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New York Festival of Song Features Christopher Cerrone & Friends

Now in its 29th year, the New York Festival of Song will present an evening of music and poetry curated by PSNY composer Christopher Cerrone. Hosted at National Sawdust on December 8th, 2016, this evening features music by Cerrone, along with works by Timo Andres, Ted Hearne, Erin Gee, and Scott Wollschleger, setting poetry by GC Waldrep, Bill Knott, Dorothea Lasky, and Andrea Cohen. 

Vocalist Theo Bleckmann will perform the New York debut of Cerrone's The Naomi Songs, which he premiered at EMPAC in 2015. Cerrone will also preview a new composition, Apocatastasis, which sets the poem of the same name by G. C. Waldrep. Also previewed this evening will be Three songs based on Lasky poems, by Ted Hearne. 

Timo Andres will join Bleckmann as pianist for his recently-premiered Mirror Songs, and the program also features two of Erin Gee'sMouthpiece works, as well as Scott Wollschleger's Fragment on Fragments.  

Check out an excerpt of Cerrone's The Naomi Songs below. 

Katherine Young Joins PSNY


(Katherine Young; photo: Peter Gannushkin)

We're thrilled to welcome composer and bassoonist/improviser Katherine Young to our roster of PSNY composers! Young's compositions exemplify the attention, intuition, embodied knowledge, and indeterminacy that comes from a deep understanding of instrumental possibilities, and her activities over the past ten years show a musical mind open to all of the possibilities of sound.

Young's music can actually proclaim that it is, in fact, "new"—not only new in aesthetic, organization, and style, but also in instrument, performance, and authority. Her scores call for techniques to extend the sonic possibilities of the instruments, and indeed often turning them into systems of body, wood, metal, and electronics. From her experience as a composer, performer, improviser, and collaborator, Young's work manages to be all of these things at once: intentional composition, intuitive improvisation, and close collaboration with performers. We're proud to offer three of Young's works written within the past eight years, each with its own unique sonic world. 

Composed in 2008, Underworld (Dancing) is written for tuba and Wurlitzer electric piano, with each instrument making space for the other within the dimensions of timbre and pitch. The score, which instructs each player within these dimensions, contains gestrual writing, graphic notation, and other innovations designed to allow the "work" to unfold as it is "worked" by the performers, with the instrumentalists reacting both to each other and to each other's instruments. The result is an aural game played between all of these actors, linked by Young's network of associations and resonances. 

Puddles and Crumbs, written in 2014-15 for solo trombone and electronics in collaboration with trombonist Weston Olencki, folds this instrumental dialogue onto itself, augmenting the trombone with electronic effects: reverberation, pitch-shifting, and distortion. A common technique of solo improvisers, routing the signal of an instrument through a chain of effects here actually creates four voices: composer, performer, instrument, and instrumental signal. Young writes that Puddles and Crumbs is a "loving embrace of the by-products, side effects, and detritus of performance." But we could also say that Puddles and Crumbs forces a re-evaluation of "performance" and "side effect", drawing the listener's attention to the middle ground between the two. 

slam creak bzzz, composed in 2012 and revised in 2015, is a string quartet, amplified and augmented to evoke the sound-worlds of mid-century epic cinema. Young translates the phantasmagoric sensory experience of the movie theater into the concert hall, mirroring the effects of cinematic sound design in her composition, which calls on the musicians to play the entire instrument's body, as well as the performer's own human bodies. Check out a recording of slam creak bzzz featuring the Mivos Quartet:

Andrew Norman Wins Grawemeyer Award for "Play"

Andrew Norman has won the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his recently-revised work, Play. As recently featured in this blog, the revised version of Play was premeired in October by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the first version of the work was commissioned, premiered, and recorded by BMOP.

Norman has already been named Musical America's Composer of the Year for 2017, and has been featured in The New York Times and Music and Literature; with this most recent honor, Norman has acknowledged his groundbreaking work with a call for a more inclusive environment in New Music. In an interview with NPR, Norman said,

"Maybe I can use this moment to talk about things that are important to me. Like to call attention to the fact that there are problems. For instance, this award has been given to three women out of its 30-year history. And to me that's kind of an issue. And in all honesty, I'm a white man and I get lots of commissions and there are systemic reasons for that, reasons we should all be talking about. There are so many talented composers out there. Rather than giving me another commission, why aren't we giving those people a commission?" 

Play has the instructions "cut to a different world": perhaps the metaphoric transitions and ludic potentialities created by this staggering symphonic work can be instructive to our political lives, as well.  

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