Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jason Seed Stringtet - In the Gallery

Jason Seed has done it again. On his new album, In the Gallery, Jason Seed has put together another stunning effort from his group Jason Seed Stringtet, consisting of guitar, violin, viola, bass, cello and for this album, a very special guest, Yang Wei playing the pipa.

This group has a very refreshing and provocative sound. Especially when the pipa joins them for one piece, it creates such a unique timbre that fits so well with the rest of the ensemble. The music is superbly crafted, as always, crossing several genre lines and giving the album as a whole, a great journey through several genres, styles, techniques and emotional centers.

From the down home comfort feel of Invocation to the fun romp that is Caterpillar Kif, Jason has proven again that he is a master of his craft, and the group itself has shown its ability to create a myriad of interesting music. This album is full of jazz, classical, gypsy-esque, and Appalachian sounds, often within the same piece. There is a flare to this album that I truly enjoy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Succeeding to Fail

Lately, it seems, there have been many articles/blog posts about failing, or being a failure, and more to the point, what does it actually mean to be a failure or success.

For the most part it is people talking about how they have come to redefine success in the wake of failing to achieve what, for whatever reason, they thought it was they wanted to achieve. I think most people feel this in some way as they venture into careers that maybe aren't quite what they imagined for themselves or even want for themselves.

I am no stranger to these feelings, for as long as I can remember in my adult life I wanted to go all the way through the doctorate degree and teach at a college or university somewhere. Well, that didn't happen, and probably won't. I was not able to obtain the doctorate and I am not able to obtain a college/university job as I don't have a doctorate. (those out there with masters that have those jobs, count yourself very lucky!!) For a long time I felt that I had failed at my one and only goal in my life. I wanted to do this and compose and have a perfect little academic life.

Needless to day, life intervened in my plans and threw several curve balls my way that affected the outcome in various ways. Some curve balls are good of course, and some are kind of indifferent, they just are, and because of them, it makes other things impossible (location, location, location!)

So, after my son was born I had to fundamentally rethink they way I wrote to conform to my new life schedule. Which was the best thing ever, both for me personally (having a child) and for me as an artist. This new methodology has brought out the best music I have produced so far, in my opinion. So having this experience has forced me to rethink what it means to succeed. I am not a successful academic in the sense that I do not have a job in academia. I am not a very successful composer, as in I only get a handful of performances a year (if I'm lucky) and I have only had three commissions in my whole career (two of them while in school, only one since graduating). And this has been the cause of some mild down times in my head, but I always count myself relatively successful because, in spite of all of that, it never stops me from writing the next piece, whatever it is. The interesting thing is, since 95% of my music is not dictated by anything other than me saying "hmmm.. what do I want to write for" it is quite interesting and exciting at times. Having to self-impose limitations is always an interesting endeavor (since having no limitations is insane and often leads to staring at blank pages of manuscript for hours, days and weeks).

This is not to say I still don't have moments of "depression" about what I haven't been able to cross off my list of goals, but at least I can still call myself a successful composer/artist. I am still creating, I feel like each piece is better in some way then the last and those, to me, are the two most important things about being an artist of any kind.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Caroline Shaw - Pulitzer Prize Winner for 2013

So it took me about a month but I finally got a chance to really sit down and listen to Caroline Shaw's Pulitzer Prize winning composition Partita for 8 Voices, sung by the group Roomful Of Teeth (of which, Shaw is a member).

Upon my first hearing of it, I was absolutely floored. I don't get floored very often, particularly by vocal music. I mean, I LOVE vocal music, but a lot of it is very choir-ish. But Shaw's piece has those moments, but it is so much more. It is beautiful, primal, weird, hypnotic, chaotic and simple all at the same time. The variety of vocal techniques and extended techniques used in her composition is astounded and Roomful of Teeth do it effortless mastery!!

So of course, in checking out Shaw's website I found the recordings of the piece, but also some score samples. Which are beautifully notated. I hope to, at some point, purchase a copy when and if it becomes available to peruse the entire thing. But it is just exquisite. I don't gush over much, but I just love this piece, and the entire album it is on. And the funny part is, I can't exactly tell you why. Which makes it even better.

On to the album as a whole. First off, Roomful of Teeth is probably the most interesting vocal group I have ever heard. They use everything from Tuvan throat singing, to Korean style singing, to yodeling spoken word and all sorts of guttural primal throat sounds. They are eight of the most powerful voices I have heard and when you bring them together you get some seriously explosive moments in the works.

Along with Shaw's Partita there are a smattering of other amazing vocal compositions by William Brittelle, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Rinde Eckert, and Merrill Garbus. Each piece with it's own unique voice (pardon the pun) and explosive and beautiful character.

If you enjoy any kind of vocal music, I strongly encourage checking out this album. It is amazing and I hope they produce more great music such as this.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

'The End' Premiere

Once again, the ever gracious soprano Danya Katok is going to give another world premiere. 

The End will receive its world premiere on April 11th at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn NY as part of the Classical at Pete's series. I have to thank Danya for giving this music some life. I wish I could be there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Long Time no Blog

So it has been a while since I have written here. Life has been busy.

While I was away I had some exciting things go down...

I played a couple of new piano cycles here and also in my brother's art gallery Nox Contemporary in Salt Lake City. I think they were fairly successful. They are definitely becoming more indicative of my new process of composing. Well, I don't know if it is a process so much as a frame of mind in my approach to writing.

I finally got a piece for Trumpet and Piano done (Winds of Another Planet) but the recording was.... interrupted by massive squeaking of doors. So hopefully it can get done again some day to get a recording of it. I think it was pretty successful.

One of the new piano cycles is a work based on ideas and/or techniques from Morton Feldman. You can give that a listen HERE. (scroll down a bit to Because of Morton Feldman). I thought it appropriate since a lot of my new ideas and approaches to writing came from reading his essays and interviews on his own approach. Mainly, the intensity with which he wrote. Making every minute of composition time productive, or walk away. Between this, and a the necessity of it with a new baby 18 months ago, it has been the best writing experiences of my life these last 2 years.

The second one was an interesting project. I took 5 of my brother's latest works that he has been working on in charcoal and graphite. These were really interesting to deal with as, in talking with him, I felt that we are beginning to approach creation in a very similar way, or more to the point, I am coming into more of his way of approaching these things. you can listen to that HERE, as well as see the drawings that accompany them.

I have worked with his paintings and other pictorial subjects before, but this one was different somehow. I don't know if it was the paintings themselves being so different then what I have worked with before, or maybe it's me and I feel like I am finally reaching some relative level of maturity in my work. I am not sure, and I am not really dwelling on it too much, just enjoying the end product.

Of course then school starts and my productivity comes to a slow crawl. But I was able to get an a cappella solo voice song done, which is interesting in itself. I hope to get it done some day.

I also had a "new" solo cello piece (A Voice Within) premiered, finally after 2 years of several performances that fell through, at the first annual OCU Alumni concert in November. Unfortunately I was unable to attend but I am looking forward to hearing the recording. It's a strange piece I wonder how it turned out?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Upcoming Performance

Sunday, June 10th at 2pm I will be performing two new works at the Metro Galleries, Winds of Another Planet; for Trumpet and Piano with Kris Tiner on Trumpet, and Because of Morton Feldman; a new piano cycle. Also on the bill are two amazing musicians William Roper (tuba) and Michael Vlatkovich (trombone) doing some amazing improvisations and original compositions. 

I haven't played in public in a long time, I am really excited about performing in this venue. I cannot thank Kris Tiner enough for allowing me to incorporate my work into this concert serious. Should be a fantastic evening.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

THE SHOW recording!!!

Here is the recording of the World Premiere (I think that should be followed by a trumpet fanfare every time anyone says it) of THE SHOW last week in New York by the wonderful artists Danya Katok-Ahlbin (soprano) and Nana Shi (piano). I can't thank them enough.

The text is by Wilfred Owen - one of my favorite poets.

*disclaimer* - the space they performed in had a big echo so the recording reflects that, but I feel that the piece still shines through.

push HERE to listen!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Second Time

Le Long du Chemin, my 14 minute monstrosity of a piano piece is actually going to get a second performance. (Technically it's the third, but my grad recital doesn't count).

It has been programmed for the 10th Annual Contemporary Composers Festival in San Francisco this coming summer. Now all I have to do is find a performer to play it, as finding your own performer is one of the stipulations of the concert. Having an average of 1 hit for every 100 entries I send out, I didn't think it would actually happen.

So on the hunt I go for a Bay Area based pianists willing to take on 14 minutes for very little money.... good luck to me!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Show - World Premiere

This is very exciting!!

Soprano Danya Katok and Pianist Nana Shi will perform the world premiere of The Show at the Rotunda at CUNY Bronx Community College (Bronx, NY) in an exciting recital of living composers including Ned Rorem,  Andre Previn, Richard Hundley, Juliana Hall and Georgia Stitt.

The recital is on May 2nd at 4pm. 

I am so excited to get this piece performed. I think it is my best work to date (just finished in Dec. 2011). A much appreciated thank you to Danya and Nana for once again giving me the opportunity to hear my work performed by world class performers. They are truly amazing artists!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dickinson Concert

This week I had the absolute pleasure of working with New York based soprano Danya Katok and pianist Nana Shi in an all Dickinson recital at CSU Bakersfield. This was a project that Danya, Nana and I have been working with for about 18 months. Originally it was part of a grant proposal (that we didn't get) but luckily we have been able to get a little bit of life out of the idea.

The set is absolutely amazing. Along with my 5 songs from Dream Cycle Danya sang several selections from Copland's 12 poems of Emily Dickinson, along with some Previn, and the amazing cycle by Juliana Hall Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush (using some of Dickinson's many letters). Nana also presented Leon Kirchner's piano cycle Five pieces for Piano (all inspired by Dickinson poems).

It was truly an amazing experience to work with artists of this caliber. They are both a delight to listen to and to hang out with. Both are working on their DMAs in New York.

Earlier in the day Danya presented a brilliant master class with members of the CSU Bakersfield voice studio. We all learned some valuable information in that session. It really was a treat.

The recital was recorded and I will post some video as soon as I get it.