Classical Music is Dead*

Amped/Electrified PHOTOS!

Posted in events, photos by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/26/2011

Thanks to MATA for this opportunity–it was truly a significant concert for NCP. HUGE thanks to Frank Wang, he never lets us down with his photography skillz! And special thanks to Jonathan Cohen for his thoughtfulness in styling us and to his business partner, Sarah and his interns for coming to help out. The concert was a success and the house was packed despite the rainy weather. MORE photos on our Facebook page.

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, match.com (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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MATA Post #2

Posted in our shallow deep thoughts by Sugar Vendil on 03/04/2011

via MATA’s blog

INTERVAL 4.3 BLOG #2 FASHION AND MUSIC IN NCP: OR HOW I ACCIDENTALLY MADE A MANIFESTO

Friday, March 4th, 2011 – 1:55 pm

“Dressing well is kind of good manners, if you ask me. When you’re standing in a room, your effect is the same as a chair’s effect, or a sculpture’s. You’re part of someone’s view, you’re part of that world, and so you should dress well. I find it’s a show of respect to try to put on your best face and look as good as you can.”

-Tom Ford

I remember being at NYU and wearing to my performance of Schumann Piano Quintet an outfit that would be considered a regular, stylish outfit by most people. And if not stylish, not a big deal at least. It wasn’t ‘slutty’ or revealing, but it was thoughtful. I was really excited about performing one of my favorite pieces and I wanted to ‘put on [my] best face.’

And therein lies the problem (to use a phrase I’ve read in many a scholarly paper).  I don’t think that it was the non-saturation of black that led two professors to say to me, ‘Is this [gesturing to my clothes] appropriate?’ AND compel one of them to pull me aside the next day to talk to me about getting taken seriously, never mind that I practiced 8 hours a day. It was the fact that what I wore was remotely noticeable, making me more noticeable. And not noticeable like, ‘Oh, what a nice appropriate red gown that one can also wear to a party at the Russian Tea Room,’ but more like, ‘WHY is she dressed like a young hip person in her age and demographic group?!’ I was simply not generic enough.

I give this idea the proverbial finger, the idea that a concert is all about the sound rather than the complete experience, which performers just happen to be a part of. Just as I shun (see Dwight Schrute with chopping hand gesture) the idea that nail polish is distracting–you must have some heightened level of OCD to get distracted by something that occupies maybe 2% of our entire bodies–and the idea of wearing plain black to hide oneself, I do not condone the mentality that the musician should be the least noticeable thing in a performance. After spending numerous hours on one hour of music, I think it should be okay to wear whatever the hell you want besides attire that looks like you’re either a stagehand or, in my case, simply not myself. Also, I just want to note that I love black, the fashion world loves black, and classical music has somehow managed to ruin this sleek, beautiful color for people.

The reason I bring this up is to segue into the question of ‘Why fashion?’ The best answer I can think of is, ‘Why not?’ For me, fashion is a form of expression, and additionally, an effective form. Here in New York, it’s a dynamic and prevalent form of expression. We’ve all heard this, to excuse our inclination to want to date people we find attractive: ‘You can’t see someone’s personality.’ So think about all those posters outside Carnegie Hall and think about how any young person who doesn’t attend music school will be interested. Look at the Met Opera posters, and hell yes! They’ve got it down. Also, the art and popular music world seem to be at home with fashion, why not the classical music world?

I think The Nouveau Classical Project is my answer to that question. Not really a solution, but more like a ‘Here ya go.’ For Amped/Electrified, Jonathan Cohen is the perfect fit. ‘His woman is bold, elegant, and equally rebellious,’ just like the music on our program.

For the most the part, the music on Amped/Electrified stems from a tradition. The music demonstrates adeptness in structure and skill but asserts a desire to deviate from ‘schooling’ and in many cases, a desire to be modern. It seems to me that today we are at crossroads where classical music is really meeting face to face with contemporary music—a lot of us love musicians like Kanye West, Arcade Fire, whomever—and a lot of us are grappling with the idea of wanting to be present in, well, the present, and displaying the classical tradition from which we stem. I know we can’t stop talking about it, but Jay Wadley’s Things My Father Never Told Me was derived from this idea, in addition to the unexpected struggles both artistically and professionally.

I hope that this may have clarified any questions as to the ‘why’ of the Nouveau Classical Project. As with most things in life, when you whittle things down, the answers are so much simpler than you thought. Fashion was the simple answer, for me, to bringing a shred personality to classical music. Yes, a lot of us see this personality because we studied it in school. But I mean something, a little thing, that would show people we aren’t just geeks, we’re hot geeks. Think whatever you will of that statement. I don’t think fashion is the end all be all answer to getting more listeners for classical music (news: there is none!) but it’s what I’m interested in and it’s what our fans are interested in, and to put it simply, I just want to be creative and have fun (gasp!). That’s right. The reason for the Nouveau Classical Project’s existence is fun.

Branching Out: the Struggles and Successes of a Classical Composer

Posted in Uncategorized by The Nouveau Classical Project on 03/02/2011
[vimeo 20558827]

Jay talks about struggling and making it as a composer. He just received the prestigious Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, so we hope that gave him more reassurance!

Hear Jay’s ‘Things My Father Never Told Me’ at Amped/Electrified on March 10 at Issue Project Room, an installment of MATA’s Interval Series. Tickets here.

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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