AMN Reviews: The Return of Neuma Records

One of the more positive things that happened in 2020 was the relaunch of Neuma Records.  In 1988 Shirish Korde and Jerry Tabor launched the label. They built a catalog that included recordings of well known twentieth century composers such as Xenakis, Cage, Boulez, Messiaen, Nono, Scelsi  and Varese. But the catalog caught my attention in the early 90’s because it was releasing recordings of works by contemporary electroacoustic composers and recordings by performers who focused on the work of lesser known contemporary composers . The catalog includes works by Dashow, DeLio, Dodge, Gaburo, Johnston, Karpen, Lansky, Laske, Lippe, Martirano, Oliveros, Reynolds, Risset, Saariaho, Subotnick, Yuasa and many many more.

By the end of the 90’s Neuma’s release schedule had really become sparse. In 2020 the label relaunched with Philip Blackburn taking over. Blackburn is a composer who spent almost 30 years working at Innova Recordings. Innova focuses on assisting composers and performers through the recording, publication, marketing and distribution process. As a result, Innova has curated a diverse body of contemporary music spanning more than 650 albums. Blackburn has brought this assistive and curatorial approach to Neuma.

In December of 2020 Neuma released three new recordings. The first was from composer Wesley Fuller (1930-2020).  It is a nice collection of seven electroacoustic pieces for instruments and computer.

Fuller ‘s works skillfully blends acoustic instruments and computer generated sounds with a focus on gesture, shape and color.

The second release is from composer Robert Moran. It is a nice collection of eight diverse works for orchestra. On this album Moran’s work is primarily neoromantic with occasional minimalist tendencies.

The third release is a concert recording from 1967 of composer Kenneth Gaburo conducting the New Music Choral Ensemble in a diverse program of twentieth century choral music. This is a really interesting release. If you don’t have any contemporary choral music in your collection then this would be the disc to have. It is not hard to imagine that in 1967 very few people in the US had heard live performances of choral music by Luigi Nono, Anton Webern and Olivier Messiaen. But practically no one had heard any music, never the less choral music from Pauline Oliveros, Ben Johnston, Leslie Bassett, Charles Hamm and Robert Shallenberg. Under the direction of Kenneth Gaburo the New Music Choral Ensemble took on the extreme technical challenges of performing such a diverse and difficult program. The program’s compositions included everything from 12 tone serial music to 31 tone just intonation to graphic and descriptive notation to works with live and or prerecorded electronics! The spirited performances on this disc are extremely well done. Also included are two interesting electronic pieces by Gaburo that were used to allow the singers a short break in between some of the pieces on the program. I highly recommend that you give this album a listen!

As I was getting ready to post this, Neuma released several additional titles – Robert Moran’s opera “Buddha goes to Bayreuth”, Gina Biver’s “Nimbus” which is seven miniatures for electroacoustic chamber ensemble, spoken word and soprano voice, James Caldwell’s “Pocket music” a set of concreté miniatures made with “small” sounds usually of things found in his pockets, and Spanish composer Juan J.G. Escuerdo’s “Shapes of Inner Timespaces” a collection of eight acousmatic compositions. Perusing their online catalog today it looks like several more titles are being released in February including a recording of Harry Partch’s “The Bewitched” ! I am glad to see that Neuma is back and that Blackburn has established an aggressive release schedule of diverse contemporary music. You can hear more samples of current and upcoming releases as well as selected back catalog on the Nuema Soundcloud Page. So check it out!

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews: Robert Erickson – Complete String Quartets [New World Records 80753-2]

81M0oKnSAsL._SL1500_This two-CD set collects all four string quartets by American composer Robert Erickson (1917-1997). A significant composer in his own right, Erickson’s influence is probably mostly felt indirectly, through the work of the composers and performers he taught in his long academic career.

Although born in the Midwest, Erickson was associated with the West Coast and particularly with the San Francisco Bay area, where before moving to the University of California at San Diego he spent a significant part of his professional life teaching. While there he taught at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Conservatory, where he mentored such rising avant garde figures as Pauline Oliveros, Loren Rush, Terry Riley and Stuart Dempster. Erickson encouraged their interest in improvisation, which he integrated into his teaching, worked with them and others in the pioneering experiments undertaken at the San Francisco Tape Music Center and more generally through his role as music director of Berkeley’s Pacifica radio station KPFA, helped foster the renaissance of sound art in the Bay Area in the 1960s.

Erickson’s early composition studies were with Ernst Krenek, and it is possible to hear some of Krenek’s influence in the first two string quartets. The first, from 1950, is a relatively brief, atonal work with a more or less conventional three-movement structure. The first movement carries an underlying motif marked by a rhythmic continuity that holds through a variety of melodic transformations, while the second, slow movement features legato lines of a flowing expressiveness. The final movement is brisk and fugue-like, with lines made of complementary rhythms. String Quartet No. 2 (1956) is a considerably longer, one-movement work that, while freer in structure than the first, is also rooted in twelve-tone counterpoint. Unlike much of the serial composition of the time, the second quartet manages its dynamic variations through gradations rather than through abrupt shifts, and intersperses expressive soliloquies throughout.

Three decades separate String Quartet No. 2 from the final two quartets—Solstice (1984-85) and Corfu (1986). Just as the first two quartets resemble each other in their general features, so too do the final two have common overall characteristics. Both are single movement works centered on C in which the atonal countrapuntal writing of the first two quartets has given way to an emphasis on harmonic centers and expressive, largely consonant melodies. Solstice announces its tonal underpinnings right off with notes doubled in unison or at the octave, an arrangement that recurs intermittently throughout the work. The predominant flavor of the quartet is pentatonic, but with notes altered and supplemented often enough to give a polymodal feel. The sparser, more reflective Corfu is a serenely paced work drawing on a tonal vocabulary similar to that of Solstice, but relying on single voices spinning introspective melodies to create a nuanced yet powerful expressive impact. Both pieces exploit the subtle timbral effects of doubling notes across octaves to brighten the ensemble texture, with Corfu pushing this effect even farther with frequent use of harmonics.

This is a highly welcome set of music from a too-little known composer, with excellent performances by the Del Sol Quartet.

Coming to the ISSUE Project Room

From New York’s ISSUE Project Room:

01/06 @ 9pm – Jason Lescalleet + Pauline Monin
Please note: Doors @ 8:30 show starts at 9 Jason Lescalleet (Berwick, Maine) and Pauline Monin (Lyon, France) are exploring the relationships between the way that sound impacts space and how the body can interpret this for visual stimuli.  Jason will be premiering two new compositions of electro-acoustic music this evening, one of which will be accompanied by Pauline Monin’s extended […]

01/07 @ 8pm – Biofeedback Generated Music: Biomuse Trio
About the Biomuse Trio   The Biomuse Trio was founded in 2008 to perform computer chamber music integrating traditional classical performance, laptop processing of sound, and the transduction of bio-signals for the control of musical gesture. The work of the ensemble encompasses hardware design, audio signal processing, bio-signal processing, composition, improvisation, and gesture choreography. The Biomuse Trio […]

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Upcoming Seattle Shows

From Wayward Music:

SAT. 11/21, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Alaskan composer John Luther Adams: The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies, with percussionist Steven Schick; and Nunataks + Among Red Mountains, with pianist Cristina Valdes

Seattle Times:
The Stranger:

MON. 11/23 – Joel Palmer + Scott Ezell, guitars and electronics

TUE. 12/1 – DX ARTS presents Yutaka Makino + Stelios Manousakis + Stephanie Pan, electro-acoustic

FRI. 12/4 – James Garlick, violin & Judith Cohen, piano play Corigliano, Bach, Ives, Bartok

SAT. 12/5 – Brad Sherman, clarinet & Sarah Bassingthwaighte, flutes – contemporary chamber music

FRI. 12/11 – Seattle Phonographers Union CD release concert + Perri Lynch solo set, field recordings

SAT. 12/12 – Seattle Phongraphers Union (different line up than above) + Christopher DeLaurenti solo set, more field recordings

THU. 12/17 – Eye Music, graphic scores performed by large ensemble of all-star Seattle experimentalists

SAT. 12/19 – Vance Galloway & Rafael Irisarri, ambient/drone for guitar, piano, electronics

WED. 12/23 – Marc Smason, trombone & Perry Robinson, clarinet + friends, out jazz

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ICE does Saariaho chamber works proud

A recent ICE Chicago concert is reviewed:

Chicago has yet to hear any of Kaija Saariaho’s large-scale works, which is a great pity. At least attention is being paid to the instrumental output of this gifted and prolific Finnish composer, a world-class original who just completed the first of two residencies she will undertake this season at Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music.

The Museum of Contemporary Art took up the Saariaho cause Thursday night when it presented an entire program of her chamber works as performed by the brilliant Chicago- and New York-based International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The crowd received it with rapt appreciation.

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Coming up in Seattle

From Wayward Music:

THU. 11/5 – WA Composers Forum presents Nu:BC, contemporary chamber ensemble from Canada

FRI. 11/6 – Seattle Composers’ Salon, music by Keith Eisenbrey, Emily Doolittle, Cole Bratcher, Tom Baker

SAT. 11/7 – Earshot Jazz Festival presents Hans Koch (solo bass clarinet) and Paul Kikuchi’s Portable Sanctuary (w/ Stuart Dempster, Alex Vittum, Jesse Olsen)

FRI. 11/13 – Lori Goldston, amplified cello; Dylan Carlson (EARTH), electric guitar; KnotPineBox, guitar, voice, etc.

SAT. 11/14 – Neil Welch, saxophone + Operation ID – CD release concert

TUE. 11/17 – Oana Rusu Tomei (piano), Victoria Parker (violin), Arthur Zadinsky (violin): music of Enescu, Franck, Szymanowski & Shostakovich

SAT. 11/21 – Nonsequitur presents Alaskan composer John Luther Adams, with percussionist Steven Schick and pianist Cristina Valdes

TUE. 12/1 – DX ARTS presents Yutaka Makino & Stelios Manousakis, electro-acoustic

FRI. 12/4 – James Garlick, solo violin recital

SAT. 12/5 – Brad Sherman, clarinet & Sarah Bassingthwaighte, flutes – contemporary chamber music

FRI. 12/11 – Seattle Phonographers Union CD release concert + Perri Lynch solo set, field recordings

SAT. 12/12 – Seattle Phongraphers Union (different line up than above) + Christopher DeLaurenti solo set, more field recordings

THU. 12/17 – Eye Music, graphic scores performed by large ensemble of all-star Seattle experimentalists

SAT. 12/19 – Vance Galloway & Rafael Irisarri, ambient/drone for guitar, piano, electronics

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Mario Diaz de León – Players From Two Ensembles Support One Emerging Composer at Roulette

A recent New York performance from Mario Diaz de León is reviewed:

Part of the anticipation had to do with the performers on hand. The International Contemporary Ensemble, a flexible organization based in Brooklyn and Chicago, reliably attracts large, enthusiastic audiences with its wide-ranging programs and brilliant execution. Here, four members of the group — Claire Chase and Eric Lamb, on alto flutes; Joshua Rubin, a clarinetist; and Nathan Davis, a percussionist — worked alongside players from the Talea Ensemble, a four-year-old new-music group directed by Alex Lipowski, a percussionist, and Anthony Cheung, a pianist.

That an emerging composer had secured the attention of two prominent groups was itself cause for curiosity. Mr. de León, born in St. Paul in 1979, played in hard-core punk bands during the ’90s. When he started to write chamber works for acoustic instruments and electronics in 2001, he combined unorthodox techniques developed by composers like Gyorgy Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis and Giacinto Scelsi with influences culled from free improvisation, noise and black metal.

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Interview with Gordon Beeferman

Roulette NYC offers this interview.

GORDON BEEFERMAN is a composer and pianist whose work spans opera, orchestral and chamber music, improvisation, and collaborations with dance and other arts. On Tuesday, September 22nd Gordon presents “Music for an IMAGINARY BAND” – a (real) 7-piece group comprised of some of New York’s most uniquely creative musicians. The band explores the territory where classical ‘new-music,’ jazz and free improvisation intersect. Beeferman’s compositions range from the gnarly to the operatic, and are both incredibly detailed and very free.

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Upcoming Wayward Music Shows

From Seattle’s Wayward Music:

SAT. 9/12, 8 PM – Danse Perdue, butoh performance based on Reinaldo Arenas‘ novel El Asalto (The Assault)

FRI. 9/18 – David Haney & Julian Priester + friends, new jazz

SAT. 9/19, 8 PM – Bill Horist, guitar improvisations and new pieces from his upcoming release, Covalent Lodge: one set acoustic, one electric

FRI. 9/25, 8 PM – Gamelan Pacifica, music by Jessika Kenney & Lou Harrison, w/ guest violist Eyvind Kang

SAT. 9/26, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Steve Peters, 50th birthday retrospective concert of his music performed by Gamelan Pacifica, Robin Holcomb, Stuart Dempster, Eye Music Ensemble & more, plus an improvised set by the Seattle Phonographers Union

TUE. 9/29, 7:30 PM – DoubleSharp presents legendary Russian pianist Anton Batagov

WED. 9/30 – ArtsLaunch, artists TBA

FRI. 10/2 – Duo En, contemporary music for shakuhachi and koto

SAT. 10/3 – EQ Lateral Ensemble, eclectic electronic chamber music

WED. 10/7 – Subtext Reading Series presents David Buuck & Joel Felix

THU. 10/15 – WA Composers Forum presents flautist Richard Craig performing music by Munakata, Bång, Lindwall, Ferneyhough, Dillon & Stewart

FRI. 10/16 – Paul Hoskin, solo contrabass clarinet improvisations

SAT. 10/17 – Jesse Canterbury, new music for clarinet

MON. 10/19, 7:30 PM – Earshot Jazz Festival presents 3rd Man, with Han Bennink (percussion), Michael Moore (sax), Will Holshouser (accordion)

THU. 10/22, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Louisville pianist Rachel Grimes (of the band Rachel’s) + Seattle electronic cellist Gretchen Nicole Yanover

SAT. 10/24, 8 PM – Earshot Jazz Fest + Nonsequitur present Phantom Orchard (Zeena Parkins, harp & Ikue Mori, laptop) + Peggy Lee, cello & Saadet Türköz, voice

TUE. 10/27, 7:30 – Earshot Jazz Fest + Nonsequitur present WA Composers Orchestra, performing music by Robin Holcomb, Tom Varner, and Wayne Horvitz

THU. 10/29, 7:30 – Earshot Jazz Festival presents Tom Varner Tentet + Andy Clausen & Sjenka

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Out on New World Records

A new release from New World Records:

Andrew Byrne: White Bone Country

Andrew Byrne (b. 1966) has lived and worked mostly in New York since the early 1990s. This tripartite CD has a mobile-like character, working entirely with a fabric of piano and metal percussion in changing manners and images, all of them remote from the duo relationship of conventional chamber music. The central work Tracks is also the earliest one (composed 1998, revised 2006), and presents the solo piano in its most ‘normal’ sound and interaction with the player—a kind of journey, as the title suggests, within a den…

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