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Blog Archive



Vijay Iyer Joins PSNY!

PSNY is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our roster: composer, pianist, MacArthur fellow, Harvard professor, and all-around renaissance man, Vijay Iyer. Iyer's signature work as a musician in the past few decades has cemented him as a ground-breaking, boundary-crossing, true innovator of the 21st century. And now, his compositions for chamber ensembles are available to the public, for immediate, direct download. 

Our initial offering of Iyer's works is a testament to his bold style. Let's start with Dig the Say, a string quartet commissioned by Brooklyn Rider.

This work draws inspiration from James Brown, whose signature rhythms and harmonies (particularly around 0:26) are reimagined for string quartet with Iyer's fluid compositional hand. Not a mere transcription or imitation, this quartet filters Brown's energy into an entirely new composition that attempts a daring act of transcription across instruments and time. 

Iyer's Time, Place, Action, for string quartet and piano, contains similar stylistic elements—unison ostinati, rhythmic complexity, lyrical phrasing—but with a darker, more abstract effect. This work seamlessly blends compositional aspects of the classical quartet repertoire, jazz piano, and electronic music, as many of Iyer's works do. Check out a video of Iyer performing Time, Place, Action with the Brentano Quartet at the studios of WQXR in New York:

Iyer's Rimpa Transcriptions, commissioned and premiered by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, incorporates elements of improvisation into a brooding, meditative sound-scape. In the first movement, "Waves," a clarinet picks from several melodic fragments and performs them against an ominous background of glockenspiel, string glissandi, and bass pizzicatti. Figuration and accompaniment are split between the ensemble with expert orchestration.  

Our last initial offering of Iyer's works is Bruits, for wind quintet and piano. This work, premeired by Imani Winds, incorportes Iyer's signature rhythmically complex ostinati, accompanied by a wind quintet which blows through harmonies deeply inspired by contemporary jazz. 

Keep an eye out on our blog for more of Iyer's works to come in the future! 

Gregory Spears's "O Columbia" a "piercingly moving" and "haunting meditation on exploration"

Following its premiere at Houston Grand Opera on September 23, Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal has hailed Gregory Spears's new opera-oratorio, O Columbia, as "piercingly moving" and "a haunting meditation on exploration."

(Photo Credit: Lynn Lane, Wall Street Journal)

Presented as part of the company's HGOco community initiative program, the production featured direction by Kevin Newbury and was conducted by Timothy Myers, with a cast including soprano Pureum Jo, baritone Ben Edquist and mezzo-soprano Megan Samarin. O Columbia, with an original libretto by Royce Vavrek, is a celebration of exploration and a reflection upon the risks of discovering new frontiers. Through the work’s three parts the listener rides with Sir Walter Raleigh and a mysterious figure on the bow of his ship heading for the New World; sits with a teenager as she experiences communion, and later, heartbreak, with a Columbia space shuttle astronaut gliding around the earth; and travels with three astronauts to the far reaches of the solar system with Lady Columbia waiting at the edge. 

The work is a celebration of the identity of the American frontiersperson and an ode to America’s national mythology. In preparing the production, Vavrek writes that "we went to the Johnson Space Center and spoke to astronauts, engineers and other employees... we thought that, in our opera, we could return to the promise of space exploration. O Columbia blossomed into a work that celebrated the spirit of the frontiersman, as opposed to a tragic story." Waleson praises the work for its "neoclassical-style clarity," "crystalline orchestrations" and "textured, complex musical structures that sound old and new at the same time." Spears's next opera, Fellow Travelers, receives its premiere later this season by Cincinnati Opera

Below, watch a performance of Spears's recent cantata Virginiana, for solo voices and early instrument ensemble.

Virginiana was commissioned and premiered by New York's New Vintage Baroque and the Netherlands' Damask Ensemble. Written in the spirit of neoclassical works like Stravinsky's Pulcinella and The Rake's ProgressVirginiana explores 18th-century North American aesthetics as heard through a contemporary lens, with a text by Robert Bolling (1738-1775).

Ted Hearne's "The Source" Released on New Amsterdam Records

Ted Hearne's The Source, an immanently engrossing work based on the story of U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, will be released by New Amsterdam Records in late October of this year. The work, a "modern-day oratorio", sets texts made available via WikiLeaks to Hearne's charactaristically powerful musical language. Hearne emphasizes that the work "never asks the audience to pretend the musicians are fictional characters," and also "approaches its subject matter through discrete movements with tangentially related texts, rather than through traditional narrative storytelling"—two features of oratorios stretching back to the 18th century. 

Hearne will also see the West-coast premiere of Dispatches, a co-commission from the New World Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. The new work will be performed on programs from September 30th-October 3rd, paired with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique). In addition to an interview with I Care If You Listen, Hearne has also done a video interview with the SF Symphony, with some previews of the piece itself: 

Finally, Hearne will also have another premiere on the American Composers' Orchestra SONiC Festival by Grammy-award winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth. The new work, Coloring Book, will premiere on October 17th at National Sawdust, a new venue for contemporary music in Williasburg, Brooklyn. Hearne is no stranger to writing for vocal ensembles; check out his Consent, for 16 voices, to get a taste for Hearne's cascading, generative, and powerful compositional voice.

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