Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! . . . and Happy Listening!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Alfred Schnittke  Concerto for Piano and Strings (1979)  . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Laurie Spiegel  East River Dawn (1976) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Missy Mazzoli  Volume (2006) . . . it's this week BANG, CLANG and BEAT - New Music for Percussion.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joel Hoffman's works draw from such diverse sources as Eastern European folk musics and bebop, and are pervaded by a sense of lyricism and rhythmic vitality. Born in Canada, Hoffman received degrees from the University of Wales and the Juilliard School. He is a member of a distinguished musical family that includes brothers Gary (cellist), and Toby (conductor), sister Deborah (harpist). Honors include a major prize from the American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bearns Prize of Columbia University, a BMI Award, ASCAP awards since 1977, and three American Music Center grants. His works have been performed by many ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony Brass, the BBC Orchestra of Wales, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, eighth blackbird, the Cleveland Quartet, the Shanghai Quartet, and acclaimed soloists such as Cho-Liang Lin, David Krakauer and Brian Ganz. Hoffman served as composer-in-residence with the National Chamber Orchestra of Washington, DC (1993-94) and held the position of New Music Advisor for the Buffalo Philharmonic (1991-92). He has been a resident composer at the Rockefeller, Camargo and Hindemith Foundations, the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. Currently, he is Professor of Composition at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. Watch a performance of  Joel Hoffman's Music in Yellow and Green (2012) played by members of the Hoff Barthelson Contemporary Music Festival . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Vincent Ho is widely recognized as one of the most exciting composers of his generation. His works have been hailed for their profound expressiveness and textural beauty that has audiences talking about with great enthusiasm. Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1975, Vincent Ho began his musical training through the Royal Conservatory of Music. He received his Associate Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) in 1993, his Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary in 1998, his Master of Music degree from the University of Toronto in 2000, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California (2005). His mentors have included Allan Bell, David Eagle, Christos Hatzis, Walter Buczynski, and Stephen Hartke. His many awards have included Harvard University’s Fromm Music Commission, The Canada Council for the Arts’ “Robert Fleming Prize,” ASCAP’s “Morton Gould Young Composer Award,” four SOCAN Young Composers Awards, and CBC Radio’s Audience Choice Award (2009 Young Composers’ Competition). Listen to an interview with Vincent HoÉvolution (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

When World War II ended, William Schuman was positioned, at age thirty-five, as one of America’s most important composers and arts leaders. Not only had he won the very first Pulitzer Prize for music in 1943, for A Free Song: Secular Cantata No. 2, but he took on his new responsibilities as president of the Juilliard School of Music at the beginning of the 1945-46 academic year. His music had been performed by prominent American orchestras, especially the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) under Serge Koussevitzky, and he had already composed five symphonies (the first two of which were withdrawn), including the expertly crafted Third Symphony and the animated Fifth Symphony for strings alone. Thus, at this time Schuman was in the prime of his compositional life. A new concerto for violin and orchestra would most likely embody the energy, musical creativity, and expert orchestration that were becoming the hallmarks of a Schuman composition. Schuman was approached by the well-known violinist Samuel Dushkin in 1946 to compose a violin concerto that Dushkin hoped he would be able to premiere with Koussevitzky and the BSO. Dushkin had a very distinguished record of first performances of violin works, including Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, the Duo concertant, and Suite italienne . . . [read more in this article: "The William Schuman Violin Concerto: Genesis of a 20th Century Masterpiece" by Joseph Polisi]. And listen to a performance of Schuman Violin Concerto (1959) played by Philippe Quint (violin) and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, José Serebrier conducting . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Composer Annie Gosfield is an active performer and improviser. She is inspired by the sound and use of machines, destroyed pianos, warped records and detuned radios. She explores the use of non-musical sound. She also incorporates the use of out of tune violins that are not played right. Her notation consists of traditional notation, improvisation and other techniques that break the boundaries between what is known as music and noise. Her pieces range from large scale, chamber music, electronic music, video projects and music for dance. She has played with many different muscians such as Joan Jeanrenaud, John Zorn, David Moss, and Sim Cain. Her music has been used for choreography by several dance companies across the world. Gosfield created a six minute film about an imaginary orchestra (of machines playing instruments) called Shoot The Player Piano (1999)  . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

György Kurtág  Five Pieces from Signs, Games, and Messages (1989-    )  . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Elizaveta Sanicheva  Five Senses (2009) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

The Fog of War (2003) - Music by Philip Glass - Film by Errol Morris  . . . it's this week PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

When Words Are Not Enough (Timya, Everything2) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keiko Abe's contributions to the contemporary marimba repertoire have been a milestone in the development of the marimba as a solo concert instrument. Besides the creation of a new repertoire through commissions and her own compositions, Abe's contributions to the marimba include the improvement of the sound quality of the marimba and the establishment of the five octave instrument as the standard concert marimba. During the last four decades, her compositions have been performed and studied worldwide and become standard literature for the marimba. She has written more than sixty compositions for marimba, including concertos, duets and solo pieces [note thanks to Juan Manuel Alamo Santos/UNT Digital Library]. Watch a performance of Keiko Abe's Prism Rhapsody (1995) played by marimba soloist Karen Takaguchi . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Mark Ford is the coordinator of percussion activities at The University of North Texas in Denton, Texas and a past president of the Percussive Arts Society. He is a marimba specialist and the coordinator of one of the largest percussion programs in the United States at UNT. Ford is an active performer on the marimba and he has been featured throughout the United States at universities and music conferences. He also regularly performs at International Music Festivals in South America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Watch a performance of Mark Ford and alto saxophonist Ann Bradfield playing Ford's Wink (2011). Ford wrote Wink for his sons, Austin (marimba) and Kevin (saxophone). Premiered in 2011, Wink is a "groovy-hip collaboration that explores three main themes: a syncopated melody, a floating assertion, and a waltz-like phrase. This piece gradually builds to a rock-style adaptation of the opening statement to end the work. The title refers to those beautiful moments between fathers and sons when words are not necessary, just a wink and a smile" . . . it's this week BANG, CLANG and BEAT - NEW MUSIC.

Vincent Ho is widely recognized as one of the most exciting composers of his generation. His works have been hailed for their profound expressiveness and textural beauty that has audiences talking about with great enthusiasm. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Vincent Ho began his musical training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, the University of Calgary, the University of Toronto, and the University of Southern California (2005). His mentors have included Allan Bell, David Eagle, Christos Hatzis, Walter Buczynski, and Stephen Hartke. His many awards have included Harvard University's Fromm Music Commission, The Canada Council for the Arts' "Robert Fleming Prize," ASCAP's "Morton Gould Young Composer Award," four SOCAN Young Composers Awards, and CBC Radio's Audience Choice Award (2009 Young Composers' Competition). Listen to a performance of Vincent Ho's Four Snapshots of a Dream (2002) . . .  it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Alexandra Gardner composed New Skin (2004) for flutist Barbara Held. It combines recordings of dawn from various locations, digitally processed gong and percussion sounds, and live alto flute in a structured improvisation. In many cultures sunrise is received with rituals of respect and thankfulness, acknowledged as a new beginning, or rebirth. In this composition my intention is to evoke an arrival into "light"-a sense of awakening to a new day. Listen to Alexandra Gardner's New Skin for solo flute  .  . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Pierre Jalbert is one of the most highly regarded American composers of his generation, earning widespread notice for his richly colored and superbly crafted scores. Focusing primarily on instrumental works,  Jalbert has developed a musical language that is engaging, expressive, and deeply personal. His Icefield Sonnets (2004) was written for the Ying String Quartet and was inspired by the poetry of Anthony Hawley. Each poem in the set speaks of the notion of “north” - specifically in the winter months - and aims to capture some of the different moments of “coldness,” from quiet stillness to more violent activity. Like the set of poems, the work in three movements, the first, Cold is a Cell, marked "Cold, airy, suspended, like an ice crystal", the second, Glass is a Place, marked “driving forward,” and the third movement, North is a Notion, marked “Sustained.” Listen to a performance of the third movement of Pierre Jalbert's Icefield Sonnets, North is a Notion played by the Enso String Quartet . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

RainForest (1968), with choreography by Merce Cunningham, electronic score by David Tudor, and silver pillows by Andy Warhol, is a wonderful artifact of the 1960's, one that tells us how much fun we've been missing since. A dance work choreographed in 1968 - a year synonymous with student revolt - cannot be immune from the spirit of its time. RainForest sums up a great deal of the rebellion in the arts that Cunningham himself did so much to foster. Its implication of free-wheeling anarchy through floating decor that cannot be controlled and choreography that does not play by conventional rules, its animal and nature imagery in both the score and the dancing - all these elements are what one would call 60's material. Most typical is the point at which Cunningham and Warhol find common ground. This is the appropriation of the commonplace. Ordinary objects such as pillows become shiny silver helium-filled sculpture. Ordinary movement is integrated into sophisticated dance composition. The heyday of Pop art meets the heyday of life-is-art dance theory [notes by Anna Kisselgoff/The New York Times]. Watch an excerpt from RainForest (1968) performed by members of the Rambert Dance Company . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

Thomas Adès is one of today’s most formidable musical talents, equally at home composing, conducting or performing his own music and that of others at the keyboard. For all the piano repertoire Adès plays, there is one composer whose music is never far from his home piano: François Couperin (1668–1733) - the most accomplished member of one of France’s legendary musical families. In Three Studies from Couperin, composed in 2006 for the Basel Chamber Orchestra, Adès extracted three movements from Couperin's harpsichord studies (or Ordres). Much of the source material remains intact and recognizable, but his compositional process certainly extends beyond mere orchestration; a close analog is what Stravinsky accomplished with his Pulcinella, exploding Pergolesi’s music into a rich and personal orchestral world [notes by Aaron Grad for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra]. Listen to a performance of Thomas Adès' Three Studies from Couperin, with the Chamber Orchestra Of Europe conducted by the composer . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Gloria Coates' relatively early Cantata da Requiem "WW II Poems for Peace" (1972) looks at World War II from the viewpoints of women on either side of the conflict - from a young German widow to American poet Marianne Moore, with a sinister BBC weather report, which indicates that “conditions [are] ideal for bombing offensives,” along the way. Coates makes no attempt to sentimentalize the thoughts and fears of these women, and the Cantata da Requiem is no less harsh than it needs to be. Again, the instrumental writing is highly imaginative, even descriptive, and the vocal lines, while uncomfortable, match both the words themselves and their intensity. Come and listen to Gloria Coates' Cantata da Requiem "WW II Poems for Peace" (1972)  . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Composer Tod Machover heads the Opera of the Future project at MIT's Media Lab, and that term nicely describes his Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera. It is clearly recognizable as opera: It has a story and characters, and its full-blooded arias, elegantly illuminating the apt (if occasionally self-conscious) text by the poet Robert Pinsky, are sung with passionate intensity by humans. The "future" part is embodied both in the orchestral writing, which skillfully combines acoustic and electronic music to create a remarkable range of colors and levels, and in the staging: not just the rather charming robots that grow, shrink and whiz around the stage, but the way that technology creates the playing environment, even allowing the main character's performance to influence and animate the set. Technique relates to theme. The opera is about what it means to be human, and what technology adds or subtracts. Simon Powers, a dying billionaire, has devised a "System" whereby his consciousness is uploaded into the walls and the objects of his room, enabling him to live forever without his body. The drama comes from his family's reactions to this disembodied being who surrounds them as a voice, a Teflon-strung, bird-like chandelier, and tall "bookcases" of flashing, trembling, color-changing lights [notes thanks to Heidi Waleson/The Wall Street Journal]. Listen to a wonderful performance of Miranda's Aria, from Death and the Powers (2010) . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Dave Brubeck has composed classical works with jazz elements at least since the 1960's. His first large choral piece, The Gates of Justice, suffers from, mainly, inexperience - among other things, routinely sending soloists into their topmost range, over-complicating the texture beyond the ability of players to distinguish inner lines. Despite this, however, the oratorio gave plenty of hope that Brubeck would work through these problems. The Gates of Justice was far more than an excuse for a cynical promoter to cash in on Brubeck's popularity as a performer, unlike, say, EMI and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. For one thing, Brubeck knew something about how to write paragraphs extended beyond those of song, or, in the case of jazz playing, choruses. One also sensed a mind constantly exploring musical connections between such superficially disparate things as the blues and Jewish cantorial singing. So check out Telarc Records' Classical Brubeck (Telarc 80621 which features so of Dave Brubeck's other choral works: Beloved Son (1978); Pange Lingua Variations (1983); Voice of the Holy Spirit (Tongues of Fire) (1985); and the instrumental Regret (2001) . . . it's our FEATURED RECORDING for the week.

According to composer Judd Greenstein, "Be There (2008) is a continuation of my effort to strip down my musical language to its essential components, to be fluid and Romantic and gestural and rhythmic all at the same time, without calling undue attention to those features or qualities. When I am writing music, and things are going well, I feel that I am present in the moment of the music's creation, a present-ness that is more full than any other I know. To "be there" is the best state that there is; it's the state of complete association with life and living, an association that is the utter antidote to the dissociative forces of anxiety and fear. Whether Be There expresses that idea to other listeners, fully, partially, or not at all, it somehow conveys that meaning to me. Many thanks to Colin Jacobsen and Peggy Kampmeier for their support in bringing the work to life" . . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

. . . and have a listen to Michael Torke's  Green (Verdant Music) (1986) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thomas Adès has enjoyed enormous visibility since first emerging as a composer in the early 1990s. He quickly dazzled thanks to the confidence with which he discovered his unique voice, with scarcely a pause to clear his throat. His Asyla (1997), a compact four-movement symphony, is immense not only in its scoring for large orchestra but in the emotional range it telescopes into its deceptively brief duration. Adès choice of title is typically suggestive and mysterious - Asyla is the Latin plural of "asylum," which can mean both a place of inviolable refuge and an institution for the insane. The beauty of Asyla is how it plays on this plurality of meaning without devolving into a chaos of too-muchness [notes by Thomas May]. Watch a performance of the third movement of Thomas Adès Asyla played by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle  . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Stephen Petronio’s I Drink the Air Before Me (2009), with music by Nico Muhly, begins where none of his other dances have: aboard a ship. Scrim in the shape of a sail is pinned to one side of the stage; the choreographer, with the costuming help of the artist Cindy Sherman, is its craggy, bearded captain, dressed in a nautical jacket, chaps and rubber hip boots over jeans. Named after a line from Shakespeare’s Tempest, the dance is inspired by a raging storm. Like Petronio's choreography, the score, by Nico Muhly, evokes turbulent undercurrents in which the frantic sounds of flute and strings are woven with the more tumultuous notes of a trombone and piano. Without being literal, the music and choreography create a sonic, ephemeral wave. The bulk of I Drink the Air Before Me assembles Petronio's usual tools: ferocious speed, rigorous structure and dancers who ravel and unravel like ribbons. Groups of bodies swell and dissipate like squalls, though while the scene is frequently forceful, the relentless choreography is only part of the picture. Petronio’s movement also reverberates as an energetic echo, moving past the physical form to etch invisible lines and patterns onto his canvas, the stage. Amanda Wells, arching her back, swirls her legs and arms as if swept by wind. Gino Grenek whips his body across the stage like a funnel cloud. And Shila Tirabassi, a force of nature herself, elongates her reach with every movement to impart sensual fluidity. When the violent rush of bodies threatens to overwhelm, Mr. Petronio calms things down. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City joins the dancers onstage to sing the work’s choral finale, One Day Tells Its Tale to Another. Their innocence softens the fury; the sea is finally still, and Petronio has weathered a perfect storm [Gia Kourlas, The New York Times]. Watch an excerpt from I Drink the Air Before Me . . . it's this week DANSES PYTHEUSES.

According to composer Amy Scurria, her Five Haiku (1998) "is somewhat of a tragic love story, in which the man is singing about a woman who exists not in his life, but very strongly in his mind, and only in his mind. He has been touched by this woman and cannot let her go from his memory. He sings about all of the emotions, both beautiful and painful that her memory evokes. He is terribly saddened without her and yet her imprint that she has left on him is so strong that he knows he is wonderfully changed forever by her. Although the title of the piece is Five Haiku and is set to five haiku, the piece opens and closes with a poem. Five Haiku is a story about longing and letting go. We seem to always be longing for something and in a certain way it is that longing that keeps us striving forward to reach that unobtainable goal. However, when that longing stifles us and causes us to turn around and to cease facing forward, it is then that the longing must be let go of and there must be a realization that everything in our lives, no matter how wonderful or how horrible, can ultimately change us in the most wonderful ways that we often don't even recognize." Listen to a performance of Amy Scurria's Five Haiku  . . .  it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

. . . and check out Miles Hoffman and Alberto Parrini playing Walter Piston's Duo for Viola and Violoncello (1949) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, October 22, 2012

French composer Emmanuel Séjourné is fascinated by the relations between music and other performing arts. His music is rhythmic, romantic, energetic, inspired both by the Western classical tradition and by popular culture (jazz, rock, extra-European). His compositions are played throughout the world by soloists, ensembles and orchestra, including the Nagoya Philharmonic, Osaka Philharmonic, Sinfonia Toronto, Croatian Radio Television Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Italienne, Camerata de Bourgogne, Orchestre d’Auvergne, and the Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester, among others. Séjourné's Akadinda Trio (1992) was inspired by the percussive mallet music of Uganda. Each player uses 2 mallets, and all three players play on one 5-octave marimba. Numerous melo-rhythmic lines interlock to form an interesting polyrhythmic (3:2, etc.) groove. No one part is particularly difficult, yet concentration is required so as to realize the interlocking rhythmic patterns. Watch a performance of Emmanuel Séjourné Akadinda Trio (1992) played by percussionists Corey Hewitt, Paul Hutson and David Tart . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Anna Weesner's music has been performed by leading ensembles, including the American Composers Orchestra, Metamorphosen, the Indianapolis Symphony, and the orchestra of the Curtis Institute. Other important performances includes those by Dawn Upshaw and Richard Good, the Cassatt Quartet, the Cypress Quartet, the MATA festival, Network for New Music, Veronica Kadlubkiewicz, Matt Bengtson, Ensemble X, Counte induction, the Syracuse Society for New Music and Orchestra 2001. She has been commissioned by numerous performers and presenters, including Open End, the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, violist Melia Watras, Sequitur, and Orchestra 2001. The contemporary music organization Network for New Music, to celebrate their 25th Anniversary, asked 25 composers to write new variations on the theme Beethoven used in his Diabelli Variations. Each variation was to be under two minutes, and for any combination of a small choice of instruments. All of the pieces were performed at the Settlement Music School (Philadelphia) on a concert in May 2010. Listen to Anna Weesner talk about her contribution to Network for New Music's 25th Anniversary celebration . . . it's this week COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

In 1980, composer Chen Yi attended a performance of Duo Ye while she was collecting folk songs of the Dong minority in southwest China. This emotionally charged experience prompted her to write a piano piece using the same title and utilizing similar musical characteristics. Duo Ye is a traditional folk song and dance form of the Guangxi Province in China. It is often performed to celebrate the joy of a harvest or the arrival of an important guest. In it the lead singer improvises a melody while others dance in a circle with a bonfire set in the middle. Listen to a performance of Chen Yi's Duo Ye (1984) played by pianist Amy Lin . . .  it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

. . . and check out Dialogos (2008), an animated Film by Ulo Pikkov with music by Mirjam Tally . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eleanor Hovda (1940–2009) was a full professor and composer-in-residence at Princeton, Yale, and Bard College who suffered a debilitating illness that led to her eventual death in Arkansas in 2009. She was a minimalist not in the systems-based sense of a Steve Reich or holy minimalist tradition of a Górecki but in the sense that her arrangements are generally spare, with often an instrument or two prominently featured and only rarely a dense ensemble sound in play. A dancer herself, in her later work she collaborated often with leading choreographers, including Nancy Meehan and Meg Stuart. A native of Minnesota, Hovda spent much of her career in New York and was a respected and beloved member of the contemporary music community - her compositions championed by leading new music ensembles all across the country, including the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Boston Musica Viva, the Cassatt and Kronos Quartets, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Zeitgeist. Watch a performance of Hovda's Jo Ha Kyu (1990) played by oboist Libby Van Cleve. . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Young-Shin Choi is a composer for both instrumental and electroacoustic music with a strong interest in interactive digital arts. Choi strives to cultivate an aesthetic based upon a unique combination of musical elements drawn from Korean traditional music and modern Western musical idioms. Listen to Young-Shin Choi's UJO IMU III (2009)  . . . one of our SOUND ART for the week.

John Newell's earliest musical training was in piano. He has studied with Iain Hamilton, Mel Powell, and Morton Feldman. While at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studied with Feldman, he held the first Edgard Varese Fellowship in composition. Like many composers today he draws from a variety of musical traditions. His objective is to create works that reflect his personal sensibility, that arise from his spiritual journey and response to the world. He finds inspiration in the beauty and wonder of nature, in poetic and visual imagery, and in what he learns from the world's sacred traditions. Newell is equally at home composing for vocal ensembles, chamber groups and orchestra. Listen to a performance of John Newell's Quartet for Strings - A Day's Journey (2008) . . .  it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

And check out a scene from Polar Express (2004) with music by Alan Silvestri . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In addition to his extensive compositional output, Romanian composer Corneliu Dan Georgescu has studied music performance, theory, morphology, musicology, and ethnomusicology. His compositional work has developed in parallel with his scientific research in ethnomusicology and aesthetics. From 1962-83 he worked at the Bucharest Institute Constatin Brailoiu (formerly the Institute of Folklore, Institute for Social Anthropology and Dialectological Research), where he undertook fieldwork as an ethnologist. Georgescu then worked as an art historian at the Institute for Art History, Bucharest. From 1970-1987 he was awarded nine prizes of the Romanian Composers Union for his compositional and musicological works. In 2007 he received the "The Cultural Merit" award. Watch a performance of Corneliu Dan Georgescu's  Praeludium fur Columna Infinita (2011) . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Anna Weesner's music has been described as “animated and full of surprising turns” (The New York Times), as “a haunting conspiracy” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) and cited as demonstrating “an ability to make complex textures out of simple devices” (San Francisco Classical Voice). John Harbison has written that “none of it proceeds in obvious ways. Her vocabulary is subtle and rather elusive; the effect is paradoxically confident and decisive.” Weesner is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2008 award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Listen to her work for string orchestra, Still Things Move (2003) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Described as "beautiful and impassioned ... lustrous at the keyboard" by The New York Times, Lisa Moore’s playing combines music, theatre and expressive, emotional power - whether in the delivery of the simplest song, a solo recital or a fiendish chamber score. Crowned "New York's queen of avant-garde piano" and "visionary" by The New Yorker this New York based Australian virtuoso has performed with a large and diverse range of musicians and artists – the London Sinfonietta, New York City Ballet, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bargemusic, Bang on a Can All-Stars, TwoSense, Steve Reich Ensemble, Grand Band, So Percussion, Don Byron Adventurers Orchestra, Signal, Le Train Bleu, Third Coast Percussion, Da Capo Chamber Players, eighth blackbird, and the John Jasperse Dance Company. Pitchfork writes "She's the best kind of contemporary classical musician, one so fearsomely game that she inspires composers to offer her their most wildly unplayable ideas". Moore's repertoire moves between composers such as Joseph Haydn, Robert Schumann, Leos Janacek, Bela Bartok, Modeste Mussorgsky, Gyorgy Ligeti, Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, Martin Bresnick, John Adams, Missy Mazzoli and Frederic Rzewski . . . she's this week's NEW MUSIC PERFORMER.

Richard Danielpour  Three Preludes (2003), nos. 1 and 2 . . . a little something FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Composer, percussionist and performer Gareth Farr is an indisputably colourful figure in New Zealand music, and, whether scored for percussion duet or the resources of two large orchestras, his music reflects his personality—bold, brash, or delicate and sensuous, but inevitably, immediately engaging. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, studied composition, orchestration and electronic music at Auckland University and was a regular player with the Auckland Philharmonia and the Karlheinz Company. Further study followed at Victoria University, Wellington, where he became known for his exciting compositions, often using the Indonesian gamelan. Farr is recognised as one of New Zealand’s most versatile and successful contemporary composers and as a skilled percussionist. He's also known for his alter ego, Lilith Lacroix. Watch a performance of Gareth Farr's Taheke (2002), played by flutist Christy Kim and harpist Sarah Davis . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

There can be few active musicians able to remember a time when Darius Milhaud's name was not familiar, fewer still who can claim knowledge of the vast quantity of work produced during the long career of this incessantly prolific and versatile composer. Milhaud's musical training began in his native city of Marseilles. At the age of 17 he went to the Paris Conservatoire. His teachers were Dukas, Leroux and Gédalge. Among his friends were Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger. Of equal if not greater importance were literary friendships with, for example, Francis Jammes and Paul Claudel, two of the great influences (Andre Gide was the third) on the early years of Milhaud's career. In 1917, Claudel took Milhaud to Rio de Janeiro as a member of his ambassadorial staff. Brazil brought him into fruitful contact with a civilisation half-Latin, half-exotic, with Latin-American popular music and with jazz. After returning to Paris in 1919 Milhaud was adopted into the circle of Les Six, a group of progressive French composers brought together under the guidance of Jean Cocteau. However, like any such artificial collection, Les Six was quick to dissolve, and during the 1920s Milhaud adopted an assortment of new musical influences (notably jazz, which the composer first discovered during a trip to the U.S. in 1922, and which features prominently in much of his subsequent music). Milhaud composed, performed, and taught ceaselessly during the 1920s and 1930s, only abandoning his homeland in late 1939 after all hope of resisting the German advance vanished. Settling in the United States, Milhaud accepted a teaching position with Mills College in Oakland, California, and continued to compose prolifically. From 1947 he combined his American teaching duties with a similar position at the Paris Conservatoire, remaining at both institutions until 1971. Watch Darius Milhaud Part I - A Recollection of the Twenties (KQED), originally produced for KQED in 1965 . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week. And visit Darius Milhaud at the Pytheas Center.

Finnish composer Pertti Jalava was a jazz musician before taking up classical music. He has kept jazz and classical music compartmentalized instead of combining them, as some have done, into a crossover style. Some of his works are based on his earlier jazz output, but he adapts the old material to the new genre. By far Jalava’s most substantial works are his symphonies. Listen to a performance of Pertti Jalava's Symphony No. 3, "Forms of Opinion" (2004-08) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

And also check out: Classical Music Dead? Nico Muhly Proves It Isn't (Lucy Jones, The Telegraph) . . . it's our PYTHEAS THOUGHT and IDEA for the week. And visit Nico Muhly at the Pytheas Center.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kevin Puts  Arches (2000) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Svitlana Azarova  Outvoice, outstep and outwalk (2004) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Lynn Vartan, percussionist (Los Angeles, California, USA) . . . she's our PYTHEAS NEW MUSIC PERFORMER for the week.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Christos Hatzis is becoming widely known as a leading figure in contemporary classical music. His music is inspired by proto-Christian spirituality, his own Byzantine musical heritage, world cultures and various non-classical-music genres including jazz, pop and world musics. He has created several works inspired by the music of the Inuit, Canada's arctic inhabitants, and these works, particularly the award-winning radio documentary Footprints in New Snow, have promoted Inuit culture around the globe. His strongest inspiration is his own religious faith, and a number of his religious works have been hailed as contemporary masterpieces by critics and audiences alike.The starting point for Hatzis' Arctic Dreams 1 (2002) is another of his works, Voices of the Land, the third part of his Footprints In New Snow (1996), a radio documentary/composition about the Inuit and their culture which the composer created in 1995 with CBC Radio producer Keith Horner. In the documentary, the foreground is occupied by the voice of Winston White, an Inuit Elder and broadcaster from Nunavut who speaks about the north and its inhabitants. In Arctic Dreams 1, this place is taken by the flute and vibraphone. Watch a performance of Christos Hatzis' Arctic Dreams 1 played by flutist Nicole Camacho and vibraphonist Clara Warnaar . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

. . . also check out Christos Hatzis in an Interview with "Your Greek News"  . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Frances White's Winter Aconites was composed in 1993; the part for tape being made at the Winham Laboratory of Princeton University. According to the composer, "Winter Aconites is the first of my "little bulb" pieces for instruments and tape. The instrument parts in these works are largely sustained tones; the tape parts are soft, chiming sounds with irregular attacks that create a space within which the instrumentalists perform. The winter aconite is a species of flowering bulb (Eranthis hyemalis). Its small, yellow, buttercup-like flowers are among the very first to appear each year; in the northeast it can bloom as early as February, while there is still snow on the ground. Like so many of the little early bulbs, winter aconites will naturalize -- they will propagate themselves and form large colonies. My piece, Winter Aconites, was commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation and the Bang On A Can Festival in memory of John Cage. Shortly after I began work on it (and before it had a title), I had a dream in which I brought a pot of winter aconite flowers to Cage. He was delighted -- he loved flowers and plants -- and later during my visit, we made sandwiches with some of the blooms (I have no idea whether the blooms of winter aconites are actually edible or not). Like the flowers in my dream, this piece is a gift for John Cage." Listen to a performance of Frances White's Winter Aconites  . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Tony Caramia is Professor of Piano at the Eastman School of Music, where he is Director of Piano Pedagogy Studies and Coordinator of the Class Piano Program. He is a Contributing Editor for Clavier Companion Magazine and on the Editorial Committee of American Music Teacher. He has conducted numerous workshops in jazz piano for teachers at MTNA National and State Conventions; the International Association for Jazz Educators (IAJE) Teacher Training Institutes; the National Piano Teachers Institute, and the International Workshops. In addition, Caramia has lectured and performed at the European Piano Teachers Association International Conference in London, the Australian Piano Pedagogy Conference in Adelaide, and the Institute of Registered Music Teachers National Conference in New Zealand. He was a featured performer at the prestigious Rochester International Jazz Festival; the 2007, 2009, and 2011 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, and the 50th Anniversary of the New School for Music Study, in Princeton, NJ. He has been a guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR, and has served as a judge for the American Jazz Piano Competition, sponsored by the American Pianists Association, the Crescendo Music Awards, and the Young Texas Artists Competition. Watch a performance of his Night Train Express (1985) played by "PianoNic" . . . it's this week's second FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS. And also check out our extensive list of Jazz & Blues for the Beginning Pianist, as well as Contemporary Piano Repertoire for Young Performers, and Contemporary Violin Repertoire for Young Performers.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharon Fuerst Tutoring is now sponsoring the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music & PytheasTalk!
"My goal is to teach the skills necessary for a life-time of learning. To guide and encourage students toward understanding concepts. To motivate and empower them along the way. To strengthen weaknesses to grow into a well-rounded individual. To use techniques and strategies tailored to each student's learning style.

I am a Maine certified teacher with over 25 years of experience, specializing in math and science. I hold a BS degree in Biology (emphasizing the integrated sciences) and a Masters of Art in Teaching. As a substitute teacher and tutor over the past ten years, I've developed positive relationships based on honesty and openness, keep abreast of the latest technologies and innovations, and have access to current resources. 
 
I offer a full range of support, including homework assistance, organizational and time management, test preparation and study skills, in all subjects and levels, focusing on middle to high school math and science. My services cover the Southern Maine area, including Yarmouth, Falmouth, Cumberland, Freeport, Brunswick, Portland and South Portland."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mauricio Kagel  Phonophonie (1964)  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Kevin Puts - On His Piano Concerto "Night"  . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Sara Horick  She Walks In Beauty (2006) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Lynn Vartan, percussionist (Los Angeles, USA) . . . she is our FEATURED PERFORMER this week.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Richard Einhorn  Variations on La Folia (2011)  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Grażyna Bacewicz  String Quartet No. 6 (1960)  . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

And ...

Grażyna Bacewicz  Violin Concertos Nos. 1,3,7 (Chandos Records) . . . our FEATURED RECORDING this week.

Pictures of Music (Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA) . . . just one of our FEATURED NEW MUSIC WEBSITES.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Eric Whitacre  Cloudburst (1992) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Kevin Puts Wins 2012 Pulitzer Prize (Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox) . . . our FEATURED THOUGHT this week.

Tan Hainu  String Trio, "The Dream of Berlin" (2008)  . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

G-Spot Tornado (1986/1992) - Music by Frank Zappa - Choreography by Louise Lecavalier

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alberto Ginastera  Estancia, op. 8 (1941) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Composer Portrait: Anne LeBaron (Judy Lochhead, IAWM Journal) . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week. And visit Anne LeBaron at Pytheas!

Gia Comolli  The Flight of Icarus (1989) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Red Light New Music (New York, NY, USA) . . .  our FEATURED ENSEMBLE this week.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Gillian Whitehead  Arapatiki (2004) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Hear Now – A Festival of New Music (Venice, California, USA) - Aug 25 & 26, 2012 . . . it's our FEATURED NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL.

Phil Kline  Tarantella (2006) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Orchestra 2001 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) . . . our FEATURED ENSEMBLE this week.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Christian Wolff  Another Possibility (2004) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

New Programming - Expanding the Box (Greg Sandow) . . . our NEW MUSIC THOUGHT for the week.

Ted Vives  Fanfare Diamante (2007) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

5:4 (Five Against Four) . . . check out this NEW MUSIC WEBSITE.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mark Anthony Turnage  Greek (1988) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The Avant Garde Project: Online Audio Resource . . . check out our FEATURED NEW MUSIC WEBSITE.

Gillian Whitehead  Five Bagatelles (1986) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

The Menard Ensemble (Brisbane, Australia) . . . our FEATURED ENSEMBLE this week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

American composer Joseph Turrin is a greatly valued contributor to contemporary American musical life thanks to his wide-ranging activities as a composer, orchestrator, conductor, pianist, and teacher. According to The New York Times, "Turrin's music is nervous, loud, swift and aggressive to the point of violence. It is also beautifully made, negotiating its constant changes of speed and pulse with grace. His music is young - no past, only future." Turrin studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, and has pursued a career that has always been multifaceted. As a composer, he has produced works in many genres. Writing about his piece Two Portraits (1995), Turrin says: "I composed the Two Portraits for the 20th Anniversary of the International Trumpet Guild. The first Portrait, conceived as a flugelhorn solo, is entitled Psalm. The soloist plays a soulful chant over a ostinato figure in the piano. The second Portrait is Incantation, and is for both trumpet and flugelhorn. This movement is in direct contrast to Pslam, with it's energetic and lively character and a good deal of changing meters. There are some strong melodic lines in the solo part which soar above the rhythmic excitement in the piano." Watch a performance of Joseph Turrin's Two Portraits played by Andrew Bezik . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The music of composer Sebastian Currier has been performed worldwide in major cities such as Paris, Rome, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, London and Toronto. In the United States, his works have been performed in Carnegie Hall in New York, Symphony Hall in Boston, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. One of his most notable works Aftersong was written for the world-renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter who, with pianist Lambert Orkis, premiered the work at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, performed it at the Salzburg Festival, and subsequently toured with it and with another composition called Clockwork throughout the rest of Europe and the United States. Currier has received a Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Friedheim Award, a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Tanglewood Fellowship, and has held residencies at the MacDowell and Yaddo Colonies. Commissions include Meet the Composer, Fromm Foundation, Koussevitzky Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and the American Composers Orchestra. His works have been performed by such orchestras as the National Symphony, Gewandhaus Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, EOS Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. Currier is currently on the faculty of Columbia University. Listen to an interview with Sebastian Currier . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

A great degree of virtuosity is required for Derek Bermel's Coming Together (1999), for clarinet and cello. Coming Together is a quintessential Bermel work: humorous, gesture-based and demonstrating a keen ear for invoking the human voice. Commissioned by the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center and Merkin Hall for Bermel and Fred Sherry, this short duo consists entirely of glissandi. Says Bermel, "I wanted to write a piece without any straight pitches, one which relied solely on gestural development, yet which would still be convincing and emotional." Bermel achieves this by specifying exactly where each pitch starts and ends and where each glissando occurs in time. This careful placement of tonal areas defines the structure and carries the piece forward. Listen to a performance of Derek Bermel's Coming Together . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Writing about her flute concerto Aile du Songe (Wing of the Dream) (2000), Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho says: "I have been very familiar with the flute since my earliest pieces. I like the sound in which breathing is ever present, with timbral possibilities that befit my musical language: the instrument's body makes it possible to write phrases that go through grinding textures coloured with phonemes whispered by the flutist, which gradually go towards pure and smooth sounds. The concerto's title and the general mood of the piece derive from Saint-John Perse's collection of poems Oiseaux: "Aile falquee du songe, vous nous retrouverez ce soir sur d'autres rives!". The concerto is composed of two main parts: Aerienne and Terrestre. The three sections of Aerienne describe three different concerted situations: In Prelude the flute gradually pervades space and generates the orchestra's music, in Jardin des oiseaux the flute interacts with individual instruments of the orchestra, while D'autres rives compares the flute to a lone, high flying bird whose shadow forms different images played by the strings over the unchanged landscape of the harp, celesta and percussion. The first section of Terrestre, Oiseau dansant, introduces a deep contrast with the other material of the concerto. It refers to an Aboriginal tale in which a virtuosic dancing bird teaches a whole village how to dance. While writing this section, I was especially thinking of Camilla Hoitenga and her personality as a flutist. The finale - the second section of Terrestre - is a synthesis of all the previous aspects, then the sound of the flute slowly fades away." Listen to a performance of Kaija Saariaho's Aile du Songe played by flutist Camilla Hoitenga and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This Week at Pytheas [7/16/12]
[under construction]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Patrick Harlin  The Mechanist (American Sketch #3) (2008) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The Cat Creature (1973) - Music by Leonard Rosenman - Film by Curtis Harrington . . . our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Arnold Schoenberg  Das Buch der Hängende Gärten, op. 15 (1908-09) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sebastian Currier  Almost too much, from "Verge" (1997) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Apollon musagète (1928) - Music by Igor Stravinsky - Choreography by George Balanchine . . . our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

Leonard Bernstein  Benediction (Concerto for Orchestra, mvt 4) (1989) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Vivian Fung  Violin Concerto (2011) . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Douglas Lilburn  Fragments of a Poem (1966)  . . . one of our SOUND ART for the week.

Gregory Hall  Water – Two Poems of W.S. Merwin (2005) . . .  it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Kazimierz Serocki Segmenti (1960-61) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Canadian composer Harry Somers describes his artistic development: "Over the years I've worked consistently on three different levels with three different approaches to composition. On one level my approach has been what I call 'community music' or 'music for use': for example music for amateurs and music for school use. On a second level I've created 'functional music,' in the specific sense: music for television, films and theatre, where the composition has to work in company with another medium and serve the demands of that medium. On a third level I have created without consideration for any limitations, sometimes completely experimentally, sometimes extending the line of a particular direction on which I had been working through a series of works. In short, the first two levels relate directly to the environment and society, in the broad sense, in which I live at the moment, and in which I function as a craftsman; the third relates to a more restricted audience (though I'm not convinced it need be so) and my personal development as an artist." Somers came to be one of Canada's most internationally-known composers. His children's opera A Midwinter Night's Dream premiered in Toronto on May 17 1988, with a libretto by Tim Wynne-Jones. Watch a performance of Northern Lights from Harry Somers' A Midwinter Night's Dream sung by the Milwaukee Choral Artists, Sharon Hansen, director . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Composer and percussion artist Emmanuel Séjourné was born in Limoges, France. His music is rhythmic, romantic, energetic, and inspired both by the Western classical tradition and by popular culture (jazz, rock, extra-European). Each year his compositions are played in dozens of countries around the world, and many orchestras include them in their repertoire: the Nagoya Philharmonic, Osaka Philharmonic, Sinfonia Toronto, Croatian Radio Television Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Italienne, Camerata de Bourgogne, Orchestre d’Auvergne, de Cannes, Nice, Pau, Bochumer Symphoniker, Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester, among others. Acclaimed by members of the percussion community, his music has been commissioned or recorded by Gary Cook, John Pennington, Ju-Percussion group, Bob Van Sice, Nancy Zeltsman, Marta Klimasara, Katarzyna Mycka, and the Amsterdam Percussion Group. Séjourné has also composed many chamber and choral works, and his fascination  with the relations between various forms of artistic expression has produced music for the stage and television. Watch a performance of Emmanuel Séjourné's Vouz Avez duFeu? (2001) . . . one of our BANG, CLANG & BEAT - New Music for Percussion for the week.

Finnish composer Pertti Jalava has written numerous works for orchestra (including three symphonies and a piano concerto), various ensemble combinations and chorus. He has also composed a considerable amount for big band and his own jazz ensembles, in which he plays drums and keyboards. Jalava's compositions for string orchestra, wind ensemble, chamber ensemble, jazz ensemble and big band have won many prizes in both national and international composition competitions and have been performed by orchestras in both Finland and abroad under many distinguished conductors. Numerous concerts containing over 40 works by Jalava have been recorded and broadcasted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). Some upcoming performances include: Two Ways to Leave and Return will be premiered at the New Paths in Music festival, 21 June 2012, Elebash Recital Hall, City University Graduate Center, 5th Ave. & 34th Street in New York City, NY, by the New Paths Ensemble and conductor David Alan Miller; A diptych: Distant / Close Distant Smoke from Behind the Woods and A Close Shave At the Traffic Lights will premiere 22 September 2012 in Orgelpark, Gerard Brandtstraat 26, Amsterdam, Holland by Dirk Luijmes (harmonium) and the String Quartet of Nieuw Amsterdams Peil; and Jalava's Fourth String Quartet has been recently commissioned by Juha-Pekka Vikman, concert master of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. Listen to Pertti Jalava's Pinta Surface (2002) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Writing about her 1985 composition Pennyroyal Swale, American composer Beth Anderson writes: "A swale is a meadow or a marsh where there is nourishment and moisture and therefore, a rich diversity of plant life. My work, since 1984, is made from swatches of newly composed music, rather than found music, which are reminiscent of this diversity. When a horse named Swale won the Kentucky derby several years ago, I discovered the word and have used it extensively since. Dedicated to Mr. James Roy because of his dedication to assisting women composers while running the concert division of BMI, this work is a combination of folk-related vernacular music with 'classically' developed techniques in an open, somewhat repetitive form. Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family and a healing herb with a distinctive odor." Listen to a performance of Beth Anderson's Pennyroyal Swale, played by the Rubio String Quartet . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jean Françaix realised the "making pleasure" which was the French music supreme purpose for Debussy. Françaix's works are typically French: they have charm and spirit, yet often irony, too. His style resides in his sense of humour, his big literary culture, and his relationship with occidental musical tradition. Asked about his own music, Françaix wrote: "I was told that my works were easy. Those who say that have probably never played my works themselves. My works are not considered contemporary music, but I am not dead yet." Françaix wrote his Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in 1990 in celebration of the 300th birthday of the clarinet and based it's instrumentation on Mozart’s classic Kegelstatt Trio. Watch a performance of  Jean Françaix's Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano (1990) played by Julie DeRoche (clarinet), Rami Solomonow (viola), and Aglika Angelova (piano)  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Ruth Schönthal was an American composer and pianist of German birth whose eclectic music brought together elements as diverse as European Romanticism, Mexican folk song and Minimalism. Schönthal began her musical studies at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin when she was 5. In 1935, she was expelled, along with other Jewish students, at the insistence of the Nazis, and in 1938 she emigrated with her family to Sweden, where she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. In 1941, the family fled Stockholm; unable to obtain a visa for the United States, they went to Mexico City. In Mexico, Schönthal studied composition with Rodolfo Halffter and Manuel Ponce, and in 1946 she gave the premiere of her Concerto Romantico for Piano and Orchestra. Composer Paul Hindemith, who was in the audience, invited her to study with him at Yale. She graduated from Yale in 1948, and at first earned a living by writing advertising jingles and popular songs. But she also performed as a concert pianist and was highly regarded for her improvisatory skills. And she composed prolifically, often drawn to social, historical and religious themes. Her music found an audience in Germany, and in 1994 she was awarded the Heidelberg International Composition Prize for Women Composers. The same year, a biography, Ruth Schonthal: A Composer’s Musical Development in Exile, by Martina Helmig, was published in Germany, and later in an English translation. Listen to Ruth Schönthal talk about her work A Bird Over Jerusalem . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.

Composer Judith Zaimont writes about her Virgie Rainey - Two Narratives (2002): "While my earliest music is for the voice, in recent years I have not written quite so much for this medium, so the invitation to set Eudora Welty's words was especially enticing. Virgie Rainey portrays an independent, willful young woman, limned in reflection by her response to two emotional pivot points, one deeply saddening and the other rather frivolous. In Narrative One Virgie learns of the death of someone close to her and then proceeds, as if in a trance, down to the river to immerse herself (in quasi-baptismal sorrow). The tale is told in fragments of interrupted chant, mirroring Virgie's unconscious yet urgent journey by gradual and inexorable shifts to ever-faster tempi. Narrative Two is a delicious comic tale of Virgie's love-hate relationship with the piano - imagined in the opening phrase of Für Elise: the only music she ever played well - and her battle of wills with her piano teacher. Naturally, Beethoven distortions abound, set within a 'mock-opera' ambience." Listen to Narrative One from Judith Zaimont's  Virgie Rainey - Two Narratives  performed by soprano Wendy Zaro-Mullins, mezzo-soprano Jean del Santo, and pianist Timothy Lovelace. . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFUL for the week.