Posted by Arlene & Larry Dunn »
Phyllis Chen is an accomplished pianist, both on the full-sized concert instrument and on the pint-sized toy piano. In addition to her frequent appearances with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) as a composer and performer, she is also the Director of the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival, which she started in 2007 to expand the interest in and repertoire for this captivating instrument. The 2013 festival will be held December 12-14 at several venues in New York City.
How did you personally become infatuated with toy piano and other toys and/or unconventional instruments?
I’ve played the piano since I was five years old and found the toy piano as an adult. I came upon my first instrument at a puppet theater in Chicago. It wasn’t presented to me as a musical instrument. It was in a stage set that I happened upon and heard its beautiful sound. I fell in love with it instantly, not only for its bell-like sound, but for all the potential I saw in this unexplored instrument. The toy piano is really an extension of me as a pianist, but with the opportunity to stretch and explore new dimensions of myself as a performer. I first became interested in composing in large part because of my constant exploration of the toy piano, which led me to articulate a sound and genre of music that I did not feel existed on the full-sized piano for me. Pieces written by me and others for toy piano often include other unconventional instruments, turning the pianist into a multi-instrumentalist, more like a percussionist, juggling various miniature objects during a performance. Other instruments I use often are metal kitchen mixing bowls as gongs, music boxes, and other found objects. My most recent unconventional instrument is a dilapidated zither that I setup like a miniature prepared piano.
Pianist Phyllis Chen playing toy piano and mixing bowl gongs (photo credit: Larry Dunn)
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CONTACT!: An Evening with Esa-Pekka Salonen
CONTACT! kicks off the season at SubCulture — a new, intimate venue in NoHo — with an evening of works by the composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Monday, November 4 at 7:30 PM
Tickets $25 and $40
SubCulture, 45 Bleecker Street, Downstairs New York, NY
Roomful of Teeth (performing the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s Partita) and Holly Herndon
Roomful of Teeth
Roomful of Teeth performs the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s Partita, and works by Caleb Burhans, Brad Wells, and William Brittelle.
Monday, November 4 at 8 PM
(le) poisson rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, New York, NY
Time | Caroline Stinson
Canadian cellist Caroline Stinson presents a compelling program of music for cello with piano and electronics in her Merkin Hall solo recital debut this November. Sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland in New York, the evening explores composers interested in time, how music is conceived within it and how we experience it. Brought about by a series of events going back to 2009, when she attended a seminar with Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen, Time is the context for the works presented, a perspective that is continually changing.
Wednesday, November 6 at 8 PM
Tickets $30, $20 students/seniors
Merkin Hall, 129 West 67th Street, New York, NY
Musical Ecologies | TRAVIS JUST: The Music of Object Collection
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Atmospheric Shift: Music of the Elements/The Water: FLOOD
Zentripetal Duo – Photo by Josh Pashman
TSS teams up with new music duo Zentripetal for part two in their series of musical perspectives on the climate extremes experienced globally and seen locally in Brooklyn, as heard through element-inspired chamber music of living composers. On the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, The Water: FLOOD looks at the ways that water affects our everyday lives in this borough through the lens of the losses suffered from that catastrophic event.
Monday, October 21 at 7 PM
Tickets $12 at the door, $10 in advance
ShapeShifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY
Bonjour is not quite your average chamber music ensemble. With a rather uncharacteristic instrumentation, this group has altered rules of the game. Formed around the music of composer and bassist, Florent Ghys, they made their official debut at NYC’s Flea Theater in the spring of 2012. The music they play freely crosses the boundaries between pop, minimalist and contemporary. Their most recent project is inspired by the North Indian classical tradition, each of the compositions being associated with a specific moment of the week.
Monday, October 21 at 8 PM
Tickets $10 advance, $15 at the door
Drom, 85 Avenue A, New York, NY
NYU Interactive Arts Series
NYU Steinhardt’s Music Technology and Composition Program presents the Interactive Arts Series featuring compositions by electro-acoustic music pioneer Morton Subotnick. The 2013 Fall IAS is a special event where we celebrate Morton Subotnick’s 80th birthday! Pianist Kathleen Supové and trombonist Ben Herrington will performing works for piano, trombone, and electronics.
Monday, October 21 at 8 PM
Frederick Loewe Theatre, 35 West 4th Street, New York, NY
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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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