Friday, February 20, 2009

Sound Off! Orchestra Underground: New, Wired and Green

You've heard what the composers have to say for themselves, now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the concert!

Below are a few questions to get the ball rolling...

-What surprised you most about the concert?
-Did you think that the three works on this program that utilized nontraditional media (electronics, film) made effective use of them?

-Which piece did you think was the most convincing? Why?

Hear It Again!

All of us here at ACO are very excited by our new partnership with Instant Encore! Check out our page here where you can listen to streaming audio of past ACO concerts!

You Can't Get More New York Than That

David Schiff on New York:

Even though I have lived in Oregon since 1980 I still remain a New Yorker--as people frequently point out in Portland, though not necessarily as a compliment. I grew up in the Bronx and New Rochelle, and was educated at Columbia, Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard--you can't get much more New York than that. So of course a performance at Zankel Hall is a thrill of a lifetime. Favorite places to eat? Lunch at Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallerie and bagels and nova from Sable's and pizza just about anywhere.

Re-lighting "Stomp"

David Schiff on the "re-lighting" of Stomp.

I always find that orchestration is the fun part of the compositional process, the icing on the cake. When ACO asked me to scale down the size of the orchestra for Stomp so that it could fit into Zankel hall, I quickly decided that instead of just doing a quick fix I would re-score the piece thoroughly--so much so that the new “re-lit” version (the piece was originally titled “Stomp”) is quite distinct from the original. Originally it was scored for a standard chamber orchestra with pairs of woodwinds and single brass plus drum set, xylophone and piano. The new version uses a wind section that is more like a jazz octet: flute, clarinet, two saxophones, horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba. These instruments have a lot more firepower than the original band, even though they are fewer in number, and their greater dynamic range allowed me to beef up the string and percussion writing. I think the new scoring is much more appropriate for the style and mood of the music.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chinese Opera Re-wired

Go behind the scenes in one of our Composer Portrait Videos to see how Fang Man created her new work for ACO and Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel!

film produced by Jeremy Robins.

Unleashing the Power of Metaphor

Video/Sound Artist Kasumi (collaborator with Margaret Brouwer on BREAKDOWN!) talks about her artistic process.

For the past eight or nine years my work has consisted of creating time-based image and sound montage-like compositions – and - in addition to my own hand-painted and original film - almost entirely generated from fragments of found footage materials. The material is gleaned from public domain movies, 50's TV commercials, archival government propaganda, instructional, industrial, old sales films and so on.

Every image and sound I chose is deliberate: for formal artistic reasons as well as for unleashing the power of metaphor, central to human thought and communication – an upraised arm as the essence of evil, a defiant shout of protest, thumbs up, thumbs down. These significant moments - the key to image-making and central to our perception of certain crucial realities, become the building blocks – the vocabulary - of my work.

The syntax – which I call Video Recursion is an attempt at thematically composing these brief, fragmentary gestures and utterances into a multi-dimensional narrative and musical structure.

By juxtaposing, layering, cutting apart, ordering and re-ordering sounds and images already abundant with meaning, I can find and create further connections and analogies outside of their original context, causing the firing of neural networks for a deeper subconscious understanding. By doing this, I try to answer questions in my own mind - from "what does a gesture mean" to "how does a nation evolve into a military empire?"

The cultural and historical context, symbolic and emotional meaning, and the latent transgressive energy of the samples are set off against their purely formal qualities: movement, gesture, color, texture, pitch, timbre, cadence, tempo, rhythm, shape, dynamics, and so on.

These opposing qualities are continually in play with each other creating a tension that is central to the work, and as much as it could be said that the works are narrative constructions using found footage, it is equally true to say that it is the clips themselves, in their musical tone, that drives this work.

1 and 2. VJ Kasumi in performance with DJ Spooky.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rethinking the Operatic Medium

Margaret Brouwer talks about how her love of opera led to collaborating with Video/Sound Artist Kasumi.

I have always been interested in writing an opera. When I was younger and still earning much of my income as a violinist, I played in an opera orchestra, and I loved it. In fact, I thought I would be an opera composer.
I loved the mix of music, theater, costumes, dance, etc., and the challenge of putting it all together to form a compelling presentation. So it was also very intriguing to me to combine my composing skills with the art form of experimental video and sound. Kasumi and I wrote BREAKDOWN pretty much simultaneously, sending small sections back and forth on a regular basis. I created all of the musical motives by imitating intervals or rhythms of the speech, or other sounds in the video. The music is completely related to events in the video at every moment throughout. This is similar to the way I would write an opera, where the music would be integral to the text and the meaning in the opera. So writing BREAKDOWN combined my interest in writing an opera with doing an experimental work with video. It was a terrific experience. It was very interesting bringing another element besides the music into the creative process, and I enjoyed it very much.

David Schiff 'Feels Good' about James Brown...

David Schiff talks about his orchestral homage to James Brown "Stomp"

When I was an undergraduate at Columbia in the 1960s I saw James Brown perform several times at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. All of my friends were huge fans of soul music and Motown. Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin were our idols, but James Brown, celebrated as "the hardest working man in show business" was unique for the intensity of his performance style and the inspiring rhythmic energy of his music. The new version of Stomp written for ACO has more direct contact with Brown's musical style, but I think of the piece more as an evocation of his explosive stage presence than an imitation of his music than my previous one.

1. James Brown the "hardest working man in show business".
2. David Schiff conducting the Reed Chamber Orchestra.

ACO is New, Wired & Green

Welcome back to ACO's blog SoundAdvice, our outspoken corner of the web where you can gain insight into the creative process behind the world premieres on our upcoming February concerts. Stay tuned as we follow the rehearsal process over the next week leading up to our concerts on February 20 at Carnegie Hall at Zankel Hall in NYC and February 22 at the International House at UPenn.