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Concerts

Aynur, with special guest Kinan Azmeh (September 30, 2018)

October 14, 2018

Each song – some traditional folk ballads and some national calls to history and identity – became, in Aynur’s hands, an individual work of art, intricately structured and elegantly paced. Aynur combined subtle artistry with intimate, fresh connection to both her colleague musicians and her audience. Singing in Kurdish and seamlessly incorporating Western contemporary motifs, Aynur conveyed accounts of human events – hope and fear, joy and grief, wisdom, innocence, experiment and embrace – that were clear and compelling, even for audience members who couldn’t understand her words. [more]

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

September 28, 2018

Stranger still is the choice of Angelica Page to play Dickinson who looks rather too healthy to be the famously thin and sallow-faced writer known from the one famous photograph. She makes Dickinson sarcastic, arrogant, cynical, self-important and haughty which goes against the voice of the woman in the poems. At times she has been given arty stage directions like posing by a mantelpiece or sleeping on the ground next to what we assume is alongside of her father’s grave. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Inspirations and Purposes

August 31, 2018

The Festival’s sole lecture-presentation proved useful in revealing how one composer viewed the intersections of science and art in his own composing: trumpeter Skye van Duuren, now a trumpeter and PhD candidate in Composition in the College-Conservatory at the University of Cincinnati spoke on “Bridging Worlds: Creating Fixed Media Microtonal Music with Acoustic Instruments” and then presented the third movement of his Manifestations. Emphasizing the development of his “microtonal language … with traditional chromatic scale as a baseline … and gradations of 5 cents in octaves that each have 240 ‘notes,’ van Duuren discussed the use of Melodyne software to increase the microtones of acoustic instruments. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Excellence

August 31, 2018

In the very first concert, one of the finest – and also longest – pieces of the Festival was Marie-Helene Bernard’s BOA Sr (1.5, i.e. Concert 1, piece 5). In 2010, Bernard read the obituary of an old woman living in the Andaman Archipelago in the Bay of Bengal; she was the last person alive to speak the Bo language, and at the end of her life, with no one left to talk to, she spoke to the birds. This fixed media requiem piece uses fragments of an anthropologist’s recordings of the old woman’s voice with electronic musical sounds. From its beginning, this work evokes the past by preserving the voices of its ghosts; humanness is stretched out into something cosmically airy. It is a mysterious and gorgeous work, a modern anthropological moment turned into a myth of simultaneous loss and eternity. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Overview

August 31, 2018

This year, the Festival site was the Abrons Arts Center; the three performance venues in the facility – the Experimental Theater, the  Playhouse and the Underground Theater – were all used. In the spacious Center, performers, composers and audience socialized and exchanged ideas and personal news throughout the week. Though the Festival composers came from many countries all over the world, the “community” of electroacoustic music is quite small; performers often know each other and each others’colleagues and friends, knowledgeable audiences and strong supporters … an exceptionally eclectic and vibrant group, all interested in music that both affirms and expands the core questions about music that composers, performers and listeners have been exploring for centuries. [more]

International Contemporary Ensemble: “Grand Pianola Music”

August 24, 2018

After intermission, German-born and now San Francisco based conductor Christian Reif led the International Contemporary Ensemble together with Quince Vocal Ensemble (Amanda DeBoer Bartlett/soprano, Liz Pearse/soprano and Kayleigh Butcher/mezzo-soprano – in a first-rate performance of John Adams’ 1982 "Grand Pianola Music."  This expansive, generously accessible and affirming work was conducted with comprehensive control and artistic integrity by Reif; the organic, clean connection between the conductor and the musicians elicited rich feeling and nuance from Adams’ music. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Frank Loesser: Lyricist”

June 7, 2018

Artistic director, writer, arranger and host David Loud was at lectern off to the side onstage and passionately delivered his erudite and informative commentary at length. Mr. Loud grew up with musical theater aficionado parents and he was raised with devotion to the form and he fondly reminisced about them. His mother’s favorite show was "Where's Charley?" and his father’s was "Guys and Dolls." [more]

Tanya Tagaq (World Music Institute)

May 29, 2018

Tagaq makes music with her whole body: it is an act as fundamental as consuming, excreting, orgasm and birthing. She can make any sound – whisper and howl, caress, growl and grunt – and use it to summon, condemn, invoke or bless. Tagaq’s fellow musicians stretch out their own instruments and created sounds to meet hers in developing a constantly changing, expanding music-world. [more]

If Not Now …? Chamber Music of Timothy Brown

May 6, 2018

Brown called his concert, "If Not Now …?" implying, for himself and us, then, when? Removed by more than a decade from the kinds of composing in which he’s now typically engaged, the pieces presented in this concert were fondly remembered by some members of the audience – Brown’s friends and colleagues of long standing – and greeted with delight by other listeners who’d never heard them before. Whether or not Brown returns to composing either non-choral chamber music or more lengthy pieces such as those performed in this concert, the evening was a happy occasion to hear music that’s been unheard for many years. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Frederic Rzewski

April 30, 2018

As a composer, Rzewski is no doubt best known for his astonishing 1975 piano work, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated." It will take another century of listening and assessment to know for sure whether comparisons made between "The People United" on the one hand and Bach’s "Goldberg Variations" and Beethoven’s "Diabelli Variations" on the other will maintain their legitimacy. This Composer Portrait concert won’t solve the historical piano quandary: this evening excluded piano music, focusing instead on two string quartets, the first dating from the composer’s adolescence and the second from just this year. But this concert did provide an opportunity to consider important themes in Rzewski’s more than sixty years of music making. [more]

Da Capo Chamber Players: Celebrating Charles Wuorinen’s 80th Year

April 19, 2018

The Da Capo Chamber Players’ recent concert at Merkin Concert Hall, billed as a celebration for composer Charles Wuorinen’s eightieth year, was an intimate, unexpectedly informal event. The five-member Da Capo group was joined by one additional musician. The small audience consisted primarily of Da Capo players’ friends, Wuorinen’s friends, colleague musicians and composers, and friends of friends; the evening had a low-keyed New York City feel to it, a sense of purposeful and convivial gathering for the happy consideration and presentation of one remarkable composer’s music. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Irving Berlin: American”

March 30, 2018

This biographical survey concert fused together several strands. There were the zesty performances by Danny Gardner, Emily Hsu, Holly Butler, Richard Riaz Yoder, Jada Temple and Bryonha Marie. There was also the narrative device of having Irving Berlin appear as a commentator. This was achieved by the marvelous performance of Stephen DeRosa who channeled Berlin’s presence with his rat-a-tat show business cadences and comic timing. Mr. DeRosa also conveyed Berlin’s melancholy and sang and danced through the presentation with joyous flair. His “This is A Great Country” was quite stirring and his “Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars” was priceless. [more]

Rocktopia

March 28, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt gets the biggest round of applause during the projected cultural icons slideshow as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is histrionically performed in "Rocktopia." It’s a hokey musical extravaganza that mashes together classical, rock and opera. Singalongs, coerced clapping, dancing in the seats and standing ovations abound. The cheerfully innocuous entertainment level is comparable to that of a bland PBS pledge break concert. [more]

Yarn/Wire: Catherine Lamb, “curvo totalitas”

March 26, 2018

After the four musicians connected by eye contact to exactly synchronize their ‘phones, the piece began; sound emanated entirely slowly – it seemed like almost a minute before a steady something audible materialized from the steel sheet. The extent to which it might be considered ‘music’ remained unclear until the sound was joined, initially almost equally imperceptibly, by definitively musical synthesizer notes. Within the context of steady sound, passages of shifting intensity -- ranging from pianissimo to mezzo forte, never louder – rose and fell in discrete, discernible rhythms. Over the course of the piece, the musicians at each corner took turns playing music; only occasionally did two musicians play at once, producing instrument overlaps of embrace, enhancement, mutual revelation and then separation. Mostly, however, the musicians floated their musical energies in each other’s directions like invisible shimmers through the audience’s fairly settled quiet. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Lenny’s Lyricists”

March 2, 2018

"Candide"’s giddy overture was of course the euphoric opening number of the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: "Lenny’s Lyricists." This was a splendid concert celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s centennial by spotlighting his collaborators.  The novelty here was that we watched footage of a close up of the hands of pianist Ray Wong as he superbly played via video projected onto a large screen as artistic director Rob Fisher turned the score’s pages. [more]

The New York Pops: Heart and Soul

February 4, 2018

“September” by Earth, Wind and Fire was gorgeously mashed up with Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” and was the soaring opening number of The New York Pops’ exhilarating rhythm and blues concert, "Heart and Soul." The event celebrated African American History Month and Valentine’s Day. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “The Bobby Darin Story”

January 24, 2018

Whether bantering with the audience, displaying energetic dance moves, reciting factual details or performing Bobby Darin’s signature songs, the boyish Groff was sensational. “Splish Splash,” “Mack The Knife” and “If I Were a Carpenter” were all given galvanizing renditions. There was his soaring treatment of the emotional “Once in a Lifetime” near the end of the show. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Chen Yi

December 29, 2017

Chen Yi’s music is, in the best possible sense, powerful: it affirms. Musicians and audience alike, at the end of each piece, are strengthened in the continuing determination to do one’s best. The evening’s concluding work, "Sparkle" (1992), a rugged, intricately disciplined wildness of both melody and rhythm, felt like an exposition of new ways of putting sounds together to create music, an immersion in how layering and linearity can coexist. The work’s sudden end – too soon and, simultaneously, at the only possible right moment – was gorgeously big and exciting [more]

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

December 28, 2017

Fairchild speaks well and communicates much with his physique, but his choreography is repetitive and uninventive.  Here was a chance to breathe new life into a too familiar character.  All Fairchild could come up with is lurching movements and awkward falls to the floor.  He takes the obvious path to create his character with movement when he had a chance to illuminate the Monster’s inner emotions. [more]

Gerald Cohen: Voyagers, for Clarinet and String Quartet

December 27, 2017

Cohen then spoke; he presented the four-movement structure of the piece about to be performed. Although various passages in "Voyagers" evoked the diversity of music offerings on the Golden Record, highlighting “both the fragility and the power of human artistic expression,” the fairly traditionally structured piece was inspired by three main Golden Record offerings – what Cohen referred to as “source material” – a late Beethoven quartet, an Indian Raga and a Renaissance dance. "Voyagers"’ four movements are entitled Cavatina, Bhairavi, Galliard, and Beyond the Heliosphere. [more]

DakhaBrakha

December 19, 2017

Playing both traditional and modern instruments, usually amplified, all four musicians supplement and expand Ukrainian folk melodies and songs with rhythmic and stylistic adaptations as well as other-culture  borrowings from music from as far away as Australia, North Africa, North America and India as well as from other former Russian Empire provinces. The result, unexpectedly, is stunningly coherent. [more]

The New York Pops: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

December 18, 2017

Joni Mitchell’s “River” was given a powerful rendition by guest artist Megan Hilty.  The blonde and statuesque Ms. Hilty was a glorious vision wearing a luminous white wedding dress as she sang in her throaty, expressive and emotional voice.  In the first act Hilty wore a shimmering black gown.  The Broadway performer and star of the television series "Smash" excelled at traditional perennials as well as eclectic selections such as that bittersweet one by Ms. Mitchell. [more]

Home for the Holidays

November 22, 2017

"American Idol" winner Candice Glover, "The Voice"’s Josh Kaufman, "America’s Got Talent"’s Bianca Ryan and the attractive, married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, who are popular on YouTube, comprise the youthful cast. They all bulldoze their way through more then 20 classics.  The vocal grandstanding is matched with overly expressive gestures and grimaces that invariably crush the meanings of the songs. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Christen Lien: Elpis and The Dark Side of Hope Tour Launch

November 6, 2017

Christen Lien is an exciting artist, playing innovative music for viola, combining formal and informal, classical and electronic elements. She brings an eclectic intelligence, alternately divergent and focused, to her work; her confident musicianship, based on both technical facility and wide-ranging experimentation, enables her to develop a performance style that is simultaneously intense, serious and seductive. Lien talks to her audience; she tells stories, developing the intellectual contexts for her music. She amplifies her viola and uses loop pedals to create complex layers of sound; in her all-out, passionate performing, she describes the constant changes of human response to the complex project of being alive. [more]

Bach + Glass, with Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry

October 8, 2017

Because the first three pieces of the program had established an intellectual across-time dialogue between Bach and Glass and an examination of Glass’ Bach ‘ancestry,’ the unabashedly Romantic quality of Glass’ new piece came as a surprise: in spite of the presence of familiar Glass rhythmic and harmonic motifs, the concerto contained new cadences and directions. In both piano-strings simultaneities and in the four piano cadenzas, explorations of uncertainty and of distances from longed-for resolutions felt like new territory for Glass. The piece as a whole moved from monumentality through moments of increasing quiet to Dinnerstein’s final poignant movement into silence. [more]

Van Gogh’s Ear

August 21, 2017

Projected titles indicate place and year—beginning with Arles, 1888 and progressing until van Gogh’s suicide—which we hear as an offstage gunshot—in July of 1890. The audience is treated to Vincent’s thoughts on his painting technique, his poverty, his mental health, his fellow artists, stars, sunflowers, all interrupted by chamber music by Debussy, Fauré, Chausson and Franck played—in various combinations—by Henry Wang (violin), Yuval Herz (violin), Chich-Fan Yiu (viola), Timotheos Petrin (cello), Max Barros (piano) and Renana Gutman (piano). [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Political Protest and Social Justice

August 10, 2017

Interestingly, some of the most raucously explicit material of protest came not from the Peace and Social Justice Concert 24 but from the Wil(helms/liams)burg Concert 26, a collaboration of musicians and performing artists from Brooklyn and Hamburg, Germany. In the opening work, "Trumpen," for clarinet, piano, cello and laptop performers, Georg Hajdu created a piece based on the destructive and fracturing words of Donald J. Trump. This piece introduced the Unheard-of//Ensemble – Ford Fourqurean/clarinet, Daniel Anastasio/piano and Thea Mesirow/cello – who played throughout the concert, demonstrating remarkable technical control and versatility; this group “is a contemporary chamber ensemble dedicated to the development and performance of new music by living composers.” In "Trumpen," Trump’s words are altered and devolved into an ever-increasing intensity of chaos; the audience is witness to the mess – and is part of it as well – as this replicates political protest at its best, at once ancient and contemporary. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Composer as Creator

August 10, 2017

n light-hearted Rationalize (concert 27), composer Cody Brookshire combined found and manipulated sounds created by the audience with live music on bass clarinet and marimba. Brookshire created SynkroTakt, an audio streaming technology. Before the piece began, the composer instructed the audience on the seven-step procedure required to enable their devices to create sounds streamed into synchronous audio tracks; the audience, in this way, became the collective ‘artist/musician’ and provided one half of the ‘duet’ of electronic sounds and live instruments. The result was an unexpectedly sweet and pretty piece, a bauble in which sounds produced by an unusually concocted combination of chance and intention became a contemporaneous agent of creativity. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Outstanding Performers

August 9, 2017

In spite of the Festival’s lengthy booklet and daily concert updates, the rich creative vitality of the electroacoustic musical community remains only tangentially documented: composers and performers clearly work in close collaboration. Internationally recognized cellist Madeleine Shapiro, for instance, director of the important NewMusicMannes ensemble at the New School’s Mannes College of Music, is on the NYCEMF 2017 Steering Committee, and performed in several of the 2017 Festival’s concerts. She is clearly the sort of artist who can turn her instrument into both the composers’ muse and their servant. Shaprio’s ability to incorporate the cello’s entire history into its creative use in contemporary classical and experimental music suggests expanded incorporations of cello sounds in new music to contemporary composers. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Overview

August 7, 2017

In the seven concerts of the second half of the 2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival held this month at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York, the full diversity and eclectic versatility of electroacoustic music was on vibrant, energetic display; the densely packed weekend of music was exciting, sometimes disconcerting and sometimes thrilling, and always fascinating. Sixty-six works by sixty-six composers were performed … a dizzying array of instruments, equipment, performers, sensibilities and effects! [more]

Jen Shyu: Nine Doors

July 8, 2017

After fifteen years of formal study, Shyu incorporates five distinct music traditions in her newest work: “epic storytelling (Pansori), East Coast shaman music (DongHaeAhnByeolShinGut), and Binari, usually performed as a blessing for an audience, all from Korea; music from sub-districts Aileu and Atauro ferom East Timor; Hengchung Folk Song with moon lute from Taiwan; Ledhekan, which combines Javanese dance with improvisational singing (Sindehenan) from Indonesia; and the ‘speaking-the-song’ or ‘katari’ with Japanese bias, the rare 4-stringed instrument originally used by monks and priests.” [more]
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