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)

Beyond: Symposium Session 2

March 1, 2015
6:00 pmto7:30 pm
6:00 pmto7:30 pm

In addition to three nights of concerts, the Beyond Microtonal Music Festival includes two days of symposium with guest speakers. The second symposium session is an Introduction to Microtonal Music (Historical Issues). Presenters include Frank J. Oteri (Editor, NewMusicBox) and Robert Hasegawa (McGill University).

This section of the symposium will take place at The Andy Warhol Museum Theater and is free and open to the public. All attendees are invited to enjoy refreshments following the session.

February 18, 2015 at 9:16 pm Comments (0)

Beyond: Symposium Session 1

February 28, 2015
1:00 pmto4:00 pm
1:00 pmto4:00 pm

In addition to three nights of concerts, the Beyond Microtonal Music Festival includes two days of symposium with guest speakers. The first session will be a discussion of Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto and Lamonte Young’s Well-tuned Piano. Presenters will include Charles Corey, Anthony Cheung, Kyle Gann, and Michael Harrison.

The symposium will be held in Music Building Room 132 (at the corner of Fifth Ave and Bellefield Ave) on University of Pittsburgh’s campus on Saturday February 28th, and is free and open to the public.

February 18, 2015 at 9:07 pm Comments (0)

Beyond: Microtonal Music Fest Finale

March 1, 2015
8:00 pmto10:00 pm

mantra2The final night of the Beyond Microtonal Music Festival has a whole slew of performers lined up. Ray-Kallay Duo will perform Enno Poppe’s Rad, as well as works by Eric Moe (premiere), Frank J. Oteri, Kyle Gann, and others. Flux Quartet and Mantra Percussion will premiere Mathew Rosenblum’s Ostatnia runda, dedicated to composer Lee Hyla who passed away in 2014 and written for Flux Quartet and Mantra Percussion together. Pittsburgh’s own Alia Musica will perform Nach-Ruf… ent-gleitend by Georg Friedrich Haas.

The Ray-Kallay Duo is dedicated to expanding the sonic possibilities of the multiple keyboard concert, often using two acoustic grands, two keyboards, or combinations of both. In redefining the 21st century piano duo, they also frequently include live electronics and alternate tuning systems in their programs. Their repertoire ranges from icons of the genre to newly composed works crafted specifically for their unusual and special resources. The duo, comprised of Pianists Vicki Ray and Aron Kallay, has given hundreds of world premieres in Los Angeles and across the country. Mark Swed of the LA Times called them “Exquisite.

Founded in 2006-7 by a consortium of eleven young composers, Alia Musica has created professional opportunities for composers, performers, and conductors of contemporary music from all over the US. Parterships include new-music organizations in New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Rochester, and more. Under the leadership of Federico Garcia-De Castro, it has contributed to enrich a more and more lively and vibrant new music scene in Pittsburgh. Alia Musica has collaborated with world-class artists like conductors Cliff Colnot and Jeffery Meyer, soprano Tony Arnold, and the legendary composer-performers Frederic Rzewski and Robert Dick.

For the sake of brevity, check out our Saturday night event post for more on Flux Quartet and Mantra Percussion. Join us at the Warhol Sunday March 1st at 8 p.m. to see all of these groups! Tickets for March 1st, and the rest of the festival are available at http://music.pitt.edu/tickets.

February 11, 2015 at 10:39 am Comments (0)

Flux Quartet and Mantra Percussion

February 28, 2015
8:00 pmto10:00 pm

Flux2013 copyThis February, MOTE is bringing a number of fantastic ensembles to Pittsburgh for Beyond: A Microtonal Music Festival. Night two of the festival features Flux Quartet performing Scelsi’s String Quartet #2 and other works, and Mantra Percussion performing Michael Gordon’s epic hour-long piece, Timber, for six 2 x 4 pieces of wood and light installation.

The FLUX Quartet, “one of the most fearless and important new-music ensembles around” (Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle) “who has brought a new renaissance to quartet music” (Kyle Gann, The Village Voice), has performed to rave reviews in venues from Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and Kennedy Center, to influential art institutions such as EMPAC, The Kitchen, and the Walker Art Center (with jazz icon Ornette Coleman), to international music festivals in Australia, Europe, and the Americas. It has also appeared on numerous experimental series, including Bowerbird, Roulette, and soon Music on the Edge. Their premiere recording of Morton Feldman’s monumental String Quartet No.2 was described as a “disorienting, transfixing experience that repeatedly approached and touched the sublime” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker)

Strongly influenced by the irreverent spirit and “anything-goes” philosophy of the fluxus art movement, violinist Tom Chiu founded FLUX in the late 90’s. The quartet has since cultivated an uncompromising repertoire that follows neither fashions nor trends, but rather combines yesterday’s seminal iconoclasts with tomorrow’s new voices. Alongside late 20th-century masters like Cage, Feldman, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Scelsi, and Xenakis, FLUX has premiered more than 100 works by many of today’s foremost innovators.

Mantra Percussion has been hailed by The New York Times as “finely polished…a fresh source of energy” and praised by The New Yorker and TimeOut New York for presenting one of the ten best classical performances of 2012. Committed to honoring the deep past and expanding the far-flung future of percussion music, Mantra brings to life new works for percussion by living composers, collaborates with artists from diverse genres and styles, and questions what it means to communicate by making music with and on percussive objects. They devote their collective energy toward engaging new audiences by challenging the standard concert format through evening-length events that look toward a grander artistic vision. Their mantra is to strive for each performance to be a significant moment.

Since forming as an ensemble in 2009, Mantra has been featured at festivals, venues, and universities throughout North America and in Europe including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, MATA Festival, Bang on a Can Marathon, National Public Radio,  and many others. After co-commissioning Michael Gordon’s evening-length percussion sextet Timber, Mantra gave the work’s United States premiere in October 2011 and subsequently toured the work throughout North America.

MOTE cannot wait to bring this work to Pittsburgh on Saturday February 28th, 8 p.m. at the Andy Warhol Museum. Tickets for this show, and the rest of the festival are available at http://music.pitt.edu/tickets.


February 10, 2015 at 9:28 pm Comments (0)

Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival

February 27, 2015
8:00 pmto10:00 pm

mak2This February, MOTE is bringing a number of fantastic ensembles to Pittsburgh for Beyond: A Microtonal Music Festival. The first of three concerts in the festival will feature guitarists Mak Grgić and Daniel Lippel performing Radelescu, cellist Theodore Mook performing Ezra Sims, and pianist/composer Michael Harrison performing his own piece Revelation.

Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Mak Grgić has established himself as one of the up-and-coming performers in the guitar genre.” Mak is a passionate advocate for new music and has premiered numerous new pieces. Mak’s versatile career includes solo performances and recordings as well as orchestral performances, and chamber music. He is a co-founder of DC8, Da Camera’s contemporary music ensemble, which strives to expand the definition of what a modern music ensemble can be. Mak has won many guitar competitions and recently took first prize at the Guitar Competition “Luigi Mozzani” in Italy.

Guitarist Daniel Lippel, called an “exciting soloist” (NY Times), “versatile and skillful guitarist” (Time Out New York) and a “modern guitar polymath” (Guitar Review), enjoys a diverse career that ranges through solo performances, chamber music, innovative commissioning and recording projects, and improvising contexts. Based in New York, Lippel has been the guitarist with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) since 2005 and Flexible Music since 2004. As a chamber musician, he has performed throughout Asia, Europe, South America, and the U.S. He has performed as a guest with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, New York New Music Ensemble, and Either/Or Ensemble, among others.

American cellist Theodore Mook is a versatile performer, comfortable in avante-garde, classical, historical, and commercial styles. He has been a particularly active proponent of new music since 1980. Mr. Mook has played new music at the Library of Congress, the American Academy in Rome, the venerable Monday Evening Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many others. Recent concert appearances span the globe: Perth, Brisbane, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Porto, Brussels, Oldenburg, and Bremen. His extensive discography spans over 100 works, including a brand new release on New World records performing the music of Annea Lockwood.

Composer and pianist, Michael Harrison, creates music that is both forward looking and deeply rooted in different forms of traditional music. This perspective, alongside a simple and elegant gift for melody, makes him a composer that can reach audiences of many kinds. As a pianist Harrison has performed his music and received premieres at the Spoleto Festival, Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, Other Minds Festival in San Francisco, in New York City at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, United Nations, Symphony Space, numerous Bang On A Can Marathons at the World Financial Center, among many others. Harrison has produced two albums of his works to critical acclaim: Times Loops and Revelation.

Music critic Tim Page wrote, “Say it plainly — Michael Harrison’s ‘Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation is probably the most brilliant and original extended composition for solo piano since the early works of Frederic Rzewski three decades ago…”

Come and see all of these amazing performers the first night of the festival: Friday, February 27th, 8 p.m. at the Andy Warhol Museum. Tickets for this show, and the rest of the festival are available at http://music.pitt.edu/tickets.

February 9, 2015 at 2:08 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)

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)

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