Attention to detail – it’s what sets Dinklaker Quality Instruments apart from all other sousaphone manufacturers the world over. Here, Earl Pringler welds a delicately filigreed brass ring to one of the bells, which not only makes the instrument look nice but also improves its aerodynamics, a definite boon to anyone who has to march around a football field with one of these babies on his back for the better part of a cold and blustery afternoon.
For 10½ years, David Gunn co-hosted the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award-winning radio show, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. The show is archived at www.kalvos.org. Gunn's own website, http://davidgunn.org, contains numerous recordings and scores of his compositions. Gunn is also a writer and humorist, and examples of both can also be found on his website. He lives simultaneously in Barre, Vermont.
In a rather surly moment with the press, Elvis Costello once remarked that “writing about music is like dancing to architecture.” Such a sentiment might be applied to the January 25 Composer’s Voice Concert at Jan Hus Church. These compositions merge aural abstraction with intellectual grist — resulting in pieces that are as bafflingly fun as they are difficult to describe. But we’ll take a stab at it:
The concert begins with “Fifteen Minutes of Infamy” (a twist on the CV trademark series involving fame), performed by flutist Robert Dick. Employing a variety of flutes, from piccolo to bass, this is a set of experiments in sonic textures that segue into and build on each other, showing the disparate sounds one can coax from these magic cylinders. It begins with the dancing flutters and duotone blasts of David Wolfson’s “Ghost of an Old Flame,” followed by Joseph Bohigian’s “Flutterer,” in which a single sustained tone gradually morphs into the oscillation of the title, builds into a Bronx-cheer sputter, then settles back to a pure tone. Maggie Payne’s “In the Air” progresses from airy whooshes to percussive taps and whistles and squeals; Masatora Goya’s “Pale Fire” unveils long, sloping rises and falls across the instrument’s range; David Drexler’s “almost winter” breaks into key-tapping staccato blips and paint-splatter tones; and Elizabeth Adams’s “Flute Song” adds spoken-voice interjections of poetry to the mix. Later the searching wails of David Bohn’s “Iwabue” (on piccolo) gives way to the melancholic flute phrases of Rocco Di Petro’s “Lilith Challenging” and the plaintive melodies of Syrlanle Albuquerque’s “Plea.” Closing the set, David Evan Jones’s “Escape Velocity” picks up speed in dancing ascents, descents, frills and whistles; and Robert Dick’s own “Bypass to Otherness” incorporates electronic noises with bass-flute blips and burbles — capping a set of flute pieces like no other.
The sonic experimentation continues—using the human voice—in a series of three short works performed by Beth Griffith. The first of these, Brandon J. Rolle’s “Beautiful Noise,” has the singer alternating between sputtering blips, breathy piercing high notes, and a long-vowel enunciation of the title (as if she’s speaking “whale” in Finding Nemo). In the second piece, Menacho’s “Poem,” a poem by Emily Dickenson emerges amidstly abstracted consonants and vowels as a gradually revealed lonely lament. And in Dennis Bathory-Kitsz’s “…daar zaten wij,” its title taken from a 1965 book by Meyer Sluyser, unveils more demonstrative wails and facial expressions that suggest an emotional outburst bordering on a nervous breakdown, before winding down with a peaceful sense of resignation.
Now it’s time for some instrumental sound paintings. Masatora Goya’s “Enrai – distant thunder” is performed by Duo YUMENO, featuring Hkaru Tamaki on cello and Yoko Reikano Kimura on shamisen, a three-stringed traditional Japanese instrument. Opening with deep taps on the cello against the shamisen’s twangy occidental-sounding phrases, it progresses into a series of swooshing noises created with bow and brush; then the two instruments engage in a series of busy scales and counterpoints, their competition creating a sense of tension before settling into a quiet, meditative mid-section. The final segment is even more contemplative, like a resolution to an eventful life cycle.
For Cheryl Krugel-Lee’s “Let Trip,” Sabina Torosjan performs solo on violin. The piece begins with low, sonorous phrases that build in emotional intensity, occasionally punctuated by high-pitched sound effects, into an adventurous section marked by quick arpeggios, brief pauses, lightly plucked notes, deep tones, and mysterious chords. The mood-shifting piece builds then to a frenetic climax before settling into a quiet, thoughtful ending.
Next up is a composition called “Thoreau” by Skip LaPlante, who performs on the coba — a custom-made box with bells resembling a marimba — accompanied by Laurie Bennett on vocals. Here the words, taken from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, are played against the coba’s meandering, asymmetrical melodies, the two voices engaged in a back-and-forth exchange that gradually builds in velocity and volume. The blend of transcendentalist musings with amorphous tones (from an instrument made from scraps) is both strange and exhilarating — probably enough so to have pleased Thoreau himself.
How does such an experimental afternoon end? How about a wild piece by Composer’s Voice founder Robert Voisey called “Frigid Piggy.” This is performed by vocalists Hirona Amamiya (soprano) and Masatora Goya (baritone), accompanied by Yumi Suehiro on piano and Douglas DaSilva on clarinet. DaSiva (who is also the artistic director of CV) starts by showing the score that the musicians worked from — which resembles an abstract cubist painting. This represents a series of emotional and dynamic guidelines for the quartet. To open, over spiky piano lines the other three voices wail and roil like ghosts in a house of horrors, then gradually come into resonance with each other in a glorious choral crescendo before descending into a lower-register series of gurgles and murmurs. The players shift into another emotive eruption before splintering into a round-robin, with each voice rising and falling independently, while the pianist takes to ice-pick percussive bursts using flailing elbows and wrists. The quartet simmers awhile and then builds back up to a boiling final flourish that fills the ceiling dome at Jan Hus Church. Thus from the abstract score we get an ebullient display of spontaneity — and a fitting end to an afternoon in which architecture is worth dancing about.
Jack Crager is a New York City–based journalist who writes about music, visual arts, fitness, and other subjects (jackcrager.com). He regularly contributes concert reviews to NM421.
Fifteen composers selected for Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame with Tzu-En Lee.
Vox Novus called for one-minute pieces composed for Solo violin with a theme of Taiwanese Folk Music.
This Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame for Tzu-En Lee is to be premiered on March 8, 2015 for the Composer’s Voice concert Series at the Jan Hus Church in New York City.
The theme “Taiwanese Folk Music” serves as an inspiration for the composers. Ms. Lee wishes to inspire the composers to write original music to exemplify her love for Taiwanese music.
Works selected for this Fifteen Minutes of Fame include: Sketched in Soft Hues by Daniel Arnold, Folk Shade by Rodrigo Baggio, The Dragon Bridge by Roger Blanc, In A Boat Upon A Sea As Smooth As Jade by Erik Branch, Cut-off by Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Moon Mistress-Mistress Water by Fermino Gomes, Desire to the Spring Breeze by Shigeru Kan-no, Bloom by Damon Lee, Rainy Night of Flowers by Feng-Hsu Lee, Parapharse of U-ia-hue by Daniel Mihai, You Light Up My Star by Yan Pang, Jasmin des montagnes by Louis Sauter, Contrasts by Richard G Smith, Begin The Beiguan by Nolan Stolz, and April Is The Sweetest Month by Christopher M. Wicks
Violinist Tzu-En Lee has began studying violin at the age of five. Since then, she has performed extensively in her native Taiwan and has won numerous competitions, including Taiwan National Violin Competition. Since coming to the United States, Tzu-En Lee studied violin performance at Mannes College of Music. She graduated with a diploma in the Spring of 2012 and is currently pursuing further studies in the graduate program at Mannes under the tutelage of violinist Yuri Vodovoz. In addition to her studies, Ms. Lee has enjoyed taking part in the musical life of NYC as a free-lance musician. Since 2009 she has performed with the Pocket Opera of NY. Tzu-En Lee has also sought out opportunities to perform the music of contemporary composers. She has participated in the Second and Third Annual Social Networking Concerts, produced by composer Douglas Townsend at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan, where she has performed a world premiere of the work by Australian composer Houston Dunleavy. Ms. Lee performed in New York as a soloist, alongside violinists Muneyoshi Takahashi and Kinga Augustyn, with the Broadway Bach Ensemble, conducted by Arkady Leytush, in the New York premiere of Douglas Townsend's Concerto "in the old style" for Three Solo Violins and String Orchestra (1994)."
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