Upcoming Performance: Westminster Kantorei

Westminster Kantorei in Boston

On April 28th, 2018, two of my Magnificat Antiphons will be performed by Westminster Kantorei, Amanda Quist, conductor. Kantorei will be recording them the following week for release on Westminster Choir College’s imprint (distributed by Naxos).

I have been at Westminster since 2004. I am thrilled that, for the first time, my work will be featured by one of the choirs.

You can hear Lumina, the choir’s superb debut recording (long-listed for last year’s Grammys), here.

Concert Details: Bristol Chapel, Westminster Choir College (101 Walnut Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540), 8 PM. $20/$15 students/seniors.

Review from 1999

Amazing what you uncover on Google Books. A review of Cassatt String Quartet, with guest cellist Christopher Finkel, premiering my String Quartet (1999) at June in Buffalo.

“Christian B. Carey’s String Quartet (1999) is a rare effort to draw from jazz’s rhythmic style while applying an apparent serial language. The general depiction of jazz as a traditional palette (swinging, improvised-like solos) with tongue-in-cheek titles (‘Bebop a Lulu,’ ‘Elegaicism’ and ‘Lulu Redux’) makes for easily enjoyable music. Certainly the resultant serial sonorities have their own oddly saucy flavor, but all the more teeth for one’s wit.” – New Music Connoisseur, Volume 7, pp. 49.

Tanglewood FCM 2017 Highlights (Pt. 1)

Nathan Davis, “The Sand Reckoner.”
Photo: Hilary Scott.
  • This year’s Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood (in Lenox, Massachusetts) was curated by three youngish stars of the new music community: pianist Jacob Greenberg (ICE), cellist Kathryn Bates (Del Sol Quartet), and violist Nadia Sirota (Q2, ACME). Each planned a chamber music concert, consisting of commissioned new works and contemporary repertory selections. The curators combined forces with the BSO in selecting pieces for the festival’s finale, an orchestra concert conducted by Stefan Asbury and Vinay Parameswaran.
  • Commissioned works included vocal pieces by Nathan Davis and Anthony Cheung, a string quartet (with copious use of water-filled glasses and glass bowls) by Kui Dong, and Clip, a chamber ensemble work by Nico Muhly (for which I contributed program notes). These showed a diversity of musical approaches. Davis and Cheung took postmodern textual compiling as the jumping off point for stylistically varied and technically demanding singing. Dong revelled in glassine textures, both in the strings and with the water glasses themselves, while Muhly presented one of his most rhythmically intricate works to date, in places extending the language of post-minimalism towards the polyrhythms of late modernity.
George Lewis with the performers of “Anthem.”
Photo: Hilary Scott.
  • A standout on the concert curated by Greenberg on Thursday, August 10th was Columbia University professor George Lewis’s first appearance at Tanglewood (at age 65). Noteworthy for his work with AACM and a catalogue of compositions encompassing facets of concert music, jazz, improvisation, and electronics, Lewis was represented by Anthem, a 2012 piece originally written for Wet Ink Ensemble. At Tanglewood, Wet Ink’s vocalist Katie Soper, herself a prominent and creative composer, delivered a supersonic performance of a part written in Sprechstimme to Lewis’s own text about TV talking heads and subversive political commentary. Teddy Poll conducted, Greenberg contributed electronics, and the rest of the players, to a person impressive, were mostly guest musicians from ICE. Imaginatively scored and surpassingly energetic, Anthem was a rousing closer to FCM’s first evening.
Fromm Players perform
Johnston’s String Quartet No. 4, “Amazing Grace.”
Photo: Hilary Scott.
  • Friday afternoon featured a program of string quartets curated by Bates. A detailed and fine-tuned performance of Ben Johnston’s microtonal Fourth String Quartet by the Fromm Players (for which I was fortunate to contribute program notes) loomed large, but Bates introduced other fine pieces to Tanglewood audiences as well.
  • Croatoan II for string quartet and percussion by Moritz Eggert, supplied the proceedings with a welcome dose of humor, treating the mystery of a disappearing colony of early American settlers with more whimsy than tragedy. Percussionist Tyler Flynt, using what Bates described as a “suitcase’s worth” of hand percussion instruments, made the quick changes both in tempo and instruments seem effortless. Rene Orth’s Stripped (2015), a piece written in memory of the trumpeter Alex Greene, her Curtis classmate, began with noise-based sound effects and traversed an imaginative pathway to soaring harmonics. Although it didn’t quite gel in the Tanglewood performance, Terry Riley’s G Song is an attractive deployment of all manner of scalar patterns and jazzy cadence-points (look for Del Sol Quartet’s next CD to hear it more authoritatively rendered).
Eggert’s “Croatoan II.”
Photo: Hilary Scott.
  • Violinist Cameron Daly and cellist Chava Appiah performed Lei Liang’s Gobi Canticle, a piece that incorporates material and techniques from Mongolian string music. Liang visited the Nei Monggol region in 1996 to learn more about its music-making. This is deftly demonstrated in Gobi Canticle, which is at turns gently lyrical and boldly dramatic in cast.
  • I was most pleased to be introduced to the work of Jack Body (1944-2015), the recently departed New Zealand composer whose works synthesize ethnomusicology and composition. The wonderfully fleet and attractive Flurry (2002), in a version for three string quartets, opened Friday’s concert. Led by Bates, this all-too-brief work was immediately encored. One was glad to have the chance to hear it again and, unlike some encores, the performance was just as strong the second time around.
Kathryn Bates leads three string quartets in a performance of
Jack Body’s “Flurry.”
Photo: Hilary Scott.
  • Later this week I will be writing more about FCM, as well as the BSO concerts that coincided with the festival. The article will appear on both my blog and Sequenza 21.

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Friday: Bandcamp Supports Trans Rights

trans-fundraiser-600-7

Today (Friday August 4, 2017), Bandcamp supports Trans rights with 100% of their proceed to the Transgender Law Center. There is a list of participating labels on their homepage, or you can just dig out your BC wishlist and get to shopping!

The Dream Syndicate: “Glide”

The Dream Syndicate - by Chris Sikich

The Dream Syndicate. Photo: Chris Sikich.


How Did I Find Myself Here?,  The Dream Syndicate’s first LP since 1988 will be released via Anti on September 8th.

 

THE DREAM SYNDICATE – 2017 TOURING SCHEDULE:

Sept 29 Portland, OR – Star Theater

Sept 30 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern

Oct 14 Oslo – Rockefeller

Oct 15 Göteborg – Pustervik

Oct 16 Stockholm – Kägelbanan Södra Teatern

Oct 18 Copenhagen – VEGA

Oct 19 Hamburg – Uebel & Gefährlich

Oct 20 Bonn – Rockapalast Crossroads Festival 2017

Oct 21 Berlin – Festsaal Kreuzberg

Oct 22 Groningen—Vera

Oct 23 Amsterdam – Bitterzoet

Oct 24 Paris – Centre Barbara Fleury Goutte-d’Or (FGO)

Oct 25 Turin – Spazio 211

Oct 26 Milan – Magnolia Segrate

Oct 27 Bologna – Locomotiv

Oct 28 Zurich—El Lockal

Oct 30 London – The Lexington

Oct 31 London—The Lexington

Nov 01 Leeds – Brudenell Social Club

Nov 03 Leuven – Het Depot

Nov 04 Athens – Gagarin

Dec 01 Somerville, MA—ONCE

Dec 02 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

Dec 03 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups

Dec 04 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall

Dec 05 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line

Dec 06 St. Louis, MO – Off Broadway

Dec 07 Nashville, TN – High Watt

Dec 08 Atlanta, GA – The Earl

Dec 09 Relaigh, NC – Stag’s Head

Dec 10 Richmond, VA – Capitol Ale House

Dec 15 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater

Dec 16 San Francisco, CA – Independent

Required Reading: Experimental Music Since 1970

experimental music since 1970

Book Review:

Experimental Music Since 1970

By Jennie Gottschalk

Bloomsbury, 2016

284 pp.

From the very beginning of Experimental Music Since 1970, author Jennie Gottschalk lets us know that her perspective is that of a “maker,” a composer. This is instructive as to the book’s approach and to its inclusion and, in some cases, exclusion, of experimental composers who have made an impact over the past five decades. These decisions are based on a particular composer’s vantage point rather than an attempt to construct an all-encompassing canon of “important” figures, which in the fragmented and various perspectives of the postmodern era no book could truly do without devolving into mere name-checking and cataloging. Happily, Gottschalk’s book is anything but a catalog — her portraits of various wings of experimental music are vivid and often detailed. It is the viewpoint of a fascinating “maker,” someone who embraces an array of imaginative approaches to musical experimentation.

Gottschalk suggests that one of the purposes of her volume is to serve as a continuation of Michael Nyman’s seminal Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Perhaps in response to the centrality of Cage in the earlier volume, she begins Experimental Music Since 1970 with a deconstruction of the composer’s 4’33”, pointing out the various pathways into experiment that the piece still affords today. Gottschalk identifies these central concerns as follows: indeterminacy, change, non-subjectivity, research, and experience. While it is quickly pointed out that not all experimental music engages all of these issues, they prove to be pivotal in the way that Gottschalk defines and describes experimentation.

With these initial precepts laid out, the book proceeds to further parse experimentation into particular spheres of activity, with each chapter tackling one or more of these. Thus we are spared a chronological overview and when concerns overlap in composers’ works, they may reappear throughout the volume. This does lead one to question certain choices of space allocation. For instances, even given all of his fertile creativity, why is Peter Ablinger so often referenced while microtonal composers Ezra Sims and Joe Maneri and hypercomplex composers Brian Ferneyhough and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf are not mentioned even once? Apparently, the second modern school falls outside of Gottschalk’s purview. While one can fall back on her statement that she is a composer rather than a historian, it is somewhat disappointing that these significant types of experimentation seem “beyond the pale” (interestingly, there is similar neglect of American late modernism in Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s recent After the Fall: Music Since 1989). The presence of experimental jazz is also spotty, with a few references to artists such as Anthony Braxton and George Lewis but nothing about, for instance, Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, and Sun Ra. Another challenge is some haphazard copy-editing, particularly in the book’s latter half.

These caveats aside, what is covered here is a splendor of imaginative music-making that will supply much food for thought. Gottschalk is particularly in her element when discussing the Wandelweiser collective, approaches to instrument-building, ad hoc electronics, improvisation, sound art, ecomusic in general and site-specific works in particular. The book’s inclusivity in terms of race, gender, and sexuality may, along with Rutherford-Johnson’s similarly sensitive treatment of these issues in Music Since 1989,  help to slay a few stereotypes about composers. Gottschalk’s website, Sound Expanse, continues to build upon the achievements and aims of Experimental Music Since 1970, providing a valuable companion to the book and a “must bookmark” resource all by itself.

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György Kurtág on ECM


György Kurtág

Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir

Asko | Schönberg and Netherlands Radio Choir; Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor

ECM Records 3xCD 2505-07

 

Composer György Kurtág was born in Transylvania, but his many years of association with the Budapest conservatory have identified him as one of the foremost composers of Hungary, heir to Ligeti’s mantle as forward thinker and brilliant creator. ECM has been the label most associated with his music. Their release last decade of his string works was revelatory and one could certainly heap plaudits on the label’s celebration of Kurtág’s eightieth birthday in 2006 with a recording of his brilliant Kafka Fragments.

 

To celebrate his ninetieth year, just a smidge late, ECM has released a 3 CD set of Kurtág’s Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir. Even before listening, it is something to behold. ECM rightly has a reputation for lovingly curating their releases, but a number of interviews and essays (including program notes by Paul Griffiths), inclusion of the complete texts in sympathetic translations (no matter how thorny the originals), and many samples of the composer’s handwritten scores and ink drawings make this release a feast for the eyes. As for the ears, it has a remarkable dynamic range, clearly rendering everything from the softest whispers to thunderous bass drum thwacks with a sense of energetic potency.

 

The variance of dynamics is just one part of the multi-layered structures found in this music. From fragments of instrumental sound and disordered declamation to walls of choral sound and altissimo register vocal climaxes, Kurtág’s work encompasses a wide range of expression. In terms of desire, grief, fear, exhaustion, resiliency, and pain, there seems to be not a shade of emotion missing: his music is a complete catalog of the modernist project. Conductor Reinbert de Leeuw elicits each of these emotions and musical demeanors in turn with the surest of hands, drawing consummately detailed performances from the assembled forces. If you make it your business to get one recording of music by Kurtág, this is it.