Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alban Berg  Altenberg Lieder (1912) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Elliott Carter  March, from "Eight Pieces for Timpani" (1950) . . . it's our BANG, CLANG and BEAT -  New Music for Percussion for the week.

Gustav Holst  Terzetto (1925) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Elliott Bark  Reminiscence (2006) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Steven E. Ritter (Fanfare Magazine) writes about American composer Margaret Brouwer's Violin Concerto (2007): "Brouwer is one of our best composers, and certainly near the top. Her Violin Concerto is simply a marvel to hear, combining phenomenally difficult solo passages with some of the most ingratiating melodies I have heard in a recent composition. For those of us who, years ago, were wondering where music might turn after the challenges of the atonalists, this is it. She is not afraid of the modern idiom, and uses whatever techniques are called for at the moment, but at the same time never loses sense of that fundamental and essential musical ingredient called melody." Watch a performance of Margaret Brouwer's Violin Concerto played by Kyung Sun Lee, violin, and the University of Houston Symphony Orchestra with Franz Krager, conductor . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

And don't miss the double review by Hubert Culot (MusicWeb International) of two recordings of music by Margaret Brouwer - selections of her orchestral music on the Naxos label, and a CD of her chamber music on New World Records . . . our current FEATURED RECORDINGS.

Maine based composer Beth Wiemann was raised in Burlington, Vermont, studied composition and clarinet at Oberlin College and received her PhD in theory and composition from Princeton University. Her works have been performed in New York, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Washington DC, the Dartington Festival (UK), the "Spring in Havana" 2000 Festival (Cuba), and elsewhere by the ensembles Continuum, Parnassus, Earplay, ALEA III, singers Paul Hillier, Susan Narucki, DiAnna Fortunato and others. Wiemann's compositions have won awards from the Opera Vista Chamber Opera Competition, the Orvis Foundation, Copland House, the Colorado New Music Festival, American Women Composers, and Marimolin as well as various arts councils. A founding member of Griffin Music Ensemble, a contemporary music group in Boston, she premiered many clarinet works and conducted "composer in the schools" workshops in the Boston and Worcester public schools. Watch a video of Beth Wiemann talking about her work at the University of Maine, Orono . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

For sixteen summers, the Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival has brought the exciting world of contemporary concert music to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont every summer in mid-July to ever increasing audiences. Based on a 450 acre working dairy farm, Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival showcases the modern, cutting edge world of new music within the traditional, rural backdrop of Northern Vermont. Established in 1990, the festival's purpose is to increase the knowledge of and appreciation for contemporary music; provide performance opportunities for musicians; encourage the composition of new works; and to enrich this area of Vermont culturally. WCMF informs the public through integrating lectures by prominent American composers with first-rate performances of their works; and presenting the stylistic diversity of this century's music through well-balanced and exciting concert programming. Works by established composers are heard next to emerging composers just embarking on their careers; three to five world premieres are presented every summer, carefully rehearsed and performed by New England's top interpreters of contemporary music. WCMF presents its eighteenth season July 11-16, 2011 in conjunction with its exciting new educational program, the Warebrook Institute for the Advancement of Modern Music . . . it's our FEATURED NEW MUSIC FESTIVALS for the week.

To call Dmitri Tymoczko a multi-dimensional composer would be both an irony and an understatement. For one thing, he has made a name for himself both as a composer and as a theorist. Second, he prides himself on being conversant with all available genres of new music and on understanding each from a multiplicity of viewpoints: "Musicians tend to make too much out of genres", he writes. "I like to think of myself as participating in a culture that includes not just contemporary music, but also popular music, jazz, folk music, classical music, and pretty much everything else. I hope to make a concerted effort to try to think about what I am doing, not just from the vantage of contemporary academic art, but from a more general perspective that (hopefully) encompasses fundamental human values". And finally, he has gained international recognition for his innovative ideas about the non-Euclidean "geometry" of harmony: by mapping the notes of chords within a space of three or more dimensions, he has made it possible to visualize and to understand some of the most elusive harmonic progressions and the hidden connections that unite disparate genres or styles of music production (from notes for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players). Listen to a performance of Dmitri Tymoczko's string quartet work Echo Code (2003) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, Gloria Coates began composing and experimenting with overtones and clusters at the age of nine. Her musical intuition led her to ever widening visions and experiences. Coates, an American living in both Europe and the United States since 1969, has the honor of being the most prolific woman symphonist 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, noted music critic and composer, who has served as an advocate for her music for many years, has written, "The sparer context of her chamber works sounds solidly American . . . a rustic stolidity, a willingness to walk firmly forward off the beaten paths . . . an American through and rough." And Trevor Hunter (NewMusicBox), writes, "For Coates, artistic expression is a spiritual necessity. She has great interest and significant participation in painting, architecture, theater, poetry, and singing - but it is through composing that she taps into a wellspring of abstracted emotionality that the others cannot reach. Or perhaps abstracted is not the correct term, as it would seem that Coates is merely being oblique about what the inner, personal meaning of the music is to her. Whatever the veiled expressions of her work may be, there is an undoubted emotional richness present, which if not concretely knowable is at least viscerally felt by the audience. Canons constructed of quarter-tones and glissandos evoke gloomy instability, but also unearthly beauty." She also has a lyrical aspect, of which her Three Songs are typical. Watch a performance of Gloria Coates Three Songs: "Armistice" (They Dropped Like Flakes)/1972/text by: Emily Dickinson; "Fangen den Wind" (Catch the Wind)/2009/text by: Alexandra Coates; and "Komplementar" (Complementary)/1999/text by: Mayroicker, all performed by soprano Patricia Sonego and pianist Taka Kigawa . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Evan Ziporyn makes music at the crossroads of genre and culture, high and low, west and east. Raised in a musically ecumenical household in Evanston, Illinois, he grew up listening to his father's violin, his grandmother's Yiddish Socialist chorus, his mother's extensive folk & jazz collection, and the sounds of top 40's; Motown on AM radio. A deep desire to play trumpet was thwarted by his 4th grade bandmaster, and his career as a clarinetist began. He started composing music at age 13 after a visionary high school music teacher, Betty Jacobsen, played him - in rapid succession - "The Rite of Spring", Charles Ives' "Quarter Tone Studies", Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in A Room", and Steve Reich's "Come Out". He soon thereafter began managing his father's small record store, beginning work the same week Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Earth, Wind & Fire's That's the Way of the World were released. By the end of high school he had composed earnest, undistinguished works for full orchestra, jazz ensemble, the high school musical, and his basement progressive rock band, "Chronosynclastic Infundibulum." Persisting, he studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, while also studying piano and clarinet. In 1979, he heard a short recording of traditional Balinese gamelan and had a self-described 'conversion experience.' He spent the following summer in Oakland working with Wayan Suweca and Michael Tenzer in the newly formed Gamelan Sekar Jaya, then traveled to Bali on Yale Murray Fellowship upon graduation in 1981. There he studied gender wayang, the music of the shadow play, and pelegongan drumming. Returning to the US he received his MA & PhD in composition from UC Berkeley. He was to New York to perform a solo clarinet work at a small new music festival, whimsically titled the "First Annual Bang on a Can Marathon", which he began an ongoing involvement with "Bang on a Can" that continues to this day. His works have been commissioned and performed by such artists and ensemble as Yo-yo Ma's Silk Road Project, Kronos Quartet, Orkest de Volharding, Maya Beiser, So Percussion, Gamelan Semara Ratih, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Listen to Evan Ziporyn talk about his life and his music . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Critically acclaimed guitarist/composer Nathan Kolosko has performed throughout the US, Europe and Asia. As a musician, Nathan is compelled to expand the voice of the guitar through composition, improvisation, and collaborations with both musicians and visual artists. He is currently collaborating with visual artist Ling-Wen Tsai on several inter-disciplinary projects, and performs regularly with flute player Carl Dimow. Nathan has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including grants from the Allied Arts Foundation and D'Addario Strings. As a composer, Nathan has made numerous contributions to the repertoire for the guitar. In addition to being a performer and composer, Kolosko is a teacher dedicated to furthering the pedagogy of the guitar. Listen to the first of Nathan Kolosko's Five Short Pieces for Guitar (2006) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

According to Steven Schick, "In many ways, Morton Feldman's The King of Denmark (1964) is an anti-percussion piece. It is to be played very softly using only the hand and fingers - no sticks or mallets. Its notation on a graph indicates how many sounds are to be played per beat and whether they are to be in high, medium, or low registers. Even though a tempo runs throughout, no rhythmic coherence emerges. Sounds simply float out, detached and weightless. One instrument has no more sonic gravity than another does. A small bell weighs the same - takes up the same acoustical space - as a large gong. An auditory illusion follows: close your eyes and you can imagine that the instruments are being played at their natural volumes. They are sounds in many different loudnesses, but they are being heard from different distances. The gong is really forte but it is heard from the distance of fifty yards. It sounds as soft as the little bell six inches from your ear. Mirages of distance appear and evaporate again into music. It is like rain or the sound of rain. These illusions come from Feldman's love of the pulsating but rhythmically directionless canvases of Mark Rothko and other American Abstract Expressionists. Directionlessness is key here. The King of Denmark is music that refuses to dictate the way it should be perceived. It does not light a particular way nor lead you by the ear like an angry headmaster along a corridor of preferred comprehension. It simply floats in timeless ether to be looked at from any angle, any proximity, any point of view." Watch a performance of Morton Feldman's The King of Denmark (1964) played by percussionist Shawn Savageau . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

And by the way, if you missed the link on last week's feature of Ravel's "Bolero", watch a second, even more exiting performance of this modern masterpiece with Sylvie Guillem and members of the Tokyo Ballet - it's well worth it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Patrício da Silva received formal musical training at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal), followed by composition studies in the United States at CalArts, and the University of California. His composition teachers include António Pinho Vargas, Mel Powel, Stephen L. Mosko, Morton Subotnick, William Kraft, David Cope, Curtis Roads, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison and Sydney Hodkinson. Following his graduate studies, da Silva engaged in post-doctoral work in algorithmic composition at IRCAM in Paris. He has received numerous awards and fellowships and his compositions have been performed by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra (where da Silva was Composer in Residence, 2008-10), California Ear-Unit, Lontano, Lyris Quartet, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Piano Quartet, New Fromm Players, Orquestra do Algarve, Shakespeare & Co., What's Next? Ensemble, Stefan Asbury, Tzimon Barto, Ryu Cipris, Gloria Cheng, Joana Carneiro, Cesário Costa, William Eddins, Lorenz Gamma, David Gutkin, Paul Haas, Vimbayi Kaziboni, Michael Kudirka, David Loebel, Brian Pezzone, José Rodilla, Mark Robson, Tara Schwab, Ming Tsu, Laurent Wagner and Ian Whitcomb. Watch a performance of his The Fact of the Matter as a Matter of Fact (2007) played by Orquestra do Algarve, Cesario Costa conducting . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Just before departing on his American Tour in 1928, Maurice Ravel received a commission from Ida Rubinstein for a ballet, to be called Fandango. His intention was to orchestrate some pieces from Iberia by Albéniz, but as he was beginning work in July, he discovered that the rights to the music were already assigned to another composers. Ravel was initially dismayed and at a loss as to how he would fulfill his commission. However while continuing his holiday in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, he developed a Spanish-sounding theme which had about it "something quite insistent". Boléro, as the work was renamed, went on to become Ravel's most popular work, and one of the most frequently played pieces of classical music. The work lasts about 15 minutes, repeating each of the theme's two parts 9 times in the same key (until the very last bars), using different orchestrations to vary the texture and to create a gradual crescendo, and Ravel was insistent that the work should be played at a steady and unvarying tempo (as his own recording demonstrates). At the first performance of her ballet production in 1928, Ida Rubinstein danced the role of a flamenco dancer who is trying out steps on a table in a bar, surrounded by men whose admiration turns to lustful obsession. Ravel did not entirely approve; his own conception was an outdoor scene in front of a factory whose machinery provides the inflexible rhythm; the factory workers would emerge to dance together, while a story of a bullfighter killed by a jealous rival was played out. Watch Boléro (1928) performed by famed ballerina Maya Plisetskaya as choreographed by Maurice Béjart  . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

. . . and see another Bolero with ballerina Maria Alexandrova, with (so we're told) choreography by Bronislava Nijinska - who choreographed the work for Ida Rubenstein.

Kurt Weill composed his ballet chanté (sung ballet) The Seven Deadly Sins (1933) during a time of tremendous political upheaval and turmoil in Europe. Weill's most enduring works of this period were his collaborations with leftist writer Bertolt Brecht, especially "The Threepenny Opera." "The Seven Deadly Sins" marks the end of Weill's European career, being his last collaboration with Brecht and the last enduring work that he composed in his European theater style. This style is characterized by its directness, which is a product of Weill's use of elements from popular music – in the case of this work, dance music and the barbershop quartet – as well as his use of established musical forms, like the church chorale. The ballet was commissioned by Edward James, a wealthy Englishman whose Paris ballet troupe, Les Ballets 1933, counted the choreographer and dancer George Balanchine among its founders. It was decided that the ballet would be sung, with the main character, Anna, "split" into singing and dancing halves. This way, Weill's estranged wife, the singer Lotte Lenya, could star alongside James' also estranged dancer wife, Tilly Losch (John Mangum/Los Angeles Philharmonic). Watch a concert performance of The Seven Deadly Sins with soprano Akiko Nakajima and the Miyazaki International Music Festival Orchestra with Charles Dutoit conducting . . . the second of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Amy Scurria knew at a very young age that music would hold a prominent position in her life. She began composing as early as eight years old pursuing study and in piano and composition. After winning various piano and composition contests, she went on to study composition at the Westminster Choir College Summer Program in Princeton, NJ, Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Aspen Music Festival, Peabody Conservatory, La Schola Cantorum in Paris, France, and Duke University. Notable teachers have included Chen Yi, Robert Sirota, Narcis Bonet, Anthony Kelley, and Stephen Jaffe. She has been commissioned and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, LongLeaf Opera, Sigma Alpha Iota and Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Youth Pro Musica, the Shepherd College Concert Choir, and many others. She has had performances throughout the U.S., England, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France, and Japan. Scurria's music is currently moving towards the creation of opera, however, her music (non-vocal included) has always included a background narrative or story. She believes that "music is a powerful and unusual language that, when spoken well, can reach the deepest part of the human spirit." Listen to a performance of Amy Scurria's Adaptations (2007) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.