Review: Society for New Music presents "The Now Generation"
Read the review at The NewsHouse.
Society News, January 2014
The print edition of Society News has been discontinued. You can download the PDF version here.
Two world premieres bring historical resonance to Hendricks Chapel
Read the review at Green Room Reviews.
Society News, August 2013
The print edition of Society News has been discontinued. You can download the PDF version here.
Review of "Serendipity" (Society for New Music, Innova 719)
Serendipity * Society for New Music * INNOVA 719 (2 CDs: 111:52)
SANCHEZ-GUTIERREZ ...[and of course Henry the Horse] Dances the... . RUCHALSKI Winter Light. MELLITS Platter of Discontent. SCHERZINGER Fractured Mirrors. LAMB Subito. MORRIS Society Sound. TRUEMAN Triptick
The pieces were all commissioned by the Society for New Music. Cynthia Johnston Turner conducts three of the works on the album: Robert Morris's Society Sound, Nicolas Scherzinger's Fractured Mirrors, and Marc Mellits's Platter of Discontent. Society Sound is a sextet running some nine minutes and is a sort of "map" of a much larger, 90-minute extravaganza, Sound/Path/Field, a multiensemble work performed both indoors and outdoors "that allows the listener to wander around and experience his music as they please," the conductor told me. "It's not an easy piece ... But, in the end, I came to appreciate it immensely. It's a piece I needed to live with for a while." I agree! On first hearing, I found it opaque; but it does repay persistence.
Fractured Mirrors makes something of a contrast, being energetic and consciously composed to be fun to play. Written for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the piece integrates the five players who pass motifs to each other like a kaleidoscope, as the composer puts it. "Another important element in the piece is the idea of a broken or fractured mirror...," he writes. "I imagined what it would be like to write some music and then reflect a page of that music onto a broken mirror. Music that had initially appeared continuous would now rematerialize in splintered fragments." And so it is, the music being engaging with a convincing conclusion. A PDF file of the score can be downloaded at no cost from the composer's website (scherzimusic.com).
More scherzos in Mellits's Platter of Discontent, for flute, clarinet/bassoon, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. I am usually allergic to whimsically "funny" titles such as those of the six movements of this piece: "Paranoid Cheese," "Freedom of the Eggs," and so on. Nevertheless it is entertaining, offering a variety of moods, from the driving energy of the opening "The Seduction of Brie" (sort of Steve Martland meets Michael Nyman) and "Jello Infusion," to the passionate lyricism of "Paranoid Cheese," an extended violin solo most expressively played by Cristina Buciu, the composer's wife, accompanied by cello and marimba. Something of the opening movement returns in the last, "Freedom of the Eggs," much of it a driving toccata featuring the piano, played with gusto by Steven Heyman.
More amusing titles in Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez's ...[and of course Henry the Horse] Dances the... for piano duo, percussion and string quartet (and a conductor). Judging by the names in the worklist on the composer's website, he is clearly diverted by machines and these four short pieces are largely inspired by whimsical (real) ones: a wobbly robot, an installation of a mechanical mallet which hits a lot of tequila bottles, and so on. Very acutely imagined sound worlds, precisely realized with prominence being given to pianos and tuned percussion.
Edward Ruchalski's Winter Light for clarinet, violin, piano, and percussion is, apart from the instrumentation perhaps, an entirely conventional exploration of some tonal, lyrical themes. In three linked movements, running over 20 minutes, it evokes winter walks...
Bags of energy in Sally Lamb's Subito for piano trio. It bursts in with tremendous verve, and Lamb shows skill in writing music that's genuinely fast (as opposed to being performed quickly). The four sections, fast-slow-fast-slow, with big switches of mood between them, present a variety of material: a collage, as the composer puts it, of popular songs, a bit of Beethoven, her own material, and so on. Saying that it is meant to be spontaneous, as Lamb does, wouldn't cut the mustard if the result felt thrown together, but she gets away with it helped, I am sure, by the conviction of the performance.
Finally, Dan Trueman's Triptick, also for piano trio, plays with the interesting idea of a musical analogy to the homophone. If homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings (e.g., foil, clock, stretch, and so on), is there a musical equivalent? Each of the three movements of Triptick starts identically, but then goes off on its own course under the influence of a pair of words, for example stretch and steel in the second movement. It is an engaging idea...
The recordings include a diverse range of ensembles made up of 20 musicians in total. Some players crop up repeatedly and credit must be given to John Friedrichs, clarinet, Cristina Buciu, violin, David LeDoux, cello, Steven Heyman, piano, and Jennifer Vacanti, percussion, as well as Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor. However, all the players turn in what sound like fine interpretations of the varied repertoire and there is much to be enjoyed on this aptly titled disc.
Jeremy Marchant -- excerpts from this article which originally appeared in Issue 36:4 (Mar/Apr 2013) of Fanfare Magazine.
2013 Brian M. Israel Prize Winners Announced
The judges have announced the winners of the 2013 Brian M. Israel Prize for the Society for New Music and the New York Federation of Music Clubs. The winner of the Society's $750 Israel prize is Juan Pablo Contreras for his work Silencio en Juarez for violin, clarinet, cello and piano. Coincidentally in May that work also won the 2013 William Schuman Award, the highest award among BMI Prizes for young composers. Mr. Contreras studies privately in New York City with Nils Vigeland. Contreras was born in 1987 in Guadalajara, Mexico. His music combines elements of Mexican folk music with avant-garde trends of classical contemporary music. He received his BFA in composition from the California Institute of the Arts and his Master in Music degree in composition from the Manhattan School of Music. His most influential teachers include Nils Vigeland, Daniel Catán, and Richard Danielpour.
The New York Federation of Music Clubs Israel Prize was awarded to Amit Gilutz for The Cat Saved My Life for flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, mezzo-soprano, violin, and cello. Mr. Gilutz, born in 1983, studied composition in Jerusalem, Ithaca, and New York City. His music is influenced by working electroacoustic mediums as well as improvisation. Mr. Gilutz was an honorable mention in last year's Israel competition and is completing doctoral studies in composition at Cornell University.
Honorable Mentions were awarded to Ross Scott Griffey, b. 1990, for Sextet; Nathan Heidelberger, b. 1987, for Descriptions of the Moon, and Eric Allen, b. 1986, for New Cheese. Griffey is earning his graduate degree at Juilliard; Heidelberger is earning his graduate degree at the University at Buffalo, and Allen, a cellist/composer from Portland, OR, who earned his MM at Indiana University, currently lives in Brooklyn.
There were 31 submissions this year from New York City, Ithaca, Rochester, Endicott, Buffalo, Purchase, Suffern, Brentwood, Rocky Point, Briarcliff Manor, Owego, Oneonta, Dix Hills, Marcellus, Fresh Meadows, and Yonkers.
The judges were conductor/trombonist Heather Buchman, on the Hamilton College faculty; pianist Sar Shalom Strong, also on the Hamilton College faculty; and Zhou Tian, composer on the Colgate University faculty. Sam Pellman, Professor of Music and Director of the Studio for Digital Music on the Hamilton College faculty, administers the Israel Prize. Pellman and Brian Israel were classmates together at Cornell while earning their doctorates.
Local Students and Composers Collaborate:
Composers in the Schools to Debut New Music
Local students from the Fraser School and Cathedral Academy of Pompei will present original musical compositions as part of the Society for New Music's Billie Burdick Composers in the Schools program over the next few weeks. The first performance is on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 pm at Our Lady of Pompei / St. Peter Church in Syracuse, and the second is on Friday, June 7 at 4:00 pm during the Taste of Syracuse festival in downtown Syracuse on the McDonal's Family Fun Zone stage. The Fraser School performance is at 10:00 am on June 6 in the school's auditorium. All showcases are free and open to the public.
The student performances will include a piece entitled, Miniatures, composed by the Cathedral Academy of Pompei students in collaboration with composer Nikolas Allen Jeleniauskas, who earned his M.M. from Indiana University. Approximately 40 students have spent the past few months exploring musical possibilities of traditional and nontraditional instruments, such as pots, pans and other found objects. "I've been working to expand their minds as to what music can be, and trying to help them organize these ideas into patterns or an overall shape for a new piece of music," said Jeleniauskas. "We started exploring color, rhythm, gesture and melody, all for the purpose of writing a piece." For their performances the Cathedral Academy students will be assisted by their teachers Alina Plourde (oboe), Jenni Foutch (flute), Victoria King (trumpet), Nikolas Jeleniauskas (piano), with Blagomira Lipari conducting. Joining them on behalf of the Society will be Eric Gustafson (viola), Walden Bass (cello), and Rob Bridge (percussion).
Students from The Fraser School have been working with composer Paul Winchester and the Fraser K-8 music teachers Jack Jones and Sandy Picciotto. Mr. Winchester recently earned his M.M. in composition from Syracuse University. At Fraser School the teachers had the students write poems, then held a competition to select a couple for setting to music. Mr. Winchester worked with a select group of students exploring ways in which the poetry could be set. The resulting works for chorus and band are entitled Celebration and Growth.
Over the past 25 years, the Society for New Music has built a successful track record with its composers-in-residence programs at local elementary and secondary schools. According to Society founder, Neva Pilgrim, the success of last summer's opera in the Cazenovia Counterpoint festival inspired this year's programs at Cathedral Academy and Fraser. "The young students who worked on this opera became friends with their professional counterparts, becoming inspired by them and modeling their work ethic," Pilgrim said. "As a result, the students' performance in the opera was of a very high caliber."