Got some new events listed for the 2015-16 season. Pour yourself a nice Campari and soda while you peruse.
Woke up in Seattle this morning because tonight is the première of Running Theme, a new string orchestra piece for Town Music. Josh Roman (the famous cellist & newly-minted conductor) leads a mixed consort of seasoned pros and talented high-schoolers. I think it’ll be good; the piece is a fun compound-meter romp with lots of squeaky harmonics. You can listen to the live broadcast here, at 7:30 PST.
I’m a bit gutted to be missing another première that’s happening tonight in Detroit. It’s been four years since Sleeping Giant first asked eighth blackbird out for coffee, and now we’re having a baby! I mean, we wrote them a big piece. It’s called Hand Eye and we couldn’t be more proud of the little terror. There will be plenty of chances to hear it subsequently over the coming season, including a semi-staged production by the amazing Candystations.
None of them have audio yet—only enough words to excite your curiosity.
This is just to say: this website is not dead, only sleeping. The 2014-15 concert season is almost over, the last hurrah being two out-of-town premières both happening June 27th. I’ll be supervising the proceedings in Seattle. Thanks to everyone who came to Miller Theater last night; it was great fun to play a bit of my music with some of my favorite friends & colleagues.
What else? I’m moving again, still within Brooklyn. (This is a great relief; please continue to refer to me as a “Brooklyn-based composer” because it is very important to my sense of identity.)
A Moleskin sketch for Early to Rise (I think).
I flippantly commented on Twitter earlier that StaffPad, a new music notation app for Microsoft Surface, had a likely audience of one—Alan Pierson, the lone musician Surface-owner I know. It’s easy to poke fun at dorky old Microsoft, but I’m genuinely just sore that I can’t try out the app. To expend as much development effort as StaffPad clearly has only to address the 2% share of tablets that run Windows seems like a risky business strategy, to put it mildly; I sincerely hope they’re successful, though, because promising new software in this category doesn’t come along often. The target audience is small to begin with, and the number of talented musician-programmers even smaller, I’d imagine.
Perhaps, though, StaffPad isn’t even meant for me. It doesn’t appear to have real engraving capabilities (it lacks, fir example, cross-staff beaming—a relatively basic feature) and therefore wouldn’t obviate my need for Sibelius. Yet it also can’t export a Sibelius file—only MusicXML, which is far too rudimentary to be useful, in my experience.
But I have wanted a way to “do music” on my phone and iPad for awhile, and nothing I’ve seen has quite fit the bill.
The hypothetical software I’ve been imagining is far less elaborate—a companion to big notation programs rather than a replacement for them. The interface would be a blank sheet of music paper, and you’d just draw on it. Notes, shapes, pictures, text, whatever. Add a simple filing system, to keep all your related sketches together, along with voice memos and photos. The result would be the digital equivalent of a music Moleskine, or like a musically-oriented Vesper. Maybe it could have some kind of handwriting recognition to clean up the input a bit.
Fully expecting like a dozen venture capitalists to get at me right after I hit publish on this. It’ll be the next Facebook, I tell ya!
Why are pianists always looking at the ceiling?
I always thought it was a kind of swanning, put on for dramatic display, and just yesterday noticed that I was doing it—alone, in a windowless practice room in the basement of Davies Hall. Just who was I trying to impress?
Dismayed, I scanned through a video from my recital at the Phillips collection and noticed I was doing it there, too.
I have a theory (I almost always have a theory). On both occasions, I was trying to quickly acclimate to unfamiliar pianos (something pianists have to learn to do regularly). Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to distance myself from the sound of the instrument, much as one would walk around different locations of a hall to gauge the sound of someone else playing.
I can’t imagine moving one’s head backwards a foot or so actually changes the perception of sound much—though maybe it does? Perhaps someone who knows more about hearing or sound perception would care to comment.
Still have no idea why a pianist’s head would move in the opposite direction, though:
Schubert: Impromptu in f minor, op. 142 no. 1
Recorded Jan. 11, 2015 at the Phillips Collection
In what must surely be the most important career development of 2015, I have made my cooking show début. Thanks to Adrienne Stortz for the video.
The album is a little different from your typical composer-compilation, which is a good thing. I’d say it’s more of an interpretive album, albeit of music that all happens to have been written for the group. But it’s not weighed down trying to be the definitive version of any of these pieces, a burden which can sometimes lead to dutiful, bland recordings. This is largely a factor of the sheen of futuristic studio production provided by Ryan Lott (a.k.a Son Lux).
It also helps that the music is so good and varied throughout—I’m chuffed to be sharing space with Marcos Balter, Andrew Norman, Mark Dancigers, Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, and Jeremy Turner.
And yes, if it wasn’t already evident, we live in the age of the Instagram Album Cover.
yMusic plays live in NYC on Oct. 10, at Rockwood Music Hall.
I figure if anything goes up here, it’s this photo. Tweets are fleeting, blog posts are forever, or something like that.
David Cossin (center) anchors our performance of Steve Reich’s Four Organs last night at BAM, with Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Mr. Reich, and yours truly. You can see Nico & me engaging in some subtle conducting. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Here is a liner note I wrote to accompany the CD/DVD release of Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia in 2014.
Louis Andriessen initially found notoriety as something of a provocateur, a composer whose noisy, audacious juggernauts combined minimalism, leftist politics, and his characteristic “terrifying twenty-first century orchestra”. La Commedia is his fourth “opera”, really a cycle of five mini-cantatas—not exactly an adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, but a wide-ranging setting of parts of it. But what happens when Andriessen—at 75, still something of an iconoclast—decides to tackle one of the monuments of western thought? And is he doing so with a straight face, or being a bit of a prankster?
The first tableau, The City of Dis or: The Ship of Fools opens with a busy surround-sound collage: car horns, bicycle bells, jackhammers, sirens, and motorcycles blend with lightly unpredictable minimalist urbanity. It sounds familiar, appear nonthreatening—the soundscape is of Andriessen’s native Amsterdam—but the city’s earthly appearance masks what truly happens in Dis. Its world mirrors our own, but not everything is as it seems. Though it resembles a typical city, with its frenzy of activity and profusion of architectural styles (including Jewish and Islamic ones—heretical, after all), Dis is essentially a huge, hot torture chamber. A rowdy men’s chorus sings a passage from “The Blue Barge”, a common Renaissance version of the “Ship of Fools” allegory; crewed by variously inept and sinful characters, the barge is a symbol of the unknowing and uncaring damned. In fact, we are already deep inside the pit of Dante’s Hell. Dis (a name given to the Devil as well as a city he sometimes occupies) encompasses the sixth through ninth circles of “Nether Hell”, and it is here that the most malicious criminals are punished.
Though La Commedia calls for a mish-mash of vocal styles, the default Louis Andriessen affect is close to that of early music singing. Much of the exposition of the piece is in dense Bach-ian chorale, but notes and words remain intelligible thanks to minimal use of vibrato. Falling, melting gestures characterize much of the vocal writing of the first three parts of La Commedia, denoting both physical downward motion and keening lamentation. Chords take on an overwhelming gravity; normal major and minor triads have been larded with tritones and seconds, and can do nothing but descend.