Three members of Decoda (Carnegie Hall’s first ever affiliate ensemble!) stopped by our studios during their Spring 2016 residency at the University of Washington School of Music to film one of their favorite pieces, György Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Schumann.
Meena Bhasin, viola Carol McGonnell, clarinet Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano
Decoda is a chamber ensemble comprised of virtuoso musicians, entrepreneurs, and passionate advocates of the arts. Based in New York City, they create innovative performances and engaging projects with partners around the world.
And a bit of exciting Decoda-related news: we were ecstatic to discover recently that Decoda cellist Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir has launched new a Seattle-based ensemble with violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, Pacific Northwest Ballet Concertmaster and violist Melia Watras, fellow University of Washington professor. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Frequency!
The number one thing that’s now set and will help in my quest for a focused year is: a place to call home. After almost eight years in NYC (and a few months in Jersey), I’m now living in a small one bedroom in Chelsea. It’s ideal for getting around town, close to all kinds of subway stops, and walking distance from many of my usual hangs. It’s only 20 minutes to visit my sister and her family, and there are great grocery stores about a block away in every direction. Last night I was able to get to Carnegie Hall to see the Philadelphia Orchestra in about 15 minutes.
View out my window… The Metlife clock tower
This is the reason to be in NYC! Especially for someone who’s gone a lot, it’s hard to justify the rent if you’re not taking advantage of the many wonderful goings on. There are so many wonderful people doing exciting things, and this year one of my top priorities will be feeling grounded in the cultural life of this city. Reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen while on the road can be difficult, but I have renewed hope and energy now that I’m in a central location.
Everything else this year flows from that, the physical settling that I can now begin. I still travel a lot, but another goal is to develop a sense of routine. Of course, my idea of routine might be very different from someone else’s – mine revolves around performance dates, writing deadlines, and flight departures. But it’s still an important concept, especially at a time when there are many balls in the air that need to be managed with careful attention.
Some of the results I hope to achieve:
Feeling ahead of the practicing game, enough so that I can do extra projects like Everyday Bach with regularity.
Polishing my existing compositions to satisfaction.
Getting ahead with the projects I’m working on. Examples: this blog, concerts at Town Hall Seattle, other programming.
Engaging more with my communities, especially my music friends and TED friends, so that the relationships I care about most are well tended.
Finding ways to integrate the issues I’m most passionate about into what I do when appropriate. Some of this needs to happen regularly, like continuing to expand diversity in my music making, both in terms of performing partners and in the music itself. Some of it is a little trickier to pin down: how does one do anything to promote campaign finance reform? Some of it is related to relationships with organizations like Street Symphony in Los Angeles, and will happen project by project over time.
More performance opportunities.
The balance of fresh and routine is always important. Last year was fresh-heavy, but this year it’ll be fun to find ways to develop routines without closing the door to great opportunities. You never know what’s coming your way, on the street, or when you glance at your inbox, or even sometimes on stage! I welcome any tips on time management, especially from those who are juggling similarly diverse projects. By March, I hope to be far enough ahead to watch one movie without feeling guilty.
To close today’s thoughts, I want to talk about the zone. We’ve all felt it, I hope. I get the feeling a lot on stage, but it can happen other places as well. There’s a zone when exercising, there’s one for reading (easy to get into), there’s one for writing, and for cooking, etc. There are also zones that are shared, when there’s a mutual connection in chamber music, for example. Or, if you’re lucky, sex.
I’m a zone junkie, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that SOME kind of routine or trigger, whether conscious or not, is very important in getting into that creative or performative zone. We create the habits we live by – I think it was Aristotle that said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” If you’re interested in digging into the zone, I recommend this book which I read more than a decade ago. It resonated with a lot of what I felt to be true but was unable to articulate at the time: The Inner Game of Tennis.
So, 2016’s broad goals: Openness by way of focus and maintenance.
Methods of achieving this: Routine, buffer time, and management of distractions.
We’ll get into some details of the various manifestations of these practices later. For now, I leave you with a playlist and some encouragement to stake your claim on your time, and go for whatever it is you’ve been holding back on.
The Westerlies: Wish The Children Would Come On Home (SI’s Album Review) Third Coast Percussion: The Works For Percussion 2 Jeff Buckley: Grace
Cantaloupe records releases a beautifully mastered recording on September 30, 2014 of Become Ocean, recorded at Benaroya Hall and mastered in NYC. It’s a musical commemorative token of the journey and relationship fostered between all involved.
Seattle Symphony gave the world premiere of this piece in June 2013 at Benaroya Hall with a supporting art installation at Seattle Art Museum featuring Adams’ Veils and Vesper. Adams was unable to attend the premiere due to a medical emergency, but when he heard one of the concert recordings he was “thrilled because it sounded exactly like I imagined it would. I’m a perfectionist and chronic reviser, always tinkering with pieces and always critical of performances, but the orchestra played it flawlessly. That just doesn’t happen with a world premiere of a piece. I think that just speaks to what a perfect musical partnership that was, what a great orchestra you have there in Seattle, and what an extraordinary Music Director.”
The admiration continued when he heard Become Ocean live for the first time in Carnegie Hall, nearly a year after its premiere. “People are looking to Seattle as a model for the new orchestra, for what the symphony orchestra might be in the 21st century and how it might not just survive but thrive and expand the arts world. I was balled over by the sense of commitment and joy coming from that orchestra. These are professional musicians, veteran orchestral musicians who love music and are in no way jaded.”
As for the recording? The ideal scenario for the listener in a performance of this piece is to be surrounded by the orchestra and furthermore have the opportunity to move around within the physical space, if desired. Listening to this recording in surround sound is the next best thing! Adams told me, “In making this recording we took special care to mix in stereo much of the time, so that the experience of hearing this music in stereo is as vivid as possible and gives you a sense of being immersed.”
The title “Become Ocean” comes from the end of a poem written by John Cage in memory of Lou Harrison (below). While this piece is not specifically a direct homage to either composer, John says, “It would be disingenuous of me to say they were not huge influences on my life and my life’s works. I have no idea as to where I would be without John Cage, Lou Harrison, as incredible role models and their incredible music. So in a way, everything that I do is some kind of tribute to Lou and John.”
first the quaLity Of
make it Resemble
a rIver in delta
liStening to it
As if there wasn’t already enough good will shared in this post – there’s more. This recording project was successfully funded with a Pledge Music campaign and 5% of those proceeds go directly to the Ocean Conservancy. How’d that come about? “I’m a hardcore environmentalist!” John says. He is an activist going back to the mid-1970s for the Alaska Coalition and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. These types of issues are at the core of his life. It only seemed appropriate that they might give a little bit back to one of the many organizations trying to clean up and preserve the oceans.
Cheers to the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot, & Cantaloupe Records!
Founded back in 1977, the NYC-based American Composers Orchestra is dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers by way of concerts, commissions, recordings, educational programs, and new music reading sessions. With an esteemed leadership of Derek Bermel, Artistic Director; George Manahan, Music Director; Dennis Russell Davies, Conductor Laureate; and Robert Beaser,Artistic Advisor Laureate this organization is in amazing hands.
Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno is the fifth digital album from ACO. Each piece was commissioned or premiered by ACO for Orchestra Underground, “a series stretching the definition of, and possibilities for the orchestra. The series challenges conventional notions about symphonic music, embracing multidisciplinary and collaborative work, novel instrumental and spatial orientations of musicians, new technologies and multimedia.” Orchestra Underground just celebrated its 10th anniversary season in 2013-14 and what better way to celebrate than with this collection of live recordings by Mason Bates, Edmund Campion, Anna Clyne, Justin Messina, and Neil Rolnick.
This release busts out of the gate with Edmund Campion’s Practice, a full-blasted introduction of orchestral forces, cresting and blending seamlessly into an electronic, computer generated outro in Campion’s cheeky musical response to the age-old question, “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?” Appropriate, seeing as most of the music on this album was recorded in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall which seeks to host the latest contemporary sounds from classical, pop, jazz, and world music artists.
Like all of the music on this CD, the fusion of traditional orchestral instruments with electronic forces is brilliantly executed in Justin Messina’s Abandon. This work is played to an electronic soundtrack Detroit techno from the early ‘90s during which they experienced a musical rebirth in the underground clubs.
Tender Hooks, by Anna Clyne features a pair of laptops operated by Jeremy Flower and Joshue Ott, which transmit and receive live data from the orchestra. Each element of this recording combines standard notation, written instructions and graphic representation. It also pays homage to one of the earliest electronic instruments, the Theremin!
Neil Rolnick collaborates with violinist Todd Reynolds, to present their instrument creation, the iFiddle. As Rolnick puts it this is “not just a concerto for violin, but a concerto for a cyborg violin that has been intimately joined to a computer.” This union definitely displays both elements of a traditional violin, and yes, I think cyborg describes it best. This piece is strikingly accessible, with catchy violin melodies throughout.
The opening of Omnivorous Furniture by Mason Bates has the feel of “do your best robot dance,” inspired by down-tempo electronic music which soon leads way to full on dance party/funkadelic triptastic. Mason Bates uses computer and drum pad with the orchestra in this work heavily influenced with British hip-hop.
If you’re looking for a gateway into electronically inspired orchestral music, this is a great disc! If you’d like to purchase the collection, you can visit iTunes, Amazon, or the American Composers Orchestra.
Seattle composer Angelique Poteat and Seattle Symphony Artistic Director Ludovic Morlot.
As you may know, Seattle Symphony is traveling to New York City later this year. They will perform at Carnegie Hall as well as Le Poisson Rouge, a Lower East Side venue hailed by Seattle Symphony as “hip.” In preparation for these performances, the Seattle Symphony is offering two FREE concerts on the same evening: Friday, May 2. At 7pm, they will perform the program for their Carnegie Hall appearance, and later, at 10pm, they will perform the Poisson Rouge set. (Tickets to both concerts are now unavailable due to high demand.)
One of the most exciting parts of this trip to NYC is the world premiere of up-and-coming Seattle composer Angelique Poteat’s piece Much Difference. This piece will be receiving its world premiere at the 10:00pm performance on May 2nd; that alone is a great reason to score some free tickets for the event. If you don’t know Angelique’s work, check it out. In addition to composing, she performs on clarinet regularly with Seattle Chamber Players and Seattle Modern Orchestra, among others.
Here’s a video of her work being performed by the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra: