Saturday, December 28, 2013

In AK

I am back home in Alaska for the holidays, and will not be posting much here until I return to LA in 2014. 

The view from near my parents' house.
Look closely and you can see Mt. Susitna and Denali.
Baldy is the near peak on the right.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Notations 21: Troy and Falcone

Here is the twenty-first installment of Notations! Inspired by Cage's 1969 bookNotations is a collection of graphic scores, hand drawn music calligraphy, computer code, compositional sketches, text scores, and other innovative forms of musical notation.

Every Monday we'll showcase notation by two different composers, primarily focusing on those local to Los Angeles. This week's composers are T.J. Troy and Madeline Falcone. All images are used with permission, and copyright is retained by each piece's respective creator. Click on the images to hear/see a larger view.

Great Western Railway by TJ Troy
T.J. Troy combines an eclectic knowledge of percussion from around the world with his innate musicality to create a distinct and powerful voice in the world of contemporary percussion. Be it as a member of many high caliber ensembles, a soloist or with the numerous artists he collaborates with, T.J. has established himself as one of the most multi-faceted and sought after percussion artists in Los Angeles. As a composer, T.J.’s writes for several different groups, including the Freshly Squeezed Music Ensemble (FSME), a chamber group whose repertoire draws from classical, contemporary, and world music traditions; February 2011 saw the release of “Roads 3,” the third volume of T.J.’s “Roads” series, cataloging his creative journey as a composer. T.J.’s latest project, Run Downhill, just recently saw the release of their debut EP, “Giants.” An active performer and composer for television and film, he was awarded the Gaia Award from the Moondance International Film Festival, for his score to Den Serras' film, "Seven Swans," co-written with composer Leon Rothenberg. His compositions have been performed by the University of Michigan Creative Arts Orchestra, the CalArts Percussion Ensemble, the Citrus College Percussion Ensemble, Condensation, OK Composer, and Freshly Squeezed.

More info at tjtroy.com

In the dreaming man's dream, the dreamed man awoke by Madeline Falcone

Madeline Falcone, violinist and violist, is a versatile performer with an interest in the promotion of contemporary music. She completed her undergraduate degree at Loyola University New Orleans, where she cultivated an interest in chamber music as a founding member of the New Orleans Chamber Ensembles and the Contemporary String Ensemble. Through these groups, Madeline initiated the premiere of new works by worldwide composers in unconventional venues throughout the city.  She continued her studies through the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music summer orchestras and California Institute of the Arts, where she received her MFA.  While at CalArts, Madeline appeared in solo roles including VLN & VLA at REDCAT and made her viola debut as soloist in the premiere of The House is Open by Alex Vassos. Primary teachers include Mark Menzies, Lorenz Gamma, Michel Zaïtzeff, and Amy Thiaville. As a Los Angeles chamber musician, Madeline is a founding member of The Isaura String Quartet and has performed with Classical Revolution L.A. and YMF’s Debut Orchestra and at venues including REDCAT, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and Gibson Ampitheater. Her musical interests extend to genres including Irish fiddle, bluegrass, jazz, and popular music; she played fiddle with Los Angeles Irish band The Ploughboys, performed at New Orleans Jazz Fest, and appeared as a regular guest with the 2011 Thelonius Monk Sextet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

REVIEW: Monday Evening Concerts' Kondo and Feldman, 12/09

The 75th(!) season of Monday Evening Concerts kicked off this week with music by Jo Kondo and Morton Feldman, performed by alumni and students from UCSD and Calarts, Southern California's prime upper-level institutions of contemporary music performance. The first half was devoted to two pieces by Kondo, Sight Rhythmics and Under the Umbrella, while Feldman's Words and Music took up the second half.

The evening began with Kondo's Sight Rhythmics, featuring banjo, steel drum, electric piano, tuba, and violin. The instrumentation reminded me of a exchange between Feldman and Earle Brown: "'Earle Brown once remonstrated, 'But Morty, just because you've chosen the instruments, that doesn't mean the piece is finished,' Feldman replied, 'For me it is.'" The interaction of deliberately disparate timbres seemd to be the focus of the piece. With that goal in mind, I found myself questioning Kondo's pairing of steel drums and electric piano, however, as those sounds did blend on occasion. Kondo also wrote a piano version of Sight Rhythmics, which the relative timbral homogeneity transforms into an entirely different piece:


The existence of simple, yet highly detailed structures in Kondo's linear music brought Scelsi to mind, while the crippled stasis of the piece invoked Feldman. I found myself wondering why Kondo chose western instruments like the banjo, rather than a timbrally-similar traditional Japanese instrument like the shamisen, though I assume he has written about his orchestrational approach sometime in his long career. Not knowing too much about Kondo, these pieces piqued my curiosity about his music and I plan on finding out much more about his work.

Under the Umbrella, a piece for 25 cowbells played by 5 percussionists originally commissioned by Toru Takemitsu for Nexus, was performed next by UCSD's Red Fish Blue Fish. This piece was my favorite on the concert, drawing up a whole panoply of references. Watching the musicians, one can quickly discern that the cowbells are dispersed low-to-high among the musicians in the following manner: Player 1 has the lowest, Player 2 has the next lowest, Player 3 has the 3rd lowest, etc. The resulting hocketed playing style seemed to simultaneously draw influence from gamelan and handbell choirs, while the sounds chosen by Red Fish Blue Fish brought to mind Cage's constructions, Partch's cloud chamber bowls, Gagaku, and (of course) the Swiss alps.

It was particularly good timing for me to hear this piece. On the Saturday prior I was playing my music at the Krampus Ball with Timur and the Dime Museum, and G.T.E.V. D'Oberlander presented several fantastic cowbell ringers! Something in the air, I suppose... Anyhow, as I listened to both of Kondo's pieces, I also couldn't help but notice the prominence of the number 5 - five instruments in Sight Rhythmics; five musicians in  Under the Umbrella, each playing five cowbells, etc. This is another concept I'm guessing someone more familiar with Kondo's compositional style would know more about.

After an intermission came Words and Music, by Samuel Beckett and Morton Feldman. This piece was originally a 1962 radio play that Beckett's cousin, John Beckett, had written music for. It was revived in 1987 with new music by Feldman. Beckett's meta-narrative portrays a forcibly collaborative relationship between Words/Joe and Music/Bob, facilitated by a surly character named Croak, who rapped with a bass drum mallet on what appeared to be a Mahler box.

For my own taste, the angst of Words and Music felt like a particularly dated Eurocentric/East coast platitude - particularly after the timeless and confidently austere Japanese beauty of Kondo's music. I am always grateful whenever I have the opportunity to hear Feldman's music live, though perhaps I prefer a greater ratio of Bob to Joe. I found it disconcerting to hear Feldman's music, which I am used to hearing stretched across vast expanses of time, compressed into bagatelle-like structures. The music isn't allowed to properly unravel, the way it does in pieces like For Samuel Beckett (also written in 1987) or Neither (a 1977 collaboration between Feldman and Beckett).


At any rate, the theatrical performances by Jonathan McMurty and Jamie Newcomb were fantastic, and the direction of Kim Rubenstein was perfectly effective. I have seen many of the musicians in the ensemble play Feldman on other occasions, and they made it clear why MEC asked them to be a part of this season premiere performance.

The next Monday Evening Concert is January 6, featuring music by Chris Newman and Ludwig van...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Notations 20: Barel and Corral

Here is the twentieth installment of Notations! Inspired by Cage's 1969 bookNotations is a collection of graphic scores, hand drawn music calligraphy, computer code, compositional sketches, text scores, and other innovative forms of musical notation.

Every Monday (Tuesday again this week...) we'll showcase notation by two different composers, primarily focusing on those local to Los Angeles. This week's composers are Ori Barel and Daniel Corral (me!). All images are used with permission, and copyright is retained by each piece's respective creator. Click on the images to hear/see a larger view.

Python code from Out by Ori Barel

Ori Barel's music explores various fields including electronic music, chamber music, works for solo instruments and electronics, orchestral music and sound installations. His chamber music has been performed by The Formalist Quartet, Kobayachi Trio and The Ear Unit in venues such as MOSA series (New York), Redcat Lounge (Los Angeles), Ballhaus (Berlin), Santandler Festival (Spain) and Beyond Baroque (Los Angeles). He has performed his electronic pieces at various venues and festivals including: Redcat, Soundwalk Festival, Cemec Festival in Stanford University, Mills College and UCSD among others. In addition he has created soundscapes and compositions for various installations by different artists in museums and galleries such as Tel Aviv Museum, Jerusalem Artists’ House and Overtones Gallery (Los Angeles). He holds a B.A. in Music Composition at UCLA and a Masters degree from California Institute Of The Arts where he studied with Michael Jon Fink, Ulrich Krieger and Marc Sabat. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying with Clarence Barlow and Curtis Roads.

More info at oribarel.com

Compostional sketch for Diasporic Music #6: Histories by Daniel Corral

Daniel Corral is a composer and multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Eagle River, Alaska. His music is a rich collusion of styles, constantly blurring the boundaries between the familiar and foreign, mirroring the diasporic evolution of cultural identity in the twenty-first century. His unique voice finds outlet in puppet operas, accordion orchestras, handmade music boxes, electronic collages, site-specific installations, chamber music, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Corral’s music has gained great attention in Los Angeles, being commissioned and presented by venues such as REDCAT, The Hammer Museum, MOCA, USC’s Thornton School of Music, CSUN’s Mike Curb College of Arts, The Pianospheres Series, and The Santa Monica GLOW Festival. He writes, arranges, and performs with numerous music groups, including Timur & The Dime Museum, Free Reed Conspiracy, and Tears of the Moosechaser. Corral received his MFA from Calarts, where he studied with James Tenney, and Anne LeBaron.

More info at spinalfrog.com

Sunday, December 8, 2013

REVIEW: Now Hear Ensemble @ REDCAT, 11/02

On November 2, I got to hear the Now Hear Ensemble perform at REDCAT. Not to be confused with the Hear Now Festival or the NOW Festival, the Santa Barbara-based Now Hear Ensemble consists of students and recent alumni of UCSB. I first heard this group at REDCAT's Spring Studio, playing Federico Llach's 11 Points, in which a game of ping-pong acted as conductor while the ensemble went through a series of post-minimal loops and phrases.

The forward-thinking group has been on tour to promote their debut album, Made in California. The album features student and recent alumni compositions from various colleges around California, and the tour visited all of those schools. REDCAT acted as the Calarts-related venue, and Now Hear's Calarts delegate was Todd Lerew, whose Variable Speed Machine stood out in a concert of disparate musical tropes with the unique timbre of e-bow'd custom-made string instruments. The concert also featured music by USC's David Werfelmann, Mills' Mateo Lugo, Stanford's Iván Naranjo, UCSD's Carolyn Chen, Daniel Miller, and Wild Rumpus' Dan VanHassel.

The Now Hear Ensemble consists of clarinetist Amanda Kritzberg, saxophonist Isaac Lopez, percussionist Anthony Paul Garcia, violist Jonathan Morgan, and double bassist/artistic director Federico Llach. Their new album, Made in California, is available now on iTunes or CdBaby.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Headlands AIR 2014!

I'm happy to announce that I was selected to be a 2014 Artist In Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts!

They just announced the full list of 2014 awardees, and I am honored to be able to participate in such a high-caliber community of creative people. I'm excited to find out who will be there at the same time as me, as every name I recognize on the list is someone whose work I highly respect.

Also, I have a profile page on the Headlands website, if anyone is interested in checking that out.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NOW AVAILABLE: the wulf's Rounds LP

The Wulf has made an album called Rounds, which is available on their website as of today!

A group of LA-based composers were commissioned to write rounds for the project, including Adrian Tenney, Eric Km Clark, Casey Anderson, myselfJessica Catron, Michael Winter, Julia Holter, and more. There are also rounds by composer like Larry Polansky, James Tenney, and David Mahler.

Rounds is available either as a limited edition vinyl LP (including a digital download), or as a digital download.

While you're waiting for your download to finish, you can read Larry Polansky's extremely helpful article, Some Thoughts on Writing Rounds.

On December 15, there will be a Rounds record release party at the Wulf.


Monday, December 2, 2013

No Notations This Week

There won't be any Notations this week. I just got back into town and am once again playing catch-up with a bunch of projects.

So, it'll be back next week!

Also, stay tuned for more concert and CD reviews that have been lying in waiting (part of aforementioned catch-up)!