AMN Reviews: Aviva Endean – cinder: ember: ashes [Sofa 569]; Lea Bertucci – Metal Aether [NNA 108]

For better and for worse, “extended technique” describes the use of unconventional or nontraditional methods of playing an otherwise conventional instrument. There’s another sense in which the technical resources of an instrument can be extended, though, and one that’s more literal: the augmentation of the instrument with preparations, electronic devices, or the intervention of external objects of some other sort. Two stimulating new releases of music for solo reed instruments contain pieces played with extended technique in both of these senses.

The pieces on Aviva Endean’s cinder : ember : ashes, her first solo release, grew out of a practice of playing simply for herself, without larger agenda or ulterior motive. Endean is often a collaborative player, so her turn inward here would seem to represent something of a change: not quite woodshedding in anticipation of a performance, and not quite a performance either, at least not one directed toward an audience other than herself. More of an assisted introspection, externalized in sound. Thus there’s an almost autohypnotic quality to much of the album, the result of Endean’s proclivity for creating variations on motifs made up of a minimal collection of pitches which she orders, expands, condenses or distorts—all the while still somehow retaining their essential profiles. Endean’s signature sound throughout consists in fluctuations of pitch and timbre that find their centers of gravity in recurring long tones or simple pitch sequences. The opening track, burst in black : under for contrabass clarinet, is exemplary. There, Endean coaxes a changing set of overtones and timbres from pitches extending into an engulfing empty space. On apparition : above Endean augments the clarinet with a tympani, whose head she uses to amplify and modify the clarinet’s natural voice, giving it a quasi-electronic edge, a wind-like hollowness, or turning it into a facsimile of a trombone. Similarly, on vapour : between she manipulates the instrument—again, a clarinet—by running it through a pocket amplifier, which helps to foreground the fluctuations of the piece’s mantra-like, two-pitch quasi-melody. On the more extraverted undulations : behind, Endean plays umtshingo, a Zulu flute producing overblown harmonics, in conjunction with an effects pedal.

The concise, repeated themes that permeate much of cinder : ember : ashes find a counterpart in Patterns for Alto, the opening track of Metal Aether, a recording for solo alto saxophone and electronics by Lea Bertucci. Bertucci seems less directed toward the meditative potential of repeated sound cycles and more interested in exploring the harmonic implications of accumulating tones and overtones. Patterns for Alto layers its tones through speed; the piece is a rapidly pulsing performance with a well-defined tonal center of gravity, reminiscent in an oblique way of some of the classic Minimalist pulse pieces built over relatively simple harmonies. With the two tracks Accumulations and Sustain and Dissolve, Bertucci explores tonal interactions within a more extended time frame. Both pieces deliver what their titles plainly promise: harmonic development consisting in the piling up, lingering and jostling of tones separated by variably spaced intervals. It’s all in the overtones and the micro-scaled interference patterns that result from the way tones are juxtaposed and layered. The textural insight Bertucci has to offer here is that density isn’t (only, always) a matter of the simultaneous aggregation of sound events, but of the exploration of the detail of any given sound event’s microstructures.

http://www.sofamusic.no

https://leabertucci.bandcamp.com/album/metal-aether

Daniel Barbiero

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AMN Reviews: Gregory Oakes – Aesthetic Apparatus [New Focus FCR196]

Some of the most challenging music of recent years—challenging to play as well as to listen to—has been written by German composer Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935). The conceptual core of much of his music has consisted in laying bare the conditions underlying and assumed by music production—essentially, the physical prerequisites of performance practice, as well as the determinations, both accepted and rejected, of genre. For Lachenmann, musical sound is a complex of factors reaching back within the tradition or genre in relation to which it is created, and reaching forward into the moment—the physical situation of specific possibilities and the choices they elicit—in which it is actually produced. Thus the title of his book of writings, which translates as “music as existential experience.” This standpoint puts extraordinary demands on the performer, who must be familiar with all the aspects and resources his or her instrument has to offer. With Aesthetic Apparatus, a set of three Lachenmann compositions, clarinetist Gregory Oakes takes up the challenge.

Oakes, who is principal clarinetist for the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra as well as an assistant professor of clarinet at Iowa State University in Ames, is particularly interested in contemporary art music. Much of his repertoire is the product of collaboration with currently active composers, and he seems especially drawn to new music that assumes a broad notion of what kinds of sounds are permissible in the concert hall. Thus Lachenmann’s music is a natural fit for him.

The affinity between Oakes and Lachenmann’s sound world is immediately apparent with the first piece, 1970’s Dal Niente (Interieur III) for solo clarinet. The composition calls for a number of extended techniques for the instrument, many of which involve the sounds of breath on the borderline of silence. In his liner note, Oakes points out that the title of the piece derives from a musical marking that translates as “from nothing;” his performance accordingly pivots on the flux of sounds proceeding from and returning to nothing. The Trio Fluido for clarinet, viola and percussion of 1966, in which Oakes is joined by violist Jonathan Sturm and Matthew Coley on marimba, also centers on sound but in a more assertive way. The piece begins with a fragmented Modernist counterpoint that, through a kind of compositional auto-deconstruction, gradually dissolves into abstract sound. What’s striking about the piece is its underlying consistency; the division of the three voices focuses attention on their individual timbral characteristics, whether played conventionally or with the extended techniques that come to dominate the final third or so of the performance. The interplay among the three performers manages to be both refined and (subtly) dramatic. The final performance, the nearly 32 minute long Allegro Sostenuto (1986/1988), is a trio for clarinet, cello (George Work) and piano (Mei-Hsuan Huang) that Lachenmann has described as mediating between resonance and movement. The piece begins as an archipelago of rapid bursts, truncated phrases and points of sound that accumulate and build length and mass over time. The resonance inheres in the individuation of each of the three instruments, which is helped by the three players’ precise articulation. Here as on all three pieces, Oakes plays with a fine-grained, well-modulated and vivid sound.

 

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Gleb Kanasevich – Refractions & Refractions Vol. 2

Refractions and Refractions Vol. 2 are the first two installments in clarinetist/composer Gleb Kanasevich’s ongoing effort to record music for clarinet by emerging composers. Kanasevich, a native of Belarus now living and working on the US East Coast, has a firm grounding in classical clarinet technique as well as an adventurous interest in contemporary solo and chamber work. The exhilaratingly performed music on both discs amply displays his refined approach to the instrument as well as his discernment in selecting stimulating new material to play.

Most of the tracks find Kanasevich in an electronically fostered or altered environment. A good example is the opening track from the first volume, Kanasevich’s Zyklus Part One. The clarinet’s restless lines here are set out against a recorded backdrop of electronically manipulated samples of string instruments, as well as the sound of at least one other clarinet. Fay Wang’s Inside Insides for bass clarinet and tape, sets out electronic rumbling and hissing and occasional synthetic percussion against the warm, rounded tone of the bass clarinet’s lower registers. The harder-edged Nausea, composed by Brendon Randall-Meyers, creates a heavy rock sound–complete with synthesized drums—as a setting for Kanasevich’s suitably distorted clarinet. Ken Ueno’s I Screamed at the Sea, contained, like Inside Insides and Nausea on Vol. 2, has wind-like sounds punctuated by the amplified clarinet’s long, descending, trilled, bent, overblown notes.

In contrast to the more aggressive, electronically-driven pieces on Vol. 2, the first volume highlights pieces for acoustic solo clarinet. Alican Camci’s restrained Bosluk Ve Telafi, whose repeated long tones are interspersed with short bursts of notes, subtly integrates multiphonics and microtonal fluctuations into its melodic development. Viet Cuong’s Zanelle is an almost defiantly melodic piece that eschews extended technique, but nonetheless sounds contemporary with its leaps of register and intervals. Ignis Fatuus by Brazilian-born composer Rodrigo Bussad is an introspective piece that brings out the instrument’s melancholy shadings, which are intermittently broken by a shriek or whimsical skip and jump.

The one outlier is Steve Reich’s New York Pulse, included on Vol.2. Reich is hardly an emerging young composer, but the piece was influential on Kanasevich and his generation of composers.

http://unknwn3.bandcamp.com/

Modfest Previewed

From Chronogram Magazine:

On January 23, Joe McPhee and Friends (Richard Teitelbaum on keyboards and Thurman Barker on drums and percussion ) will perform. McPhee is a multi-instrumentalist (and Poughkeepsie resident) who solos on tenor, alto and soprano saxophone, trumpet, pocket trumpet, trombone, clarinet, cornet, didgeridoo, and flugelhorn. He also sometimes sings. Though McPhee, at 70, is a major figure in avant-garde jazz, his music is not hysterical or ear-splitting. His playing is gracious and considered. I asked McPhee what he calls his genre. “I call it ‘Po music,’” he replied. “’Po’ is a language indicator to show that provocation is being used to move from a fixed set of ideas in an attempt to discover new ones. It refers also to words like possible, poetic, positive, etc.”

Electronic music pioneer Milton Babbitt, who is 93, will engage in a public conversation with Vassar music professor Richard Wilson, followed by a performance of Babbitt’s work by the Argento Ensemble (January 24).

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Umbrella Music Through December 30

Kent Kessler
Image via Wikipedia

From Chicago’s Umbrella Music:

Sunday, 13 December 2009
The Hungry Brain
10:00PM | Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown
Jason Adasiewicz – vibraphone
Josh Berman – cornet
Aram Shelton – alto saxophone, clarinet
Jason Roebke – bass
Frank Rosaly – drums
CD/LP release of Varmint on Cuneiform
two sets

Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The Hideout
10:00PM | Fred Anderson Trio
Fred Anderson – tenor saxophone
Harrison Bankhead – bass
Tim Daisy – drums
two sets
$10 cover
PLUS | DJ Sets : Dave Rempis spins Easy Living

Thursday, 17 December 2009
Elastic
10:00PM | Double Quartet Round Three
Jeb Bishop – trombone
Mars Williams – saxophones
Dave Rempis – saxophones
Jim Baker – piano/electronics
Kent Kessler – bass
Brian Sandstrom – bass
Michael Zerang – drums
Steve Hunt – drums
two sets

Sunday, 20 December 2009
The Hungry Brain
10:00PM | Ritwik Banerji Quintet
Ritwik Banerji – tenor saxophone
Satya Gummuluri – vocals
Steve Ptacek – drums
Patrick Mulcahy – bass
Rob Frye – reeds
11:00PM | Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens
Aram Shelton – alto saxophone, clarinet
Josh Berman – cornet
Keefe Jackson – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Anton Hatwich – bass
Marc Riordan – drums
CD release of “Two Cities” on Delmark

Wednesday, 23 December 2009
The Hideout
10:00PM | Drake/Bishop/Parker/Abrams
Hamid Drake – drums
Jeb Bishop – trombone
Jeff Parker – guitar
Joshua Abrams – bass
two sets
$10 cover
PLUS | DJ Sets by John Herndon

Wednesday, 30 December 2009
The Hideout
10:00PM | Josh Berman’s Old Idea
Josh Berman – cornet
Keefe Jackson – tenor sax
Jason Adasiewicz – vibraphone
Anton Hatwich – bass
Marc Riordan – drums
two sets
$6 cover
PLUS | DJ Sets : Peter Margasak Gets Random

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International Contemporary Ensemble Upcoming Shows

From the International Contemporary Ensemble:

Friday, December 11, 2009, 7:30pm
ICE @ MoCP II: Wired/Lowfirm
Claire Chase and Eric Lamb, Flutes
Campbell MacDonald and Joshua Rubin, Bass Clarinets

Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago

The electrifying flute duo Wired and the bassy clarinet duo Lowfirm face-off in a concert featuring a precision display of woodwind acrobatics. Music by Steve Reich, Philippe Hurel, and Felipe Lara, with premieres of new works by Pablo Chin, Marcos Balter and Ryan Ingebritsen.

Pablo Chin: Como la leyenda de Ixquiq for two flutes (2009) WORLD PREMIERE
Felipe Lara: Vocalise for two bass clarinets (2007)
Marcos Balter: Edgewater for bass flute and alto flute (2009) WORLD PREMIERE
John Zorn: Sortilege for two bass clarinets (2001)
Ryan Ingebritsen: Residence on Earth Part 1 : El Gran Océano for two flutes and two bass clarinets, with electronics (2009) WORLD PREMIERE

Sunday, December 13, 7 pm
Transfigured Bach
Daniel Lippel, guitar
with Claire Chase, flute

St. Paul’s Chapel
2335 N. Orchard
Chicago, IL

Join ICE’s sensational guitarist Daniel Lippel for a concert of music by ICE’s favorite avant-garde composer, J.S. Bach. Transcribing Bach’s music for guitar is always a delicate process, but one that affords us the chance to hear the works in a new light.

Partita in B minor (orig. violin), BWV 1002
Sonata for Flute and Guitar in E major (orig. flute and harpsichord), BWV 1034; featuring Claire Chase, flute
Lute Suite #3 in A minor, BWV 998

Monday, December 14, 7:30pm
ICE @ the Southern Theater
Claire Chase and Eric Lamb, Flutes
Campbell MacDonald and Joshua Rubin, Bass clarinets

The Southern Theater
1420 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN

ICE makes its Southern Theater debut with two woodwind duos in works by Steve Reich, John Zorn, Philippe Hurel, and a world premiere by Minneapolis native Ryan Ingebritsen. A “powerhouse of new-music programming” (The New Yorker), ICE brings its tight-knit virtuosity, youthful intensity and emotional chemistry to the Southern stage for an adventurous program sure to melt the coldest of winter hearts.

Steve Reich: Vermont Counterpoint for flute and tape (1982)
Felipe Lara: Vocalise for two bass clarinets (2008)
Philippe Hurel: Loops III for two flutes (2001)
Steve Reich: New York Counterpoint for two clarinets and tape (1985)
Marcos Balter: Edgewater for bass flute and alto flute (2009) WORLD PREMIERE
John Zorn: sortilege for two bass clarinets (2001)
Ryan Ingebritsen: Residence on Earth Part 1 : El Gran Océano for two flutes and two bass clarinets, with electronics (2009) WORLD PREMIERE

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Mario Davidovsky: Celebrating One of the Synthethizer’s Pioneers at Merkin Hall

From NYTimes.com:

In the early 1960s composers who had been fascinated with electronic music in the ’50s were seeking ways to combine the synthetic sounds they were producing on room-size computers and early synthesizers with the more familiar timbres of acoustic instruments. The Argentine-born American composer Mario Davidovsky, then in his late 20s, was a star of this movement: his “Synchronisms No. 1,” for flute and electronic sound, appeared in 1962, and new installments turned up periodically through 2006, when he wrote “Synchronisms No. 12,” for clarinet and tape.

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