Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's It Going to Be Then, Eh?

Over at Thirteen Near-Death Experiences, Corey Dargel is posting footage from the song cycle's premiere. A taste:


Monday, May 25, 2009


Hey hooray check it out, Loyal Reader Matthew Conley has put up some footage of his Master's recital on his YouTubes. Here he is playing an excerpt from Kagel's Morceau de concours:And here he is doing Cecilia Arditto's Mùsica invisibile IV, 3rd mvt:It is perhaps worth pointing out for the benefit of any composers reading this blog that Matthew is a complete new music ho, and would love to premiere a solid new score. Just sayin'.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Viola Sola

So yeah, Nadia Sirota's first album, first things first, came out this week! Last week I complained that the new New Amsterdam CD was not really up my alley, well let me tell you that the NEW new New Amsterdam CD goes alllllllll the way up my alley. Those of you who know me personally know that I am what is known as a "recovering violist," and as such I have an exceedingly high tolerance for the sound of sola viola. I could listen to Hindemith all day. It's a sickness. Also Nadia is kind of the coolest person ever, so I am 100% IN THE TANK on this one. Ahem. On her debut, Sirota shows off the music composed for her by three of her friends: Marcos Balter, Judd Greenstein, Nico Muhly. Balter gets the least time on the disc, and his work is the least familiar to me, but he comes off well. The combination of repeated figures and extended techniques still remind me of Walter Fähndrich's album Viola—which y'all should definitely investigate—rendered in miniature. That's an achievement, to build elegant little pieces out of these effects, and really pull it off. Greenstein is at his best writing for viola. Actually, I— Okay, DIGRESSION: I often think, not quite fairly, of the program note for his orchestral piece Chikasky as being more revealing than he means it to be—a piece about rock music and Romanticism, it examines both from a perspective that never totally gets inside rock, or escapes the Romantics. And then there's this—
Tchaikovsky, a composer with whom I've always had a love/hate relationship, enjoying so many of his melodies and his use of the orchestra, but hating his tendency towards long-windedness.
Oh NO YOU DIDN'T. Tchaikovsky is CONCISE. His dramatic sense is impeccable. It is Greenstein who operates on the minimalist's timetable of delayed gratification. E.g., Chikasky, which develops a single theme, lasts more than half as long as the entire 1812 Overture, which which has a giant huge load of themes and cannons going off everywhere. My point: Greenstein's at his best writing for the viola, which is naturally an introspective, singing sort of instrument, and so suited to this inner Romantic whose voice is, it seems to me, the voice of the True Judd. The Night Gatherers is a shimmering, passionate lament scored for viola and string quartet (the Chiara Quartet); Escape is a rockinger workout for viola alone, in which we hear Greenstein digesting his minimalist influences and Sirota going full virtuoso. Nico Muhly. Last time I compared his Etudes for Viola & Electronics to a "bag of aural jellybeans," but sweet as they may be to the ear, they ain't finger-candy. They aren't that sort of etude. They're actually pretty gnarly, considering how simple they have to sound, with the added difficulty of playing along with an intentionally hard-to-follow tape track: the rhythm has a slightly hinky swing, and in Etude 1A, there're also a bunch of Grand Pauses the soloist has to count in her head, with no conductor and (I'm told) no click. She makes it through the minefield unscathed. (Muhly's Duet: Chorale Pointing Downwards is gnarlier still; the violist and a cellist—on this disc, Clarice Jensen—must be playing Twister on their fingerboards to get those double-stops in tune.) Best part of the Etudes, though? The BOOTY BASS on those electronics. Hard not to giggle. Interesting-funny, as opposed to haha-funny, is the way these pieces from the three (or more) disparate aesthetics of the three composers add up to a coherent portrait of the star performer—maybe that's my imagination, from listening to this excellent podcast, where she talks about how well her composer friends write for her personality as a player; or maybe that's because they actually have each captured a facet of her with these pieces; or maybe that's because she succeeds in making them all her own. Anyway, a disc worth owning, and a happily authoritative debut. You can get it here.

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First Things First, then First Things First

In between your Fleet Week visits to New York's seediest gay bars, you'll want to spend this weekend checking out some of the exciting things the New Amsterdam Records gang is up to. Tonight and tomorrow, let me remind you again that it's time to hear the Corey Dargel's just-completed Thirteen Near Death Experiences, the invention of which you've been reading about at his blog, here. That's Corey Dargel and ICE at PS 122, 8 pm, and if you've been listening to his MIDI demos, and I hope you have, you know it's going to be hot. (Just posted: a clip of the live band rehearsing my new favorite song from the cycle, "Someone Will Take Care of Me.") Also tonight at 8, Sarah Kirkland Snider's Penelope premieres as a part of New Amsterdam's Undiscovered Islands at Galapagos—I think I've heard precisely one (1) piece by Snider but it was solid and well-made. (Bonus trivia: she's married to famous guitarist/composer Steven Mackey, who will be performing at the concert! So you can be reasonably sure that it is not an impostor.) Also Nadia Sirota's CD came out on New Amsterdam this week! First things first it's called. I'm going to post a review in just a bit.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Move Over, Tyler Perry

Hooray, Alex Ross went to the Yale Baroque Opera Project's production of Il Giasone by Cavalli, and had some kind words for my good friend Michael Sansoni, who "vividly etched the comic part of Demo." It's true, Mike was hilarious in the performance I saw as well. Of all the singers, I thought he managed to get the most mileage out of the jokes in the libretto. What surprised me was how much there was to get out of the libretto in the first place. It's an opera about Medea! And it's laugh-out-loud funny! That's why I'm so frustrated that (as Ross notes on his blog) the Harmonia Mundi recording, spectacular to hear, is available only as an mp3 download, with no booklet. Could HM please put up a PDF with the English translation on Amazon, or iTunes, or their own website? (And as an addendum to Ross's Cavalli discography, I should note that there's a DVD of La Didone out, which I haven't seen but it's Fabio Biondi conducting and that kid is hot stuff.) But yeah, c'mon people. I'd like an English translation with my four hours of Italian recitative, please.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Whom Are They Kidding

This story is insane. Apparently Moscow authorities thought it would be a good idea to put a full clampdown on a bunch of gay protesters while the Eurovision Song Contest was in town. I guess it would be a good idea if their intent was to make Russia look like a REPRESSIVE BACKWATER in front of ALL OF EUROPE. Jesus. I know this isn't the first time Moscow has put the boot in some gay pride protests, but did it not occur to the homophobes-that-be, gee, maybe an international media event is not the best occasion for throwing people into police vans so hard that you literally TEAR THEIR CLOTHES OFF? And I hope I don't need to point out the irony of Moscow's arresting protesters for being visibly, publicly gay in the leadup to the fucking Eurovision Song Contest, a globally televised event so gay that the sparkle of sequins is visible from the surface of the moon. JESUS, people. (Via Pinko.)

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

On the Double Sextet Recording (and Shocking Bonus Surprise Steve Reich Content)

O Internet! Every day is a little journey. Each link leads to another link leads to another link and that's how I never get anything done. Today's journey began thus: I read Nico's blog this morning, which repeated an oft-twittered complaint, namely, "How come I can't buy the recording of Double Sextet yet?" Well, one reason is that there isn't a studio recording yet, just that live recording with the eighth blackbird/Oberlin CME dodectet that you may have heard streaming for a limited time online. It's an exciting document, certainly worth hearing (and surreptitiously downloading to your iPod while you, Reich addict and clever URL-hacker that you are, had the chance), but not really worth shelling out for when there's going to be a nice audiophile studio recording in the pipeline. Like, listening to it now, I think I hear a little "unintentional phasing" around 3:30 in the first movement. Totally excusable in concert, not so much in a permanent document—and who's going to pay twice for both downloads? But that's not what Nico is saying, I don't think. (Is he?) He's saying, how come I can't buy the recording till 20fricking11? Isn't that kind of ridiculous? Well yeah, it is kind of. Now to be fair, Nonesuch is usually a pretty good label for this sort of thing—they're less interested in packing a disc with the standard 60-80 minutes of music than they are in putting a piece in its appropriate context. Kronos Quartet has put out series of "singles," long pieces that wouldn't fit onto one of their crazy grab-bag records but wouldn't fill out full-lengths on their own; John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls would have made awkward company for any pairing (Side A: Transmigration, Side B: Scratchband!!! Um, no); and perhaps most perversely, they did a Nellie McKay with his release of Dharma at Big Sur and Yo Momma Blew Charles Ives, reflecting his bicoastal sensibility with a two-disc set clocking in under the length of a single disc. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Just frinstance, while we continue wait for a CD of the Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, assuming that EMI has not crumbled into dust before they find something to pair it with, we can make do with the mp3 recording up on those iTunes. Nonesuch is usually a little ahead of the curve with this sort of thing—like, you get a free download of every purchase when you buy the disc off their website, and Steve Reich alone has two download-only releases available from them already—but is this a sign that they could be a little further-ahead still? Lossless soundfiles, maybe? Downloadable booklets? The DG Webshop already offers those things with downloads of their new releases. Why can't everybody be more like the DG Webshop? DG Webshop, stand up, you get a gold star. OH HEY BUT SO BUT!! I clicked on the link in Nico's post, which led me to this interesting Steve Reich interview, whose comment section, in turn, led me to this YET MORE INTERESTING interview, a revealing double-profile of Steve Reich and Beryl Korot, which you should all go read right now now now, even though the default when you click on that link is an annoying full-screen mode which, if you are me, you will immediately disable. It also includes, are you EVEN ready for this, a bonus clip from the primitive MIDI demo mock-up of Reich's forthcoming piece for "all rock-and-roll people," 2 x 5:
Steve Reich - 2 x 5
Okay, CRAZY. I gotta hear how this turns out. (In 2011.)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Secret Confession

Okay look. I'll admit that Darcy James Argue's new record, Infernal Machines, confirmed what I had suspected about his music, namely that it is, to an extent, not my thing. It is not to my taste. But I'm going to pretend for five seconds that I'm a grown-up and admit, too, that it's mostly my own fault that I don't connect with a debut album composed, orchestrated and performed with such astonishing assurance. (And maybe that's what keeps me out? Do I wish this album were less assured, less polished, more ragged somehow?) At any rate, composer/bandleader DJA is such an essential part of New York's new-music scene, and the release of this disc is by any measure such an event, that I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention it in this space. Kind of like how you'd be remiss if you didn't at least click here, right now, and give it a listen. Whether or not you fall in love with it, I think you'll recognize it as the start of something huge.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Everybody Knows

This has been all over the internet I'm sure—I know I'd read somewhere that David Rakowski's piano etudes were all up in the You-Tube, and I was like, "Cool," because sure, I like Rakowski's etudes! They're zany takeoffs on the tradition of the monomaniacal piano etude, focusing on one unusual technique of performance or composition, and then coming up with an appropriately hilarious title. (Find David Rakowski's NewMusicBox piece on the subject of titles here.) But I'd somehow overlooked this piece, which is satisfying to the ear, but PERFECT for YouTube for reasons that may be obvious to you already: Find his channel here. Via @OjaiFestivals, who should never have doubted.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Okay, No.

See, just, no.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seriously Though Still Lookin' Good

If you're stalking Esa-Pekka Salonen, Opera Chic has put up a gallery of photos—in some of which the maestro is straying, I'll admit it, into MWLLOL territory—from the premiere of The Soloist, a new Jamie Foxx movie that sounds fucking awful. Click here.


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Ring in 300 Words

Attention, everyone: THIS is how you review an opera for the newspaper. The Post's James Jorden gives us the plot (one sentence), a critique of the production (two sentences), an evaluation of the conductor (one sentence), and an assessment of the various singers' musical and dramatic performances (most of the review). And of course, along the way, a Child's Garden of Zingers:
Director Otto Schenk's widely admired production follows the stage directions literally, achieving the elaborate but unconvincing realism of a theme park. Instead of pondering moral issues, the audience marvels that styrofoam can be made to look so much like granite. ... Half a century on the operatic stage has hardly dimmed [the legendary Placido Domingo's] lustrous tenor; unfortunately, neither has it refined his gibberish German.
and for the win:
World-class bass René Pape (Fasolt/Hunding) sounded tentative, even timid. The "Ring" is no place for sissies.
Side note: Is anyone else weirded out by how terrific Domingo's Wagner singing is at the age of 68? There are dudes literally half his age who would sell their souls to sound this good. Here he is in L.A., via Tim Mangan:I can't help but wonder if, gathering dust in an attic somewhere, there is a painting of him in increasingly awful voice.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Rainy Day Puzzle Fun

George E. Lewis published a brief article on improvisation and interactivity at But he forgot capitalization and punctuation! Can you help?? Example:
jazz put improvisation and interactivity back on the worldwide western table but retrospectivist aesthetics and survivalist shakers will be ignored by many even as residual institutional power manages to deselect some from this future of music others will decline discursive discouragement to create new sonic socialities that will inevitably suffer and benefit from corporate commodification
"Jazz, put improvisation and interactivity back on the worldwide Western table!" "But... retrospectivist aesthetics and survivalist shakers will be ignored!" By many, even as residual institutional power manages to deselect, some (from this future of music) 'others' will decline. Discursive discouragement, to create new sonic socialities? That will inevitably suffer—and benefit from corporate commodification.