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  • richardmitnick 12:00 PM on August 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cultural exchange, , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Morocco, Iceland, Finland, and Cyprus: To Change and Be Changed” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    August 16, 2018
    Passepartout Duo

    1

    Before getting into the details of how we discover and apply to artist residency opportunities, we wanted to share our thoughts on some of the benefits to performers and composers of continual travel for music. The main takeaway is that every artist residency is different in its financial burden, its scope, and its circumstance; we’d like to encourage people to take on engagements of every kind, not just those which offer stipends and plentiful resources.

    Marrakech, Morocco // Flexibility

    2

    In April 2017, we were in residence at Dar Slimane, in a remote location outside of Marrakech, Morocco. Part of the institution’s mission is to revitalize desertified land altered by years of unsustainable agriculture, while also supporting artists in an interesting cultural environment. There are residencies of all sizes out there, and Dar Slimane represents those of the smallest size, where just a local couple is essentially hosting artists in their home. It has a completely different dynamic from those like Avaloch Farm or Banff that musicians often turn to, but one we’ve come to cherish in its own right. Small residencies are normally run by artists themselves, and they can connect you with the local community and environment in ways that huge institutions cannot. The key lesson we learned through our experience, and the one that made participating in this residency possible, was to be flexible artistically.

    For the first time, we had a circumstance that necessitated leaving our instrument comfort-zone. We knew there wouldn’t be a piano on the premises, and that we would only be in residence for two weeks. Our solution was to learn and record a piece by Christopher Adler that is scored only for instruments that could all easily fit in a carry-on suitcase. The piece was great for this situation but, better yet, it was a choice that set us on a path to seek out increasingly more portable solutions. Here’s our current traveling instrumentation, as it existed in Åland a couple months ago:

    3

    Our stay in Morocco represented the first time we wondered, “Should pianists only apply to residencies that provide a grand piano? Do we need to find a five-octave marimba?” Prefaced by saying that we believe there are an incredible set of residencies all offering beautiful pianos, of course our answer to these questions is no. A recurring theme in the classical music world is to “bring classical music outside of the concert hall,” but that’s not a proposition we can pursue without changing our perception of what is needed for a performance.

    Our desire to continue working within situations as culturally vibrant and influential as ours in Morocco has played an important role in how we’re approaching music now. We had a bug—not having a proper instrumentation—that has now been transformed into a feature of our ensemble: being able to travel and perform anywhere. We’d encourage anyone to extend the perimeter of their comfort zone when it comes to artist residencies. Whether it’s about being away from home, having limited resources, or stretching what is financially possible, usually the good will outweigh the bad in the end and you’ll come out with inspiring experiences that would’ve otherwise never happened.

    4
    5

    We were in northern Iceland for a residency at Listhús art space that coincided with their Skammdegi Festival. During our nine-week stay we: recorded an EP, filmed three music videos, played on the Dark Music Days Festival, were on the Radio and TV in Icelandic, had a small house concert tour, and met a dozen other inspiring artists (from the town and abroad). We were even extras on a Netflix show. By our standards, that’s a lot for nine weeks in a completely new location. It wasn’t like we were stretched to our limits either; in the dark and cold North, we had the time to be introspective, to catch up on typical admin work, and still had plenty of energy for fun and discovery within this unique place in the world.

    It did come at a price, though. Not all residencies are free, and this was the most expensive one we’ve participated in. The fee and expenses of living in Iceland can sound a bit difficult to swing for most people, but an eagerness to take on this opportunity helped us to find a way to make it work.

    One of the hidden benefits of distant travel as an artist is the ability to accrue funding from grants not only from your home city/country, but also abroad. Our residency proposition in Iceland opened us up to many different funding bodies in the Nordic countries that helped us to build a project across many locations and disciplines. We were able to couple the opportunity with an advantageous festival appearance that also helped offset the cost.

    Grants and funding aside, we think that giving a fee per month to an arts organization that needs it, is so much more satisfying than giving that money to a landlord. Our project in the Nordic countries quickly expanded to include festival appearances, composer commissions, and residencies in Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, and Denmark. Although it took a leap of faith and a small initial investment, this larger project that accumulated support on the way would have never happened without the Listhús residency as a catalyst.

    Fiskars, Finland // City Living and Quality of Life

    6

    Fiskars, a small town outside Helsinki that is owned by the Fiskars company, is a true “artists’ village.” Funds from the company helped facilitate an influx of Helsinki-based artists to live and work in the vacant factory buildings. Though a town of just 600 or so permanent inhabitants, it is somehow an epicenter of arts and culture. Couple that with Finland’s incredible public education and social programs, and it’s hard to imagine a place with a higher quality of life for musicians.

    It’s easy to think that media center cities like Los Angeles and Paris are the only places it’s possible to be a contemporary musician in touch with the vanguard, but traveling has shown us something different. Going to an artist residency somewhere halfway across the world will give you an outsider’s perspective on your own life and the current circumstances in which you live. It will also give you a window into another kind of lifestyle you may not have yet encountered.

    The lesson we’ve learned this time is that the best place for you to choose to settle down may not be the city you grew up near and it doesn’t have to be automatically the city you went to school in; it’s possibly even somewhere you haven’t heard of yet.

    Treis Elies, Cyprus // Local and global communities

    7
    8
    9

    We stayed in the small town of Treis Elies, Cyprus this past July as part of the Kammari Residency. Kammari was very recently started by a small group of Finnish/Cypriot artists and philosophers. With just 20 permanent residents, the town of Treis Elies represents a shift in Europe where small rural villages are losing residents and becoming uninhabited. With several young couples moving to Treis Elies from abroad, the village’s make-up is now a mix of an older Cypriot generation and a new very international one, not without clashes of lifestyles. The introduction of the artist residency has created a foundation for these two different cultures to interact on and this has drastically changed the sense of community within the village. In Treis Elies, meals and drinks are shared on a daily basis regardless of age, language, or background. In a place with a history such as Cyprus’s we felt this message was very powerful: that artist residencies propose the ability to change a cultural landscape.

    La Casa del Herrero in Torralba de Ribota, Spain (population 188) is doing the very same thing: it represents one of three artist residencies in the same small village, and it contributes to building a vibrant and inclusive community there. Our experiences at these residencies were not only defined by the art we encountered, but also defined by memories of conversations shared over lunchtime backgammon and late-night barbecues in many languages. We learn about different cultures and communities in this way and often can draw parallels between them.

    The people we know, and have met on the way, are what have made our experiences meaningful, more than the places we’ve been. It’s both for us and for these communities we encounter that we hope to start new discussions about art and create shared memories during our travels.

    Morocco, Iceland, Finland, and Cyprus: it was a general openness toward going anywhere and an eagerness to share our music with anyone who will listen that brought us to these places. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and hope that by seeing these four examples you’re encouraged to travel somewhere not only because you want to go there, but also because you think it might expand your world, practice, or ideology in some way. Traveling somewhere new provides us with a thought-provoking invitation, applicable in both life and in new music: to change and be changed.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

    Advertisements
     
  • richardmitnick 2:54 PM on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NEWMUSICBOX, Speak Now: #45miniatures   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Speak Now: #45miniatures” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    August 15, 2018
    Nicholas Phillips

    1

    Several composers have written eloquently on this site about how the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath have affected their work. They’ve advised that ultimately, no matter how paralyzed they feel, it is time to create, even if their job as composers has now changed. Margaret Atwood wrote a great article about what art can, should, or will be made under the current administration. And she makes a good point when she says that the president won’t even notice, rating his interest in the arts somewhere between zero and negative 10 (on a scale from 1 to 100).
    I found myself wondering what I could do, as a performer.

    To me, the result of the election was an “unpresidented” [sic] embarrassment on a global level, and continues to be as we all witness the daily barrage of tantrums and tweets. But I found myself wondering what I could do, as a performer. I felt compelled to do something, and regrettably I had not yet read this great article about what many other performers were up to, or discovered projects such as the Activist Songbook or this hilarious piece.

    So, late at night on August 9, 2017 (I’m pretty sure it was after reading about North Korea and how “Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’ Threat Raises Alarms in Asia”), I turned to the one thing I know I can always count on: sarcasm. I posted on Facebook that I was thinking of commissioning a piece called Suite #45, or potentially writing it myself. I listed a humorous set of possible characteristics (which I’ve also listed here):

    movements limited to 140 notes, 140 measures, 140 phrases, or other permutations of the Twitter character limit
    erratic shifts of: character, dynamic, articulation, tempo
    improvisatory sections that do not relate in any way to the thematic material of the piece, or commonly accepted musical practices. In ANY way.
    playful/childish outbursts, in the form of “heckler chords” or “bad hombre-like non-chord tones” with shocking key area explorations highly encouraged!
    “tonality-change” denier (i.e. Anti-Modulation) sympathies
    structural musical elements in no way qualified to be a part of supporting the administration of the composition
    short, repeated motifs that are expressed vehemently (but not developed), then forgotten by the average listener at crucial later moments when they could change the appreciation/understanding of the piece
    a blatantly critical and unwavering sense of self-importance, in the face of wide-spread critical disdain, and limited audience base.

    It was a moment of comic relief, shared with my friends. It made me feel better, at least temporarily, and then I went to bed.

    But something quite unexpected happened. The next morning, there were a lot of notifications on my phone. People loved the idea and encouraged me to actually do it. Having devoted a significant amount of my own professional career over the past decade to contemporary piano music, both in recital programming and through commissioning projects like American Vernacular: New Music for Solo Piano, it seemed like a natural fit. After some thought, I set up an open “Call for Scores” and changed the name to #45miniatures, combining the hashtag styling of Trump’s favorite social media pastime and a word with obvious double entendre implications.

    This call was done entirely on Facebook, and 24 composers (including a violist and a pianist!) responded expressing interest. No one cared about a commissioning fee, though I set up a GoFundMe campaign anyway to try and generate some funds to be distributed equally among the composers. As scores started coming in I was – as I always am – amazed by the creativity and craft of the participating composers.

    One piece for speaking pianist takes text from the campaign, punctuating each section with “SAD!” Another combines clusters with an increasingly louder, faster chant of “LOCK HER UP!” and incorporates a Dies Irae recitative. There is a toccata that systematically removes all pitches until only Ds are left.

    A palindromic chaconne leads to a “wall” in the middle before reversing itself all the way back to the first note. Text from tweets and speeches feature prominently in many, and musical quotations abound (from “If I Only Had a Brain” to our National Anthem). Some are very serious; some are definitely not. These are just a few; you can read about of the pieces I have received to date here.

    However, a few things didn’t sit right. First, I began feeling uncomfortable thinking of the project as “mine” in any sort of singular way. Performers often hold tight to the right for a premiere or first recording, and in many cases this makes sense. But #45miniatures isn’t about me. It is about the music and the message it sends. The mere presence of a body of work in response to this presidency is, in itself, powerful.
    #45miniatures isn’t about me. It is about the music and the message it sends.

    Second, why should I limit this to composers who happened to have seen the call on my Facebook wall? Many of these people are my friends, but we all know how much is missed on that platform, as Facebook’s algorithms decide what you should see on any given day based on your interactions (or non-interactions) with your friends. Surely there are others who are looking for an outlet like this?

    The conclusion I came to was that this really needs to be a collective, open-source project, so I created this #45miniatures website to connect us all. You can read about the project there, and view perusal scores. (Funny story, the sub-heading on the homepage was suggested by the Wix auto template design robots in nanoseconds after seeing my title. I’ve ordered hats, but they are currently held up at customs, due to the trade war.)

    Here’s the important part:

    Pianists: Want to get involved? Great! You are welcome here. You can peruse any score that I’ve received. See something you like and want to program? Contact the composer and get a score. I don’t have to premiere anything. This music should be programmed and played all over the country and globe. The News/Media section of the website will be a great place to share info about performances and audio/video links.

    Composers: Do you have an idea and want to write something after reading this article? Great! Please get in touch. I took everyone who responded to the initial call for scores, and I genuinely welcome as diverse an array of composers as I can possibly have. This is a work in progress, but I would love to eventually see a published book of all the miniatures that come in.

    I believe history will be the ultimate judge of this president, but art must be a part of the contemporary response.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 1:44 PM on August 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NEWMUSICBOX, Opinion   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “A Holistic Approach to Sound” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    August 13, 2018
    Josh Modney

    `1
    IMAGE: Alexander Perrelli and Emma Van Deun

    Depending on who you talk to, “extended techniques” can be a loaded term. To one person, the presence of extended techniques makes a piece of music weird and unlistenable, while to another, their absence would indicate music that is regressive and uninteresting. In either case, ears are closed, and a blanket judgment is being made about the quality of the art using a term that should really only be a quantifier. So, first of all, I’d like to clear away some of the subjective baggage that has built up around extended techniques. The most objective way I can think of to define it is this: an extended technique is any action that produces a result outside the fundamental parameters of sound that an instrument was designed to make. This still leaves some ambiguity as to the designers’ intentions, especially when it comes to an instrument as old as mine, the violin. But it’s clear that on the violin, an execution that causes the string to vibrate with maximum consistency and overtone-rich resonance is the primary function of the instrument, which luthiers have worked very hard to cultivate over the centuries. On the other hand, playing very close to the bridge to create a broken, inconsistent sound that reinforces high overtones, while just as beautiful aesthetically, is one example of the great many techniques that fall outside the instrument’s intended function. This distinction is very important for students, since getting the string to resonate consistently is the most difficult thing to master, and is the foundation of most other physical movements on the instrument.

    As useful as I’ve found this definition as a player and a teacher, it still sets up a dualism that I find troubling. For one thing, it would seem to support the idea that all sounds outside of the core practice of Western classical music represent an extension of that practice, and not a separate identity. To an extent I agree with this – it is very difficult to understand how to play Lachenmann if you haven’t studied Beethoven, as they are strongly connected along the lineage of German music – but this way of thinking excludes artists who have arrived at novel ways of creating sound along a different trajectory. Furthermore, by lumping an incredibly broad array of musical tools into the single category of extended techniques, the implication is that any given sound outside “normal” playing is a shallow, one-dimensional artifact, rather than a component of one of any number of deep reservoirs of practice that have just as much potential for nuanced human expression as the standard technique of the instrument’s original design.

    2

    As my own practice on the violin has evolved to a point where the majority of the sounds I make on the instrument could be defined as extended techniques, I wonder if there is a better way to frame instrumental performance practice for the 21st century that, while respecting and continuing traditions, makes room for a deeper engagement with other avenues of expression. I’ve begun to think of this as a holistic approach to sound.

    The idea of a holistic approach to sound started to coalesce when I was preparing to record Violin Solos, a series of improvised solo violin pieces for my debut album, Engage (New Focus Recordings, August 3, 2018). I had been working this way for a long time in various contexts, from interpreter to collaborator to improviser, but didn’t have the words for it yet. Planning and practicing for that recording session, and then working to break it all down afterward to write the liner notes for the album, gave me the impetus to look under the hood of my practice and really examine what was happening.

    In thinking about my approach to sound, I kept on coming back to the idea of reservoirs. The standard, “romantic” style of violin playing that has been dominant since at least the mid-20th century and that every violin student learns is one reservoir. It utilizes the sounds that the modern violin, paired with the modern bow, were designed to produce – rich and luminous, causing the string to vibrate in a manner that is consistent and sustained. Another, equally deep reservoir encompasses the highly specific timbral study that has been so thoroughly researched by composers like Helmut Lachenmann, Mathias Spahlinger, and many others since (though on a musical level the compositions of Lachenmann and Spahlinger remain deeply connected to the same Germanic tradition that begat “romantic” string playing, on a technical level the sounds represent a radically different engagement with the instrument, requiring an entirely different skill set as a player). Another reservoir is Just Intonation, a practice that has made its way into just about everything that I do. Another might broadly be described as noise-based music. Another that is specific to my individual path would be the sounds and techniques that grew out of collaborative work with my composer colleagues in the Wet Ink Ensemble (Alex Mincek, Kate Soper, Eric Wubbels, and Sam Pluta). Far from a comprehensive list, those are just a few examples of reservoirs that have spoken strongly to me and that I have incorporated into my playing, colored by my unique experiences as a musician. Another violinist would no doubt have some similarities and some differences.

    One can dive deeply into any single reservoir and find more than a complete set of tools for musical expression. I think that a piece based completely in scratch tones and pitchless noise has just as much potential to be beautiful as a piece based in fully voiced notes. It’s only a matter of whether it is done well. For me, a mode of personal expression on the violin that feels rich and fulfilling involves drawing from many of these reservoirs and then quickly cutting between them. By engaging with material in this way, the relationship to sound feels less like the ornamentation of a monolithic practice, and more like personal conversations with distinct musical entities.

    All of this reminds me of a quote from Sam Pluta’s writing about his own work, in which he proposes a type of musicmaking where “anything and everything is possible and acceptable at any moment.” It’s an attitude that embraces adventure and innovative modes of expression without demanding an outright rejection of established practices. And it represents a kind of openness to the universe that makes the music of composers like Sam and Anthony Braxton so compelling and inspiring. This isn’t to say “everything is good” – curation and self-criticism must be valued for art to be successful – but that a nondogmatic engagement with sound can yield beautiful results. Never mind whether an artist hails predominantly from one aesthetic camp or another. If there is a sound or gesture that is right for the music, do it.

    The music that resonates with me tends to be aesthetically adventurous and open-minded, yet tightly curated. I’ll use a few works that were written for me by some of the Wet Ink composers as examples. Sam Pluta’s Jem Altieri with a Ring Modulator Circuit, for violin and electronics, lives mostly in a world of carefully sculpted noise, but in rare and special moments, when the music needs it, calls on the violin to produce fully resonant pitched sonorities. Kate Soper’s Cipher, for soprano and violin, winds up traversing an incredibly diverse array of musical terrain, from timbral study to art song to psycho-acoustic phenomena, all in the service of a thoroughly logical exploration of language and meaning. Eric Wubbels’s “the children of fire come looking for fire,” for violin and prepared piano, begins with an extremely long overpressure sound on the violin, setting up expectations in the listener about the style and form of the work, which are then subverted as it is revealed that the scratch tone functions as a metaphorical well of sound from which the rest of the highly articulate and virtuosic materials for the piece are drawn. In the case of each of these works, when you pull back and take in the big picture, musical choices that are unexpected or surprising in the moment work together beautifully in the larger context.

    A successful performance of multifaceted music like this demands a fluency of movement between strongly defined sonic identities. Another way of expressing that is that the music demands versatility. The idea of versatility loomed large as the ultimate goal of my classical training, the key to unlocking a successful career as a concert violinist. I agree with that in spirit, except that the traditional conservatory approach defines versatility very narrowly as the ability to play in the styles of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Debussy. The idea is that if you can master the techniques required to play those composers, you can play anything. As a teacher, I still think those things are important. The study of classical music is an excellent way to gain fluency in the sounds that the instrument was designed to make, and fluency in the instrument’s primary functions are critical to artistry. But those sounds represent only a small fraction of the tools necessary to thrive as a 21st-century musician.

    As a classically trained violinist, I’d like to propose that we expand our concept of versatility on the instrument. What if a new versatility included improvisation, adventurous reinterpretations of antique music, deep engagement with more recent traditions on the instrument, and collaborations with artists on new compositions, sounds, and techniques? Rather than regarding all sounds as extensions of a single dominant practice, let’s treat the established norms of Western classical music as just one of many reservoirs of musical thought in a holistic approach that values many kinds of expression.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 9:34 AM on August 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Collaboration as Performance Practice, , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Collaboration as Performance Practice” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    August 6, 2018
    Josh Modney

    1
    (photo credit: Alexander Perrelli & Emma Van Deun)

    There’s a moment in Kate Soper’s duo for soprano and violin, Cipher, that tends to stick in people’s minds. The soprano, delivering spoken text, moves toward the violinist and places a mute on the instrument, filtering the tone color. As the violinist continues to play, the soprano moves closer still and places several fingers on the strings, activating specific pitches along the fingerboard. With intricately choreographed movements, the two musicians play the instrument together, creating harmonies that would be otherwise inaccessible to a solo violinist. Simultaneously, the violinist begins to speak. The roles of voice and instrument, which up to this point have been vying for primacy, have become equal and intertwined.

    The physicality of it all is striking. It brings the violin into sharp focus. The expressive and sonic capabilities of the instrument have been tested throughout the first half of the piece, and now, in a radical extension of instrumental technique, the violin sings in an entirely new way. It’s also personal, drawing attention to the relationship between two performers and embodying the spirit of openness essential to adventurous musicmaking.

    By crossing over into the visual realm, that moment illuminates an intensely personal, non-hierarchical creative process that is embedded throughout the sonic fabric of Cipher, a process that is a galvanizing force behind the extraordinary invention and experimentation in the piece. As the musicians converge on the violin, it is apparent that open dialogue must have been integral to developing the mechanics of the playing technique, and that the process must have involved a great deal of time and trust.

    I’d like to take the opportunity here on NewMusicBox to talk about the genesis of Cipher and another work that is based on this kind of open process—Eric Wubbels’s “the children of fire come looking for fire”—and the profound impact both of these works have had on my relationship to creativity as a classically trained violinist. Both of these artists have turned away from the hierarchical paradigm of classical music, where the composer works in isolation on a piece before handing the final product to one or more interchangeable performers, in favor of a holistic approach that allows for creativity and learning from both sides of the composer/performer relationship.

    Kate originally wrote Cipher for the two of us over an extended period of workshop in 2011. We premiered it in December of that year, and then started to perform it extensively in 2012 after a significant revision. The workshop process started at the very first stages of material generation. These early sessions drew on Kate’s sketches, initial ideas about how to share roles and subvert the traditional hierarchy of soprano with accompaniment (in part, building on ideas from Kate’s soprano and flute duo with Erin Lesser, Only The Words Themselves Mean What They Say), our burgeoning interest in Just Intonation (JI), Renaissance choral tuning exercises, and more. Our workshops were about posing questions and musical puzzles and seeing what we could do with them. For instance, is there a precise JI alternate tuning of the violin that can yield both a complex, “colored” unison across all four strings as well as pure intervals? How palpable are psycho-acoustic difference tones between soprano and violin, and how precisely can they be controlled? Can the instrument be readjusted to standard tuning in the middle of a piece without a pause in the action? (Through a team effort, yes!) Can novel sonorities on the violin be conjured if both performers play the instrument simultaneously? Historically, there is a great deal of overlap between the performance practice of violin and voice (the violin’s vocal qualities are widely celebrated, as in Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise), however the extended techniques of each diverge from one another dramatically. The long workshop process of Cipher allowed us to discover an extended soundworld with fields of sameness and difference, enabling the material in Cipher to morph into myriad extremes and then realign in uncanny unison.

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    A key element in all of this musical experimentation is trust. Trust encourages adventurous musical choices while laying groundwork for the performance practice of the final work. Every great chamber musician knows the critical importance of trust. For a great performance to happen, the musicians must inhabit a higher plane, a communal version of Robert Pirsig’s “high country of the mind,” interdependent and tethered together in Alpine-style ascent. An open creative process rooted in long-term collaboration allows that bond of trust to be forged right from the beginning, reinforcing every step of the piece’s development from premiere to revision, reinterpretation, touring, memorization, and recording.

    A high level of trust opened up the potential for Kate and me to develop the technique for “violin 4-hands,” which involves a sharing of the extremely personal space of the violin’s physical surface and immediate aura. That trust eventually led to the refinement of a performance practice that is as much an integral part of the piece as the notes on the page, and ultimately, I think, bridges a gap that has been artificially opened in our musical culture. The gap between the paradigm of contemporary music composition and performance, which allows for experimentation but too often stops dead after the premiere, and of classical music, which demands refinement and deep engagement with individual works but all too easily falls into entrenched ways of thinking, at the expense of novel and creative approaches.

    In classical music practice, the extremely high standards of refinement allow virtuosity to coalesce into a conduit for the expression of the spirit. I think that an important reason many listeners prefer classical music over contemporary music is that a great deal of energy has been put in over a great deal of time such that classical performers are able to transcend the technical demands of the music and communicate with audiences from the “high country.” A desire to bridge the gap and bring this level of refinement and detail to the creative space of a contemporary work is one of the things that drove the process behind Eric Wubbels’s “the children of fire come looking for fire” for violin and prepared piano.

    Eric wrote “the children of fire…” for the two of us over the course of several months in early 2012. We met weekly, experimenting with sounds and, as the material began to solidify, learned the piece in chunks, building it up gradually from week to week. It was extremely rewarding to learn the piece in small sections in this super detailed and developmental way. By the time the week of the premiere arrived, each section of the piece felt innately familiar.

    A recurring feature in Eric’s music is the idea of “translation”—that is, translating a sound that is idiomatic to one instrument into the language of another instrument, and then fusing the two sounds together. Blending the timbres of the modern violin and the modern piano is a particularly challenging task. Much of the famous repertoire for violin and piano duo was written for very different instruments – softer and warmer, built for intimate spaces, the characters of different keys brought to life by the piano’s meantone tuning, a system to which the violinist can easily adapt.

    The situation these days is much different. The equipment of violins and pianos has been adapted for projection over an orchestra, such that it is difficult for the percussive attack of the piano and the tenacious sustain of the violin to blend. And the tuning system of equal temperament is a challenging fit for the violin. (For an informative and entertaining read on this, check out How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony: And Why You Should Care, by Ross W. Duffin.)

    All of this is to say that the timbre of the instruments (i.e., the instrumental technology) that forms the basis of a piece matters. A lot. The fresh ways that Eric has written for the peculiarities of the modern violin and the modern piano are a big part of what makes “the children of fire…” such a special and extraordinary piece. In “the children of fire…”, there are many instances where Eric uses the idea of translation to bring the instruments together. The piece begins with a sustained noise wall produced by overdriving the top string of the violin. Far from a generic scratch tone, it is a sound so complex and layered that it gives a sense of “everythingness,” a singularity from which the material for the rest of the piece is generated. This functions both metaphorically in the structure of the piece and as a practical generator of material – Eric made a spectral analysis of the sound and used that to find chords on the piano that would blend seamlessly.

    Another example of translation sources a sound so idiomatic to the violin that it has become cliché: descending left hand pizzicato a la Paganini. It’s a sound associated with a certain brand of corny violinistic showmanship that Eric beautifully repurposes by combining it with a unison pizzicato gesture inside the piano (an evolution of the “pizz fail” section of Eric’s earlier work for Wet Ink, katachi).

    There is a passage at the heart of “the children of fire…” that is effectively a double translation, reconciling the violin’s inability to play sustained chords with the piano’s inability to play in Just Intonation. It employs difference tones, which I learned how to precisely control on the violin through the process of collaboration with Eric. Difference tones are a psycho-acoustic phenomenon. When we hear two or more pitches simultaneously, our brains fill in the fundamental of those pitches. When the pitches are tuned in a manner that corresponds exactly to ratios of the harmonic series, we perceive the fundamental strongly. If you play a series of intervals formed from different strata of the harmonic series, a ghostly psycho-acoustic “bassline” emerges. In “the children of fire…”, Eric realizes this virtual bassline on the piano. It is a passage of striking beauty that solves the problem of violin/piano blend without using any extended techniques. The violin reinforces the upper partials inherent to the piano pitches, while the piano undergirds the fundamental that is psycho-acoustically implied by the violin dyads. The instruments blend perfectly, a meta-instrument, and akin to the far ranging terrain of Cipher, the possibility is opened up for the players to shape sounds that are starkly differentiated and then return to a place of absolute unity.

    Making music this way, from the ground up, is incredibly rewarding and empowering, especially from the perspective of the relative confines of classical performance training. Being a participant and partner from the early stages of the development of a work, with generous collaborators who are willing to share their creative agency, has been liberating for me and has fundamentally changed my relationship to music. It has allowed me to connect the dots and see the potential for my own mobility along a continuum that ranges from interpretation, through collaboration and creative partnership, to being the primary creator myself as an improviser/composer. And, in the case of these duos by Kate and Eric, we have found a path that has no end date, and grows richer with each performance.

    Aside from the great musical and spiritual rewards of such a process, it is also—perhaps counterintuitively—an incredibly efficient way to bring a new piece from the early stages of composition to the ultra-refined performance standard that is expected of classical music. Again, it has to do with an innate familiarity with each timbre and gesture (built on the process of elimination that happens when honing a sound in workshop, habitualizing your brain to the details of production, “not this, or this, but THIS”), and with the trust that is forged between collaborators which can then be brought onto the concert stage. Classical music performance, while fraught with its own challenges, benefits from pre-established practices cultivated over centuries and the framework of the common practice period. As new music performers, we must create our own performance practice before we may hope to transcend technical execution and strive toward that high country where the real, sustained ecstatic communication between performers and listeners can take place.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 2:03 PM on August 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NEWMUSICBOX, , , Randy Weston   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Randy Weston: Music is Life Itself” Do Not Miss This Extraordinary Interview 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    August 1, 2018
    Frank J. Oteri

    Video presentations and photography by Molly Sheridan

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    Randy Weston by Molly Sheridan

    Randy Weston A Giant of Jazz and in stature photo cr. wcsufmorg

    It has been more than three quarters of a century since the bebop revolution transformed how people made music together. So it is not surprising that so few musicians who came to prominence during that era are no longer with us, especially since so many—like Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Herbie Nichols, Elmo Hope, Eric Dolphy, and on and on–had tragically short lives. But what is more surprising is that one of these musicians, 92-years young Randy Weston, is not only still around, he’s still actively performing and composing and evolving, although to him there really isn’t a clear distinction between old and new music.

    When we visited Randy Weston in his Brooklyn apartment, which was once the site of a restaurant his father owned when he was growing up and which helped to shape his attitudes about how to connect with audiences, he expounded on his all-inclusive worldview. He pointed out that bebop and all of so-called jazz, which he prefers to call “African American classical music,” as well as numerous other musical genres have their source in the traditional music of Africa:

    You can call it rock and roll. You can call it hip hop. You can call it jazz. Many titles. But for me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of survival. … We have to stop to realize: No Africa? No jazz, no blues, no bossa nova, no calypso, no reggae! … My father said to me three things. He said, “Africa is the past, the present, and the future.”

    To Weston, different generations listening to different music from one another makes no sense. “When I was growing up, music was for everybody,” he said. “I’ve got to move a three-year old or a 100-year old.” And it’s something he has aspired to do since he first started playing in clubs as part of a trio at the age of 17. Over the course of the last seven decades, several of Weston’s compositions—such as “Hi-Fly” (1958) and a waltz he composed in 1956 about one of his children called “Little Niles”—have become standards, and his 1972 album Blue Moses was a bestseller.

    Weston wants to harness the power of music to make people aware of their history. The contemporaneous declarations of independence of many African nations was the inspiration for his landmark 1960 suite Uhuru Africa, which featured a poem expressly created for it by Langston Hughes and was arranged by the undersung Melba Liston for an all-star ensemble that included Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Gigi Gryce, Yusef Lateef, Cecil Payne, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Max Roach, Candido Camero, and Babatunde Olatunji, as well as operatic soprano Martha Flowers and actor/singer Brock Peters. The album was banned in then Apartheid-governed South Africa but also led to Weston being invited, under the auspices of the American Society of African Culture, to perform in Nigeria in 1961. Weston returned there two years later and then in 1967 embarked on a U.S. State Department tour to Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The following year he moved to Morocco and lived in Tangier for seven years.

    Living on the African continent and working extensively with musicians from a wide variety of traditions further expanded Weston’s compositional palette, and he continued to explore ways to make the European piano sound African.

    “I go back to before it was a piano,” Weston explained. “You’ve got wood. You’ve got metal. When the piano was created in Italy, they didn’t know what to do with the keys of the piano, so the keys of the piano were wood. After that, the ivory on the elephant was what they used before the plastic and whatnot. So when I go to the piano, I approach it as an African instrument. It just traveled north and some other things were done to it. And inside it is a harp, an African harp.”

    Although he ultimately returned to the Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in, Weston took back with him a whole world of experience which has informed the music he is creating up to this day. His magnum opus, the two-hour African Nubian Suite, which premiered in 2012 and was released as a two-CD set on his own African Rhythms label just last year, incorporates musical traditions from across the entire African continent, as well as the diaspora and even China.

    “We all have African blood,” Weston asserted. “Every person on the planet Earth.”

    After such an ambitious tour-de-force, Weston refuses to rest on his laurels. He just issued Sound, another two-CD set which is all solo piano music, and a few days after we visited him he flew to Europe for performances in Nice and Rome:

    Wherever I go, I tell people—students, grandmas, you know—I’m so happy now because when I play, all the races come to me holding their hearts. They say, “You’re taking us back home.” I say, “We all are from there.”

    Frank J. Oteri: There’s a statement in your autobiography African Rhythms that I thought would be a great place to begin our talk. It was an observation about African traditional music: the audience and the music are one. I think the same could be said for just about all the music you’ve done in your life, and the same could have been or perhaps should be said for all music—any music that really works.

    Randy Weston: Well, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and I became a young musician, playing local gigs and marriages. We played a lot of dances. You had to play for dance, otherwise you weren’t a musician. And that goes all the way back to ancient Africa, that they’re one and the same, which means that the dancer is also an instrument. Also, in our community, it wasn’t The New York Times that told us whether we played good or not, it was that African-American audience. I don’t care whether it was calypso, the black church, the blues, or European classical music, they knew when the music was right. And if you weren’t playing right, you were in trouble.

    Growing up as a boy, I loved music before I ever even touched a piano. Music was our way of life. I grew up in a community of all the nationalities—people from the Caribbean, people from Africa, people from the South, people from Europe—all bringing their cultures. It was so rich and so wonderful, but music was the key. And I can’t emphasize too much, it was my mother and father who would bring the best music in the house—Duke Ellington, gospel, blues. They weren’t musicians and they never studied music, so I wanted to find out how they could know so much about music. But when you go to the motherland, the people in Africa are music. Music is the first language. It’s how we survived slavery. It’s how we survive many hardships. During the early ‘20s and ‘30s, they were lynching black people in this country—your skin was no good, your hair, all the stereotypes. But it was music, whether it was the black church, where I had to be every Sunday with my Virginia momma, or during the week when I was with my Caribbean father—Panama, Jamaica, proud, Marcus Garvey, Africa, all the time. We would go to calypso dances. We were just surrounded with music and there was no separation between the ages, no such thing as music for the young. When I was growing up, music was for everybody.

    So when Randy Weston plays the piano, I’ve got to move a three-year old or a 100-year old. And that’s the foundation of music in spirituality, which was passed down from our ancestors. Every day I’m amazed at how they could create such beauty in this country after coming here in such terrible conditions. I still don’t get it. When I went to Africa, I found out that for African people, spirituality is so important, even despite all the diversities of people. That’s the only way I can describe it, so a long way of answering your question as usual.

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    FJO: You touched on many different concepts here. But since you touched on when you were growing up, I’d like to talk more with you about other things that were around you that I would dare say might have influenced your approach to how you relate to audiences. Your father ran a restaurant and took meals very seriously. A great chef can be considered a great artist, but you’d never have a situation where the chef is a great artist and he makes food that most people wouldn’t want to eat. Yet we do harbor a notion that there is some great music that very few people can relate to. What happened to create this distance between people who make music and everybody else?

    RW: We got away from the truth. My father always taught me to always look for the origin of everything in life. No matter what they tell you. Try to find the origin of whatever that is. Whether it’s language, whether it’s football, whatever. My dad loved Africa with such a passion. He would talk about Africa to people he didn’t even know in the street or in the restaurant. When I was a young, young child, around six, he said, “My son, I want you to understand one thing: that you are an African born in America. Therefore you must study the history of Africa before it was colonized. Before it was invaded. Before it was sterilized.” My dad had books on African civilization in the house and he had maps of Africa and also African kings and queens on the wall. When we grew up, it was British East Africa and the Belgian Congo; Africa didn’t have its independence. But he said, “We come from royalty.” He said, “They only thing they’re going to teach you is after slavery and after colonialism; you’re going to have a mountain full of lies. When you go to the cinema or when you go to school, people are going to say you’re inferior. There’s a billion people on the planet, but I want you to be strong when you go out the door.” So growing up, because of my dad, I’d look at books and I’d go to museums. I’d go back 6,000 years ago. Just imagine what it must have been before Africa was occupied.

    The way we were treated in this country, how come we don’t hate people? You don’t do that because we’re all members of the planet earth; we’re all human beings. We grew up like that. We really loved to welcome all the different people of the planet. My father’s friends were Jewish, Swedish, German, Italian. You name it. We’d go to their house and had Italian food. Or we’d have Jewish food on a Sunday. My mother with her Virginia accent and my father with his Caribbean accent. They had different accents, but they were the same people. They got married and they produced me.

    My dad’s second restaurant was right here in this house; my dad died, but his spirit is in this house. He would have people come here from Africa, or from the Caribbean, or Europeans who told the truth about African history—scientists, musicians, painters, actors. And with my mother at the black church every Sunday, I was absorbing these gospels and spirituals when I was a little boy. So that’s my foundation. And every day, I talked to my father and mother. They gave me everything. They gave me spirituality, which is difficult to understand. They loved me and I was spoiled. I’m not talking about financially. My dad was a great cook. He would cook all the Caribbean cooking. My mother made Southern food from Virginia. I had all that love, and not to mention the neighborhood, but that’s the foundation—mom and pop.

    4
    Randy Weston keeps a framed photograph of his parents on one of his walls as a constant reminder of their importance to him.

    FJO: Andy they had you take piano lessons.

    RW: My father, yeah.

    FJO: But that first set of piano lessons didn’t really work out.

    RW: No, because you know, I was six-foot at 12 years old. In those days, I thought I was going to the circus. I was tall. Today, that’s nothing, right? I played baseball and football. And I couldn’t identify with the scales because all the music we grew up with was swinging—whether it’s the black church or a blues club on the corner or calypso dance, all the music had, as Duke Ellington says, that African pulse. So I couldn’t identify with European music. But that piano teacher, God bless her, for 50 cents a lesson, she had to deal with me for three years of torture—for her and for me. She’d hit my hand with the ruler. But she gave me the foundation and that’s why she’s in my book. I learned some things I got to appreciate when I got older.

    FJO: Well I have a theory that, aside from you saying that you didn’t identify with European music, you wanted to create your own things instead of playing what someone else wrote. Even before you ever created your first composition, you had the attitude of a composer.

    RW: I didn’t know. I had no idea.

    When I had come out of the Army, I went to my father’s restaurant and I was a frustrated musician. Remember, this was the period of royalty. This was the period of the greatest musicians in the history of the planet—people like Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Erroll Garner, and I could go on. This was our royalty. In the restaurant, you could go to the jukebox and play everybody from Louis Armstrong to Sarah Vaughan, to Louis Jordan. We’d be open 24 hours a day in this restaurant and I was so in love with the music on the jukebox.

    At this time, Miles Davis was living in Brooklyn and so was Max Roach, who I called the emperor of Brooklyn. Max was my teacher. Max Roach’s house was two blocks away from where we lived and my father’s restaurant. When I had a break in the restaurant, I’d just go to Max’s house and sit in the corner. That’s where I met Dizzy Gillespie. That’s where I met Charlie Parker. That’s where I met Miles Davis. That’s where I met George Russell. I’d sit in the corner and just listen to what they talked about. And thanks to Max Roach and George Russell, I discovered the modern European classical music— Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Darius Milhaud. And Max would always tell me to listen to Baby Dodds, to go back and listen to all the African-American music you can find because that’s the purest music, because those people couldn’t speak the language. They hadn’t gone to music school, so during the time of slavery and even after slavery, they approached it as African people. The way they dance and the way they cook their food. The way they attempted to speak the European languages. Max taught me that. He taught me about Chano Pozo. When I heard that African Cuban drum with Dizzy’s orchestra in 1949 in what George Russell was writing for Dizzy, Cubana Be Cubana Bop, I fell in love with that drum. I said I got to work with this drum. Again, Africa.

    And we had people like the great Cecil Payne. Eubie Blake lived on Stuyvesant Avenue in Brooklyn, right around the corner from my mother’s church. I would go to Eubie’s house when he was about—whoo!— 95, something like that. You didn’t have to call up and say Mr. Blake, can I come by and see you. Oh no, you just rang the bell. I’d go to Eubie Blake’s house and sit in the corner and he’d tell about the piano battles they had in 1890. How they had this guy named One Leg Willie, and this guy could take one song and in each chorus he’d completely change the harmonies. He never made a record. So from Eubie, I got the history of our music going way back to the early-20th century. So Brooklyn was very special because it was so much culture.

    4

    FJO: Your encounters with Charlie Parker were really interesting. You actually even performed with him.

    RW: Again, Max Roach. Max made me play for Charlie Parker. I was shaking, because Charlie Parker was a high spiritual man—what he would do with that saxophone. But Max said, “Hey man, play one of your songs.” I played something, but I was very nervous. And then I went back to the restaurant and said, “Why did Max make me play for this guy?”—it was me and a drummer who studied with Max Roach named Maurice Brown.

    In those days we would hang out two or three days looking for music. Some clubs would close at three o’clock in the morning and others would open up at four o’clock in the morning. There was no television and no disco. Everything was live, so we had that kind of experience. So that night we went to go hear Tadd Dameron at a club called the Royal Roost. Tadd Dameron was in a band with Fats Navarro and Charlie Rouse; I’m not sure who the drummer was. When you go out in the Royal Roost, you go down the stairs, and the bar is right there. And there’s Charlie Parker at the bar. Now Charlie Parker always kept his saxophone. If he went to the supermarket—saxophone. You’d never see him without that saxophone. So he sat at the bar and I’m looking. I wondered who he was talking to. I didn’t think he remembered me. So the young drummer said, “Man, he’s talking to you.” He said, “Randy, how you doing, man?” I said fine. “So, whatcha doing?” I said, “We’re gonna hear Tadd Dameron in the band.” He said, “Come with me.” He takes us upstairs and calls a taxi. We go to 52nd Street, to a club, I’m not sure whether it’s the Three Deuces. I’ve forgotten the exact name of the club. We go into the club and there’s a group playing. They’re playing their music. Now you don’t interrupt a musician when he’s playing. That’s a way to die. Don’t dare do that. But Charlie Parker was so powerful; in the middle of the song, he went up on the stage and told the piano player to get up. Just like that. And the piano player says, “Yes Bird.” And then he told me to sit at the piano. He did the same thing with the drummer, told the drummer to get up in the middle of the song and told the drummer [Maurice Brown] to sit. Then he took out his saxophone. He played one half hour with us, then packed up his horn and left and never said a word. You don’t forget things like that, because I was with a master.

    FJO: That was your one and only gig with Charlie Parker. The other really interesting, formative influence story in your life was your encounter with Thelonious Monk, which I think had a profound effect on how you make music and how you think about music.

    RW: Sure. Absolutely. Why do you love certain artists? What happens? There’s some kind of communication there. When I was 13-years old, I heard “Body and Soul” [played] by Coleman Hawkins. He was really the father of the tenor saxophone, and it was a big hit. Coleman Hawkins was such a genius. What’s so incredible about that “Body and Soul” is he’s not playing the melody, but you can hear the melody. So when I heard this music, I went to my father and I said, “Dad, I want an advance in my allowance.” I got 75 cents a week. “I want to go buy some recordings.” So he gave me the advance, and I went to the record shop. I think it was about 35 cents for a disc in those days, and I bought three copies. I hid two in cellophane. The other copy I put on my pop’s record player, opened up the windows in the apartment, and put on “Body and Soul” loud so everybody could hear it. I played Coleman Hawkins almost every other day.

    The first time I heard Monk was with Coleman Hawkins on 52nd Street. He’s got Monk playing the piano. I’m this amateur musician, and I didn’t know him. Monk wasn’t playing too many notes that night, so my immediate reaction was what’s Coleman Hawkins doing with this guy? I had his recordings with Art Tatum and with Benny Carter. But I went back again and heard “Ruby, My Dear” for the first time with Monk on the piano and Coleman Hawkins on the saxophone. It was just love, the kind of love that you can only get with music. My connection to Monk goes back to Ahmed Abdul-Malik, the bass player. He also played the oud and he would take me to downtown Brooklyn to listen to the oud and experience the music of North Africa and the Middle East. He could play notes in between the notes. I tried to do the same thing on the piano, but I couldn’t do it. But Monk did it.

    FJO: He creates a very idiosyncratic sound, but of course it is still with the notes on the piano. There aren’t any extra notes there, but he’s messing with your head.

    RW: Music is magic. So when I heard Monk, and I heard that sound on the piano, I said, “Wow. I want to find out how he’s doing that.” So I went to his house, and asked if I could come see him. There was a picture of Billie Holiday in the middle of the ceiling. Monk was sitting in a chair playing music very softly. I started asking him all kind of questions. No response. That’s it. But I couldn’t leave the room. I stayed in that room for hours. Finally, I had felt I had to try to get out of this room. I must have asked about one hour of questions. No response. I’m getting ready to leave. He said, “Listen to all kinds of music. Come and see me again.” I went back one month later. He played the piano almost two hours for me.

    He pushed the magic of Africa in the piano for me. Piano was not created to get that kind of sound. I discovered later on that he comes from Duke Ellington. Duke was doing things with the piano, which I didn’t realize. He was also creating all kind of magic sounds on the piano—basically the bass of the piano. A lot of pianists don’t touch the bass. But Duke, he’d do things with the bass of the piano to create things, you know. Oh, that music. And all the music is so beautiful. Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, all these people. They create such original beauty. They’re all original people. So for me in 1959 to do a recording with Coleman Hawkins playing my music—man, that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Roy Haynes was on drums on that date and Kenny Dorham on trumpet.

    5

    FJO: Before we get to 1959, at some point several years before that something changed in your attitude about being a musician. You were on the fence for a very long time before you finally decided that that was what you wanted your focus in life to be.

    RW: Oooh, I was 29.

    FJO: That’s late.

    RW: But I was playing at 17.

    FJO: So what caused you to devote your life to being a musician?

    RW: It happened up in the Berkshires. I was working in this hotel up there—breakfast chef for a while, washing dishes for a while, chambermaid for a while, cutting down trees. But I discovered the Berkshires and all that music—the Boston Symphony Orchestra, chamber music, music students coming from all over the world. I met Aaron Copland. I met Lukas Foss. I met Leonard Bernstein. It was just an incredible place of music. Plus the Music Inn and Marshall Stearns.

    I’ll never forget this. I helped these artists from Germany. They were all victims of Nazism. They were all elderly people, and they had a concert. They were violinists, violists, singers, and whatnot. And I helped them with their baggage. But in the meanwhile, when I’m in these places, I was playing the piano at night. But just for me, you know. So these three old ladies come to me and said, “Randy, we’re going to have a recital. And we decided we’d like you to play.” I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t play Bach and Beethoven and Mozart. That’s not what I do.” They said, “No, no, no. We want you to do what we hear you do at night.” And that’s what I did. They were saying to me, “We’re from the European classical world, but you’re doing something special on the piano.” Max Roach was pushing me. And other musicians. But that really did it.

    FJO: And it wasn’t very long after that that you made your first studio recording.

    RW: Yes. That’s correct, because I had discovered the music. Marshall Stearns, oh man, he was something incredible. I did about ten summers in the Berkshires. Who do I meet up there? Langston Hughes. Olatunji. Candido. Mahalia Jackson, who was doing an afternoon class on African spirituality in the black church. Willis James, who specialized in field cry hollers, and he talked about how our ancestors during the time of slavery created music with sound because they couldn’t speak the European languages. I met so many incredible people. Everybody I listened to and took something from. Asadata Defora, the great dancer-choreographer from Guinea. And because of Marshall, I also met John Lee Hooker, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, Josh White. He had this pan-African concept in music, and he would have these classes. He’d have a blackboard, and underneath the blackboard would be Africa. Then he had the different branches, like calypso. I met Geoffrey Holder up there, too.

    FJO: But to go from being immersed with all those people to saying I’m now going to do my own thing was still a huge step as a musician. The first album you recorded was a collection of your interpretations of music by Cole Porter, because the record label wasn’t going to take a chance on an unknown person doing his own compositions. But after that, most of what you’ve recorded is all your own music. Every now and then, you would include a tune of somebody else’s that you made your own. But it was very clear from very early on that you were creating your own music, whether you were performing by yourself or with other musicians. And when you worked with other musicians, you weren’t telling them what to play, because you wanted them to bring their own thing to it. You’ve actually said that you feel like a piece of music you create isn’t complete until you work on it with other people in a performance or in the studio—then it becomes complete.

    RW: Absolutely, because music is life itself. In ancient tradition, music was just as important as science, astronomy, any kind of education. Music was required because music was our first language, our spiritual language. Even up to now, even up to last week, when I go to the piano and I look at that audience—and I’ve been doing that for a while—all the religions are there, all the colors are there, all the ages are there. But we become one people when the music is right. And it’s always magic for me.

    I have to be very humble with music. Why do I say that? Well, what you talked about came from Duke and Monk. They did their own music. They’re my two biggest influences. But at the same time, I had a talent and I didn’t realize I had a talent. And I loved my children so much, so my first recording with Melba Liston was setting waltzes for children. Children are so free. So I put them to music. I wrote those waltzes up in the Berkshires, because after the season was over, I stayed two or three weeks afterwards and it was very quiet, with a nice fireplace. The Berkshires are so physically beautiful, as you know. It’s gorgeous there. And all of a sudden, these melodies came out.

    Where this talent comes from, I will never know. But it happened. How it happened is amazing. I went to Boys High School in Brooklyn. That was a very good school. Max Roach went there. Cecil Payne. Ray Copland, the trumpet player. I was in this school, but I wanted to go to music school. My father wanted me to get those academics; he wanted me to be a businessman. Another reason why I had my own groups is because my dad would always do his own thing. He said, “If you work for yourself, you work harder, but you can get your message across.”

    FJO: That album of waltzes for children was very important in your career. And the title track from that, “Little Niles,” became one of your most famous compositions.

    RW: Exactly. Duke and Monk, and the other composers too, wrote music for their families. Duke would write music about his mother, about his father, about his grandfather. Monk would do the same thing. That was our tradition.

    FJO: And Duke and Monk—and you, as well—were also part of the tradition of pianist-composers. When people now think about the 1950s, they say Thelonious Monk, but there was also Elmo Hope.

    RW: Herbie Nichols.

    FJO: Exactly. I was thinking about Herbie Nichols when I was thinking about your early recording career. He only ever got to record in a piano trio setting—piano with bass and drums. But he always wanted to record with a mixed quintet, and it never happened. The record labels never let him do that.

    RW: Wow.

    FJO: And then he died so young. It’s interesting to compare that with the chronology of your recordings. That first album of Cole Porter tunes is just you and a bass player, Sam Gill, so it’s a duo. Your next two albums were trio sessions, but the album after that was a quartet with Cecil Payne. Then you recorded a mixed quintet session, and after that you began recording with larger ensembles, which is when Melba Liston entered the scene as your arranger. Talk about somebody else who never really got proper recognition; there was only one album released under her name in her lifetime. And even when she appeared on other people’s albums, she rarely took a solo.

    RW: I had to fight her to take a solo on our first recording. She was just a humble person. She was just like that. First of all, I had never heard a woman play trombone before.

    I must confess when I heard Charlie Parker and Dizzy and Monk, I didn’t understand what they were doing. What kind of music is this? I didn’t understand it. It happened right after the Second World War when everything changed. I started working these clubs in New York. I would play Birdland every now and then with a trio. And Dizzy brought the big band. He brought that band that had Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Charlie Persip, and Melba Liston—all the heavy young players playing this incredible music that they called bebop. So he featured her. He said, “I want you all to listen to an arrangement of ‘My Reverie’ featuring Melba Liston on trombone.” She had this big sound on trombone, and she did the arrangement. And the arrangement was so beautiful. When she came off the stage, I just had to introduce myself to her. I said, “You don’t know me, but it was like magic. Like we were supposed to meet.” Then she moved from California to New York, and she got to know Mary Lou Williams—I knew Mary Lou, the giant; another queen, right?—because the two of them lived in Harlem. So somehow when I had a chance to do this recording for United Artists, my first recording for them, I wanted to do several waltzes for children, and I asked Melba if she would do the arrangements.

    All Melba Liston wanted to do was to play and write music. She was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. But when she was working on music, she’d have the girls go and buy her a dress, or buy her a pair of shoes. She didn’t want to be bothered. She didn’t want to be glamorous. I used to bring her a coffee to keep her awake when she was writing arrangements for Quincy Jones. [And we worked together] from that point on, until she died. What a great, great, great arranger.

    FJO: Now, it’s extraordinary how successfully your music and her arrangements melded, but that doesn’t always happen. Many people did their own arrangements for that reason. Duke Ellington did his own arrangements until Billy Strayhorn came into his life and then they created things together, which were also extraordinary. To turn that work over to somebody else, there has to be a level of trust. I’m jumping decades ahead now to your Blue Moses record. You thought it was going to turn out one way, and then you heard the record they released and it wasn’t at all what you thought you had recorded.

    RW: Well, that was in the electric piano days. In the early ‘70s, if you wanted to make a gig, you’d better have a Fender Rhodes. Don’t look for no piano. Melba did the original arrangements of Blue Moses. We were still living in Tangier, so my son and I came from Tangier to do the recording, but when I got there, Creed Taylor said his formula is electric piano. I was not happy with that, but it was my only hit record. People loved it. [The arranger] Don Sebesky did an incredible job. Because what had happened was we went back to Morocco, so I didn’t hear the music until it came from New York to Tangier. Me and my son listened to it, and he said, “Is that us?” But Don Sebesky did a fantastic job to capture all those colors of Blue Moses.

    FJO: So you were ultimately okay with all those extra layers that he added to it?

    RW: Everybody’s okay with that. And I can’t resist. I just don’t like electric piano. But everybody says, “Man, you were fantastic on electric piano.” So many people. And I loved the musicians—Freddie Hubbard and Grover Washington and Hubert Laws, Airto, and my son. Everybody played beautifully. I just was not happy with my sound, but that was required. That was Creed’s concept, and it was a good concept. It was a good concept because it became a hit record for me.

    FJO: And because it was a hit record, it actually got you out of debt for the music festival you organized in Morocco.

    RW: Exactly.

    FJO: It’s fascinating to hear that you’re okay with it even though it wasn’t what you thought it would be. As you had said, you never have a finished idea. It’s always going to get reshaped in some sort of fashion when you work with other people. But you still have some kind of control over it when you’re actually there. Or maybe you don’t.

    RW: Absolutely, because it was the story of my life in Morocco. That’s a very, very personal experience—also for my son, because we lived there. We lived with the people. We traveled. We hung out with the traditional people. You know, we’d get together, we would read the Koran together, my son and I. We would play chess together. He listened to the Gnawan musicians and started playing rhythms that I didn’t know he knew. That’s what Blue Moses is all about. I was in this small French car with my son, Ed Blackwell, and the bass player Bill Wood, and we drove from Tangier all the way to the Sahara. I’m driving. The car’s so small that the wheel is between my legs, but I just loved adventure, I guess, at that time. So we go to this village up in the Rif Mountains, and we see snow. So I said, “Wow, I didn’t know there was snow in Morocco.” I saw the people skiing, so I said, “I got to put music to that.” Then through the Rif Mountains and you go down to the Sahara.

    FJO: I think Morocco has the most extremely different kinds of terrain for that small a geographical area.

    RW: It’s true. The music, the art, the clothing, the instruments—oh man, Morocco, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I used to go to the [Fez] festival in Marrakesh. Once a year, they’d have people coming from everywhere. Cats playing music on camels, on horseback, all kind of drums, dance music, it’s wonderful. And I just say wow. See, I love traditional music with a passion, because that’s where you get the soul and the spirit of the people.

    5

    FJO: But how to reconcile that with the piano? The piano is this creation of the industrial revolution. It’s a machine, to some extent. And there are all these stories about your tours in Africa and how difficult it was to get a piano for you in a lot of places.

    RW: Or they had an electric piano, and I would break it up.

    FJO: Well, some of them weren’t in very good shape to begin with. But it’s still interesting given what you say about traditional music that you can create something that’s so personal with something that’s a machine—not an electric machine the way we think of machines today, but the product of industrialization to some extent.

    RW: Well, I go back to before it was a piano. You’ve got wood. You’ve got metal. When the piano was created in Italy, they didn’t know what to do with the keys of the piano, so the keys of the piano were wood. After that, the ivory on the elephant was what they used before the plastic and whatnot. So when I go to the piano, I approach it as an African instrument. It just traveled north and some other things were done to it. And inside it is a harp, an African harp. So you took that harp and you laid it down, and you put the hammers and whatnot in it. That’s why I was saying the origin of things is so important for me. So when I go to the piano, spiritually, it becomes an African instrument. Because I’m going all the way back to the beginning when I touch that piano. The Moors brought their music up through Spain, so it was coming from Africa, you know.

    It’s like I was telling you about Monk and Duke, and how they take that piano. I used to love the sound of Count Basie and that piano. Oh my God. He’d just hit a few notes, but his sound, only Basie could get that kind of sound. Nat Cole. Another one. He’s playing a piano, singing, I mean, looking at the piano, but the sound Nat King Cole got on the piano. That’s why my latest recording, a double CD, is called Sound. Why did I love Coleman Hawkins so much? It was his sound. Why did I love Louis Armstrong so much? His sound. Louis only had to hit one note and I say, “Wow!” That goes back to ancient times, because in the ancient days, when they started making instruments out of Mother Nature, out of the wood, out of the fish, out of the camel, a horse, whatever instruments, you know, they had to say certain prayers before they did the ceremony to make that drum, or that banjo, or whatever, because that is Mother Nature.

    Sure, I grew up in New York, and I heard the best of us here, but where did Louis Armstrong come from? Who was his great-great-grandmother? What part of Africa did he come from to produce that kind of sound on the trumpet? That never happened before. And going all the way back, how would they tune the instruments? They would tune the instruments by the sound of Mother Nature. By the sound of the animals, by the sound of the birds, by the sound of thunder. That’s how they would tune their instruments. And that’s why the music of Africa is so diverse because it’s the most diverse place in the world.

    And wherever you find African people, I don’t care whether it’s in Fiji—I discovered them in Fiji—whether it’s Brazil, Guadeloupe, Mississippi, Congo. Duke said there’s that pulse in the music. It’s that pulse. You can call it rock and roll. You can call it hip hop. You can call it jazz. Many titles. But for me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of survival because without those early spirituals and blues, we would never have survived slavery. Even after slavery was abolished, even when we supposedly got our freedom, we had to go over the world, which we had never been in touch with before because we were on plantations. And from that, they create this music. Man, I don’t know how they did it.

    7

    FJO: Hearing you say all this reminds me of another comment you’ve made many times over the years, that there’s no old music. But, by the same token, that might mean there’s also no new music. Is that true?

    RW: You know, it’s not fixed, because music is free. Musicians are free. I could never speak for another musician, because music is invisible. It’s the king of the arts. But when I play with Gnawan musicians, they play the same songs all the time. Now for Western ears that might seem boring, because you want to have something they call new. So I wondered about that. But when they play the traditional music, they’re telling a story of their people. They had given you the spirit of their people. The way they cook their food. The way they dance. The way they dress.

    Ellington, Armstrong, Eubie Blake, all those people created music for their African-American community. You couldn’t just play music like today. You had to report to the African-American community. So all those great artists were not just able to play well. They played in hospitals, prisons, old folks homes, raised money for a school and whatnot. That was required. In African traditional society, that’s what a musician is. Not just, “You’re so great.” That’s only a part of it. You have to serve the community. You have to tell the stories of your father, your grandfather, and whatnot. And teach people that they may not have had the education or the technology, but they had wisdom.

    We don’t listen to the old people today, but when we grew up, we hung out with the old people. We’d never leave the old people. I’d go to Eubie Blake’s house, man he told me stories. I met Luckey Roberts, who wrote a song called “Lullaby of the Nile,” up at his place. He was writing music about Africa. A lot of the churches in the South were called the African Methodist Church, the African Baptist Church and whatnot. Those people stayed in touch with the ancestors. That’s why they got so heavy with the black church. So despite the fact there was slavery, despite the fact there’s racism, they always tried to communicate with the creator. Because wherever you find African people, I don’t care where it is, they’re going to have a very powerful, spiritual music. Because all of our people, we know that there’s a higher power.

    FJO: I’d like to talk to you a bit about the first large-scale piece of music that you created that is African inspired, and that’s Uhuru Afrika. How that recording finally came about is pretty interesting. You wanted to record it for United Artists, but they said they’d consider it after you made a jazz version of tunes from a Broadway show.

    RW: I got to pick the show, but I had to do a Broadway show.

    FJO: And you picked Destry Rides Again.

    RW: Yes, I did.

    FJO: Did you go see it on Broadway?

    RW: Yes, and I met Harold Rome. It was great. He was an important composer. Like I said, I had the experience in the Berkshires. The Berkshires made me check out all kinds of music.

    FJO: And if course that was also where you met Leonard Bernstein, who had one foot in classical music but the other foot was on Broadway.

    RW: Exactly.

    FJO: Harold Rome, though, had a career that was almost completely on Broadway. So what was it about his show that spoke to you?

    RW: Somehow I chose that one. I don’t remember what the other shows were, but I picked Destry Rides Again. It’s a cowboy show. It was my cowboy roots. (laughs)

    FJO: It only ran for a year and is sadly kind of a forgotten show at this point. But it’s pretty interesting. I have the cast album.

    RW: Really.

    FJO: It’s actually fascinating to compare it with your version of it. I love how the four trombones interact with the piano on it, but it’s a far cry from the record that you wanted to make, which was Uhuru Afrika.

    RW: Of course.

    FJO: And even after you went ahead and recorded a jazz version of Destry Rides Again, United Artists still wouldn’t let you do Uhuru Afrika.

    RW: No, I did it with Roulette Records. I was very fortunate. There was a man named C.B. Atkins. C.B. Atkins was the husband of Sarah Vaughan. I don’t remember how we met, but he talked to Morris Levy, the head of Roulette Records, to let me do Uhuru Afrika. [Atkins] was the key and that’s why I was able to put together that incredible orchestra. We started right after the album of seven waltzes for children, me and Melba. Melba was just like myself, in a sense. She was a very proud African-American woman. She had great pride in her people. So we had that spiritual connection. African cultures were just getting their independence. And we knew until Africa gets its independence, we were not going to get our independence because that’s our ancestral home. So I wanted to do a work of music to show—again the influence of the Berkshires—that we are global people. And so, after spending time at the United Nations, talking to diplomats, going to see Langston Hughes, I got together with Melba a range of African people. We had an opera singer, Martha Flowers, a great soprano; we wanted her to represent African culture and European classical music. We had Brock Peters; he was a folk singer and a Broadway guy. Then we had Olatunji from Nigeria, Candido and Armando Peraza from Cuba. We had Charlie Persip on drums. We had Ron Carter and George Duvivier on bass. And we had Max Roach on marimba.

    FJO: And you also had Gigi Gryce on what was probably his very last recording.

    RW: Exactly. Yusef Lateef, Gigi Gryce, Bud Johnson, Kenny Burrell, Les Spann, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Reggie Reeves, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson—it was something. And Melba did all the arrangements. It was delayed because I went to Langston Hughes, again who I met in the Berkshires. He was such a wonderful man. He was an African-American writer who knew the importance of the music. A lot of our writers have gotten away from the music. Not Langston. He wrote the first book of jazz for children.

    That was a time when African countries wanted their independence, and the European powers at that time said, “No, you’re not ready for independence yet.” And Africa was saying, “Let us make our own mistakes; we want our freedom.” So I went to Langston and I talked with him and said, “Can you give me a poem of Freedom for Africa?” And I also wanted to celebrate the African woman—my mother, my sister, those women up until today, including my wife, who are always in the background and who struggle for us and take care of us but never get the credit, which included Melba Liston. So he did. I wanted to use an African language, because when I was a child, I was very embarrassed, what you would see in the cinema for African people—always slaves, Tarzan, all that stuff. We’re brainwashing these kids. The whole idea was Africa had no language.

    But the whole concept of language came from Africa! So I went to the United Nations, and I talked to a lot of diplomats. I wanted to use an African language. They said use Kiswahili. So I got a guy from Tanzania to translate Langston Hughes’s Freedom Poem from English to Kiswahili. Melba was writing out the music. We had to record two days in a row, starting at nine o’clock in the morning. Musicians! Nobody was late! It was so spiritual. And Melba was still writing parts. We had musicians in my apartment writing parts on the ceiling, on the walls. But we did it. It was a very powerful message.

    FJO: It was so powerful that it wound up getting banned in certain places. It has the same impact as Max Roach’s We Insist: Freedom Now Suite, which was recorded that same year.

    RW: Oh, absolutely.

    5

    FJO: But curiously, you did all of this before you ever set foot in Africa, and it was probably what led to your being invited and traveling to Africa for the first time.

    RW: I wasn’t supposed to go originally. I think Phineas Newborn was supposed to go. I think Benny Taylor was supposed to go. But something happened, and a friend of mine worked for the American Society of African Culture in Manhattan. This woman knew I had recorded music about Africa, so she came and took my LPs, talked to the head guy, and said, “You’ve got to take Randy Weston. He must go.” So that’s how it happened.

    FJO: And it changed your life.

    RW: Yes it did.

    FJO: You had all of these ideas about Africa, but as you’ve also said, there’s a difference between music that’s about Africa and music that is Africa. When you visited Africa, you finally saw the multiplicity of what those cultures represent. It’s not monolithic, even within each nation state.

    RW: You could spend years in Morocco.

    FJO: Or in Senegal or Ghana.

    RW: Or in Nigeria.

    FJO: All of these places.

    RW: There are something like 2,000 languages.

    FJO: And all of these different cultures co-exist together.

    RW: And that explains us. We had a mix, and those rhythms all come together. It’s tragic what happened to us, but look at the beauty we’ve given to Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Mississippi with this music. So it was almost like it was meant to be. Terrible, but it seemed like it was just meant to be.

    FJO: That’s quite a perspective to have on all of this history. And it calls to mind a work of yours from just a few years ago that is perhaps your magnum opus, the African Nubian Suite. Your Uhuru Afrika, which you created more than fifty years earlier, foreshadows it in some ways, but I think that it was only possible for you to create something as expansive and all-encompassing as the African Nubian Suite after having traveled all over Africa and having completely absorbed what you experienced there and realizing that Africa spirals beyond Africa. It even includes China, so you include Chinese musical elements in it. You included the whole world.

    RW: You know, we all have African blood—every person on the planet Earth. And when you tell that story, that’s what Duke was doing. My god, Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige! And he also wrote music for the Queen of England, but you could hear the blues underneath. And people like Luckey Roberts, Eubie Blake, and all those early people, that’s what they were doing. They were telling the story of the beauty of Africa. But then what happened was integration. It did several things, which are very good. We could go places we couldn’t go before. But at the same time, our culture disappeared. It’s not like it was before.

    FJO: In the last half-century, music has changed to the point that there no longer are any clear demarcations. It’s great that there are no longer these demarcations, but there is also no longer a universally acknowledged popular music in this country or perhaps anywhere in the world. In the 1950s, Broadway shows were the incubator of mainstream popular music, which is why United Artists wanted you to record the score of a Broadway show. I doubt a record label would ask you to do an album of a Broadway show now. These days there are pockets of fans that like a certain thing, or like something else. For better or worse, there is no mainstream. In a way, we’ve all come closer together, which is good, but we’ve also kind of broken further apart, which is not good. So what can we do?

    RW: Do what we do. Realize there’s a higher power. Study the history of this planet. Wherever I go, I tell people—students, grandmas, you know—I’m so happy now because when I play, all the races come to me holding their hearts. They say, “You’re taking us back home.” I say, “We all are from there.” We have to stop to realize: No Africa? No jazz, no blues, no bossa nova, no calypso, no reggae! These are creations of African people. Where did Art Tatum come from? I’m more amazed with Monk and Coleman Hawkins today than I was yesterday. How could they take these European instruments, and do what they did and get their own sound?

    So I think that Africa will survive. African spirituality will survive, despite the fact we don’t exist on television anymore. I’ve never seen it so bad in my life. During segregation, you could go to the movies and see a Bessie Smith short. You could see a short on Cab Calloway. You could see something on Billie Holiday. Now today, it’s tragic because this music is the classical music of the United States of America. I don’t use the term jazz; I use the term African-American classical music. There is classical music in all societies. I don’t care how many Beatles you’ve got or how many how many Rolling Stones you’ve got, you’re going to have opera and you’re going to have Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. That has to exist, because that is the song and the spirit of people of Europe. It’s very important, and there they always make that balance. But us here, we’ve become so sophisticated. We’ve got to do the latest thing. We’ve got to do the fastest thing. So what happened before us is no, no, no. My father said to me, “Africa is the past, the present, and the future.” Despite all the corruption and all the stuff that’s going on and whatnot, to me that spirituality and consciousness may help save this world. I feel that. And there’s no better example than the music. So you call it calypso, jazz, or whatever you call this music. When you hear this music, it makes you feel, and when it’s right, it makes you feel good. It makes you feel happy. It makes you feel good to be a human being.

    So when I’m on the stage and I play, I look at that audience and I see all the colors of the rainbow. And when they’re all clapping the same rhythm, when they‘re happy, I say, “Wow, music is powerful.” Because when we play this music, when it goes out, we don’t know what happens. Each person in that audience takes their own trip. So when you go up on that stage and get everybody to come together like that, sitting next to each other—if they knew who you were, they wouldn’t sit next to you, but music has that power. And I think it’s the music that has to save us in the world today.

    It’s so sad that America cannot recognize its own classical music. Every child should have Louis Armstrong in the elementary school books. Every child should know about Duke Ellington, America’s greatest composer. Everybody should know about Charlie Parker, and Dizzy, and Nat Cole—all these people! The African people of this country influenced the entire world. On my first trip to Japan, when I get to Japan, here’s Max Roach on a throne. The way they love Max Roach, man, I was so proud. But that’s why they say we are the ambassadors; it’s true. But the recognition is very difficult, to recognize Africa’s contribution to the Western hemisphere.

    FJO: You’re actually flying out on Sunday to play in Europe. Do you feel that you have more recognition there than you do here?

    RW: Not necessarily. But the difference is Europeans made the instruments. They made the saxophone, the trumpet, and trombone, so they know what we do with them is completely original.

    FJO: Or maybe, it’s because as you were saying before, you can’t learn about this music here if you just watch television and that’s where you get your information. The internet has all this stuff, but you have to know it exists first before you can find out more about it.

    RW: Go back to books. Every day I read. The truth is in the books—the right books. When I go to students, I give them books. I say, “You will know the history of Africa. You will know the history of music.” The books are here. We have the technology. Everything is here. You’ll see that Western society came out of nowhere. Western society came out of Africa and came out of Asia. It became corrupt in the process, because they don’t give the recognition to the people who created this art.

    6

    I’m so happy because they used my music for a DVD about this great Senegalese master Chiekh Anta Diop. He proved scientifically that ancient Egyptians had to be a jet black people, because Mother Nature is a true artist. If there was serious hot weather, you needed black skin. For cold weather, you need white skin. She was the artist, just like she paints her fish and the insects. But we got away from that. So the message of this thing is so beautiful because he’s explaining it for us to stop and think about the origin of this planet and the origin of Western civilization. Western civilization corrupted the civilization of the older people. Everything in Africa is based upon spirituality. They’re in touch with the universe. They know the original music comes from the planets and the stars. They know the original music comes from Mother Nature. That’s why African music is so powerful, because the continent itself was swinging before man ever arrived. Everything: elephants, the snakes, all of Mother Nature in Africa, they all swing. Whether it’s a camel, whether it’s an ostrich, whether it’s a bird, they all swing because Mother Nature requires that. And the same is true with the musicians. So whether I’m in Morocco, whether I’m in South Africa, whether I’m in Senegal, all the music, all the dance, it’s gotta have that pulse. I don’t care what the rhythms are, you’ve got to have that.

    FJO: So what happens when you create music that gets away from it?

    RW: People get lost. They don’t know value. They don’t understand. If everybody knew the power of jazz, what they call jazz music, or spiritual music, the ways it impacts this planet, coming from people who were taken here in slavery, African people would be honored. I respect it and am thankful for the contributions. I never met my grandfather or my grandmother, but I read about their generation and what they had to go through. They couldn’t stay in hotels. They couldn’t ride on buses. Their color was no good. How did they survive that? With humor. With music. With love. It’s incredible.

    I’m so fortunate now because wherever we go now, the musicians with whom I work, I feel that we give the spirit of Africa in our music. I describe it as spirit—living with the people, loving the people, reading about the people, eating the foods and drink. What I’m doing now is because of years of love. Love of my parents. Love of my people. Love of life. Love of humanity. And love of this beautiful planet.

    7

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 11:18 AM on July 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Glenn Branca, , , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Fierceness Devoted to Truth—Remembering Glenn Branca (1948-2018)” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1

    July 25, 2018
    Michael Gordon

    Ed Note: It has been more than two months since the music community mourned the passing of Glenn Branca, but he still remains very much on the minds of many of us. Among the many composers who have been deeply affected by Branca is Michael Gordon who not only dedicated his seminal 1988 composition Four Kings Fight Five to Branca but who also, in his capacity as one of the three artistic directors of Bang on a Can, was responsible for presenting his work at BoaC’s annual marathon several times over the last 30 years as well as recording it for BoaC’s Cantaloupe Music label. So we asked Michael to share his unique memories of this unique musical creator.—FJO

    Glenn Branca by Kristy Sparow-Getty Images

    “In the post office on Prince Street that is now an Apple Store, I walk in and there’s a long line. I see Glenn Branca. He’s farther along in the line and he’s in an intense conversation with a woman. It’s Reg Bloor. I know that only later. I hadn’t met her then. I watch. It’s New York. Glenn Branca is in line at the Post Office. How can that be? Hasn’t he been able to commandeer the laws of physics and just get his package there?

    Scientists say that black holes are so dense with matter that light isn’t able to escape. Such fierce density is theorized but not experienced. Imagine a sound that is the black hole of sounds. Every possible location on the sound spectrum has been filled. There is more sound than can be heard. There is so much sound, the sound itself is creating more sound. It is an over-saturation of sound. And all that sound is a by-product of music. You hear the music and you hear imagined musics simultaneously. Perhaps they are choirs of heavenly bodies. You are at a Glenn Branca concert in the 1980s. You are at Symphony #3. I ask around for cigarettes, tear off the filters and stuff them in my ears.

    It was actually earlier—the picture says 1979. Is that possible? I was going out every night to hear music. The concert said ‘experimental’ or something like that, but to me it sounded like a bunch of not-so-great bands. I can’t remember anything about it except being trapped. I can’t leave, because maybe the next thing is worth listening to. It was the final thing. It looked like another band. Four guitars? Drums, bass? Is there a keyboard? Was someone conducting? No. Branca is in front of the band, back to the audience, faster, louder. Someone with a sledge hammer starts slamming a metallic object. Dissonance. This is why I’m here! This is why I moved to New York!

    Ten years later, I call Branca. Mr. Branca. I know his name is Glenn but when we talk about him, we call him Branca. “I want you to play Symphony #6 on the festival.” Branca starts yelling at me. I love this guy. I know he’s fierce, and I know that all that fierceness is devoted to truth. We do the concert. Branca is unhappy with how it went, and afterwards he locks himself up somewhere backstage. People are waiting after the show to congratulate him. Someone big is there. Was it Bowie? But Branca is miserable and won’t come out. The following night we do it again and things go well. He’s relaxed and he talks to people.

    Branca is a sensation. He’s touring and he must be making money because he has a studio to work in. Was it in a basement? I visit him there, and he explains his theories. It must have been a while back because the paper in the printer had little holes on the sides and the numbers, lots of numbers, had that unsmoothed, undigital look. He has charts, he has graphs and more numbers. He fits in with those brainy people in Europe who think a lot. When you are at a performance, you are at a primal scream ritual. People could be throwing themselves into the flames. But in his studio, Branca is thinking about overtones. He is mapping large movements of harmonics.

    ‘We have an orchestra,” I tell him. “It’s called Spit Orchestra. We want to play your orchestra music.’ The World Upside Down. Branca is very practical. It’s all written out, it all works, it sounds like Branca, but there are no guitars. The precise markings of overtones have been replaced with conventional signs indicating 1/8th tone or 1/4 tone flat and sharp. He explains: they can’t get any more precise than this and it sounds good. It does sound good.

    I’m at LPR to hear Branca. It’s Symphony #15. The lines down the block are a distant memory. There are people seated at tables, ordering drinks. But not enough people. I am embarrassed. But not Glenn. He is as always. There are movements, about seven of them. Not sure. One of them is totally bizarre. They are throwing things through the air that make sound. It’s whimsical. It is funny. I don’t get it. After, Branca says, “Did you get it?” I didn’t get it. Later I get it. Branca has written a Scherzo. Branca must be happy.

    The last time I see Branca, it’s 2015. He is playing on the festival again. The Ascension Three. Is Glenn a Catholic? Does he pray? Does he have visions? He is just as extreme as 1979. Thirty-six years later, he is extremely extreme. He has channeled those visions into sound, and the sound is still too big for human consumption. The airwaves are soaked, and there’s so much music that it’s flooding the system. The merchants at the Winter Garden complain about Branca. We’ve been there for ten years, and they’ve never complained. Branca is too much. We get kicked out of the venue for good. Branca was the last act we did there.

    3
    Glenn Branca “conducting” an ensemble of electric guitars in a performance of his Ascension at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden during the 2015 Bang on a Can Marathon (Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy Bang on a Can)

    Are we going to hear this music again? I thought that then, that night in 2015, and I think that now. The Symphonies were created, and sometimes recorded, in a process that isn’t easily recreatable. Many of the musicians were taught by rote. Were scores left? Is anyone going to take this on? Even if they do, can anyone channel the energy that Branca summoned during a performance? Are these like great buildings, designed, built, destroyed? Is all we have left a picture?

    In my tiny corner of the universe, listening to Branca’s music meant that your soul had been purified or purged and had knelt before God in humility and glory. And that by some upending of the laws of nature, you manage to bottle a scent of it and bring it back to earth, and turn that scent into music, and that music, which is just a sound of a scent of something holy, is all that you have and everything that you have.

    Symphony #6, sub-titled Devil Choirs At The Gates Of Heaven, is all of it in a nutshell. It’s the dichotomy of Branca’s music: by excessive use of loudness, grungy guitars, microtonal tuning, dark and heavily tuned drums, maniacal energy, and erratic onstage persona, his music manages to alienate almost the entire classical music world. By excessive large scale musical form, lack of vocals, microtonal tuning, abstractness, non-narrative-ness, and complete un-commerciality, it manages to alienate almost the entire popular music world. It is a marriage of Heaven and Hell that repulses all and demands expulsion. About what kind of art can you make a statement like that?

    I wake up and have the feeling that New York City isn’t the same. We build the Glory of Civilization on the backs of our most expansive minds. There is nothing about this city that makes it a Great City except the people who live here. Now there is one less. If I didn’t see Glenn every day, or every year, I took comfort knowing that he lived a subway ride away. It might seem strange to say that, more than anyone I know, Glenn was an uncorrupted soul. How artists hang on as they navigate through the maze of those who buy, criticize, and analyze, applaud, and ignore, is a measure of a life. To me, Glenn was a pious monk and a messenger of holy sounds, and I hope that there was a choir of angels singing for him when he arrived at the gates of heaven.”

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 12:31 PM on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: July 18 2018 Shi-An Costello (世 安), NEWMUSICBOX,   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Emotion, Through Music, As Weather” This is a Beautiful Article. Please do not Miss It. 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    July 18, 2018
    Shi-An Costello (世 安)

    In this article, I will leave emotion ungraspable; I do not wish to speak about it definitively. Rather, I would like to focus personally on the relationship, in my life, between music and emotion, blending these two unique realms into one cohabitating discussion. What is emotion? Singularly, I do not know, but combined with music, I do have some feelings…

    The secrets behind emotion have been long sought. In 1962, psychologist Robert Plutchik wrote about emotion that “there is serious question about the reliability and meaningfulness of the verbal report. In the history of psychology, it has been pointed out many times that introspecting about our own emotions often changes them.”[1] The emotional appeal of music has been equally enchanting. In ca. 397 C.E., Saint Augustine wrote, “I must testify for myself that when I am moved more by the music than by its meaning, I feel this offense should be punished, and wish I had not listened to the cantor […] But you, Lord my God, hear me, heed, look on with pity, and heal me, before whom I am made a riddle to myself, which is the symptom of my sins.”[2]

    And finally, in 2008, scientist Daniel Levitin embraced mystery in his explanation of music:

    “Scientists are in the business of wanting proof for everything, and I find myself caught somewhere in the metaphorical middle on this issue. As a musician, I’m reminded on a daily basis of the utterly ineffable, indescribable powers of music. […] Our scientific theories have to be able to reconcile this common experience and the strong intuition that music is—dare I say it?—magical.”[3]

    Emotion—a thing that Robert Plutchik found impossible to scientifically report—is expressed through music in a way that a daring Daniel Levitin called “magical,” and what a conflicted Saint Augustine called a “riddle.” Perhaps “magical” “riddle” is a good working definition for emotion in music. Like Levitin and Augustine, I am baffled too.

    In the 1970s, composer John Cage used the weather to describe artistic process, observing that “many composers no longer make musical structures. Instead, they set processes going. A structure is like a piece of furniture, whereas a process is like the weather.”[4] Like Cage’s use of this creative and non-technical definition, I will similarly use the weather as a way to discuss emotion expressed through music. This article will move like weather. And like a forecast, I hope to address what swirls around.[5]

    Swirling air represents the meeting of diverse parts. Robert Plutchik acknowledged that there is a difference between “laboratory studies of pure, momentary emotions” and the “persistent mixed emotions of clinical experience.”[6] That is to say, the real-world application of emotion deals primarily in mixtures of emotions, rather than single, pure ones. Weather on Earth is complex, too: a mixing of cold and warm fronts, rainy on some days, stormy on others, partially rainy, partially stormy, partially cloudy, or partially sunny on others still. And there is no piece of music that is all any one emotion either. Good memories can be rendered only partially good through the loss of innocence; many find a deep comfort and contentment in feeling sadness. Emotion in music is an array of moving parts.

    Like weather, emotions in music swirl wildly around. As disorienting as this whirlwind may be, we must never forget how fortunate we are to have the skies, the clouds, rain, thunder, lightning, and most importantly, the sun. The sustaining love of the sun is, after all, what makes all of this possible.

    Nebulous as my approach may be, I hope this discussion will enrich our understanding of music, emotion, and our own selves. While I do not claim to hold technical qualifications to discuss the weather or emotional psychology, I do intend to write from my own experience, with sincerity and imagination. In the following sections, I will attempt to bring emotions to life, expressed in music, and retold as weather.

    Clouds (Sadness)

    2
    Image: Mila Young

    Clouds can weigh you down, but they can also help you focus.

    Clouds can weigh you down: clouds can make you question the existence of the sun. When I was finishing grad school abroad, I received news from back home that my parents were divorcing. I went into a state of depression. I remember going to the practice room, taking scores out of my bag, placing them on the piano, closing the lid, resting head on my arm, and crying on my own shoulder. I would cry for hours, then pack up and leave, never touching a single key of the piano. I ended up having to reschedule my final degree recital, which in turn (through a string of incidents that would take too much space to describe), led me to an unexpected move back to the United States…

    …but clouds can also give you focus: clouds can give you a reason to not lay in the sun. When I moved back to the United States, I was left without a job, without a place to live, and without work. I was still paying rent for an apartment overseas that I was not living in, and I was struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship. I was deeply saddened by the circumstances. But, I met this dark time with fearless abandon, playing as many concerts as possible, and working tirelessly to rebuild my career in a new country. My own disenfranchisement fueled my desire to succeed.

    Clouds can weigh you down, but they can also help you focus.

    Rain (Tears)

    A cloud in the sky can lead to rain. But tears are not just a singular cause-effect; rather, it is the grand accumulation of weight that becomes simply too heavy for a cloud to hold.

    I remember the first time I heard my mother sing. She sang Across the Universe by the Beatles. I played the chords at the piano while she sang and played the melody with her right hand next to me. I was giving her a piano lesson, and I didn’t specifically ask her to sing, she just did it on her own. My mother brought me to tears because it was a rare joy to hear her shy, untrained voice sing without the least sense of self-consciousness. The song will never again be the same to me.

    Rain is a fundamental process to the recycling of the vital element of water. Although rain is the losing of something, we need it to live.

    Lightning (Shock)

    3
    Image: Elijah Hiett

    Often before rain is the initial shock of lightning. The electricity of a storm is stunning—when it strikes, we are unable to do anything to counter its intensity. We can’t run towards, nor away, from lightning. Shock is the arrestation of movement, it is a primal reaction to first contact with something mysterious, powerful, and possibly dangerous.

    The memory of a performance of a piece I wrote, called Accord, affected me deeply. At the first massive, crashing tone cluster that interrupts the sound of a tuning violin, I witnessed a gut reaction from an audience member in the front row. The listener’s arms, shoulders, and legs seized up, and the head pulled back as the neck tightened. The hands shot up reflexively towards the ears to cover them…

    I immediately felt guilt and remorse. I was responsible for this lightning strike. I wrote this gesture in hopes that it would grab people’s attention—and I succeeded—but at what cost? As an emerging composer, I had often strived to grab attention as quickly as possible, and at any cost. It is the treasure hunt for the loudest, fastest, most terrific possible sound. (Or similarly, the softest, slowest one.)

    But in this treasure hunt for the most shocking sound, I inadvertently flipped a sonic middle finger to the audience member. Did this terrifying and anxiety-inducing sound make this person into a fan of my music, or new music in general? It is doubtful.

    Shock is a powerful element, and it should be used wisely and cautiously. After seeing what my music had done to someone, I vowed to strive to genuinely affect listeners for the better, rather than to use shock as a ploy to garner attention at a most hollow, visceral level.

    Storm (Anger)

    4
    Image: Michal Mancewicz

    If lightning is the initial shock of potentially dangerous force, then the storm is the realization of that force. The storm is violent and intimidating. The storm is rain in excess.

    But there is little for me to say about storms in and of themselves: I have never used anger as a motivator in listening to or playing music. I personally find within me very little creativity that is fueled by anger. For me, anger is not a profound and sustaining enough emotion to fulfill me expressively as an artist. It is a fleeting sensation that can be understood and referenced, but not used as a building block. Anger is real, but for me, it must ultimately lead to something proud, hopeful, and ecstatic. This is the art I seek. The glorious arrival at The Great Gate of Kiev after Baba Yaga in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The Cheerful and Thankful Feelings After the Storm in the final movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. The way Nina Simone completes the second half of the song Ain’t Got No, I Got Life. Anger should not go unacknowledged, but it should also be overcome with something more hopeful, peaceful, and productive.

    Tornado (Disorientation)

    A tornado takes the land and blows it about. A tornado is disorienting, but it can also create bliss.

    I, in fact, take pleasure when I am unable to identify the key center, the meter, or the exact instrumentation of a piece of music: Since my career in music relies upon my ability to identify the aspects of music as quickly and efficiently as possible, the moments where I simply do not know give me great joy.

    On one occasion, I saw this same joy in a six-year-old student who was having trouble identifying the note A on the keyboard. The student, whom I will call Lance, started on C and counted out loud up the C major scale. “C, D, E, F, G…” And when Lance reached G, he would accidentally go on to “H” and then “I” and then “J.” I stopped him just before the note E became an “L” and told him that the notes on the keyboard reset at “G,” that the next note after “G” is “A.” Perhaps I explained it poorly the first time, because when Lance tried again, he made the same exact mistake, and again, I corrected him. I wanted to let him try as many times as he needed to get it right, but Lance would get it wrong over and over again, always going from “G” to “H” to “I” to “J.” After about 15 minutes of this, I became nervous that Lance would become frustrated with his failures. But he did not. Instead, he grew happier with each try. There was something comforting to his realizing that there were such mysteries that enchant the keyboard of the piano, that after “G” some “magical riddle” occurs, leaving him in a state of wonder. Eventually, I’m sure Lance will learn to not be disoriented by the challenge of moving from “G” back to “A.” And when he does, I hope he finds a new mystery from which to achieve bliss.

    Clear Skies (Innocent Love)
    7
    Image: Crawford Ifland

    I know now that the color blue in the sky is a refraction of the sun’s rays on the dust in our atmosphere. A clear day is really not clear at all—it never was. But I still have the memory of thinking how open and free the world is on a clear day.

    The version of Western music that I learned, both academically and casually, was rooted in the glorification of great men, and in my youth, I fell to this template’s allure. I idolized the music of Great Men, and truly, with all my heart, believed they were better-than-human: J.S. Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Wagner, Prokofiev, Morton Feldman. But, upon closer examination, Bach sounded like a neglectful husband, Mozart seemed like a dysfunctional man-child, Chopin seemed like a caustic friend; Schumann seemed mentally ill, Wagner seemed anti-semitic, and Prokofiev seemed unnecessarily mean-spirited. And, based on some recent allegations, Morton Feldman seemed to be a sexual predator. Evidence shows that all of them were people, for better or worse.

    While not a note of their music has changed, the innocent love I once had for these brilliant musical minds can never be regained. My personal overcast—clouds saturated with the knowledge and wisdom of life—have now permanently shrouded the music, re-painting the images of these fallen heroes into a murkier, more realistic, shade of humanity. It is sobering to realize the skies are no longer clear, and that they perhaps never were.

    Certainly, Lance can be a lesson to us: While knowledge is power, there is still great bliss in not knowing. Ignorant, innocent love is indeed powerful. But ignorance and innocence are meant to be lost. My perspective on my innocent love is so different from the emotion as I remember it. Now, my past is viewed with the special lens a more informed perspective affords. But my pure feelings of love in the past were important, and they still travel with me.

    Innocent love is a type of love you can only have once, and I am thankful for the formative memories it gave me.

    The Sun (Sustaining Love)

    I love the sun. The warmth of the sun is essential, and we must always acknowledge this. No matter the weather, we rely on the warmth of the sun to survive. The sun is a sustaining love.

    My sustaining loves in music are only a handful of composers: J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, Schumann, and just individual pieces of Schubert, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and a few others. Contemporary music sustains me in a different way: primarily, it fulfills my personal need for adventure.

    As I grow out of innocent love, I am starting to really see the true loves for who they are. Some innocent loves are not sustainable—a bright street light is no star. But, many of the musical loves that sustain me now were once innocent loves too: Not all innocent love is ignorant.

    The sun is the mightiest source of inspiration. No matter the weather, we can always say, “Thank goodness for the sun.” And thank goodness for emotions. And thank goodness for music.

    Rain (Tears) continued

    8
    Image: Rhendi Rukmana

    Briefly revisiting the rain, I would like to highlight some of the musical moments in my life that have brought me to tears—a necessary physical overload of emotion.

    There are so many more that have faded with time. But, at least the ones I remember can be recorded. There is a beautiful, sustaining love that runs through all of these memories—perhaps this is why I remember them, and perhaps this is why they made me cry.

    The first time I ever heard an orchestra live: An open rehearsal of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier
    The funeral service for my childhood friend, Shumie, who committed suicide. I do remember music, but I don’t remember what it was.
    I was taking a piano lesson with my teacher in grad school, and had just broken up with my significant other.
    I was in a practice room, playing a section of Jerome Kitzke’s Sunflower Sutra. It was the section titled Canticle for Mary.
    After finishing the first run-through of my debut album, Rounded Binary.
    The first time I heard my mother sing, singing Across the Universe by The Beatles.
    Later, in private, after playing for my fiancee’s mother who was dying of cancer. We played and sang Let It Be by The Beatles.

    …I have just said the unspeakable. I have shared my deepest emotions with a general public. Does this make you uncomfortable? Why? Are we, as a culture of humans, unable to plainly and unapologetically articulate our emotions with one another? Within the arts, the domain charged with expressing the beauty in humanity, why is this such a challenge? What is this barrier, and why is it there?

    Conclusion

    9
    Image: Dmitry Ermakov

    How and why were the sun and the stars in the sky created; how and why are emotions and music what they are? One cannot answer this without asking a more fundamental question about the origin and purpose of human existence. According to Aristotle, “the soul” is “one of the hardest things to gain any conviction about.”[7] Charles Darwin felt that in studying human expression, “close observation is forgotten or rendered almost impossible.”[8] To Oscar Wilde, “The final mystery is oneself.”[9] The list of brilliant people who were baffled by their own self is long…

    The further I discuss this, the more I am baffled by the mystery of emotion, and by humanity itself. There are really no words: while experientially known, these subjects are uniquely ungraspable through discourse. So then, we must be content with beauty that is imprecise—the beauty of weather, the beauty of emotion, and the beauty of the whole of humanity—and humbly appreciate that music can in some ways express it.

    1. The Emotions, by Robert Plutchik.

    2. Confessions, by Saint Augustine.

    3. The World in Six Songs, by Daniel Levitin.

    4. In Empty Words, John Cage writes, “Many composers no longer make musical structures. Instead they set processes going. A structure is like a piece of furniture, whereas a process is like the weather. In the case of a table, the beginning and end of the whole and each of its parts are known. In the case of weather, though we notice changes in it, we have no clear knowledge of its beginning or ending. At a given moment, we are where we are. The now moment.”

    5. In The Cultural Politics of Emotion, Sara Ahmed writes, “Emotions don’t make the world go round. But they do in some sense go round.”

    6. The Emotions.

    7. “In general, and in all ways, it is one of the hardest of things to gain any conviction about the soul.” –Aristotle, De Anima (On the Soul)

    8. In The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin writes, “The study of Expression is difficult […] When we witness any deep emotion, our sympathy is so strongly excited, that close observation is forgotten or rendered almost impossible.”

    9. De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 8:49 AM on July 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra, , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “An Introduction to the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    July 16, 2018
    Rachel C. Walker

    1
    From the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra (中国竹笛乐团) performance Call of the Ancient Past (远古的呼唤). (Photo provided by Zhang Weiliang)

    One of the most representative ensembles of Chinese traditional music engaged in cultural exchange today is the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra (中国竹笛乐团). The group was founded by one of the leading performers on the bamboo flutes dizi (笛子) and xiao (箫), Zhang Weiliang (张维良). In its five years of existence, the orchestra’s work has been substantial. It has commissioned and promoted the music of living composers. It has used modern technology to innovate the design and subsequent construction of new dizi. It has also increased competency of Chinese musicians in playing in non-traditional ensemble settings. And, finally, in addition to protecting and innovating Chinese traditional music, the orchestra has raised the profile of Chinese music internationally.

    The Creation of a Dizi Orchestra

    To form an orchestra of dizi is a remarkable idea given that Chinese instruments are soloistic by nature. Traditional mixed chamber ensembles are largely homophonic, or feature only one of each instrument to a part. Even in more modern groupings such as the Chinese folk orchestra, one would only find a handful of dizi at most. Hu Biao (胡彪), the ensemble’s conductor, and members Wang Meng (王猛) and Lee Juncheng (李浚诚) all affirmed that in creating this new vessel for dizi, the goals at the Orchestra’s founding in 2013 were educational as well as to build a new body of a repertoire showcasing the instrument.

    2
    The members of the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra (中国竹笛乐团). Photo by Wang Yougang (张有刚).

    Zhang Weiliang is an expert on the history and development of the dizi as an ensemble instrument, and I had the opportunity to speak with him at length about the subject this past April. According to him, the instrument was primarily used for Chinese opera, xiqu (戏曲), accompaniment and for accompanying solo performances prior to the 1950. He recounted that:

    “Starting in the 1950’s, with the joint efforts of the senior bamboo flute experts and the musicologists represented by Feng Zi Cun (冯子存), Liu Guan Le (刘管乐), Zhao Song Ting (赵松庭), and Lu Chun Ling (陆春龄), the bamboo flute began to develop rapidly as a solo instrument. At the same time, the rise of the solo bamboo flute led to the start of the development of the bamboo flute ensemble music.”

    While performer-composers at this time began to arrange and write more works for dizi, including dizi ensemble, this repertoire faced several problems:

    ” Firstly, most of these bamboo flute repertoires are mainly based on studies, and so are not suitable for use as concert pieces. Secondly, these ensemble types are mostly dominated by duos and trios, and the number of pieces involving ensembles of quartet or more are extraordinarily few. In addition, from the perspective of the size of the repertoire, dizi music from these settings plays a less important role for the instrument than solo work.

    These [early ensemble] pieces were regarded as simple and had one part, always giving priority to bamboo flutes as a monophonic melody instrument. Furthermore, in the pedagogy for many years, bamboo flute performers have over-relied on solos as the primary teaching content. There are only a handful of educational pieces involving duo, trio, or quartet in the profession. Through investigation, it was found that there had hardly ever been a special concert focused on the form of a bamboo flute ensemble before the establishment of the China Bamboo Flute Orchestra. By comparison, everywhere one looks, there are countless forms of concerts for Western string music and wind music both domestically and abroad. When there have been Chinese bamboo flute ensembles, it has been only as a part of the concert, rather than as a feature in and of itself. On the whole, the development of the bamboo flute ensemble now lags behind that of the solo repertoire. Therefore, the goal [of the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra] is to use the bamboo flute as a medium to integrate and connect Chinese music with contemporary world music, thereby forging contemporary Chinese music that can adapt to the development of world music, culture, and art. This goal is the same and has not changed!”

    Recently, other performers of Chinese traditional instruments have begun to create multi-instrument ensembles of this sort. Composer Wenhui Xie (谢文辉), a collaborator of the group, gives credit to Zhang Weiliang’s initial vision for beginning this trend and also for his unique approach, noting in a May 2018 email exchange:

    “Soon after, there followed the emergence of a Huqin Orchestra (胡琴乐团), a Pipa Orchestra (琵琶乐团), a Sheng Orchestra (笙乐团), a Yangqin Orchestra (扬琴乐团), and others… They all have similar problems and are constantly exploring. However, I feel that in the creation of new works, Professor Zhang’s artistic taste is very refined, and thus encourages composers to boldly innovate, not at all stopping them from constantly trying out all categories and styles of musical expression. In the past five years, he has been original in the selection of the repertoire for each concert, including both down-to-earth arrangements (refreshed versions of music from the traditional repertoire), and also very experimental work. He assembles an array of bamboo flutes and other instruments and voices, and combines these together with multimedia elements or electronic music.”

    Challenges and Innovation

    To change the performance setting of an instrument — whose techniques and characteristics have been shaped to such a large degree by it — has accordingly required adjustments to the instrument itself. For instance, the dizi’s characteristic timbre is provided by a thin reed membrane, di mo (笛膜); when assembling twenty or thirty dizi at once, it was found to be too overwhelming for all instruments in the orchestra to use it. Additionally, as there were previously no bass bamboo flutes, Zhang Weiliang began to commission lower models which could provide registral balance. Tuning was a major issue for the orchestra at the beginning, as traditional Chinese music does not focus on harmony and does not necessarily require strict adherence to pitch. Intonation has been improved by having performers play one-to-a-part, and through the performers’ increased exposure to and familiarity with contemporary works. The results of these changes have meant that the members of the ensemble are also more prepared in their engagements as solo musicians.

    3
    A lower-ranged Chinese bamboo flute (photo by the author)

    Bringing Dizi to the World Stage

    Zhang Weiliang and other core members of the group share a common goal: they want dizi not to be seen as some sort of “minority music” relegated to the world music CD shelf at the back of the library, but to be taken just as seriously as any of the instruments in a Western orchestra.

    Five years into the group’s journey, the steps being taken to ensure this are impressive. They have made commissioning and performing new works and arrangements a cornerstone of their activities due to their unique instrumentation. Zhang Weiliang is himself an accomplished composer and so understands the importance—and the excitement—of presenting new music. To this end, the orchestra has performed and commissioned works from many Chinese and international composers, including Cui Quan (崔权), Zhang Jian (张建), Yang Qing (杨青), Guo Wenjing (郭文景), Wenhui Xie (谢文辉), Gao Ping (高平), Joel Hoffman, and Kohei Nishikawa (西川浩平).

    Perhaps Zhang’s greatest example of exchange can be seen in his relationship with American composer Joel Hoffman, whom he has commissioned to write several works for dizi orchestra and for smaller chamber groupings featuring dizi and xiao. The most recent performance of one of these works, Xiang He Ge (相和歌), took place this fall at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (国家大剧院, NCPA) in Beijing by Zhang Weiliang and guitarist Yang Xuefei (楊雪霏):

    A further video, from the premiere of Hoffman’s work sizzle at NCPA in November 2015, can be heard here in a performance by the Chinese Bamboo Flute Orchestra, conductor Hu Biao, violinist Benjamin Hoffman, and cellist Natania Hoffman:

    In addition to bringing forth new music for dizi, the question of audience engagement is a central concern for Zhang Weiliang. Even within China, many people do not seek out Chinese traditional music; if they do, they might be more inclined to hear guqin or guzheng before dizi due to its forthright timbre. In the orchestra’s push to reach new audiences, they have toured extensively within Mainland China as well as in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. In August 2018, they will commence on a tour of five Eastern European countries.

    Details of the concert experience have also been considered from early on. Two large-scale multimedia events have integrated lights, electronic music, and video imagery alongside dance to create immersive experiences which introduce Chinese instruments to new audiences. The following image, like the one at the top of this article, was taken from the orchestra’s most recent multimedia concert in January of 2017, Call of the Ancient Past (远古的呼唤).

    Looking Ahead

    Sitting with Zhang Weiliang in his office a week ago, he was brimming with ideas for the future of the group. At this time, he shared with me several scores being premiered on the ensemble’s upcoming concert at NCPA this December. Scored for dizi in combination with other Chinese and Western instruments (pipa, guzheng, erhu, and vibraphone), these pieces represent a new direction for the orchestra. Due to the overwhelming multiplicity of genres which may be called “Chinese music,” there can be little or no crossover historically between certain instruments (e.g., xiao and suona). By experimenting with instrumental combinations that blend dizi with other Chinese and Western instruments over the next few years, there will be many greater timbral and harmonic possibilities than an ensemble of dizi alone is able to provide.

    Ultimately, Zhang Weiliang’s goal is to forge more international collaboration and understanding through dizi, creating art which is at once Chinese music and able to be universally enjoyed.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 9:50 AM on July 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chinese folk music and traditional Chinese instruments, , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “For ‘Summer Rain'” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    July 9, 2018
    Rachel C. Walker

    1
    Photo provided by Xia Yuyan 夏雨言.

    In March 2015, I arrived in Beijing for what started as a six-month stint and then sprawled into a year. I had come to study with Chinese composer Gao Weijie 高为杰 at the China Conservatory of Music 中国音乐学院, an institution whose primary focus is the study, protection, and promotion of Chinese folk music and traditional Chinese instruments. It was an immersive experience, and one which changed my life.

    I have been living on and off in China since this time, while continuing to focus much of my compositional work around Chinese instruments. This series shares four different interpretations of and perspectives on exchange through my experiences and observations as a composer.

    Beginnings

    My interest in Chinese music developed after experiencing a concert of new works for traditional Chinese instruments while studying in Cincinnati in late 2013. I was taken aback not so much by the pieces on that particular program, but by the possibilities the instruments presented — a thought which was coupled with the sudden realization that my exposure to music up until that point had been limited to the canons of jazz, classical, and contemporary music.

    I went on to spend several weeks in the summer of 2014 in Taiwan to study Chinese music on a research grant from the University of Cincinnati. In observing rehearsals, conversing with instrumentalists, and attending concerts (including a festival for Nanguan, also called Nanyin 南音), it became clear that this work would require sincere investment over a longer timespan if it were to result in musical understanding.

    My teacher at the time, Joel Hoffman, encouraged me greatly as I considered the possibility for further study in China. My initial goals were to research and write for Chinese instruments, to experience the Chinese approach to teaching composition, and to learn from a country which remains too-frequently misunderstood by the rest of the world. That I am still here is a testament to the supportive relationships with performers, friends, and mentors that have formed along the way, as much as it is due to the magic of Chinese music and a lingering feeling that I am only at the start.

    New Music for Pipa

    Xia Yuyan 夏雨言 is a virtuoso performer of pipa 琵琶, a Chinese plucked string instrument. She was born in 1991 in Jiang Yin City, Jiangsu province and came to Beijing alone at age eleven to pursue advanced study with a major teacher. Our professors introduced us shortly after my arrival in Beijing, and we began what has become an ongoing three-year project of composing, performing, and recording new works for pipa.

    The collaborative process for my first piece proved to be quite difficult from the onset. What Yuyan found elegant, I found cliché; what I found elegant, she found incomprehensible. While performers I had worked with previously were largely deferential to my ideas, Yuyan took no hesitation in telling me what to trash and that I simply had to do better. We met week after week one-on-one, and I became a bit of a pipa roadie, attending every rehearsal and concert she gave within a six-month span. Frustration eventually gave way to friendship, with us learning when to stand up for ourselves and when to trust one another. The answers lay somewhere in the space in between — not in an “East-West” fusion sense, but in the symbiotic give and take between our aesthetic ideals and the resulting sounds.

    This first piece was For Summer Rain; the title is a translation of part of her name rather than being obliquely programmatic. (There is always the question of audience with new music, but for this work, my first audience was Yuyan). It was premiered in October 2015 in Beijing.

    A trio for Malaysian yangqin performer Jia Wei Ng, American saxophonist Jason Pockrus, and Yuyan followed. I touched the ground while floating away was premiered the following spring in Beijing.

    Our most recent collaboration — a work for solo pipa with voice (琵琶弹唱) named 空 (kōng), or Void — was finished this past March, and then presented in two lecture recitals at Tsinghua (清华大学) and Shandong Universities (山东大学哲学系) before Yuyan’s premiere of the work at the 21st CHIME (Chinese Music in Europe) Conference in Lisbon this past May.

    The chance to present lecture recitals together was a welcome opportunity to share our musical exchange on a broader scale with audiences who had little exposure to Chinese instruments. Articulating in our respective second languages what our collaborations have entailed was a daunting experience for each of us. But in Yuyan’s view, the best way to embrace both life and working together is shunqi ziran 顺其自然: to go with the flow.

    While matters of technical understanding towards an instrument become easier with time, there is still much to learn about pipa as well as from one another. With an instrument of such rich capabilities, perhaps the only limitations are the ones the composer self-imposes.

    Interdisciplinary Collaborations

    My work with Yuyan represents but a sliver of her interests and activities as an artist. Plenty of performers are technically proficient, but her individualistic spirit and expressive range are a rare combination. These traits have led Yuyan to branch out far past what might be considered “traditional pipa performance”.

    While we were rehearsing For Summer Rain, Yuyan introduced me to Jiang Shaofeng 姜少峰 (b. 1987), a Chinese dancer who has fallen in love with American tap dance. For the past several years, they have been creating works blending pipa, dance, and percussion. One example of this collaboration can be heard in a composition of Yuyan’s called Encounter:

    Their duo of pipa and tap dance morphed into a multi-media performance group called No.Future between 2016 and 2017. Comprised of pipa (Xia Yuyan 夏雨言), dance (Jiang Shaofeng 姜少峰), beatbox (Gu Hong Long 贾宏龙), and voice/keyboard (Pei Ying Yan 裴颖妍), the ensemble performed in various venues around Beijing. Yet, as Yuyan pointed out, it can be difficult for independent artists in China to stay together in groups long term without sponsorship or the support of agents.

    2
    Photo of No.Future in performance, provided by Xia Yuyan 夏雨言.

    Other projects Yuyan has been involved with include improvisational workshops with modern dancers in Sichuan Province in August 2017 and a series of collaborative performances with Shaofeng and artist Luan Jiaqi 栾佳齐. Through amplifying Yuyan’s instrument and the board upon which Shaofeng dances while simultaneously placing an amplifier beneath a canvas, Luan creates artistic conditions in which paint can catch the paths of the vibrations they produce.

    3
    Photo of Xia Yuyan 夏雨言 with artist Luan Jiaqi 栾佳齐, provided by Xia Yuyan 夏雨言.

    As Yuyan stated, “My current belief since leaving conservatory is that life is not only about music. Moreover, it is not merely a matter of practicing one’s instrument. The most important thing is how one thinks, how one feels — towards life, or towards one’s inner states. And then you must decide the artistic way in which you want to express yourself. So this is why I am so interested in photography or painting: I feel that all artistic media contain their own music.”

    On Exchange

    “Without exchange there is no understanding” (没有交流,没有理解) — Gao Weijie 高为杰

    I am not interested in pursuing a direct transfer or imitation of media from Chinese to Western music or vice versa. Rather, what the process of writing for Chinese instrumentalists— and particularly for Yuyan — has done is to expand my conception of sound and timbre, leading me to write music that looks carefully at the nature and acoustics of any given instrument in order to build a delicate palette exploring texture, color, and forms of release. In moving back and forth between projects for Chinese and Western instruments, it is the dialogue, the push and pull, the constant shifting of the ground beneath one’s feet that challenges and excites me as a composer.

    Yuyan too has been impacted. As she put it, “Our collaboration has opened me up to a new form of musical expression. Working with Rachel has allowed me to grasp that silence is also a type of musical language.”

    4
    Yuyan after a rehearsal of 空 kong in March 2018. Photo by the author.

    When Yuyan and I began our collaboration in March 2015, she joked — and in hindsight, it seems she was serious— that once I discovered pipa, I would not be able to turn my back upon it. We were not friends immediately, and I am not sure that either of us imagined that we would still be working together now, but some of the most beautiful moments of my life have been spent in her apartment, listening to the sway of the Chinese lute.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 6:09 PM on July 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NEWMUSICBOX, The sad case for women composers' acceptance   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Widening Inclusion & Visibility” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    July 5, 2018
    Christina Rusnak

    1
    Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

    Ed note: There have been a number of recent changes at the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), including several new awards programs, which have been spearheaded by a group of highly energized newly elected group of board members. This month we’ve asked several of these board members to access the current new music landscape and to describe how they see IAWM helping to change the ecology for the better.-FJO

    During the biting cold of the January 2018 blizzard in New York, I was attending the Chamber Music America conference. After the day’s sessions, I ducked into a restaurant on 37th Street for dinner. A trio was performing some great jazz – a blend of standards and original music. Startlingly, the trio was all female. A string trio comprised of women is no longer unusual enough to even register in my consciousness. Yet for as much as I wish it wasn’t, a jazz trio of women still is. As an alum from the University of North Texas, and a board member of the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), the lack of visibility of women in jazz is noteworthy, especially when it comes to composers. Is it more an issue of visibility than activity?

    Many of us are aware of the statistic published by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; only 1.8 percent of the music performed by America’s 22 leading orchestras during the 2014-2015 season was composed by women. Are the numbers of women composers proportionately that small, or is their music merely not being programmed? A similar study of 85 American orchestras (that was reported on by Lucy Caplan in the Winter 2018 issue of Symphony magazine) reveals that living composers represented only 12.3% of programming in the 2016-17 season, so the limited real estate for music by pre-21st-century composers certainly contributes the to the low statistic. But that’s another article.

    Meanwhile, over at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, a couple of composers were musing, perhaps steaming, about the lack of women composers played by wind bands. In January, composer Katherine Bergman, wrote:

    “Of the 500 pieces performed at the Midwest Clinic by 51 different ensembles (including bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and chamber groups), only 23 pieces (4.6%) were composed by women, and just 71 (14.2%) were written by composers of color. But what about the band concerts on their own? With such enthusiasm for new music, surely the wind ensemble programming would be more diverse than that of the orchestras, right? Alas, of the 212 pieces performed by bands during the Midwest Clinic, only seven (a measly 3.3%) were written by women, and 26 (12.3%) by people of color.”

    I observed this myself! In March, I attended the College Band Directors National Association’s (CBDNA) West & Northwest conference at Sonoma State University. Out of 47 pieces of music performed, only one piece was composed by a woman. So are women not just composing for wind band, or is the music by women composers just not getting programmed?

    Rob Deemer announced in January that the Women Composers Database, which he began embarking on in 2016, “was fully operational and ready for public inspection.” He and “a team of students at the State University of New York at Fredonia had compiled a searchable and browsable database of more than 3,000 women composers” for conductors, performers, educators, and researchers to use. The document lists THREE THOUSAND women composers. As Midgette mentions in her Washington Post article, organizations such as the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, and Opera America are putting more attention on women composers as well as composers of color through their granting opportunities.

    The mission of the International Alliance for Women in Music is to foster and encourage the activities of women in music, particularly in the areas of performing, composing, and research in which gender discrimination continues to be a concern. So IAWM further explored the landscape of major awards recognizing the prowess of women composers.

    Since Joan Tower’s win of the Grawemeyer Award in 1990, only two other women: Kaija Saariaho and Unsuk Chin, have received it. The Rome Prize, first awarded in 1924, is given most but not every year. Typically each year, two composers are awarded the prize which includes a year-long residency at the American Academy in Rome. Barbara Kolb was the first woman awarded the prize in 1971 and she received it again in 1976. During the remainder of the 20th century, an additional seven women were awarded: Sheila Silver in 1979; Kathryn Alexander and Michelle Ekizian in 1989; Ellen Taaffe Zwilich in 1990; Bun-Ching Lam in 1992; Tania León in 1998; and Betsy Jolas in 1999. Since the 21st century, women have fared significantly better; a total of nine women have received this honor: Shih-Hui Chen and Carolyn Yarnell in 2000; Susan Botti in 2006; Erin Gee in 2008; Nina Young in 2015; and, in the past two years all four recipients have been women—Suzanne Farrin and Ashley Fure in 2017 and Michelle Lou and Jessie Marino in 2018. The Nemmers Prize in Music Composition began recognizing and honoring classical music composers of outstanding achievement in a body of work and a unique creativity in 2004. Of the eight recipients thus far, two have been women: Kaija Saariaho was the first, in 2008, and this year’s recipient was Jennifer Higdon.

    Women have fared better with other prizes. The Pulitzer Prize, which Ellen Taaffe Zwilich won to much fanfare in 1983, has been awarded to seven women, four in the last decade, most recently to Du Yun in 2017. Representation of Women receiving American Academy Arts & Letters’ awards, founded at the turn of the 20th century to honor the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers, has been historically greater than other awards – 12.6% up through 1999, and 15.5% from 2000-2017. So the 21st century figures bear out a slow but growing trend toward rewarding women. Noted though that in 2017 and 2018, women were awarded 31% and 20% respectively. The American Composers Forum supports an eclectic mix of awards that recognizes diverse composers from around the country.

    I’ve only recently been aware of the Herb Alpert Award, presented annually since 1995 to “risk-taking mid-career artists” working in several fields of art. Of the 24 awards presented in music, 46% were awarded to 11 diverse women, pushing musical boundaries. The foundation also supports Young Jazz Composer Awards for jazz composers under 30. Out of the 15 annual winners, one in 2018 and four in 2017 were young women.

    Do fellowships skew differently regarding gender? The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation began offering Fellowships in 1925, “to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color, or creed.” During its initial 74 years, 568 Fellowships were awarded for Musical Composition, 39 (6.9%) to women. Since 2000, the percentage of women represented has increased over time. The Guggenheim has given 257 Fellowships with 55 (21.4%) to women.

    The MacArthur Fellows Program, often called the genius grant is “intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations”. One must be nominated through an ever-changing of pool of appointed external nominators chosen from a wide range of fields. Only 42 people in the musician/composer category have been awarded; 10 have been women.

    In jazz, gender bias seems to be more of a well-known secret. Erin Wehr, who has conducted extensive research in gender and jazz, recently wrote: “The reality is that negative stereotypes of women still persist in jazz today. Even if such biases are a minority, negativity is so powerful that even great amounts of positive social support often can’t take away the sting of one pointed, judgmental comment.” Chamber Music America has given out awards for New Jazz Works since 2000. Out of 362 awards, 14 (3.9%) have been awarded to women.

    IAWM’s commitment to providing visibility to women composers has moved like-minded sponsors to support awards for the annual Search for New Music. These prizes for new music by women are offered in a number of categories ranging from chamber works to sound installations. Through a competitive call for works, with a theme that changes annually, IAWM also presents a concert of new works by living women composers. In 2017, ACF honored the IAWM as one of its three 2017 Champion of New Music Awards. The IAWM also sponsors the Pauline Alderman Awards for musicological and journalistic works on women in music, most recently for Denise von Glahn’s book, Music and the Skillful Listener. But it’s not enough. How can we do better? How can we broaden our scope to increase the visibility of the vast amount of music composed by women? At least THREE THOUSAND OF THEM.

    The IAWM board has acknowledged that significant numbers of women in other areas of music are equally lacking visibility, and we are seeking to become more inclusive. Following New Music USA’s lead, IAWM published its Statement of Equity and Inclusion in 2017. In addition to social equity, IAWM seeks to ensure that the organization welcomes women across genres and disciplines, by being explicit in our commitment to promote cultural and professional musical diversity and inclusion within our board and membership. Women in Music work as performers, composers, arrangers, media artists, conductors, theorists, producers, musicologists, historians and educators. We know that a diversity of ideas, approaches, disciplines and musical styles are essential to inclusion and equity.

    In analyzing our membership and the musical landscape, the IAWM board realized that we needed to expand our support networks and increase our relevance in the field. We are ramping up our advocacy efforts and our commitment to providing visibility to women writing in various genres of music, as well as to provide recognizing of our members working as performers and educators and in other areas of music.

    In October 2017, the IAWM Board voted to create two new composition awards, for jazz and wind band, which rolled out this spring with a deadline of April 30. Sponsored by a consortium of jazz musicians in Portland, Oregon, the PDX Jazz Prize is a competitive award of $300 for women jazz composers for pieces of any duration from small ensembles to big band. The Alex Shapiro Wind Band Prize, which includes a $500 cash award and mentorship/consultation from Alex Shapiro, is for works of any duration for large ensemble wind band requiring a conductor, with or without a soloist, acoustic or electroacoustic, published or as yet unpublished. IAWM will soon be rolling out a Performer award, and an Education grant targeting K-12 music educators. As the membership of IAWM is becoming more diverse, so will our awards.

    An example of progressive change is occurring in the UK. The PRS Foundation announced its new Keychange Initiative earlier this year, which, as Amanda Cook reported in I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, is “empowering women to transform the future of the music industry and encouraging festivals to achieve a 50:50 balance by 2022. While a number of contemporary music festivals have committed to this initiative, the Borealis Festival has already achieved gender-balanced programming.”

    Women are working in all genres of music, from chamber to choral to jazz; from orchestra to wind band to film and media. The International Alliance for Women in Music is working to bring awareness and visibility to music that is under-represented in the musical landscape.

    Back to that restaurant on East 37th Street: inspired by their wonderful performance and intrigued by works I’d not heard before, I introduced myself and told them about the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) and the new award for women jazz composers. I hope they and many more apply. Unbeknownst to them, they made my night a memorable evening.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
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