AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Phill Niblock – NuDaf [Xi Records XI 145/AKOH 145]; Tom Chiu – The Live One [Xi 144]

NuDaf an hour-long, electroacoustic drone work, is the newest release from composer Phill Niblock. Composed in 2020, the piece is constructed out of a series of recordings bassoonist Dafne Vicente-Sandoval made in Cologne in 2015, some of which were used in Niblock’s shorter, 2016 composition Praised Fan. For NuDaf, Niblock layered Vicente-Sandoval’s long tones rather sparingly, creating unisons, near-unisons separated by microtones, and slowly-changing, sometimes startling harmonies. Because Niblock avoids building massive blocks of sound, the piece is dense yet always harmonically legible.

Violinist/composer Tom Chiu also offers a layered electroacoustic work on The Live One, a two-CD set that features Chiu in solo, duo, trio, and quartet settings, most of which were captured live. It is a fine portrait of a versatile artist. The piece is Into the Forest (2011), whose basic material is a set of brief violin passages processed and assembled (by Terence Pender) into a moving work by turns melodic and abstract. RETROCON (2015) for string quartet, is a relentlessly dynamic, dramatic piece performed by the Flux Quartet (Chiu and Conrad Harris on violins; Max Mandel on viola; and Felix Fan on cello) the recurring theme to which is an undulating swarm of arpeggiated chords seemingly threatening to tip over into an abyss of emotional chaos. Chiu’s Duo Improvisation 16741 with modular synthetist Michael Schumacher, recorded live in 2017, likewise takes as its starting point a rapidly bowed arpeggio, but it very quickly develops into a broad exploration of pure sound and extended technique. Extended technique is also very much on display in BABIP, a live solo recording from 2008. The wryly titled deKonstrukt (2013) is another live solo performance, but here Chiu in fine postmodern form appropriates quotations from classical music’s past which he juxtaposes and loops with original material as well. The Live One also includes a 2020 beat-driven trio improvisation with Dan Joseph on hammer dulcimer and Jason Candy on modular synthesizer and beats.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Olivia De Prato – Streya [New Focus FCR193]

Streya is the debut solo album of Austro-Italian violinist Olivia De Prato, now resident in New York. De Prato specializes in contemporary composed music as well as improvisation; in addition, she is co-founder of the Mivos Quartet, a chamber ensemble that also specializes in performing contemporary work. For Streya, she has assembled six new pieces for violin alone or with electronics, four of which were written specifically for her.

One of the four is Streya. The piece was originally composed in 2010 for De Prato by Victor Lowrie, the Mivos Quartet’s violist; the version recorded here was expanded in 2016 for the recording. Although it draws—moderately—on modern techniques of juxtaposition and disruption, Streya retains a lyrical continuity underscored by a dramatic use of dynamics. De Prato’s interpretation vivdly brings out the piece’s sense of proportion and balance. Ned Rothenberg’s Percorso insolito (“extraordinary path”) of 2016, which like Streya is a kind of contemporary counterpart to the Baroque solo violin sonata, is a cleanly played, linear piece that ranges up and down the instrument’s compass. Taylor Brook’s Wane (2016) also exploits the violin’s range, but in a different way. The multitracked piece builds layers out of five violin parts, each with a different tuning. The composite sound is of rising and falling glissandi embellished by imploring, vocal-like ornaments. Missy Mazzoli’s 2014 Vespers for Violin also uses recorded material, this time samples from the performance of her Vespers for a New Dark Age, as a sonic scrim against which De Prato projects her own part. This atmospheric piece features some of the rich, enveloping timbres of electronic ambient music and provides a lush contrast to the more austere works that precede it.

Streya also includes Samson Young’s electroacoustic Ageha.Tokyo (2008), and Reiko Füting’s Tanz.Tanz (2010) for solo violin.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews General Releases Reviews Site News

AMN Reviews: Mari Kimura – “Voyage Apollonian” [Innova 958]

kimura-coverComposer/performer Mari Kimura is a violinist that has earned international acclaim in both standard and contemporary repertoire. She is one of contemporary musics finest interactive computer music specialists and has premiered many new interactive works from composers such as Jean Claude Risset and Robert Rowe. Her latest effort “Voyage Apollonian” is a compilation of her recent work featuring six original compositions and arrangements of pieces by Brazilian composers Egberto Gismonti, Joao Bosco and Hermeto Pascoal.

Kimura’s current work makes use of her many years of research and collaboration with leading institutions such as IRCAM, into the use of new technology for interactive computer music and technological extension or augmentation of the violin. Working with IRCAM and Liubo Borissov, Kimura has developed a glove that uses various motion sensors to transmit the motion of the bow into the computer via WiFi. The motion sensing technology is able to detect gestures such as pizzicato and various types of bowing. This motion or gestural control is then used to interact with custom software. Kimura uses this ability to communicate to the computer her expressive intentions in real time. This allows her to control the real time signal processing of her violin as well as the ability to use gestures as cues or triggers that interact with the computers software.

The title track “Voyage Apollonian” has kind of an impressionistic or spectral feel to it as it alternates between various pizzicato and bowed phrases in a kind of call and response. This alternation develops as a kind of interplay between phrases and their articulations. By using the gestural control of the glove/bow, Kimura is able to choose in real time which software signal processing techniques – doubling, reverb, echo, harmonization, etc. she wishes to apply to the phrase she is playing as she is playing it. But this gestural interaction is not just limited to signal processing. On her arrangement of Hermeto Pascoal’s  “Bebe” Kimura uses the sensor technology to cue the virtual pianist as it plays a vamp for her to solo on. This allows her to dynamically control the length of the accompaniment for her improvised solo.

In addition to her inventive use of technology, Kimura’s compositions also bring her own unique twists to familiar forms. For example in “Bruer Vivant” Kimura paints a passacaglia with bits of “Romanticism” mixed with dazzling contemporary electronics. “Canon Elastique” is a two voice canon where the glove/bow gestural control is used to modify material she has played after it has been delayed by software forming a second canonic voice. However the result is not a simple echo or a minimalist texture. The technology allows Kimura to change her musical past in real time by the way in which she articulates the first voice.

Mari Kimura’s sonic explorations are not just limited to using technology with the violin but extends to discovering and perfecting new acoustic techniques. She has developed an innovative extended bowing technique that is able to produce subharmonic pitches that sound up to an octave below the violins lowest string without re-tuning the instrument. While she uses this technique throughout the works on this disc it is prominently featured on the only unaccompanied acoustic piece on this CD “JanMaricana”.

“Voyage Apollonian” covers a great deal of territory; from Brazilian sambas and jazz to unaccompanied violin with subharmonics to new musical interfaces with interactive computer technology. Despite the use of cutting edge technology and new innovative acoustic techniques the music on this disc does not sound very “technical”. The use of technology is at the service of the performer and has been carefully designed to be flexible and expressive. In Kimura’s hands the results are a highly expressive music that is warm and organic, rich in color and nuance. Highly recommended.

Chris DeChiara

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Michael Nicolas – Transitions [Sono Luminus DSL-92202]; Mari Kimura – Harmonic Constellations [New World Records 80776-2]

When joined to electronics, the solo acoustic instrument enters into a potentially complex and pointed relationship with itself. The instrument becomes its own double, its voice both converging on and diverging from self-identity as it undergoes modification, metamorphosis, multiplication and whatever other types of manipulation or accompaniment electronics afford. The effects can be modest or dramatic, depending on the degree and kind of interaction in question, but in all cases the translation of the solo acoustic instrument’s voice from its native language into an electronically-enhanced  dialect creates a dialogue between self and other in which the self is other, and vice versa. Two new releases, one of solo cello and electronics and one of solo violin and electronics, show the diverse forms this dialogue can take.

michael-nicolasTransitions features cellist Michael Nicolas in a variety of electronic settings that demonstrate the different kinds of partnerships acoustic and electronic elements can form. Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronisms No. 3 for Cello and Electronic Sounds is a duet that draws on an extended modernist vocabulary for cello and matches it to splashes of electronic sound. The acoustic nature of the cello is thrown into high relief as it confronts itself against the artifice of uncompromisingly electronic timbres. In David Fulmer’s Speak of the Spring the electronic component intervenes to modify the sound of the cello, its processing opening up a gap between the cello and itself; from this self-alienation an intriguing soundscape emerges. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s austere Transitions, written in the contemporary language of fragmentary melody and microtonal harmonies, is the one track that dispenses with electronics. Because of its use of an expansive timbral palette, though, it doesn’t at all feel out of place. In contrast to the works made of discontinuous sound events, Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint, which transforms a multitracked Nicolas into a cello section in perpetual motion, and Annie Gosfield’s Four Roses for cello and synthesizer, are constructed around a more conventional rhythmic continuity. The album closes with Jaime E. Oliver La Rosa’s flexura, a tour de force duet for hypermodern cello and MANO. (The latter is a touchpad controller that generates and modifies sounds.) The piece draws on a thick repertoire of extended techniques, including pressure bowing, multiple harmonic effects and sound clusters, all of which weave in and out of the electronic tapestry with ease and a profound sense of belonging.

mari-kimura-harmonic-constellationsThe sonic center for all of the works on violinist Mari Kimura’s Harmonic Constellations is to be found in Kimura’s warm, singing tone, no matter what the larger context. Often, this latter takes the form of a pre-recorded backdrop, as for example in Eric Moe’s Obey Your Thirst. There, Kimura plays a frantic, irregularly accented pulse against simulated metallic and liquid sounds before falling back onto long, slow tones and double stops. Eric Chasalow’s Scuffle and Snap sets out an electronic background of popping, pizzicato-like sounds to complement Kimura’s actual pizzicato playing or to contrast with her smoothly bowed lines. Kimura’s own composition Sarahal, an exciting piece for two violins and live processing, represents the most forceful intervention of electronics into the violin’s natural sound world. An uncanny multiplication of sonic images, the performance consists of Kimura’s virtual duet with herself within an otherworldly thicket of pitch shifting, flanging and delay. The CD’s center of gravity lies in Michael Harrison’s seven part Harmonic Constellations, a microtonal piece for overdubbed violin and sine tones. As its title suggests, the piece is made up of harmonies arising from knots of coincident tones. A study in undulating, incremental harmonic movement, much of its sound derives from the choric effect of juxtaposed, nearly-identical pitches which beat against each other. The violin is woven directly into the shimmering drone to such an extent that it seems to be just another electronic tone—a submergence of identity that isn’t a loss of identity so much as the inspired creation of a new hybrid.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: React – Music for Flute, Violin & Interactive Computer [Ravello RR7930]

5x5The pairing of violin and flute has a long history. During the Classical period, flutes doubled violin melodies in order to cast them in a brighter timbre. In modern ensembles the two voices generally take on independent roles to establish timbral contrast in the upper voices and to maintain more open textures. With the addition of electronics and the potential multiplication of voices they afford, the possibilities available to violin and flute both in tandem and separately broaden considerably. The compositions on React, a collection of new music for violin, flute and electronics by American composers Ben Johansen, David Taddie, Russell Pinkston and Margaret Schedel, bring many of these possibilities to realization.

The music came together during November, 2014, when violinist Mikylah McTeer and Taddie, who are on the faculty of the West Virginia University School of Music, went to the University of Texas, Austin and Baylor University for residences. While there, they collaborated with flutist Francesca Arnone of Baylor and the University of Texas’s Pinkston, as well as Baylor alumnus Johansen. New works resulting from the residencies were premiered at Baylor and Austin, and then presented at a concert at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center in January, 2015. The WVU concert also included Stony Brook University’s Schedel. The recordings that appear on this CD—performed by McTeer and Arnone—are from the performances at Baylor and the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Johansen’s two compositions Interact and React, scored for flute, violin and interactive computer, open and close the recording respectively. Both pieces incorporate indeterminate and improvisational elements, which are realized not only through the random effects of live processing, but through the interactions of the violin and flute as well. Interact is a strongly contrapuntal, consonant piece which uses processing to multiply the two instruments’ energetic, independent lines; React is a more subdued, slowly developing work that makes good use of negative space and low dynamics, as well as extended techniques such as air notes and percussive effects. Taddie’s Category 5 (Echoes) for violin and flute/alto flute/piccolo and computer arranges violin and flutes in separate but overlapping spaces, as if in juxtaposed soliloquies accompanied by an electronic, abstract orchestra made up of samples of the two voices. Vox Clamantis, an expressive piece by Pinkston, is stamped by a strong, modally-inflected sense of melody. Schedel’s QfwfQ (A Voice a Point of View) is named for the narrator of the stories in Italo Calvino’s Le Cosmicomiche and carries the kind of uncluttered, minor-key gravity appropriate to a story-teller as old as time.

React includes three works for solo instruments. Taddie’s Luminosity for flute and electronics features a modally-evocative flute line accompanied by archetypically “electronic” sounds. Pinkston’s Lizamander for flute and electronics—a version of which, featuring Elizabeth McNutt on flute, was released on his recent Balancing Acts CD—is here, as is Schedel’s Partita, Perihelion for solo violin and electronics. This latter work, inspired by Bach’s works for solo violin and cello—Schedel, it should be noted, is a cellist as well as a composer—is, like the Baroque dance suite it’s modeled on, divided into movements for allemande, sarabande and gigue, the forms of which are interpreted in a free, and sometimes counterintuitive, contemporary manner. The gigue, for example, usually a very lively dance, is here played as a slow adagio. The Max/MSP program accompanying the violin, by adding a second voice, makes explicit the harmonies implied by the instrument’s line.

Daniel Barbiero

Performances Reviews

Cornelius Dufallo Sings the Fiddle Electric at the Stone


As a member of the enterprising new-music ensembles Ne(x)tworks and Ethel, the violinist Cornelius Dufallo runs into plenty of composers. He has coaxed new solo works from some and taken up older scores by others. He is also a composer himself: “Dream Streets,” his new CD (for Innova), is devoted to his own imaginative works for violin and electronics.

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Dal Niente to Perform Saariaho, Yim, Broberg, Lindberg

From Dal Niente:

Layers and Threads–Thursday, December 3 – 8:00pm – $10/5
Immanuel Lutheran Church
1500 W Elmdale Dr.
Chicago, IL 60660

Featured composers: Kaija Saariaho, Jay Alan Yim, Kirsten Broberg, Magnus Lindberg
Featured performers: Gareth Davis, clarinet; J. Austin Wulliman, violin

Layers and Threads explores timbre and texture within both traditionally and unconventionally
structured works. Virtuoso Amsterdam-based clarinetist Gareth Davis joins the group for a
performance of Magnus Lindberg’s Ablauf for clarinet and percussion, a wild and untamed work that dances with fast-flowing polyphony in the clarinet. ensemble dal niente’s principal violinist J. Austin Wulliman will be joined by Notre Dame professor Daniel Schlosberg for the American premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s new work for violin and piano, Calices, and the world premiere of founding composer Kirsten Broberg’s Origins involves a mix of ensembles with guest soloist Gareth Davis featured in the final movement. The U.S. premiere of Northwestern University professor Jay Alan Yim’s Songs in Memory of a Circle simultaneously layers three individual sections of the larger work and is coupled with a video installation by Northwestern professor Marlena Novak.

Founded in 2004 ensemble dal niente performs a broad range of 20th- and 21st- century music for enthusiastic audiences across the country. Through concerts, commissions and educational activities, we explore the wealth and diversity of music composed in the past century — from the European avant-garde, to American high modernism, to styles influenced by popular music and jazz. The ensemble is comprised of young artists and international virtuosos who bring this challenging repertoire to life with enthusiasm and devotion.

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Jessica Pavone + Curhachestra + Scopa Trio at Zebulon Nov 12th

A free(?) show coming to New York’s Zebulon:

November 12th
8:30 pm (free)
258 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211-3914
(718) 218-6934

Jessica Pavone presents:
Wordless songs inspired by life’s cast of characters
Jessica Pavone – violin, viola
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Jonti Siman – eletric bass
Harris Eisenstadt – drums

Brian Drye (farfisa organ, synth)
Timothy Monaghan (drums, guitar)
Brandon Seabrook (electric guitar and banjo)
Christopher Tordini (bass)
Curha (alto trombone, guitar and other odd items).

The Curha-chestra is a group that strives to combine electronic music concepts with an acoustic mindset. Somehow, the music creates a thin line between new wave and old time with the ever-shifting orchestral possibilities keeping the sound fresh and interesting. Curtis Hasselbring is the creative voice behind the Curha-chestra. Under the moniker Curha, he has created a large body of works that are a combination of lo-fi electronics, sample-based technology and his own skills as a multi-instrumentalist/composer. Curha has also remixed the music of Slavic Soul Party, Golem and Frank London in addition to his self-made releases.

Brian Drye Presents:
Scopa Trio
Brian Drye – Trombone / Compositions
Vinnie Sperrazza – Drums
Geoff Kraly – Electric Bass

Brian Drye (Slavic Soul Party, Frank London, Firewater) has formed a new power trio with new compositions. These days, trombone is the new guitar.

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Coming to the ISSUE Project Room

From NY’s ISSUE Project Room:

07/15 @ 8pm – Mari Kimura with Liubo Borissov and Kevork Mourad
Organic Digits: Kimura-Borissov-Mourad Project Mari Kimura teams up with visual artists Liubo Borissov and Kevork Mourad, presenting everything from her virtuosic solo works of her signature bowing technique Subharmonics, to realtime interactive audio visual works, using Issue Project Room’s 15 channel diffusion system. Kimura’s violin and Mourad’s paintings are processed in realtime using MaxMSP/Jitter, a […]

07/16 @ 8pm – MV Carbon Okkyung Lee
MV Carbon is a Brooklyn based sound artist and composer. She collects field recordings and builds samples to create moody soundscapes. Her cello is manipulated and processed through reel-to-reel tape machines and numerous electronic devices, including an accelerometer on the cello bow programmed to effect pitch. Her orchestrations are designed to form visualizations as the […]

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Talea Ensemble in NY

From the Talea Ensemble:


Thursday, July 9, 2009, 8:30PM (note later start time)
43A W. 13th St., NYC (5th and 6th Ave.)
$15/10 (students) tickets at the door

James Dillon: Siorram (1992) for viola
Jean-Luc Hervé: Rêve de vol I (1996) for clarinet and viola (US premiere)
Pierluigi Billone: Mani.MONO (2008) for solo springdrum (World premiere)
Tristan Murail: Les ruines circulaires (2006) for clarinet and violin
Helmut Lachenmann: Trio Fluido (1966) for clarinet, viola, and percussion

performed by Rane Moore (clarinet), Alex Lipowski (percussion), Elizabeth Weisser (viola), and Joshua Modney (guest violinist)

Don’t miss the Talea Ensemble’s only summer appearance this season! “Fluid Soundscapes” centers around Helmut Lachenmann’s early masterpiece, Trio Fluido, the oldest and in many ways still the most radical work of the evening. The timbral investigations of Lachemann find their way into the music of one of his most acclaimed students, and one of the most admired composers working in Europe today, Pierluigi Billone. In a unique world premiere performance of a new piece for solo springdrum (Mani.MONO), the sounds emitted from a simple tube the size of one’s forearm with an attached spring are endlessly manipulated into a unique sonic universe unto itself. James Dillon’s Siorram (Gaelic for “in an enchanted sleep”) is moving and affecting, with a strong, folk-like lyrical pull amidst bursts of almost vocalized intensity. Jean-Luc Hervé, whose music is being played in the U.S. for the first time on this concert, plays on the pairing of viola and clarinet through contrapuntal and coloristic imitations and deviations. In a similarly microtonal harmonic world, Tristan Murail’s Les ruines circulaires generates momentum and continuity through arcs of expanding and contracting cycles, overlapping and overreaching between the duo of clarinet and violin.

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