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Monday, December 18, 2023

Susan Alcorn, Jose Lencastre, Hernani Faustino, Manifesto

Today we roll into the modified Space Age and that robotic vision of Hal in 2001 is closer to our experience than certainly it was when the movie was made. And the music we hear now, is that any closer to the swirls of mad blips, bloops  and barongs that formed part of the score in 2001? Well sure and you might argue that most of 2001 was already present in some form in the culture for which it was made, maybe inevitably we are what we are when we make things. It just was not perhaps as central as the movie made it. So then Ligeti's avant work "Atmospheres" graces the score and of course it was made for initial hearing in a neutral concert venue situation. Well now that we are well past the "New Millennium" these days has our music taken a decisive turn into an all prevailing Space Age? Maybe not entirely as yet.

On the other hand the Modern in Modernism can be said to be a constant in New Music Avant circles. There are of course purely Electronic essays in the Modern Music world, there too are Orchestral and Chamber Classical related musics that can be readily heard out there. On the other end of the spectrum too there is the world of Avant Post-Classic Jazz as we hear it.

A very good example of the latter today we can contemplate on aa a new release from the Cleanfeed Label, an intrepid concern with a substantial monthly release schedule of more advanced Improvisation being played today, with natives from Europe especially Portugal but the rest of Europe very much as well as the East and the US West, sometimes a conglomeration of all, or two of the three or so possibilities. On today's release we have two regions well represented--for the USA steel pedal guitarist Susan Alcorn, a very-much-in-the-limelight artist these days, doing important work, and here also two fellow travelers from Europe involved in such heroic endeavors as well. So making the rest of the trio are Jose Lencastre on alto and tenor sax and Hernani Faustini on acoustic double bass.

Six probing and adventurous pieces make up the whole, all in a free improvisatory style so often a fixture of the Clean Feed way. Susan Alcorn has pioneered an avant style using the conventional steel pedal guitar and she is very much in her element here with the full spectrum of the instrument's note possibilities to vitiate advanced figures that glide like conventional playing of the instrument but then stand out with a good deal of imaginative note spinning and some advanced technique propelling us along as well.

Alcorn is given two especially well healed avant artists with Jose Lencastre wielding an aggressive and exciting stridency making a statement about the ethnicity and forward loving nastiness and then the all-over intensity of the stellar sorts of jazz dates that define where it all is as a modernism should go. Hernani Faustino does all the right things to help enflame and engulf caustic kindling.

Give a listen to the entire album at Bandcamp

Linda Catlin Smith, Dark Flower, The Thin Edge New Music Collective


Linda Catlin Smith is a composer getting attention in good ways with her work in recent years including especially her new album Dark Flower (Red Shift CD). The Thin Edge Music Collective commissioned the works and play them here with just the right (deep) level of understanding and participation. Six interrelated compositions follow a special, long form elevation of tone color and lyrical unfolding, from the larger chamber quintet of clarinet, violin, cello, piano, violin and percussion (wanderer), to dual cello, then cello, piano, violin and viola (dark flower) thereafter subtracting instruments until the finale, a solo piano presence of unbroken dramatic girth.

The music haunts in gripping ways that get you involved the more you listen.  There is a logical unfolding that has some relation to Morton Feldman's Oriental-rug-like opening out, only somewhat less abstract. It is always convincing and poised.  In the end Ms, Smith comes off nicely as a major New Music narrative voice. 

As much as any New Music composer today Linda Catlin Smith here shows us a completely affirming sense of musical discourse, a natural elegance and inventiveness that flows with inevitable charm and poise, in the process creating a tone world that is very original and compelling. Highly recommended.

Stream the whole album at Bandcamp

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Gerald Cohen, Voyagers, New Music for String Quartet, Clarinet and Trombone


Ah, great, somebody I've never heard of has works I've never heard," some reader I've never heard of either might be saying as she confronts this article. OK, so I ain't gonna get rich covering the super new and in fact in the internet focus on immediate and continuous readership, I might be consigning myself to a kind of internet Siberia? Nonetheless I cover things I listen to closely, critically and actually like so you have nothing to lose in the reading of this, I believe. Today I cover another you might not know about, though I might also cover something famous now and again. 

With the exception of a nicely wrought chamber offering of music for clarinet and chamber ensemble, entitled Sea of Reeds, that I covered on these pages on December 17, 2014,  I've not delved into much of the music of Gerald Cohen in my listening over time. But this recording of  Voyagers (Innova 090) confirms my initial impression with a revelation, for his is a distinct and authentic voice in the New Music today. 

The album brings to our ears three substantial works for string quartet, as is as performed by the Cassatt String Quartet on the "Playing for Our Lives" work, with the addition of the clarinet and bass clarinet of Narek Arutyunian on "Voyagers," and with the addition of the trombone of Colin Williams on "Preludes and Debka."

None of these three works are especially Avant Garde in approach. Rather they dwell in a Modernity where there is a wide harmonic spectrum of possibility and a rugged tone color palette and also a healthy dose of the eclecticity of folk and ethnic elements, sometimes what sound like Semitic elements that injects a timeless quality to it all.

What matters in the end is the authentic and dedicated performativity of it all, the highly crafted and careful building of a particular work from the ground up with great care, skill, and eloquently inventive qualities.

Anyone who wants a good example of what is happening in the chamber realms of New Music would do well to check this one out. Take a listen and decide for yourself, but keep in mind that several listens will be necessary to hear these works as they actually reveal themselves. Check this link:


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Stanley Grill, The Bridge


US composer Stanley Grill takes inspiration from Hart Crane's epic poem on his recent World Premiere recorded orchestral work The Bridge (self released digital) featuring Brett Deubner on viola and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice conducted by Marek Stilec.

This is a long flowing. multi-movement work which has musical roots in the tone-poem world of classic Americana of the most descriptively evocative orchestral works by the likes of Ives, Copland and a select few others, yet it has such roots without exposing them in obvious ways. Rather there is sincere lyrical attachment to the subject matter from the Hart Crane epic, which as the composer suggests uses the bridge idea as a unifier of disparate US cultural-geographical diversity. Slow moving and feelingfully encompassing from the matter-of-fact yet evocative dawn on the harbor to the murky quagmires of mythic Atlantis, but then tempo pacing and presumably flow of water steps up on The River and expands and flows again more slowly with advancing worlds of sorts, resuming and re-attaining stately passage through a landscape musi-scape of Indiana, the steady wind for Cutty Sark, and then Cape Hatteras and its special presence brings back the expectant mysticism and the tolling of a fateful bell.

National Wintergarden has an altered jazzy feel and gives you a good example how originally inventive Grill can be. It goes from there. Suffice to say each movement has a distinct character rolling through an overall feeling of immediacy as experienced in rhapsodic lyricism and descriptive poignancy. Grill is a gifted symphonic narrator here and the more you listen the more you grasp of it all. Enthusiastically recommended

Stream the work in full at the following link:

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Marc Ponthus Plays Beethoven Hammerklavier sonata opus 106 and Stockhausen Klavierstuck X


It is not precisely usual to experience an album sequence that pairs Beethoven with Stockhausen, excepting perhaps an old album of Stockhausen's that dealt with Beethoven themes on a 1970  Stockhausen recording marking the 200th birthday of the 19th century composer. But here we have the two together in a pairing by lucid and articulate pianist Marc Ponthus (Bridge 9584).

We get to hear Ponthus's take on Beethoven's long-formed Hammerklavier Sonata opus 106 and Stockhausen's monumentally expressive but somewhat more terse Klavierstuck X. In pure statistical terms, there are far fewer recordings out there of Kavierstuck X than there are of Hammerklavier op 106, so that doubtless we should be especially grateful for the Stockhausen if it be good. In truth, these are worthy versions of both. Happily the Beethoven is undeniably symphonic in its consistently surcharged and continuously dramatic thrust as interpreted by Ponthus.

The Stockhausen likewise hangs together in a continuous unity that gives it a readily communicative power and visceral  accessibility it may not have quite as readily in some earlier versions.

Stream the album at the following links. for the Stockhausen, then the Beethoven and follow the movement sequence from there in the You Tube listings.

An important pianistic event, a nice stocking stuffer.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sonic Alchemy, YuEun Kim, Mina Gajic, Coleman Itzkof Play Arvo Part, Peteris Vasks, Mozart


Sonic Alchemy (Sono Luminus DSL92261) gathers together the considerable interpretive and sonically advanced gifts of violinist YuEun Kim, pianist Mina Gajic, and cellist Coleman Itzkoff for a rather magical program of chamber gems by Arvo Part, Peteris Vasks and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. When you have a trio of the musical sensitivity you hear readily on this album, of primary importance perhaps are the commonalities one might sense between the composers and works covered in the seven dramatic and lyrically probing works heard here.

In many ways the central section of this program gives you a kind of remarkable kismet between the Mozart's Fantasias, in C minor and D minor, and the Part "Mozart Adagio." All have the motion of Mozart Classicism and the exploratory lyricism we especially appreciate in Part, but perhaps do not always underscore in a Mozart movement but of nevertheless can be touchingly present.

As bookended there is much to appreciate even in that movement from the outer, melodically immediate yet exotic quality of the Vasks and the Part of whirring summer "Fratres" and then in the end the Vasks lyric pulsation of "Castle Interior" and Part's classic "Spiegel im Spiegel." In the end you might as I do revel in the superior expressive excellence of the ideal in many ways for these works, as heard here. Bravo.

Listen to a free stream of the entire album at this link:

Friday, October 27, 2023

Leonard Bernstein, Music for String Quartet, Aaron Copland, Elegies for Violin and Viola


In music you might spend a lifetime with some composers and still not know some of the works. That is the case for me to date with Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland and their respective Music for String Quartet (1936) and Elegies for Violin and Viola (1932). The former by Bernstein is in its world premiere recording here, and the Copland in any event is not especially well known. I do not believe I've heard either previously. So here we have both (Navona NV6557), as played very capably by Lucia Lin, Natalie Rose Kress, Danny Kim, and Ronald Feldman. For the duo it is Kress and Kim.

What is amazing in part is how good the Bernstein is, considering we had to wait 77 years to hear it in recorded version. The Copland is also heartening in its probing Modernistic stance.

The Bernstein is very motile, dense, rhythmic and at times thick harmonically. The Copland makes a case for something somewhat more sparse but is equally serious in its contemporary ultra-musical stance.
All-in-all this is superior, no-nonsense art-for-art's sake and shows you the early brilliance present in both, wow!

Stream a telling excerpt of the Bernstein:

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Justin Dello Joio, Oceans Apart, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Garrick Ohlsson, Alan Gilbert


You live your life day-to-day and for me anyway the new music I hear marks time as a constant and an inspiration to me. There is no different a situation today except perhaps the offering stands out aore captivating than the average. Namely Justin Dello Joio, son of Norman Dello Joio, and his title-bearing Concerto Oceans Apart (Bridge 9583) along with two chamber works that provide contrast--namely "Due Per Due" for cello and piano and "Blue and Gold Music" for brass quintet and organ. 

The "Oceans Apart" Concerto runs for around 20 minutes of the 40 minute CD, but in terms of the emphasis it is much more the dominant work.It is a piece that commanded my immediate attention and kept on. It has the full force of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Alan Gilbert, with Garrick Ohlsson on piano, even with numerous replays. It is a stunningly dynamic and enthralling work, like an after-Scriabin modernity in the sensibility of the new Millennium.

"Due for Due" gives us piano and cello in an Expressionist firebrand of a score that keeps the momentum of the concerto. 

"Blue and Gold Music in turn nicely parses out the brass and organ parts with some haunting music for the finale, At timesit all recalls earlier periods where the music was more widespread in the churches and cathedrals of Europe yet show a modern sensibility which connects it with today.

All in all we have a vibrant program that speaks to us with musical details worth you time. This one is a goodie. Stream the concerto in full

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Vivian Fung, Insects & Machines, Quartets, Jasper String Quartet

Vivian Fung steps forward  thanks to a rewarding new album covering her four string quartets on the recent CD Insects & Machines (Sono Luminus DSL-92270), played with a beautiful sense of color and SUBSTANCE by the Jasper String Quartet. These four quartets were written between 2001 and 2019, and show each a special sonarity and musical ethos.

The Quartet says "Vivian's String Quartets Nos. 1-4 reflect a remarkable journey of absorbing, integrating and synthesizing a unique spectrum of influences into her compositional voice. Unwavering in all of the works is a fierce heart, instrumental fearlessness, and an amazing instinct for texture."

And the synergy between composer and quartet is palpable and deep to my mind. Each of the four quartets has its say in Modernist, Expressionist terms that convince, especially after a number of listens. There is a belonging to a rewarding set of aesthetic principals and an original, authentic sounding that one does not come across every day. Very recommended.

The composer's Asian heritage is never far from the consideration in her music. Quartet No.3 for example is in part based on Chinese folk themes. As you would expect of any good composer the influences are not the primary reason to hear the music.There is much more, in terms of what is actually done to those influences.

The fourth quartet has the title used on the overall album and is based on Ms. Fung's time spent in  Cambodia and the singular insect buzz she found so fascinating there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Quinsin Nachoff, Stars and Constellations


The so-called Third Stream of Jazz and Modern Jazz and Classical music has never really died in our lifetimes, it just has changed names in various ways. There is no shortage of inspired examples if one goes out of the way to seek them. A new one that is particularly absorbing and and welcome is Quinsin Nachoff and his album entitled Stars and Constellations (Adhyaropa Records AR00050).

The premiss is clear. Take a string quartet or two and pair them with Nachoff's tenor sax, Mark Helias on double bass and Dam Weiss on drums for Nachoff's compositions, which are invariably stimulating and appropriate in the Modern Jazz and Classical zone. The Bergamot Quartet and the second Quartet of The Rhythm Method join in on "Pendulum," the trio and first quartet on ?Stars and Constellation: Scorpio" and then "Sagittarius." 

Written and improvised parts understandably and winningly hold forth throughout in ways that make an expressionist blend of the two with real eloquence and fire.

There is plenty of heat from Quinsin's tenor and the trio puts down a trail into invariably adventurous zones. This is some of the best such fusions I have heard in recent years. Bravo. Nachoff is the real thing!

Listen to a movement here:

The premiss

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Arvo Part, Odes of Repentance, Capella Romana, Alexander Lingas


Estonian master composer Arvo Part is probably the world's most acclaimed choral composer among the living, and that for good reason. The Capella Romana present fresh versions of some of Part's most moving choral works, centered around Odes of Repentance (Capella Romana CR 428). 

So we have in all some 12 gems of expression that Arvo gives to us, remarkable music beyond either early or the Modern, in a way one of the first really important composer to work outside of Modern classical syntax with such extraordinary originality and a beyond quality that makes him a of a class of one in many ways.

In choral music the passion of Part's a cappella Odes compares perhaps like no one else the kind of lamentations one still hears effectively in Gesualdo's later works.

So we are treated to a moving litany (in its persistence, of course not in some tedious way) of rarified and heightened choral expression of the early in the late, superlatively so. This should make a perfect one disk epitome of Part's choral profundity for those who want a singular introduction, as well as a good one even for those who know most all of his output, for the Capella Romana have a kind of homogeneous perfection in how they address each of these beautiful works.

Hear more on the music and excerpts at

Monday, October 16, 2023

Dan Flanagan, The Bow and the Brush, New Music for Solo Violin


Solo violin music in the Contemporary Classical world has become something like what the solo saxophone offerings became in New Jazz beginning in the seventies, a kind of opening frontier and as such a qualisign of a sort of artistic sincerity, more or less. Well put that thought at the top of mind for violinist Dan Flanagan as he steps ahead with a 14-work anthology he has commissioned or composed for on the new CD The Bow and the Brush (MSP Classics  xxxx). For the synasthesiastically oriented such as myself each work has a corresponding artwork to which it refers and re-registers in aural terms, if you will.

Of the 14 compositions and composers represented (13 composers with the violinist handling two himself) doubtless there are composers you might not know, but they all produce solo violin works without an overly prescriptive label; all are imaginative and require substantial facility. Some are more obviously tonal than not, most in fact, then there is adventure in the advanced quality of stops and figurations in the concentric depth you might expect from such thoroughly advanced fare, yet too a sometimes demonically fiddling quality that brings us nearer to earth.

So we hear works by Flanagan and then also Nathaniel Stookey, Jose Gonzalez Granero, Shinji Eshima, Linda Marcel, Cindy Cox, Evan Price, Libby Larsen, James Stephenson, Jessica Mays, Trevor Weston, Edmund Campion, Peter Josef.

It is all first rate fare and will give the violin lover a wealth of the best kind of new music, things that really are new!

Watch a full concert of Dan Flanagan and his Bow and Brush music in depth:

Julia Werntz, Somebody Who Loves You Throws Me at You


One way to avoid a strait and simple return to tonality is perhaps at times to carve a path through microtonality, so that if all goes right it expands our sense of what is available, stretches our ears and gives us a new proportional universe. The music of Boston-based  composer Julia Werntz gives us a new and compelling set of chamber works in such a mode on her recent album Somebody Who Loves You Throws Me at You (New Focus Recordings 362). There is much to grow into, explore, and expand the musical with here, some five sets of works for everything from solo piano to violin and cello, through to soprano, clarinet, bass clarinet and viola,  the Ludovico Ensemble, and finally two sopranos and mezzo-soprano. The music has a High Modern sense of syntax,  sonic adventure and a complex set of parameters that keep you listening attentively for many go rounds if you give it half a chance.

The recordings are first-rate in musicianship and sound quality and every work is something deeply worked out and  inspiring to get to know without fail. We've come quite a distance from Charles Ives' two-piano works in quarter tones, but then we can take heart in the human spirit that there has been good work in such a category from then to now. Julia Werntz surely is one of the best and I very much recommend you hear this. Give it a free stream  on the BandCamp page devoted to the album. Click here:

Bach 6 with 4, Amit Peled, Mount Vernon Virtuosi Cello Gang


When is Johann Sebastian Bach not Johann Sebastian Bach? One might answer, when he is arranged to sound somewhat differently than he himself customarily would call for? For example we have this recording at hand, with celloist Amit Peled leading the Mount Vernon Virtuosi Cello Gang doing Bach arrangements that turn Bach's solo cello "Suite No 6" into a newly arranged version for four cellos entitled Bach 6 with 4 (CTM Classics).

It is an arrangement that revels in the extraordinarily melodic qualities of the Suite as written. What it does not do is turn it all into the sort of contrapuntal extravaganza that Bach might have fashioned had he been working in the four-part mode that the arrangement provides. It does have a little counterpoint, but mostly it is a thickening of the solo part. On listening you hear a marvelous extension of it all, not entirely Bachian in its new treatment, but wonderful music nonetheless. So of course we might welcome this as something rather excellent, wonderfully alive and wonderfully played. If it may not be according to Hoyle, so what? It is lovely! Sometimes it even sounds folksy, as almost a kind of village music, down-to-earth, lively and jaunty. And that is fun.

Peled talks about the project here

Check this one out and it will bring a smile I suspect. Nicely done.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The King's Singers, Wonderland, A Capella Music by Ligeti, etc.


The King's Singers are a choral institution. We have the good fortune to hear part of why that is and to hear them right now at a peak, performing music they have commissioned over the years that have a whimsical quality in a collection aptly entitled Wonderland (Signum Classics SIGCD739). The central six part Gyorgy Ligeti work Nonsense Madrigals forms a pivot point of this album as it also marks 100 years since Ligeti's birth, based on  excerpts from  Alice in Wonderland and children's poetry of a playful and imaginative nature. It is a testament to the group's musical precision, their remarkable tone control and focus.

Alternating are other wonderfully whimsical musical settings with a wonder of children's fantasy stories with music by Paul Patterson, Malcolm Williamson, Judith Bingham, Joe Hisaishi, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers,  Ola Gjeilo, and Makiko Kinoshita. The "Musicians of Bremen" by Williamson is one of the brilliant heights of it all with a hilarious and sparkling gathering of elderly animals who go to Breman to join rhe musical scene they hope to find there!

All told this one is a joy and something to play repeatedly for the kids no doubt. It is a King's Singers triumph and a lot of fun! Nuanced and supremely well delivered. Do hear this one. gives you a sample.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Jon Christopher Nelson, The Persistence of Time and Memory


Jon Christopher Nelson's The Persistence of Time and Memory (Neuma 1840) has a landmark quality to it as an ambitious electronic and concrete landscape that thrives in its multi-movemented, lucidly articulated set of tone poems for a long-toned excellence of orchestral electronic sustain through six cosmic movements and then a concluding compliment, "When Left to His Own Devices."

It remains in high form throughout in ingenious ways, covering such bristlingly brainy conundrums as "And Time Unfolds Like A Flower," "Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time" and etc. Each movement has concrete and electronic parameters that work well together and create a kind of musical space-time matrix that is as convincing as it is evocative and poetic.

It is one of the best such things I have heard in the last couple of years and it behooves you to sample it and see if it wins you over as it did me. 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Myths Contested, Washington Bach Consort Plays and Sings Bach and Trevor Weston


Of all the cantatas Johann Sebastian Bach wrote over his lifetime (many), his secular cantatas are not as prevalent and sometimes seem somewhat overlooked in the swim of things, partially because Bach's position as Cantor meant that cantatas were performed for potentially every Lutheran Sunday and holy day of his career as a part of the service for that day in the season, and too of course they still remain central as western Sacred Music beyond compare. That doesn't mean that the secular cantatas Bach wrote were in any way inferior, not at all if you listen from a concert perspective.

So we have a Secular Cantata that is new to me, The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan, as performed with care and authentic brio by the Washington Bach Consort. A few of the movements utilize music familiar to me from other cantatas but not in the main and at any rate it all comes off smashingly well.

This on the new release Myths Contested (Acis 53742) which also contains a remarkable modern work by Trevor Weston, "A New Song" which shows the influence of Bach's Cantatas yet also makes of the format something new and contemporary.

I find this music everything I might expect, authenticity, beautifully written music, a rare gem from Bach and some nicely turned modernity from Weston, to which i say bravo, bravo, bravo.

Stream a movement from each work here  and here

Monday, October 2, 2023

Amazonia, Villa-Lobos, Glass, Camilia Provenzale, Philharmonia Zurich, Simone Menezes


Some time in the late '50s as Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos neared the end of his life he was commissioned to compose the orchestral soundtrack to the movie Green Mansions, the soundtrack to which was later released on LP as Forest of the Amazon. The movie was not a success and at this point it hardly matters for the music is something we can appreciate fully  with or without the film. I found the full soundtrack many years ago in a used record store and have appreciated it ever since. The composer conducting the full LP version remains fixed in my mind as the version I most seek to hear, but there is the Suite version we can hear on the new CD Amazonia (Alpha-Classics CD) coupled with Phillip Glass's Metamorphosis 1 from his Aguas de Amazonia, all by Simone Menezes conducting Philharmonia Zurich with soprano Camilio Provenzale  on several of the Villa-Lobos movements.  

This is Villa-Lobos-ian Brazilian Impressionist tone painting of the highest order, extraordinarily well orchestrated. and evocative of the lushly exotic Amazonian canopy as only perhaps Villa-Lobos understood it. I still think the old United Artist LP of the complete soundtrack is a killer but this version of the suite is quite nice and representative. 

And then you get to hear the related Glass work, some ten minutes of Minimalist slanted Amazonian expression, so that is a definite plus.

Take a look at a brief video for a taste of the music

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Poul Ruders, Piano Trio, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen


Danish composer Poul Ruders has gotten justly a fair amount of attention on these pages (type his name in the search box above). Today we have one of the most impressive compositions yet in the Piano Trio (OURS Digital) well played by Piano Trio Con  Brio Copenhagen. In general terms the Piano Trio is a kind of sleeper of a chamber form. Look at the formidable Beethoven Piano Trios for an example of some major works overshadowed in part by the more iconic chamber formats, especially historically with the String Quartet, etc.

This Piano Trio is major league in its tremendously serious demeanor. It does not seek to be pleasing, to ingratiate so much as to reflect with insightful strength a life in the crosshairs and at the crossroads so to speak. It is more capital /M/ Modern than Post-ing in a beyond sense and therein lies its strength in many ways.

It has especially in the First Movement a sort of rhapsodic or Neo-Rhapsodic flair--not exactly Neo- Romantic in its more reflective feeling base, in the expression of the music. This comes to the fore in the this very dramatic opening section.

The Second Movement is quite mysterious and pushing an experiential envelope to a  feelingful sort of Unanswered Question in the Ivesian sense, if you will pardon my interpretation.

The Third Movement has a slightly more urgent striving forward virtually like no other chamber work as far as the powerful  vibes it gives off.

It is a major work that should be heard by anyone interested in New Music.

To hear a stream of the music please go over to the OUR Recordings site. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Sybarites, Collective Wisdom, New Chamber Music for Strings


The more you listen to the newest of New Music, the more you apprehend and perhaps appreciate the gradual shift away from a High Modernist, and then too beyond a Minimalist overall stance. What takes its place even in the midst of a comingling tripartite style triumvirate? We hear the third style gate open consistently on the anthology of previous little known and unknown chamber string innovative works, that is on Sybarite's Collective Wisdom  (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0191).

In this surprisingly current offering we immerse the listening self in some nine infectiously wide ranging and dance suite like bundlings of some nine works on Collectiove Wisdom, a blockbuster by the string sextet Sybarites, an outfit fashioned highly and also skillfully in this superlative offering. Each short work says something original and classically new, thanks to the composing prowess of the Punch Brothers and Paul Sanho Kim, Curtis and Elektra Stewart, Jessica Meyer, Komitas, Pedro Giraudo, Michael Gilbertson and Jackson Greenberg.

If you do not already know of course this is music not so much seeking to make harmonic advancement as the watch phrase goes so much as post folk-earthy sorts of emanations as pleasurable to the novice no doubt as to the acolyte and pro-appreciator alike.

Take a listen to the full stream of the album on Bandcamp.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Robert Schumann, The Roots & the Flower, Organ Works, Op. 56 & 60, Jens E. Christensen, Organ


Robert Schumann at this point in music history has a legacy that is of course ubiquitous and well established. He is unparalleled for the clarity of his piano style in the many now well loved solo tone poetic pieces for piano. Then too his Lieder is superb, and puts him at the very top of Romantic composers for such things,  and then his Piano Concerto and Symphonies are justly among the most beloved today, a considerable body of work and a long prevailing fulcrum of the repertoire classics, as popular today as yesterday.  In spite of all that we might see in contrast how his organ works might not have broken through to the cognoscenti in our times, or at least I have not been exposed much myself. Schumann familiarly as the old saw has it is not exactly an orchestrator of landmark character if we go by his symphonic reputation over time. However the symphonies are melodically and thematically seminal, perhaps less so as orchestrations, at least in terms of a Ravelian vibrancy say, though very much Schumann's own. And that different kind of vibrancy, of theme and even its descriptive character can be felt so plainly on the "Kinderszenen," the "Carnival," etc.

So what of the twelve organ works from this album we consider today? They are not models of sound color invention exactly. Nonetheless we get a happy chance to dive deeply into Robert Schumann the organ composer and what that means with the works from Op. 56 and 60 on the recent album  The Roots and the Flowers, performed nicely by Jens E. Christensen (Our Recordings 6220676). Some of it now and then seems a tad murkey, not as transparent perhaps as one might ordinarily expect, yet supremely moody and Schumannesque in that way. And so there is a parallel at times perhaps with the very personal styles of his symphonies. Yet then we need to consider the subtitle to this offering, "Counterpoint in Bloom," for that is a special key to appreciating this music, Schumann's well developed sense of the contrapuntal muse as a key aspect of this organ music.

These some 12 works shine often via a contrapuntal flourish. It is part of Schuman's genius and indeed sets it apart as classic in its best moments.

The performances are not lacking in any way thanks to Jens E Christensen's prowess and enthusiastic warmth. There are some real gems here and otherwise generally solid and memorable music well constructed. Anyone a Schumann fan will jump at the chance to hear him in this mode, and you doubtless as I did feel the rewards of the adventure.. Organ aficionados with find it a fascinating listen as well!

Listen to a partial stream on Soundcloud

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Violeta Dinescu, Solo Violin Works, Irina Muresanu, Violin

Solo violin works (and other solo string pieces) have never been more popular to the serious New Music listener than now, if the large number of solo releases in the last decade is any indication. What once was treasured by violin master and her pupils now is sought out by any with advanced ears who would like to follow a string-strong master and a brilliant composer in tandem for excitement and contemplation alike. Today we have an especially important new pairing in Rumanian composer Violeta Dinescu's Solo Violin Works (Metier CD 77106) as played with great finesse by violinist Irina Muresanu.

You might venture to say that any people with composers whose musical culture includes fiddling probably have it in them to produce GREAT solo violin works. So Bartok-Hungary-Gypsy conflagrations of course. The music of Kodaly and Janacek, Dumitrescu (he comes to mind as a composter but anybody know any of his solo string works, I do not recall any), Russians, American folk fiddlers influencing, say Copland, Berio Black Black Black on his Folk Song work composed in 1964 after teaching in USA from 1960, and other things no doubt follow the pattern with degrees of folk fiddle rootedness one way or another. The viola "Sequenza" comes to mind also. Yet I stray a little from solo violin per se.  Let us return to it.

So too then the composer Violetta Dinescu fits right in with a long series of solo violin works that as experienced here really take on a lengthy and effective post-fiddle narrative, and at that violinist Irina Muresanu has a great feel for the music at hand and interjects an intuitive feel for the violin in its local excellence. I talk about the recent CD Solo Violin Works  (Metier Mex 77106).

There is a great deal of it and all of it has New Music/Folk influenced detail that anyone who is immersed in the new/old tradition will find an abundant wealth of musical experience to take seriously and abandon oneself within.

The music rolls along in profound ways with key centers yet extended and expanded in ways of the Modernish today with a clearly adventurous and inventive quality, so it goes well. Perhaps like when listening to a wise and sympathetic reading of Joyce's  difficult Finnegan's Wake, you as it were recognize the "fiddling" in the flow of the syntactic sequence, here genuine English phrases and another in the middle of something quite other  the English turns to a modern memory maze as it were and you go further gladly hearing it read sympathetically when otherwise you might despair to find it "meaningless" when surely it isn't. So bravo, I recommend you hear it all at least once. Go to the stream site below and tell me what you think. Then if you have a little time go back to You Tube and listen to a chapter or two of a live reading of the Wake  as you follow along with the text there!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

David Mastikosa, Escape, Chamber Works

David Mastikosa is a prolific composer for his age. He is around 31, born in Herzegovina, Bosnia. He may be young but he sounds quite seasoned.This we hear in Escape (Ravello Digital RR8075), his inaugural effort and a wide ranging series it is, with some nine absorbing compositions for chamber combinations. The title work "Escape" portrays the struggle against the mundane and negative aspects of everyday life.  It  has a notable Eastern European flavor with avant oriented accordion expressing a variety of colors and textures. That color possibilities approach is seconded in the dramatic juxtaposition of  prepared and solo piano on the following "Detune," with avant composition contrasting with conventional pianism sounding an old school chorale. 

Then we have a poignant violin solo and string orchestra in "Ul-la". The bracing  big band sound of "Nucleus Expansion"  sets up a riff and a vehicle for a kind of madly swinging Jazz Improv feel. Listen to that alone and I suspect you like me will get a good feeling about the composer. But each work has its own presence and vitality.

Hear a complete stream at

I find this all intriguing and a nice example of a younger composer off to a great start in his embracing of a vast array of differences in sound and sty;e, but especially fitting into a Modernism for today. Bravo.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Craig Madden Morris, Kaleidoscope


Of music and feelings we all know of both, let us hope, but what matters in listening to music that expresses such? For the New Music the Expressionist angle is virtually always of some relevance, never old hat. It is not so much the presence of emotions as how they are presenced that matters in the end. No music is entirely without feelings, of course, though some may have less obvious expression of it, for example a particularly abstracted Webern piece. In the experience of a new work of music we may find feelings either out front and important, especially perhaps in a lieder, or less so in various examples. So we might note that Chopin's music reflects a good deal of emotion, and if you are like me and find it interesting to watch reruns of the Ed Sullivan Show, the pop chanteuses and such from  the '60s sang a great deal about emotions too, but of course not so much of that sort of music approaches the heightened musical level of a Chopin, if any. Of course such things may situate a piece of music in our world of New Music today,

So really when music expresses emotion we should consider a look to the amount of musical intelligence built around such a music. Craig Madden Morris is a present-day composer who does not shy away from expressing a variety of emotions, and to that extent there is an interestingly untypical strain of Neo-Romanticism inherent in his work, so I have found. 

When you listen to his album of such compositions, Kaleidoscope (Navona NV6494), what matters happily is the brilliance of the human-to-human connectivity of the expression, and fortunately we have much to go on in this wise on his some seven works presented here.

All the works have a good deal of Expressionism, a high level of powerful sonic worthiness, and an inventive melodic-harmonic cohesiveness. The very first work you hear is the ten-minute orchestral "Elegy" on the tragic self-inflicted death of a violinist in the Ridgewood Symphony. I will admit it took me some almost ten listens before it came clear in my head how compelling it all was, the kind of feelingful sprawl; and brilliantly orchestrated irregular lyricism that takes you somewhere after Mahler but then where are you? Not in a Kindertotenleider place, surely. You are in Morris-land in the end, somewhere unexpected and original.

Next in the body of works here we have the title work, "Kaleidoscope" for string quartet, which brings us almost to Bartok with the furrowing deepness of that and later Beethoven as touchpoints, yet Morris stays in his own place in the end, nicely so. Then follows the solo piano rhapsodic "Reflections," a intensely longing sort of story with harmonic expansion built in.

In "3 Pieces for Choir " a kind of Modern extension of glee club emoting not precisely old nor advanced so much as determined to be rhapsodic in choral Modern way.

The remaining three works in the program follow the general trend in singular ways. "Longing" for violin, clarinet, cello, piano and "The Gentle Path" for violin and piano keep the music feelingful and absorbing. 

Then finally solo clarinet and orchestral conclude the program in "Romance," sin an almost Schubertian natural setting that goes one to fukk our eqars with Impressionistic light and beyond  before calmly closing out for us the intriguing set of works.

None of them can be predicted easily within the notion of a new Romantic or even wholly Expressionist palette, none are of the ordinary x follows y sort of style, each stands out in its own not as typical of backward leaning compositions or of  a Progressive Modern outlook either. 

That somewhat unexpected yet very musical approach for each work sets it outside a formulaic Romantic or a rote perspective of the Modern and New. And the fact that it is situated where it is yet also excels as a set of well wrought musical examples and makes it all something special. 

I recommend you listen. Go to  to get a complete stream of all of it. See also my review of his previous album Dreams by typing his name in the search box above.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Su Yeon Kim, Mozart Recital, Solo Piano Music


One should never take anything for granted now or any other time, for that matter. There are no guarantees. And that is part of what makes the emergence of pianist Su Yeon Kim all the more remarkable. Take the new album Mozart Recital (Steinway & Sons CD and Digital). Over the years of course there has been a good deal of coverage of such staples of the repertoire. Yet the superficially facile quality of much of it can be a sign that sometimes the music might be grossly underappreciated. An acceptable level recording of much of it is a given, yet how much more moving are the Simple Simon works not as usually tossed off, how much more they seem when given a detailed everything counts reading by Su Yeon Kim. It all is a matter of a kind of living vibrancy when Ms. Kim takes it all on with care and concern. Legato so needs to be there in the mix, as well as a just sense of pauses and none of at its extreme the ratatat machine-gun regularity monotony and such. So with Su Yeon Kim we get a living, breathing music here no matter sometimes how initially simple it may seem on the surface.

Generally speaking the LP era showed so many wonderful pianists tackling the sonatas with some care and energy, but for all the rest sometimes a kind of offhandedness. The other stuff sounded dashed off at times. And for the Sonatas sometimes speed was the byword. Not as much with Su Yeon Kim's full bodied recording here. Yes, revel in the Sonatas 9 and 12, then too of "Eine Kleine Gigue," where the intensive reading of the right-hand line is so mesmerizing as to bring us to where Mozart heard it and wonderfully so? She shows herself an intelligently expressive poetess throughout.

And so it is more or less with every inch of music heard on this album. It shows Su Yeon Kim as a master of her art and an extraordinary painter of tonal images. It brings to us a side of Mozart pianism not as frequently heard as we might like, the rubito articulate poet, the deep wielder of extraordinary subtle power.

Go here to choose a place to stream the recital in full for free

Monday, August 28, 2023

Steve Reich, The String Quartets, Mivos Quartet


The music, the performances and the meaningful musical synergy present on this revelatory recording of Steve Reich's The String Quartets (DGG Deutsche Grammophon 5385) by the Mivos Quartet helps us experience in good order some of the masterpieces that confirm why Steve Reich is no doubt among the very most important of Minimalist Composers but also aside from style a towering musical figure of our era.

And perhaps that is because he turned to the String Quartet with a certain amount of awe based on the legacy it represents. And so surely there is a seriousness to these works that goes along with the composer's commitment to it as a tradition of high art. "Different Trains" views an experience of routes in an embattled world,  "WTC 9/11" confronts the Twin Towers tragedy of  9-11. "Triple Quartet" has a somewhat more abstract way about it, but it too is as serious as anything Reich has written. Many will note how Reich came to notoriety with his electronic essays that utilized a musically inspired and very emotional snippet statement of a preacher and a protester, respectively, as the motif that expands and develops out of its temporal and sequential manipulation on the works entitled "Ain't Gonna Rain" and "Come Out." So too "Different Trains" and "9/11" take speech phrases and make of them the principle motifs, but with a more elaborated instrumental development alongside them. In this way Reich obtains a high seriousness rarely approached in the quartet literature.

Taking that basic speech melody idea the speech-vocal narratives for "Different Trains" and "WTC 9-11" underscore the affect frame of the situation, on "Trains" via the conductor and passengers speaking and then indirectly reflecting on the different train routes of relevance to the situation as  before, during and after the war. On the other hand "WTC" allows those who experienced the tragic events of the World Trade Center to create melodic phrases coming out of the live and reflective remarks in the witnesses' unfolding narrative. And so the sadness and terror finds a kind of natural musical resonance, most unusually so.

The latter day Reich as heard here does not always depend on a kind of hypnotic excitement (as heard especially in earlier works) so much as a sober, almost Kaddish-like recognition and tragic grieving, and a more open flying against the face of a supremely tragic Second World War. All this takes place within  the especially spatial aspect of the arena via European and American biographical scenography allowing for a more landscaped world unfolding as by definition of course it was.

The music repeats as earlier Reich works, yet it does so more in line with the linearity of Modern Classical Post-Romantic phasings. And in the process too Reich's inventive brilliance is allowed to reach out at a great distance and form a kind of stream-of-conscious ritual melodics reflecting the larger sadness of our eras as we look back. Like Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" there are outcries of remonstrance, sheer agonistics on the horror of the world going so wrong. And so there can be incredibly moving rhythmic melodic thrusts born of repetition and its lack, so that a tension between again and not-again is felt much more prolifically compared to some of his earlier work. And the agony finds its further counterpart in the air-raid sirens and telephone emergency signals that form a melodic fulcrum point. There are moments of dancelike intensity, frozen anguish and halting but inevitable remembrance.

"Different Trains" especially moves me in how the whistle, steam engine pulsing rhythms and ritual pronunciation of route itineraries affirm the feeling of rail travel in those days. So of course the regularity of repetition on rail movements finds a natural analog in the Reichian melodic-hypnotics as effective as any of the strong inventive materials we hear in the course of the unfolding of the three quartets. 

The Mivos Quartet give us the sort of high-energy benchmark performances these works demand and so the CD is highly landmark. Do not miss it. To hear a stream of it all start with this link

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Georgina Isabel Rossi and Silvie Cheng, Chorinho for Viola and Piano


The last post on these pages was for viola and piano and it was a good one (with Amaro Duboise and TingTing Tao in full command). Today we have another, another good one with a significant musical selection of some seven works for viola and piano, mostly with the two sounding together but a few for either solo instrument. Ravishing Contemporary works from Brazil, some new, some less new but all in a serious yet dazzling Brazilian Impressionist mode, all played with musical intensity and an impassioned yet thoughtful focus by Georgina Isabel Rossi and Silvie Chen. All the music owes a good deal to pioneer Villa-Lobos and what he originally drew from the mainstream  Choro Folk-Pop form then so prevalent and beloved in the Rio music scene of his young adulthood.

These seven rather less known works make important statements about the Brazilian Classical landscape and its continued modern importance, be it by Joao de Souza (1898-1982), Osvaldo Lacerda (1927-2011), Ernani Aguiar (b 1950), Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), Lindembergue Cardoso (1939-1989), Brenno Blauph (1931-1993), or Chiouinha Gonzaga (1847-1936).
The pieces sum up Villa-Lobos' adaptation and transformation of Chorinho, or in other words the uniquely Brazilian rise of a local music singularly successful and deigned to become a foundational bellwether for Brazilian Modernism, and how the infectious rhythmic core of the music made an ideal partner to the counterpart of a  harmonically spicy melange.

In these new and newer works the wholeness of classical modern Brazilianism stands forward; it rises up beautifully singing and sometimes delightfully depth plummeting.

The music has lots of grit and folk energy and the musical artists  here make it work with a smoothly forthright but consistently finessed eloquence of the highest sort. Bravo, bravo, hear this and its wealthy rich content from first to last crank then send them to the bank
Hear tis album at  full stream at

Monday, August 14, 2023

Amaro Dubois, TingTing Yao, Luz for Viola and Piano

Viola tonemaster Amaro Dubois teams with ultra-sensitive accompanist-pianist TingTing Yao for a intoxicating  mélange of  heady but balanced lyricism and folk-infused earthiness on the well paced and nuanced album Luz (Navona NV6491). The entire program revolves around a most dedicated kind of impassioned presence bristling with New World fountainheads of melodic brilliance. 

We start in the mold with composer Edmundo Villani Cortes and the title piece "Luz" and move through a consistently invigorating cache of memorable presence and a totally refreshed familiarity as in the folk and spiritual heritage of the North American African diaspora with spiritual and folk vibrant mini-gems from Florent Price, William Grant Still, Michael Tippet and then too South American rejuvenations of the roots of an exuberant effusiveness via Dimitri Cervo, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Edmundo Villani-Cortes, Jose Elizondo, and Zequinha de Abreu.

As you listen to Luz ideally and gradually you enter into the musical representation  and feeling of light coupled with a threesome presence of passion, love and peace--and in the process ideally feel a consistently ravishing burnishment of the rich viola tone in conjunction its counterpart in the steady, folk- driven energy and vivacity of TingTing Yao's supercharged accompaniment.

It is just enough folkishly over the top at times that it jumps out without pretense and always with an unabashedly human quality. It all  lets in a nice helping of sunshine at a time when we all no doubt would like to respond and recharge through a healing experience, with a good deal of musical hope and reassured resolve that nowadays would be most welcome to many. Hear it by all means. Listen to the whole album on YouTube:

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Taylor Joshua Rankin, Sun, Will Grow, New Music of an Unexpected Sort


Here is music that a filmmaker who is brilliantly musical might make, as I am discovering also recently from the opposite end in a survey of films made by Indian master Satyajit Ray. Here with the latest from Rankin is music of a very full and beautiful tone color mix, for a quite good chamber orchestra of instruments carefully written for and balanced in the mix and not really obviously electroacoustic but so sounding at times by solely "legit" means, yet too at  times with some parts newly forged from altered or purely electronic signal voicings. The seven movements present beautifully wrought alternating panoramas of tone and periodicity that hypnotize but do not get into an overly formulaic mantra like  classic Minimalism sometimes does. And all that is a part of Rankin's compositional style, now more than ever concerned with all the sorts of sonic issues we live within today and more especially how that has expression in linear contrapuntal writing and micro-polyphonic harmony. There is a personal autobiographical element here as well as a kind of homage to his favorite filmmakers in the titles and the musical contents as well.

In the early middle years of last century the typical creative processes central to Musique Concrete involved taking natural sounds such as water dripping or leaves rustling and transforming them as it were from within, into musical values that retain something of their natural qualities. With something like Sun, Will Grow, today Rankin takes hyper sound colored natural musical tones and both transforms them in reverse engineering into wild natural sounds or combines the raw and the refined together to make a heady mix not exactly concrete, not that at all really but also staying in a periodic real that is closer to nature surely than, say,  Mozart's sonata allegro forms. Does that mean that Sun is destined to be influential and widely listened to? Well not necessarily but it means we personally might well gain something from seriously and repeatedly hearing it and perhaps reveling in its unusual non-formalist nature and more intuitive natural but refreshingly, unusually rhapsodic in a more or less non-Romantic way. He utilizes field recordings from San Francisco and surrounds to evoke special personal memory and time. and the music takes off out of that personal recall to lead us anew into the beckoning future? Perhaps.

So this is some music of the moment and perhaps of our musical future, too. A big bravo and kudos on this one from concept to execution. I most definitely want you to hear this one if you can; head on over to Bandcamp for a run through of it all for free, then order it there if you like: Or if you are pressed for time. take a listen to a 2,5 minute series of excerpts on YouTube

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Jenny Beck, Up to the Surface, New and Very Personal Electronic Music


In an era that culminated perhaps in the interjection of electronics into every avenue of Pop music, we see a continued, healthful response from the New Music worlds, not the least which is the Electronic, New Music work out soon as an EP, Up to the Surface (New Focus Recordings Digital Release) by composer/sound artist Jenny Beck. This is an integrated four movement work that achieves a true individuation as a soundscape, a continuous coloration envelope of distinction. It does not seek to beguile the senses with repetitive sonic mantras so much as to prevail with continuous walls of presence, a flight into the realm of pure musical re-imagination perhaps, and the mellifluous ability to create a shifting ground of sound spatial animation, wellsprings of aesthetically pleasing continuance.

A thorough grounding I think constantly in this work is the idea that repeated listens are critical to grasp intuitively the structure of the music as a whole. Accordingly I have listened many times before reviewing.

The title of each movement, not surprisingly gives as good idea as anything as to the contentful motion of the work and its unfolding meaning. So starting with the first movement we encounter "Some Place Sacred and Submerged," then on to 2: "Radiant Currents," then "In the Ether" and on to the final "Wake." Combine all that with the overall title Up to the Surface and so perhaps we get a kind of allegorical trip through to a kind of enlightenment, a special knowledge imparted via sound. It is suspension in ordinary spacetime and perhaps the sort of sounds denoting traveling through liquid, or even becoming a sounding liquid itself? You listen for yourself and decide.

And so it is a sonic journey and in the end did we get to where we wanted to go? Probably so the less we let the hereafter words pin us as to a literal meaning. The Bandcamp notes give us a little from their end, that is, that they go on to tell us that such timbral ambience is not run-of-the-mill thing (it isn't) and that we should listen as the dynamic soundscape evolves and changes them to so many "teenage electro-werewolves," to a unique and potentially newly paradigmatic musical soundscape.

The music is somewhat modest, unassuming, subtle. It does not speak in a loud manner or with a hint of anger or arrogance. It exerts, perhaps, the composer's personality, whimsical yet cosmic. I keep listening and it feels increasingly unique, timbrally distinct and personal. Bravo. The totalized world is electronic and a combo of relatively clean tones without being pure sine waves but also colored in ways that add a bit of pleasing granular texture if you will.

Stream the first movement or total album once released:

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Sirius Quartet, Playing On the Edge 3, New Music for String Quartet


The string quartet continues today in a wealth of compositions that epitomize at times the state-of-the-art of serious music as practiced in the Western world.  There are lots of New Music albums coming out lately, and in the string quartet literature not the least are given to us, as several reviews on this blog space will attest. The plethora of the new can only be a good thing but it is a calling to try and explore it all. I cannot say I hear 100%. Perhaps nobody can. It is just not possible right now, but I do hang my ears at a good angle to catch all I can, and I am glad of it for there is much to like. Today we have a good example, the accomplished and exciting Sirius Quartet and Volume Three of their  Playing On the Edge (Navona NV 6520). We hear and come to appreciate some nine New Music Quartets by the likes of Mark Edwards Wilson, Adam Grimes, Liova Bueno, Bernard Hughes, Nathan Wilson Ball, L Peter Deutsch, John Summers, Mark Eliot Jacobs, and Peter Dickson Lopez.

Danish composer Carl Nielson once famously remarked that his music should not be thought as beautiful, but rather as characteristic. Today we are thrown into the vortex of a new millenium and find that beauty has not become something only applicable to some past humanity, but rather an ongoing need for us all today and in the future. What that is however is not simple. We get nines composers with nine quartets that in some way come to terms with beauty in the face of a life sometimes rather starkly ugly out there.

We in the process come to appreciate the varied response of all nine composers, and in the end appreciate what new and serious shapes chamber music may take today, whether intricate interplay as in a post-Bartok realm, tonal in thick impastos of fundamental tones and added texture of some dissonance, earthy folk-like rhythmic life, tender yet all knowing lyricism, strident clusters of toinal life or lithely dancing string figuraton; or all of the above as you listen.

All this comes alive under the deeply skillful, the subtle interplay and memorable certitude of the Sirius Quartet at their finest. It is by no means a simple matter to characterize what New Chamber Music is all about today. Doubtless no single anthology can properly characteristic all the stylistic complexities involved, though this volume three of Edge gives us a pronounced post-Romantic and post-Dodecaphonic view of it all. It stays on the side of self-sufficient expression, not especially itching to dominate as a  Modern School per se. And that is probably a healthy thing, do you think?

Highly recommended. Release date July 14, 2023. Listen to a preview of the music here

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Lei Liang, Six Seasons, Mivos Quartet


Lei Liang gives us a most unusual work for a string quartet as a part of the source and inspiration for the boldly  sprawling soundscape Six Seasons (New World  80849-2). It centers around the Inuit Eskimos of Canada  and their ideas on the six seasons based on what they hear in their seascape habitat, the ever changing sounds they experience in daily life. These do nor follow strictly in some temporal order like do our winter-spring-summer-fall time blocks. Instead they are periodic but not so much continuous--each season gets its own separate movement, and then there is a final coda sequence.

The seasonal six movements are "New Ice," "Darkness," "Sunrise," "Migration," "Cacophony," and finally "Bloom." Laing placed underwater microphones in the ocean depths where Inuit live and then recorded water movement and freezing to ice, sea animals and fish, and the sound they might make in any given season, and then used those acquired sounds in tandem with scoring for extended sound production techniques for the members in the Mivos Quartet. 

The results are sound-noise innovations and soundscapes of a breathtakingly unexpected nature. He cites as influences the compositional advances and classic Contemporary assumptions that went into works by Crumb, Cage and Oliveros, "especially for the way they enlarged an instrument's sonic palette in the service of extra-musical concerns."

This music stands out after a few listens as very different. There is lots of tumbling free time, an overarching energized Free Improv feel, and a whole lot of sound art going on. Bravo. This may well end up as a milestone in the repertoire going forward. Do not miss it. Go on over to BandCamp to hear it and, if inclined, to order too:

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Ashley Bathgate, 8-Track, Minimalist Goodies for Cello(s)


When sometimes I feel like I am tired of Minimalism something good comes along and I pay attention and enjoy it all again. That is so with today's cello ensemble disk performed so very nicely by Ashley Bathgate overdubbing all parts. The album is entitled 8 -Track (New Focus Recordings, BandCamp) .

Ashley is a talented and dedicated cellist, a formidable artistic force for this sort of music, really mature and lively as much as beautiful in sound, a ravishing cello voice carefully creating multiple cello parts for some stunning  Minimalist works.  Each work follows the game plan of Steve Reich's Counterpoint series--that is, the performer plays a live part on top of  seven tracks previously recorded on the same instrument.

All the works we hear so deftly constructed on this unique album were written in this millennium in the Counterpoint plan and come alive in the doing. So we get the Steve Reich gem "Cello Counterpoint" (2013) that gives us the brilliant passagework juxtaposed with open and then figured long notes for a happy midperiod  musical romp fully worthy of the Reich name. Each composer in her or his very own way furthers our appetite for such explorations and productive emanations, so we hear in succession Fjola Evans, Emily Cooley, and two gems by Alex Weiser. Highly recommended.

Give it a listen on the BandCamp stream and if inclined place an order there (preorder if you read this in early summer of 2023):