Pittsburgh New Music Net

cutting-edge music in the ’burgh and beyond

Nothing but Points and Lines

This Sunday night the Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra will present Star Songs, a program that places the works of Stockhausen, Cage, and Monteverdi beside those of David Bowie and Lou Reed. The common thread: each piece is related to space.

Elizabeth Hoover describes the thought process behind John Cage’s Atlas Elipticalis, a major feature of Sunday night’s program:

’1961 was an important year for John Cage.  Not only did he sign with music publisher, C.F. Peters, but he also acquired an important position in Middletown Connecticut as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University.  By October, he published his first and most well-known book through its University Press: Silence, a collection of lectures and other writings that he had produced by that time.  To add to this list of accomplishments, Cage also received a commission by the Montreal Festivals Society to write a work for orchestra.  According to Cage, his inspiration for the piece stemmed from “a remark by Erik Satie to the effect that written music is nothing but points and lines.”  To find the points and lines for his orchestral composition, Cage visited the astronomical library in the observatory at Wesleyan.  After viewing many star maps in the library, he settled on a book titled Atlas Eclipticalis.

Named after this book, Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis was composed through a method of chance operations in which he copied the positions of stars from the astronomical maps onto transparencies.  These transparencies served as templates with which to transfer the positions of the stars to individual instrumental parts.  Each star transforms sonically into an individual tone; therefore, an aggregate of pitches represents a constellation.  Although there are eighty-six instrumental parts in total—each of which Cage dedicated to a friend, colleague or relative—all or some of these parts may be used in performance.  As a result, a performance of Eclipticalis may endure for an undefined length of time, and as Cage notes in his general directions for the piece, exists “at any point between minimum activity (silence) and maximum activity (what’s written).”  Despite levels of indeterminacy which operate in the instrumental parts, Eclipticalis is not lacking in control.  Cage specified the role of a conductor, whose function is not only to determine the length of a performance by keeping time throughout the piece, but also to decide which parts of the composition will be performed.   Though Cage created the parameters of the piece, it is the conductor’s aural view of Cage’s musical atlas that is ultimately experienced by an audience.  It was only appropriate, then, that Cage acted as conductor for the premiere performance—to provide his very own vision of the night sky.

Atlas Eclipticalis premiered on August 3, 1961 at the International Week of Today’s Music in Montreal, and was played simultaneously with Winter Music (for 1-20 pianos, completed in 1957).  Two days later, for the same festival, Eclipticalis was performed with choreography by Merce Cunningham, titled Aeon.  Although, the premiere performances of Eclipticalis did not incorporate electronic equipment, other performances of the piece may do so by attaching contact microphones to the instruments involved, whose output is then fed into amplifiers and loudspeakers.  In February, 1964, an electronic version of the piece was performed by the New York Philharmonic: the disappointing results of which Cage angrily lamented in numerous interviews throughout his career.  For this performance, Cage called on Max Mathews, an innovator in electronic music, to produce a fifty-channel mixer that received output from the instruments of the Philharmonic.  Unfortunately, due to a less than enthusiastic audience, technical glitches such as overwhelmingly loud electronic feedback, and instrumentalists’ who mocked the innovation of Eclipticalis by destroying Cage’s contact microphones and ignoring his written notation, the Philharmonic’s performance of Eclipticalis left much to be desired for everyone who had taken part in its electronic design.’

The performance starts at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Gray Box Theater, Lawrenceville.

Admission is $10, $5 for seniors, students and artists.

Details: 412-608-6120 or elco-orchestra.webs.com

September 30, 2010 at 6:28 pm Comment (1)

Jem Finer Talks About Longplayer, Shortplayer, and The Pogues

Jem Finer

Jem Finer explains the score for Shortplayer.

There are not many people in the world who can be considered punk legends and masters of algorithmic composition, but Jem Finer is definitely one of them. One of the founders of legendary Celtic Punk band The Pogues, Finer is also the composer of Longplayer, a process composition for singing bowls that will play for 1,000 years before repeating.

On Friday, October 1, Pittsburgh will become the only city between London and San Francisco to host a Longplayer listening post. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Justin Hopper and the artistic vision of Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh’s Longplayer listening post will be be active, at Wood Street Galleries, through December 31.

Wood Street Galleries will inaugurate the listening post with a concert featuring the premiere of Shortplayer, a composition that uses a similar process as Longplayer, but with a one hour duration. Shortplayer will be performed by Finer and Roger Dannenberg on trumpets, Mark Fromm, Ben Opie, and Brandon Masterman on Reeds, Lou Stellute on tenor sax, and Roger Day on Tuba. Dave Bernabo played a major role in organizing the ensemble.

Jem Finer was kind enough to talk with me at Wood St. about Longplayer, Shortplayer, and some of the significant connections he sees between his process oriented compositions and his work with The Pogues. It’s fascinating to hear him describe his thoughts about each of these projects, and I know you’ll enjoy what he has to say.

September 30, 2010 at 7:41 am Comment (1)

Avant-jazz trumpeter Lina Allemano Oct 12; German improv duo Tammen & Irmer Oct 16

Two great jazz & improv concerts are coming up in the next couple weeks.

First, Toronto avant-garde jazz trumpeter Lina Allemano comes to town with her quartet on Tuesday, October 12 at the Thunderbird Cafe (8 pm doors, $8 adv/$10 door) with Ben Opie opening the night. Allemano appears on over 30 recordings, including her own critically acclaimed CDs that feature her original compositions with the Lina Allemano Four: the new Jargon (2010), as well as Gridjam (2008), Pinkeye (2006), and Concentric (2003). Her recent career highlights include performing at the Festival of New Trumpet Music in New York City and a feature as one of the top innovative trumpeters in Downbeat Magazine. For more information on the artist go to her website at http://www.linaallemano.com and to purchase advance tickets go to http://www.thunderbirdcafe.net/showdetails.php?eventID=173

Next, a duo of German free improvisors visits Garfield Artworks on Saturday, October 16 (8 pm, $7 at the door). The lineup includes guitarist Hans Tammen and violinist Christoph Irmer, who released a CD in 2006 called Oxide on the Portuguese label Creative Sources, with opening groups Johnsen, Wellins & Boyle and Ed Tarzia & Bob Wenzel. Hans Tammen creates music that has been described as an alien world of bizarre textures, producing rapid-fire juxtapositions of radically contrastive and fascinating sounds, with micropolyphonic timbres and textures, aggressive sonic eruptions, but also quiet pulses and barely audible noises – through means of his “endangered guitar” and interactive software programming, by working with his “…fingers stuck in a high voltage outlet”. Signal To Noise called his works “…a killer tour de force of post-everything guitar damage”, All Music Guide recommended him: “…clearly one of the best experimental guitarists to come forward during the 1990s.” Christoph Irmer has been a member of the London Improvisors Orchestra, Ort Ensemble Wuppertal (with the now-deceased Peter Kowald), Statements Quintet (with Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen and Ursel Schlicht), Canaries on the Pole (with Georg Wessel and Jacques Foschia), and a trio with British saxophonist John Butcher. For information on Hans Tammen go to http://www.tammen.org and for Christoph Irmer go to http://www.myspace.com/christophirmer

September 29, 2010 at 12:15 am Comments (0)

Dueling String Quartets This Monday Night

UPDATE: Miro Quartet has had to cancel tonight because of a family emergency for one of the members. The Chamber Music Society has engaged the Cavani Quartet, but Kevin Puts’ Credo is no longer on the program. Cavani will be playing Szymanowski’s Quartet no. 2 which is actually quite an interesting piece.

All we need are some fireworks and laser lights with Hank Williams, Jr. bellowing, “Are you ready for some STRING QUARTETS?????” and that will pretty well sum up what’s in store for you this Monday night. If you love hearing new music for string quartet you have a real dilemma because you’ll either need to choose between two great concerts or figure out how to bi-locate. Miro Quartet will open Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society’s season at Carnegie Music Hall with a concert that features Kevin Puts’ Credo. Meanwhile back in Garfield’s Most Wanted Fine Art, MIVOS Quartet will be playing a program including Wolfgang Rihm, Ashley Wang and the Pittsburgh premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Death Valley Junction. If you caught Missy Mazzoli and Victoire in August, you’ll recognize MIVOS violinist Olivia DePrato from that show as well.

What to do? Flip a coin? Get to work on that bi-location thing? Maybe they will show some of the MIVOS show on the Diamond Vision at Carnegie Music Hall. That would be way cool. Details on both shows (and much, much more) on the Events calendar.

,
September 25, 2010 at 12:46 pm Comments (0)

CMU Wind Ensemble Premieres Kriegeskotte’s Tycho’s Machine

October 3, 2010
7:30 pm

Carnegie Music Hall

Tickets: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors,
free for Carnegie Mellon students with ID

The Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble will perform a concert featuring the premiere of Christian Kriegeskotte’s new work Tycho’s Machine. The program will also include Kathryn Salfelder’s 2007 work Cathedrals, Leonardo Ballada’s Cumbres, and Vincent Persichetti’s Divertimento for Band.

About Tycho’s Machine Kriegeskotte says,

The work is inspired by the movement of the planets through the Zodiac as demonstrated by one of the fabulous wonders of mechanico-scientific art we have inherited from the Renaissance; the Armillary Sphere. While astronomical instruments of this nature have existed for millennia (let us not deny credit to the Astrolabe and the wondrous Antikythera Mechanism), it is the fabulous splendor and esotericism of Renaissance pseudo-alchemical scientific investigation that I am most influenced by.

The title, “Tycho’s Machine” is in reference to one of the Armillary Sphere’s creators, the 16th century astronomer and mathematician Tycho Brahe. Indeed, growing up I knew the device by its more common moniker, the Brahe Sphere. While the Brahe Sphere is mechanical, I am also implying that the motion of the planets across the ecliptic plane and how we perceive their motion is no less than a form of great cosmic clockwork, finely tuned and ever advancing as we hurdle through space. In my piece, which I am considering a sort of static theme and variations, I present the listener with twelve sonorities (based upon instrumentation and articulation more so than harmonic structure) that each represent a sign in the Zodiac. As we travel through the Zodiac, unique musical events fade in and out representing the planets passing through each sign. These events are ultimately dominated by a constant eighth-note pulse throughout, representing the mechanism itself as it ticks and booms behind the scenes. It is this constant pulse I am considering a sort of abstract “theme” and each of the planets and signs are the variations.

September 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm Comments (0)

Longplayer Listening Post at Wood Street Galleries

October 2, 2010toDecember 31, 2010

Wood Street Galleries

Jem Finer’s Longplayer, a 1,000-year-long composition that has played continuously since 1999, and which arrives in Pittsburgh as part of Wood Street Galleries’ sound-installation show, Audio Space (Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2010). The installation of Longplayer at Wood Street Galleries marks another first, as Pittsburgh joins a remarkable list of sites with Longplayer listening posts including the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, and the Bibliotecha in Alexandria, Egypt. The Wood Street Galleries installation will be the first listening post anywhere between San Francisco and London.

About Longplayer

Created with London-based arts organization Artangel to mark the turn of the millennium, Longplayer is Finer’s response to the difficulty of representing and understanding time on a grander scale. At its core, Longplayer is a mathematically self-generating score—not random, but a set of principles that allow the score to continually create itself in a way that is aesthetically beautiful and musically unique. For 10 years, Longplayer has played through a computer system replicating the sound of Tibetan singing bowls; in 2009, it was performed live for the first time, for 24 hours on real singing bowls. It is not a computer-generated piece: As the hour-long segment “Shortplayer” goes to prove, it can be performed on any instruments, at any stage.

Artist and composer Jem Finer is considered a unique voice in exploring issues combining science, technology, and philosophy such as “deep time” through sound installation, autonomous technology, and astronomical sculpture. He has been artist-in-residence at Oxford University’s department of Astrophysics and in 2005 won the PRS Foundation New Music Award for “Score for a Hole in the Ground.” As co-founder and co-writer with famed Irish-punk band The Pogues, Finer has helped create some of the most popular and influential British pop music of the past 25 years.

September 25, 2010 at 11:42 am Comments (0)

Jem Finer Launches Longplayer with Shortplayer

October 1, 2010
9:30 pm

Wood Street Galleries

$10/$8 students

Wood Street Galleries is proud to present the world premiere of “Shortplayer,” a new composition by renowned artist and composer Jem Finer. “Shortplayer” will be performed by Finer leading a group of Pittsburgh’s finest musicians at 9:30 p.m. Friday, October 1 at Wood Street Galleries, immediately following the Downtown Gallery Crawl. (“Shortplayer” concert admission is $10/$8 students.) The performance marks the Pittsburgh launch of Finer’s acclaimed artwork Longplayer, a 1,000-year-long composition that has played continuously since 1999, and which arrives in Pittsburgh as part of Wood Street Galleries’ sound-installation show, Audio Space (Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2010).

The installation of Longplayer at Wood Street Galleries marks another first, as Pittsburgh joins a remarkable list of sites with Longplayer listening posts including the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, and the Bibliotecha in Alexandria, Egypt. The Wood Street Galleries installation will be the first listening post anywhere between San Francisco and London.

About Longplayer

Created with London-based arts organization Artangel to mark the turn of the millennium, Longplayer is Finer’s response to the difficulty of representing and understanding time on a grander scale. At its core, Longplayer is a mathematically self-generating score—not random, but a set of principles that allow the score to continually create itself in a way that is aesthetically beautiful and musically unique. For 10 years, Longplayer has played through a computer system replicating the sound of Tibetan singing bowls; in 2009, it was performed live for the first time, for 24 hours on real singing bowls. It is not a computer-generated piece: As the hour-long segment “Shortplayer” goes to prove, it can be performed on any instruments, at any stage.

But more importantly, Longplayer is a set of concepts and questions: How to compose in a way immune to changes in the cultural perception of music, changes in technology, and changes in geography and politics? With the listening post and the performance of “Shortplayer,” Finer poses these questions to Pittsburgh’s audiences for the first time.

Jem Finer and the Musicians

Artist and composer Jem Finer is considered a unique voice in exploring issues combining science, technology, and philosophy such as “deep time” through sound installation, autonomous technology, and astronomical sculpture. He has been artist-in-residence at Oxford University’s department of Astrophysics and in 2005 won the PRS Foundation New Music Award for “Score for a Hole in the Ground.” As co-founder and co-writer with famed Irish-punk band The Pogues, Finer has helped create some of the most popular and influential British pop music of the past 25 years.

The musicians gathered to perform “Shortplayer” are some of Pittsburgh’s best-known avant-garde players. Music director David Bernabo has organized the group of horn players including Ben Opie (reeds), Roger Dannenberg (trumpet), Lou Stellute (saxophone), Mark Fromm (reeds), Brandon Masterman (reeds), and Roger Day (tuba).

, ,
September 25, 2010 at 11:32 am Comments (0)

Mivos String Quartet at Most Wanted Fine Art

September 27, 2010
8:00 pm

Most Wanted Fine Art (www.most-wantedfineart.com)
5015 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Tickets $15, $10 students

Brooklyn based MIVOS quartet, described as an “excellent ensemble” (Time Out New York), presents a program of musical extremes.  In an evening of continuous music, a serene landscape of works by Guillaume de Machaut and György Kurtag will be punctuated by the brutal neo-romanticism of Wolfgang Rihm and young American composer Ashley Wang.  Lushly orchestrated works by East-Coast new music fixtures Missy Mazzoli and Anna Clyne will complete the spectrum.  Missy Mazzoli’s band Victoire played at Most Wanted Fine Arts this past august with a full set of her compositions. Her string quartet Death Valley Junction will be a Pittsburgh premiere. Of her compositions, Mazzoli says, “like most of my music, these pieces are really about transporting the listener to a dreamy and unfamiliar but very specific place.”

MIVOS is:
Olivia De Prato, Joshua Modney, violins
Victoir Lowrie, viola
Isabel Castellvi, cello

Program details:

Wolfgang Rihm: String Quartet #4
Guillaume de Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame
Gyorgy Kurtag: 12 Mikroludien

Anna Clyne: Roulette
Ashley Wang: Retrogradable Dilution
Missy Mazzoli: Death Valley Junction


September 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm Comments (0)

Illusion of Safety and Peace, Loving this Weekend

Late breaking info about concerts happening this weekend. Illusion of Safety plays at a new venue called The Shop in Bloomfield on Friday, and Peace, Loving plays Most Wanted Fine Art on Saturday. Lots of good electroacoustic, industrial, improvisation, noise to go around. Details on the Events calendar.

September 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm Comments (0)

Peace, Loving at Most Wanted Fine Art

September 18, 2010
8:00 pm

Most Wanted Fine Art

$5 at the door.

Peace, Loving are from Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts and part of the White Haus Family Records collective. Earlier in the day they will be performing at High Zero Festival in Baltimore. Members performed in Pittsburgh last year at Morning Glory as Many Mansions. The set included radios, various percussion and active performance.

With Brian Ellis, Tusk Lord, and Great Blue Heron.

September 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm Comments (0)

« Older Posts