Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Henri Dutilleux  Choral et Variations, from Sonate (1948) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

John Cage  A Flower (1950) . . . it's our BANG, CLANG and BEAT - New Music for Percussion for the week.

Leroy Anderson  Piano Concerto (1953), finale . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

James Dillon  Ti.re-Ti.ke-Dha (1979) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 21, 2011

 Luigi Dallapiccola  Ist's moeglich (1953) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Amy Beth Kirsten . . . she's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Alfred Schnittke  Piano Quintet (1976) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Ken Ueno  ...blood blossoms... (2002) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's Guitar Sonata was written in 1990 for guitarist Julian Bream, who gave its first performance the following year. The first movement, entitled Fandangos y Boleros, begins with a Preambulo followed by a Danza section in which, according to Graham Anthony Devine (Naxos Records), "Brouwer merges the rhythms of the Spanish baroque Fandango with those of the Bolero, a Cuban love-song. Brouwer describes the first movement as a sort of puzzle in which the colours are recomposed and redistributed much the same way as in Paul Klee’s Magic Squares. There is a quotation from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony towards the end of the movement and Brouwer has likened the fragmented form of Fandangos y Boleros to the fragmented sonata form found in the first movement of Beethoven’s famous Pastoral Symphony." Watch a performance of the Fandangos y Boleros section of Leo Brouwer's Guitar Sonata (1990) by Anna Likhachevao . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Andersen Viana received his PhD in Music Composition from the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. He started his activities as a composer at age of thirteen and as a music professor at the age of nineteen. At present he works as a composer-conductor, cultural producer as well as a professor at Clóvis Salgado Foundation – Palácio das Artes and at Escola Livre de Cinema, both in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He also lectures and presents workshops at various institutions both in Brazil and abroad. He has received twenty awards in Brazil, Europe and the USA, including the first prize in the International Contest of Composition Lys Music Orchestra 2001 in Belgium, First Prize and the Audience Prize in the Lambersart 2006 International Contest of Composition. To date, Viana has composed almost three hundred works for voices, acoustic and electronic instruments. He has also composed numerous film scores, including music for Rubens R. Camara's short film Vivalma (Living Soul) (2003). Watch Vivalma, with music by Andersen Viana . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING for the week.

The immediate impressions made by Joan Tower's music - bold contrasts, surprising subtleties, honesty of expression, imagination, sensitivity - derive from those same qualities in the composer. Many of her earliest works were composed for the New York new music ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, for which she served as pianist from 1969 to 1984. As a composer, Tower prefers to let her music speak for itself. Articulate about music in general, and used to exploring compositions with her students at Bard College, she nevertheless resists explaining her own music; writing program notes "is torture for me," she says. What, after all, can words say that music can't express much better itself? Clarity of expression has characterized Tower's compositions from the beginning. Whether written for orchestral forces, chamber ensembles, or solo instruments, her music speaks energetically and directly to the listener [Sandra Hyslop/New World Records]. Listen to Joan Tower's chamber work Fantasy ... those harbour lights (1983) performed by clarinetist Crystal Medina and pianist Manon Hutton-DeWys . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Lee Actor's Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (2005) was commissioned by the Palo Alto Philharmonic, and dedicated to timpani soloist Stuart Chafetz. The concerto consists of a single movement divided into three distinct parts, with the two fast outer sections framing a slower middle section. The overall character of the piece is described by its initial tempo marking, "Playful and jazzy". Though much of this work is in a light and humorous vein, Actor's main aesthetic goals of clarity of expression and bold, dramatic style are still paramount. The harmonic scheme is tonally derived, though much of the main melodic and accompanying material (including a recurring walking bass line) is based on various octatonic scales. The resulting clashes between melodic material and the underlying triadic harmonies are exploited to produce what are effectively heard in context as "blue" notes, another allusion to jazz within the work's symphonic style. Listen to a performance of Lee Actor's Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra with timpani soloist Stuart Chafetz and the Slovak Rado Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kirk Trevor . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 7, 2011

American composer Christopher Rouse writes about his Flute Concerto (1993): "Although no universal credence for the Jungian concept of "genetic memory" exists, for me it seems a profoundly viable notion. Although both of my parents' families immigrated to America well before the Revolutionary War, I nonetheless still feel a deep ancestral tug of recognition whenever I am exposed to the arts and traditions of the British Isles, particularly those of Celtic origin. I have attempted to reflect my responses to these stimuli in my flute concerto, a five-movement work cast in a somewhat loose arch form. The first and last movements bear the title Amhrán (Gaelic for "song") and are simple melodic elaborations for the solo flute over the accompaniment of orchestral strings. They were intended in a general way to evoke the traditions of Celtic, especially Irish, folk music but to couch the musical utterance in what I hoped would seem a more spiritual, even metaphysical, maner through the use of extremely slow tempi, perhaps not unlike some of the recordings of the Irish singer Enya. The second and fourth movements are both fast in tempo. The second is a rather sprightly march which shares some of its material with the fourth, a scherzo which refers more and more as it progresses to that most Irish of dances, the jig. However, by the time the jig is stated in its most obvious form, the tempo has increased to the point that the music seems almost frantic and breathless in nature. In a world of daily horrors too numerous and enormous to comprehend en masse, it seems that only isolated, individual tragedies serve to sensitize us to the potential harm man can do to his fellow. For me, one such instance was the abduction and brutal murder of the two-year old English lad James Bulger at the hands of a pair of ten-year old boys. I followed this case closely during the time I was composing my concerto and was unable to shake the horror of these events from my mind. The central movement of this work is an elegy dedicated to James Bulger's memory, a small token of remembrance for a life senselessly and cruelly snuffed out. Watch a performance of the final movement from Christopher Rouse's Flute Concerto played by flutist Daniel Stein  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Chen Yi should be no stranger by now to listeners interested in contemporary music. She’s one of a potent handful of Chinese composers who came of age during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, but who were young enough not to be broken by it (as a matter of fact, for many, the forced repatriation into the countryside seemed to help them rediscover traditional musical roots). Chen Yi is perhaps the most extroverted of these; her music has color, dynamism, and energy to spare. She’s also developed an extremely fluent and sophisticated way of blending Eastern and Western classical practice. From the former, she takes traditional modes, rhythmic patterns, motivic formulae, and timbral/intonational inflections. From the latter, she takes larger developmental forms, quick modal modulations, polymodality, Western instrumentation, and extended performance techniques. The result sounds Chinese without ever sounding self-consciously exotic. No mean feat. This disc consists of chamber works, predominated by strings. Each has distinctive characteristics: Sound of the Five is the most substantial, being a four movement series of folkloristic portraits; Yangko is notable for the vocalizing (beat-box-like) of the percussionists; Sprout displays confident traditional counterpoint; Burning, as its title implies, is a passionate, propulsive work; the Tibetan Tunes are the only pieces to cite actual folk sources; Happy Rain on a Spring Night is for me the stunner of the group, a non-stop build of energy and color that crests and refreshes like an ocean wave (or the shower of its title). At the same time, these works seem to be part of one vast work in progress. Chen Yi has a seemingly inexhaustible store of music within her, and combined with her masterful technique, whatever seizes her at a given moment seems to be the piece that emerges [Robert Carl/Fanfare]. Check out Chen Yi's Sound of the Five (New World Records 80691)  . . . it's our FEATURED RECORDING for the week.

. . . also listen to Chen Yi, featured in this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Ulf Grahn studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, Stockholm and at the Stockholm City College where his principal composition studies were with Hans Eklund, violin and viola with Rudolf Forsberg, piano with Herbert Westrell, and voice with Bertil During. In 1973 he founded the Contemporary Music Forum, Washington, D.C. and served as its Program Director until 1984. During 1988-90 he was Artistic and Managing Director of the Music at Lake Siljan Festival, Sweden. Prior to this he was on the faculty of Catholic University of America, Northern Virginia Community College and at George Washington University. Presently he teaches Swedish language and culture at the Foreign Service Institute. He has received commisions from The Library of Congress Mc Kim Fund, The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, The Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony String Quartet, Washington Music Ensemble, and George Washington University. His awards and prizes include Composers’ Forum New York, Charles Ives Center for American Music, Composers’ Conference Johnson Vermont, First prize at the Stockholm International Organ Days, Musik i Dalarnas Carillon contest and the Kil International Piano contest. His music has been performed throughout Europe, North and South America, Japan, Korea. Listen to a performance of Ulf Grahn's A Due (1985) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Edson Zampronha has received two awards from the São Paulo Association of Art Criticism, Brazil. In 2005 he won, together with SCIArts Group, the Sixth Sergio Motta Award, the most outstanding prize on Art and Technology in Brazil, for the sound installation Poetic Attractor. He has received commissions from different groups and institutions such as the Museum for the Applied Arts (Cologne, Germany) for the Cultural Activities during the Soccer World Cup 2006; from designer María Lafuente for her catwalk show at the Pasarela Cibeles 2006 and 2010 (Madrid, Spain), and from the São Paulo State Symphonic Band for the 100th Anniversary of the São Paulo State Gallery in 2005 (São Paulo, Brazil). His works have been performed around the world, including performances at the Auditorio 400 - Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the CBSO Centre in Birmingham (UK), and the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, Brazil. Listen to a performance of Edson Zampronha's Viaje al Interior (Travel to Inward) (2006) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Born in Belleville, Illinois and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago, Amy Beth Kirsten received degrees from Benedictine University, the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and from Peabody Conservatory. She has taught on the faculties of Peabody Conservatory, Towson University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut. Kirsten received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship and Levy Supplemental Stipend for music composition and was recently a finalist for the Rome Prize. She has also received a Rockefeller Foundation Artist Fellowship, and was named a 2011 Artist Fellow from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. In 2009-2010, Kirsten was named Missouri's First Composer Laureate due to her close association with the state. Her composition World Under Glass No. 1, and its companion piece, World Under Glass No. 2, were inspired by the Distillation Series of visual artist Thomas Doyle. Watch a performance of Amy Beth Kirsten's World Under Glass No. 1 (2011) played by the ensemble Dark in the Song . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

For those of you in either the Portland (ME) or Baltimore (MD) areas, there are two new music performances by Pytheas Center Composers to check out . . .
On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, Frontier Cafe and Arts Venue is proud to present a Composer to Composer concert. In this unique event, Frontier Cafe will play host to some of New England's finest Composer/Performers as they present world premieres of ten new works for solo instruments. Curated by composer and contrabassist Joshua DeScherer, this concert also features compositions and performances by Beth Wiemann (bass clarinet), Matt Samolis (flute), Michael Dobiel (saxophone), Mark Tipton (trumpet), Morgan Evans-Weiler (violin), and others. The Composer to Composer concert is free, with donations for the performers strongly encouraged.

And, Vivian Adelberg Rudow will create a live sound collage using The Vivian Technique, in her Performance Art music presentation with the Effervescent Collective Dance Group, Friday, November 18, 2011, 7:30pm at Theatre Project [45 West Preston Street, Baltimore MD], during a Sound in Motion IV: Available performance of a collaboration between the Baltimore Composers Forum and local dancers and choreographers. Other composers music in the concert includes Garth Baxter, Jin-Hwa Choi, Ljiljana Jovanovic, Keith Kramer, Ariyo Shahry and George Spicka, with choreography by Lynne Price. Ticket are: General admission, $20; Seniors/Artists/Military, $15; Student, $10.

Lowell Liebermann's Eight Pieces, op. 59 (1997) for bass flute, alto flute, C-flute or piccolo was commissioned by Sarah Baird Fouse and first performed at the National Flute Association Convention in Phoenix, August 1998. These pieces were also awarded the Best Newly Published Work from the National Flute Association. Conceived initially as music for solo bass flute, Liebermann leaves the choice of flute completely up to the performer. The music is even supplied with some transposed parts and alternative notes to accommodate the shortened lower octave of the piccolo. The eight pieces are diverse and almost epigrammatically brief, but together form a set of engagingly varied works. Fanfare, the seventh piece, as the title implies, is an alternation of declamatory and what might be accompanying figures mixed together in a somewhat disjunct fashion. The eighth and final movement, March, became the basis for the second movement of Liebermann’s Second Symphony. These two movements have been choreographed by C. Neil Parsons for dancer and flutist. Parsons graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and received his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied bass trombone with Ray Premru. While at Oberlin, he combined his interests in music, dance and teaching by designing an individual major: Interdisciplinary Performance and Education. He then continued his studies with trombonist Tony Baker and at the Ohio University School of Dance. A diverse performer, Parsons' performance credits include roles in professional theatre productions, choreographing and performing numerous pieces, and playing music with a variety of ensembles including a disco orchestra. As a collaborative performance artist, Parsons has made a specialty of choreographing and directing musicians in interdisciplinary works. Watch a performance of Fanfares & March (2010) with flutist Zara Lawler and dancer C. Neil Parsons  . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

The children of composers often have dedications bestowed upon them, and the pieces so dedicated are normally simple, appropriately childlike works. Luigi Dallapiccola's Quaderno musicale di Annalibera (Annalibera's Musical Notebook), however, dedicated to his daughter Annalibera on her 8th birthday, is a dense 12-tone work whose name, form, and content all pay tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. The work was written during a 1952 journey across America, for the Pittsburgh International Contemporary Music Festival. Its sixth movement, Ornaments, would go on to serve as the basis of Dallapiccola's Songs of Liberation, leading some to suspect that the Quaderno was a preparatory work for the later piece; the whole notebook was later transcribed as the Variations for Orchestra. This is music of no mean interest — strictly constructed, and sharply characterized — but it may have left young Annalibera a little bewildered. Dallapiccola's Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera is an interesting and personal tribute to and assimilation of J.S. Bach and some of the most difficult music ever dedicated to an 8 year old [Andrew Lindemann Malone, Rovi/AllMusic Guide]. Listen to a performance of Dallapiccola's Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera played by pianist Mariaclara Monetti . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS.

Long known for her luxuriant romanticism and uncanny ability to find just the right chord between onscreen drama and viewer emotions, composer Rachel Portman has been scoring films consistently and tirelessly since 1982. With more than 30 scores to her name, and work in both television and film, Portman became an important figure in the history of film in 1997 when she became the first female composer to win an Academy Award for her score to director Douglas McGrath's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Born in Haslemere, England, Portman showed an avid interest in music when she began to play a variety of instruments from a very early age. By the time she had reached her early teens, Portman had taken a strong affection towards the piano and begun composing original music. Drawn to the more naturalistic musical instruments rather than electronic synthesizers, Portman decided to pursue her career in music with an education at the University of Oxford. It wasn't until her enrollment at Oxford that she began to take an interest in the relation of music to film, scoring Privileged (1982), a successful student film also featuring an early appearance by Hugh Grant. A small theatrical release of the film found Portman with her first success as a film composer, an ability she would continue to refine with steady work for the BBC in the coming years, winning the British Film Institute's Young Composer of the Year award in 1988. A frequent collaborator of filmmaker Beeban Kidron (for whom she has scored Used People, 1992 and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, 1995), Portman has steadily gained recognition for her lush and emotional style, distinguishing herself with her moving compositions and richly organic scores. In 2000 she received her second Oscar nomination for her score to Chocolat. Listen to a suite from Portman's score to Never Let Me Go (2010) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.