Classical Music is Dead*

Sounds at Silvershed

Posted in art, concert, events, fashion, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 06/03/2011

Neon of Trivial models one of his own designs

Tomorrow evening we’re playing some plugged-in music on the rooftop of the Silvershed. While we are super excited about playing, we’re even more excited about not having to go somewhere else to party, since we’ll be throwing a listening party at the venue, complete with inexpensive libations after the show!

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to the concert and party, our guests can walk through the Silvershed gallery and view fashion-inspired prints by Patrick Meagher. Culture, cocktails, and collective fun in one night.

Music (in no particular order):
Ananta- Ryan Manchester
Cliffs- Aphex Twin, Arr. Trevor Gureckis
Saint Arc- Daniel Wohl
Bed from Einstein on the Beach- Glass
Changing Opinion- Glass
Suspended Harmonies- Trevor Gureckis

Fashion: Millinery by Trivial

Art: prints by Patrick Meagher.

Tickets are 15 at the door or online here: http://silvershedncp.eventbrite.com/

Doors open at 7:30 pm

See you there!

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String Theatrics and Violin Semantics

Posted in concert, music, review by izziramkissoon on 05/25/2011

On Friday, May 20, the Vilcek Foundation hosted a performance of violinist and composer Mari Kimura.  The program featured a variety of works stemming from Kimura’s interest in new violin techniques and technology.   Kimura started the evening off with Bach’s Preludio from Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 (1720).  The piece exploited Kimura’s Juilliard training in a flawless and clean performance showing her mastery of classical violin technique.

The second piece on the program was Kimura’s original composition Subharmonic Partita (2004), which introduced her discovery of subharmonics on the violin.  Kimura explains subharmonics as “an extended bowing technique, for playing the violin in a very special way.  By controlling the speed and pressure of the bow very, very precisely a violinist can play notes below the open G, normally the lowest note on the violin, without changing the tuning.  Through the use of subharmonics, it’s possible to play cello notes on the violin!”  In the composition Kimura included fast five octave arpeggios that created glasslike textures juxtaposed against low register growls of subharmonic mastery.

The piece was followed by two more original Kimura compositions, Six Caprices for Subharmonics (1997-1998) and a world premiere called Janmaricana for Subharmonics (2011).  Both compositions served to illustrate Kimura’s use of subharmonics in composition extending the range of the violin.  In Kimura’s compositions she used the subharmonic technique fused with pizzicatos, double stops and a wide range of technique to produce a unique language of her own on the violin.

The technology portion of the program started with a piece that incorporated animation by Ken Perlin followed by another world premiere, Duet X2 for violin, cello and augmented bows (2011).  The piece featured cellist Dave Eggar in a duet with Kimura.  At the start of the piece Kimura displayed her custom Max Msp patch on the projector allowing the audience to take an inside look at Kimura’s interactive dashboard in action.  The piece utilized two bowing motion sensors called “min-MO” developed at IRCAM.  The sensors acquired 3 dimensional acceleration and bow pressure from the performers during the composition.  The relationship between the gesture and sound was second in comparison to the intense communication between both Kimura and Eggar. During the performance real-time processing created various timbres and layers using delay, a computer harmonizer and other effects.

The Old Rose Reader was commissioned by Kimura and composed by Francis White.  The composition incorporated text visuals and prerecorded sound of Kimura’s husband.  The visuals followed the text at times displaying what was being stated by the speech with white text over a black background.  The text also used roses as a motive projecting various types of text relationships against the speech.

Conlon Nancarrow composed the final piece of the program, Toccata for Violin and Player Piano.  This piece ended the night with speed and intensity as Kimura received a wonderful ovation for her versatility as a composer, performer and programmer.  The hall soon emptied as the night transitioned down one floor to the reception hall where Kimura and friends made themselves available to the audience while having champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

Electronics+Noise=Syzygy at Galapagos

Posted in concert, review by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/02/2011

Photos by Alexis Sumsion

Sunday night found the Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space the scene for a mini-marathon of new music focusing on performances with electronics.

The duo Loud Objects started the night with a piece that was equal parts improvised sound experiment, light installation and free-wheeling soldering session. The performance began by the duo silently placing electronic parts on an “antique projector.” After the initial circuit was created, an abrasive, yet captivating, sound filled the room. Seeing the process being projected onto the wall drew the audience into the piece: “How’d such small things that were totally inactive a minute ago, start producing such a loud sound? And how does adding that one wire there change the sound from BABABABABABA to TWEEEEEEEEEEEEE?” Loud Objects somehow found a way to make their set just loud enough to be on the threshold of uncomfortably too loud, and just long enough to show off what they could do without going too long.

After they tore down all their electronic gizmos and do-dads, Syzygy New Music Ensemble started their set with Danielle Schwob’s Mehr Licht. Meaning “More Light” in German, the piece employed a medium-sized chamber ensemble and electronics. I kept going back and forthwith myself on whether the electronics were necessary, or all the musicians were necessary. With the number of players on stage, Schwob could have gotten acoustic sounds just as interesting and beautiful as the electronic part.

Rapture by Anna Clyne was the first “karaoke” piece of the night. Written for solo Clarinet with live and pre-recorded electronics, with live digital visuals by Joshua Ott, the piece seemed to play itself. The most interesting part of the piece was Ott’s live visuals. They oozed and morphed on the screen in tight conjunction with the music.

Tristan Perich’s Observations was so engrossing all I could write down during it was “Robot Crotales Players.” The piece did an excellent job keeping one tiny idea interesting. Percussionists Frank Tyl and Sean Statser were machine-like in their focus and dedication to the performance.

The last two pieces before the second intermission (I mentioned it was a mini-marathon), were vastly different. Nico Muhly’s Honest Music for Violin and pre-recorded electronics had twinges of bad movie music, while Mason Bates’ Red River told the story of the Colorado River. The piece had isolated moments of brilliant gestures and ensemble writing, but it also had long stretches of cliché harmonies and uninteresting sounds.

Because of the late start the concert got, and because I had to be responsible the next day, I had to leave after the second intermission. Overall, the concert was interesting. Some would argue it as a showcase for what role electronics could play in concert music, and some would argue it as an example of electronics becoming stale. I could see both and would argue both. The moments that interested me the most were the moments when electronic sound and acoustic sound became one, when I couldn’t figure out what timber the sound was, or who (or what) was making it.

Brooks Frederickson

Note from Nouveau Classical Project: we will be performing Schwob’s Mehr Licht at our concert on March 10 for MATA Interval 4.3: Amped/Electrified! You can pick up tickets here.

NCP is Amped!

Posted in concert by The Nouveau Classical Project on 02/28/2011

This is going to be fun. The program offers both wildness and tranquility, and more. We’ll be posting an interview soon with Jay Wadley, recent winner of the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In the meantime, get your tickets here from Issue Project Room.

Special thanks to our girl Mad Mohre for designing this poster! We have a collab with Mad in the works…

Amped/Electrified Press Release

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Interval 4.3 is coming!

Posted in concert, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 02/11/2011

…And guess what? It’s us! On March 10 at Issue Project Room. If you are already excited about going, get tix here. Below is our first blog post for MATA, and we’ll have more coming up with composer interviews, insights from our designer Jonathan Cohen, y mas…but we’re not giving everything away! We do like to tease ;)

Via MATA’s Blog:

INTERVAL 4.3 Introductions: The Nouveau Classical Project

posted on February 10th, 2011

First of all, we’d really like to thank everyone at MATA. It definitely takes a group of open-minded and daring people, especially in [classical? art? concert?] music to support a project like this.

The Nouveau Classical Project is a concert series that connects fashion and music. For Amped/Electrified, designer Jonathan Cohen will style the musicians’ attire based on the music they perform. He has already started listening to the music and has a lot of great ideas brewing. Jonathan’s fashion presentation is this Friday, so stay tuned for photos of his show and an interview about Amped/Electrified on our blog!

In the spirit of MATA, we decided to program experimental and electro-acoustic works by composers who have a classical background but are breaking ground with unconventional approaches to music. So we searched and encountered a few speed bumps on the way, but it all came together. We got a hold of some great works that each have something unique to offer. Izzi Ramkissoon’s The Asperity of Lace asks musicians to improvise, compose something on their own, which is something that we think every musician should be able to do, but is instead something that most of us with a classical background find intimidating. (Maybe I’ll have a Jameson before performing that one.) Ananta (New York Premiere) by Ryan Manchester puts us in a calm, meditative yet focused state, while Jay Wadley’s textural and strangely beautiful Things My Father Never Told Me (World Premiere) expresses the anxiety and self doubt many of us experience. And then there’s Danielle Schwob’sMehr Licht, whose sound literally reveals ‘more light,’ and Trevor Gureckis’s arrangement of Aphex Twin’s Cliffs. APHEX TWIN. Enough said there.

Admittedly, we haven’t programmed but one work with tape in the past, but we knew that being part of MATA means embracing innovation and looking beyond what we had already done thus far. We hope that this comes across in both the music and our approach to the classical (for lack of a better word) concert, and we are thankful for being involved with an organization that pushes us to push boundaries and be open.

We’ve got more things to say on what we do and why we do it, plus artist interviews. Keep up with us on Twitter: @ncp to get updates on new posts and photos!

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NCP Goes World Music Crazy

Posted in concert, music by Nicole Merritt on 11/19/2010

CREDIT: Photograph © 2010 Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“We are just musicians having a conversation,” said sitar maestro Ustad Shujaat Khan when introducing the Ghazal Ensemble’s performance at Zankel Hall on Friday, November 12th.  Although the humility of this statement was all too quickly belied by the virtuosity displayed by Khan, kemancheh artist Kayhan Kalhor, and tabla accompanist Samir Chatterjee, its message rang true throughout the concert. Through their interplay, the artists breathed new life into the age-old adage, “Music is the universal language.”

A bit of context:   No doubt, Khan and Kalhor have ripe territory for collaboration, thanks to the overlap between various Persian scales and Indian ragas. This melodic common ground makes sense, considering the cross-pollination of cultures that occurred over the centuries through the spice trade and Mughal invasions of India well before the sub-continent was a twinkle in the eyes of the British Empire. In fact, the sitar itself evolved from a Persian three-stringed predecessor called a setar. And the kemancheh, or Persian spiked fiddle, just as well lends itself to the Indian idiom, considering that the modern violin is a staple of Carnatic (South Indian classical) concerts.

The group opened with a  middle eastern-sounding piece—a series of improvisations set to a North Indian raga called Darbari (flat 3rd, flat 6th). Khan introduced the melody with phrases plucked in a harp-like fashion on the sitar’s sympathetic strings. Kalhor followed these phrases with a raw, gravelly rasp that evoked the harsh winds of the Gobi desert. As Kalhor then took the reins, the notes produced by his powerful bow-strokes soared like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of these dark tones, displaying the remarkable range of his instrument.  Behind the musicians a subtle background of changing light perfectly mimicked a desert sunset.  The mood was set.

As anyone who has been to Zankel hall has likely noted, it’s an extremely live sound. One can hear a pin drop (or, late-comers shuffling to their seats). The sensitive acoustics at Zankel are well suited to a performance involving acoustic instruments like the sitar and the kemancheh, which rely upon a resonating gourd for their sound. And while the background noise from the hall can make it difficult to tune a finicky wooden instrument, the theater is an excellent setting for an audience to lap up the ocean of tones, undertones, pizzicatoes, sympathetic-string resonances, and the inspiring range and sustain both the sitar and the kemancheh can produce. These nuances contain half of the brilliance of any performance by Khan and Kalhor, as their mastery lies not only in their speed but their unparalleled control over the dynamics of their instruments. Few others are so intuitive in their touch, and it makes for a truly rich aural experience for the audience when the sound is not inhibited by the hall’s acoustic limitations.

The Ensemble’s next piece was set to a scale most closely resembling South Indian raga Kirvani. After a call-and-response opening similar to the first piece, Khan’s vocal stylings took center stage with a composition in the form of a ghazal (folk song). Khan and Kalhor traded solos and improvisations with such dexterity that I nearly lost track of who was following whom.

After a short pause to re-tune, (during which Khan jokingly apologized for “cutting into dinner plans,”) the group closed with improvisations based loosely around Khamaj, a cheery melody similar to the major scale found in Western classical music. The choice to close with this familiar scale served as a gentle reminder that the conversation between the musicians was not solely between them but with the audience as well, a reminder that music speaks to something universal that is within all of us.

For me, the mark of a good concert is one that leaves me energized, which is often a tall order after a long day at the office.  The Ghazal Ensemble’s 1.5 hour performance of only three  songs not only energized me, it left me wanting more.  I’m hopeful that Carnegie Hall and World Music Institute will bring them back soon!

Next up – NCP gets into Eastern fashions?

Post-Disaster Beauty: “Katrina Ballads”

Posted in concert, music, review by The Nouveau Classical Project on 08/26/2010

Ted Hearne‘s “Katrina Ballads” documents Hurricane Katrina with texts taken from newscasts and quotes, accompanied by video. We were lucky enough to experience this at (where else?) a super-packed LPR, where we stood for all 80 minutes of the show.

So much to love about this music. It was emotional without being sentimental. It was honest–text was quoted verbatim–however, the specific choices of quotes, and more importantly, the music, clearly expressed a point of view. (If you want to know what that is, you can pick up the record here.) The “Katrina Ballads” engages the listener in the turmoil that transpired as a result of Katrina, telling a story with so many nuanced emotions. Sadness and disappointment are expressed, as in ‘Ashley Nelson,’ performed by the sensual Rene Marie. Sarcastic moments include ‘Brownie, You’re Doing a Heck of a Job,’ sung by Hearne in bad-ass James Brown style, and Barbara’s Bush’s quote about everyone coming to Houston is sung in a saccharine-toned swinging, folksy tune. A series of video projections, created by Bill Morrison, was composed of Katrina footage and complimented the music exceptionally well. When a quote by a famous person was being sung, the actual footage of it being said would be projected, which was very effective in providing clarity.

The ensemble was excellent, handling the rhythmic complexity like a well-rehearsed band (this is a good thing: they felt the rhythm and truly knew the music, they weren’t just a tight shouldered ensemble following a score). All the singers gave beautiful performances, notably Isaiah Robinson in his solo of the ballad based on Kanye West stating that ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people.’ That boy can hit high notes like none other!

There are great performances to be seen everywhere…hell, we are in New York after all. But this wasn’t just good music or a good performance, it was moving. In his Times review, Kozinn wrote that ‘The contrast between the disc and the live performance was extraordinary: the fastidiously produced recording, though it delivered some of the work’s punch, left me cold. But the concert reading had a tough edge and a wildness of spirit that suited the music, and the subject.’ We have yet to hear the work outside the concert, but our opinion will probably remain the same, that the “Katrina Ballads” is the first meaningful piece of new music we’ve heard in a while and its honesty shines through. And it sounds really awesome.

Ted Hearne’s “Katrina Ballads” can be purchased on New Amsterdam’s website: https://www.newamsterdamrecords.com/#Album/Katrina_Ballads

Why Mark Morris Dance Group makes us love Handel Oratorios and the 80s…

Posted in art, concert, fashion, music, review, we like by Nicole Merritt on 08/05/2010

We love pastels too sometimes...

Is classical music really dead? Mark Morris doesn’t think so. In fact Mark is so crazy about classical music, that he started one of the only large dance companies in the U.S. that insists on bringing their own musicians on tour to perform with them live. Surely an expensive and risky endeavor, Mark has stated in many interviews that this is an essential element needed to make his works feel alive. This is just one of the many reasons why we at NCP love the Mark Morris Dance Group (http://markmorrisdancegroup.org/), and tonight was no exception…

Sitting down in the first ring of Daniel Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center for the Mostly Mozart Festival, my first thought was, “I’m so freakin’ tired. How am I ever going to sit through a two-hour Handel oratorio without passing out?” Little did we realize that we were in for an awesome sensory overload. It takes a special kind of artist to make a Handel Oratorio seem modern, but Mark Morris more than manages to do so with his choreographed work set to Handel’s “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” Choreographed in 1988 and inspired by paintings by Blake, and poems by Milton, this work of art has many muses. However, its Mark’s vision of life, beauty, and fun that shine the brightest throughout this grand piece.

With fantastic pastel leos, tea-length dresses, and cut-off tops, this work reminds me one of giant human kaleidoscope circa 1988 (credit going to costume designer Christine Van Loon). With inter-changing colors and a series of frames for the set-design, the setting at times almost appears digital. The oratorio is comprised of four singers, a pit orchestra, and an outstanding choir. Having heard rumors that the Mostly Mozart Festival orchestral musicians were not always the tightest group, this was certainly not the case tonight. My personal favorite was the choir, and lyric soprano Lisa Saffer. Lisa’s crystal clear voice was the perfect imitation of a flute and a bird in the “Sweet Bird” section (that song is hard!).

There are supposedly 32 little stories within this work, but what I picked up on was Mark’s ability to translate the music into perfectly compatible physical movements. While this sounds like an easy thing to do, Mark demonstrates the breadth of this skills by playing with this concept throughout the work. In the one of the movements, the featured dancer is the perfect embodiment of a bird, with spirit fingers to match the tiniest trills in the flute and voice. Equally stunning were the representations of flocks of geese, where the company of dancers appeared at first to fly together, and then without warning the second half of the flock separates off and assumes flying another direction. Mark mimics the layers of music by adding lines and layers of dancers. The effect is something like swimming in a pool of colors. In another movement, Mark shows his silly side with gender-bending roles of women carrying men, and better yet bottom smacking circles of boys which I think was part of an Accompagnato (but I cant be sure because I was distracted by bum-smacking – plus it was dark in there!). Who doesn’t love a choreographer that can make you laugh and feel like you’re watching something profound at the same time?

In any case, this is the perfect work to introduce someone new to the Mark Morris Dance Group, or to make you fall back in love with his works. “L’Allegro, il Penseroso” is stellar on every level, with beautiful music, exciting choreography, and stunning visuals. This show will run tomorrow and Saturday night (August 5-7) at Lincoln Center, so if you have a chance…this is NCP tested, approved, and recommended.

Visions de L’Amen at LPR

Posted in concert, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 08/01/2010

Join us for a performance of Messiaen’s historic two-piano work and CD party celebrating the release of Marilyn and Sarah’s VISIONS DE L’AMEN (Bridge 9324).

* Stereophile Magazine: ” … never on record with this sense of clarity, commitment and power. Both the performance and the recording are stunning.” — Daniel Buckley, Stereophile Magazine

* See what the New York Times has to say:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/arts/music/18amen.html

Event info:
MARILYN NONKEN AND SARAH ROTHENBERG, PIANOS
OLIVIER MESSIAEN: VISIONS DE L’AMEN (1943)
(Le) Poisson Rouge
2 August 2010, 7 PM (Doors open at 6:30, no reserved seating)
Tickets $15 in advance/$20 at the door

http://lepoissonrouge.com/events/view/1327

Airy Eri

Posted in concert, events by The Nouveau Classical Project on 06/22/2010

Eri Wakiyama‘s designs for Visions this Thursday have us up in the air, with whimsical, avant-garde pieces that integrate the music on the program. According to Eri, ‘The clothes I created for Visions are meant to execute a dreamy romantic feeling while not being directly girly. Like a broken down doll type of world.”

To complement Eri’s collection, the amazing menswear designer Edward Lorenz is back with imaginative designs. We can’t give away too much…but for form/FIGURE Lorenz designed some crazy headgear, inspired by the musical savants in Oliver SacksMusicophilia. We are eager to to see what he’s got brewing!

Get your tickets for Visions here.