Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beats to Brooklyn

This Friday, November 4th is shaping up to be killer time at Brooklyn's Cafe Orwell!  Thanks to Iktus Percussion Quartet for bringing together a very cool and diverse lineup.  The show was even a Time Out New York critic's pick, which is awesome.  For you social media blitzers, here is the Facebook invite.

Here's how it's gonna go down...

Iktus Percussion will open the evening with some serious glockenspiel rockenspiel in the form of Steve Reich's Drumming Part III in addition to an excerpt of Dark Full Ride, a face-melting drum set quartet by Julia Wolfe.

Next will be three short solo sets from myself, bass master general Lisa Dowling, and the inventive french horn/accordion guru Nathan Koci.

Rounding out the evening will be an Iktus/Elevator Rose team up for Philip Glass' entrancing work Music in Similar Motion.

8pm, suggested donation, map.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Color Field Festival Preview

Next week brings the 2nd annual Color Field festival,  organized by a similarly named group of musicians from the contemporary music graduate program at Bowling Green State University. The Color Field Ensemble mounted a new music festival last summer in Omaha and this year are taking their show on the road to Madison, Wisconsin.  As a proud Midwesterner I may be biased, but I'm especially psyched that the ensemble and the festival are targeting that region of the country.  With "contemporary classical music" you've got to build your own audience, and with the exception of emerging new music powerhouse Chicago, the Midwest has plenty of room for ensembles/bands/etc. Even culture capitol Minneapolis lacks a strong, local new music presence (if anyone can beg to differ please clue me in!).  So this year we're taking our talent to Madison to see what sort of audience and support we can drum for the likes of Andriessen, Crumb, Reich, Romitelli, and a bunch more.

The starting lineup for this year looks fierce. In addition to Color Field members Amanda DeBoer (soprano), James Fusik (saxophone), Karl Larson (piano, shred hands), and Jeff Weston (bass), we have a roster of guest artists including myself, Liz Ann (soprano), Molly McLaughlin (flute), Domenica Fossati (flute), Liz Lee (cello), Alejandro Acierto (clarinet), and Derek Johnson (guitar/composer/Meshuggah enthusiast).  Also joining us in Madtown for the affair are two of my favorite NYC composers and dudes in general, Robert Honstein and Ravi Kittappa.

Here's the breakdown of events:

Capitol Square Event
Friday, 8/19. 6:30pm: Capitol Square
Decantations 3, by Ravi Kittappa (premiere)

Concert One
Friday, 8/19. 8:30pm: The Overture Center for the Arts Rotunda Stage
Animans                         Andrew Smith (premiere)
Temazcal                        Javier Alvarez
Trash Tv Trance            Fausto Romitelli
cotrol/option/delete       Marcos Balter
Is It Auburn?                 Robert Honstein

Concert Two
Saturday, 8/20. 8:30pm: The Overture Center for the Arts Rotunda Stage
Duo for Flute and Voice                                   David Grant
Electric Counterpoint 
                                      Steve Reich
Madrigals, Book Two                                       George Crumb
Presence, Consequence & Submissiveness      Edward Hamel (premiere)

Concert Three
Sunday, 8/21. 2:30pm: The Overture Center for the Arts Rotunda Stage
Why are you not answering me?      Robert Honstein
Slapback                                           Michael Fiday
Two Seaming                                    Jane Rigler
Decantations                                    Ravi Kittappa
Workers’ Union                                Louis Andriessen

And YES, we are performing Workers Union in Madison, the epicenter of a recent, epic, and ongoing struggle for teachers' collective bargaining rights. Don't get much better than that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Three Favorite Books About Drumming, Ever.

 I'm no book reviewer, but I've always liked to read and I've always liked to play the drums (well, that came a while after the reading).  Lucky for me, they even have books about drumming, fancy that! With a quick holler to the Drumchattr crew and their summer book club that got my brain on the matter, I give you three drumming books that really brought it, each in their own special way.

The Percussionist's Art, by Steven Schick 

I read this one while working on a master's degree in Austin and was taken by its versatility and usefulness.  The book, written by legendary percussionist Steven Schick, offers intelligent and engaging anecdotes and philosophies about the author's journey into the then mostly uncharted world of "modern percussion" and serves as an invaluable performance resource for those attempting to play (or simply learn about) a number pieces written for and performed by the author.  Oh, and it comes with a CD of Schick rocking a good number of the music discussed at length in the book.  Basically, the guy who wrote the book on modern solo percussion playing has actually written the book on solo percussion playing, and it is equal parts smart, interesting, and enlightening.

Drumming at the Edge of Magic, by Mickey Hart.

This book found me (as some books do) during my freshman year of college, given to me by a hippie friend's hippie father.  Incidentally, those of the second generation are the only hippies my age I can get behind.  I prefer an apple fallen close to the tree to dreadlocked trustafarians in Northface parkas, but I digress, as always.  Mickey Hart is best known for drumming with Grateful Dead but his book, written with ethnomusicologist Jay Stevens, covers a broad range of times and places encompassing the supernatural, ritualistic, militaristic, and rock and roll applications of The Drum.  Above all, Hart expresses a true reverence not only for drumming and rhythm but also a drummer's opportunity to tap into something more powerful than him or herself.  It's his genuine love and appreciation of this stuff that carries the book, and all its winding stories with it.

Who is Bugs Potter?, by Gordon Korman

This book is the one.  It's the reason I started playing the drums, simple as that.  Why, you ask? Please...  It's about a kid named Bugs Potter that goes to Toronto for Canada's version of All State band, sneaks out of his dormitory every night in disguise to get into rock clubs, sits in on the drums with his favorite heavy metal bands, blows peoples minds with his drumming skillz, and becomes a sensation ALL THE WHILE  making sure no one at band camp is the wiser except his "flute guy" roommate who tags along to keep Bugs from getting mobbed by fans.  You try reading this in elementary school and not becoming a drummer. I dare you. You would fail. How this is not required primary school reading I'll never know...
I tell you what, I haven't thought about this book in years, but now that I might explain a lot.

So there you have it, three awesome books about drumming. What are your favorite books about drumming or music, kids?  Read on, readers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Momentary Expanse

Here's a recording I did with Tristan Perich back in January.  Shortest session ever.  40 minutes including setup/teardown. We were like 1-bit ninjas.
Momentary Expanse, for vibraphone and two channel, 1-bit electronics. listen here.

Here I am, photographed by Tristan, about to perform it last July at MassMoCA.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One Minute from SXSW

It was a great night for a Nonclassical SXSW showcase.  Calder Quartet, Sissy Eared Molly Coddles, Juice, DJ Gabriel Prokofiev, Graham Reynolds' Golden Hornet Project--everybody killed.  AND, I was backstage in the Veleveeta Room's tiny hallway when in walked none other than hilarious guy Aziz Ansari, who happened to be making comedy next door.  Our eyes met, I froze, and he was gone.
Anyway, here's a little taste of Graham Reynolds' Blades & Boards from that fateful night (courtesy of NPR's All Songs Considered).  That Bob Boilen is the man.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SXSW in a Nutshell

Yup, this about sums it up.
                                                         photo: stolen from Chris McConnel's Facebook page
A guy in some weird scoopy tank top playing guitar in a parking lot in the afternoon for three entirely disinterested people drinking beer in appropriate garb. Tiger shirt? Got that. Totally bored? Check  Extra Austin-points for 3 out of 3 audience members wearing cowboy boots.   
More SXSW-related hijinks to follow.

Sweet beard, Arvo Pärt

                                                        He's ready for SXSW, are you?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

John Luther Adams: Inuksuit at the Armory

Three weeks ago I had the chance to perform Alaskan composer John Luther Adams’s expansive work Inuksuit.  On its own, the piece provided the final concert for the weeklong Tune-in festival curated by eighth blackbird and held at the cavernous and historic Park Avenue Armory.  It was my second time playing the piece, having performed in it Texas last April.  Doug Perkins flexed his considerable organizational muscle to oversee both performances.  For this, the New York premiere, I joined an ensemble of 72 percussionists from around the country and a complement of 6 piccolo players (can’t leave them out!).  Doug handpicked a crack team that proved to be a percussive super group with plenty of serious ringers.  Admittedly, I was a little star struck playing alongside the likes of Steve Schick, Jan Williams, and eighth blackbird.  Also representing were So Percussion, Mantra Percussion, red fish blue fish, students from the Hartt School, Peabody, Stonybrook, Yale, and many more.  From the first moment of the rehearsal process (a meeting to discuss the events and flow of the piece) it was clear I was at a large gathering of really sharp drummers.  It was the ultimate drum circle.

What resulted was a realization of Adams’ hour plus score that unfolded in an organic, sensitive, and mature manner shocking for an unconducted band of that size.  More akin to a living organism than a percussion orchestra, we listened patiently, played our notes, and took gradual cues to slowly wade through the music.  Even better than being a part of this uncommon experience was that around 1,200 people showed up to hear this massive exploration of sounds with all its wailing sirens, crashing cymbals and gongs, pummeling of drums, stone rubbing, whistle tube whirling, and conch shell horn blasts.  People came out for this thing and it was well received.  It also garnered some really nice press, further acknowledging the Herculean effort invested for it to be presented.
Here’s the New York Times review and a video excerpt that provides an idea of the spatial arrangement of the players and the controlled cacophony happening under a very large roof.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate

Everyone knows that the internet is the rudest place on earth.  Anyone can say anything to anyone while remaining unidentified (and often spineless).  So, January's award for fighting anonymous jerkdom goes to Adam Sliwinski of So Percussion.  When one of my go-to blogs for music (ok, mostly for free metal downloads), Brooklyn Vegan, posted a somewhat misinformed but honest review of So's recent concert/collaboration with Dan Deacon at Merkin Hall as a part of the ongoing Ecstatic Music festival things got a little dumb in the comments section.  And by a little dumb, I mean Youtube level.  Adam responded in the comments thread with a well reasoned (and well written) rebuttal to the covert assailants.  At first I thought "oh no dude, don't even dignify these clowns with a response," but shortly thereafter the comments became suddenly civil and thoughtful.  Well, mostly.  
So, good on you, Adam!  I think we can all agree that if you're going to talk shit, say it to our collective faces.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

winter preview...

As this particularly snowy winter drags on, here's a couple of fun things to look forward to.

The Gershwin Presents 
Gershwin Hotel: Thursday, January 20th @8pm

This show features a set of acoustic and electro-acoustic solo percussion music as part of a new and exciting concert series by the Gershwin Hotel and curated by Vicky Chow.

The program will include:

The Anvil Chorus by David Lang
Composed in 1991 for God of Percussion on Earth Steven Schick, this demanding piece invokes the sounds of many blacksmiths working at a single anvil and the resulting rhythmic (and melodic!) patterns inherent in their trade.

A Watched Pot by Steven Snowden
Scored for a tea kettle, mixing bowls, and electronics, A Watched Pot explores the sonic possibilities of some everyday objects.  Coupled with a complex electronic counterpart, these repurposed kitchenwares set the stage for a dream within the mundane.

Ritual by Daniel Wohl
Ritual, for solo vibraphone, stands as a refuge of quiet and serenity in a noisy, dense world populated with noisier, denser percussion music.

Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra by Alvin Lucier
In this work of near stasis, the oft underestimated triangle is given a chance to show off its full timbral spectrum.  Aided by amplification, the instrument's resonance and overtones are slowly manipulated over time brushing the border between music and sound art.

Temazcal by Javier Alvarez
The title is an Aztec word for "water that burns" and this piece for solo maracas and electronics takes the folkloric Joropo traditions of Venezuela on a dark and twisted ride.

Momentary Expanse by Tristan Perich
Local composer, visual artist, and gadgetrist Tristan Perich is at the height of his powers following the release of his acclaimed 1-Bit Symphony.  Where his symphony is highly active and incessant, Momentary Expanse utilizes the same technology paired with a vibraphone to create a feeling of openness and suspension of time.

The cost is $10, and $5 for students.
map here.

Tune-in Music Festival: Inuksuit 
Park Avenue Armory: Sunday, Feb. 20@ 4pm

The Tune-in Music Festival is curated by eighth blackbird.  This is reason enough for discerning music fans to take note, but more details are in order!  The festival runs from February 16th-20th and includes performances by new music luminaries eighth blackbird, red fish blue fish, Steve Schick, Newspeak, Sympho, Argento Chamber Orchestra, among others.  The festival closes with a performance of John Luther Adams' hour-plus long Inuksuit for 9 to 99 percussionists.  Last Spring, I had the opportunity to perform this piece with a full complement of 99 drummers dispersed throughout the central Texas woods of Round Top'sFestival Hill.  It was wild, there are videos.
For the New York premiere, the vault of the sky will be replaced with the soaring ceiling of the Park Avenue Armory and its 38,000 square feet will be filled with 72 musicians and their drums, gongs, horns, conch shells, toy pianos, etc.
Big thanks to Doug Perkins who organized both the TX and upcoming NY performances of this massive-scale work.