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.