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:

Doors open at 7:30 pm

See you there!


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.

NCPerformers Music Recs

Posted in music, our shallow deep thoughts, random, we like by Yoobin Whang on 05/14/2011

Whether it’s music we listen to while waiting for the subway or reading at home, here’s what NCP musicians are currently listening to. Add these to your iPod now!

This is the first in our ‘LISTEN!’ series, music recommendations by our friends.

To be honest… I’m listening to ‘yacht rock’ style music at the moment.”
Whenever I Call You Friend by Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nick

Nabucco by Verdi

-Amanda Hick

“Can’t get enough of Fela Kuti’s V.I.P. live in Berlin. The longest afrobeat song I’ve heard so far at about 40 minutes straight. Ridiculous.”
V.I.P. (Vegabounds In Power) by Fela Kuti Jacob Ter Veldhuis

– Domenica Fossati

“I got to listen to him go WRYYYYYYYY for a couple hours but i’m getting faster at these papers :)”
In Front by Keith Jarrett

 – Patti Kilroy

“Most soulful thing you’ll ever hear.”
Giving Up by Donny Hathaway from his self-titled 1971 album

– Mariel Roberts

“His music is always badass and groovy.”
Ohko by Xenakis

L’Ascension by Messiaen

3rd movement of Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto

“Simple and sunny.”
Just You and Me by Zee Avi

Mercy by Duffy

– Isabel Kim

“He expresses so much with minimal lyrics and I love how he’s somehow meshed the sounds of R&B I used to hear when I was a kid with modern, electronic techniques. And his voice has got so much soul. I was right in front of the stage at his LPR concert this past Thursday!”
James Blake (album) by James Blake

– Sugar Vendil

Phyllis Chen on Down the Rabbit-Hole, Toy Piano, and More

Posted in interview, music, photos, we like by Yoobin Whang on 04/11/2011

Toy Piano. What more needs to be said? The name itself exudes tremendous cuteness. Phyllis Chen’s piece, Down the Rabbit-Hole (yes! we love this title, too), inspired by Alice in Wonderland, is a multimedia work for toy pianos, music boxes, live-electronics, live and edited video, and amplified objects. Read on to find out more!

When did you fall in love with toy piano? What do you like in particular about the instrument?

I fell in love with the toy piano when I was 21. I saw it as a set piece in the basement of a puppet theatre in Chicago…I have always  thought of the toy piano as a found sound/ found instrument for that reason because it wasn’t introduced to me as a music-making device. I was completely charmed by its idiosyncratic nature and its elusive sound. It really is entirely different than a regular piano.

The inspiration for Down the Rabbit-Hole is Alice in Wonderland. Any reason you chose this, or a children’s tale in general?

I have been doing many split concerts on piano and toy piano, mostly because presenters have requested it. I have always found it challenging to switch back and forth between a piano and toy piano during performance; even the technique of playing is different! At some point while I was on stage, it occurred to me that what I was doing was probably the same kind of feeling Alice had growing and shrinking in wonderland. It seems like no matter how much change, I’m never quite the right size. It seem like the perfect place for me to create a piece.

What should we expect from Down the Rabbit Hole? Or rather, what should we not expect?

The piece is inspired by found sounds and objects from the novels. All of the musical material was somehow found from the objects themselves, including the pitch material that the toy piano plays. I really challenged myself to create a coherent piece with these found objects and fell in love with amplifying small imperfect sounds. The piece is very much an exploration of sounds. But there are no characters–so if you are expecting to see the White Rabbit running around, I’d suggest to see the Broadway production instead.

It seems interdisciplinary work is the zeitgeist in classical/new music these days. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s just a trend?

Actually, I think interdisciplinary work has existed for a long time. The whole tradition of opera is interdisciplinary, for example. I do think there are new inventions in this form, mostly due to technology. What we had  to hire people for previously can now be operated by a computer. It opens up options of creativity tremendously. But in our work, Rob (video artist) and I are really focused on keeping things live. We aren’t as interested in the “auto-play” idea from computers. Instead, we are trying to figure out how to by making counterparts for one another in the visual-sound axis. Kind of like chamber music, but with another medium.

Do you still get to practice 8 hours a day?

God no. But I do work that much every day, but my work is no longer just practicing.

What piece of clothing should every musician have in their closet?

Black shoes and bright colors. I really think we should move away from the all-black look. period.

Any advice for young/green musicians?

Build community! You don’t have to know what you’re going to do, but surround yourself with people that could help you figure it out.

By Sugar Vendil and Yoobin Whang

Schwob on Mehr Licht, Cormac McCarthy, and More

Posted in interview, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/10/2011

Once you hear the sublime and moving Mehr Licht you’ll definitely want to know more about the music and it’s composer, Danielle Schwob. Now you can read this first and enjoy the concert instead of digging your nose into your program! Which probably won’t happen anyway, given how engaging Schwob’s piece is. Anyhoo…

What was your source of inspiration when you wrote Mehr Licht?
The adage that served as the motto of my first school, “Mehr Licht” (German for “more light”), has always held personal significance for me.  As a young student, I was told that it meant that enlightenment could be reached through the pursuit of knowledge, and the idea has remained with me since.  My piece is intended to portray a journey from obscurity towards clarity, away from ignorance and towards the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  The sound world itself, however, was inspired by two pieces of artwork: Cildo Meireles’ Missions/Missions (How To Build Cathedrals) and John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Both pieces have a luminous quality to them, and, to me, seem united by a quiet, meditative tone that transcends their aesthetic differences: the former is a contemporary installation incorporating a pit of softly lit coins, black curtains and a ceiling of dangling bones, while the latter is a nineteenth century painting of two nightgown clad children carrying lanterns.  I chose the sound palette of Mehr Licht in an attempt to translate the visual elements of these artworks into music.

A lot of young composers in New York (perhaps elsewhere) seem to be torn between being defined as a ‘classical composer’ and writing music that sounds sort of like pop or electronic music, genres that have master artists in their own right. Has this been a struggle for you at all? Why or why not? If so, how do you deal?
I can’t say that it has been a struggle for me at all!  I write both concert pieces and songs, and so the issue of what box people might want to put me in has never really bothered me.  While obviously the two idioms are very different, I tend to approach them in similar ways and am sort of genre-blind while I’m actually writing.  I’m also getting to an interesting point creatively where I’m starting to hear my concert writing tendencies seep into my songwriting and vice versa, and discovering what can happen as my two worlds converge naturally is very interesting to me.  I’m much more excited to see what sort of music this can yield than I am about worrying which camp I belong to.

What qualities do you seek in a performer?
I look for performers who are interesting, focused artists with a strong sense of self, artistic integrity and an honest stage presence.  Obviously professionalism, technique, musicianship and interpretative abilities are very important too, but I think the difference between a good performer and a great performer has more to do with who the person is than how they move their hands (or vocal chords) or how glossy their résumé is.  I believe that interesting people make interesting music.  I also think that a performer’s basic motivation for playing is extremely important.  There seems to be so much emphasis in the music world on winning accolades, getting ahead and looking impressive on paper that I sometimes wonder where artistry factors into the equation.  I like to work with grounded performers who are in the music world for the right reason: to make art, not just a name for themselves.

Which composers do you look to the most for inspiration, or which composers have had the most significant impact on how you think about/write music?
This changes so frequently that it’s difficult to say!  A few years ago, when we did the last interview, you asked me a similar question and my thoughts on the subject were very different.  At that point, since I was in the middle of my undergrad degree and had concert music tunnel vision, I think I mentioned Reich, Pärt, Dello Joio, Stravinsky and Partch.  I’m still very much inspired by these people, however at the moment I’m not listening to them as religiously as I used to.  Since I’m currently in songwriter/performer mode and am finishing my debut EP, Overloaded, I’ve been listening to a lot more popular music.  Top of the list are Radiohead and Björk, followed by Pink Floyd, The Smiths, Tori Amos and Elliott Smith. I think these people are true creative geniuses, and deserve as much recognition as the best artists in the concert world.

Music Recommendations?
How about a book recommendation instead?  The last thing that I read and was completely entranced by was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  I enjoyed it much more than a lot of things that I’ve read recently (or listened to, for that matter) and would definitely recommend it.

Hear Mehr Licht tonight at Amped/Electrified!

Laced Noise

Posted in interview, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/08/2011

Here’s an interview with Izzi Ramkissoon on his Asperity of Lace. Above is the electronic track, just to tease you! Sounds freaking crazy right?! That’s what we thought too…we were like, how the fuck are we gonna do this?! But Izzi helped us along, and this music transformed from an unknown abyss into a landscape of expressive freedom for the performers. Sugar Vendil will be on piano and Isabel Kim on clarinet. And Izzi will be in front of his laptop, setting off the track and a video that will respond to Isabel’s sound.

What was your source of inspiration when you wrote The Asperity of Lace?
The inspiration for The Asperity of Lace came from the news stories about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  The motivation for the piece came from wanting to open a musical dialog about the situation and natural disasters in general.

A lot of young composers in New York (perhaps elsewhere) seem to be torn between being defined as a ‘classical composer’ and writing music that sounds sort of like pop or electronic music, genres that have master artists in their own right. Has this been a struggle for you at all? Why or why not? If so, how do you deal?
Not really.  I don’t define myself as a “classical” composer.  One can possibly think of what I do as “organizing sound”, “sound composition”, or producing expressive musical content with electronics and acoustic instruments. Furthermore, I have my own expectations.  If I bring any type of influence into my music it is because I have respect for the craft.  I try not to underestimate my audience with water down versions of music that doesn’t genuinely come from myself.  I believe it is my responsibility to give audiences the kind of music that comes out of my own experiences and hopefully it has some relation within the context of their own lives.

What qualities do you seek in a performer?
I run a series of workshops with my large ensemble called the Electric Eel Multimedia Ensemble.  In these workshops I discuss my approach to modern electro acoustic performance.  I expect various skills from my performers ranging from classical reading to jazz improvisation, process and philosophy to performing with electronics.  I tend to pull from a mixed background of skills because I studied and experienced many distinct approaches to music.  I hope that one day performers can have all of these musical skills under one umbrella.

Which composers do you look to the most for inspiration, or which composers have had the most significant impact on how you think about/write music?
Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Alvin Curran, Morton Subotnick, Earl Brown, Ludwig van Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Atari Teenage Riot, Squarepusher, Bjork, Kraftwerk, etc..

Music Recommendations?
Massive Attack (Heligoland), DJ Udachi, Merzbow, Penderecki: String Quartet No. 1, Xenakis Concrete PH, Gil Scott-Heron (I’m new here), and Olivier Messiaen.

Insight via IM

Posted in interview, music by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/07/2011

Instant Messaging for Instant Insight. An interview with Ryan Manchester about Ananta, (briefly), and what’s next.

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Intelligence is a Luxury

Posted in events, fashion, music, we like by Sugar Vendil on 03/05/2011

Last night we did some much needed dancing and letting loose at FLATTmagazine’s launch party for their inaugural issue. The evening featured the art of Kika Karadi and a performance by rock jazz pianist Elew, who ‘played louder than anyone I’ve ever heard in my life!’ according to Trevor Gureckis. Post after party, which took place in a bar located in the basement, we went back to the gallery to have some fun with the piano and sang along to Kanye West and Arcade Fire songs.

We had the chance to read the magazine this morning. In the editor’s letter, James Perkins discusses how the idea of ‘liv[ing] charmingly’ has changed significantly in America. He writes:

In an era where we all may have a little less, being discerning about how we spend our money, our time, and deciding what gives us a high rate of cultural return is a fundamental necessity. FLATTmagazine endeavors to creatively arm you with a spectrum of knowledge to help all of us accomplish this goal.

Intelligence is luxury.

We love this magazine for a couple of reasons: the lusciousness of its gorgeous photos, thought-provoking articles, fabulous parties. But we especially adore FLATT for its desire to be more than just another chic publication, it’s intention to give readers a high ‘cultural return.’

Check it out and be sure to read NCP commissioned composer Jay Wadley’s piece, The Art of the Sample. And we’re not gonna lie, we are stoked about the lil’ mention we got.

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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!



Posted in music, our shallow deep thoughts by Sugar Vendil on 01/23/2011

My curiosity was sparked…no, ignited! after reading Classical Resolutions: Missy Mazzoli Defies Dogma, Demands Diversity on NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog regarding ‘acceptance within the increasingly isolated, grumpy and dogmatic world of “classical music.”‘ Mazzoli writes about the struggle of composers to be taken seriously as classical musicians, including her own:

Some critics have claimed my recent album Cathedral City is not classical music, even though it is fully notated, uses several instruments straight out of the orchestra, harmonies straight out of Stravinsky and was written by a composer straight out of music school. Huh?

What’s interesting about this is that even after the final product, which is the sound, the fact that it is ‘fully notated,’ the fact that there are sophisticated elements involved, and that the composer came ‘straight out of music school’ are what is supposed to imply serious classical music. The album received a positive review from Pitchfork, yet the ‘classical’ label is desired. About Monk and Britelle’s albums, listed under the world and pop genres on iTunes, respectively, she asks:

Why is the classical music world not clambering to claim this excellent music for its own? Because its creators use repetition as a compositional tool? Because they write triads? Is it the electric guitars? The drums? Is it that the composers don’t look or act like the “composers” we read about in music history class? Let it go!

First off, I always thought Britelle listed his albums under pop because they would reach bigger audiences that way, and perhaps Monk’s label could have been thinking the same thing. Anyway, this is intriguing because 1) we would think one would find it liberating to not be considered ‘classical’; 2) it seems important for one to be considered ‘classical,’ or one step above pop music (totally understandable, considering the exorbitant amount of money we’ve spent on music lessons our whole lives); 3) this post is about not worrying that one’s music is smart enough, yet a concern is expressed about being considered classical enough.

I can completely understand this contradiction. For example, I’ve never gone to conservatory and sometimes I want to audition for something academic or ‘respectable,’ (such as Ensemble ACJW or BANFF)  or apply for a doctorate (even though I don’t want to be a professor) while we are overloaded with work at NCP, which is one of my life’s passions. The classical world is a world I’m a part of and of course how I’m perceived as a musician matters to me. Sometimes, however, I sit back and think, ‘Whatever. I do what I want!’ and try not to care about how good I seem to others. Because everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves, right?

I empathize with the desire to be taken seriously. But I really want to know–composers! Thoughts? So I’ve emailed a couple of composers and hopefully they’ll send me their input. This post will be updated as I receive responses, which will appear below. And I want to hear yours too…hello, comments section!

Composer Feedback

Ryan Manchester:

I agree with the idea of composers writing the music they truly want to hear regardless of who accepts it. The problem now is, and has always been, authenticity. In the academy, that is more apparent because how can one be truly authentic when writing such esoteric music? Today, many genres are mixed together in a single piece and creates many layers that can serve as distractions from a personal voice. Not to pick on New Amsterdam Records because I like the idea of mixing many different influences, but some of the albums still need work. The compositional technique is there and strong, but the feeling is lost and many times feels and sounds stale.  Conversely, Matt Marks’s The Little Death Vol. 1 is music for crazy people, but each track is successful in revealing the composer’s intent.  It is a very fine, subjective line when innovations in new music start to catch on because the composers are still experimenting with ways to successfully write.  It will be exciting to see the developments in successful genre blending. Regardless of opinion, successfully challenging the notion of style such as New Amsterdam has done, should be encouraging for all composers no matter what style.

Izzi Ramkissoon:

The fear of traditions falling have prevalent since the times of Copernicus who discovered the earth is not the center of the universe and then he was persecuted for being thoughtful, deeply interested or serious about astronomy.

Who cares about being a labeled as a classical composer or being intelligent?  The term classical composer is a conservative old fashioned point of view and in a subtle way an oppressive term, used to control and alienate people from elitist circles.  If any music is to survive it is necessary not to alienate people with the smug attitude of fear but to communicate relevant ideas to both large and small communities.  The implications of being a classical composer has severe limitations that relate to a different generation and attitude of musicians.  Is classical music still for the aristocracy? or is it for a wider audience.  Things change.  Things change like slavery in the United States, women’s rights, systems for social organization etc.. if things never changed we all might still be slaves and peasants with dukes and arch bishops.

An intelligent composition is that one that requires the capacity to use abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, learning from past experiences and problem solving, that’s just the Wiki of intelligence.  So, using that as a reference point an intelligent composition is any piece of music created utilizing these abilities.  I would also add creativity, individuality, expression, since intelligence does not always communicate musical emotion and the performance art aspect of music.  Some individuals think the only way to produce an intelligent composition is through classical methods, but there are other ways to make something sound intelligent other than notation.  For example Miles Davis, a jazz artist, sounds intelligent with his music and so does electronic artist Squarepusher in his approach to editing.  Are they any less intelligent in their composition techniques than Philip Glass?

In regards to the term serious: I do believe everyone would like to be taken seriously in their life, so would composers.  That shows respect for the amount of time, effort, thought and work put into any given piece of music.  The time and effort spent on creating an electro-acoustic multimedia composition is very different than the time spent on a classical piece of music.  A different set of skills for a different era of music.  Music must be relevant to the time in which it was created.  I would say classical performers are allowed preserve the tradition of music because we love to hear them, but composers of today write music that is relevant, thoughtful, and imaginative and captures the feeling of today.  Also, if a performer chooses to be a part of history, rather than play it, and play new works, be aware of modern musical practices. This has also been an obstacle for modern composers.  They deal with the same persecution Copernicus dealt with.

I wrote a lot more about this subject.  But, I’m really just ranting about newly graduated young musicians who only know Bach, Beethoven, or Bartok.  Nothing wrong with that I learned about them too, but learn about Earl Brown, John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Jimi Hendrix, Aphex Twin, Morton Subotnick, etc.. and have an open mind.  There’s so much more to music as an art form.  Music is a performance art.  Love classical, love hip-hop, love russian folk song, love music, stop the discrimination.

Brooks Frederickson:

The difference between a “serious” composer and a “not-serious” composer is the same difference as calling something a “song” or a “piece of music” – nothing more than just a way for people to categorize music.