For the past two years, Q2 Music has been a bastion of new music in the barren wasteland of classical radio - even if it's the sort of radio you can only hear on the Web. Since it's inception in 2010, violist Nadia Sirota has been one of Q2's most affable hosts, leveraging her extensive knowledge of new music as well as her relationships with Nico Muhly, Judd Greenstein, ACME and others. Not to mention she's got a killer radio voice.
Now, Nadia has her own new show, Meet the Composer, which debuted this week with a podcast on the music of this year's Pulitzer Prize winner, John Luther Adams. Modeled after other production-heavy radio shows like Radiolab and This American Life, Meet the Composer aims to bring listeners into the minds and creative processes of some of today's most celebrated composers. Part interview, part personal essay, the show has been more than two years in the making, and is an obvious labor of love for Nadia.
To celebrate the launch of Meet the Composer - which is available both streaming and as a FREE podcast on iTunes - Nadia gathered her first five subjects at The Greene Space on Tuesday for a combination interview, performance, and party. Nadia herself hosted, and the room was packed with a mix of uptown and downtown types, many with beers or cocktails in hand.
Bang on a Can All-Stars Vicky Chow and Ashley Bathgate, along with violinist Todd Reynolds, kicked things off with Donnacha Dennehy's Bulb: a rolling, minimalist trope which Dennehy described via Skype as his response to the generally uptight piano trio repertoire. Hannah Collins performed Caroline Shaw's quiet, soulful in manus tuas for voice and cello, while Claire Chase brought her razor-sharp charisma to Marcos Balter's Pesoa, which combined bass flute and electronics into a haunting, aboriginal soundscape. And, the Attacca Quartet performed excerpts from Andrew Norman's Peculiar Strokes: a set of miniatures for string quartet which Norman said served as a sort of counterpoint to his large orchestral works, such as Try and Play.
But, the highlight of the night was an appearance by John Luther Adams, who recently relocated from Alaska to "an urban cabin in South Harlem." JLA used a good bit of his time onstage to praise both Nadia and Q2 for their commitment to new music, revealing that he was a regular listener during long, dark nights spent in his Alaska cabin. When Nadia asked JLA how he was adjusting to life in NYC after 40 years in the wilderness, he admitted: "I might have to come and go."
Hotel Elefant's Kirsten Volness and Nick Gleason closed out the night with Adams' Red Arc/Blue Veil. Like much of JLA's music, it emerged slowly out of the ether, combining electronics with piano and vibes before building to a piercing shrill that left more than a few audience members covering their ears. The torrent subsided, resolving into a soft tintinnabulation of what sounded like Thai bells or a gamelan.
After the show, the bar opened up while the composers all took turns hitting a piñata, which was eventually broken open by Meet The Composer's producer Alexander Overington. I don't think I've ever seen such a well-heeled crowd get so excited over Smarties.