Monday, April 28, 2014

A point of view on Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra

A point of view on Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra
The Concerto for Orchestra is a five movement orchestral composition written by Bela Bartok in 1943. This piece is one of his best known works. In it one can see many aspects of his musical style and compositional techniques.
This piece has an arched form and is symmetrical. Symmetrical structure is featured often in Bartok’s music. It has five movements. The whole piece uses two main motives. Bartok shows them in the very beginning of the piece, one is the ascending fourth, the other is the conjunct motion of the second. The first, third, and final movements are the supporting movements, while the second and fourth movements are episodes of folk music. The third movement’s form mirrors the form of the entire piece: A-B-C-B-A. Therefore, we can find the similar elements of musical images or moods between the second and fourth movements, or the first and fifth movement. For example, in the fifth movement, measure 5-42, the chords played by string pizzicato part are from the intro of first movement. Bartok alters the horizontal fourths to vertical fourths changing the the main motif from melodic to harmonic. The rhythm in Measures 44-46 is the same as the bassoon melody from the second movement; In measures 161-187, the most important pitches are shaped from the first movement’s tone element. In measure 188 a folk music melody appears. The musical material and expression has the same sense and feeling as the second and fourth movements.
Folk music plays an important role in Bartok’s melodic construction. He has his own spectacular and particular ways to approach. He created something new based on the old. It would be a new type of folk music given a new imprint. The folk melody is like a symbol to represent a kind of spirit of atmosphere, but has a wider and deeper meaning. 
The intervals, chords, modes and tonalities have a special importance in Bartok’s harmonic language. He combines the chromatic and pentatonic scales together. We can hear similar harmonic techniques used by Debussy. Like Debussy, Bartok’s chords are not always defined by their third, which is often replaced by a forth or second. This blurs the modes he uses with a colorful type of harmonic expression.
In Bartok’s instrumentation, we can hear the influence of Ravel’s instrumentation techniques. The significance of timbre has been enhanced, meanwhile, the importance of melody has been reduced. The conversation between different timbers is everywhere.

Bartok did reserve some traditional things in his music like sonata form, traditional harmonic language, and the way to use a few motives to create a whole piece.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Summer Plans, Karr Kamp

This summer I will be attending Gary Karr's Karr Kamp.  Gary Karr is known to be the worlds leading double bass soloist.  He was actually the first bassist to pursue "soloist" as a main career.  His debut was with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.  In June of 2001, Gary played his farewell concert in front of over 800 bassist at the International Society of Bassist convention, which he also founded that organization. I became aware of Gary while studying at The Hartt School, where he taught double bass before my former teacher, Robert Black of Ban on a Can All-stars.  Gary was actually the former teacher of Robert Black when he attended the Hartt School.

This summer I will have the pleasure of studying with Gary for the last time in history, during the last summer of his four week bass intensive camp in Victoria, BC.  The camp is held on the beautiful University of Victoria campus.  Bassist are chosen on a first come first serve basis, and rage in age from 18-97.  There is no audition, but you must have a serious love for the double bass.  Each morning we will have class from 9am-4pm, starting each morning with a 90 min intensive technical double bass work out, in which Gary will instill his approach to the bass in all of us.  The rest of the day will consist of student performances and master class style lessons.  In the afternoon we will all play in the bass ensemble, getting us ready for what has become one of Victoria's most popular events, Basses Loaded!

Review of Basses Loaded  

While we are there, we will also get to explore the many offering of Victoria as well as taking an annual trip to the Butchart Gardens.

This is truly going to be a life changing experience, and I am excited to hear how my playing is changed by the amazing Gary Karr.

West - Eastern Divan Orchestra

West - Eastern Divan Orchestra 

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a youth orchestra, ages range from 15-35, in which players from both Israeli and Arab nations come together to form a very interesting human project.  In 1999, Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said had the idea to create the orchestra.  The orchestra would and still does rehears outside of Israel and Palestine in places such as Germany and now Spain.  

This orchestra is all about different people of different cultures coming together in this sort of human project of music.  The players have a strong curiosity to meet each other while putting all politics aside. They listen to each other and search for a strong musical consensus.  Obviously, they players do have heated discussions about their political views and over who is entitled to live on the holy land, but one thing they all do agree on is that military action is not a solution.  This isn't a fight between two nations, it's a fight between two peoples who are deeply convinced about their own views.

So, what an interesting set up for a great orchestra, two kinds of people that hate one another, but can get together in an exclusive musical way and create amazing music.  As the players accept these differences and they put compromises behind them,  An orchestra gives them the right all together, as a unit to create together.  This orchestra isn't quite the emblem of peace, nor do they strive to ever get along, but rather it is an example of how we can get along.  The two sides are actively disagreeing and hating one another, but not killing each other.  This human orchestral experiment shows how two opposite sides can cope with one another.

I cannot imagine disagreeing with some of my ensemble members on that deep of a political level, whereas our peoples are killing each other the same time we are rehearsing Beethoven.  This is a great step towards human acceptance, not to much compromise, but acceptance.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Torelli, Lalo, Menuhin - April 22 Anniversaries

On April 22 the musical world commemorates anniversaries of several important figures in the history of Western music. All of them are indeed worth of mentioning. Encyclopedic entry on important events of this day informs us that exactly 356 year ago an Italian composer of late  Baroque Giuseppe Torelli was born in Verona. Torelli is known predominantly for his contributions to the development of concerto grosso and for  his pieces for string and brass instruments. Another composer who celebrates his anniversary today is Edouard Lalo. Edouard Lalo was an important French romantic composer. His most famous work is Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra. The third internationally known and recognized musician with connection to today's date is the US born violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. He was born April 22 1916 in New York, two years before the end of the first world war. After the war Menuhin went to study in Europe and became one of the most important and praised violinists of the century. In 1983 he founded the renowned Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for young violinists. He was a highly regarded teacher as well.

John Luther Adams Wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. And as the polar ice melts and the sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that, once again, we may quite literally become ocean.

John Luther Adams
The 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on April 14th, and John Luther Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his piece Become Ocean, a haunting post-minimalist evocation of the surging tide and the relentless threat of global warming-induced rising sea waters. The other John Adams – of Nixon in China fame – was nominated for his oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a depiction of the last period of Jesus’ life with intriguing orchestration carrying the impassioned music, “sometimes forceful, sometimes lyrical.” The final nominated piece was Invisible Cities by Christopher Cerrone, an opera based on Italo Calvino’s novelization of Marco Polo delighting Kublai Khan with stories of legendary cities.

Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and premiered in 2013. It contains a largely diatonic harmonic framework with a constant, subtly driving rhythm. The piece peaks and ebbs like the endless ocean. The ensemble, broken into three small orchestras playing different music, coalesces at crucial moments for climactic effect. Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, notes that the beauty of Become Ocean comes not from demonstrating a complex form, but from creating a sonic landscape through which to wander. The listener becomes part of nature and disappears into the seascape created by the piece.

Adams states, “My hope is that the music creates a strange, beautiful, overwhelming – sometimes even frightening – landscape, and invites you to get lost in it.” His music is largely inspired by the landscapes in Alaska, where he resides. At the premiere, audience members wrote notes to the composer such as “The brass led me through the ocean like a giant whale, lumbering and determined,” and “To be at a world premier is a ‘divine encounter.’” What little I could glean from the bits posted online confirms these observations. I am glad the prize selection committee chose a piece with a social message, though I hope it stands on its own just as a piece of music. The Seattle Symphony performs in Carnegie hall on May 6, and I plan to be in the audience to here the now Pulitzer-winning work.

Learn more:
NPR's Tom Huizenga interviews John Luther Adams
The Seattle Symphony explores Become Ocean (YouTube)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vocalist in Boston Celebrity Series

Boston’s Celebrity Series is devoted to bringing the world’s classical performances to Boston audiencesThis season, they are planning to embrace a new generation of artists on the stage.

On April 17, the series held the Tenor Nicholas Phans’ performance in his first Celebrity Series recital.  Having graduated from the University of Michigan, Mr. Phan is the 2012 recipient of the Paul C Boylan Distinguished Alumni award.  He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aspen music Festival and school.  His pianist Myra Huang is also an experienced collaborator in the field of vocal accompaniment.  She has served on the music staffs of the Washington National Opera and the New York Opera.

The two artists brought a wonderful night to the audience who love art song.   Their successful cooperation to illuminate the lyrics was intoxicating to the audience as they moved through their music.   As one style of music performance, singing conveys simple and lasting information via the artist’s personal body.  It not only gives people information about the songs themselves, but also combines the musicianship between the musician and our future community.  Vocal music comes close to people’s heart.  It, like all music, contributes to the cohesion of society; but with words and lyrics it is sometimes more apt to. 

Chinese Composer Guo Wenjing and his Operas

Guo Wenjing is a contemporary Chinese composer. Unlike many Chinese composers who have studied and lived in other countries, he has only studied in Beijing. He has lived and worked in his home country for nearly his entire life with the exception of a short period of time living in New York. However, over the years he has had many works commissioned around the world and left a shining footprint on the international stage. He and his music have appeared at the Beijing Music Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Holland Music Festival, New York Lincoln Center Festival, Paris Autumn Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Almeida Theatre (London), Frankfurt Opera (Germany), Konzerthaus Berlin (Germany), Kennedy Center (Washington), as well as Turin, Warsaw, etc. In addition, he is contracted by CASA RICORDI-BMG and the first composer to be contracted by People’s Music Publishing House. His music has been given high praise both at home and abroad by The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, People’s Music, etc.1
Guo Wenjing’s music is filled with the spirit of humanism and has many oriental features.
His chamber opera Wolf Cub Village (1994) was created based on Luxun’s Chinese literary work Diary of a Madman. This opera’s libretto, written in Chinese, exaggerated the features of Mandarin pronunciation. This exaggerated pronunciation expresses the bleak mood and recalcitrant spirit of the opera quite vividly, strongly, and impressively. Le Monde compared his “masterpiece of madness” to Berg’s Wozzeck and Shostakovich’s The Nose.2
The opera, Night Banquet, based on the story written by Zou Jingzhi, a Chinese poet. The author was inspired by Night Revels of Han Xizai, a court figure painting of the Southern Tang Dynasty. In the opera, Guo Wenjing has combined features of Italian opera and characteristics of ancient Chinese humanities perfectly. It has been performed in China, Europe, Russia, and the United States.
In the opera, Feng Yi Ting, Guo Wenjing added several Chinese traditional instruments and the elements from Jing opera and Chuan opera into the western orchestra and opera format. The Charleston Post and Courier reviewed that “Feng Yi Ting plays like a traditional Chinese theater piece. On one level, that is, because on another very interesting level, it offers a deeper, poignant perspective on tradition vs. transition, on cross-pollination of cultures, on the age of globalization itself.”3 In the article “All the World On a Stage In America” by The New York Times, the opera was described as using
“both Chinese and Western approaches to timbre, melody and hormone, oscillating between the styles and combining them with dazzling fluidity. ...”4
His other opera works, Poet Li Bai, Mu Guiying, and Hua Mulan, also use Mandarin librettos and focus on exploring the possibility and potential of combining Chinese art and Western opera.

1 Chinaculture, Guo Wenjing.
2 Chinaculture, Guo Wenjing.
3 The Post And Courier, Review: ‘Feng Yi Ting’ a wonder of culture, sound and story.

4 The New York Times, All the World On a Stage In America.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Questions for Dean Chin, April 22

Comment here with questions for Dean Chin. He visits us again on April 22.

Ostrava Days of New Music

by Lukáš Olejník

Ostrava Days of New Music is a three week long exposition of contemporary classical music that takes place biannually in the city of Ostrava, The Czech Republic. The last season (2013) ran from August 12 to August 31, 2013.  The event is considered to be one of the largest of its type in the world. 

Ostrava Days exposition is organized by the Ostrava Center for New Music  (OCNM), an organization founded in 2000 by a Czech composer living in New York Petr Kotík. The institution was established solely for the purpose of organizing Ostrava Days, an event that consists of two parts - summer institute and festival. 

The mission of the institute as well as of the festival is described by its founded Petr Kotík as follows. Ostrava Days "give composers, musicians and musicologists an opportunity to work with leading representatives of contemporary music". It is " a working and learning environment focused on orchestral composition". 

The exposition regularly lasts for three weeks August. Two weeks  are devoted to the institute which events are open to official participants only. Over the course of these two weeks the participating composers, musicians and musicologists interact with each other by means of  attending a number of lectures, seminars, and presentations. They also compose and practice pieces to be presented during the final week of the forum.  The exposition opens to the public during its third week's festival. The festival offers a large number of concerts which programs selected compositions by resident students, lectors, guests, and others. An American music publicist Frank Kuznik on his blog named Cultured Cleveland described Ostrava Days as "gathering of students, players and composers modeled after Darmstadt" (Kuznik). 

Attendance of the institute as well as the festival is international and in the past included artists from Europe, Norths and South America, Asia and Australia. Students are chosen based on evaluation of no more than three scores and audio samples submitted to the assembly of lectors for each given year.  Approximately 35 students are accepted for a season. 

Resident orchestras and ensembles of Ostrava Days are Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra (Ostrava), Ostravská banda (international chamber ensemble), Canticum Ostrava (choir), and Krulik Quartet (string quartet). 

The dramaturgy of the festival strives to achieve an originality and dissociation from an usual and a mainstream type of programing often observed in the program brochures of other major festivals of classical music in The Czech Republic. Classics of new music are systematically offered along the side of numerous premieres of new works. Festival programs has included major works by composers such as: Morton Feldman, John Cage, Earle Brown, Luigi Nono, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Ligeti, Edgard Varese, Galina Ustwolskaja, Christian Wolff, Alvin Lucier, Petr Kotík, Martin Smolka, Phil Niblock, Elliot Sharp, Bernard Lang, Rebecca Sauders, Kaija Saariaho, and many others. 

All the event of the Ostrava Days exposition take place in these locations in the city of Ostrava, The Czech Republic: Philharmonic Hall of the City of Ostrava, Janáček Conservatory Ostrava, Multifunctional Auditorium GONG, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, Coal Mine Michal, St. Wenceslas Church, Parník Club, Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava. 

Anecdotes and Opinions 2

Click here for the first Anecdotes and Opinions post

"Do people still write classical music?"

This was the question that I saw in one of the comments in the infamous article of Slate that stated a pessimistic view of the future of classical music in America. It was unfortunate to see a question such as this, for many professional and student composers of classical music exist throughout the world, but I assumed that the question was asked by a person who was derisive toward classical music in general.

I then went to a retreat last weekend, where someone asked me this exact question. This person, however, was planning to study music at Berklee College of Music as a drummer; and the question was not that of a derisive tone but that of genuine curiosity.

I then realized that perhaps the reason why this question circulates despite the existence of living composers has to do with a lack of promotion. Classical music in general has been promoted in cities and surburbs by way of having flash mobs of musicians play well-known classical music in various public venues, but, to my knowledge, the musicians have not actively performed contemporary music during those mob sessions. It might be a stretch to play serialist music during those sessions, but what would happen if the musicians played more "audience-friendly" music of Theofanidis or John Adams? Would passersby hate it? Would they find out more about contemporary classical music composers that they did not know existed? Would they like to know more?

Music and Disability

While I was in Michigan, Dame Evelyn Glennie came to the school to promote her album called Sugar Factory, which contained music that was recorded during the filming of the documentary called Touch the Sound in which she was featured. After the viewing of the documentary and her brief performance on a snare drum, the venue opened the stage to the audience for a Q&A session.

A person on a wheelchair took the microphone for his question. His words were mostly unintelligible, but his interpreter has translated the question thus:  "Has there been any progress in terms of writing music specifically for the disabled?" The question had to do with whether composers wrote music that represented the disabled, music that the disabled could perform, and music that the disabled could comprehend and enjoy. I believe that this person viewed that cognitive perception of mentally disabled people are different from that of people who are less disabled (I think I believe that view, also, although I do not know much about music cognition to support my view).

Dame Glennie could not answer this question. She finally came up with an honest answer:  she didn't know whether there has been music that was written to serve the purposes that the questioner laid out.

It would certainly be interesting (and perhaps imperative, also) to find out more about different abilities of performance and cognition and to write music that actively catered to these abilities.

Saxophone and electronics

During the past two months in Boston, two concerts involving Saxophone and electronics have been given. The crossover cooperation gave the audiences more inspiration about the sounds existence around in our life.

First one was at NEC Jordan Hall, Composer Jeremy Van Buskirk brought to audiences his world premiere of A sign Felt across the Earth, which was commissioned by Saxophonist Ken Radnofsky, professor of saxophone studies at Longy School of Music of Bard College. The interaction between the saxophone and electronics accompaniment were mixed to a brilliant tone around in Concert Hall. During the performance Prof. Radnofsky played with Dr. Van Buskirk who operated the electronic sounds, which included everything from the surge of the tsunami to the bird garden.  Dr. Van Buskirk has been dedicated to electroacoustic music for a long time.  He teaches music theory at the Longy school of Music.  He mostly uses computer engineering techniques to compose the music.

The other one was held at the Boston Conservatory for their ensemble concert series. Guest musicians Dennis Shafer and David Krebs made their “soundpaints” [i]with the Boston Conservatory Saxophone Ensemble.  The electronic sounds used were original recordings from nature.  They used live electronic software to express realistically moving music phrases.  For the audience the sounds of nature, such as flowing water and humming insects, awaken memories of things like a walk through a forest.

Monday, April 14, 2014

American Universities Fair Hosted by the Music and Dance School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague

by Lukáš Olejník

The Music and Dance School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague hosted an event organized by the US Commercial Service at the US embassies in The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, in cooperation with EducationUSA and the Fulbright Commission on April 9th, 2014. During the three hours lasting fair students from all around The Czech Republic had the chance to meet representatives of regionally accredited U.S. institutions of higher education, both undergraduate and graduate, and receive information about issues such as the processes of application, immigration, or educational conventions in The United States. The list of universities that held their presentations at the fair included Bellevue College, Herzing University, New York Film Academy, Northeastern University, Oregon State University, or Washington University in St. Luis among others.

The fair took place on the premises of the Music and Dance School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (HAMU). The fair’s hosting institution was thus presented with a great opportunity to appear in the international context of the liberal arts education, beyond the scope of the music education only, by the side of large research universities from abroad.

New vs. Ancient

In researching traditional  ancient Chinese music I have learned more about the influence of musical evolution through time. My conclusion is that change or evolution sometimes can give many different feelings for the same piece. One piece could produce many wonderful artworks.

However, after the research, I have to ask myself a questions. What is the better way to approach traditional music—to promote it or preserve it?

I would like to give an example. There is a Chinese traditional  piece called “Mei Hua San Nong" or “Three stanzas of Plum-blossoms”.

The plum tree and plum blossom have great significance in Chinese culture, and to Chinese literature in particular. The plum tree, its blossoms, and fruit symbolize strength and longevity; but it also represents creative power, fertility and female beauty. Paintings often show the scholar and his qin near one or more plum trees, or a vase with plum blossoms on his qin table. Plum blossoms are seen as a symbol of winter and a harbinger of spring. The blossoms are so beloved because they are viewed as blooming most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, exuding an ethereal elegance, and their fragrance is noted to subtly pervade the air even at the coldest times of the year. Therefore the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, but also beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life.
“Mei Hua San Nong” is one of the most popular of all qin melodies. It was first collected in 1425 in the Shen Qi Mi Pu, a collection of ancient Chinese music. The qin is a Chinese traditional instrument and is called the “father of Chinese instruments.” There are many versions of this melody. The beginnings are always quite similar, but the latter parts are different.

There are two opposing views on how to approach this piece. Many qin performers believe that it should be maintained and reverted to the original concept. They think the melody is like a symbol to represent a kind of spirit or atmosphere. Therefore, the piece should stand with its original look and natural features.

However, many musicians who have sought to develop and promote the traditional style support a different point of view. They do not oppose the retention of the original appearance of the piece. They just hope to create something new based on the old. It would be a new “ancient art” given a new imprint of our time. Maybe in future, when people look back on the history of this piece they could understand more about it and us.

It is hard to judge which method could be more beneficial for ancient art. At least until now we have enjoyed both advantages of them.

Classical's Top "200"

A while back, I made a post about Kickass Classical's Top 100 that featured the 100 most well-known pieces of classical music. While the list does seem fairly comprehensive, some might be disappointed that the list lacks some well-known composers such as Shostakovitch or Sibelius. Luckily, Kickass Classical has since released a second list entitled their Top 200. The title is somewhat misleading because the Top 200 is not a list of the second hundred most well-known pieces of classical music. Kickass Classical makes the distinction clearer, "The Kickass Classical Top 100 features Classical Music that has transcended the genre - pieces made famous outside the Classical Music world. The Kickass Classical Top 200 feature famous Classical Music standards - the most familiar tunes inside the genre." It is in this list that Shostakovitch, Vaughn Williams, Smetana, Sibelius, and Stravinsky all make appearances. Just like the Top 100, Kickass Classical ranks them in order of their popularity based on radio play, sales, concerts, and use in other media. The list also includes the composer, composition date, associating "keywords," and a small sample of each piece. These pieces are ranked 101-200 to relate to their Top 100 list.

While the list is interesting to look at, I find that its name of "Top 200" to be slightly inappropriate. When Kickass Classical first published this particular list, I thought it was a continuation of their original 100 but was surprised to see that I was wrong. While it is nice to see what music is popular within the classical genre, I was hoping to see what other pieces had made it outside the classical world. Regardless, it is always fun to test myself and see which pieces I can identify and which ones I cannot.

Classical's Top 100

Kickass Classical

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 505: New Mexico's Premier A Cappella Youth Chorus

A cappella singing encompasses a number of styles, including:
  • Collegiate a cappella – primarily arrangements of pop tunes with beatbox percussion and vocal sounds imitating instruments.
  • Choral – the “art music” repertoire originally written or arranged for a cappella chorus, including early music.
  • Barbershop – the American style featuring 4-part homophony and rubato rhythms that emphasizes the “ringing” of overtones in justly-tuned consonant chords.
These styles all convey characteristic and seemingly disjunct images – the college glee club, the robed choir singing in a church, a quartet of elderly men wearing boater hats – but Albuquerque, New Mexico’s 505 Chorus combines all three in an effort to introduce a cappella singing to a new generation of young male singers (The 505’s sister group OnQ provides the same experience for young women).

The 505’s story begins with the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), officially the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (the partnership remains strong: a picture of The 505 is featured on BHS’s homepage as of April). Realizing that barbershop singing was literally dying off, BHS organized the Youth Chorus Festival, allowing choruses from across the globe to compete with sets containing two contestable barbershop arrangements and a third song of any 4-part a cappella style. A group of students at the University of New Mexico formed the 505 Chorus originally to enter the festival, and decided to remain together and sing a repertoire consisting of equal thirds collegiate, choral, and barbershop arrangements. Since that first competition in 2009, the chorus has traveled to every Youth Chorus Festival while presenting a full concert season. Now under Tony Spark’s direction for three years, The 505 is actively recruiting members and selecting repertoire for the fall season and 2015’s Youth Chorus Festival in New Orleans.

I sang with The 505 for two year before moving to Boston. I especially enjoyed the musical excellence of the group and that we sang a wide range of repertoire. A cappella singing provides excellent ear-training, and my experience with The 505 gave me excellent pitch accuracy that I could apply to my studies at the Longy School of Music. This summer, I will become too old to appear in the Youth Chorus Festival, but I look forward to dropping in on the chorus during my trips home and passing on my love of harmony to the next generation of upcoming singers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who is Ilya Goldberg?

"I play violin and make Turkish coffee. Collaborations with other musicians and performers are essential to the creative flow and life of music in my heart. Please send me a message if you feel inspired to create together!"

Welcome to my welcoming of Emancipator's violinist, Ilya Goldberg.  Ilya is originally from Perm, Russia, where he began studying classical music an an early age.  He decided to take an adventure to the United States in 2000, where he his technical ability aloud him to study at The Cleveland Institute of Music.  From here, he went on an international tours, leaving from his home base in Portland, OR.

Mr. Goldberg has also found himself  performing with several American and Russian orchestras and chamber groups, but he isn't well known for this sort of work.  Ilya is best known for his amazing ability to adapt to any genre.  He infuses his classical abilities with modern electronic music.   He has worked closely with groups such as Devotcha, Random Rab, Lynx, Rena Jones, The Human Experience, Jamie Janover, Future Simple Project, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The reason why I wanted to explore more about this collaborative violinist is because I had the pleasure of experiencing his musical self while he was performing with the group Emancipator.  

"Known for its etheric melodies, immaculately smooth samples, and addictive drum beats, Emancipator’s music has captivated a diverse audience across the globe."

To this texture, Ilya adds harmonious swells to the detailed texture.  When describing Emancipators music, I am at a loss for words because of its unique qualities.  In my own words, I might say that emancipator connects with this ethnic part of the human soul, and relaxes the body completely, but still in an energetic way.  Or as Ilya puts it, a creative flow is essential, and making sure that the life of music is always in our hearts.  

Evgeny Kissin: In the Face of Specialization

Last month, pianist Evgeny Kissin has performed a new recital in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the repertoire was filled with rarely performed works by composers of Jewish origin (Moyshe Milner, Alexander Veprik, Alexander Krenin, and Ernest Bloch). Afterwards, he did something that is most likely rarely done in a professional solo recital:  he recited poetry.

The poetry that he recited was in Yiddish, and Kissin recited in this language for two reasons:  the concert was partly produced by Pro Musica Hebraica, "the organization help bring Jewish music to the concert stage"; and Kissin has recently acquired an Israeli citizenship to show publicly that he was an Israeli by race. Being literally vocal about his birthright of a country that has historically been politically and religiously controversial indicates Kissin's braveness and determination concerning his heritage.

I have also mentioned above how this act was rarely done in a professional solo recital. Some performers have explained the repertoire they were to play verbally or have spoken about their political beliefs during their concerts, but those were not a part of performing itself. Kissin has stepped outside the unwritten boundary of specialization and performed a poetry recitation that was, according to the Washington Post article, performed "with the authority and linguistic assurance and expression of someone who has been reciting to crowds all his life..."

It is fortunate as well as remarkable that Kissin has performed admirably both on the piano and with speech, but others can and should do this as well. A recital is performed to show a performer's musical abilities, not merely a technical one. Although some audience members arrive at a concert hall to hear their favorite performers of their chosen instruments, but they listen, above all, for music. Perhaps it might be a good idea to sometimes broaden our area of expertise to give them more than what they expected or paid for.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In just - Spring: An Evening of Poetry and Song

by Lukáš Olejník

WordSong, a Boston-based nonprofit musical organization specialized in performance of newly-commissioned art songs all set to the same text, presented a new program in Somerville's Third Life Studio this past Friday April 4. Audience that gathered in the Union Square location had the unique chance to listen to four songs all composed to the same text of a famous e. e. cummings' poem In just. Composers asked to participate in this particular cummings project were Howard Frazin, Benjamin Pesetsky, Tom Schnauber, and a Longy alumnus Adam Simon. All four composers were present at the concert.

The evening followed the company's an unusual yet very original format.  After a brief introduction of a generic character the composers asked the listeners to consider the text read several times by each of them and "share their points of view on it" in a free discussion led rather by the members of the audience. This introductory phase was followed by performances of the songs, during which listeners wrote down their reactions to the music. Following the brief intermission that succeeded the first round of performances the discussion resumed again this time "based on listener's points of view on the music just heard; listeners, composers, and performers all engage in a conversation about the music, the words, and the interaction between the two" (promotional text of the company). The entire evening closed with an additional set of performances and concluding remarks on how the second hearing of the songs changed perception of the listeners. Intensity of an input from a highly sophisticated intellectual audience during the course of the entire evening was extraordinary. 

Music of this event was performed by a mezzo soprano Ms. Thea Lobo, a marimba player Mr. Brandon Ilaw, and a cellist Mr. Rafael Keizer. The program was made possible by a grant from the Somerville Arts Council as part of the Arts Union Winter Series. 

Rapido! Composition Competition

The Atlanta Chamber Players and the Antnori Foundation have announced their 2014-2015 Rapido! Composition Competition. Rapido! is a 14-day contest that was originally founded back in 2009 to promote new chamber music. This year's contest is to write a 4-6 minute film score based off of one of five different short films. The way that contest works is there will first be registration period beginning on April 28th and continuing until June 2nd at 9:00AM. They have divided the country into five regions: Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast. The competition will allow 100 applicants per region to participate in the contest. Registration will close once 100 applicants are reached for each region. That be The specific instrumentation and form of the pieces will be emailed to all of the composers who are registered on June 9th, and they will be given two weeks to compose their pieces.Of the potential 500 works, 15 semi-finalists (3 per region) will be picked. Each of he semi-finalists will be awarded $500 and their pieces will be performed at concerts in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco in Fall 2014. Out of the 15, 5 finalists will be picked (1 per region). The concert for the finalists will be performed on February 22, 2015 in Atlanta. There will be a $500 "Audience Favorite" prize in which people will go online and vote for their favorite piece. Lastly, there will be one National Winner who will receive a $7500 first price commission to expand their chamber work to 14-18 minutes and it will be premiered around the country by the Atlanta Chamber Players, Boston Musica Viva, Fifth House Ensemble, Voices of Change, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in Fall 2015. They will also receive another commission to write a piece for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to be premiered by January 10th, 2016.

As a composer who has entered numerous composition competitions, it is good to see that this particular contest is not simply composers submitting pieces and hoping for the best. The fact there is a strict timeline for the actual composition of a new piece as well as registration limit on who can actually enter the competition makes this contest particularly unique. This new take on a composition competition makes it seem almost more fun (in my opinion). I will definitely be attempting to enter the contest myself and I look forward to what new music this will inevitably bring with it.


Music is in the air of spring

As the weather warms up, so do the music.  There are chunks of events will showing in the spring around our neighborhood.

The Handel and Haydn Society, one of great artistic group is planning to gives two performances.  One is in a program of works from Mendelsohn’s own personal music library, this concerto will lead by violinist Aisslinn Nosky, performed in Jordan Hall on April 4 and 6.  The other one will performed at Symphony Hall on May 2 and 4, as their seasonal finale, they choose to show one of Handel’s oratorio “Samson”, which tells the story of the biblical strongman whose only weakness was his bodacious hairdo, moreover, the oratorio also reveals his weakness was falling for his wife, who did the haircut of the hair.

Besides, In Longy school Pickman Hall, Boston Musica Viva closes out its season with an excerpt of Brian Robinson’s – “A Field Guide to American Car Alarms”, which we can just imagined, is just how it sounds like. Of course, more natural feelings should be favored in this performance.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

London to Hold Inaugural A Cappella Competition

A cappella singing is a fascinating genre of music. A cappella means “in the style of the church” in Italian, and it harkens back to the earliest forms of western music in medieval Europe, plainchant (of which Gregorian chant is part) and later organum, which were unaccompanied liturgical singing. Yet, a cappella singing can embrace some of the most current trends in music, limited only by the capabilities of the human voice.

St. John’s, Smith Square, originally an Anglican church in London, was firebombed in World War II and left to stand as a ruin with a gaping hole in its roof for over 20 years. It was restored as a concert venue in the 1960s and now, in a nod to the genre’s ecclesiastical roots, is set to host the inaugural London International A Cappella Competition. The competition features groups from the British Isles, Continental Europe, the Scandinavian Peninsula, and the USA. Originally planned to celebrate British composer Sir John Tavener’s 70th Birthday, it was reorganized as a memorial, and features a mixture or Renaissance polyphony and recent compositions. The renowned early music singers The Tallis Scholars open the festival, and Lady Maryanna Tavener presents the awards at its close.

I am happy to see a new competition a cappella singing, though I do not see this inaugural event as much more international than the World Series. I expect in future years that we will see more competitors from outside Europe who will bring their own mixture of old music and new music to this exciting competition.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Possible Wikipedia articles (TBC)

1. The influence of Avant-garde musicians in China

2. Classical musicians encounter with electronic music

3. The importance of culture heritage in music performance

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Classical Music for Smartphones: Composition, Part II

(Continued from Part I)

Music notation software has long been the Holy Grail for classical music app developers. Over the last five years, they have achieved considerable progress devising and implementing new interface paradigms apart from the traditional menus and buttons approach of PC software. An excellent example is Symphony Pro for iPad, by Xenon Labs ( It features a simplified interface with a bar of playback controls and simple score setup features along the top, and a bar of icons representing the current class of music symbols (notes, rest, articulations, dynamics, etc.) along the left; the rest of the screen displays the score. Users enter notes by tapping directly on the score, using a virtual keyboard or fretboard, or by connecting to a MIDI keyboard with an adapter. The user can export the score in a variety of formats, including MIDI, PDF, and MusicXML (a text format for exchanging notation between programs), using social media, iTunes File Sharing, or e-mail. While the iPad’s screen size still makes it unsuitable for large orchestral scores, I could envision using Symphony Pro for flushing out individual parts which are then exported to MusicXML and imported into PC notation software.

The intersection of technology and music has always been a dicey subject for me, especially where composition is concerned. Technology provides the potential for new timbral, sonoral, and textural possibilities that were impossible without it, but the reliance on technology can box composers in and prevent them developing well-formed ideas in ways possible with traditional notation (or no notation at all). Inexperienced composers often use the playback function on their notation software to guess and check their ideas, but this can result in using the software as a crutch. Notation apps on tablets can be particularly limiting because they have less functionality than their desktop counterparts.

I think it is better to develop the internal ear as much as possible so that ideas can be conceived as complete units to be dictated on paper or entered with into a computer. Aural feedback, whether from a piano or multi-track software, is always valuable, but it should evolve from the primary source of inspiration to a role subservient to it. Ideas should be limited only by what it feasible to communicate to performers, not what a particular notation program can represent out of the box. Then, technology can become a powerful extension of the mind, and apps such as Pianist Pro and Symphony Pro can be a powerful addition to the composer’s toolbox.

Check out all the articles in the Classical Music for Smartphones Series:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Classical Music in Tv ads
With the development of media technology, groups of broadcasting enterprises have been calling the vacant bids for their commercial operation. Among those commercial activities,the television advertisement becomes to the majority part in their marketing competition. A good television advertisement is not only gives the viewer information about specific goods in the popularity of current market, but also magnify the sentient of whatever is being sold. Conspicuously, the television advertisers normally use the classical music along with their commercial advertisements, just like the same way they use the other variety of background music.
Once is a while, we are not easy to find the name of piece that just showed in a short-advertisement between two TV programs, but it’s so impressive to let us humming in our voice and catch the right title in our brain. The following ads are in which classical music or musicians take a central role in the sales pitch.

The first one is the advertisement of a creative cell phone, made of the wood. Japanese investor takes a nature scene as a main feature in this film, the step by step xylophone ingeniously impressing the Baroque music involved with the forest atmosphere until the wooden ball rolling through the last note, then fell down beside to an exquisite device.

Next one is based on a scientific research, which has been proven and well-known by most of musician. Although the past research has shown that cows produce more milk when stress is reduced by classical music, but it’s still make the audiences feel eyes-opening when we actually see this innovatory approach on the milk-selling business, meanwhile, it is a great effort to promote the culture industry as well as the high quality of graziery.