Cincinnati – Sydney Concert

We had a great start to Season 3!  We are looking forward to sharing recordings in the coming weeks.

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Interview with Tristan Coelho

Sydney-based composer Tristan Coelho writes colorful, energized music. We’re excited to present the U.S. premiere of his work read/write error on this week’s concert.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about the background of your piece?

TC: read/write error, is a glitchy, beat-driven work that draws upon ideas surrounding the digital, data-driven world we find ourselves in. I imagined three types of music acting like data scattered across a failing hard drive. Bits of information are strewn here and there with interspersed contrasts brought about by ‘hard cuts’ between ideas (almost like aggressive video editing techniques), the fragments of which are then assembled in various ways.

These thoughts were informed by a general interest of mine in exploring distortions and glitch elements in music, searching for beauty in roughness and imperfection. I became fascinated by the actual sounds emitted by technology as it goes haywire or malfunctions. These sounds are often annoying and undesirable but they can have a unique, expressive quality about them; they don’t seem totally chaotic due to the appearance of occasional, noticeable patterns. Imagine the warbling tune of an old fridge or the gritty strains of a printer for example.

With this in mind, I had a long hard listen to a variety of broken technology and started analysing and dissecting a few recordings of a stuttering, failing hard drive. It was here that I found plenty of musical ideas which helped me shape the work.

CSB: What is your impression of the environment for new music in Sydney?

TC: Sydney has an interesting mix of directions in new music, but I’m particularly keen on the points where they intersect. Performers and composers here, while perhaps specialising in a ’scene’ like improvised music, art music or jazz for example, regularly curate events involving cross-disciplinary approaches and musical styles. It’s not uncommon to hear electronic, improvised and/or composed instrumental music in one sonically-diverse program. I feel It’s really the smaller musical operations which are doing this in the most interesting way. They’re a bit more nimble and dynamic and often perform in alternative venues around town: gallery spaces, community-run venues, bars/pubs etc. There is a beautiful informality about it all as well as a strong social aspect and this does a great good in the mission of new music, making it more accessible and less a case of “music for musicians.”

CSB: How does location impact your work?

TC: On first thought I’d say that location doesn’t really have a clear-cut influence on my music but elements of a particular place may trigger a very simple idea which ends up shaping a piece of music. For example, I’ve always been keen on abandoned old buildings which I’ve stumbled across from time to time on walks in various cities. I find them both beautiful and moving – beautiful in the sort of ‘expressive’ and unpredictable way they decay, and moving when I think that they were once occupied and cherished but now forgotten and left to ruin. Recent works of mine, short circuits and read/write error, definitely tap into these ideas albeit from a different angle, in this case the notion of digital data being corrupted but giving rise to something unexpected and potentially beautiful.

Nature and the outdoors have always been important to me but I’ve only recently gotten into hiking which has been a bit of a game changer creatively speaking. A few years back, I was hiking a through a section of New Zealand as I was developing ideas for a percussion quartet and it became the smell of the earth around me that triggered the
piece. On the trickier, more grueling parts, I realised my eyes were mainly focused on the ground and I then began thinking about all the various materials I was stepping on. The piece I ended up writing, Smell of the Earth, aimed to pay tribute to the products of earth. I collected a bunch of found instruments made of clay, metal, china and glass
and used them exclusively in the piece.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar this season?

TC: I’m in the early stages of a new work for Australian pianist Zubin Kanga who does lots of interesting things at the intersection of piano performance, improvisation, theatre and technology. I have another couple of substantial solo projects in the pipeline for percussionist Claire Edwardes and flautist Lamorna Nightingale as well a bunch of
chamber music works including a new piece for Duo Harpverk.

Interview with All of the Above

AOTAEnsemble-0023We cannot wait to collaborate with Cincinnati new music ensemble All of the Above on next week’s concert!  They will be premiering four new works from composers with ties to Cincinnati and Sydney.


CSB: Could you share some about AOTA’s background? What initially drew you to performing and promoting the works of living composers?

AOTA: All of the Above began back in January of 2015 with a meeting at CCM— where we were all students at the time— to discuss the possibility of a series of concerts featuring Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. As many know, Pierrot Lunaire is an incredible masterwork for the core instrumentation of AOTA, and birthed a whole new genre of music for our ensemble, which is now known as the “pierrot ensemble.” Out of a sheer desire to play this seminal work, Nave organized performances at the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Gorno Music Library at CCM and gathered a group of friends who were also interested in the repertoire. Because the piece is so demanding to put together (especially without a conductor), we rehearsed endlessly leading up to the performances, and in the process, we discovered that not only did we love this music, but we loved playing with each other. Additionally, I think we all felt a bit limited in school and desired to explore more repertoire in the new music genre. So when the Pierrot performances were done, we decided to keep playing together! We also added a percussionist, since so many works that we are interested in are written for “pierrot plus percussion,” an instrumentation Eighth Blackbird has popularized. It was kind a situation where we all serendipitously thought, “Wow, this music is super cool, this is a lot of fun, let’s keep doing this.” And more than just playing music that we all really enjoyed, we wanted to create our own opportunities, collaborate with living composers and friends, and play music where we felt we had an active decision in the creative process.

CSB: What has your experience been working on the pieces for this upcoming concert?

AOTA: Rehearsals for this concert have been incredibly demanding, but also a ton of fun. The pieces on the program are vastly different, so trying to capture each unique character has been a bit of a challenge. This diversity in style, however, has also made rehearsing really engaging and interesting. For instance, the piece by Tristan Coelho, read/write error, is super rhythmic with a ton of complex rhythms and time signatures as well as a plethora of extended techniques, while Laura Harrison’s piece, Focus, is very ethereal, still, and delicate in many places. So we have to call on every creative tool we own as individuals and as an ensemble to give full justice to each piece. I think this is the challenge for any musician, to create a work of art that aligns with what the composer intended that is also artistically fulfilling for the performer. We have to think a lot about the composers’ intentions as well as their satisfaction of our interpretation and performance. Ultimately, we want to breathe life into the music we have been given to create something moving and poignant and worthy.

CSB: What have been your favorite works as an ensemble?

AOTA: We’ve had the chance to play some pretty amazing music over the past few years. One of our favorite composers is Andy Akiho, a percussionist and composer based in Brooklyn, so we’ve performed and recorded two of his works— NO one To kNOW one and Erase, the latter which we have performed countless times at this point. We also really enjoy music inspired by the Bang on a Can style, so of course we love to play pieces by David Lang like cheating, lying, stealing and these broken wings. We’ve also done some Missy Mazzoli and Nico Muhly and plan on starting a new piece by Robert Honstein, a composer from the Sleeping Giant composers collective, in the spring. Additionally, We’ve been lucky enough to work very closely with Douglas Knehans, Professor of Composition at CCM, and Edward Smaldone of Queens College and have planned some really exiting performances and recordings of their music in the coming months (read below!). Something really fun that we also like to do are covers by Björk and Radiohead that were arranged for us by a good friend in Australia, acutally, named Alison Wright. And while we love playing music by our compositional heros, some of our favorite pieces have been a result from our collaborations with student composers and friends like David Clay Mettens, who we commissioned from the University of Chicago, as well as composers we met at CCM like Dan Harrison, Sullivan Boecker, Michael Lanci, and Mack Lamont. It is these projects with friends and colleagues that we have enjoyed most— workshopping and premiering new pieces is incredibly fulfilling for us as a group and something we hope to do more and more as our ensemble grows.

CSB: What other concerts can we look forward to hearing from AOTA this season?

AOTA: Actually, our next concert will be our debut at Carnegie Hall on December 18th! We are premiering two works by Douglas Knehans and Edward Smaldone as a part of the New York New Fusion Music Festival. We are beyond excited for this opportunity and will be spending the majority of our time until then preparing for this performance. However, In early February we will be presenting two concerts at the Cincinnati Art Museum in collaboration with the exhibit by Cincinnati artist, Ana England. In late February, we return to New York City to perform at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music for a concert hosted by the International Society of Contemporary Music; this concert will feature the works of Knehans and Smaldone, and while in NYC, we are recording the same music on our first album to be released on Ablaze records. Back in Cincinnati, we will be featured in a late:night concert hosted by Concert:Nova (date TBD) and later in the spring, we are partnering with the incredible Cincinnati group, Intermedio, for an installation project that you won’t want to miss. You can always check our website as well as our instagram and Facebook @alloftheaboveensemble for more updated information on upcoming events.

Interview with Composer Corrina Bonshek

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Australian composer Corrina Bonshek writes contemplative, nuanced music inspired by her love of nature. We’re delighted to present the premiere of her work Up in the Clouds on next week’s concert with All of the Above.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about the background of your piece?

CB: Up in the Clouds is a reimagining of a solo Pipa piece I wrote in 2015 for Taiwanese Pipa virtuoso Chen Yu Rong. The idea for the work came after reading Robyn Davidson’s book Tracks, which is a memoir of her solo trek from Alice Springs to WA with four camels and a dog for company. She describes time as passing differently in the desert, moving in eddies and curlicues, with a spaciousness that hints at the eternal. This idea really sparked my imagination and began to think of curling waves of sound-color that were sometimes times forceful and at other times gentle and subtle. In my music, these waves gradually reveal a simple heartfelt melody that I think of as blossoming of a desert flower after rain. Up in the Clouds revisits these ideas in a new ensemble context with some new musical materials.

CSB: What challenges did you face in arranging your work from pipa to Pierrot ensemble?

CB: Pipa has a very specific tonal palate. When you strike or pluck a string, the sound dies away quite quickly. Perhaps that’s why Pipa has an immense range of techniques to sustain notes including lots of different types of tremolo, bends and slides. Often phrases are punctuated with silence so that you can fully digest the prior sound-color before a new technique is introduced.

Rather than trying to imitate the Pipa with western instruments, I decided to think about the essence of what attracted me to this instrument – the interplay of active gestural variety and silence or pauses and the variety of tone- colors. It was a treat rethink these ideas in relation to Pierrot ensemble as there so many wonderful tone-color combinations possibly with instrument pairing: for example cello and bass clarinet, vibes and piano, etc.

And so, I rethought my interplay of active gesture and silence as a interplay of faster filigree gestures and sustained notes that get passed around the ensemble to create waves of varying sound-colors. I’d quite like to revisit these ideas again for an even larger ensemble.

CSB: How does location impact your work?

CB: I am very influenced by the sounds where I live. My composing room or studio looks out onto a forest. Birds do sing just outside my window. In Australia, the birds are incredibly raucous and lively. That’s because a lot of the birds are nectar eaters. They get pretty vocal about their tree or patch of flowers. As different native plants are in flower almost all year round (its subtropical here), there is no shortage sound or inspiration.

In fact, I often find nature sounds creeping into my music. Up in the Clouds is no exception. The last section is my musical version of the neighbourhood dusk chorus. A choir of Currawongs and Butcher Birds who sing outside my window every evening as the sun goes down. It’s a joyous sound.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar this season?

CB: My creative focus at the moment is a big outdoor work I am creating for fifty-piece string orchestra and percussion. This project is a little different as it is conceived as an installation for a walking audience and will be premiered at a major festival in my hometown. I am busily writing away and drinking lots of tea to help me stay focused and meet my upcoming deadlines! There are a lot of notes in this piece, the show will span one hour and 30 minutes, so this project is going to keep me busy for the entire season.

Interview with Composer Jason Richmond

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Cincinnati-based composer Jason Richmond writes energetic, dynamic works inspired by his love of travel. We are excited to feature the premiere of his Two Lights: Too Lite* (2017) on our upcoming concert with All of The Above on November 16th at St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about the background of your piece?
JR: When I was working on my doctoral dissertation during the fall semester 2013 (I had to finish it by the following January for a performance by the CCM Concert Orchestra in March 2014), I faced some writer’s block, having worked on it for six weeks straight. Almost all of the other students I was in school with at the time had a piece for Pierrot Ensemble. I had some left over ideas that I discarded in the process of writing my dissertation, so I decided to take a break from working on it and start a new work featuring Pierrot Ensemble instrumentation.

CSB: How does location impact your work?

JR: It impacts my work immensely. Having been a tour guide during the summer months while I was in school, I visited many places all over the US, particularly in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. I have used the inspiration gained from my travels to write various pieces; the sights and sounds that I see and hear to help to mold and shape my ideas.

CSB: How have you seen the environment for new music in Cincinnati change throughout your time here?

JR: The music scene in Cincinnati has grown significantly while I have lived here – and in almost every genre outside classical music as well. More venues that are used, for lack of a better word, to perform “mainstream” music, have opened their doors to classical music, so we are seeing increasingly more performances of this music outside of a traditional concert hall. This in return brought new music to more and more people throughout Cincinnati, and they are responding well and showing up to these performances.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar this season?

JR: I will be in attendance at the NES Artist Residency in Skagastrond, Iceland for all of November and December 2017. I will be working on a few commissioned projects, works I plan on submitting to competitions and festivals, and the remaining two movements of my first symphony (yes, a symphony!). I have a lot on my plate while I’m there and I am hoping to get as much work done as I can!

 

Summer Update

We had a great second season and will be sharing more photos and videos from recent concerts in the coming months.

Season 3 will be announced later this summer!  Our team is going global and we’ll be presenting music with new formats and from new locations.  New podcast episodes are on their way as well.  Stay tuned!