Quatuor Bozzini at Time Spans 2018 (Concert Review)

Bozzini Quartet.
Photo: Yuko Zama.

Quatuor Bozzini

Timespans Festival

DiMenna Center for Classical Music

August 14, 2018

NEW YORK – Quatuor Bozzini, a Canadian string quartet, have performed and recorded a plethora of contemporary music. While their advocacy is wide-ranging, the music of Canadian composers is near and dear to Quatuor Bozzini. They demonstrated this at the opening concert of Time:Spans Festival, five concerts this past week devoted to some of the most ambitious repertoire of today. The Bozzinis’ committed and razor-focused performances of works by Linda Catlin Smith and Cassandra Miller made them a tough act to follow.

Linda Catlin Smith’s Folkestone (1999) is inspired by an 1845 sketchbook of watercolors by J.M.W. Turner. While the Catlin Smith piece isn’t programmatic, Folkestone’s point of departure is the idea behind the sketchbook, that of returning to the same location over and over again to depict it in different light, weather, and events, thus creating a panoply of artwork that responds to it. The piece is cast in a series of twenty-four sections, called “panels” by the composer, interspersed with silences in between them to denote “page turns” between the musical sketches.

 

Composing prevailingly slow and soft music, allowing it silence and space to breathe, Catlin Smith is a kindred spirit of the Wandelweiser collective, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. However, she employs a highly individual pitch language. In places, piquant clusters populated Folkestone, casting adrift from pitch centers and offering instead rich polychords. However, peering out of the corners of her music are singable tunes and sumptuous consonances. All of these features in combination supply a slowly evolving, gently articulated music that is truly beguiling.

 

Cassandra Miller’s About Bach (2015) co-opts a phrase from J.S Bach’s Chaconne No. 2. However, the quotation is a jumping off point for an extended meditation on repetition. The melody, in the altissimo register, is repeated over and over by the violins in the quartet. They trade off the tune in a ricocheting antiphony that is among the most interesting aspects of the piece, underlining the element of space in the quartet. The other players provide brief, bustling lines in counterpoint.

 

In Catlin Smith’s piece, repetitions were varied and off center, requiring the listener’s attentiveness to differences in the various sketches she creates. Miller’s About Bach instead revels in repetition with the small differences of antiphony being the only change. One had to be willing to put aside the desire for differences of a large sort in Miller’s piece. But in the right headspace, going with the repeats instead of waiting for them to end, the piece proves spellbinding.

Both Smith and Miller have new CDs out on the British label Another Timbre. Miller’s disc, a recording by Quatuor Bozzini, is one of the label’s latest run of discs by Canadian Composers. Smith has been recorded both by the Bozzinis and, more recently, Apartment House. All Another Timbre outings are heartily recommended.

 

Friday: Locrian Chamber Players at Riverside Church

CC: Once again, cheering for the home team. Locrian performed my Gilgamesh Suite in 2012. 

Kyburz_4c

Towards the last days of summer, a concert that I eagerly anticipate is Locrian Chamber Players’ August season finale. The group’s mandate is to focus (nearly) exclusively on pieces composed within the previous decade. Artistic director David MacDonald, a composer who teaches at Manhattan School of Music, selects imaginative repertoire.

On August 24th at 8 PM, Locrian will present one of their bravest programs yet. This is due to its cornerstone piece, Réseaux by Hanspeter Kyburz, a formidable chamber sextet A few years ago, I had the pleasure of workshopping it with the composer at Boston’s Goethe Institute. If you don’t know Kyburz’s music – he is not played nearly often enough in the United States – this piece is well worth making it a point to hear.

In addition to Réseaux, Locrian will perform works by Macdonald, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Sebastian Currier, and David Feurzeig. Admission is free, both to the concert and a convivial reception afterwards.

Event Listing

Locrian Chamber Players

Friday, August 24 at 8 PM

Riverside Church – 10th Floor Performance Space

To reach The Riverside Church by subway, take the 1 or 9 train to 116th Street.  By bus, take the M4 or M104 to Broadway and 120th Street.  Enter The Riverside Church at 91 Claremont Avenue (one block west of Broadway, between 120th Street and 122nd Street)

Tickets are not required for this FREE concert.

loadbang Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Concerts, New Focus Recording

CC: Cheering for the home team in this post (I collaborated with loadbang back in 2011 on a microtonal setting of “Prayer,” a poem by Joannie Mackowski). 

loadbang
Photo: Anthony Collins

Ten years ago, the members of loadbang met in the Contemporary Performance Program at Manhattan School of Music. A mixed chamber ensemble, consisting of Jeffrey Gavett, baritone, Andrew Kozar, trumpet, William Lang, trombone, and Carlos Cordeiro, bass clarinet, they have since commissioned, composed, and arranged a number of works for their hybrid grouping. They specialize in extended techniques, microtonality, and unconventional notation systems. In short, they are some of the most daring performers at the vanguard of contemporary music.

As in past years, loadbang held a Commission Competition in 2018, awarding First Prize to Cristina Lord: 

Oren Boneh and Yoshiaki Onishi were runners-up.

Earlier this year, loadbang released its latest recording, Old Fires Catch Old Buildings on New Focus.

It features compositions by two of the group’s members – Gavett and Lang – as well as pieces by Paula Matthusen, Reiko Fueting, Taylor Brook, Scott Wollschleger, and Angélica Negrón. Old Fires brings together some of the aforementioned special techniques with new demeanors: the jocularity of Brook’s piece, references to Sciarrino in Lang’s, and the spectral-based and breath-focused work of Fueting.

Below you can find a video  of the title track from the latest CD, as well as listings for the ensemble’s coming season. Happy anniversary loadbang!

 

 

loadbang: Upcoming Events

September 18, 2018: Susquehanna University (Selinsgrove, PA)
loadbang will be performing music by Mark Applebaum, Evan Johnson, Andy Kozar, William Lang, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, and Heather Stebbins.

September 23, 2018: Longy School of Music (Boston, MA)
loadbang will be performing a faculty recital featuring music by Mark Applebaum, Evan Johnson, Nils Vigeland, Heather Stebbins, Julia Werntz and ZongYun WE.
2pm

October 11, 2018: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 10 at location TBD (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by Daniel Bayou, Anne Hege, Eli Greenhoe, Lisa Atkinson, and Sonja Mutic. 7:30pm

October 17, 2018: Pendulum New Music at University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO)
loadbang will be performing a recital of works by Mark Applebaum, Eve Beglarian, Taylor Brook, Anne Here, Paula Matthusen, and Sonja Mutic.

October 21, 2018: Chatter New Music Series (Albuquerque, NM)
loadbang will be premiereing two pieces for loadbang and strings by Eve Beglarian and Scott Wollschleger in addition to works by Lisa Atkinson, Eli Greenhoe and Eric Richards.
10am

November 6, 2018: Out of the Box Series at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
loadbang will be performing music by Quinn Collins, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, Paula Matthusen and Paul Schuette.

November 14, 2018: Concert in the Crypt at the Church of the Intercession (New York, NY)
loadbang will be performing music in this remarkable space by composers including Eve Beglarian, Jeffrey Gavett, Evan Johnson, William Lang, Hannah Lash, Paula Matthusen and a NY premiere of a new work for loadbang by Christian Wolff.
7:30pm

November 20, 2018: loadbang Presents: Solos at Arete (Brooklyn, NY) Featuring loadbang’s trumpeter, Andy Kozar. Repertoire TBA
7pm

December 4, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #1 ­ The Music That Defines at Roulette (Brooklyn, NY)
loadbang will be performing works that have been cornerstones of the repertoire. Music by Charles Wuorinen, Reiko Füting, Eve Beglarian, Andy Akiho, Hannah Lash, and Alexndre Lusqui. 8:00pm

December 5, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #2 ­ loadbang plays loadbang at The Crypt at the Church of the Intercession (NYC)
The members of loadbang have been writing for the ensemble since its inception. This concert will feature works by Carlos Cordeiro, Jeffrey Gavett, Andy Kozar and William Lang.
7:30pm

December 6, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #3 ­ Commission Competition Winners at The DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall (NYC)
For many years, loadbang has been holding a yearly Commission Competition. This concert will feature the past winners, Gary Philo, Evan Johnson, David Franzson, Chris Fisher­Lochhead and Ioannis Angelakis
7:30pm

February 11, 2019: CPP @ MSM 10th Anniversary Alumni Showcase at Manhattan School of Music’s Ades Space (NYC)
loadbang formed 10 years ago as students at MSM’s Contemporary Performance Program (CPP). This concert, as a celebration of the program’s 10th year, will feature alumni ensembles including loadbang, MIVOS, Rhythm Method, and TAK.
7:30pm

February 16, 2019: Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) February 17, 2019: Brandeis University (Waltham, MA)

Premiering works of student composers.

March 7, 2019: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 11 at Opera America (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by Chaya Czernowin, Vincente Atria, Andrew Harlan and a NY premiere by Andrew List. 7:30pm

March 19, 2019: loadbang Presents: Solos at Arete (Brooklyn, NY) Featuring loadbang’s vocalist, Jeffrey Gavett. Repertoire TBA
7pm

April 13, 2019: American Opera Projects and Chatter present Hannah Lash’s ‘Stoned Prince’ at SITE Santa Fe (Santa Fe, NM) loadbang will be performing an expanded version of Hannah Lash’s monodrama, Stoned Prince

April 14, 2019: American Opera Projects and Chatter present Hannah Lash’s ‘Stoned Prince’ at Las Puertas (Albuquerque, NM) loadbang will be performing an expanded version of Hannah Lash’s monodrama, Stoned Prince

April 18, 2019: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 12 at Opera America (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by George Lewis, Claus Steffen­Mankopf, Alex Temple and loadbang’s Carlos Cordeiro and Jeffrey Gavett.
7:30pm

Christopher Fox: Headlong (CD Review)

 

Christopher Fox

Headlong

Heather Roche, clarinets

Métier CD

MSV28573

 

Composer Christopher Fox has crafted an imaginative output, employing diverse approaches and many different technical resources. His latest Métier CD, Headlong, is devoted to clarinet music, for instruments of varying sizes. Heather Roche is the stalwart interpreter of these pieces. Her own versatility and facility with myriad extended techniques make Roche an ideal performer of Fox’s music. Indeed, the clarinetist’s website serves as a compendious catalog of techniques used to play contemporary works. This recording serves as an ideal accompaniment to her web-based pedagogical forays.

 

Several of the pieces here are ten-minute essays that have time to build and, in places, to breathe (as, one hopes, Roche is afforded as well). Even slightly shorter works like the gentle, fragmentary seven minutes of …Or Just After are given time enough to display significant exploration of the materials used in their construction. Here, there is a contrast between plummy low register melodies and higher single, sustained notes. Gradually and after many iterations, the upper line gains a note or two. This subtle shift in texture feels seismic and changes the registral give and take of the work. Likewise, small shifts are meaningful moments in the six-minute long Escalation. Originally written for Bb clarinet and here played on contrabass clarinet, the piece explores a mid-tempo stream of short phrases of chromatically ascending notes. In this incarnation, the sepulchral register in which these occur accentuates a kind of “walking bass” character that imparts a hint of jazzy swagger.

 

Some of the pieces include overdubs, either of electronics or other clarinets, and a couple are transcriptions of works originally written for other instruments or else for unspecified woodwinds. Originally composed for oboist Christopher Redgate, Headlong includes an ostinato electronic accompaniment that the composer suggests could sound like video games from the 1980s. The real fun here is the morphing of tempos through three different ratios:  5:4, 9:8 and 5:3. It makes for intriguing interrelationships between the instrumental part and the accompanying motoric bleeptronica. Headlong is an engaging mix of tempo modulation and minimal pulsation that shows a different and appealing side of Fox’s creativity.

 

On stone.wind.rain.sun, Heather Roche overdubs a duet with herself. The two clarinets converge and diverge throughout, with sustained and repeating notes in one instrument serving as a sort of ground for the chromaticism of the other voice. Registral changes, such as a leap downward to the chalumeau register to add single bass notes to the proceedings, divide the counterpoint further still, at any given moment affording one the impression of three or four distinct voices in operation.

 

One of my favorite compositions on the CD is Straight Lines for Broken Times, another piece employing overdubs. One track samples bass clarinet playing polyrhythms while the other two explore the “harmonic riches of the instrument,” as Fox describes a plethora of upper partials. Extended techniques are abundantly on offer. Altissimo notes, multiphonics, microtones, and harmonics create a swath of textures. However, the polyrhythmic underpinning assures that the piece feels guided in its course, beautifully shaping what could be a melange of overtone clouds. Straight Lines for Broken Times encapsulates Fox’s proclivity for experimentation in multiple domains: that of the recording medium, a wide palette of pitches that encompasses microtonal harmonics, and fluidly morphing tempos with intricate layers of local rhythms. The result never ceases to be of interest.

 

Fox and Roche are an ideal pairing. While Fox has a number of CDs to his credit, listening to this one, an ideal future project comes to mind. Next time out, one imagines the composer adding a couple other instrumentalists or a vocalist to the mix to provide Roche with more foils and a few less overdubs. Fox’s ensemble pieces also expansively embrace the musical materials that exemplify today’s experimental wing of contemporary music. With Roche aboard as “team captain,” the result would certainly be another serving of diverting performances.

 

This September – Premiere Performances of “A Lady”

Byrne Kozar Duo

 

The Bryne:Kozar Duo – soprano Corrine Byrne and trumpeter Andy Kozar – recently commissioned a quarter-tone piece from me, a setting of Amy Lowell’s poem “A Lady.” They will be premiering the work in Boston on September 9th, one of three performances they will be giving of the piece; the others are in New York and Media, Pennsylvania (see listings below). Also on the program are pieces by Paula Matthusen, Scott Wollschleger, Reiko Füting, Rob Deemer, Scott Worthington and David Smooke.

 

Byrne:Kozar Duo – September Performances

9/9 – A Lady (premiere), Byrne:Kozar Duo, Second Sunday Concert Series, Boston Sculptors Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts; 4 PM.

9/14 – A Lady, Byrne:Kozar Duo, National Opera Center, New York, New York; 7:30 PM.

9/16 – A Lady, Bryne:Kozar Duo, Delaware County Community College, Media PA; 3 PM, $10.

Rimarimba – Egg Foo Young (Video)

Rimarimba

This Fall, Freedom to Spend is presenting their first catalog deep survey of an artist’s work. The Rimarimba Collection consists of four albums from UK-based Robert Cox’s Rimarimba project: 1983’s Below The Horizon, 1984’s On Dry Land, 1985’s In The Woods, and finally, the “once-imagined, now-realized assembly” of 1988’s Light Metabolism Number Prague.

Cox is still active as a musician, but these documents attest to the specialness of his works in the eighties, when he eschewed falling into the genre trap of identifying too closely to minimalists, ambient artists, industrial recordings, and post-punk and instead cast a wide swath that both encompassed and transcended these various pigeon-holes of production.

The release dates, as well as a sample track – “Egg Foo Young’ – are included below.

FTS005–FTS008
Limited 4x LP Collection Release Date: September 21, 2018

Below The Horizon (FTS005)
Release: October 5, 2018

On Dry Land (FTS006)
Release: January 8, 2019

In The Woods (FTS007)
Release: February 22, 2019

Light Metabolism Number Prague (FTS008)
Exclusive to Collection: September 21, 2018

 

James Romig – Still (CD Review)

James Romig

Still

Ashlee Mack, piano

New World Records 80802

Composer James Romig has spent the past twenty years cultivating a body of work that embodies both rigorous structuring and a wide-ranging gestural palette. As is explained in Bruce Quaglia’s excellent liner notes for Romig’s first New World CD, Still, there is good reason for these two aspects to be so important to Romig. His training as a composer was with American modernists Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt, while his background as a performer – a percussionist – included a number of works by minimalists such as Steve Reich.

Extra-musical touchstones also play a significant role as inspirations for the composer. A series of National Park residencies has provided him with natural beauty to contemplate while composing. Abstract Expressionist painters such as Clyfford Still, who is the titular reference point for Romig’s piece on this CD, also enliven his imagination.

Nowhere in Romig’s output to date is this confluence of influences more apparent than in Still, a nearly hour-long piece for solo piano. One can see the pitch material’s progression in a chart in the liner notes and note the comprehensiveness of its organization. Unlike Romig’s portrait disc Leaves from Modern Trees, where the pieces tend towards tautly incisive utterance, here the progression of pitch material evolves slowly in a prevailingly soft dynamic spectrum. Ashlee Mack, a frequent performer of Romig’s music, provides a sterling interpretation. Slow tempi are maintained no matter what local rhythms (some complex) ripple the surface texture. In addition, Mack voices the harmony skilfully, allowing the piece-long progression to be presented with abundant clarity.

One more composerly ghost lurks in the room: that of Morton Feldman. Also an appreciator of Abstract Expressionism, who created long single movement pieces that transformed slowly and remained primarily soft, Feldman could seem to be Still’s natural progenitor. While surface details and scale of composition are similar, there is a significant musical difference between Feldman’s paean to a painter like Philip Guston and Romig’s reference to Clyfford Still. As pointed out by theorists such as Thomas DeLio, the undergirding of a Feldman piece is indeed subject to an organizational structure. That said, his work seems more intuitive than Romig’s, which is methodical in the unfurling of its linear components and their constituent harmonies. Whether Feldman’s surface in any way inspires the depths of Still, I am not sure; it would be an interesting question to pose to Romig. Either way, Still is his most engaging and beguiling piece to date. One looks forward to hearing more works that accumulate Romig’s proclivity for parks, painters, maximalists, and minimalists; these many ingredients make for intriguing results.