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.