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My first encounter with Dan Visconti’s music was courtesy of the Aeolus Quartet and their debut album, Many-Sided Music. Visconti’s Black Bend, which opens that CD, is a fantastic piece, at once evocative, virtuosic, and charming. Since my initial introduction a year ago, Visconti’s name seems to have become increasingly prevalent, and his latest award, the 2013-14 Samuel Barber Rome Prize, will only accelerate that trend. I was most excited, then, to receive the first full-length disc of his music, Lonesome Roads, from Bridge Records, and I am happy to report that it does not disappoint.
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I invited David D. McIntire, composer and founder of Irritable Hedgehog, to review Leah Kardos’ sophomore release, Machines.
Among the many recent “sky-is-falling” tropes in the music world, one that has been widely circulated, endlessly repeated as if inevitable, is the notion that “the album is dead.” Maybe. When digital music distribution entered the marketplace, it was widely assumed that people would simply cherry-pick the tracks they liked, and thus ignore or undermine any web of relationships or concepts an artist might have woven between and among tracks. “We’ll never have another Sgt. Pepper!” was the panicked conclusion. Like many such notions, the unfolding reality is turning out to be a bit more complicated. In my opinion, the prospects for the album seem as promising as ever. Leah Kardos’s new recording, Machines, provides a fine argument for this thesis. From the processional opening “Incantation” to the coda of “Sleep Modes,” Kardos creates a singular musical journey.
Soprano Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz and Composer Leah Kardos
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Some albums are good. They are worthy of a listen, enjoyable, and an excellent way to pass the time. Other albums are great. They possess the power to take you to another place, if only for a while, allowing you to become lost in the music. Few albums, though, are costly. Oh, there are undoubtedly limited releases that fetch outrageous prices online (I’m looking at you, La Monte), but those are not the albums to which I am referring. No, these few, these albums come with a cost. They are expensive because after a single listening you find yourself ordering not only more CDs by these artists, but their scores as well. They are costly because of the time they take, not only in repeated listening but also in practice sessions and/or analytical investigation. They are CDs first enrapture and then spur you into action. Stainless Staining is a costly CD.
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Randy Gibson is a composer and performer living and working in New York City. He is the co-founder of Avant Media, and produces the Avant Media Festival, which showcases experimental music from the last 100 years and today. The Fourth Annual Avant Media Festival will take place February 15-23.
As has been mentioned in other interviews, you left the traditional university education route to go to NYC, eventually becoming a student of La Monte Young. Could you talk a bit about the circumstances that prompted the move away from academia?
Well, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with organized education, even from a very early age. I attended Montessori school, and I think the self-guided nature of that was extremely beneficial for me. In high school, I was in a sort of unique situation in that the town where I grew up had this amazing University, and a program where, as long as it wasn’t offered by the high school, you could take classes there. So I took full advantage of that, I studied theory and ear training, I took a fantastic class in 20th Century theory where I was one of only three students, and I took an interdisciplinary performance class helmed by my then composition teacher, Michael Theodore. This was a truly extraordinary class, and I met some amazing people and learned how to collaborate. I founded Avant Media with Ana Baer-Carrillo who I met in this class.
When I went to the university full-time, this freedom was suddenly gone, and I couldn’t pursue the things that I truly wanted to pursue. It was actually an incredibly easy decision for me to leave the composition program there and move to New York and just see what happened.
This is a review that I hadn’t intended to write. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Bruce Brubaker perform live a few times before. When he emailed me that he was coming to Denver for a January 22, 2013 concert at the Newman Center and had a comp ticket waiting for me, I had planned on simply enjoying the evening. I wasn’t worried about a review because I wasn’t sure what I might add to the vast amount of ink and pixels from the finest sources that have already been devoted this artist. And yet, within the first minute of his program, I was already mentally writing this review. If this review is worthwhile, it might be because it is from the perspective of a pianist who has also devoted himself to similar repertoire. But really, this performance was about seeing a fantastic artist completely in his element, and regardless of the medium, that should be enough for you to know that it was an incredible evening.
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It’s that time of year again. Electric companies are excited about the diminishing daylight and the extremely wasteful lights on houses (if my dad is to be believed), peppermint has replaced pumpkin as the flavor du jour, and best of lists abound. This being a site that tends to review things, such ranking posts would seem an inevitability. Rather than engage in such practices, our fearless editor has asked us to take a slightly different approach. As such, I will not be giving you my Top 10 [fill in the blank] of 2012. Instead, I’ll be looking at the one thing that seems to summarize my year: listening.
Record grooves via electron microscope, courtesy Rochester University
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