I was stuck on a big piece I would write a little étude and then come back to the big piece refreshed. It usually kind of worked." Each étude must be written from start to finish without revision, and must take a maximum of six days to finish. And he plans to quit when he reaches 100. "I like the idea of putting closure on a project so that I can say that’s done. And seriously, it seems silly to be playing an Étude No. 101. Sounds more like a highway than an étude." His growing catalog of Études for piano has inspired performances and recordings by leading pianists on both sides of the Atlantic. Watch a performance of Rakowski's Étude No. 76, " Clave" (2007) by pianist Geoffrey Burleson . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Sound is central in Mirjam Tally’s creations. Her music brims with playful contrasts – humorous, dramatic and poetic mixes of sound. She has written chamber and electronic music in which acoustic and electronic sounds often interweave, sometimes using Nordic or exotic instruments (Estonian kannel, didgeridoo, tanpura, accordion and others), treating sound material with a modernist open mind. According to Tally, "Work with electronics has considerably widened my imagination of sound. To me, color is really important in music. Lately I have discovered the recording of environmental sounds. This is a bit similar to photography – you just need to be at the right place at the right time to get a fascinating sound on tape, be it, for example, yacht masts swaying in the wind, clinks of ice floes on the coast or wind generators, not to mention the sounds of birds and nature in general. The further result (i.e. the composition) depends on if you have good ingredients; you don’t need to process and "bend" it in the studio at all. The main thing is to collect valuable sound material from the living environment." Watch Tally's collaboration with filmmaker Ülo Pikkov, their short film Tablemat of Baltic Sea (2006) . . . it's our current PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

Zoltán Kodály’s contributions to the musical life of Hungary in the 20th century were immense, and indeed, have gone far beyond mere nationalism. His orchestral compositions enjoy a place in the standard repertory. His researches into his country’s folk music have been models for ethno-musicologists. The program for folk music research drafted by him and Bela Bartok in 1913 resulted in the collection, classification and editing of over 100,000 folk songs. He also made significant contributions in the fields of music history, music criticism, history of literature, linguistics and language education. His teaching methods also went far beyond the borders of his native land with the worldwide use of the Kodály Method for teaching music in schools, the idea being general music literacy. Kodály was a vocal oriented composer; melody and lyricism were of prime importance to him. And at the core of his work is folk music. Hear Kodály talk about his ideas on music education in a rare video from Hungarian Television . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT this week.

Musique concrète ("concrete music" or "real music") is a form of electroacoustic music that utilizes acousmatic sound — sound one hears without seeing or knowing an originating cause — as a compositional resource. French composer Pierre Schaeffer is singularly responsible for launching the Musique concrète movement in the late 1940s and with it, the course of much of the experimental music of the 20th Century. From Wikipedia: "The importance of Schaeffer's musique concrète is threefold. He developed the concept of including any and all sounds into the vocabulary of music. At first he concentrated on working with sounds other than those produced by traditional musical instruments. Later on, he found it was possible to remove the familiarity of musical instrument sounds and abstract them further by techniques such as removing the attack of the recorded sound. He was among the first musicians to manipulate recorded sound for the purpose of using it in conjunction with other sounds in order to compose a musical piece. Techniques such as tape looping and tape splicing were used in his research, often comparing to sound collage. The advent of Schaeffer's manipulation of recorded sound became possible only with technologies that were developed after World War II had ended in Europe. His work is recognized today as an essential precursor to contemporary sampling practices. Schaeffer was among the first to use recording technology in a creative and specifically musical way, harnessing the power of electronic and experimental instruments in a manner similar to Luigi Russolo, whom he admired and from whose work he drew inspiration." Etude Noire/Black Study (1948) is an early piece of musique concrete by Schaffer . . . and this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Laurie Spiegel Appalachian Grove (1974) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Tan Dun Elegy: Snow In June (1991) . . . it's our current DANSES PYTHEUSES here at Pytheas.

One World Symphony (Brooklyn, NY, USA) . . . our FEATURED ENSEMBLE for the week.

Michael Colgrass Déjà Vu (1977) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dominick Argento Letters from Composers - Schumann (1968) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Sofia Gubaidulina The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair; Sieben Worte (Seven Words) (BIS 1449) . . . it's our FEATURED RECORDING here at Pytheas.

Bright Sheng Uncommon Sense - An Interview with Junia Doan . . . our current COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Oyvind Torvund Krull Quest (2004) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Friday, September 3, 2010

John Cage In a Landscape (1948) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Francis Poulenc Les Chemins de l’Amour (1940) . . . it's one of our FEATURED EARFULS here at Pytheas.

Taras Bulba (1962) - Music by Franz Waxman - Film by J. Lee Thompson . . . our current PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

Philip Glass Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists & Orchestra, mvt 3 (2000) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.