Cold Snap Miscellany

A few items of interest on a chilly day in Philadelphia:

– Two choirs that have performed my music offer Christmas concerts this weekend: The Crossing, and  Cantori New York.

– Did you know you can hear performances from Yellow Barn online? Lots of new music, including works by Michel van der Aa, Charles Wuorinen, Oliver Knussen, Hans Abrahamsen and many more, as well as traditional repertoire.

– The extraordinary violinist Rolf Schulte has made archival recordings of his performances of concertos by Roger Sessions and Donald Martino available on CD Baby here. The Sessions is performed by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, with Janos Kulka, and the Martino is with the New Hampshire Symphony and James Bolle. The music is also available on the iTunes store.

– The Association for the Promotion of New Music presents an all-Babbitt program in his centennial year on December 19 at the Di Menna Center in New York, including performances by the New York New Music Ensemble.

– There will be a concert of music by Robert Capanna on Friday, January 6, at the Settlement Music School’s Queen Street Branch here in Philadelphia. Presented in collaboration with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the performers include the Network for New Ensemble conducted by Jan Krzywicki, soprano Sharon Harms, pianist Charles Abramovic, and the Prism Saxophone Quartet.

Music Amid Catastrophe

The deeply frightening election nightmare that has descended leaves little room to talk about artistic matters. And yet, I feel I would be remiss if I did not express my thanks for the recent performances of my music in the past several days.

Cantori New York and the French ensemble Musicatreize gave two vivid performances of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus in New York City this past weekend. The combined choirs mastered the intricate layering of the piece, with its settings of both the Latin Ordinary of the Mass and Denise Levertov poems that reflect on the liturgical texts. I felt the singers had internalized the gestures of the piece and projected them to the listeners with authority and nuance.

Overlapping with the Cantori concerts were performances of my Dark the Star with Baritone Tom Meglioranza and the New York New Music Ensemble  This was an astonishing performance; Tom had memorized the piece, a 20-minute work that sets Rilke, Susan Stewart, and a verse from the psalms. Beauty of sound, precision, powerful affect – Tom’s singing had it all. The instrumentalists – Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Stephen Gosling, piano; Chris Finckel, cello; and Daniel Druckman, percussion, with conductor Eduardo Leandro – were no less eloquent.

Here are YouTube links for the pieces: the Mass as performed by The Crossing and Dark the Star with William Sharp and the 21st Century Consort, Christopher Kendall conductor.

Although I was in New York and could not attend, I was happy to learn that mezzo Kristin Gornstein performed one of my Three Folk Hymns this past Sunday as part of her recital at St. Thomas Church in Whitemarsh, not far outside Philadelphia. Her pianist was Derrick Goff. Kristin was very impressive when I heard her give the premiere of Steve Mackey’s Madrigal for voice and percussion at Tanglewood in 2015, and I am delighted she has taken up my music.

In addition to these performances, I want to report that pianist Youmee Kim has recorded my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift for Centaur Records as part of an album of American piano music. Youmee was a member of the consortium that commissioned the piece, and it is wonderful to have this elegantly performed document of that project. I am not yet finding the album online; Centaur advises checking Arkiv Music or HB Direct for its products, and I expect the disc will be available soon.

 

“Dark the Star” in Philadelphia and New York

6a00d83453ebeb69e201a511c84960970c-320wiPoetry of Rilke and Susan Stewart, plus a verse from Psalm 116 – these are the texts I set in Dark the Star, a 2008 work for baritone, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion. The New York New Music Ensemble with soloist Thomas Meglioranza (at left) will perform the piece twice in early November. Here are the details: the first performance is in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 6 at 2 pm. The free concert will be in Rose Recital Hall, on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall, located on the southeast corner of 34th and Walnut on the University of Pennsylvania campus. (Make sure your clock is set correctly, as Eastern Standard Time returns that weekend!) NYNME will repeat the program in New York the next day, November 7. The New York performance is at 8:30 pm, at the Tenri Cultural Center, 43a West 13th Street. Music by Melinda Wagner, Mario Davidovsky, and Augusta Read Thomas will round out the program.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the extraordinary musicians of NYNME for over 20 years. The rapport among these players is near telepathic, and their performances are electrifying.

Here is my program note on Dark the Star:

Composing this cycle of songs began with my discovery of three poems in Susan Stewart’s collection Columbarium that I knew I must set to music. The deep, dreamlike wisdom of these poems haunted me, just as I had experienced with Susan’s poem “Cinder” that had served as the fulcrum of my song cycle Holy the Firm. Eventually, texts by Rilke and an earlier setting I had done of a psalm verse were drawn into the gravitational orbit of Susan’s poems. I ordered the texts in a nearly symmetrical pattern, with two texts set a second time in versions that shadow their first readings. This is partly for the sake of the formal design, but, more importantly, to re-examine the poems in the penumbra of what comes before. Rounding the cycle in this way reflects not only the circles and repetitions in Susan Stewart’s texts, but also the way in which, as Rilke writes, the things we have let go of yet encircle us. The work was composed for William Sharp and the 21st Century Consort, who gave the premiere, with Christopher Kendall conducting.

Sample the Bridge recording of the piece on YouTube, with the forces for whom the piece was written:

BMI, NYNME, NYC

I was in NYC on Monday for the BMI Student Awards reception. Thank you to Deirdre Chadwick, BMI’s Executive Director for Classical Music, and her colleagues for a lovely gathering marking an important program, and of course congrats to the winners (sorry, I don’t seem to be able to find a list of winners online at the moment…)

By a happy coincidence, the New York New Music Ensemble was playing at Merkin Hall that evening, so I caught a program of works by Mathew Rosenblum and the late Lee Hyla. There were three chamber works by Lee, all very strong, full of energy, wit, visceral intensity and musical intelligence. Polish Folk Songs (2007) was especially striking for its keening clarinets played by Jean Kopperud and Meighan Stoops. Mathew’s big piece for soprano, sextet and fixed media, Falling (2013) took up the second half. It’s a rich, strange amalgam, including a recording of James Dickey reading his poem about the accidental death of a stewardess, haunting phrases from soprano Jamie Jordan, and microtones woven into dream-like instrumental textures. As Mathew noted in his program note, the piece’s reflections on mortality took on “a special meaning… as we approach the one year anniversary of Lee Hyla’s passing.” It was a pleasure to observe the elegant virtuosity of both NYNME regulars (Jean Kopperud, clarinets; Linda Quan, violin; Christopher Finckel, cello; Daniel Druckman, percussion; and Stephen Gosling, piano) and their guests (James Baker, conductor; Jamie Jordan, soprano; Kelli Kathman, flute; Lois Martin, viola; Meghan Stoops, clarinet; with composer Mathew Rosenblum assisting with the electronic component of his piece).

With a little time to spare before the BMI party started, I sat in the southeast corner of Central Park, checking out some architecture, landscape, and ducks of New York.

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School’s Out Miscellany

Classes have ended at my day job, just an exam to give and much grading. I will have more time for the project on the front burner, a big piece for violin and piano for Tai Murray and Anton Nel,  commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for a premiere in Philly next February. Here’s Tai playing Copland:

And here Anton plays Mozart:

– Speaking of first-class pianism, Marilyn Nonken will be coming to Penn twice next season, for a colloquium in September, and a recital in January. Go here for a fascinating interview with Marilyn.

– I’ll be in NYC for the BMI Student Awards on May 18, and after the ceremony, will head over to Merkin Hall to hear the New York New Music Ensemble play Lee Hyla and Matthew Rosenblum. Info here.

– don’t forget to check the upcoming performances listing at the very bottom of this page or via the performances link at the top of the page. My music will be heard in LA; NYC; Easton, MD; Philadelphia; and Tanglewood in the next few months.

Easter Friday Miscellany

– David Patrick Stearns offer a substantial interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen.

– The inimitable Jeremy Denk writes about the Goldberg Variations on Deceptive Cadence.

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Here are some pictures from last week’s New York New Music Ensemble concert at Penn. The performance was superb, at times astounding. All the pieces had merit – I was especially struck by On That Swirl of Ending Dust by master of electronic media Eric Chasalow. The piece combined Eric’s exquisitely crafted electronic sounds with the live ensemble in tight synchrony. There were hints of jazz in the second movement, while the third movement was a quiet ritual, with bits of spoken text in the electronic component that made me think of a sober family gathering. Rand Steiger’s exuberant tribute to Elliott Carter, Elliott’s Instruments, enfolds fragments from an array of Carter’s own pieces. It was interesting how one could still recognize references to essentially athematic music. Yiorgos Vassilandonakis’s Quatuor pour la fin d’une ère evocatively explored liminal sounds, a dreamscape not quite in focus.  Cloud Earth by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long was less densely worked than some of the other music on the program. There were imaginative textures here, as well as a little too much wood block for me.

Here are (l to r) Linda Quan, Steve Gosling, Chris Finckel and half of Jean Kopperud in rehearsal:

James Baker, Steve Gosling, Jean Kopperud, Jayn Rosenfeld, and guest artist Dave Shively (regular NYNME percussionist Daniel Druckman couldn’t make it):

and the band bowing after the show:

NYNME at Penn

Here’s the program for Wednesday night’s concert by the New York New Music Ensemble, to be held at 8:00 pm in Rose Recital Hall, located in Fisher-Bennett Hall on the Penn campus:

Rand Steiger — elliott’s instruments (2010)
Eric Chasalow — On That Swirl of Ending Dust (2012) Written for NYNME
Yiorgos Vassilandonakis — Quatuor pour la fin d’une ère (2012) Written for NYNME
Zhou Long — Cloud Earth (2012) Written for NYNME

Wail of the Voice

Lots of new music at Penn in coming weeks. Music by Penn faculty past and present will be heard on Wednesday, March 28, at a program playfully called “Wail of the Voice”, with reference to the Crumb work that will end the program, Voice of the Whale. There will be music by current faculty Anna Weesner and Jay Reise, as well as myself. The Daedalus Quartet will play Anna’s piece, Greg DeTurck will offer my Piano Variations, and there will be a piece for saxophone and piano by Jay. In addition to Greg and the Daedalus, Matt Bengtson (piano), Sam Lorber (saxophone), and Michele Kelly (flute) will also be heard. A pre-concert discussion will be at 7:00, concert at 8:00, all this in Rose Recital Hall at Fisher-Bennett Hall on the Penn campus.

One week later, April 4, same place, same time, the New York New Music Ensemble will appear. The program includes:

Rand Steigerelliott’s instruments (2010)
Eric ChasalowOn That Swirl of Ending Dust (2012) Written for NYNME
Yiorgos VassilandonakisQuatuor pour la fin d’une ère (2012)  Written for NYNME
Zhou Long Cloud Earth (2012) Written for NYNME

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Hear whales wailing here.

Soon in Philly and NYC

-The music of seven members of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum – Efrain Amaya, Michael Djupstrom, Daniel Shapiro, Adam B. Silverman, Tony Solitro, Thomas Whitman, and Ya-Jhu Yang –  may be heard as part of a new music theater piece on the Decameron, tonight and through the weekend at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia.

– Network for New Music’s November 21 program is called Trade Winds from Tibet and presents music by Andrea Clearfield springing from her research gathering songs in Tibet; composers Eric Moe, Tony Solitro, Michael Djupstrom are also featured.

-The Contemporary Chamber Ensemble of SUNY Stony Brook presents its annual concert of premieres – Nov. 17 on campus, Nov, 18 at Merkin Concert Hall. New music by David Cutler, Leo Kraft, Laura Schwendinger, Daria Semegan and Ken Ueno.

New York New Music Ensemble offers music of Eric Moe, Keeril Makan, Caroline Malonée, Kati Agócs, and Stephen Hartke, November 22 at Merkin.

Ritual Fragments

I’ve been enjoying a disc from a few years back featuring music of Ross Bauer and entitled Ritual Fragments. Released on Albany in 2007, the album includes five pieces from the 1990s, both vocal and instrumental. Performances are exemplary, with top soloists and ensembles: singers Christine Schadeberg and Susan Narucki, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Triple Helix (the Boston-based piano trio) and Ross’s own Empyrian Ensemble, in residence at UC Davis, where he teaches. Ross works in a post-tonal language, and the musical surface can shift rapidly, even kaleidoscopically – either via juxtaposition, or through magical transmutations smoothly shifting from one instrument to the next. But, as David Rakowski comments in his booklet notes, “there’s always a long line unfolding underneath”. I was struck by how Ross integrates motoric and non-pulsed rhythms, and admired the care with which he paces the rate of harmonic change.  The vocal pieces both set texts by indigenous peoples – Eskimos and Native Americans. Ross’s command of a wide range of mood and color lets him find apt frameworks for these varied and evocative texts. I hope more music of Ross Bauer – perhaps including some more recent pieces – finds its way to disc soon.