Archive | April, 2012

The Return of Matt Sargent

28 Apr

Our dear friend (and co-founder of the Hartford New Music Festival in 2011) Matt Sargent moved from Hartford, CT to Buffalo, NY this past fall to continue his studies. We were all of course sad to see him go, but are happy that he will be presenting some new work at this year’s festival. The piece he’s presenting, entitled no where i’m bound, grew out of a collaboration with DC-based visual artist Colby Caldwell. Matt sent me a folio of images today with some words about the piece to share on the blog.

no where i’m bound was commissioned by the Hemphill Gallery in Washington D.C. to accompany Gun Shy a visual art show by Colby Caldwell. Colby’s work for the show utilized high-definition scanners to capture detritus from the rural landscape of southern Maryland: spent shotgun shells, bird carcasses, and strands of milkweed.

In creating this piece, I set upon working with my own memory of rural landscapes and processes of decay: musical ideas that could be heard as a point in time within an ongoing process of erosion, similar to the states of the visual materials collected and documented by Colby.

The resultant piece focuses on the melody “I Don’t Know Where I’m Bound”. The piece is an abstraction of the original melody, using a “crossing” process of lines connecting intervallic relationships in the melody. The crossing process produced eight new melodies, each a linear traversing through the original melody: these eight new melodies were then layered over top of one another as interlocking parts and recorded at the Hemphill Gallery with Kelli Kathman (alto flute).

Once recorded, the audio of each of the eight parts underwent a process of erasure. I constructed an algorithm to stretch the each flute note individually, then run the stretched tone through a failing/destructive ancient reel-to-reel preamp (which erases and filters out some audio with each pass), and then stretch that resultant reprocessed recording, etc. The decay process ||: stretch->erasure->stretch : || is repeated many times, until it reaches an iteration in which one more pass through the system would completely erased all of the audio. These sounds, on the brink of complete erosion from acoustic sound back into signal noise, form the resulting piece: a flickering halo of residual sound from the original Cash melody.

— Matt Sargent

Sketch of "no where i'm bound"

Matt Sargent and Kelli Kathman at Hemphill Gallery, Washington DC

Images from Colby Caldwell’s Show

Robert Carl & Taiwanese Birds

27 Apr

HNMF is going to be presenting the premiere of Robert Carl‘s Wind Quintet no. 2 “Birds of Gandu”. Dr. Carl is the chair of the composition department at Hartt School, writes on new music for Fanfare and recently published a fantastic book on Terry Riley’s In C. The quintet’s second movement requires the players to scatter to various locales in the hall, mimicking the recordings of birdsong that only they can hear via headphones. This novel approach to birdsong in the tradition of composers including Messiaen and JL Adams will be a perfect fit in the beautiful architecture of the Charter Oak Cultural Center’s sanctuary. The premiere will be given by Thiago Sousa, flute, Charles Huang, oboe, Alex Kollias, clarinet, Thea Groth, bassoon and Adam Schommer, horn.

Robert wrote the following about the work:

Guandu Nature Reserve in Taiwan

My Wind Quintet No.2, “Birds of Guandu” resulted from a trip to Taiwan in June 2009. My partner Karen McCoy was invited to exhibit in an international sculpture show in Taipei’s Guandu Nature Reserve, a large bird sanctuary on the northern edge of the city. While there with her, I heard the calls of many species of birds I didn’t know, and the mystery of their calls throughout the wetlands was evocative. This piece is the result of that experience.

The piece consists of three movements:

1. Sunrise Invocation: c.2′, a traditional chorale, though using a harmonic procedure where the notes are selected through a gradual rotation through the overtone series.

2. Aviary, c.15′, timing variable: an open-form environment using MaxMSP generated birdsong as a guide for the players’ performance. The effect of the piece is a gradual crescendo of overlapping birdsongs, morphing from one set to another at different rates over its duration.

3. Sunset Blessing, c.6′. Again traditionally notated, with a blend of the original chorale and the transcribed birdsongs, now harmonically unified.

— Robert Carl

Update: More Anne Rhodes pics!

25 Apr

Anne’s new piece is really starting to take shape, here’s some of the new images she sent me!

EXILKABARETT, Hanns Eisler and Kirsten Volness

25 Apr

EXILKABARETT at Dixon Place, NYC

I’m really excited that EXILKABARETT will be joining HNMF this year. I play piano in this group, and its been really great watching the group transform over the past few years. EXILKABARETT incorporates aspects of theater, art song, cabaret and video in its historically-informed performances that explore the theme of exile in its many forms. Much of our performance material comes out of Weimar-era cabaret and the art forms that were produced in this time.

For HNMF, we will be performing music from Hanns Eisler’s Hollywood Liederbuch (completed in 1943) with texts by Bertholt Brecht, Berthold Viertel, Arthur Rimbaud and Eisler, as well as a new set of songs on texts by Erika Mann by Providence-based composer Kirsten Volness. I asked Kirsten to write some more about the songs she wrote for us to help provide some context for our performance:

In 1933, as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, Erika Mann, her brother Klaus, and Therese Giehse founded the Peppermill Cabaret in Münich.  Persecuted for their sexuality and wry political commentary, this troupe of social outcasts were soon exiled, their lives under threat, and they brought their anti-Fascist cabaret to Zurich and later New York.

When EXILKABARETT asked me to set three of Mann’s texts, I found them to be extraordinarily powerful protest songs with messages that are still relevant today.  Frau X (Ms. X) tells the tale of public apathy and complacency exhibited among the German people as the Third Reich began committing the atrocities of World War II.  Kälte (Cold) has a similar theme, asking “Why are we so cold?” and ends with an empowering plea to action and the reassurance that “light must prevail in the end.”  Mann der stunde (Man of the Hour) is a satirical portrait of Hitler himself, the haughty executioner on whom the tables are eventually turned.

I wanted these three new songs to fit seamlessly with the rest of the show, so I tried to write them “in the style of” Schubert and Kurt Weill while leaving enough freedom for my creative voice and other influences to coexist (including a few inside jokes/quotes you might notice and my shameless penchant for catchy pop songs).  I’m honored to have been able to collaborate with such a great group of musicians who bring interesting and thoughtful work to life with the kind of uninhibited raucousness a good cabaret demands!

— Kirsten Volness

Here’s a performance of Kälte, performed by Jessica Goldring and Bill Solomon at Dixon Place in NYC on Oct 26, 2010.

Why is this music titled Cello Peace?

23 Apr

Cellist Jeffrey Krieger will be presenting Cenk Ergün‘s Cello Peace for electronic cello and 4 channel playback system at this year’s festival. We’ve asked Jeffrey to share his thoughts on this work. Please share your thoughts in our comment section! — HNMF

I became interested in Cello Peace for electric cello and 4 channel playback system by composer, Cenk Ergun, about a year ago because of its beauty and unique performance challenges. However, I realized that finding an opportunity to perform a multi channel work was going to be difficult since the standard for playback in most concert halls is stereo speakers. Naturally I was excited to hear that the Hartford New Music Festival would have the technical support to help realize a performance.

The score, originally composed for acoustic cello, calls for the cellist to record the approximately 37 minute solo part 3 times. Then, these 3 recorded tracks are played simultaneously along with the live part on a 4 channel playback system, each part assigned to its own speaker.

Initially I explored creating a computer program of delays that would echo and alter 3 slightly different versions of the live solo part. The alterations would be made using filters and detune. However, the differences between the computer program version and the original method of assembling the work were dramatic enough to warrant using the original method intended by the composer.

While recording the tracks the decision was made to adapt some sounds to better suit the electric cello. For example, a ‘hissing’ sound made by bowing the wooden tailpiece of an acoustic cello could not be made on the metal tailpiece of an electric cello. I suggested bowing perpendicular directly on top of the bridge close to the transducers which are built into the bridge about a 1/4″ from the top.

The process of assembling the work gave me a few interesting insights. Even though the performer strives for perfection while recording the unison tracks, it is really the imperfections and the close, dynamic relationships between the recorded tracks, as well as the live solo that make the work a success. Perhaps a parallel exists between the above and our current efforts to understand one another in such a tumultuous world. An understanding that could create better balance leading to world peace.

Why is this music titled Cello Peace?

— Jeffrey Krieger

Anne Rhodes Work in Progress!!

17 Apr

Anne Rhodes sent us some photos of her HNMF commission work in progress, a hand embroidered graphic score to be performed by a handpicked ensemble of local improvisers, including Carl Testa, bass, Libby van Cleve, oboe, Ben Klein, tuba, Maura Valenti, harp, Nathan Bontrager, cello and Bill Solomon, percussion. She’s stretched the canvas and begun the embroidery, the size of the piece measures be 2 feet by 8 feet. We’ll post more photos as she sends them!

Help contribute to the commission fund at our indiegogo campaign!

Help support HNMF!

6 Apr

As we are nearing the festival (only a month away!), help consider making a donation to support HNMF. You can also get your tickets by making a $15 donation (or $25 for two!), which will be the same price at the venue. So, by purchasing them online in advance, you will help us reach the fundraising goal and get your tickets with one easy purchase!

Here’s the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/hartfordnewmusicfestival