Two new recordings feature Carey compositions; new choral pieces

Out on Friday, December 6th, via New Focus Recordings, Wendy Richman’s Vox/Viola recording includes a piece I wrote for her in 2010, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.” The CD significantly enlarges the repertoire for singing violists, with pieces by Ken Ueno, Everette Minchew, Arlene Sierra, Jason Eckardt, and others.

Wendy Richman, singing violist.

Recently released on Westminster Choir College’s label, Composers at Westminster features music by five faculty composers: Joel Phillips, Stefan Young, Jay Kawarsky, Ronald Hemmel, and myself. Westminster Kantorei, conducted by Amanda Quist, recorded two of my Magnificat Antiphons for the project. Soprano Victoria Browers and pianist J.J. Penna recorded three of my Jane Kenyon Songs for the recording as well. It is available to stream/download on all major platforms (such as Presto Classical).

In other news, Joe Miller commissioned a Psalm 96 setting from me for Westminster Choir, to celebrate the ensemble’s centennial in 2020. It has received three East Coast performances, will be performed at Westminster’s homecoming concert, and then will be programmed on the choir’s West Coast tour in early 2020.

The Princeton Packet previewed the concert and then reviewed the concert.

” For its 100th anniversary season, the Choir commissioned Westminster Choir College professor Christian Carey for a new work; his setting of Psalm 96 (“Sing to the Lord a new song”) was fitting for the occasion both in text and music. Receiving its second performance in this concert, Carey’s piece pays tribute to Westminster Choir’s rich tradition of church music and showed off well the Choir’s well-blended sound and ability to shift harmonies smoothly. “

  • Nancy Plum, Princeton Packet, November 13, 2019.

I’m currently at work on a short choral piece for Manhattan Choral Ensemble, to celebrate the group’s twentieth anniversary. My wife, Kay Mitchell, has written the lyrics.

RIP Matt Marks (1980-2018)

Matt Marks

All of us at Sequenza 21 are saddened to learn of the passing of Matt Marks. A musical polymath, he was a composer, new music advocate, provocative Twitter presence, co-founder and key organizer of New Music Gatheringand a versatile performer, both a vocalist-actor in various projects and a founding member of the ensemble Alarm Will Soundin which he played French horn and for which he did imaginative arrangements.

I met Marks on several occasions, but will allow his close friends and family to share reminiscences of a more personal nature. Among all those who knew and encountered him, either as a social media presence or “IRL,” his intelligence, sense of humor, persistent advocacy for gender equality in concert music and other worthy causes, and formidable talent will be sorely missed. Condolences to the many people whose lives he touched.

Read and Listen Further: Matt Marks

Matt Marks on Twitter.

The Matt Marks Music Page (personal website).

Matt Marks at New Music USA.

A 2017 review in the New York Times of Marks’s opera Mata Hari.

And a scene from the opera:

Mata Hari from PROTOTYPE Festival on Vimeo.

Steve Smith, writing in 2010 in the NY Times, profiled A Little Death, Vol. 1, a performance piece and recording with soprano Mellissa Hughes for New Amsterdam. It served as an introduction to Marks’s music for many.

Arrangement of “Revolution Number 9” for Alarm Will Sound:

Performance with Hotel Elefant:

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.

Best Recording 2017 – Tyshawn Sorey’s Verisimilitude

Verisimilitude

Verisimilitude

Tyshawn Sorey

Tyshawn Sorey, drums, percussion, composer; Cory Smythe, piano, toy piano, electronics; Chris Tordini, bass

Pi Records PI70

Tyshawn Sorey has had quite a year of musical accomplishments. After recently finishing up his doctorate at Columbia, he succeeded Anthony Braxton on the faculty at Wesleyan University, won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and received several other major awards and commissions. He has remained active in a number of ensembles, playing a pivotal role on another of this year’s best CDs, Vijay Iyer Sextet’s Far From Over (ECM). Verisimilitude, for Pi Recordings, is his sixth recorded outing as leader. Sorey is joined by pianist Corey Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini in five adventurous and stimulating compositions.

 

A suitable overture, “Cascade in Slow Motion,” is buoyed by interlocking arpeggios from pizzicato bass and piano and punctuated by supply drummed polyrhythms. Clocking in at four and a half minutes, it is the only relative miniature here. Thereafter, Sorey and his colleagues explore long form music-making. An arco bass solo leads off “Flowers for Prashant,” which then turns into a dovetailing duet. A gradual intensification led by this duet texture takes place, only to hew back to drone-based passages of repeated notes.

 

Smythe uses electronics and Tordini high-pitched arco lines to begin “Obsidian.” After an extended introduction exploring these timbres, Tordini plays lower pitched glissandos and Smythe sepulcral bass note stabs. Sorey enters with textural percussion: a gong, a host of woody fills, and shimmering cymbals. A fulsome groove is established; Tordini returns to pizzicato bass, Smythe repeats bass register chords, and Sorey deploys a cannonade at the kit. Eventually, pointillism is reasserted with upper register piano chords and throbbing bass notes; Sorey moves back to cymbals and auxiliary percussion instruments. Smythe’s basso reiterations lead to a coda based on the second section. Then there is a gradual denouement, punctuated by long gong strokes and slithering bass register glissandos.

 

“Algid November” is the half-hour long centerpiece of Verisimilitude and is Sorey’s most ambitious piece for trio yet. Once again, the emphasis is on gradually morphing from one set of textures and playing demeanors to the next. The musical fabric consists at first of a prevailingly soft dynamic and slow tempo, one undergirded with big beats (never amorphous) that contains numerous angular feints and jabs from all three players. Sorey is a master at contrasting the resounding of instruments such as gongs and cymbals with the faster decay of drums and small percussion instruments; all interactions and decays are timed with precision. After a long period in which these juxtapositions are the focal point, Sorey performs at the drum kit with zeal, while Smythe and Tordini operate in a dissonant language of jagged filigrees.

 

A little less than halfway through, the piece moves from post-tonality to post-bop, with cascading arpeggiations from Smythe and walking lines from Tordini locked in a tight groove that Sorey simultaneously supports and overlays with contrasting elements. Just when one feels their toes tapping, the trio moves sideways in lockstep, back to the big beats of the opener but with a fuller overall texture. Rearticulated verticals, first low and then high, signal yet another change in direction. Smythe’s repeated notes pile up in an ostinato haze and Tordini grooves in still another timeframe while Sorey engages in lithe ornamentation. Two thirds of the way through the piece, a visceral build up leads to a huge crash of cymbals.

 

Afterwards, the musicians resume the slow tempo and fragile soundscape that began “Algid November.” Pitched percussion, quickly plucked bass melodies, and chiming piano lines give way to rattling reiterations from Sorey and Smythe. It is as if the big crash that signalled the piece’s climax is being allowed successive echos. Interpolations of the swing section, in tiny slices that last merely a breath or two, are juxtaposed with barbed jabs and intricately constructed rhythmic passages. Another gale storm threatens, then is subdued, devolving into muted piano notes and quietly reverberant gong rolls.

 

The final work on the CD, “Contemplating Tranquility,” opens with the same muted material that closed “Algid November.” Gongs and temple bells gradually coalesce into  a new, still slow, pulse stream of pitched percussion, toy piano ,and then grand piano. Glassy piano harmonies are pitted against reiterated soundings of the gong. Smythe gradually adds arpeggios in the low register to replicate the lowest sounding frequencies of the gong. Filling in the registers, Sorey suddenly switches roles, adding trebly unpitched percussion to the proceedings where there had been piano. Toy piano and pitched percussion engage in a duet that is joined by a low rumbling and then sustained upper register arco lines and a generous dose of harmonics from Tordini. Smythe begins to build verticals in a more harmonically conceived direction, buoyed by more consonance — even an octave here and there — from the bass player. As things converge around the low E string of the bass, Tordini then has some fun of his own, throwing in notes that rend the heretofore harmonically grounded passage asunder. While Sorey weaves sustained cymbal passages, pianist and bassist create a duet that ebbs and flows in an ever narrowing dynamic spectrum. Temple bells suggests a possible return to the more contemplative demeanor of the opening. Instead, it is a signal that the meditation is over. Thus ends Sorey’s Verisimilitude, Sequenza 21’s Best Recording of 2017.

 

RIP Klaus Huber (1924-2017)

Huber_Klaus

The formidable Swiss pedagogue and composer Klaus Huber died last week, aged 92. Among his students were Kaija Saariaho, Wolfgang Rihm, Brian Ferneyhough, and Toshio Hosokawa,

Below is one of my favorite works by the composer, his Quintet for Strings, performed by the Arditti Quartet and violist Garth Knox.

“3 Kenyon Songs” – “Psalm 103” (SoundCloud)

May 2016 recital photo - Noble - Carey - Ihnen

This week I am posting recordings from a May 2016 recital that was performed at All Saints’ Church in Princeton, New Jersey. Organized by soprano Sara Noble and the Contemporary Undercurrents of Song Project, it was given for me after I returned home last Spring from having cancer surgeries in Nashville. It was the most thoughtful musical homecoming a composer could experience.

Below are two live recordings from the event: You may check out my Soundcloud page for addition selections. The first is a duo version by Sara and mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen of my Psalm 103 setting.

The second has often been performed but never before recorded in its entirety – the piano-vocal version of my Three Kenyon Settings, performed by Megan and pianist Graeme Burgan. (Singing cellist Jody Redhage commissioned the set for herself to perform and made a recording of one of the songs, “Otherwise,” that you can also hear on Soundcloud.

Hayes Biggs played by Thomas Stumpf (YouTube)

Pianist Thomas Stumpf’s latest Albany Records recording features composer Hayes Biggs’s first Piano Prelude, The Secret the Silent Lazarus Would Not Reveal. Based on the poem, “The Afterlife,” by Billy Collins, it is a virtuosic traversal of the piano’s low register, featuring sepulchrally jazzy chords and ominous angular melodies.

Stumpf’s Reflections on Time and Mortalitya two-disc set, also includes pieces by Chopin, Debussy, Janàcek, Bartók, John McDonald, and Yehudi Wyner.