Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Persichetti CD Praised at Audiophile Audition

Our new Persichetti CD recently received a fine review at Audiophile Audition. They conclude:
"An important reissue: Ellen Burmeister's performances are authoritative, and Starkland's remastering serves them well."
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Read more about Starkland's Persichetti CD.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Phil Kline: Unsilent Night: 2010

Phil Kline's Unsilent Night, a wonderful participatory moving sound sculpture, will take place in more than 20 cities around the world this December, adding for the first time Hong Kong, Oxford, UK and Charleston, WV.

Cities include: Asheville, Baltimore, Boulder, Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Missoula, Montreal, New Haven, New York City, Oxford (UK), Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Traverse City, and Vancouver.

Details for each city's meeting place and time can be found here.

This free, outdoor sonic event consists of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs, and MP3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes and pod-docks carried through city streets every December. People bring their own diverse playback devices and drift peacefully through a moving surround-sound environment which is different from every listener's perspective. Some have even brought their laptops hooked up to large speakers mounted on a wagon.

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Since its debut in 1992 in New York, Unsilent Night has become a cult holiday tradition, drawing crowds of up to 1,500 participants. It has also grown into a worldwide annual event that has been presented in over 45 cities and on three continents.

The New York Times writes, "Unsilent Night immerses the listener in suspended wonderment, as if time itself had paused inside a string of jingle bells.”

Time Out writes, "Kline's luminous, shimmering wash of bell tones is one of the loveliest communal new-music experiences you'll ever encounter, and it's never the same twice."

FYI: The only surround sound recording of Phil's spatial music is his Around the World in a Daze DVD, described by The New Yorker as "an audio-visual feast that balances hipster zen with the seriousness of Bach and Wagner."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Persichetti Piano CD Released by Starkland

This new Starkland CD of piano works by Vincent Persichetti offers the only available recordings personally approved by the composer of his substantial Tenth and Eleventh Piano Sonatas. Performed by Persichetti specialist Ellen Burmeister, this long out-of-print reissue also presents the only current recording of the composer’s simple but charming Serenade No. 7.

It's available at Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, and more.

Reviews of the original 1985 release praised the music, performance, and sound:

“Ellen Burmeister… exhibits a rich understanding of the composer’s mode of expression… The recorded sound is superb.”
– American Music

“A significant record… A welcome addition to the recorded catalogue of an important composer.”
– Audience

“Ellen Burmeister… plays with a warmth and delicacy… The superb recorded sound… offers a flattering showcase.”
– Fanfare

Persichetti was an ardent fan of the “wonderful pianist” Ellen Burmeister, writing, “I am pleased not only for her talents but also by her sound musicianship and dedication.” Upon hearing the original master tape, Persichetti sent an enthusiastic note of approval to producer Tom Steenland, noting that Burmeister “has done a fine job.”

The new CD’s booklet reissues the full LP notes on the music from both Persichetti and Burmeister.

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Persichetti was one of the major figures in American music of the 20th century, both as a teacher and a composer. Among some 100 commissions were those from the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the St. Louis and Louisville Symphony Orchestras, Martha Graham Company, and the American Guild of Organists.

During his nearly four decades teaching at Juilliard, his students included Philip Glass, Thelonious Monk, Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach), and Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Visit Starkland.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Phillip Bimstein's Red Rock Rondo Wins Regional Emmys

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Science's Rocky Mountain Chapter recently gave the Red Rock Rondo music special two Emmy Awards: Best Arts Entertainment Program and Best Musical Composition.

Made by the Western Folklife Center in cooperation with KUED-TV and produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis, the hour-long film was shot in and around majestic Zion National Park.

The award-winning music was composed by Phillip Bimstein with arrangements by Red Rock Rondo.

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Bimstein originally wrote his Zion Canyon Song Cycle on a grant from the nationwide Continental Harmony commissioning program of the American Composers Forum. The music is performed by an all-star ensemble on a lively assortment of guitars, violins, oboe, English horn, mandolin, banjo, mandocello, harmonica, button accordion, jaw harp, upright bass and vocals.

A CD is now available.

Starkland has released two Bimstein CDs: Garland Hirschi's Cows and Larkin Gifford's Harmonica.

Read more about Bimstein.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tod Dockstader: Apocalypse CD at iTunes, etc.

For the first time, Tod Dockstader's Apocalypse CD is now digitally available at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc.

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Some fine reviews have appeared:

The Wire:
“The obsessive care with which Starkland have compiled these extraordinary recordings should ensure that Dockstader will be remembered as the innovative, visionary figure he undoubtedly was.”

“Among the most impressive of electronic-music CDs anywhere... [Luna Park] is one of the finest works of electronic music I’ve ever heard.”

“Brilliant, compelling listening experiences... vital and fascinating... inventive and powerful.”

Dockstader's Quatermass CD has also recently gone digital.

Read more about Dockstader's Apocalypse CD.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dockstader: Quatermass: Sound Clips

Here are some excerpts from Dockstader's Quatermass CD, now at iTunes, etc.

Water Music: Part Three

Quatermass: Song and Lament

Quatermass: Parade

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tod Dockstader: Quatermass: now digital

For the first time, Tod Dockstader's classic "organized sound" tape music is now available in the digital realm. Starkland's first all-Dockstader CD appears at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc. The release includes Dockstader's masterpiece, "Quatermass."

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Reviews have raved about this recording:

The Washington Post:
"Strong recommendation: the work of Tod Dockstader, a highly imaginative pioneer."

"Tod Dockstader belongs in the select company of Varèse, Stockhausen, Luening, Schaeffer, Subotnick, and the other pioneers of electronic music or musique concrète. His achievement is on a par with the best in his field."

"In a sense, Dockstader is one of the godfathers of Nurse With Wound, and a distant cousin of rap and techno... Essential for anyone interested in electronic music."

Read more about Dockstader's Quatermass CD.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Klucevsek + Marclay + Whitney Museum

The ever-hip Guy Klucevsek will perform over a dozen times in September at New York's Whitney Museum, as part of the Christian Marclay Festival.

Marclay's art works double as scores, sometimes in the form of films, other times as found objects which contain musical symbols - everything from candy boxes to sheet music to record covers to car ads.

There are two wonderful pieces in the NY Times about the exhibit (here and here).

Guy's performance schedule:

Wednesday September 1, 1:00 pm – Ephemera (solo)

Thursday September 2, 12:30pm – Ephemera (solo)

Friday September 3, 2:00 pm – The Bell and the Glass: Open Rehearsal

Friday September 3,  4:00 pm – The Bell and the Glass (with Peter Evans, Okkyung Lee)

Saturday September 4, 12:30 pm – Screen Play: Open Rehearsal

Saturday September 4, 2:30 pm – Screen Play (with Peter Evans, Okkyung Lee)

Sunday September 5, 4:00 pm – Ephemera (solo)

Wednesday September 15, 1:00 pm – Ephemera (solo)

Thursday September 16, 1:00 pm – The Bell and the Glass: Open Rehearsal

Thursday September 16, 2:00 pm -  The Bell and the Glass (with Ned Rothenberg)

Friday September 17, 3:00 pm – Screen Play: Open Rehearsal

Friday September 17, 4:00 pm – Screen Play (with Ned Rothenberg and o.blatt)

Saturday September 18, 4:00 pm – The Bell and the Glass (with Ned Rothenberg)

Sunday September 19, 12:30pm – Screen Play (with Ned Rothenberg, o.blatt)

Wednesday September 22, 1:00pm – Ephemera (solo)

Thursday September 23, 1:00pm – Ephemera(solo)

Saturday September 25, 2:30pm – Ephemera (solo)

More about the Whitney Museum.

More about Guy Klucevsek.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Innovative Commissioning Effort

An innovative approach to commissioning a new orchestral work is now underway at Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival.

Anyone can vote (on-line) for one of four composers to create a work for the 2011 season. Each vote costs $10 and you can vote as many times as you want before the Aug. 15, 2010 deadline. All the income goes towards the $10,000 commission.

This approach seems unique, though of course it parallels micro-financed efforts at Kickstarter and Bang on a Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund.

Known for his commitment to new music, Music Director Michael Christie chose the four composers: Enrico Chapela, Jay Greenberg, Behzad Ranjbaran and Patrick Zimmerli. (These links have biographies and sound clips for the four composers.) In a Denver Post article, Christie remarks,
“It just occurred to me that in this era of micro-finance that we could create something where… anybody can participate, not just the most well-heeled or the people who are most used to giving. We’re all trying to engage people.”
Various perks include: all voters will have their name listed in the score; send in 10 votes to get invited a special pre-concert reception; and the highest voter over 100 votes will have the piece dedicated to them.

Read more at the Colorado Music Festival's website.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Erling Wold: Mordake CD: "very interesting"

“A new chamber opera based on a bizarre story makes for very interesting, pleasant listening” is the headline for a new review of Erling Wold's Mordake CD.

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Writing in Audiophile Audition, Daniel Coombs also comments, “The libretto, by Douglas Kearney is lean and simple, befitting the score. The music is an outgrowth of pure minimalism,” adding “the recording and packaging are top quality.”

Here's Track 12, "Once there was a boy (2)":

The opera tells the story of young Edvard Mordake, secreted away in his apartments due to his disfigurement: a woman’s face on the back of his head, whose constant imprecations, heard by him alone, lead him on a terrifying course of action.

The CD is physically available at Amazon, CD Baby, ArkivMusic, and more. It's digitally available at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, MySpace Music, etc.

The title role is sung by John Duykers, whose most celebrated role was Mao Zedong in the world-premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China, which was televised (winning an Emmy Award), and recorded (winning a Grammy Award).

The eclectic composer Erling Wold has been hailed as “the Eric Satie of Berkeley surrealist/minimalist electro-art rock” by the Village Voice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amy X Neuburg: "The Secret Language of Subways" CD; downloadable

Amy X Neuburg's "The Secret Language of Subways" CD can be downloaded at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc. The release has been enthusiastically received:
"Like Laurie Anderson joining up with Philip Glass or Annie Sofie Von Otter collaborating with Steve Reich."
- Audiophile Audition

“A beauty.”
- Vital Weekly

“Amy’s best work yet… She’s a massive talent whose work is always fresh and entertaining.”
- Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?
Two years in the making, the CD consists of intricately composed, multiple layers of cellos topped by Amy’s distinctive and striking vocals; the songs range from intimate art-song ballads to electronics-based pop to Dadaist meanderings to lush symphonic arrangements. Sometimes the cellos are processed with electronic effects, other times heard in the expressive richness of their natural timbres.

Amy X Neuburg describes The Secret Language of Subways as “a song cycle about the inane and perpetually unfinished businesses of love and war — and New York.” The thirteen songs form a compelling dramatic arc, drawing the listener into a vivid, subterranean emotional journey. Starting from the hushed a cappella opening of One Lie, the CD makes local stops at urban paranoia (The Closing Doors, Body Parts), nocturnal reveries (the haunting-yet-catchy Someone Else’s Sleep), the surreal juxtapositions of street life (The Gooseneck, Difficult), self-preservation through self-presentation (the lilting, folkish Hey), and Amy’s stunning closer, the resigned, chorale-like Shrapnel.
“Neuburg's new song cycle teeters beguilingly on the boundary between pop and avant-garde performance art, and to hear it complete and in sequence is to marvel at the grace and elegance with which Neuburg walks that tightrope.”
- San Francisco Chronicle
Amy's vocals and electronics are accompanied by The Cello ChiXtet, comprised of Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston, and Elizabeth Vandervennet.

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A stylistically versatile, classically trained singer/composer with a four-octave range, Amy X Neuburg has developed a unique career bridging the boundaries between classical, experimental and popular music. Her ‘avant-cabaret’ songs combine her interests in language, expressive use of music technology, and exploration of multiple genres.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Future Classical Music Sales

Anne Midgette recently interviewed Klaus Heymann, who has grown Naxos from a new budget classical label to a major leader in the industry. You can read the full article here, but a few excerpts are of interest:

“Physical sales are still surprisingly strong in classical music, unlike pop and rock. In June, Naxos was 12% up on the month’s budget. The year to date is up 6% over last year.”

 “Downloads are stagnating… growth is anemic: I think it’s up 1 or 2% over last year.”

 “Amazon is our biggest customer in many markets: the US, England, Germany.”

“We’re starting Blu-Ray audio doing a demo of John Corigliano's Circus Maximus…It sounds spectacular…It’s probably the high-end medium of the future.”

“SACD [is] almost dead… More and more indies are giving up.”

“I have no doubt we will do very well with digital things. There are lots of ways of making money now… it’s exciting.”

Overall, it's more evidence that the future remains unpredictable and murky.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pamela Z: "A Delay is Better" CD; iTunes, more

Pamela Z's  "A Delay is Better" CD is available digitally at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc.
“Sheer genius from the most gifted and enterprising vocalist/composer/audio artist in the US since the heyday of Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk… The effects are stunning… Essential.”
– The Wire

“A lovely listen.”
– Kyle Gann, Village Voice

“A shining overview of her work as a solo artist. Fascinating.”
– De:Bug
The only CD devoted exclusively to Pamela's music, the recording offers some of her most widely enjoyed signature pieces. The New York Times writes the "acclaimed internationally" Z is "a wonderfully compelling performer with a lot of range." The New Yorker comments that "at the center of it all is the simple beauty of her classically trained voice - which can give her work an almost medieval purity." And the San Francisco Chronicle has enthusiastically commented that "Pamela Z creates lustrous sonic landscapes."

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The essence of Z's mesmerizing music is a skillful blending of her lovely voice with refined electronic manipulations. Pauline Oliveros writes that "this CD beguiles us with a rich introduction to a fine vocalist/composer who adeptly embraces technology," noting that Z "invigoratingly explores great varieties of solo, chorused, extended, and manipulated vocal materials."

Fanfare's review concludes the CD is "an excellent introduction" to "an emerging voice that’s adventurous, attractive, and very American."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charles Amirkhanian: "Walking Tune" CD: now digital

Charles Amirkhanian's  "Walking Tune" CD is now digitally distributed. Sources include iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The original CD received some fine reviews:
“Some of the most interesting use of sounds that I've ever heard.”
– NPR’s "Weekend Edition"

“Charles Amirkhanian is a highly imaginative sound poet, text-sound creator, and contrapuntal collagist of the first order.”
– Stereo Review

“One of the Year's 20 Best CDs.”
– Electronic Music Foundation
Regarding this CD, Laurie Anderson wrote, "The art of audio collage has been reinvented here,” adding “I'm reminded of Brian Eno's music for imaginary films, although Charles takes this idea much farther." The CD presents the premiere recording of one of Amirkhanian’s most well-known and warmly received works, "Walking Tune – A Room-Music for Percy Grainger." Amirkhanian writes:
"Walking Tune (1986-7) is an homage to one of my favorite figures in 20th century music history, the Australian-American composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961)...  A great worshipper of the outdoors, Grainger conceived of his piano solo 'Walking Tune' during a tramp through the Scottish highlands in 1900. It is a simple and charming paean to those all-too-few joyous escapes from life's everyday cares. Grainger spent the final years of his life in a frustrated attempt to create a music synthesizer which would free him from the restrictions of conventional musical instruments, performers, and formal compositional structures. In this work, originally conceived for radio, I used the Synclavier digital synthesizer, a tool Grainger eagerly would have embraced, to combine sounds recorded out of doors in Hurricane, UT (tramping), and Pagosa Springs, CO (a swarm of hummingbirds), with sounds sampled from a variety of sources in Australia. The music is, for the most part, unabashedly pretty, as is much of Grainger's own output."
Anderson offered these thoughts:
"Mixing the real and the imaginary is a skill that very few composers have. Charles jumps back and forth between these worlds with delightful ease, his curiosity and humor always evident. But in Walking Tune – and many of the other pieces he's done over his long career – this skill is mixed with a sensibility that is elegiac."
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Another premiere recording was the invigorating "Chu Lu Lu," about which Amirkhanian comments:
"Imagine that you were asked to create a 60-second 'commercial' in the form of a work of new music which was to be aired on a European rock station. Furthermore, that the sound of the piece was, in some way, to exemplify the cultural connection between France and the U.S. Via immigration, migration, domination, and through war and peace, the populations of these two nations have, by the late 20th century, taken on striking multi-cultural profiles, which in the allotted time can be only hinted at here. My solution was to collage snippets of various ethnic musics, both from the former French colonies and from Cajun and Native American music."

This CD also presented the premiere recording of the playful "Gold and Spirit." Amirkhanian explained the piece’s origins:
"The title of Gold and Spirit (1984), borrowed from Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, here refers ironically to prize medals and cheering crowds, both integral parts of Olympic competition. When asked to write a piece of music for radio broadcast as part of the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles, I recalled going to basketball and football games and playing drums in marching bands during my youth, and that one of my cherished ambitions was to have sports cheers of my own design, with the names of artists as texts, performed at real sporting events. In the '60s and '70s I began composing these group cheers, such as 'Ray Man Ray,' 'Go Van Gogh, and 'Marcel – Duh Champ.' The cheers incorporated in Gold and Spirit include spoken phrases processed by a Buchla Synthesizer, an Eventide harmonizer, and a Lexicon reverberation unit; some of the cheers were constructed with 64 images of my voice, layered in the 1750 Arch Street Studio in Berkeley. Other sound sources include actual sporting events (cuero, racquetball, lawn bowling, indoor soccer, baseball, handball, and basketball), as well as drum cadences produced by a synthesizer."
Amirkhanian wrote about the haunting "Bajanoom:"
"The somber mood of Bajanoom (1990), the Armenian word for 'separation,' mirrored my own feelings in light of the many nationalist movements, from Montréal to Yerevan, which have surfaced recently after many years of frustration and bitterness. Gong sounds sampled at the home of Lou Harrison are combined with the sounds of a musical saw, coffee grinder, guitar, and strings."
The CD also contains a slyly witty tribute to the composer, conductor, critic, author, and lexicographer extraordinaire Nicolas Slonimsky. Amirkhanian writes:
"The title of Vers Les Anges (1990) comprises several references to the dedicatee, Nicolas Slonimsky, for whom the music was composed in celebration of his 96th birthday. A resident of Los Angeles, (Les Anges, in French), Slonimsky translated Schloezer's life of Alexander Scriabin, composer of the piano work 'Vers la flamme.' For my tribute, I assembled a number of musical references appropriate to Slonimsky's life. As a conductor, the Russian prodigy directed the first performance of Edgar Varèse's Ionisation (1931), which features the sounds of sirens and a battery of percussion instruments, referenced at the beginning of Vers Les Anges. Other raw sonic materials include the sound of a German music box (from the period of Slonimsky;s youth), a digitally sampled komungo (played by Korean virtuoso Jin Hi Kim), and cuckoo clock and cat sounds which recall Slonimsky’s home."
Anderson concluded that "Humor, colorful cinematography, and a brilliant sense of imaginary space are just some of the joys of this CD."

Composer, percussionist, sound poet, and radio producer Charles Amirkhanian (b. 1945) is a leading practitioner of electroacoustic music and text-sound composition and has been instrumental in the dissemination of contemporary music through his work as Music Director of KPFA/Berkeley from 1969 to 1992. He also directed the Speaking of Music series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1983-1992) and was the founding Co-Director (with John Lifton) of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado (1988-1991). From 1993 to 1997 Amirkhanian was Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. In 1998 Amirkhanian was appointed Executive Director of the Other Minds music festival. His music has also been recorded on 1750 Arch Records, Composers Recordings, Inc., Giorno Poetry Systems, Fylkingen Records (Sweden), S Press (Germany), OU Records (England), Perspectives of New Music, and Diffusion i Média (Canada).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Phillip Bimstein: "Garland Hirschi's Cows" CD: Now Digital

Phillip Bimstein's "Garland Hirschi's Cows" CD is now digitally distributed. Sources include iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The original CD picked up some fine reviews:
“Garland Hirschi’s Cows is a cult classic.”
– NPR’s "All Things Considered"

“Outstanding...[Bimstein] has used digital sampling technology to tell wry and moving stories, and to elevate the mundane to the level of high art...brilliantly original.”
– Stereophile

“Quirky and thoroughly engaging.”
– Wired

“A lot of immediacy, wit, and inventiveness.”
– Stereo Review 
WNYC's John Schaefer has written:
“Perhaps Bimstein, like Philip Glass, Henryk Górecki, Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, and Arvo Pärt, will find people calling his music Alternative Classical... Bimstein’s music is not meant for theorists to wring their hands over in some future century; it’s meant to be enjoyed and understood, its stories told, right now.”
The CD opens with the now classic "Garland Hirschi's Cows," which describes a Utah farmer, his cows, and why they moo. Radio airplay of the work has generated hundreds of calls (especially after being heard on NPR's "All Things Considered"). Here's the opening track ("A Little Bit About My Cows"):

"Dark Winds Rising," for string quartet and tape, presents the Kaibab Paiute tribe's successful fight against the installation of a toxic waste incinerator on their native land. Employing a technique he calls "voice organics," Bimstein uses sampled speech to develop rhythmic patterns, melodies, and sound effects such as mesa winds, industrial ratchets, a snake pit, and bird calls.

In "The Door," Bimstein uses samples of his creaking studio door to create some funky brass instruments, a pulsating rhythm section, fragments of a merry-go-round's music, and a mournful seal.

"The Louie Louie Variations" is a contemplative fantasy that deconstructs a classic rock chord progression, while the haunting "Vox=Dominum," the most mysterious piece on the CD, deconstructs a variety of Persian sounds.

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Bimstein resides in Springdale, Utah, where he served two terms as mayor, prompting Outside magazine to call him "America's only all-natural politician composer." His alternative classical music combines acoustic instruments with found sounds and voices to paint portraits and tell stories. Bimstein's music has been performed at Lincoln Center, Bang on a Can, and London's Royal Opera House. In addition to his studies of theory, composition, and orchestration at the Chicago Conservatory and UCLA, Bimstein led the new wave band Phil 'n' the Blanks, whose albums and videos were college radio and MTV hits.

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Visit Phillip Bimstein's website.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bang on a Can: Marathon 2010

I think I've attended every Bang on a Can Marathon concert since 1993, and it's a pleasure to report that this year's offering was one of the best so far. From start to finish of this 13 hour event, the varied music was mostly interesting and attractive.

For me, the best was last. Jointly composed by the BOAC triumvirate of Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, Shelter was co-commissioned by BAM and originally seen at their Next Wave Festival in 2005. The music is strong and effective throughout. Adding the dreamy, at times surreal videos of Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder to the superb performance by SIGNAL produced a wonderful, impressive experience.

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One standout for me was Tim Brady's live electric-guitar work which was heavily processed and accompanied by excellent videos from Martin Messier. (The cumulative conclusion of the increasingly multiplied John Lennon guitar was mesmerizing.)

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Another virtuoso performer was Moritz Eggert, who attacked the keyboard with not only the standard 10 fingers, but also his left foot, chin, and butt. Of course he also roamed inside the piano, produced handheld noise-makers, slapped the the piano's surfaces, banged the keyboard lid, tossed in some body percussion, and more. Somehow, the choreographed expertise and an appropriate brevity made the music more than mere novelty.

Fausto Romitelli, a new name to me, died in 2004 at age 41. His Professor Bad Trip apparently has received considerable European acclaim. The fine performance here by the Talea Ensemble skillfully presented this 45-minute work, which blends "distorted colorations of acoustic and electric instruments as well as accessories like the mirliton and harmonica," and was inspired by "Henri Michaux's writings under the influence of psychedelic drugs." I liked it.

Outstanding performers played for the appreciative audience from both the main stage in front as well as an elevated landing towards the rear, from where we heard an excellent performance of Xenakis's Tetras by the JACK Quartet.

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Early on, two folk musicians from Kyrgyzstan, Kambar Kalendarov and Kutman Sultanbekov, presented lovely performances on the main stage, a haunting recorder and electronic-sounding jaw-harps resonating nicely in the setting's reverberant acoustics. Later, they emerged on the rear stage to dazzle us with showy performances on lute-like instruments.

I also enjoyed music from Tristan Perich, Seung-Ah Oh, Evan Ziporyn, Mary Ellen Childs, Fred Frith, Buke and Gass, and Kate Moore.

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David Lang listens to the sartorially enhanced Evan Ziporyn
discussing his upcoming piece.

Also noteworthy, the teenaged group Face the Music, directed by Jenny Undercofler, gave a fine performance of Graham Fitkin's Mesh.

The Dutch percussion group Slagwerk Den Haag offered several top-notch performances, including a work using blackboards outfitted with contact mikes that triggered samples when "played" by the chalk-writing performers, providing entertaining visual theatrics. This piece, I Delayed People's Flights By Walking Slowly in Narrow Hallways, can be viewed on YouTube.

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There are pluses and minuses in the Winter Garden's unusual venue. It suits the free-to-come-and-go-as-you-please nature of this long event, as well as taking place in a nontraditional public setting far removed from the standard uptown concert hall. On the other hand, this noisy, highly reverberant space favors certain styles of music and diminishes the impact of some pieces. For example, the important vocal samples in Vernon Reid's Ghost Narratives were unintelligible, and the vocal contributions of the uncredited Theo Bleckmann with a performance by SIGNAL were unheard (as if his mike was turned off).

About 30 photos, taken over the 13 hour concert, are here.

Overall, this was an extraordinary event. Bang on a Can remains one of the most important forces in new music.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trimpin DVD: an early report

A documentary about the sculptor, sound artist, and MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Trimpin has been making the rounds of film festivals, and a commercial release is due out this fall. We've previously written about this news here.

Recently, an advance copy of this DVD surreptitiously arrived at Starkland headquarters. Since I've been a Trimpin fan for years, I'm pleased to report that "TRIMPIN: The Sound of Invention" is a fine, engaging portrait of this fascinating individual and his odd, captivating works. The film strikes a good balance between Trimpin's persistent eccentricity and his effective creations that emerge in the real world, working flawlessly and charming observers both visually and sonically.
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Though I was somewhat familiar with Trimpin's story, it was an unexpected treat to watch interviews with both his father and sister, and to hear stories revealing that Trimpin's particular genius began to reveal itself early on. His interactions with Conlon Nancarrow, some of which I saw in Telluride in 1989, are also effectively presented.

The DVD's opening menu offers either stereo or 5.1 playback, and I found the surround playback significantly enhanced the DVD, at times placing you in the middle of Trimpin's sculptural installations. Indeed, the use of space is essential to most of his final creations.

Another interesting story arc in the DVD follows Trimpin's creation of a staged work for the Kronos Quartet. We see the initial meetings, an early presentation of a colorful "score" that perplexes the performers, the array of playback instruments that Trimpin conjures up, and a sense of the how the premiere performance finally unfolds.

This well-paced film was produced, filmed, and directed by Peter Esmonde, who explains that he made the film "out of purely selfish concerns," that "I needed to document the most creative person I could find, to discover how they'd managed to survive in this society. And I was lucky enough to find Trimpin."

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Trimpin with Peter Esmonde

Up to now, however, the film has only been viewable at various film festivals, where it has been well received. It's great to know that this fall it will be released on DVD.

Monday, June 14, 2010

WNYC airs Bimstein, Gann, Byrne

Yesterday at WNYC, John Schaefer aired a "Found" Sounds show featuring music of Phillip Bimstein from a New Sounds Live concert performed at Merkin Hall. It's fitting the show also airs music from Kyle Gann (a Starkland fan) and David Byrne (a Bimstein fan who attended this concert and chatted with us at intermission). You can hear the show here:

It was a fun evening.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Paul Dresher: "Casa Vecchia" CD: now digital

Paul Dresher's "Casa Vecchia" CD is now digitally distributed. Sources include iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The original CD picked up some fine reviews:
"Four works... by one of the best and most original of post-minimalist composers."
- Stereo Review

"Paul Dresher is perhaps the best of the postminimalist composers who learned at the altar of Reich, Riley, and Glass... A gorgeous gem."
- Wired

"Some of the most hypnotic music to come from his generation of renegade composers."
- Classical Pulse
The CD presented the premiere recording of one of Dresher's strongest and most engaging works. Commissioned and premiered by the Kronos Quartet, "Casa Vecchia" (performed here by Vienna's Ensemble 9) offers convincing minimalism within an evolving, cohesive structure. In his introduction, John Diliberto writes that "There’s a solemnity... that recalls the contemplative paths of Górecki and Pärt." Here's an excerpt from "Casa Vecchia":

The CD opens with the hypnotic "Underground," which originally appeared on Starkland's compilation CD, "From A to Z." "Atmospheric and otherworldly" (CMJ), it is perhaps Dresher's most ambient work.

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The infectious "Mirrors," performed by Bang on a Can's Robert Black, deftly generates, weaves, and layers electronically processed materials within a virtuosic, real-time performance. "Other Fire" skillfully processes and combines environmental sounds into an evocative soundscape.

Fanfare’s review concluded that this "Starkland release is an excellent introduction" to "a significant emerging voice in American music."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Erling Wold: Mordake: chamber opera CD released

Erling Wold’s latest chamber opera "Mordake," starring John Duykers in the title role, has been released by MinMax Music and is distributed by Starkland.

The CD is physically available at Amazon, CD Baby, ArkivMusic, and more.

The CD is digitally available at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, MySpace Music, and over 20 additional sources.

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The opera tells the story of young Edvard Mordake, a man of high birth, secreted away in his apartments due to his disfigurement: a woman’s face on the back of his head, whose constant imprecations, heard by him alone, lead him on a terrifying course of action, one that may result in his own destruction.

The librettist of the opera is the remarkable Douglas Kearney, a teacher of African American poetry, opera and myth at CalArts, well known for his recent performance work with Anne LeBaron. This recording follows Wold’s earlier release on MinMax, the critically acclaimed opera "A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil."

"Mordake packs a multi-sensory punch inside a tightly knit production... If the story of Mordake is a tragic, eerie and at times wickedly funny rumination on the split in the human ego – the violent psychic struggle to reconcile the different parts of our own porous personality – we appreciate its universal tensions because it wraps us so completely in its subject’s deeply fraught isolation,” writes SF360. The San Francisco Chronicle rhapsodizes that “[Duykers] storms, he blusters, he bewails his fate – and, when necessary, he taps into reserves of sweetly tuned lyricism... a dynamic, affecting performance.”

Wold, an eclectic composer whose teachers include Gerard Grisey, Andrew Imbrie and John Chowning, has been hailed as “the Eric Satie of Berkeley surrealist/minimalist electro-art rock” by the Village Voice. His opera Queer, on the book by William Burroughs, will be in San Francisco and New York as part of the 25th anniversary of the publication of the book. His Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi was commissioned and premiered by the Abbey of St. Gallen, Switzerland. He has collaborated with electronic and noise musicians, filmmakers (Jon Jost) and dance companies, including interactive audio and video projects with Palindrome Dance, Nürnberg.

John Duykers, an internationally acclaimed tenor, has appeared with many leading opera companies,  including The Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Los Angeles Opera. Duykers most celebrated role was Mao Zedong in the 1987 world-premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China, which was televised (winning an Emmy Award), and recorded (winning a Grammy Award).

Visit: Starkland
Visit: MinMax
Visit: Erling Wold

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Phillip Bimstein: "Larkin Gifford's Harmonica" CD: now digital

Phillip Bimstein's "Larkin Gifford's Harmonica" CD is now digitally distributed. Here are a few links:

iTunes: Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica
Amazon: Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica
eMusic: Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica
MySpace: Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica

John Adams wrote the CD's Introduction, stating: "Like their composer, the pieces on this album communicate a generous and good-natured spirit that is tempered with wry wit and a special sense of the western landscape and culture that he so loves."

The title piece presents a poignant portrait of the elderly Larkin Gifford, who offers vibrant stories, which include his lifelong love of playing the harmonica. Another portrait features the delightful, funny Robert Logan, known as "Bushy Wushy the Beer Man." Bushy Wushy sold beer in Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, for more than forty years. Casino focuses on both Las Vegas and veteran dice-caller Tom Martinet, who discusses superstitions, insights, and fascinations associated with gambling.

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The CD also offers two instrumental works: Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa (with singing canyon tree frogs, howling coyotes, and chirping crickets) and "Rockville Utah 1926" (based on the melodic material from Bimstein's Garland Hirschi's Cows).

A passel of fine reviews has appeared, including:
"An engaging introduction to... his quirky electro-acoustic compositions... The irresistible charm of Mr. Bimstein's music has less to do with technology than with his uncanny knack for finding the music of everyday life."
- The New York Times Read full review

"an American original... [Bimstein] has evolved into a singular musical entity... [the CD is] stunning and heartwarming... quirky, moving, and delightful musical journeys."
- Stereophile Read full review
John Adams concludes:
"Listening to this album of Bimstein's compositions makes me feel like I've taken a slow drive through a western landscape, meeting along the way everyone from Georgia O'Keeffe to Tony Hillerman, Mark Twain, Neal Cassady, Raymond Scott, Kurt Weill, Aphex Twin, and some of those grizzled geezers that populate the novels of Annie Proulx."
Read more about this CD.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Intermedia Festival has 3 Starkland composers

Phil Kline's music video MEDITATION (run as fast as you can) will have its premiere public performance at this year's Intermedia Festival, scheduled for April 23-25 in Indianapolis.

The Intermedia Festival offers a unique series of concerts and events presenting futuristic modes, combining traditional performing arts, computers, media, and telecommunications. The Festival will feature artists, musicians, videographers, dancers, actors and writers from around the world. Over 100 performers will travel to Indianapolis, and others will participate through the Internet interactively with collaborators at the festival. Live drama, dance, music, visual arts, videography, scientific presentation, commentary, and discussion will synthesize to form a provocative and compelling set of experiences.

The Festival will be held in the new downtown Indianapolis Public Library and in the Informatics and Computer Technology Complex at IUPUI. Admission is free and open to the public for all events.

Kline's MEDITATION features both pulsing surround sound electronica and a handheld video shot by the composer. He comments that the piece is “based on a unified camera movement” which he describes as: “You’re in New York, hold the camera, and run!”

MEDITATION appears on Kline's "Around the World in a Daze" double-DVD, commissioned by Starkland and released in 2009. This release has been praised in over 20 publications, including The New York Times, Stereophile, and the Washington Post. The New Yorker described Daze as:
"A special-project disk in which Kline created, out of extravagant electronic means... an audio-visual feast that balances hipster zen with the seriousness of Bach and Wagner."
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Another Starkland composer, Pamela Z, is a featured composer/performer at the Intermedia Festival. She makes solo works combining a wide range of vocal techniques with electronic processing, samples, and gesture activated MIDI controllers. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Creative Capital Fund, the CalArts Alpert Award, the ASCAP Award, an Ars Electronica honorable mention and the NEA/JUSFC Fellowship. Starkland has released Z's only solo CD, "A Delay is Better," which The Wire called:
"Sheer genius from the most gifted and enterprising vocalist/composer/audio artist in the US since the heyday of Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk... The effects are stunning... Essential."
Maggi Payne is another Starkland composer whose music will be heard at this year's festival. Her electroacoustic works often incorporate visuals, including videos she creates using images ranging from nature to the abstract and dancers outfitted with electroluminescent wire. Payne is Co-Director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College.

Her surround-sound work White Turbulence 2000 was commissioned by Starkland for its Immersion DVD-Audio, now recognized as the first commissioned hi-res surround recording. Praised in over 2 dozen publications, Immersion was described by Sound & Vision as, "Not only a fascinating array of musical innovation but a persuasive exploration of the possibilities of surround sound."

The Intermedia Festival will present ten media-rich concerts. Featured artists also include New York composer and computer artist Luke Dubois, singer Bora Yoon, eco-acoustic composer Matthew Burtner, Indianapolis-based electro-acoustic ensemble Big Robot, and Dance Kaleidoscope.

Other performers include The Washington DC-based Floating Lab Collective, Florida-based Mobile Performance Group, Occupation Forces Project from New York, and Portuguese computer-artist Andre Rangel.

Visit Starkland.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: now digital

Robert Een's Mystery Dances CD is now digitally distributed. Here are a few links:

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: iTunes

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: Amazon

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: eMusic

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: Rhapsody

Robert Een: Mystery Dances: MySpace

When the CD was first released, NPR's Liane Hansen spoke with Bob about Mystery Dances. She commented, "Wow! What a stew you’ve made here in this new CD. It smells and tastes delicious."

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In the CD’s Introduction, Meredith Monk remarks:
"Mystery Dances is like a musical caravan drawing upon traditions from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. The music is energetic, filled with contrasting moods of humor and poignancy... An exhilarating listening experience.”
Musicians include film composer Carter Burwell (accordion) and Hearn Gadbois (percussion).

Read more about Robert Een's Mystery Dances.

Friday, March 19, 2010

NPR Airs Bimstein

NPR seems to love broadcasting Phillip Bimstein's music. Here's the latest news from Phillip:

I just got word that this week NPR's Hearing Voices will rerun their program "Prison: Life Behind Bars," which features an excerpt from Lockdown! (my techno tone poem based on sounds and voices of youths in detention). The show's on at different times all over the country, but here are a couple of places:

Salt Lake City, KCPW-FM 88.3 & 105.3, Friday, March 19, 6pm
New York City, WFUV-FM 90.7, Saturday, March 20, 6am
New York City, WNYC-AM 820, Sunday, March 21, 7am

Or you can listen to the whole show on the Hearing Voices site after March 24. And if you'd like to hear my Lockdown! techno tone poem in its entirety, please click here.

Here's what NPR sent:
Greetings from "Hearing Voices from NPR"

We are re-running:
HV037 Prison: Life Behind Bars

Here's our station list.

The audio will be online early next week.
Hearing Voices also reran their "Place Your Bets" program a couple of weeks ago, featuring excerpts from my Casino piece. You can hear the program here, and you can hear Casino's 1st movement here. Or if you'd like to hear all 3 movements of Casino on CD, I'm sure Starkland would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blu-Ray: Superb Sound

Music fans seeking high quality playback may be interested in the ongoing success of Blu-ray and its superb sound potential.

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After Blu-ray won the format war in Feb. 2008, the public didn’t exactly stampede into stores for this new development. However, things have changed, and prices have dropped dramatically. Amazon’s best-selling DVD/Blu-ray model, Sylvania's NB530SLX, now sells for $80.  Amazon reports that sales of Blu-ray players are outnumbering those of standard DVD units. Among the top 10 disc players sold, 8 are Blu-ray. In fact, at this point Blu-ray’s household penetration is higher than that of DVD for the same period after introduction.

So what does this mean for music enthusiasts? First, the Blu-ray standards allow for a bunch of audio formats, including high-res surround sound formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. For the technically inclined, this means lossless surround at 96 kHz/24 bit resolution. And of course all this comes with the outstanding video quality.

Yes, everybody expects we will all download media in the future. However, the ability to quickly download Blu-ray-quality content is probably 10 years off  (according to industry analyst Ross Rubin).

At a recent Blu-ray conference in LA, we learned that 65% of American households have at least one high definition television, and by now about 20 million homes have Blu-ray playback.

An exuberant Martin Scorsese attended the conference, praising the high quality of both the audio and video of Blu-ray, which is "as close as you’re going to get to replacing the theatrical experience at home."

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Referring to his 2008 Rolling Stones Shine a Light Blu-ray documentary, he was especially enthusiastic about the multichannel capabilities of Blu-ray because “it would transfer just that way to the home” with the surround sound in discrete and lossless DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD formats.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has also announced 3D specs for Blu-ray that allows backward compatibility with current 2D Blu-ray players.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Other Minds 15

It's a pleasure to report that this year's 15th Other Minds new music festival was a solid success. It's the 14th year I've attended this distinguished series.

In some ways, Carla Kihlstedt was the brightest star at Other Minds. Her piece Pandaemonium, which concluded the festival, was attractive, distinctive, well performed by the always on-top-of-it Rova Saxophone Quartet, and enthusiastically received by the audience. The piece employed 2 narrators describing reactions to previous advances in technology, as well as having the Rovans playing some percussion and haunting harmonicas, all of which worked well. The 30-minute work was commissioned by Other Minds and Rova:Arts; they are surely pleased with the results.

In the opening concert, Carla donned her performer's hat to simultaneously sing and play violin in a virtuoso performance of Lisa Bielawa's effective Kafka's Songs, which, unsurprisingly, was written for this unusually talented performer.

Any electroacoustic or surround sound fans in the audience were riveted by the expert command of the hall's full space by Natasha Barrett. She has extensively studied surround sound, acousmatic music, and ambisonics. The first piece, Mobilis in Mobili, referencing Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, contained recognizable sounds (water, waves, a sea chantey, an organ) that flowed around us.

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Natasha Barrett
Natasha's other piece, Kernel Expansion, was more abstract. Composed to premiere at the 43-loudspeaker Klangdome hall at ZKM studios in Germany, the piece uses ambisonics, octophonic panning, and sophisticated Zirconium software. Theory aside, the convincing envelopment and constant motion of sound within the overall space was thrilling. She's a master. The excellent sound emerged from 8 Meyer speakers.

I also enjoyed the piquant harmonies of Chou Wen-chung's The Willows Are New for piano, as well as the moody Epiphora (for piano and pre-recorded media) from Pawel Mykietyn. Both works were superbly performed by Eva-Maria Zimmermann.

Other pieces ranged from pleasant to uninteresting, to be expected at any such festival.

The Other Minds festival is unique; there's nothing else like it. Previous years have featured Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Ingram Marshall, Terry Riley, Tan Dun, Laurie Anderson, Henry Brant, Lou Harrison, John Luther Adams, Fred Frith, and many more.

Credit goes to the tireless, hardworking, ever-networking Charles Amirkhanian.

If you care about new music, plan to attend in 2011.

Monday, March 8, 2010


During a recent visit to San Francisco, I passed by a once-familiar storefront that was a sharp reminder how much the record industry has changed:

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quality vs. Sales

In the new issue of Electronic Musician, Nathaniel Kunkel has some interesting thoughts about the ongoing problems of the music business (especially record labels). An excerpt:
"Movie-makers increase resolution and improve viewer experience regularly. Whether it’s IMAX, 3D, or both, it’s constantly more and better. And guess what? They are making money hand over fist.

"The music business is all about how many corners can be cut. Compress it more, don’t master it, use the fake drums­ - just get it done. All good ideas to save money, but often bad ideas from a quality standpoint.

"So without oversimplifying this, the people who focus on resolution in entertainment are making record profits, and the people who aren’t are going out of business. Coincidence?"
Read the full article here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Best 2009 has Starkland, MinMax

Here's another finalized Best of 2009 list. It's great to see 3 releases from Starkland and MinMax here:

Joe Frawley Ensemble - Daughters Of Industry - Joe Frawley Music

Numinous - Vipassana: The Music of Joesph C. Philips - Innova http://www.numinousmusic.com/ or http://www.innova.mu/artist1.asp?skuID=356

The Ed Palermo Big Band - Eddy Loves Frank - Cuneiform Records
http://www.palermobigband.com/ or http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/palermo.html

Knitting By Twilight - Riding The Way Back ep - It's Twilight Time http://www.overflower.com/KnittingByTwilight_riding.htm

Ganesh Anandan / Hans Reichel - Self Made - Ambiances Magnetiques

Iain Armstrong - Electroacoustic Works - CD-R

Deep Wireless 6: Radio Art Compilation - New Adventures in Sound Art

Paranoid Entity - 4Closure - Paranoid Foundation

Danny Holt - First Jump -Innova
http://dannyholt.net/ or http://www.fitkin.com/ or

R. Stevie Moore - Phonography - ReR
or http://www.wtv-zone.com/rsmko/home.html

Beat Circus - Boy From Black Mountain - Cuneiform Records 
http://www.beatcircus.net/ or http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/press/BeatCircus-BFBM-PR.pdf

Markus Reuter / Ian Boddy - Dervish - DIN

Heiner Goebbels - The Italian Concerto - i dischi di angelica
http://www.heinergoebbels.com/ or http://www.aaa-angelica.com/aaa/disco-heiner-hoebbels-the-italian-con...
or http://www.rerusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code...

Jody Diamond - In That Bright World:  Music for Javanese Gamelan - New
World Records
http://www.gamelan.org/jodydiamond/ or http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=82743

Susan Fancher - In Two Worlds - Innova (2009)
http://www.susanfancher.com or http://www.music.sc.edu/fs/bain/ or

Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra - Koch Records

Nik Baertsch's Ronin - Randoori  / Sha's Banryu  - Chessboxing Volume
1 / Nik Baersch's Mobile - Aer / - Ronin Rhythm Records

Hsia-Jung Chang - Inside The Piano: 21st Century Improvisations -
Mandala Studios
http://hsiajungchang.com/recordings.html or http://mandalastudio.com/

Sandor Szabo / Kevin Kastning - Parabola - Greydisc
or http://www.myspace.com/sandorszaboofficial

The Bad Plus feat. Wendy Lewis - For All I Care - Do The Math Records

Morglbl - Jazz For The Deaf - The Laser's Edge
http://www.christophegodin.com/english/ or

Ozric Tentacles - The Yumyum Tree - Snapper Music 

SoCorpo - On Becoming - self-release

Noveller (Sara Lipstate) - Red Rainbows - No Fun Productions 
http://www.sarahlipstate.com or http://www.nofunproductions.com

Secret Saucer - Tri-Angle Waves - Salad Farm Studio

T.D. Skatchit - T.D. Skatchit & Company -
Edgetone Records (2009)

Charity Chan - Somewhere the sea and salt - Ambiances Magnetiques
http://www.charitychan.com/Home.html or http://www.actuellecd.com/en/cat/am_188/

Radiation - UKZ - Radiation

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Amy X Neuburg: The Secret Language of Subways: Vital Weekly Review

Amy X Neuburg's The Secret Language of Subways CD has received a fine review at the influential Dutch publication Vital Weekly. Dolf Mulder writes:
A beauty this one. Let's say an album of "chamber pop". Dozens of references were triggered: Fibonaccis, Kurt Weill, opera, Kate Bush, cabaret, Laurie Anderson, Dagmar Krause, etc, etc. We have here a collection of 13 very accessible songs, but too much avant garde and experimental to reach a bigger audience I'm afraid. The first time I was impressed by the combination of voice and cello was through the work of Arthur Russell many years ago. On this new work of Amy X Neuburg we find the same combination. The classically trained voice of Neuburg combined with three equally skilled cello players: Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston and Elizabeth Vandervennet. Besides voice, Neuburg also makes effective and sparse use of electronics and drums. Also she uses the technique of multi-layering voices. It is surprising that this music was created for a live performance, what makes this recording even more astonishing as the role of technique is considerable. The creator is Amy X Neuburg who wrote all music and lyrics, except for the improvisation "Tongues" and the closing track "Back in NY" by Genesis. After Residue by Amy X Neuburg & Men, it took her about 5 years to return with a new CD, this time as Amy X Neuburg & The Cello Chixtet. I don't know much of her musical past. From what I understand she is best known for her live solo performances, using MIDI drum kit, sounds and samples.
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The Secret Language of Subways shows that Neuburg is open for many influences, eclectic in a way, but her pronounced musical language and vision binds everything strongly together following a convincing inner logic. This makes it sound all very natural and undivided. Her songs are carefully modeled and arranged. I guess it must have taken quite some time to sculpt all this material. For sure Neuburg is a very skilled composer, singer and performer. The narrative and dramatic content of the texts are very precise and beautifully accentuated in the music and its the performance. With each listening I discover new subtleties. No doubt this will continue.
Read more about Amy X Neuburg.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mile High Voltage Concert Two

The second concert of Denver's Mile High Voltage Festival opened with Imaginary City, a major music/video/performance work from Sö Percussion, who not only performed the work but also created it. If you see 4 young guys on stage with numerous percussion instruments, you might expect the music to proceed tutti fortissimo. Instead, these söwers offered mostly quiet, contemplative, attractive sounds. In addition to the usual instruments, we heard a toy piano, prerecorded material both played into mics as well as via tiny powered guitar practice amps, crashing tin cans, and shouts from the audience; a lot of variety during the hour-long performance. Accompanying all this was a seductive, slowly dissolving video, using images from the Denver area, all created by (uncredited) Jenise Treuting. The work was directed by Rinde Eckert, a familiar name here at Starkland.

It's a pleasure to report the ambitious Newman Center was a co-commissioner of this substantial work, along with the always cool Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Myrna Loy Center (Helena, MT), The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Flynn Center (Burlington, VT), and Diverseworks Art Space (Houston, TX).

The evening's other major work was Michael Harrison's compelling performance of excerpts from his astonishing Revelation, a major work for a standard piano extensively retuned according to the composer's theories. The unexpected sonorities that emerged were rich, otherworldly, striking. In short, a, well, revelation to me. I guess I'm the last on my block to learn about this, since the CD has been widely praised and ended up on many Best of the Year lists.

The concert also included performances of David Lang's classic Cheating, Lying, Stealing, as well as DU's Conrad Kehn's Maximinimal, for accordion (live, processed, and pre-recorded) and visuals.

The unprecedented Mile High Music Festival was ambitious and successful. This is not your grandfather's new music that was "good for you" (like foul-tasting medicine), but rather the music was invigorating, beautiful, and leading-edge. The festival had some world-class performers playing some of today's most vital music. Congrats to all involved. Let's hope there's more in the future.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mile High Voltage Concert One

The opening Friday night concert of Denver's Mile High Voltage Festival was an especially fine evening for new music fans. Some of us travel to New York or San Francisco to hear high level performances of "alternative classical" music, but this was just about the first time such concerts have occurred in the Denver area. As critic Kyle MacMillan wrote in the Denver Post, this event "is a first for Denver and probably for the Rocky Mountain region."

The concert opened with Burkina Electric, described as the "first electronica band from Burkina Faso" (located in the deep interior of West Africa). The group blends pop/dance music with unusual, sophisticated rhythms. In live concert, the focal point is the charismatic vocalist Maï Lingani, who sings and moves with an appealing passion. She's flanked by 2 energetic male dancers. They are backed the electronicist Pyrolator and the multi-talented percussionist/composer Lukas Ligeti, who brings a highly developed sense of rhythm and meter to the band. The audience responded enthusiastically to the group.

Next was a new work, commissioned by the Newman Center, for this festival. The composer is Andy Akiho, who specializes in performing on the steel pan. In recent years, he's received considerable attention as a composer. This new piece, NO one To kNOW one, was performed by Andy and The Playground (a new music ensemble in residence at DU's Lamont School of Music). The exciting piece presented mostly driving rhythms and further established the worth of this composer.

The wonderful clarinetist Evan Ziporyn played several pieces by David Lang, Michael Harrison, and Ziporyn himself. Having heard him perform many times in New York, I was again so pleased with his committed, glorious performances. Evan played 2 pieces with Michael Harrison, who performed on his distinctively tuned piano.

In addition to the Lang piece, the other 2 co-founders of the Bang on a Can Festival, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, were also represented by effective pieces: Gordon's pulsing The Low Quartet (which features 2 bass clarinets in its ensemble) and Wolfe's Early That Summer, a typically driving work for string quartet.

What the Newman Center has done is most impressive. They've brought in top musicians, normally not heard in this area. For example, this was Lukas Ligeti's first performance in Colorado. (As I chatted with him afterward backstage while he packed up, he mentioned he was leaving for a performance in Dusseldorf, due on a plane leaving about 8 hours later.) The music we heard was vibrant, energetic, engaging alternative new music. In addition to the concerts themselves, the Newman folk also organized performances in the student center, a lunchtime performance of Terry Riley's "In C" in a public atrium (which I heard went well), master classes by both Lukas Ligeti and Evan Ziporyn, meetings with composers, and a panel presentation on Building a Profile in the Music Business.

And, in addition to the performance in the fine Gates Concert Hall, they also setup a separate lounge, dubbed the Cantaloupe Cafe, where folks could watch and hear the concert on screen, while ordering food and drink. They even put all the program notes online beforehand, and sent out emails to ticket-holders detailing the full schedule. And they brought in a distinguished moderator, Tom Moon, who's interviewed everyone from John Adams to Frank Zappa.

Overall, it's a major, ambitious, and surely quite expensive effort. Let's hope this becomes a regular event.

Saturday's concert will have the Sö Percussion, along with The Playground performing music by David Lang (his classic Cheating, Lying, Stealing), Michael Harrison, and Conrad Kehn. It'd be great to see lots of new music fans there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Denver: rare new music concert features Andy Akiho, Lukas Ligeti's Burkina Electric, Evan Ziporyn, Michael Harrison, Sö Percussion

This weekend, Denver area audiences will have a rare opportunity to hear some leading-edge "downtown" new music. And the venue is not some funky alternative space, but rather the distinguished Newman Center at University of Denver.You can get tix at Ticketmaster.

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The Mile High Voltage Festival features artists of the Cantaloupe Music Label who show the evolving notions of what can be offered as classical music. Performers surprise with new instruments, video as an integral part of music, and boundary-crossing composition. As part of the audience, you may eat, drink and surf the net while you view the concert through live simulcast in our Cantaloupe Café, where signature food and drink will be offered, or you may choose to enjoy the concert in June Swaner Gates Concert Hall as part of a new culture of listeners, a freer, more interactive audience, or do a bit of both. There are 2 concerts on Fri-Sat Feb. 19-20, including:

Andy Akiho - award winning young composer and steel pan performer. Recently featured on PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Burkina Electric - Led by Artistic Director Lukas Ligeti, this band from West Africa mingles the traditions and rhythms of Burkina Faso with contemporary electronic dance culture, making it a trailblazer in electronic world music.

Evan Ziporyn - Composer/clarinetist Evan Ziporyn is a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-stars. He is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Michael Harrison - One of the present day masters of alternative tuning creates mystical and memorable piano soundscapes. A long-time collaborator of minimalist masters Terry Riley and LaMonte Young, Harrison also brings his own aesthetic point of view into a deeply reflective and emotionally powerful composition.

Sö Percussion - Since coming together at the Yale School of Music in 1999, Sö Percussion has performed its music all over the world. Sö will perform its new work "Imaginary City," which will be played on a transforming percussion instrument constructed on stage during the work and will include video featuring reflections and images of the co-commissioning cities.

The Playground - Made up primarily of graduates of the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music Masters Program, The Playground expands common conceptions of both contemporary music and the chamber ensemble.

Tom Moon - Festival Moderator (Award-winning music journalist Tom Moon is the author of 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List, a New York Times bestseller. He is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's All Things Considered as well as Rolling Stone, Blender and other publications.)

Lukas Ligeti writes this will be "my first performance ever in Colorado!" He does have a local connection, however. Boulder's Starkland label commissioned a surround sound piece from Lukas that premiered on Starkland's first-of-its-kind Immersion DVD, released in 2000.

We hope Denver audiences will pack the hall and café for these superb performers and the worthwhile new music.