Video Premiere: New Morse Code Performs Lang’s Stuttered Chant

Today’s video premiere from Four/Ten Media and New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) comes on the heels of their debut album Simplicity Itself, featuring works by Caroline Shaw, Robert Honstein, Paul Kerekes, and Tonia Ko. You can read our review of the album or watch a video for Caroline Shaw’s Boris Kerner.

New Morse Code’s latest video premiere features David Lang‘s stuttered chant, originally written for percussionist Evelyn Glennie and cellist Maya Beiser. New Morse Code cellist Hannah Collins describes the work as “an exhilarating creative challenge because it demands extreme sonic inventiveness, particularly for the percussionist, within an imposingly rigid and complex rhythmic unison.”

Here’s what David Lang had to say about the work:

In 2011 it came to my attention that the University of California at Los Angeles had offered two friends of mine the chance to share a concert — the percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the cellist Maya Beiser, both of whom I have worked with quite a lot. What seemed strange to me was that UCLA had proposed that they split the concert, with each of them taking a half, separately. Both these women are fearless advocates of new music and it seemed like an historic event to have them on the same stage at the same time, so I offered to write them a piece they could play together. My idea of togetherness went so far as to ask Evelyn to use the cello as a percussion instrument, sitting next to Maya, imagining them sitting together, like twins, united in their movements and gestures, playing completely in unison.

About New Morse Code

New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) is the confluence of two magnetic personalities who have taken up the admirable task of creating a hub for the performance, commissioning, and promotion of new music. NMC is theoretically the alluring and uncommon combination of cello and percussion, but in practice is best described as two musicians of extraordinary depth and skill untethered by their instrumental constraints. This unrestricted approach has allowed them to create a body of work in which Hannah can be found crushing plastic bottles and Michael plucking the strings of the cello––all with the intention of expanding and facilitating the imaginations of their composer-collaborators––while ultimately creating a meaningful and lasting repertoire. The performances that arise from this playful and innovative methodology reveal Hannah and Michael’s passion for sharing the work of their friends and peers, and aside from their effortless ability to perform the most finger-twisting of contemporary repertoire, NMC’s ability to communicate the esoteric details and depth of these complex works is what makes them truly remarkable chamber musicians. As tireless advocates for new music, they constantly seek out diverse venues (wineries, outdoor parks, art museums, elementary school classrooms), and their ability to connect with disparate audiences by way of their disarming charm, accessible intellect, and dynamic musicality is exceptional.

Hannah and Michael formed New Morse Code while they were students at Yale after returning to the United States from extended and informative study in Europe. Inspired by their similar yet different experiences abroad, they began performing together and planting the seeds that would blossom into their dedicated community of collaborators and followers. They currently teach at the University of Kansas and co-direct the Avaloch Farm New Music Initiative.

About David Lang

David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. Lang’s “simple song #3,” written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film Youth, received many honors in 2016, including Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others. Lang’s “the little match girl passion” won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen and Lang’s own rewriting of the libretto to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the recording of the piece was awarded a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang has also been the recipient of the Rome Prize, Le Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year. Lang’s tenure as Carnegie Hall’s 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair saw his critically acclaimed festival collected stories showcase different modes of storytelling in music. In addition to his work as a composer, Lang is Artist in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music. Lang is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can. His music is published by Red Poppy Music (ASCAP) and is distributed worldwide by G. Schirmer, Inc.