Posted by Arlene & Larry Dunn » 2 Comments »
Chicago is a hot burning bonfire of contemporary music, bursting with talented composers, expert players/ensembles, and a growing, appreciative audience. Some weeks there are more performances than it is physically possible to attend, a phenomenon we have hash-tagged #ChicagoNewMusicPlethora. We faced the latest of these dilemmas on the weekend of March 8-10, 2013 when we attended concerts by Third Coast Percussion, Fifth House Ensemble, and Spektral Quartet. Three outstanding concerts in three days . . . and we had to skip at least four others in the process.
Third Coast Percussion Ensemble with guest pianists Timo Andres and David Kaplan (photo credit: Larry Dunn)
[Read more →]
Posted by Arlene & Larry Dunn » Add Comment »
Chicago’s flourishing contemporary music scene is not simply growing and expanding in its impact on Chicago culture. It is also fertile ground for development of fundamentally new concepts. One such example is Fifth House Ensemble, which has carved out a unique niche with its season-long multi-episode narrative chamber music projects. The fourth of these projects, CAUGHT, debuted its first episode in November 2012. The next episode, Caught: The Wide Open, will be presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on Saturday, March 9, 2013. The program features premieres of major new works commissioned by Fifth House from John Zorn and Caleb Burhans.
Fifth House Ensemble’s “Real” String Quartet performs in Caught: The Woods (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)
We attended Caught: The Woods, on November 11, 2012, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The multi-media performance included silent acting, shadow puppetry, video projections, and dancing. Fifth House has crafted these works in collaboration with writers, actors, stage directors, graphic artists, and choreographers. The Caught project has added a new element, community input for the stories. Fifth House conducted workshops in schools and community centers and invited the public to submit stories online (disclaimer: Larry and Arlene both submitted stories). The musical highlight of Caught: The Woods was composer Jason Charney Ocean Body, commissioned for and performed by Fifth House’s unique “Real” String Quartet, consisting of Andre Williams (violin), Clark Carruth (viola), Herine Koschak (cello), and Eric Snoza (bass).
With Caught: The Wide Open, Fifth House is making its debut appearance in the Eddlis Neeson Theater at MCA Chicago, a frequent venue for some of the city’s most adventurous contemporary music concerts by the likes of eighth blackbird and International Contemporary Ensemble. The ensemble could not pick more fitting repertoire for its MCA debut.
Fifth House Ensemble rehearsing John Zorn’s The Temptations of St. Anthony (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)
Zorn’s new piece, The Temptations of St. Anthony, is a thirteen-episode tapestry that calls upon the virtuosic skills of all ten Fifth House Ensemble members. The music traces the ascetic monk’s wild supernatural temptations he faced during a sojourn in the desert, weaving together his visions, dreams, and nightmares.
Excelsior, Burhans’ new composition, relates the harrowing tale of U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger’s world-record setting free-fall sky dive from more than 19 miles high, in 1960. In playing the work, members of the ensemble will be augmented by Burhans’ violin/guitar duo itsnotyouitsme with guitarist/vocalist Grey McMurray, and the splendid soprano Martha Cluver.
The two premieres will be complemented by Dimitri Shostakovich’s modernist gem, String Quartet No. 9 in E flat Major (1964), played by Fifth House’s Real String Quartet.
Fifth House Ensemble — Caught: The Wide Open
Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 7:30 PM
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Arlene and Larry Dunn are pure amateurs of contemporary music. Visit their blog at Acornometrics and follow them on Twitter: @ICEfansArleneLD.
Posted by Justin Rito » Add Comment »
A makeshift model of the Brooklyn Bridge built out of old cardboard boxes resides on the front of the new Sō Percussion and Grey McMurray collaboration, Where (we) Live. The imagery is apropos for both Sō and McMurray in that the album is meant to question what “home” can mean. What are its boundaries? How does it evolve, and what creates those evolutions? The album certainly communicates these questions (and many others) as a standalone creation, but the liner notes mention that the music heard here is actually a distillation of a larger project. In their effort to answer the seemingly endless questions that arise from a concept as slippery as “home,” Sō invited artists of all types to “substantively alter our process,” (more on this later).
[Read more →]
Posted by Evan Burke » 6 Comments »
Frank Zappa famously asked, “Does humor belong in music?”. He asked this question using an absurdist concert film, and answered it quite profoundly (I’m paraphrasing): of course it does, if music is supposed to be a reflection of human emotional life. Music persists in human society because of its ability to communicate complex emotions directly into our brains, more effectively than spoken or written language. Musicians play their instruments and the music plays us in turn. Humor persists for similar reasons, using language and wordplay and culture to elicit the uniquely human reactions of laughter and amusement. Humor experienced with other people helps you bond, and contributes to your shared history, much like music. But combining them has always been a challenge for composers. Historically, it’s difficult to produce funny instrumental music (although many great musicians have), and even when one hears clever, complex humor in a piece (think Shostakovich’s nervous, bitter sarcasm), it’s not usually laugh-out-loud funny. Finding a piece of instrumental music that you’d guffaw at like an episode of Arrested Development isn’t easy. When there are words, it’s usually in the form of funny lyrics, to a song whose general character is indistinguishable from other, non-funny songs. Nick Zammuto, composer and former ringleader of blues-folk musique-concrete act The Books, has a markedly different approach to music and humor, and together with composer/percussionist Jason Treuting, brought a variety of hilarious pieces to their slice of the Ecstatic Festival.
Jason Treuting – Photograph by David Andrako
[Read more →]
Posted by Thomas Deneuville » 2 Comments »
This year’s edition of Ecstatic Music Festival just started and even if it won’t feature Judd Greenstein’s—it’s curator—dream lineup, it’s still pretty awesome. Indeed 150 performers and composers will collaborate on 11 shows to give us a vivid snapshot of the indie, or post-classical scene: Sxip Shirey, Angélica Negrón, Nick Zammuto, Jason Treuting, Janus Trio, Daisy Press, the Calder Quartet, Grey McMurray, Oneida, Rhys Chatham, and The Mountain Goats to name a few.
The festival (running through March 28) opened with an evening dedicated to Jherek Bischoff’s music: his compositions and his arrangements. Bischoff, apart from being a composer and an instrumentalist (ukulele, double bass, guitar, etc.) is also an arranger and producer involved a plethora of projects which list would probably fill the rest of this page. Joining him on stage was the Wordless Music Orchestra conducted by Joshua Kohl as well as guest vocalists including David Byrne, Craig Wedren (Shudder To Think), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Mirah, Zac Pennington (Parenthetical Girls), Carla Bozulich, Charlie Looker, Sam Mickens, Paris Hurley, Steven Reker and Jen Goma.
Jherek Bischoff and the Wordless Music Orchestra – Photo by David Andrako
[Read more →]