Tomorrow night, John McMurtery and Ashlee Mack perform my Bagatelles for alto flute and piano at Western Illinois University. They will also perform them on March 30th at University of Minnesota.
On April 5th, soprano Sara Noble will be singing a chanson of mine on an Opera on Tap program in Brooklyn. The Byrne:Kozar duo will perform A Lady, my microtonal Amy Lowell setting for soprano and trumpet, at DiMenna Center on April 27th.
26 – Three Bagatelles, John McMurtery, alto flute; Ashlee Mack, piano; Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois; 7:30 PM.
30 – Three Bagatelles, John McMurtery, alto flute; Ashlee Mack, piano; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; 7:30 PM.
5 – Je suis aimé de la plus belle, Sara Noble, soprano, Opera on Tap, Barbès, Brooklyn, New York; 8 PM.
27 – A Lady, Byrne:Kozar Duo, Permutations at DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, New York; 7:30 PM.
Torres’ Three Futures is one of 2017’s most noteworthy indie releases and perhaps its best at dealing with gender issues in a courageous fashion. When recording the album, Brooklynite Mackenzie Scott, who uses Torres as her creative name, couldn’t have known about the sex scandals that would occur in popular culture in the late part of this year. However, there are resonances in her work to ideas of agency for females (for all gender identifications, really) to make choices about their bodies and private lives that both celebrate consensual relationships and protect themselves from exploitative behavior.
While the recording’s lyrics are powerful, and occasionally audacious, they are matched by equally compelling music. Torres has incorporated a broader range of synthesizers into her sound and layers of these are placed alongside her adroit rhythm guitar playing and a catchy spate of rhythms from bass and drums. Although the arrangements supply a great deal of variety using this instrumental template, it is likely Torres’ voice that listeners will remember most clearly. An alto with a chocolate-tinged lower register and secure upper notes, her singing alternately croons, growls, and dips into a sepulchral chest voice. Like the idea of Three Futures, the singing effectively takes on these three roles, replicating varying identities with poise, power, and sympathy. Recommended.
JG Thirlwell has recorded under several monikers and with various bands (Frank Want, Clint Ruin, Foetus, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, et cetera). Xordox is his latest project, recorded both at Self Immolation Studios in Brooklyn and as part of a residency at EMS in Stockholm, Sweden.
Thirlwell primarily plays synthesizers here, employing an almost martial barrage of digital patches redolent of 80s sci-fi soundtrack work alongside more ethereal analog electronics and breathy samples. Sarah Lipstate joins Thirwell on three tracks, adding hyper-processed guitar to the proceedings. “Diamonds,” the opening track (listen below), overlays multiple arpeggiations and pulsating synths to create a fascinating rhythmic grid. Over this are added still another layer of dramatic chord progressions. “Antidote” features an ostinato pattern of unequal beats (3+3+2) over which portentous strings are at play and underneath which a gloomy bass line holds court. Lipstate makes a cameo to revel in the groove, which is followed by a massive pileup that leads the piece towards its conclusion. Suddenly, the brakes slam on the forte sounds and we are left with a puzzling piano outtro.
On “Pink Eye,” synth brass stabs and thrumming electronic drums are set against ominous sustained notes and whirring glissandos. The most substantial track on the recording, the fourteen and a half minute long album closer “Asteroid Dust,” is a sly nod to game music. At the same time, it also contains a fascinating use of ostinatos as unifying factors over which melodic scraps and extraterrestrial explosions are given relatively free reign. On the latter half of the track, there’s an adroit incorporation of pitch bends to give microtonal inflections.
Neospection strikes a nice balance of process music, ambience, and spacy aggression. Imagine Blade Runner’s denizens visiting a club where Whovians congregate in the parking lot and you have a fair sense of the affective juxtapositions Thirlwell successfully undertakes.
Composer Margaret Brouwer’s Blue Streak Ensemble visits New York on Sunday and Monday with a free concert in Brooklyn and a modestly priced one in Manhattan.
Good new music ensembles have a programming ethos. Brouwer’s curation is decidedly eclectic encompassing, on one end of the spectrum, some of the more intricate lieder by Johannes Brahms and, on the other, contemporary works for electronics by Mario Davidovsky and Andrew Rindfleisch. Somewhere in the middle of this stylistic orbit are pieces by Chen Yi and John Harbison.
So, refreshingly, stylistic features or agendas aren’t an issue when it comes to programming. One might say that Brouwer celebrates the old saying, “variety is the spice of life.” This allows us to enjoy a diverse program unified by the talents of persuasive performers Sarah Beaty, Erika Dohi, Kimia Ghaderi and Haruka Fujii.
(Steps away from the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, N, Q, and R lines)
Tickets are $15 in advance through Eventbrite, and $20 at the door. Student tickets are half price. Price includes a wine reception following the performance.
Margaret Brouwer: Declaration, for mezzo soprano, violin and piano (East Coast premiere)
Clint Needham: On the Road for violin and piano Andrew Rindfleisch: Listen, for electronic playback John Harbison: Two Arias from The Great Gatsby Huang Ruo: Sound of Hand for percussion (July 13 only)
Chen Yi: From Old Peking Folklore, for violin and piano
Johannes Brahms: Von ewiger Liebe, Mädchenlied and Ständchen, for mezzo and piano (July 12 only) Mario Davidovsky: Synchronisms No. 9 for solo violin and electronic sounds