Recordings of the Year

Recording of the Year: Terry Riley, Sun Rings, Kronos Quartet, Volti (Nonesuch)

            Terry Riley’s 2002 work Sun Rings simultaneously celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Voyager exploration and soberly reflects on September 11, 2001. Kronos Quartet, longtime collaborators with Riley, the ethereal voices of Volti, and a collection of space sounds are combined to create a fascinating and engaging amalgam. An exhilarating ride through the various styles that Riley has at his disposal.

Best Recordings of 2019 (in no particular order)

  • Terry Riley, Sun Rings, Kronos Quartet, Volti (Nonesuch)
  • Matana Roberts, COIN COIN Chapter Four: Memphis (Constellation)
  • Heinz Holliger and György Kurtág, Zwiegespräche (ECM)
  • Andrew Norman, Sustain, Los Angeles Philharmonic – Gustavo Dudamel (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Bonnie Prince Billy, I Made a Place (Drag City)
  • Igor Levit, Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Sony Classical)
  • Thomas Zehetmair, Sei Solo – The Sonatas and Partitas (ECM)
  • John Luther Adams, Become Desert, Seattle Symphony – Ludovic Morlot (Cantaloupe)
  • Philip Glass, Symphony 5, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Downtown Voices, Trinity Youth Chorus, Novus NY – Julian Wachner (Orange Mountain)
  • Cipriano de Rore, I madrigali a cinque voci, Blue Heron – Scott Metcalfe (Blue Heron)
  • Johannes Ockeghem, Complete Songs, Volume 1, Blue Heron – Scott Metcalfe (Blue Heron)
  • Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises (Drag City)
  • Dominique Schafer, Vers une présence réelle (Kairos)
  • Leo Svirsky, River Without Banks (Unseen Worlds)
  • Christian Wolff, Preludes, Studies, Variations, and Incidental Music, Philip Thomas (Sub Rosa)
  • Caroline Shaw, Orange (New Amsterdam/Nonesuch)
  • andPlay, Playlist (New Focus)
  • Jan Garbarek and Hilliard Ensemble, Remember Me, My Dear (ECM)
  • Lucas Debargue, Scarlatti: 52 Sonatas (Sony Classical)
  • Cassandra Miller, Songs About Singing, Plus-Minus Ensemble (All That Dust)
  • Sarah Hennies, Reservoir 1 (Black Truffle)
  • Jenny Hval, The Practice of Love (Sacred Bones)
  • Sergei Rachmaninov, Arrival, Daniil Trifonov, Philadelphia Orchestra – Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Kali Malone, The Sacrificial Code (iDeal)
  • Stile Antico, A Spanish Nativity (Harmonia Mundi)
  • David Torn, Tim Berne, Ches Smith, Sun of Goldfinger (ECM)
  • Ka Baird, Respires (RVNG)
  • David Byrne, American Utopia (Nonesuch)
  • Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, Páll Ragnar Pálsson, and Hafliði Hallgrímsson, Vernacular, Sæun Thorsteinsdóttir (Sono Luminus)
  • Matt Mitchell, Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi)
  • Julian Anderson, Poetry Nearing Silence (NMC)
  • Jaimie Branch, FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (International Anthem)
  • FKA Twigs, Magdalene (Young Turks)
  • Kris Davis, Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic)
  • Angel Olsen, All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar)
  • Guided by Voices, Sweating the Plague (GBV)
  • Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, Haukur Tómasson, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, and Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Concurrence, Víkingur Ólafsson, Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, Iceland Symphony Orchestra – Daniel Bjarnason (Sono Luminus)
  • Michael Finnissy, Vocal Works 1974-2015, EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble, James Weeks (Winter and Winter)
  • Emmanuel Nunes, Eivend Buene, Andreas Dohmen, Márton Illés, Chaya Czernowin, Donaueschinger Musiktage 2017 (Neos)
  • Minor Pieces, The Heavy Steps of Dreaming (Fat Cat)
  • Zosha di Castri, Tachitipo (New Focus)
  • Morton Feldman, Piano, Philip Thomas (Another Timbre)
  • Aaron Copland, Billy the Kid and Grohg, Detroit Symphony – Leonard Slatkin (Naxos)
  • Ivo Perelman, Matt Maneri, Nate Wooley, Matthew Shipp, Strings 4 (Leo)
  • Liza Lim, Rebecca Saunders, Chaya Czernowin,  Mirela Ivičević, and Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, Speak Be Silent, Riot Ensemble – Aaron Holloway-Nahum (Huddersfield-NMC)
  • Saariaho, Schleirmacher, Werthmüller, Sturm, Ensemble Musikfabrik (Wergo)
  • Josquin and Bauldeweyn, Missa Mater Patris, Missa Da Pacem, Tallis Scholars (Gimell)
  • Antoine Beuger, Traces of Eternity: Of What is Yet to Be (Editions Wandelweiser)
  • Richard Barrett, Timothy McCormack, Liza Lim, World-line, ELISION (Huddersfield NMC)
  • George Perle, Serenades (BMOP)
  • György Kurtág, The Edge of Silence, Susan Narucki (Avie)
  • American Football, American Football LP3 (Polyvinyl)
  • Julia Kent, Temporal (Leaf)
  • The Comet is Coming, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse)
  • Pan American, A Son (Kranky)
  • William Basinski, On Time Out of Time (Temporary Residence)
  • Shasta Cults, S/T (Important)
  • Harry Partch, Sonata Dementia, PARTCH (Bridge)
  • Robert Erikson, Duos, Fives, Quintet, Trio, Camera Lucida (New World)
  • James Tenney, Changes 64 Studies for 6 Harps (New World)

John Luther Adams – Become Desert (CD Review)

Become Desert

John Luther Adams

Seattle Symphony, Seattle Symphony Chorale, Ludovic Morlot, conductor

Cantaloupe Music

“Become Desert is both a celebration of the deserts we are given, and a lamentation of the deserts we create.” – John Luther Adams

Born in Mississippi, John Luther Adams first came to the attention of listeners as a composer and author based in Alaska, where he lived and worked for some forty years. Pieces such as Inuksuit, The Place Where You Go to Listen, and Dream in White on White are eloquent expressions of Adams’ time there and how it impacted him both as a creator and as a person. His book, Winter Music, is a required text for composers, as well as an accessible read of significant appeal to non-musicians. In a remarkable change of pace, Adams has recently moved to the desert, staying in Mexico and Chile.

In 2013, Adams was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Become Ocean, a work for the Seattle Symphony that mourned the rising seas caused by climate change, posing a timely questions: would land-roaming creatures, humans among them, be subsumed and return to the waters from whence they came. Since then, the piece has become a trilogy, followed by Become River and now Become Desert. The latest piece deals with climate change’s impact on water supply and the effects of warming in dry climates.

Like its performance and recording of Become Ocean, the Seattle Symphony, conducted by Ludovic Morlot, creates beguiling sounds eloquently shaped in their rendition of Become Desert. Whereas the former piece had an apocalyptic cast, moving from low to high and then cascading, the latter is filled with bells and chimes and sustained chords, creating the aura of aridity and hazy lights so appropriate to its subject matter. Partway through, rolling drums give us the only hit of respite from dryness, thundering against reiterated brass chords. Harps and plenty of sixth chords recall Impressionism, while the insistent repetition of overtone chords provides a spectral cast. Its end is a deliciously long denouement leaving us with faint chimes that evoke the piece’s opening.

Become Desert is one of the best recordings of contemporary music of 2019. Recommended.

10/16 at the Jazz Standard – Ethan Iverson with Tom Harrell

Photo: Monica Frisell/ECM Records

In recent years, pianist Ethan Iverson has been collaborating with a number of artists, particularly elder statesmen of the jazz tradition. In 2017, he appeared at the Village Vanguard with trumpeter Tom Harrell. The performances were document on Common Practice, Iverson’s most recent ECM recording. In addition to Harrell, the CD’s personnel includes bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson, longtime associates of the pianist.

The common practice to which the title refers are jazz standards, mostly from the Great American Songbook but also bebop originals. The group investigates a range of styles, from ardent balladry on “The Man I Love” to smoky lyricism on “I Can’t Get Started” to puckish wit on “Sentimental Journey.” Harrell and Iverson display imaginative recasting of harmonic changes throughout, but especially on vigorous versions of “All the Things You Are” and “Wee.” Iverson contributes two tunes, “Philadelphia Creamer” and “Jed from Teaneck,” both blues with twists and turns of the form.

Photo: Monica Frisell/ECM Records

On Wednesday, October 16th, the quartet reunites for two sets at Jazz Standard (details below). Their take on jazz’s common practice is not to be missed.

Photo: Monica Frisell/ECM Records.

Event Details

Ethan Iverson Quartet featuring Tom Harrell

Wednesday, October 16 - shows at 7:30 and 9:30 PM
Jazz Standard
116 E. 27th Street, NYC
Tickets here
Ethan Iverson – piano
Tom Harrell – trumpet, flugelhorn
Ben Street – bass
Eric McPherson – drums

December 1: Chelsea Opera Premieres Cipullo

Tom Cipullo. Photo:  Hedwig Brouckaert

One of my favorite active vocal composers is Tom Cipullo. In the nineties, I  performed his song cycle “Land of Nod,” which demonstrates his penchant for contemporary subjects, including pop culture, and the mixture in his music of lyricism, poignancy, and, occasionally, moments of wry humor. Cipullo’s work as an opera composer has delved into topics with weightier resonances. The following two works are no exception. 

Excerpt from “After Life,” by Tom Cipullo.



On Saturday, December 1st at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, two of Cipullo’s one-act operas receive their New York premieres. Josephine shares a glimpse into the life of Josephine Baker. The setup is simple: before the final performance of her career, the entertainer receives an interviewer in her dressing room. However, the subject’s powerful life story is anything but simple. You would probably need five acts to convey a sense of Baker’s fascinating history. What Cipullo provides here will likely whet audience member’s appetites to learn more. Baker will be performed by soprano Melissa Wimbish, who created the part in the production’s world premiere staging in Baltimore by Groupmuse

After Life brings together two other iconic Twentieth century figures: Gertrude Stein (played by Jennifer Beattie), and Pablo Picasso (performed by Stephen Eddy). The two come back from the hereafter to confront one another in a ghostly debate about art, aesthetics, and their lives and conduct in Paris during wartime. Their repartee is interrupted by a third ghost, a young girl who was a Holocaust victim (played by Sara Paar). This forces them to reconsider their lives and the meaning of death.  Of the opera, Cipullo says, “The real value of art comes after such horrific moments, helping us, as individuals, and as a culture, make sense of the incomprehensible.” 

EVENT DETAILS

Chelsea Opera presents NY premieres
After Life and Josephine

Two one-act operas by Tom Cipullo

December 1, 2018 7:00 pm
Christ & St. Stephen’s Church
120 West 69th Street New York, NY
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Tickets available online
Preferred seats: $35 in advance/$45 at the door
General admission: $30 in advance/$40 at the door 
Seniors/Students: $20 in advance/$25 at the door

Mike Donovan: “Sadfinger” (Bandcamp)

how to get your record played in shops


A preview track from Mike Donovan’s “How to Get Your Record Played in Shops,” which will be out on 4/20 via Drag City.


https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3650878242/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/track=844659316/transparent=true/

 

TOUR DATES:
FEB 10 San Francisco, CA @ RPMetaspace (Closing Party for William Keihn’s “Trapdoor” exhibition)
MAR 1 Ojai, CA @ Ojai Rancho Inn
MAR 3 SF, CA @ RPMetaspace (Opening Party for Jesse Wiedel exhibition)
MAR 15 Oakland, CA @ The Octopus Literary Salon
MAR 20 LA, CA @ Zebulon^
MAR 21 Phoenix, AZ @ Lunchbox^
MAR 22 Tucson, AZ @ Fly Catcher^
MAR 23 San Diego, AZ @ Bar Pink^
MAR 24 San Francisco, CA @ Light Rail Studios^
MAR 25 Oakland, CA @ Ivy Room^
MAR 29 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop w/ U.S. Girls
MAY 24 Frankfurt, Germany @ Zoom*
MAY 26 Antwerp, Belgium @ Trix*
MAY 27 Winterthur, Switzerland @ Salzhaus*
MAY 28 Vevey, Switzerland @ Rocking Chair*
MAY 29 Clermont Ferrand, France @ Coopertive de Mai*
MAY 30 Lille, France @ Aeronef*
MAY 31 La Rochelle, France @ La Sirene*
JUNE 4 Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2*
JUNE 5 Manchester, UK @ Gorilla*
JUNE 6 Dublin, Ireland @ Tivoli*
JUNE 8 Newcastle, UK @ Boiler Shop*
JUNE 9 London UK @ O2 Forum*
JUNE 14 Paris, France @ Bataclan*

*w/ Ty Segall and The Freedom Band
^ w/ Lars Finberg and The Bakersfield Moonlighters

 

The Clientele’s New Recording Out Friday

 

It has been seven years since The Clientele’s last recording, The Minotaur EP. On Friday, via Merge, the group releases the LP Music for the Age of Miracles. As the lead off track “Everything You See Tonight is Different from Itself” (video below) demonstrates, they return with undiminished creativity and, in this turbulent time, a refreshing dose of optimism. Arpeggiated chords begin gently, buoying hushed vocals. This is followed by sustained notes from solo electric guitar, budding layers of keyboard patterns, and a pressing mid-tempo groove that urges the vocals to soar to swooning heights. The lyric, as advertised, brings promise of comfort and support.