Posted by Bruce A. Russell »
The FLUX Quartet have masterfully laid claim to the complete string quartets of Morton Feldman, becoming legends of new music along the way. They famously premiered the integral six-hour version of String Quartet No. 2 and later recorded it as part of Mode Records’ excellent Feldman Edition (in 1999 and 2002, respectively). It stood to reason that there would eventually be a follow up to complete the cycle, and it has arrived, well worth the wait a dozen years later.
The new release, featuring Feldman’s String Quartet No. 1 (1979) with Structures (1951) and Three Pieces for String Quartet (1954-56), presents a less daunting listening task than the earlier one, and yet there is much that is epic and unprecedented in it. The set contains the full program spread over two CDs and uninterrupted on a bonus DVD, and is accompanied by composer Linda Catlin Smith’s well-informed, expressive and illustrative essay exploring the idea of Feldman as a “speculative composer.” She has a wonderful way of describing the many exquisite sounds on this recording, and distilling her insights on the mysterious realm of this music and its creator.
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It wasn’t until seventh grade that I met my first violin teacher; before then, I was largely self-taught. I recall sitting in the back of my school orchestra (third-to-last chair of the second strings!) literally ecstatic about being surrounded by music. It was, of course, little more than deafening cacophony, a constant struggle to be heard above the other players—I was that stand partner that believed that playing louder than everyone created the most transcendent of sounds. Not long after I began studying with my teacher, Mr. Carter, did I wise up. When he handed me the sheet music for the seemingly apocryphal “Bach Double”, I grasped the voice of the violin: a voice to converse, to argue, to cry.
Indeed, there can be no better preface for Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo’s Two x Four than Bach’s argumentative dance, the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. It is a piece meant for teacher and pupil. I remember rushing home from Mr. Carter’s studio, Youtubing a recording: a black-and-white video of David and Igor Oistrakh, father and son, performing together. As Igor stood beside the towering musical presence of his father, I was filled with the newfound revelation that music is a relationship, not just between performer and audience, but between master and student. Koh and Laredo remind us of this throughout Two x Four. Koh began her partnership with Laredo as his student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The project was conceived in 2010, when Koh proposed to composers Anna Clyne and David Ludwig about constructing new works for two violins, an instrumentation inspired by Bach’s beloved concerto. The product, Two x Four, is a transformative journey of the tutelage between Koh and Laredo, a relationship all musicians can revere. The album features violin duets by four composers, with Bach’s concerto and Philip Glass’ Echorus paving the way for Clyne’s Prince of Clouds and Ludwig’s Seasons Lost.
Two x Four, Koh and Laredo
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It is an all too familiar scene: patrons travel to a grandiose hall to hear a major symphony orchestra perform on a Thursday-through-Sunday evening. The main attractions include a concerto performance by a critically acclaimed soloist and a symphonic masterpiece by a composer who is most likely long dead. Audience members find their seats and open the program only to discover, much to their dismay, that the concert will begin with an often tolerated but seldom enjoyed world premiere of a newly commissioned work. Everyone sits through this gesture of goodwill and politely applauds, and then the “real” concert begins. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) blatantly addresses this disconnect and is on a quest to eradicate it. This ensemble, founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Gil Rose, is the leading orchestra in the United States dedicated to the performance of new music, and they are quickly setting a new standard for contemporary classical music. One of the ensembles’ most recent composer-centric releases, Lewis Spratlan: Apollo and Daphne Variations (BMOP/sound), proves that new music can be accessible when treated with the same care and attention as the classical giants.
Lewis Spratlan: Apollo and Daphne Variations
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Posted by Jason Charney »
Scott Worthington is a busy and visible figure in LA’s tight new music scene, both as a composer and contemporary music bassist. He occupies both roles with his own ensemble et cetera, along with clarinetist Curt Miller and percussionist Dustin Donahue. Even the Light Itself Falls, their September 2013 release on emerging experimental label Populist Records, showcases both Worthington’s formidable artistry as a chamber musician and his unique compositional vision.
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Posted by Jennifer Stock »
Recently, in one of those flights of randomness the internet inspires, I did a Google image search for the “relationship between sound and architecture.” I found a series of photographs and renderings of ultra-contemporary buildings, seething in a proliferation of cellular shapes (and of course, tucked in, the delightful outcasts of an image search: in this case spelunkers and a British sound artist screaming on the beach). What this picture collection said to me, minus spelunkers, was that if architecture is to embody sound, it’s going to have to vibrate, to inhabit space with a kind of virtuosic and tremulous presence.
But what about the ways in which sound suggests or amplifies architecture? This is the central question underlying Bora Yoon’s debut album, Sunken Cathedral (Innova, 2014), which meditates on the idea that “architecture is housed within us, and outside of us—and music is a tool to circulate, transform, and illuminate those spaces.”
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