Snow Day Miscellany

Well, not a snow day in the sense of schools being closed (it’s a Saturday, anyway), but it has been snowing much of the day here in Philadelphia – on April 9. Several things to catch up on here:

  • the Prism Quartet performance in New York that included my Stratigraphy was reviewed by Musical America. The complete review is behind a paywall online, but here’s what Bruce Hodges had to say in connection with my own piece:

    The afternoon ended with Stratigraphy (2016) by James Primosch, also on the University of Pennsylvania faculty. Introducing his piece, Primosch mentioned he was inspired by geology—the word refers to the analysis of strata—and by spectralism, after reading pianist Marilyn Nonken’s book, The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age (2014, Cambridge University Press). Also director of piano studies at NUY’s Steinhardt School, Nonken has long been at the forefront of contemporary piano music, and has commissioned many new works. Here, as a guest with the ensemble, she offered clean, expertly balanced keyboard sound, often in delicate tracery—a welcome counterpoint to the saxophones. Primosch makes maximum use of the instruments’ contrasting timbres, framing the quartet with the piano—the latter often at the extreme ends of the keyboard. Each of the six movements has its beauties, but I was most struck with “Game of Pairs” (a nod to Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra), and the motoric sparkle of “Geochronologic.”

  • Pianist Geoffrey Burleson gave a very fine performance of my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift in its New York City premiere at Bargemusic last night. He ably captured the contrasting moods of this set, and the virtuosic aspects of the piece were completely under control. Geoff also played a movement from the piece earlier in the week at a Music & More program, also in NYC. I was thoroughly impressed by the remainder of Geoff’s program, which included music by Yehudi Wyner, Missy Mazzoli, and David Rakowski, plus Geoff’s own piece based on Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse, along with the fruits of Geoff’s researches into the solo piano music of Saint-Saens, new territory for me.
  • The distinguished pianist Lambert Orkis is having an array of his Temple University students play my Piano Variations at Temple this coming Monday at 2:45 in Rock Hall. Each of his students is taking on a few variations from the piece, a set that is based on the first movement from my Sonata-Fantasia for piano and synthesizer, a work I wrote for Lambert back in 2001. Knowing the piano and synth version was unlikely to receive many performances, I made this version for piano alone of the big first movement of the sonata. It will be fascinating to hear the varied approaches these talented young artists take to the piece. There is an excerpt from the score here.

Here’s a shot of Geoff and I after his performance:IMG_1260

Upcoming in Philly

Two Philadelphia performances worthy of your attention:

Ben Goldberg, one of the most interesting composer/improvisors I have come across in recent years, is playing with his band Unfold Ordinary Mind at Johnny Brenda’s this coming Sunday, Dec. 9. The show is at 8:30. In this group, Ben plays contra alto clarinet, taking the role of a bass player in the group (contra alto transposes like a bari sax – it’s a fabulous sound.) There’s a great balance of intellect and physicality in this music. Wilco’s Nels Cline will be part of the group that night.

Prism is focusing on individual composers for each of its concerts this season. The first is a Terry Riley program, to be held at the Art Alliance at 7:00 pm on Sunday December 16. Later programs feature music by Cage and Nick Didkovsky.

Here’s an excerpt from an album of Ben’s called Go Home; in this group he plays regular clarinet:

Early Heat Wave Miscellany

– First, two links outside the realm of music: I found this very impressive and touching, and this to be right on target.

Prism Quartet concerts are coming up – Thursday, May 31 at Symphony Space in NYC; Saturday, June 2 at First Unitarian in Philadelphia.


Yesterday I finished a rough draft of the first of the new set of songs I am working on with Susan Stewart – I met Susan this afternoon, played through the draft, and she was pleased with what I’ve done! Now it’s into the studio with George Blood for two editing sessions this week as we attempt to wrestle this 21st Century Consort CD project to the ground – vocal pieces of mine featuring Susan Narucki and William Sharp. Will report on progress later this week.