Pittsburgh New Music Net

cutting-edge music in the ’burgh and beyond

Beyond Microtonal Music Festival, Remembering Ezra Sims

This is a terrific weekend for new music in Pittsburgh with Sumeida’s Song already in performances by the Pittsburgh Opera and the Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival ready to be uncorked at the Warhol this weekend. All the details for “Beyond” are in the PNMNet events calendar, so I won’t rehash that here. You can also see Liz Bloom’s in-depth preview in the PG if you want some very useful context. What I do want to do, on the occasion of the Beyond Festival, is to take a moment to remember one of the great proponents of microtonal music. We lost Ezra Sims on January 30 of this year and many times I’ve meant to sit down and write something about what that meant, but feared my inability to do it justice. I probably still won’t do it justice, but here goes.

My encounter with Ezra Sims began in 1996 when I was a first year MA student in composition and theory at Pitt. Like all incoming grad students I had to write a state of research paper for the bibliography class. I chose to write about research in microtonal music, not because it was an area of particular interest, but because I didn’t know much about it. (This, by the way, is not the best way to approach that sort of course.) For my own edification, I decided to listen to as many actual microtonal composers as I could while I was working on the paper, so I listened to Partch, Johnston, Blackwood, Riley, Harrison and many others. One night I was in my study tapping away in Word Perfect 5.1 on my 386 IBM clone and suddenly I had to stop what I was doing and just listen to the music that was coming out of my stereo. It was the second movement of Ezra Sims’ Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet—haunting, poignant, perfect.

A few years later I was ready to start working on my doctoral dissertation and Mathew Rosenblum and Eric Moe had invited Ezra to Pittsburgh for a lecture and performance of his music. As I listened to Ezra speak I realized that no one but him had written about his music and that that could be a fertile subject for the analytical part of my dissertation.

Now keep in mind that I had never written and microtonal music, and didn’t really aspire to do so, but what I had heard in Ezra’s music all those years before had stuck with me. My intuition was that he was the consummate composer and studying his craft would only make me better at my own.

I was right on, I think, both counts. I spent a few days in Cambridge meeting with Ezra, talking with him about his harmonic approach, taping our conversations. I pulled the second movement of Quintet apart, harmony by harmony. What I found in this maverick Just Intonation composer was not only an amazing ear for local harmonic movement, but large scale voice leading that would have been at home in any Mozart sonata. Or as I wrote in the conclusion of my dissertation,

“In his ground breaking book, Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi shows that the path to discovery begins with an intuitive grasp of the solution. He writes,

‘…true discovery is not a strictly logical performance, and accordingly, we may describe the obstacle to be overcome as a ‘logical gap’, and speak of the width of the logical gap as the measure of the ingenuity required for solving the problem. ‘Illumination’ is then the leap by which the logical gap is crossed. It is the plunge by which we gain a foothold at another shore of reality… The pioneer mind which reaches across this logical gap deviates from the commonly accepted process of reasoning to achieve surprising results. Such an act is original in the sense of making a new start, and the capacity of initiating it is the gift of originality, a gift possessed by a small minority.’

Ezra Sims’s creative development surely reflects this process of illumination. His discovery is the application of microtonality in a way that affords him the exigencies of local and large scale tonal direction. His development of the twenty-four tone justly tuned scale and the 72 tpo tuning constitute the means by which Sims overcomes the logical gap. His compositional technique represents the logical, coherent articulation of an intuitively grasped solution, and because of this we may regard Sims as a truly original composer whose work is a valuable resource not only to those interested in the possibilities of extended tuning, but to all composers concerned with relating their work to the western concert music tradition.”

I’m very pleased that as part of tomorrow night’s opening concert of “Beyond”, the brilliant cellist Ted Mook will play Ezra’s Solo in four movements, a piece he wrote for Ted. It’s a fitting way to remember a composer who embodied so much of what it is we strive for as we create our own music.

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February 26, 2015 at 9:10 pm Comments (0)

Ben Goldberg Trio Sun 3/22 @ Thunderbird Cafe

West Coast avantjazz & klezmer pioneer, former leader of the New Klezmer Trio.

He hasn’t been in Pittsburgh since 1996 (Jews With Horns tour @ Rodef). Rare appearance!
BEN GOLDBERG TRIO

http://www.bengoldberg.net

Sun March 22 8 pm 21+ $16 adv/$20 door
Thunderbird Cafe, 4023 Butler St, Lawrenceville

tickets on sale now at: Sound Cat Records, Caliban Books, Dave’s Music Mine, Acoustic Music Works. Online tickets at http://www.thunderbirdcafe.net

Named the #1 rising clarinetist in the 2011 Downbeat Critics Poll, San Francisco-area musician Ben Goldberg has been around for much longer. He was a member of famed Berkeley klezmer revivalists The Klezmorim (who had releases on important folk labels such as Arhoolie and Flying Fish). With Dan Seamans and Kenny Wollesen (of John Zorn’s Masada) he formed the New Klezmer Trio, right in the thick of the Radical Jewish Culture movement, and released three CDs on Zorn’s Tzadik label with that group in the ’90s (they also reconvened in 2009 with Greg Cohen on bass).

With musical heroes such as Steve Lacy, Thelonious Monk and Joe Lovano, Goldberg also emphasizes a strongly forward-thinking approach to jazz. His trio recording “Plays Monk” won an award in Downbeat in 2007. He has a long-running quartet called Tin Hat which includes Mark Orton and Carla Kihlstedt (of prog-rockers Sleepytime Gorilla Museum). Goldberg has also collaborated on recordings with the likes of Myra Melford, Larry Ochs (ROVA), Marty Ehrlich, Miya Masaoka, Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle/Fantomas) and others on labels such as Tzadik, Cryptogramophone, Knitting Factory, Ryko, Victo, Music & Arts and Songlines, as well as his own label BAG.

Goldberg’s latest releases include “Short Sighted Dream Colossus” (with John Dietrich and Scott Amendola), “Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues” (including Joshua Redman and Ches Smith), and “Unfold Ordinary Mind” (featuring Nels Cline of Wilco, and Ellery Eskelin). He’s also received composer commissions from San Francisco’s De Young Museum and Friends of Chamber Music, and a grant from Chamber Music America.

February 24, 2015 at 9:56 pm Comments (0)

Hypercolor (Ligeti/Maoz/Ilgenfritz) Mon 3/10 @ Howler’s

Monday March 10 9 pm $7 21+
Howler’s Coyote Cafe, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield

from New York City on Tzadik Records
jazz-rockers HYPERCOLOR

https://hypercolorband.wordpress.com/sounds/

with special guests ((microwaves)) and Billy Castle

review from All About Jazz:
Hypercolor: Hypercolor (2015, Tzadik Records)
By DAVE WAYNE, Published: February 11, 2015

The past few months have seen a stream of truly—and in some cases mind-bogglingly—wonderful guitar-centric power trio albums. Yet, the eponymous debut of the Brooklyn-based avant-jazz-rock band Hypercolor stands out, but not for the reasons you’d think. Sure, the trio consists of musical brainiacs James Ilgenfritz and Lukas Ligeti; genre omnivores whose own work and collaborations draw as heavily from the worlds of free improvisation, contemporary classical, various ethnic musics, and art-rock as they do from jazz. How guitarist Eyal Maoz, best known as one of the most distinctive young musicians in John Zorn’s orbit, has remained an underground sort of figure is beyond me. Like his bandmates, his playing is distinctive and virtuosic, and his recordings to date have been consistently fresh and restlessly eclectic. Take, for example Hope and Destruction (Tzadik, 2009) which successfully fused traditional Yiddish melodies and modern metal with the hyperactive rhythms of 70s disco-funk.

Hypercolor is similarly eclectic. The trio eliminates the overt references to dance music, and replaces them with a punkish sort of old school jazz-rock energy. The album is rife with the sort of strutting attitude that made Tony Williams’ Lifetime (in all of its concatenations) so much fun to listen to. The end result, though, is more along the lines of Fred Frith’s great trio, Massacre, or perhaps the Nels Cline Singers.

—-

Eyal Maoz, James Ilgenfritz, and Lukas Ligeti make up Hypercolor, the NYC- based spastic jazz-rock hybrid whose ridiculous artsong craftsmanship alternately revels in complexity or brazen simplicity, favoring entropy and near-disaster over order or tidiness.

Like experimental grafting surgery gone horribly awry, Hypercolor bears limbs borrowed from 80s NYC No-Wave, and early jazz/rock, and orchestral rock textures.

Eyal Maoz is a guitarist, composer, Tzadik and Ayler Records artist and a guest member of John Zorn’s Cobra. His ensembles performed at major music festivals worldwide such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Red Sea International Jazz Festival, NYC 2007 Winter JazzFest, the New York Jewish Music and Heritage Festival, Florida Music Harvest, The Jewzapalooza Festival in NYC and more.

Transcending the boundaries of genre, composer and percussionist Lukas Ligeti (son of composer Gyorgy Ligeti) has developed a musical style of his own that draws upon downtown NY experimentalism, contemporary classical music, jazz, electronica, and world music, particularly from Africa. Lukas creates music ranging from the through-composed to the free- improvised, often exploring non-Western elements, and has been participating in cultural exchange projects for the past 15 years. Lukas has been commissioned by Bang on a Can, Kronos Quartet, Ensemble Modern, and the American Composers Orchestra, to name a few. He frequently performs solo on the marimba lumina, a rare electronic percussion instrument. As a drummer, he co-leads several bands including Burkina Electric, the first electronica band from Burkina Faso. He has also performed and/or recorded with John Zorn, Henry Kaiser, Gary Lucas, Marilyn Crispell, John Tchicai, Jim O’Rourke, Borah Bergman, Eugene Chadbourne, and many others. He has led or co-led experimental intercultural projects in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho, and has taught at universities in Ghana and South Africa.

Brooklyn composer, bassist, and educator James Ilgenfritz has been active in creative music since the late 90s. His work has been praised in Time Out New York, All About Jazz, and Downbeat Magazine. Recent performances include work with Pauline Oliveros, John Zorn, and Anthony Braxton. James has received grants and residencies from Issue Project Room, the American Composers Forum, and OMI Arts Center. Notable performance venues include Roulette, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Symphony Space, and the New Museum in SoHo. James is on Faculty at the Preparatory Center of Brooklyn College and at Brooklyn Conservatory.

February 24, 2015 at 9:52 pm Comments (0)

Interview with Violist-Composer Jessica Meyer

On January 31, violist and composer Jessica Meyer will split a recital for Music on the Edge with guitarist Seth Josel. Well-known in the New York contemporary music scene for her work with groups such as counter)induction and American Modern Ensemble, composing reemerged as an important part of Jessica’s musical identity when she encountered Reggie Watts’ masterful use of the loop pedal. Soon she began composing pieces of her own for viola and loop pedal. Sounds of Being, her recently released CD, contains many of these compositions and Jessica will perform them at her concert at the Warhol. She’ll also premiere a new work by Eric Moe for viola and fixed media titled Uncanny Affable Machines.

This past December, Jessica and I talked together over Skype about her compositions and how her creative voice has developed. The video feed got choppy at times, so I had to do a little more patching together than usual, but I know you’ll be happy to hear what Jessica has to say about all of this, so here it is.

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January 24, 2015 at 5:29 pm Comments (0)

Wed. Jan 21: Ken Vandermark-Nate Worley Duo at the Warhol

Check out my full post yonder or just get it straight from the horse wallpaper’s mouth. Gonna be a real interesting show. Andy definitely take a look the videos. These guys can play.

January 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm Comments (0)

Amernet String Quartet is SOLD OUT

A quick note to let anyone who was on the fence about coming to the Amernet String Quartet concert at the Warhol tomorrow night to, well, find another fence. Amernet is sold out. I’ll be posting more new music events over the long weekend though, so despair not!

January 16, 2015 at 4:56 pm Comments (0)

Nathan Carterette Performs Quentin Kim

NathanCaterette

 

Today (Dec. 16) at 3 p.m. in Kresge Theatre.

December 16, 2014 at 9:05 am Comments (0)

Tonight: OvreArts Presents Solstice

December 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm Comments (0)

Up Next: In C-lebration

Yes! This!
CLebration_web copy

December 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm Comments (0)

Good Stuff Happening This November

Update: I managed to overlook the fact that Pacifica will be in town on Monday, November 10 playing Ligeti 1 when I originally made this post. I’ve listed that concert in the calendar along with the other great stuff mentioned below.

I’ve been quietly updating the calendar, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, but wanted to give a heads-up about some of the great concerts you should be checking out. You have tonight and tomorrow night to get to Microscopic Opera’s production of Frida. Then in the next two weeks you have Jacob Ertl’s piano recital for Alia Musica, a really interesting avant-garde jazz power trio (Dylan Ryan/Sand) at Thunderbird, and IonSound Project’s Fall show. A great variety of music in a very short span. Events are over yonder ——>

November 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm Comments (0)

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