Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

I've been watching a lot of interviews with Kurt Vonnegut, and his thoughts on writing can easily be applied to the act of composing music (they are relevant to practically any creative practice, but I tend to have music on the mind...)

His talk on the shape of stories is definitely applicable to musical formal analysis.

His advice on how to write a short story can be directly applied to the composition of music. It may not make as much sense for someone like La Monte Young or George Brecht, but it's sound advice if the music approaches time/melody/harmony in a very traditional way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

(Most of) Ben Johnston's String Quartets Online

Here is a meaty but incomplete list of online videos of Ben Johnston's 10 amazing string quartets. 

There are a few missing pieces - specifically No. 1, No. 7, No. 8, and most of No. 10. If you have a link to those, send them to me and I'll put them up. 

I tried to diversify the ensembles, and not just post all of the Kepler Quartet's definitive recordings. These are definitely not all of the videos there are of these pieces online, but all of the pieces I could find are represented.

String Quartet Number 1

String Quartet Number 2 

String Quartet Number 3 
played by the Kepler Quartet

String Quartet Number 4 

String Quartet Number 5 
played by the Kepler Quartet

String Quartet Number 6
played by the New World String Quartet

String Quartet Number 7

String Quartet Number 8

String Quartet Number 9
played by the American Modern Ensemble

Mvmt. 1 from String Quartet Number 10
played by the Kepler Quartet

Monday, November 26, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: Alexei Lubimov @ Zipper Hall, 11/05

On November 5, Monday Evening Concerts presented a wonderful performance by Russian-born pianist Alexei Lubimov at Zipper Hall Throughout the evening he interpreted Debussy, Cage, Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, and Satie. The concert began with the Prelude to Act I of Satie's Les Files des étoiles. This bit of "prototypical minimalism" comes across at first like a compendium of riffs and loosely linked bagatelles. Many harmonies and parallell gestures sounded prophetic of Messiaen, in particular Éclairs sur L'au Delà. Lubimov treated Satie's humorous/mystical dichotomy with a reverent delicacy.

That was followed by Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky's Récit de Voyage, a surprisingly rewarding piece dangling between Prokofiev, Steve Mackey, and Clementi. For this piece Lubimov was joined by percussionist Jonathan Hepfer, cellist Karen Ouzounian, and violinist Movses Pogossian. Lubimov artfully blended into the dynamics of the ensemble, with the vibrant Pogossian stepping into the forefront.

After intermission, a second piano was used for Cage's prepared piano pieces. It was a big weekend for the prepared piano, as the prior Saturday saw a performance of Sonatas and Interludes by Richard Valitutto at the Hammer Museum. The difference between intimate chamber setting and concert hall grandeur was stark - hearing every delicate note decay and pedal lift versus the reverberant depth of the stage, which easily buries such details.

Lubimov played Cage's Prelude for Meditation, Music for Marcel Duchamp, and The Perilous Night. These pieces were treated to the same austerity as the Satie, and the French composer's influence on Cage was highlighted by the pairing of the two. An unfortunate interjection by SIRI colored one piece, but the reserved personality of the musicianship persevered. Lubimov re-prepared the piano onstage for The Perilous Night as the audience watched and waited. With such a stellar performance thus far, no one seemed to mind sitting quietly as the pianist dug around inside the piano, inserting erasers, bolts, etc. into Zipper Hall's lesser piano.

Lubimov came back around to Debussy in the end, with a contemplative performance of six of his preludes. Though standing ovations are not entirely unheard of at Monday Evening Concerts, encores are less common. Lubimov treated the audience to two encores from Debussy's first book of preludes, concluding with The Engulfed Cathedral. It was in these encores that he seemed to finally let loose, exploring dynamic ranges uncalled for in the prior pieces. That abandon only highlighted the skill in the light touch demonstrated throughout the evening.

It was a fantastic performance by a world class performer, presented by the longest-running new music series in the country. Isn't this why we live in LA? On December 3, MEC will present New Voices, featuring music by Rob Wannamaker, Cassandra Miller, Aaron Helgeson, and Rick Burkhardt.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Contemporary Opera Scenes, Nov. 17 at the Hammer

This Saturday at 3pm, come hear Timur and the Dime Museum perform excerpts from my puppet opera, Zoophilic Follies! It will be at the Hammer Museum, and will feature Timur Bekbosunov and Argenta Walther. I will be conducting and playing accordion/laptop.

Check out New ClassicLA's post about Wax and Feathers, a song from Zoophilic Follies.

Wild Up director Chris Rountree will also conduct excerpts from Isaac Schankler's Light and Power, Veronika Krausas' Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth, and Anne LeBaron's Crescent City.

Please visit the Facebook event page for more info. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: AU, Zammuto, Piney Gir @ The Bootleg

On Thursday, 11/01 AU and Zammuto played at The Bootleg. The show was originally scheduled to be at the Troubadour, but was mysteriously relocated to Fold territory. However, The Bootleg is a great place to see a show, and they seem to have a solid sound man (which can truly make or break a show), so no disappointment here.

Piney Gir opened the show, though I showed up late and unfortunately missed her set. However, she just released an album on Highline Records titled Geronimo!

AU sounds like a combination of The Boredoms, Sigur Ros, Tangerine Dream, and God Speed You Black Emperor. Consisting of Luke Wyland on keyboards/vocals/etc, Dana Valatka on drumset/percussion, and Holland Hunter Andrews on clarinet/vocals, one might be surprised at just how much sound this trio can make. They alternated between electro-acoustic grooves and grandiose, ecstatic builds, all the while abstractly vocalizing something quintessentially Northwestern. To achieve this pseudo-orchestral sound, they seem to have mastered the delicate art of looping and sampling, which has so much potential for tediousness.

Wyland, grounded at his keyboard, had quite an array of auxilary instruments. I heard/saw samplers, melodicas, lap steel, etc. Valatka had an in ineffable energy reminiscent of the bombast of Billy Cobham. That energy found release in his fantastic collection of bells and an epic drum solo near the end of their set. Andrews also had an impressive solo moment, building a sound world out of layered clarinet loops and accompanying herself singing. It reminded me a bit of Gabby La La mixed with Amanda Palmer.

It would be easy to make an aesthetic connection between AU and Animal Collective, but that would be an oversimplification. Each member of AU displayed their own performative virtuosity in a way that would far surpass that group. I saw AU play one other time in Portland, OR and it was a startlingly great experience. They had a much larger group - including a good-sized choir and guitar, but this current paired down ensemble still delivered the aural goods. AU also just released an album titled Both Lights, available from Home Tapes.

Zammuto is lead by Nick Zammuto, who was a key member of The Books. They sound like a mixture of The Books, Paul Simon, Dismemberment Plan and Cornelius. The vocals were often processed, offering a reminder of the bionic playfulness of The Books. Zammuto's songwriting and singing are often reminiscent of Paul Simon, and they even covered Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Some of the songs were sync'd to projected video, which brought to mind Cornelius' Sensuous Synchronized Show.

Zammuto had songs/videos about zebra butts, back pain, kids, 80's infomercials, and more. Though the spectacle of synchronization with the video was exciting, I felt the songs without video to be much more musical. That's not to say they were innately better, as I liked both quite a bit. Any musician who has played with a click knows that the difference in concentration alters a groove substantially. The final song of their set (not including the encore) involved a hilarious collage made from an instructional harpsichord video. Zammuto has a self-released eponymous album, available from their website.

Though their music is undeniably different, there are many parallels between the AU and Zammuto and I can see why they would choose to tour together. Both use electronics effectively, both lean towards detailed orchestration, and both had extended drum solos in their sets. The new music has learned the lessons and pitfalls of prog-rock and re-tooled it for the 21st century; I am excited by the future possibilites hinted at within.

Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble today @ CSULA

Last night, I saw the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble present an exciting evening of music by contemporary Russian-born composers. The concert was at Beyond Baroque, and I was surprised at just how few of the composers I had heard of (only one...). I'm excited to start learning more about them. 

The group will be returning to Moscow tomorrow, but they will play one final show in the states. It will be this afternoon at CSULA!

If you can, head out to CSULA to hear this exciting group play new music by great composers you've probably not heard (yet). It will be a splendid cornucopia of extended technique. 

The concert is at 4:00pm at CSULA's Music Hall.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Music at Mimoda, Wed 10/07!

Tonight, come hear Maksim Velichkin premiere my solo cello piece, Diasporic Music #7: Identity, tonight at Mimoda! I'll also play a solo for accordion and laptop, and a whole slew of other composers! Concert begins at 8pm!

Concert featuring music of S. J. Pettersson, George N. Gianopoulos, Daniel Corral, A. Vivaldi, J.- B. de Boismortier, E. Lalo with performances by Daniel Corral, Peter Jacobson, Leo Chelyapov, Tae Yeon Lim, Rachel Mellis, Dimitry Olevsky, Yevgeny Milyavsky, Maksim Velichkin and Physical Theatre of Yasha Michelson 

MiMoDa Studio
5772 west pico blvd

Suggested donation-$10, students-$5, musicians who have
performed previously-free


G. N. Gianopoulos "November 1" from "Circadian Calendar" for solo cello world premiere

Maksim Velichkin-cello

D. Corral Diasporic Music #7: Identity for solo cello
world premiere

Maksim Velichkin-cello

D. Corral Solo for accordion and laptop

D. Corral-accordion and laptop

S. J. Pettersson "Diary of a Seducer"
"The Seducer"
world premiere

Rachel Mellis - flute, Leo Chelyapov - clarinet, Tae Yeon Lim - piano, Maksim Velichkin - cello

Physical Theatre of Yasha Michelson


Cello duos by A. Vivaldi, J.-B. de Boismortier and D. Popper

Peter Jacobson-cello, Maksim Velichkin-cello

E. Lalo Symphonie Espagnole
1. Allegro non troppo

Dimitry Olevsky-violin
Yevgeny Milyavsky-piano

presented by Maksim Velichkin and Yasha Michelson of Mimoda Studio

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bernstein's Unanswered Question

Regardless of your opinion of Leonard Bernstein's music, it's worth watching his Norton lectures, The Unanswered Question. Someone has been gracious enough to post them on YouTube for all to see. It makes me want to own the DVD's! Until that day, here are the YouTube links:







Sunday, November 4, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: Laurie Anderson @ Royce Hall

On 10/26, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance presented Laurie Anderson at Royce Hall. As anyone familiar with her work would expect, it was not exactly a musical performance, but a performance thoroughly gilded with music. Her labyrinthine narrative/semantic skills and hypnotist delivery have clearly been focused to a powerful laser beam through the years. Those strengths were rightfully spotlighted throughout the performance, supported by her processed electric violin, keyboards, loops and samples.

As I mentioned in my Vijay Iyer review, filling the massive Royce stage must be a daunting task. From my seat, Anderson looked like a little Lego woman in the distance, but that did not detract from her performance. From her stage presence and setup you could tell that this was not a new dilemma for her.

The stage floor was littered with candles, adding a nice ambiance in a way that only candles can. Aside from her electronic instrument setup, the only other stage fixtures were a small rectangular projection screen and a comfortable-looking armchair. The back curtain was flooded with colored lights that slowly morphed throughout the piece, often with a single complimentary color on the projection screen adding a splash of contrast reminiscent of minimalist painting.

The pacing of the show reminded me of music classes I teach to young children. One must keep a close eye on the wandering attention spans of the group, constantly jumping to something new to keep focus among the arbitrarily amused/bemused. One can't deny that Anderson has reached a deeper level of insight (or at least eloquence) than your average performer, and I imagined her as a sort of cultural babysitter or metaphorical early-childhood teacher. Her performance kept us occupied until our motor control and mental capacity are able to stumble towards the deeper resonance of the stories.

Her anecdotes started broadly and became gradually more insular - beginning with evolution and space, and gradually moving towards home-made pet videos. Topics included the NDAA, space popes, tent city tree chickens, and her deceased dog Lolabelle in the bardo (even including 2 brief videos of Lolabelle playing keyboards).

Her headstock-less electric violin immediately reminded me of the EWI, that most maladjusted of MIDI controllers. However, her use of effects and harmonizers created a much denser and more interesting soundscape than one would expect. The drum loops and pandiatonic pads she employed always bordered on sounding dated, toeing the line into early 90's visions of the aural future. But since the retro-kitsch tentacle is now oozing it's way through that decade, nothing felt sonically anachronic. Even when she pitch-shifted her voice to make it lower and more masculine, it sounded surprisingly clean (it reminded me of Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime voice). Her pin-point articulation helped that, aided by an apparent proficiency with the technological tools she's laid out for herself.

I am still surprised when such a tech-heavy show appears to go smoothly. There is so much potential for things to go wrong, it feels like a miracle when nothing appears to have broken down by the end. Anderson has clearly gotten to know the technology that she employs, which is often quite a task for performers of more golden generations. Many artists lose their edge as they age, but Laurie Anderson fits into the other group, in which she seems to be becoming more and more herself.