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Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Unsilent Night's Phil Kline

Wed, 2017-06-28 21:00

Phil Kline is a composer whose music stands out for its range and unpredictability. From boombox symphonies to chamber music and song cycles, his work has been hailed for its originality, beauty, subversive subtext, and wry humor. Kline is a veteran of the thriving art and music community of the East Village in the 80s and 90s, where he founded the The Del-Byzanteens, a rock band, with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares. and played guitar in the historic Glenn Branca Ensemble.

More recently, Kline has collaborated with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, string quartet Ethel and Bang On A Can, among other soloists, ensembles, and orchestras. Kline also hosts a daily radio show on Q2 Music.

Kline joins Jennifer Koh to discuss madness, satanism, and Paganini’s 24th caprice, and the role that each of these entities play in the concept of “virtuosity” as it applies to the solo violin. Kline explores the relationships of these concepts in his Shared Madness piece Bedeviled.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Chicago's Augusta Read Thomas

Tue, 2017-06-27 21:00

Augusta Read Thomas is the composer in residence for the Eugene Symphony Orchestra's 2017-2018 season, and recently premiered a new choral work with Boston's Lorelei Ensemble. She was formerly the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, from 1997 through 2006.

Read Thomas joins Koh to discuss the how she seeks to elicit athleticism from Koh’s tendencies and “depth” as a performer, and seeks to explore both staunch and fluid juxtapositions between the different soundworlds the violin is capable of in her Shared Madness composition “Venus Enchanted”.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Listen: The London Contemporary Orchestra Plays Jonny Greenwood, Mica Levy and Julius Eastman

Tue, 2017-06-27 21:00

On May 18th 2017, the London Contemporary Orchestra gave their New York debut concert at Le Poisson Rouge, featuring members of Ensemble LPR. The program included US Premieres of works by Mica Levi and Johnny Greenwood, a world premiere of a work by Jed Kurzel, and works by Philip Glass, Julius Eastman, and others. 

The London Contemporary Orchestra, formed in 2008 by co-Artistic Directors Robert Ames and Hugh Brunt, has established itself as one of the UK’s most innovative and respected ensembles – collaborating with a distinguished array of composers, artists and brands, including Radiohead, Secret Cinema, Actress, Vivienne Westwood, Jonny Greenwood, and members of Arcade Fire, among many others. The LCO's fundamental mission is to promote the best new music and cross-arts collaborations to an increasingly wide audience.

Listen to the full audio at the top of this page, and individual pieces below.

Edmund Finnis - Relative Colour

Mica Levi - Jackie (US Premiere)

Mica Levi - Under The Skin

Johnny Greenwood - Application 45, Detuned Orchestra, Future Markets, Mata Aini Kuru Kara Ne (US Premiere)

Jed Kurzel - Macbeth (World Premiere)

Ricardo Romaneiro - 12 Volt Ghost

Julius Eastman - Joy Boy

Philip Glass - Echorus

This program was recorded and engineered by Edward Haber (technical director and mix) and Rick Kwan.

IRCAM Innovator Jean-Baptiste Barrière

Mon, 2017-06-26 21:00

A one-time director of Musical Research, Eduation and Production at IRCAM in Paris, the music of composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière concentrates on the intersection of music, image and mathematics.

Barrière joins Jennifer Koh to discuss philosophies involved and forces at work in the relationship between a performer and the computerized reactionary counterpart in an electroacoustic work, all important considerations in his Shared Madness composition “Palimpsest Capriccio”.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

wild Up's Christopher Rountree

Sun, 2017-06-25 21:00

Christopher Rountree is the founder, conductor and creative director of the L.A. chamber orchestra wild Up. His composition credits include a premiere by the choral ensemble The Crossing, a re-orchestration of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Foreign Bodies and a choral work for Björk’s choir Graduale Nobili.

Rountree joins Jennifer Koh to discuss the artistic idiosyncrasies of demanding that a performer speak while playing their instrument but demanding little specificity within that framework, and channeling non-musical skills (speaking, reading) virtuosically in his Shared Madness composition because I left it there.

 

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer John Harbison

Thu, 2017-06-22 21:00

John Harbison is a composer and pianist who currently sits on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an Institute Professor, the highest academic distinction resident faculty can receive. Throughout his long-running career, he has composed both classical and jazz music, and often performs jazz piano. His opera, The Great Gatsby, based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. The opera was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera for James Levine’s 25th anniversary, and has since been performed across the U.S. He has written for the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, and the Orion String Quartet, among others.

Harbison joins Jennifer Koh to discuss his Shared Madness piece Painting the Floors Blue, the strained relationship between classical and pop music, and his definition of virtuosity. He has known Koh since 1997: she’s known him the longest of all thirty-two Shared Madness composers.

Listen: Anjou's Mesmerizing Post Rock Live at LPR

Wed, 2017-06-21 21:00

On May 22nd, Chicago electroacoustic trio Anjou performed a long-form improvisation at Le Poisson Rouge with percussionist extraordinaire Steven Hess (Fennesz, Cleared, Locrian). 

Anjou is comprised of electronic musicians Mark Nelson (formerly Labradford) and Robert Donne and drummer Steven Hess (known for his work with Fennesz and Locrian). The trio uses vintage and modern synthesizers to create a blend of contemporary ambient music and mesmerizing post-rock. They've released two albums – 2014's Anjou and 2017's Epithymia – on the Kranky label.

Listen to the full audio at the top of this page.

 

This program was recorded and engineered by George Wellington (technical director and music mix) and Noriko Okabe.

Composer and Former MATA Director James Matheson

Wed, 2017-06-21 21:00

James Matheson has written for for the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago Symphony, Carnegie Hall, and the St. Lawrence Quartet. Matheson was Executive Director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York, which commissions and performs the music of emerging composers. 

Matheson joins Jennifer Koh to discuss the performer’s search for virtuosity within subtlety, the power dynamic between composer and performer and the vulnerability of a solo performer. 

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Composer-Vocalist Lisa Bielawa

Tue, 2017-06-20 21:00

Lisa Bielawa is a composer-vocalist who looks to literature and her artistic collaborations for inspiration in her work. Her most recent album, The Lay of the Love, features a 25-minute work titled The Lay of the Love and Death, based on an epic poem written by Rainer Maria Wilke. Currently, she is creating an online opera called Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, which will be broadcast in episodes. Her works have been performed around the world, and she has written for ensembles such as the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, the Washington Saxophone Quartet, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, and many others.

Bielawa joins Jennifer Koh to discuss the process of telling a story through the violin, the meaning of the word “vireo,” and her musical bond with Koh that began years earlier, all ideas that helped shape her Shared Madness piece.

Orchestral Specialist Sean Shepherd

Mon, 2017-06-19 21:00

Sean Shepherd, who recently completed his tenure as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Orchestra, is an American composer with engagements with major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. Recent performers include the New York Philharmonic, the National, BBC and New World symphony orchestras, various orchestras at festivals in Aldeburgh, Heidelberg, La Jolla, Lucerne, Santa Fe, and Tanglewood, and with leading European ensembles including Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, among others.

Shepherd joins Jennifer Koh to discuss the violin’s history as a tool for performance, and the challenges inherent and unique to both composing and performing music for a solo instrument. Shepherd communicates that works for a solo instrument are inherently different than music for an ensemble of any size, and discusses how he explores this in his Shared Madness composition wideOPENwide.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Invisible Cities' Christopher Cerrone

Sun, 2017-06-18 21:00

Christopher Cerrone is a Brooklyn-based composer. The range of Cerrone's musical output is vast,  extending from opera to orchestral, from chamber music to electronic. Across the breadth of his catalogue, a subtle handling of timbre and resonance, a deep literary fluency, and a flair for multimedia collaborations are consistently present. Cerrone is a winner of a 2015 Rome Prize and a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, and is currently involved in collaborations with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Calder Quartet; Third Coast Percussion and Rachel Calloway; and flutist Tim Munro.

Cerrone is also well known for his opera, Invisible Cities, based on Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel, was praised by The Los Angeles Times as “A delicate and beautiful opera…[which] could be, and should be, done anywhere.” 

Cerrone joins Jennifer Koh to discuss loss of bow-hairs in performance and the composer’s exploration of techniques and gesutres found in the violin’s historical repertoire in his Shared Madness piece “Shall I Project a World?”

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Composers and Their Dads: A Father's Day Special

Sun, 2017-06-18 09:06

Today is the day for dads! For father-folk! For the people who've put in the fraught, noisy and all-consuming dad-hours it takes to raise halfway decent humans. Or in our case here, four established and dynamic composers: Sarah Kirkland Snider, Angélica Negrón, Tania León and Du Yun. I asked them about their fathers and how their fathers may have impacted their music. These are the stories they had to tell me. 

Sarah Kirkland Snider

In the early days, my father, Arnie Snider, was definitely the befuddled-but-supportive novice. He got into classical music a little later, through me—I studied piano and cello, played in youth orchestras, and sang in choirs. He loved hearing me practice and compose, and would often just lie on the living room sofa with a bourbon and listen.

He was a dreamer in many ways, but he, like my mother, came from a very traditional, small-town Southern background, and he had a busy life in finance in New York. In my early years, composition was not on my parents’ radar as a living art form, let alone something a young girl could study formally, like ballet or horseback riding. 

When, at age 23, with a B.A. in psychology-sociology and a job as a legal assistant at the Center for Reproductive Rights, I decided to switch my plans from law school to music school, my Dad was extremely supportive. “You have one life,” he said. Seven years later, after attending the Yale School of Music performance of my first orchestral piece, "Disquiet," my father looked at me with tears in his eyes. “I can die happy,” he said. Parental hyperbole, but it was the first time I really understood how much pride he took in my work.   

After my Dad died, I wrote a 26-minute orchestral piece, "Hiraeth," about him. It was co-commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the two places my Dad called home.

 

Angélica Negrón

My most vivid memories of my dad relating to music are him listening to old school salsa at an incredibly loud volume at home and in his car with the windows trembling from the massive sound that was coming from the speakers. He still does this and though I can't stand the volume I love seeing how happy this makes him.

Completely unrelated, but we went to Disney World a couple of times when I was young and for every trip he got me these white Balloon sneakers which he decorated with rhinestones. At the time he worked in auto body repairs. I think about him meticulously bedazzling my sneakers for me to strut down Epcot Center and it’s the sweetest thing.

I think it took him a while to figure out exactly what I did but he's been really supportive though classical music and more so new music is a very foreign world for him. It's most likely still in the realm of "crazy music" for him.

 

Tania León

I spoke with Tania León over the phone. She left her home country of Cuba to study piano and composition in Paris and then New York City. Because of diplomatic tensions between Cuba and the U.S., she was unable to return home for 12 years. Her first trip back was a seven-day visit for family reunification. She brought her most sophisticated compositions, which she had written during her studies with Ursula Mamlok at New York University. She showed these compositions to her father.

Before I left, my father and I were walking in the streets of Havana. We would try to stop, since there was music all the time. We would watch the musicians and listen.

At one point there was one of those rituals that had to do with the Santería, and the influence of the Africanos who came to the Americas. We went to listen to these drums. My father asked, “Could we come in? My daughter has been outside of the country for a long time. She hasn’t heard this music for a long time.”

So we listened to all of this drumming, which is very big in Cuba. Batá. We were there for a while, and then we left. As we were talking he said, “Well, you know, I’ve listened to your music. It’s very interesting, you know.” But then the punchline was, “But where are you in your music?”

And that was it. I left Cuba, and didn’t know that that was my last conversation with my father. He dropped dead months after that. I was devastated. He had this question that we were never able to discuss. What did he mean? “Where are you in your music?”

He sort of gave me, without knowing, a tremendous amount of energy to pursue and find my own self.

My first orchestral piece, “Batá,” begins and ends with whistling. If you go to the end, you hear all of this activity—actually, those Cuban drums and rhythms called Batá—that gets interrupted by the whistle. Usually the flutist walks away from the orchestra, and the whistle is played backstage.

My father used to always work away from from Havana. And in the middle of the night, around two or three o’clock, he would be returning. He had a big whistle; he could whistle from two or three blocks away. My grandma would wake us up, saying, “Your father is coming, listen!” My father was coming, sure enough. Within five or ten minutes, there would be my father walking into my house.

 

Du Yun

My father, Du Yi or Du Changzai, depending on how he feels like to be called on any given day, never went to college, nor did my mom, due to Cultural Revolution that took place in China. When it broke out in 1966, they were both junior high school students.

My father came from a family of capitalists. My father’s father, my Yeye, learned how to build coffins, learning as apprentice from the 1930s until the 1950s. My father’s mother, my Nainai, was illiterate and a bind-feet woman—those women who had their feet bound from the feudal tradition—but a very smart woman according to my father’s stories.

My grandpa later built a small factory—I think it’s more like an atelier—in Shanghai, using his newfound coffin building skills. My grandma was the one who managed the finances. Because of this atelier, they were considered as capitalists by the new country.

My grandpa died of diarrhea in 1975, and my grandma followed him—that’s how we call it—a year later. Before she passed away, she summoned my dad’s wife in, giving her bars of gold, real gold. Illiterate grandma had been saving and hiding the gold bars from the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. She turned to my dad, telling him that he could not waste any luxury on himself. He could only use the gold on his not-yet-born child’s education.

A few months later my mom was pregnant with me. By then they were not officially married because the government didn’t allow them to get married; he came from a capitalist family and my mom came from a peasant family. So they did the Chinese wedding without getting the official papers. Later the government yielded to the my mom’s strong will, granting the legality of their marriage.

I went to my kindergarten when I was three years old. I saw the pump organ in the classroom, and I wouldn’t leave the pump organ. So then I had this sure idea that I wanted a piano. It took me six months to convince my parents I really needed a piano.

My parents at the time were both factory workers, earning RMB 38 per month, around six or seven dollars. My parents had a serious talk with me about whether I really needed a piano. My dad told me that if a piano were to come in, there would be no return. I recklessly said yes, without knowing what it would get me into.

For my first piano, my parents traded three bars of gold, or perhaps it was six. Anyways they used the beam-scales. I remember those objects in my first memory. My parents also got my first stereo with another bar of gold, and my metronome and piano lessons with most of the rest of the gold bars. I remember going to another city with my dad, going to the black market, trading gold for cash, and returning to Shanghai—all so he could get me stuff for my education.

My father had been very envious of real capitalists, who really had the money and who could play instruments and recite poems. His dream was to own a watch, a motorcycle and perhaps even a guitar. My mom thought these were terrible ideas, so that dream later turned into a piano for me and a bicycle for him.

I believe my dad might have had a crush on some girl from a big house who went to a music school. Back then, those people were like fairies to us. The most bourgeoisie of all. For many years on, one of my dad’s hobbies was to window-shop motorcycles and killer furnitures.

My dad was a very handsome looker. He still is.

When that piano came into the household my non-stop training began. My dad took me to piano lessons, later to English lessons, and then some Kung Fu lessons; there were even three weeks of some guitar lessons. I did not like the guitar lessons. I thought it was too much for my pianist fingers… hahahaha. Now I always regret I didn’t keep learning the guitar.

Of all the Du family members from my grandparent’s branch, I’m the only one who went to college, and the only one who started rigorous training at a young age. Since I was four years old, my dad has always been at a loss to explain what I do to his relatives.

My dad is a natural performer with a beautiful voice. He can sing folk songs; he remembers all the Russian tunes he learned in his school years. And there is one Chinese folk tune from Shandong province he likes to sing so much I think he’s become the composer of that song. One should hear how he change everything in that song.

My father, to this day, still thinks I should not be singing in public. I don’t play or sing with my dad, because whenever I sing or want to join him singing, he will shush me; he will say, "OMG—’o-yo’ in Chinese—you should not be singing, and let me demonstrate how things should be done."

 

This is "Miranda." That’s me on the piano and vocals, with the cellist Matt Haimovitz. Later I had it in my pop album, "Shark in You." I want to show why my dad doesn't think i can sing—of course, not comparing to his truly gorgeous voice. 

 My dad is a storyteller. He tells stories again and again until they become myths. I love those stories. Growing up, I always thought he only told 30 percent of the truth of the stories. But recently when we moved our Shanghai apartment, I found this letter that my grandma wrote to my dad’s brother. She didn’t write it, because she was illiterate; she hired someone to transcribe what she said. I was astonished to see that there are more truths in my dad’s stories than I had given him credit for.

I really think his nighttime stories of my family history, and his histories, have impacted directly my own fascination with storytelling. I love to fantasize.

My wandering spirit was definitely planted by my dad. When I was young he took me on trips to many cities and villages around China. He would always introduce me to the new sounds of those places: the dialects, the food, the folk tunes. My most poignant, life-changing trip happened when I was in second grade. My dad took me to visit the village my grandparents left, which we call the “Real Home Place.”

We spent three days on the train, bus and mule carts just getting into the village from Shanghai. The first time I visited my grandparent’s graveyard was such a mystical experience. I sobbed and weeped for hours. I kneeled on the graveyard for the whole entire afternoon. I mourned how I never met my grandparents. I was eight. I incorporated that experience in my first opera, “Zolle.”

Nowadays we can travel back to that "real home place" in under eights hours from Shanghai.

 My father and my mother both actually generally don’t want to come to my concerts unless I am performing as a soloist or I have more than one piece on the program.

It doesn’t matter where the venue is. They loved coming to this rundown place deep in Brooklyn where I was belting, and yet they thought crossing town to go to Zankel Hall was too much of a trouble just for one piece. They called me 20 minutes before the concert, saying that it’s not worth getting a taxi from Upper East Side. I was not sad. I thought it was so funny. Maybe the Q train now will change that taxi situation.

Having said that, my dad—to my surprise—did like “Angel’s Bone” when we premiered at the Prototype Festival. He hadn’t liked the earlier stages that much, so I thought we did a good job developing the piece. [Her father was right to think highly of the opera; it earned Du Yun the Pulitzer Prize for music earlier this year.]

Neither of my parents are musicians, but both of them are my best critics. They are so visceral, and I always want to make sure they react to my music and my work. I always always ask their opinions on my projects. They keep my feet on the ground. I always say my prayers that I’m the only one in the family to have had higher education.

On this father’s day, I’m glad that I can write this down. I’m sorry that he cannot read this in Chinese. And I probably will not translate it into Chinese for him. Nah, that would simply be too embarrassing for both of us. But I think we both understand this: "In the Du family, my mom is my rock and my dad my spiritual animal.”

When I was born, my dad gave everyone he knew bags of candies and eggs. It’s an old tradition that when a son is born, one celebrates. I think my grandma would have really loved to have a girl in the family, so my father was overjoyed to have me as a girl. Growing up, I was never the daughter, nor the son; I was the only child, the one who would carry on all the family stories, traditions and lineages. Today I bravely turned 40. Dad, I am always grateful for your child-like spirit, which I see in myself. If anything, I’m sorry that I will never be the grown-up you yourself never became either.

And thank you, Mr. Du Yi Changhai, for your never-existed motorcycle.

 

American Composers Orchestra's Derek Bermel

Thu, 2017-06-15 21:00

Derek Bermel is a clarinetist, multi-faceted composer and Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity, and is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series that spotlight the composer as performer. Alongside his international studies of ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with other musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language, in which the human voice and its myriad inflections play a primary role.

He has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, La Jolla Music Society, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and eighth blackbird among others, and his many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, and Guggenheim & Fulbright Fellowships, among other accolades.

Bermel joins Jennifer Koh to discuss musical interpretation of vocal phrases and of the dichotomy between question & answer, and the idea of separating gesture and expression of speech from the semantic meaning of words and conversation.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Boston Symphony Orchestra's Eric Nathan

Wed, 2017-06-14 21:00

Eric Nathan is a composer whose work focuses on the resolution of conflicts between notated and improvised music, between technique and expression. Nathan boasts an impressive list of accolades, residencies, and professorships, most notably a 2013 Rome Prize, a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship and two attention-garnering commissions from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Nathan joins Jennifer Koh to discuss an excerpt from an E. E. Cummings poem and his interest in “complete abandon” in performance; in which technical mastery becomes subservient to pure expression, a dichotomy strongly at work n his Shared Madness composition “Far Beyond Far”.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Composer-Pianist Timo Andres

Tue, 2017-06-13 21:00

Composer and pianist Timothy Andres is one of the more consistently-rising stars of New York's burgeoning new classical scene. A prolific solo performer, he's released two albums – Shy and Mighty (2010) and Home Stretch (2013) – on Nonesuch Records. He's also performed with Philip Glass and Steve Reich and is a member of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

He and Jennifer Koh examine "virtuosity" as the duality of struggle and effortlessness and discuss the labyrinthine chord changes of his Shared Madness piece Winding Stair.

The music was recorded last May at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Agnes Obel: Independence Is a Quiet Space

Tue, 2017-06-13 09:00

Agnes Obel’s music is only getting weirder, and she’s delighted. The Danish musician and producer is on the phone from Ireland, the latest leg of the European tour promoting her latest album Citizen of Glass: a tone poem of sorts honoring the idea of “gläserner bürger” or “glass citizen,” a German concept in sociology that refers to the extent to which the state permits one to maintain her privacy, as one transparent as glass contains no secrets. With her team, Obel has crafted a touring production that is as visually kaleidoscopic as it is sonically, with her boyfriend Alex Brüel Flagstad, an animator and photographer, crafting special prism lenses that double and triple images that appear before the show’s overhead cameras. “It’s a dream come true,” Obel says of the tour. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.”

Obel’s music is founded on her spectral vocals, which flit through velvet pools of baroque sound. In Citizen of Glass, her childhood classical training rears its dignified head, then yanks off its powdered wig. Obel corralled old-timey instruments — a harpsichord-like instrument called a spinet, and a replica Obel commissioned of an early 20th-century synthesizer called a Trautonium — layering and distorting them for a steampunk kick.

In the track “Familiar,” Obel considers surveillance in the context of love by pairing her own sirenic voice with one throaty and sepulchral. The latter, ostensibly male, is in fact Obel’s own pitched down. As the voices sing “Our love is a ghost that the others can’t see,” the deeper voice is itself like a ghost of the female, exhumed to compose Obel in gender chiaroscuro. The music video, which expounds upon the implications of this literal revelation, is filmed as if through a security camera.

 

Born in Copenhagen, Obel wrote her first songs on a piano “full of cigarette butts” in her school hallway. Soon after, she left school without graduating to enroll in a course for aspiring music producers. In 2006, she moved to Berlin, sorry to leave her friends but anxious to start anew. She can’t work when she’s surrounded, she says, she needs to be alone. “For me, independence is being in a space where it’s quiet and nobody listens and nobody cares,” Obel explains. “It’s sort of like being forgotten. I can follow my own instincts and run with it.”

She hopped from band to band before going solo in 2010 with Philharmonics, released to critical acclaim; Aventine followed three years later. Both showcase her interest in plucked string rhythms and choral timbres. In the music video for “Aventine,” Obel and her musicians appear to perform in a kaleidoscope, their spangled images blinking in and out of focus.

 

Obel sings in English and plays nearly always with an all-female band, making good on an old “secret wish to find other women who were interested in [this music scene].” Her stance is political insofar as she is just being her artistic self: “Listening and seeing things in a new way, so you can experience things from the eyes of somebody else,” for Obel, is itself a political act.

 

Obel’s production makes as much of a statement as her music. On each of her three critically-acclaimed albums, Obel sings her own songs in English and produces them too, a fact all too rare in music's male-dominated backend. “I was under the impression that this was what everybody else did, she says.” On one of her first trips to the recording studio, “I was surprised to see that the bands went home and the producers did all the work.” While she says she began producing her music to cut costs, she grew to enjoy the artistic independence and freedom of doing the work alone; that her decision resists the tradition of male-dominated production didn’t hurt, either. “If there are girls out there who have the idea that they want to make albums themselves or make a musical universe themselves, then they will feel it’s less strange when they see somebody like me do it,” she says.

For each new album, Obel is determined to pay forward what she learned from the last. At the moment, she doesn’t know precisely what form her next project will take, but she has an inkling. “I think I might do something even stranger,” she says, sounding a little gleeful. 

Multimedia Composer Zosha Di Castri

Mon, 2017-06-12 21:00

Zosha Di Castri is a Canadian composer-pianist currently on faculty at Columbia University. Her music has been programmed by the San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony and Talea Ensemble, among others. Upcoming projects include a collaborative interdisciplinary work with composer-sound engineer David Adamcyk and International Contemporary Ensemble.

Di Castri joins Jennifer Koh to discuss the omnipresence of Bach and the collaborative process of sample-based composition used in her Shared Madness piece Patina.

Shared Madness with violinist Jennifer Koh – Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year – explores the shared creative space between composer and performer, and what virtuosity for the storied instrument means in the 21st century. The series unfolds over 30 short episodes which combine conversation with world-premiere performance audio.

Meet the Composer and Alarm Will Sound's 'Splitting Adams'

Sun, 2017-06-11 21:00

John Adams is a contemporary composer, if not the contemporary composer, whose music speaks for itself. Adams' compositions have managed to forge a connection between the majesty of 19th-century orchestral music and the rhythmic energy of vernacular music in an immensely influential musical experiment remarkable for the visceral immediacy it holds for concert audiences. His is a musical aesthetic that requires no introduction. What is there to say?

As it turns out, quite a lot, if Alarm Will Sound's new album, Splitting Adams, is any indication. A new collaboration between violist and Q2 Music host Nadia Sirota's podcast, Meet the Composer, and one of her several bands — Alarm Will Sound, headed and conducted by Alan Pierson — Splitting Adams alternates between performances of Adams' chamber symphonies and interview segments featuring the composer, Pierson, Sirota, and other members of the band.

For one thing, Adams is his own greatest advocate, an erudite and articulate composer with an established talent for explaining his music in ways that actually make it even easier to enjoy, and Sirota is simply — let us not pretend to be objective — the most entertaining music journalist in the field today.

Furthermore, in the early 1990s, when snobbish critics dismissed his music for its clarity, Adams responded by saying, effectively, You want complexity? Fine, I'll give you complexity! in the form of his first Chamber Symphony, an almost relentlessly dense, frenetic, dissonant piece of music, paired here with its creature double-feature sequel Son of Chamber Symphony, composed for Alarm Will Sound. If any piece of Adams' music benefits from just a little explanation, it is the Chamber Symphony, and the verbal insights offered in Sirota's audio program notes are nearly as elucidating as the ensemble's witty, rocking performance of both works.

Even without the background offered by the interview segments, these would be ideally engaging and immediate performances of these chamber symphonies — lively, clear, virtuosic and deeply sensitive to each piece's moments of earnest lyricism. But thanks to the spoken insights into the composition and interpretation of these dazzling little symphonies, Splitting Adams offers the listener not just a great album of new music but a brand new way of hearing it.

John Adams: Splitting Adams
Cantaloupe Music | Released April 21, 2017
Available for Purchase on Amazon | iTunes

Bonus Track - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's 'Clouds Forming Over Mount Baker'

Sun, 2017-06-11 21:00

We began last week’s episode digging into the music of one particular electronic musician - the synthesist, producer and composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Today we’re thrilled to bring you a song that you won’t hear on any of Kaitlyn’s albums. Clouds Forming Over Mount Baker was commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery to accompany a landscape photograph by Eliot Porter.

It’s a fitting collaboration, as Kaitlyn grew up on Orcas Island, where Mt. Baker is a visible feature. Join us for this rich, synthesized soundscape, bringing sonic life to Porter’s beautiful photograph.  

Clouds Forming over Mt. Baker (Eliot Porter)

 

Listen: Dover Quartet Performs 'Twin Peaks' Live at LPR

Sun, 2017-06-11 21:00

May 30, 2017 Chicago's Dover Quartet celebrated the relaunch of David Lynch's cult favorite Twin Peaks with new arrangements of Angelo Badalamenti's iconic music for the series.

Chicago-based composer Daniel Schlosberg rearranged several Badalamenti songs and also offered a two-part fantasy expanding on the original material. He also joins the quartet on piano for several of the pieces. The program also included two movements from Caroline Shaw's string quartet Plan & Elevation (The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks) and a Schlosberg arrangement of Duke Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood.

Listen to the full audio at the top of this page, and individual pieces below.

Angelo Badalamenti - Sycamore Trees

Daniel Schlosberg-Twin Peaks Fantasy: I

Caroline Shaw - Plan and Elevation

David Ludwig - Pale Blue Dot

Angelo Badalamenti - Snapshot from Prague

Angelo Badalamenti -The World Spins (song from Twin Peaks)

Angelo Badalamenti - Audrey’s Prayer (song from Twin Peaks)

Daniel Schlosberg - Twin Peaks Fantasy: II

Duke Ellington - In a Sentimental Mood (arranged by Daniel Schlosberg)

This program was recorded and engineered by Edward Haber (technical director) and George Wellington (music mix).

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