Monday, February 13, 2012

Alexina Louie is one of Canada’s most highly regarded and most often performed composers. Her uniquely personal style blends both East and West, and draws on a wide variety of influences - from her Chinese heritage to her theoretical, historical and performance studies. Her music has been widely commissioned and performed by Canada’s leading orchestras, new music ensembles, chamber groups and soloists. Louie's mini-opera Toothpaste (2001) was created for television with librettist Dan Redican, and has been broadcast in over a dozen countries. The six-minute opera is about a marriage that crumbles over the wife's mistreating a tube of toothpaste, much to her husband's dismay. Using the power of operatic emotion to express a seemingly innocuous (and hilariously Pythonesque domestic squabble), it slyly demonstrates the powerful, hidden emotions behind the fight, as it quickly transforms itself into a total melt-down of the relationship. Watch Alexina Louie's Toothpaste, with soprano Barbara Hannigan and tenor Mark McKinney . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Bernadette Speach's work as a composer embraces a variety of styles, including solo, chamber and orchestral compositions, and her works have been played by numerous performers in venues across the world. She has performed as pianist throughout her life in a variety of capacities: as soloist; with her husband, guitarist Jeffrey Schanzer as the Schanzer/Speach Duo; and in both improvising and chamber ensembles. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, and her music is recorded on Mode Records, and published by Kallisti Press. In addition to her composing, Speach's efforts as an administrator, fundraiser, board member, presenter and educator continue to bring the work of a broad range of artists to audiences in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. Watch Tiny Temple (2009), a collaboration between Bernadette Speach and choreographer Anne Burnidge  . . . it's our DANSES PYTHEUSES for the week.

Christopher Marshall was born in Paris, France (of New Zealand parents), educated in Australia and New Zealand, and is currently Adjunct Professor of Composition at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando. Because of his wide cultural background - French, New Zealand, Australian, as well as living several years in Samoa, his music moulds diverse influences into a distinctive personal style marked by memorable melody and rhythmic ingenuity. Marshall’s orchestral, wind ensemble, chamber and choral music has been very widely performed and broadcast particularly in the United States and Europe. It's music that is accessible, idiomatically written and often exhilarating in its rhythmic ingenuity. It also places great emphasis on expressive memorable melody and frequently delights in integrating diverse stylistic elements. Listen to Christopher Marshall's Synergy, from "Three Aspects of Spring" (1995) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Jack Anderson ( writes of Out of Place (2008), a collaboration between choreographer Wendy Osserman and Czech violinist and vocalist Iva Bittová . . . "Wendy Osserman's choreography and Iva Bittová's music made Out of Place a journey to a haunted place of ghosts, spirits, werewolves, and spells somewhere in Eastern Europe where venerable Slavic and Yiddish traditions mingle and the air is filled with scraps of old ballads and fragments of almost-forgotten, yet still disquieting, folk tales. Bittová did much to maintain a sense of mystery. She can fiddle and sing at the same time, blending folk, classical, and jazz styles, her voice sounding delicate one moment, gruff and throaty the next. Some of her music was live. But she also performed in counterpoint with recordings. And this production revealed that her movements can be as impressive as her music, for her stage presence made her resemble a village story-teller, or clairvoyant crone. Osserman and her dancers collaboratively created what could be described as a plotless suite of musical and choreographic episodes, each with its own neat little title." Watch Sea (2008), from "Out of Place" . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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