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Preview: Big Ears Festival in Knoxville

Big-ears-2015-black-955x500
I've hinted at this in some previous posts, but I'll be headed down to Knoxville, TN this weekend for the 4th edition of Big Ears Festival, which Rolling Stone has called "the classiest, most diverse festival in the country.” With good reason: encompassing everything from experimental and new music, to industrial electronica and indie rock, the festival is the brainchild of veteran Knoxville promoter Ashley Capps, best known as the driving force behind Bonnaroo and the Forecastle Festival.

This year, the artists in residence are the Kronos Quartet, who will be playing no fewer than six concerts with everyone from Wu Man and Laurie Anderson, to Bryce Dessner and Nels Cline. And, if that's not enough to get you going, there's tUnE-yArDs, Ben Frost, The Bad Plus, Bil Frisell...For fuck's sake, they're even flying in Terry Riley to jam with his son Gyan and Tracy Silverman. Wow.

Check back here and @feastofmusic for updates throughout the weekend.


Tristan Perich's Parallels with Meehan/Perkins Duo

Meehan/Perkins DuoI first heard Doug Perkins and Todd Meehan - otherwise known as the Meehan/Perkins Duo - perform Tristan Perich's Parallels at MoMA in 2013, as part of MoMA's Soundings exhibition. The performance, which was held outdoors in the Summergarden, combined tuned triangles, hi-hats and 1-bit electronics in an ecstatic, trance-inducing swirl of sound. 

Over the past year and a half, the Meehan/Perkins duo has performed Parallels multiple times, refining their technique and honing their chops. They performed it again last night at Gowanus' Sky Gallery to celebrate the CD release of Parallels on the Physical Editions imprint, which includes a fold-up poster of the complete score. (Three additional recordings are set to be released later this year.)

In contrast to the MoMA event, last night's performance provided a more concentrated listening experience. For the first 20 minutes, the mix of triangles and electronics produced a shimmering, ethereal glow. Then, suddenly, the 1 bit music erupted with a series of quick pulses that made you sit straight up in your seat. The music steadily grew more complex from there, with Meehan and Perkins showing incredible dexterity as they kept pace with the electronics, finally ending after 45 minutes of thrilling, bewildering sound.

More pics on the photo page


Ear Heart Music: Arkora and Duo Scorpio at Roulette

Arkora, RouletteAbove, members of Arkora performing Toronto-based composer Benton Roark's Songs from the Rainshadow's Edge for soprano, narrator and chamber ensemble last night at Roulette, part of this year's ongoing Ear Heart Music series. Opening was Duo Scorpio (harpists Kathryn Andrews and Kristi Shade), playing music they've commissioned from Andy Akiho (Two Bridges) and Nico Muhly (Fast Dances), along with Toru Takemitsu's rarely performed Bryce, featuring EHM director Amelia Lukas on flute. 

The Ear Heart Music Series will close out the season - and its 6 year run - at Roulette on May 19 with a blockbuster show featuring both ICE and JACK Quartet. Tickets and info on the Ear Heart Music website

More pics on the photo page


Preview: John Adams' "Scheherazade.2" at the NY Philharmonic

Leila Josefowicz and John Adams
If what I heard Monday night at the David Rubinstein Atrium is to be believed, everyone needs to run out and pick up a ticket for one of the NY Phil's subscription concerts this week. Because, after a somewhat pedestrian all-Russian first half, Alan Gilbert will lead the Phil in the world premiere of John AdamsScheherezade.2 with violinist Leila Josefowicz, a longtime proponent of Adams's music. The 45 minute work, which Adams calls "a dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra," is significantly larger in scope than either of Adams' previous works for violin and orchestra: the Violin Concerto (1993) and The Dharma at Big Sur (2oo3). Indeed, the work is so big, it will take up the entire second half of the program.

"You have to be very, very prestigious," Adams writes in the program notes, "like Beethoven's Emperor concerto or a Brahms piano concerto to take over the larger spot in the program. But, that's what I wanted to write."

Inspired by the classic tale of the Persian queen who saves her life by telling her murderous king one story each night for 1,000 nights - the ".2" refers to Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic poem of the same name - Adams spoke about wanting to illuminate the darker, more sinister aspects of the story, in which he sees modern-day parallels in the way women are abused and oppressed around the world, particularly in the Middle East. Adams sent his first draft to Josefowicz on New Year's Day 2013, and the two have been working on it together ever since. "Collaboration," Adams said, "is the cruelest thing two people can do to each other, outside a double axe murder-suicide."

Josefowicz - who, remarkably, says that she's memorized her solo part - said that Scheherezade.2 is "such a big journey, such a huge range of emotions to try to pull off. I will never see music quite the same way again." (Josefowicz opened Monday's event with a typically tight performance of Adams' Road Movies with pianist John Novacek). For someone who has already contributed more to the modern orchestral canon than almost any other living composer, this sounds as if it might just be Adams' ultimate achievement.

More pics from Monday's discussion here. Tickets and info on this week's concerts - which take place at Avery Fisher Hall tomorrow, Friday and Saturday - here.