Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ingram Marshall DVD and Release Concert Announced by Starkland

Ingram Marshall's haunting, elegiac music and Jim Bengston’s stark, striking photographs, created for their joint multimedia work Alcatraz, are featured on a new Starkland DVD, set for release on Oct. 29. The work explores this forbidden island and its famous prison, which once held the most notorious criminals in the US.

The DVD also presents the premiere recording of the complete audiovisual presentation of Eberbach, their followup work, that focuses on an impressive, abandoned German monastery, Kloster Eberbach. Marshall’s seductive music reflects the spacious acoustics, and Bengston’s photos capture the striking architecture. In addition, the DVD adds immersive surround sound mixes for both works, newly created for this release by Marshall

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Marshall and Bengston will introduce their 2 works at a surround-sound release concert at New York’s Spectrum (121 Ludlow), set for 12 pm noon on Sunday, Oct. 27.

John Adams has commented:
Alcatraz, a multimedia installation done with the photographer Jim Bengston, uses a famous San Francisco site with a long complex history to evoke that special sense of dream and melancholy that is so characteristic of his [Marshall’s] work.”
And Bill Morrison writes:
“Ingram Marshall and Jim Bengston, in their remarkable pair of collaborations, Alcatraz and Eberbach, create movement with music out of still images that elegantly redefine the film-music relationship.”
In the early 1980s, Marshall and Bengston jointly created Alcatraz, in an unusual arrangement where both the music and visuals were equally important from the start. Equipped with tape recorders and cameras, they explored this austere island in the San Francisco Bay. After exchanging slides and cassettes between San Francisco and Norway for several months, the final interwoven work emerged as a series of evocative still photographs with live, electronically processed music.
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Ingram Marshall (L) and Jim Bengston (R) returning from Alcatraz in 1983

Bengston and Marshall performed Alcatraz and Eberbach at various venues, including the Henie Onstad Art Center (Oslo), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Ghent), the new music festival at Bourges, The American Center (Paris), The Art Institute of Chicago School, and Carnegie Recital Hall (New York). In 2009, Bengston and Marshall had a residency at The Montalvo Art Center (Saratoga, CA), where they performed and held talks about both pieces. Concurrently, Alcatraz was shown on monitors in the public spaces of Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

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© Jim Bengston

about Ingram Marshall

Marshall studied at Columbia University and California Institute of the Arts, and lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1973 to 1985. During that time, Marshall developed a series of “live electronic” pieces such as Fragility Cycles, Gradual Requiem, and Alcatraz in which he blended tape collages, extended vocal techniques, Indonesian flutes, and keyboards. In recent years, Marshall has concentrated on music combining tape and electronic processing with ensembles and soloists. His music has been performed by ensembles and orchestras such as the Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and the American Composers Orchestra. Marshall has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Recent, larger works include Dark Florescence (a concerto for two guitars and orchestra premiered by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2005), Orphic Memories (premiered by the chamber orchestra Orpheus in 2007 at Carnegie Hall), and Psalmbook (premiered by the vocal ensemble Lionheart and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble at Stanford University in 2012). His music can be heard on the Nonesuch, New Albion, New World, and Starkland labels. Since 2005, Marshall has been a Visiting Lecturer at the Yale School of Music.

about Jim Bengston

Jim Bengston attended Lake Forest College (where he met Ingram Marshall), entered graduate school at Princeton University, and shortly thereafter left to join the Army, where he developed an interest in photography. After serving as an Associated Press photo editor in New York, Bengston moved to Norway, and since 1975, he has been a freelance photographer in Oslo. Bengston’s work is represented in the collections of several museums, including MoMA, Art Institute of Chicago, Walker Art Center, National Museum of Art, Architecture & Design (Oslo), The Museum of Photographic Art (Denmark), The Finnish Museum of Photography, and the Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris). He has published three books: Afterwords (self-published, 1978), Slow Motion (European Photography, Germany, 1986), and Empty Landscape (Lillehammer Art Museum, 1996). Winner of first prize in the Nikon International Photo Contest in 1970, Bengston has had his work featured in shows at MoMA, 1978; International Center of Photography, New York, 1987; Berlinische Galerie, 1992; a one-person show at Lillehammer Art Museum, 1996; Drammens Museum, Norway, 2007; and Risør Foto Festival, Norway, 2009. Since 2010 he has been working on a new series of scenes and street pictures from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pre-Order this DVD at Amazon.

Read more about Starkland.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Colorado Music Festival Premieres Kristin Kuster's "Devil's Thumb"

The final concert of this year’s Colorado Music Festival was special for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was Michael Christie’s last concert as CMF’s full-time director.

Hired at the tender age of 26, Christie reinvigorated the festival with a series of successful innovations. In particular, his passion for today’s new music brought a sense of excitement that certainly was a factor in boosting attendance over the years.

One of Christie’s strokes of genius has been his unique CLICK! community commissioning program. Yes, unique: no other orchestra in the country offers this. Each year, beginning with 3-4 pre-selected composers, audience members (and anyone else) can vote for the composer they’d like to see receive a commission to write a 10 minute work that premieres the following season. A vote costs $10, meaning the voters collectively both select the composer and fund the commission.

This year’s winner was Kristin Kuster, an established, successful composer who grew up in Boulder, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains which begin just west of the city. She lived near a distinctive upthrusting rock known as Devil’s Thumb, which became the title of her piece that premiered on Aug. 8-9.

Devil’s Thumb opens with a dynamic, swirling section, which then grows more relaxed, leading to a bass clarinet solo. A pattern emerges of full orchestral sections, often presenting some effective writing for strings, that alternate with solos from the violin, cello, and oboe, interspersed with passages for winds, then percussion. Some melancholic strings return, and build to a concluding climax. The piece showcases individual players, orchestral sections, and invigorating tuttis, maintaining interest and not wearing out its welcome. I hope it receives more performances.

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composer Kristin Kuster

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bang on a Can Marathon: Highlights

Bang on a Can is one of the most important, innovative new music organizations in the country, and, for some of us, a pilgrimage to their annual Marathon concert is essential.

Displaced from their usual venue in the spacious but noisy and overly reverberant World Financial Center’s Winter Garden due to construction there, the 2013 event was held at the Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University. There were pros and cons to this change. The Schimmel Center has better acoustics and more comfortable seating (not a small matter for these long undertakings), but also limited the audience and reduced the public nature of the event. A significant line developed by the opening hour:

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About 2 dozen works were heard, featuring around 130 performers, during this 10-hour mini-marathon. (And, yes, "mini" applies when compared to a marathon a few years back that lasted 27 hours.) Some highlights, as they occurred, were:

> The "El Dude" movement from Derek Bermel's enjoyable Canzonas Americanas (this work's CD is highly recommended)

> Peter Evans' astonishing, continuously rapid-fire trumpet solo.
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> Caleb Burhans' appealing oh ye of little faith, with a special shout-out to violinist Yuki Numata and guitarist Ryan Ferriera, who stepped in with little notice to replace an ailing Caleb, who suffered an accidental fall the previous evening. 

> Lukas Ligeti's quadra-rhythmic lakoni in kasonnde, featuring 2 deft drummers (David Cossin and Ben Reimer) each playing different rhythms with their left and right hands.
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> Kendall Williams's exciting, convincingly assembled Conception, was written for the NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble along with 6 steel pan players. The young Williams stated a noteworthy goal of creating composed, contemporary music for steel pans, in contrast to typically improvised performances.
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> John King's sonically rich Astral Epitaphs, originally composed for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's final concerts at the Park Avenue Armory, was performed by the TILT brass ensemble and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. It worked well here, and a performance in the cavernous Armory must have been spectacular.

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> Julia Wolfe's Americana-ish With a blue dress on, with a virtuosic performance by Monica Germino, who fiddled, sang, and stomped with aplomb.
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> Tamar Muskal's soulful Mar de Leche, zealously performed cellist Maya Beiser and her Provenance Project Band.
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> Annea Lockwood's Vortex, performed by the BOAC All-Stars, was one of the few pieces heard over the day that conveyed a sense of mystery.

> Michael Gordon's Yo Shakespeare, energetic and packed with dance rhythms, was originally composed for Icebreaker within their rigid rules. Always a winner, it was performed by the BOAC All-Stars in a new arrangement.
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> Finally, we heard the crowd-pleasing Asphalt Orchestra exuberantly perform works by Tom Zé and Tatsuya Yoshida. This unique ensemble remains an imaginative creation.
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For more, visit Bang on a Can's website.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The International Contemporary Ensemble Enthralls Denver

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) recently presented a superbly performed concert of diverse, effective new music to an enthusiastic Denver audience. It was easily one of the finest new music concerts I've heard in the Denver-Boulder region over the last 40 years.

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L to R: Claire Chase, Jacob Greenberg, Michael Nicolas
The concert opened with Toru Takemitsu's delicate, evocative, relaxing (one might say "mellow") Rain Spell, intended, the composer writes, "to realize the magical image and the gradation in coloration of the rain in a small-scale ensemble." This was followed by Halcyon for clarinet and string trio, a recent (2011) work from another Japanese composer, Dai Fujikura, who has been championed by ICE. Fujikura is clearly a distinctive voice, and the topnotch performance was highlighted by the refined, elegant playing of clarinetist Joshua Rubin.

Though Elliott Carter is not always my cup of tea, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy his short, attractive Bariolage (1992) for harp. Of course, having the idiomatically written work receive a virtuoso performance by Bridget Kibbey certainly helped.

Another virtuoso, the ICE captain and excellent flutist Claire Chase, was featured in Kaija Saariaho's Terrestre (2002), a resetting of the second movement of her Aile du songe flute concerto. It's an attractive piece, wherein the flutist adds various vocalizations to her instrumental sounds.

Magnus Lindberg's Steamboat Bill, Jr. was indeed inspired by the eponymous, wonderful Buster Keaton film. The piece has lots of activity and was beautifully played, but wasn't particularly compelling to me. I'm more a fan of his big orchestral works.

The prodigious chameleon John Zorn composed his string trio Walpurgisnacht initially based on Webern's string trio. Here, the edgy, experimental Zorn uses almost completely conventional, straightforward techniques, and the work could be viewed as a second cousin, twice removed, of Webern. I liked it.

The concert concluded with Crumb's classic Vox Balaenae. The mask-less, sensitive performance included playing inside-the-piano by Jacob Greenberg, who altered the string sounds by applying Mr. Crumb's very own shot-glass.

It's not every day one of the country's top new music ensembles, headed by a MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient, appears in this area, and the audience responded with a standing ovation. Such events in the Mile-High city are rare and most welcome. The concert, held in the 1,000-seat Newman Center, was sold out. Major kudos to the Friends of Chamber Music for programming ICE. One hopes for more.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

WNYC's John Schaefer Features "Polka From The Fringe" on New Sounds

WNYC's John Schaefer recently featured Guy Klucevsek's "Polka From The Fringe" re-release from Starkland on his popular New Sounds show, revealing interesting background and insights from Guy about this unusual project and airing numerous pieces. John recalls "I loved these albums the first time around," noting that "Polka From The Fringe topped my Top Ten for the year." He adds, "It's great to have those albums, which have long been out of print, back as a single 2-CD set." John introduces this show:
"Accordionist and composer Guy Klucevsek stops by for a visit, on the occasion of the reissue of 'Polka From the Fringe,' 29 previously out-of-print tracks for accordion by Klucevsek and 27 other composers.  With titles like Lois V Vierk's 'Attack Cat Polka,' or Elliott Sharp's jolt of punk in 'Happy Chappie Polka,' there's a bit of playful wackiness to the collection, yet also some loveliness -  like William Duckworth's 'Polking Around' and Peter Garland's 'Club Nada Polka.'

"For this New Sounds, hear music for the project by Carl Finch (of Brave Combo - the 'nuclear polka band' out of Denton, TX), the hilarious contribution from Fred Frith - 'The Disinformation Polka,' as well as music by Klucevsek himself, 'The Grass, it is Blue.' "
Other composers heard include Guy de Bievre, Bobby Previte, Mary Jane Leach, Tom Cora, Robin Holcomb, and Bill Obrecht. Here's the full show:

John has hosted New Sounds ("The No. 1 radio show for the Global Village" - Billboard) since 1982, and WNYC has the largest public radio audience in the United States. His diverse guests have included David Byrne, Meredith Monk, and Ravi Shankar.

The shows echoes some other enthusiastic responses to the release. At Sequenza 21, Jay Batzner wrote:
"This double-disc set is a heck of a lot of fun... What I really love about the disc is, well, everything I suppose. You can tell that the composers had a good time writing these pieces... full of joy, pleasure, and talent."
Frank Oteri at New Music Box remarks:
"The music turns on a dime from track to track [from] sheer loveliness [to] relentless experimentalism [to] out and out zaniness... the next time someone comes up to you claiming to be able to define new music, tell him or her to listen to these recordings."

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Two other Guy Klucevsek releases can be found in Starkland's catalog: "Transylvanian Softwear" (awarded a "Recording of Special Merit" at Stereo Review) and "Free Range Accordion" (with music from Burt Bacharach, Lars Hollmer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Jerome Kitzke, Klucevsek, Stephen Montague, Somei Satoh, and Lois V Vierk).