Pittsburgh New Music Net

cutting-edge music in the ’burgh and beyond

Jace Clayton: the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner

March 14, 2015
8:00 pm

The Carnegie Museum of Art Theater

The Warhol welcomes back Jace Clayton, a.k.a. DJ /rupture, who leads an ensemble work conceived for twin pianos, live electronics, and voice, that brings fresh insight to the artistic legacy of Julius Eastman – the mercurial gay African American composer who mixed canny minimalist innovation with head-on political provocation. The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner comprises new arrangements and interpretations of a selection of Eastman’s piano compositions. As Clayton uses his own custom-designed ‘Sufi Plug Ins’ software to live-process the pianos of David Friend and Emily Manzo, he also intersperses musical vignettes – performed by neo-Sufi vocalist Arooj Aftab – to lend context and nuance to the composer’s saga, which was cut short in 1990 at age 49.

Find out more about this event…

March 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm Comments (0)

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 any 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.

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

Battle Trance at the Warhol

February 7, 2015
8:00 pm

The Andy Warhol Museum

The Warhol welcomes the genre-defying saxophone quartet Battle Trance (comprising Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, andPatrick Breiner) on a tour supporting their debut release, Palace of Wind, on New Amsterdam Records. Performing primarily the music of member Travis Laplante, the quartet crosses boundaries and exists loosely within realms of contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music, the new record challenges conventions of the saxophone as an ensemble instrument. The sonic vocabulary of the quartet has developed through techniques such as circular breathing, allowing them to build continues, hypnotic waves of sound and intricate textures.

January 25, 2015 at 2:10 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)

Ken Vandermark-Nate Worley Duo at the Warhol

January 21, 2015
8:00 pm

The Andy Warhol Museum


Speaking of the Warhol, here’s one we shouldn’t let pass us by. The Warhol welcomes back saxophonist, Ken Vandermark, to the Museum’s intimate theater, this time with fellow experimental jazz composer, Nate Wooley, who Time Out New York has dubbed “an iconoclastic trumpeter”. The two are touring together in support of a new duo release on Pleasure of the Text, Wooley’s own label. This unique evening will feature two solo sets, followed by a duo set. Vandermark’s current projects include Made To Break, The Resonance Ensemble, and duos with Paal Nilssen-Love and Tim Daisy. Wooley performs regularly with such icons as John Zorn and Anthony Braxton.

January 20, 2015 at 8:41 pm Comments (0)

Cyro Baptista and Banquet of Spirits at the Warhol

March 5, 2014
8:00 pm

The Andy Warhol Museum


The Warhol welcomes acclaimed Brazilian percussionist and composer, Cyro Baptista, and his genre-defying quartet, Banquet of Spirits. Their records are reviewed within the broad categories of contemporary jazz and world music, and are released on the Tzadik label, run by avant jazz icon John Zorn, a frequent collaborator of Baptista, along with a myriad of luminaries such as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, and Caetano Veloso. Baptista was also recently named the DownBeat percussionist of the year. It promises to be a unique performance that fans of hybrid jazz/Afro-Cuban music won’t want to miss!

The evening will begin with a DJ set by Pete Spynda (Pandemic) when doors open at 7:30.


February 23, 2014 at 12:12 pm Comments (0)

NOW, NOW, IonSound, Mason, Mason, Mason, MOTE…

Sot there is a lot going on this weekend, and by this weekend I mean starting with two concerts Thursday night: The PSO, IonSound Project, and the Warhol have teamed up to present a concert of music curated by Mason Bates, including two of his own pieces. Meanwhile, back at Duquesne (and how often do you get to write that phrase?), NOW Ensemble is going to perform music by student composers from Duquesne and Pitt at PNC Recital Hall (8 pm and free). Friday through Sunday the PSO will perform Bates’ B-Sides. Saturday Night, MOTE present NOW at the Warhol and the program will include a the premiere of Rounder Songs by our own Patrick Burke and Emily Pinkerton. Soooooo… It’s going to be good! Oh yeah, and if you mention that you’re an IonSound supporter at the Warhol, the tickets are only $10 bucks for the Thursday night show. Check out the Events Calendar thusly ———>

March 21, 2013 at 8:57 am Comments (0)

Mason Bates and IonSound Project at the Warhol

March 21, 2013
8:00 pm

The Andy Warhol Museum


The Warhol partners with The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to present a program of new electro-acoustic music, (including two pieces from their current resident composer, Mason Bates), all performed by the dynamic Pittsburgh-based ensemble, IonSound.  Bates’ “Red River” conjures a journey down the length of the Colorado River, with cascading water figuration flowing into quicksilver electronica rhythms, and his From Amber Frozen offers an indigenous approach to a string quartet.  Anna Clyne’s Paint Box zooms inside the cello, sonically and imaginatively, while Marcos Balter’s “Vision Mantra” stretches out a slow-motion epiphany in an ambient space.  The program culminates in Martin Matalon’s stunning new score for the classic Luis Buñuel film Un Chien Andalou.  Mason Bates is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Music Alive is a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA.
March 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm Comments (0)

JacobTV: The News

Note: I meant for this post to publish on Wednesday but the scheduling function didn’t work for some reason. Hope some of you see this before tonight’s show.

This is coming up on Friday so I’m just putting on the front page right…now! If  you’ve heard some of the recent performances of JacobTV by Lindsey Goodman or IonSound Project, you know that he  incorporates pop culture influences into his work in very sophisticated ways, and you probably want to hear more. Well, here’s your chance! The Warhol’s Off the Wall series will present JacobTV’s reality opera, The News, at the Byham this Friday as part of the Distinctively Dutch Festival. According to the Warhol,

This non fiction video opera is a topical form of Gesammtkunstwerk, based on original footage from the international media, including “revealing” one-liners from the likes of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Silvio Berlusconi, Fox News, TV evangelists and more.

Really, what more could you want? How about Chris McGlumphy’s excellent recent interview with JacobTV?

The News by JacobTV
Friday, April 27, 9 p.m.
The Byham Theater

April 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm Comments (0)

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