Thursday, March 28, 2013

During 2012 Scottish born composer Anna Meredith wrote HandsFree as a PRS/RPS 20x12 Commission for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. It was performed by them at the BBC Proms, Barbican Centre and Symphony Hall as well as numerous flashmob performances around the UK. Meredith's HandsFree showcases the National Youth Orchestra in an unusual situation - performing with no instruments at all. The piece reveals the talented teenagers' audacious musicianship and virtuosity through beat boxing, singing, body percussion and clapping. According to The Guardian, “Pitched somewhere between classical and performance art, HandsFree is essentially a work about body percussion, fantastically planned and choreographed. The players clap, stamp, shuffle, shout and sing. The rhythmic sound patterns are mirrored by platform routines of considerable complexity. Meredith throws in a few Ligeti-like ululations to form points of stasis or relaxation, but the overwhelming impression is one of mounting exhilaration..” Watch a performance of Anna Meredith’s HandsFree (2012) by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Elizabeth Brown combines a successful composing career with an extremely diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her chamber music, shaped by this unique group of instruments and experiences, has been called luminous, dreamlike and hallucinatory. After hearing the instrument on a concert tour of Japan, Brown began studying shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute) in 1984 and its music has been a major influence on her musical language. She is celebrated both here and in Japan for her compositions combining eastern and western sensibilities. In her piece Seahorse, written in 2009, Brown “traces the activities and dreams of a typical seahorse. A solo theremin swims in an ocean of Partch instruments [a harmonic canon, guitar, chromolodeon, diamond marimba, bass marimba, juststrokerods, and a zoomoozophone].” Seahorse was dedicated to Dean Drummond and commissioned by Montclair State University for its Harry Partch Ensemble. Listen to a performance of Elizabeth Brown’s Seahorse (2009) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Of all Pierre Boulez's works, only Le Marteau sans maître (1953-55) has achieved worldwide recognition as a modern masterpiece, partly because of the praise lavished on it by fellow composers and critics, but also because the public responded to the piece with uncommon openness to its rarefied expression and fascination with its fresh timbral palette. The work was choreographed in 1973 by Maurice Béjart, who wrote “Le Marteau sans maître is an abstract work based solely on the relationship between the musical score and motion. Six musicians and a singer on stage find their match in the person of six dancers and a ballerina. The counting geometry does not yet lyrical without underlying metaphysical and extensions. But it is the public to interpret the symbols and build a path through the universe of shapes and sounds. The choreographic style is a symbiosis between test sequences by conventional successive series of precise mathematical and non traditional aesthetic and metaphysical movements inspired by the Far East also reworked material as serial.” Watch a performance of the dance version of Le marteau sans maître with Béjart Ballet Lausanne . . . it's this week's DANSES PYTHEUSES.

Jacob Druckman's Reflections On The Nature Of Water (1986) for solo marimba was commissioned by William Moersch, a champion of solo marimba music, the man responsible for commissioning much of the American repertoire for the instrument. Druckman used Reflections On The Nature Of Water as an homage to Claude Debussy, whose Preludes had inspired the young Druckman, and whose own piece Reflections In the Water (from the Images, Book One/1905) was inspired by Monet's painting Reflections on Water. Druckman likewise paints the musical text for the listener by titling each of the work's six pieces: Crystalline, with its thematic material, paints a picture of a change in the water's consistency; Fleet, quick of pace, with sharp interruptions punctuating and disrupting the flow of the piece with a calculated persistence; Tranquil, a pulsating, almost hypnotic and meditative entity of its own, this music has a sustained and forward-moving quality; Gently Swelling offers a different style in its spirited dancing - graced with splashes of new color and timbre, yet it remains constant in its motion; Profound, returning the entire work to a level of stately depth and consciousness, the music suggests a definite complexity within a mask of simplicity; and finally, Relentless, somewhat reminiscent of the music in Gently Swelling, here Druckman concludes his exploration of a new, romanticized Impressionism [notes thanks to David Brensilver/All Music Guide]. Watch a performance of Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water (1986) played by Tomasz Kowalczyky . . . it's this week's BANG, CLANG and BEAT - New Music for Percussion.

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