Posted by Thomas Deneuville »
This weekend’s Ne(xt)works’ Music Without Dance—a multi-event festival focusing on recent and historical musical works originally created to be heard with choreographed movement—was the perfect excuse to interview Joan La Barbara and talk about dance, as well as Phase Two of Storefront Diva…
Your name is usually associated with a life-long relationship with voice but you have also written extensively for dance. What led you to do so?
I love dance. In fact, as a child I wanted to be a dancer but my mother read an article about ballerina’s bloody toes and decided not to let me study dance. She gave me piano and art lessons instead.
Anyway, I have watched a great deal of dance over the years and have been particularly influenced by Merce Cunningham’s independent moving of dancers in space (which I reflected in my work “Autumn Signal” as I moved the sounds around in space), and also his attitude that whichever way the dancers were facing was front (again, reflected in some of my sound sculpture works). I was very, very fortunate in 1976 to be invited to play my music with Merce in an Events evening. Ned Rothernberg and Peter Zummo were working with me at the time and we did several of my ensemble works as well as some of the solo material. The way the “Events” worked was that Merce told the composer how much time to provide music for, and he allocated sections of his dances to fit that time. I remember that just as I began to sing “Circular Song”, Merce began a solo, edging forward carefully one foot at a time, then pulling it back and making sudden gesture flurries with his hands. It was thrilling.
Joan La Barbara - Photograph by Mark Mahaney
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Posted by Thomas Deneuville »
This afternoon in TriBeCa, the Flea Theatre was hosting the Open Salon, part of the Music With a View festival, curated by the extraordinary Kathleen Supové. Three hours of New Music, in the format of a 19th century salon, with a nice person (here James Moore), welcoming the composers+performers, introducing the pieces. There was a lot of great music, and I will only mention a few people, in no particular order.
Jeremiah Bornfield was premiering two pieces: an Homage to Philip Glass for solo violin performed by Mary Rowell, and an art song performed by soprano Lauren Alfano (text and music Bornfield).
The violin piece was an improvisatory/minimal piece emulating/transcending Mr Glass’s musical idiom (IC 3 and 4 anybody?) in real time, while the art song was an ambiguous testimony of a (dead?) woman in limbo—or was it a dream?
Ryan Homsey was presenting a nice duet for violins, that he prefaced as a reference to his past career as a professional ballet dancer, and the relationship between two dance partners. I enjoyed the intertwined violin lines, the exchanges, each musician accompanying the other in turn, and the performers facing each other, their profile to the audience. I would like to hear this piece again.
Rob Dietz and Phyllis Chen painted an vivid sonic tapestry sitting on the floor and interacting with a MacBook through game controllers. It was interesting, but I wish that what was going on on their screen had actually been projected for us to see… I felt kind of “excluded” by the “staging” of the piece.
An refreshing duo: Daniel Foose on bass, and Sueyoung Yoo on piano and voice, played Tahrir Square (Foose’s original composition), Gloomy Sunday (a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress) arranged by Yoo, and an excerpt from Pansori Chunhyangga, also arranged by Yoo. A Pansori is a traditional form in Korean music, usually only intended for percussion and voice. Yoo’s arrangement was compelling and her vocal inflections really engaging.
Roy Vanegas, also known as Noise Floor Music, was also presenting two pieces today: Free for flute and cello, and The Dedication, for piano 4 hands. Free presented an intricate counterpoint between the flute line and the cello pizzes leading to a more lyrical section featuring rhythms usually found in downtempo electronica (a Noise Floor Music trademark :) ). The Dedication was more minimal in its texture even though if the rhythm could sometimes get complex, in a long chain of syncopations.
Ryan Manchester was presenting Echoes of Light, a solo percussion piece written for Melanie Sehman (who performed beautifully tonight). The piece is inspired by the “light echo observed as star V838 Monocerotis formed into a red supergiant” (more info on his blog). Indeed, the metallic echoes, waves of gongs, and bowed notes on the vibraphone created a timbral universe that took us far from the noisy streets of downtown Manhattan. Check the recording on his website.
Neil Prufer performed a post-romantic (?) solo piano piece flirting with atonality—sometimes outlining a row. I enjoyed the narrative and the dramatic content and would love to hear more music from this former student of Louis Karchin
Cornelius Duffalo was performing a piece composed by Armandao Bayolo for solo violin and live electronics. As much as I really enjoyed the melodic material, the general pulse, and the slower, introspective middle section, I was really not into the loop pedal (among others) that Duffalo used. He is (and I don’t think that anybody would say otherwise) an incredible musician but I almost wanted him to leave the pedals alone to just play his violin. As an audience member, I was drawn into the technicalities of this kind of effects and didn’t enjoy it.
Finally, Daniel Felsenfeld presented a very beautiful, clever, funny and challenging piece in the form of variations on stuff he hates. Performed by Blair McMillan, Felsenfeld used musical material of very low value (my words, not his) to fire up his imagination. The result was an exciting piece, activating all the registers of the piano. He will also be leading hosting a discussion about the state of the arts and music at the Flea (along with Ian Moss and Peter Catapano) on Wed. March 30th at 6pm. Don’t miss it, because I will :(
Oh, and Walter Aparicio performed Phototactic, a piece of mine for solo piano. It can be heard here on my Music page…
Were you there? Did I misspell, or forget you name? Would you like to mention other pieces you enjoyed—or not? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below or find me on Twitter: @tonalfreak.