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Christopher Cerrone's "The Insects Became Magnetic" Premieres at LA Philharmonic

On November Sixteenth, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will premiere their newly-commissioned work by Christopher Cerrone, entitled The Insects Became Magnetic. Cerrone's choice of title comes from a poem by Adam Clay, in which the poet elegiacally ruminates on nature, music, and materiality. Looking at a painting, birds become "the trash scattered in the air"; the hull of a car emerges; the poet responds with his own hope: "I hope the insects become magnetic // to eat plastic hillsides, to pull a drone down, even." 

Cerrone's composition reflects this merging of organic life with technology: it begins with sound heard as "noise", the squeal of a laptop's speakers feeding back signal from its own microphone. Clay's poem continues: "And music is the fluttering trash / in the collage or painting or whatever / we want to call it;" Cerrone that noise, that  "fluttering trash," and with the same laptop, began to manipulate it into something otherwise. This is not a simple transformation from noise to signal, but rather a kind of collage in which the distinction fades away. 

The collage is unabshedly poetic: electronic textures meld with insect-like, near-electronic sounds from an expertly-orchestrated percussion section, and delicate sonorities emerge from hyper-precisely notated wind, brass, and string sections. The effect of this piece is almost static, a kind of nocturnal rumination on gentle feedback. Indeed, listening to the piece mirrors the final vision from Clay's poem, of the music-like panting-collage in which insects become magnetic: "It is under glass so I place / my face up against the reflection and wait for it to pull me inside."

Kate Soper's "Ipsa Dixit" Album Release and Portrait Concert

"[T]hat’s something that happens in a lot of my work lately: I’m trying really hard to tell you something, and you know that I’m trying, and you’re getting something out of it, but basically we’re both aware of the fact that that’s not possible. And I think the texts that I feel really drawn to have something of that in them."

For the past eight years, Kate Soper has been testing, and playing, with the liminal space between music, text, and language. This study has produced, among other works, the evening-length "philosophy-opera" Ipsa Dixit, a recording of which will be released on New World Records on October fifth, featuring the many people with whom Soper has worked closely over to produce this work—including flutist Erin Lesser, violnist Joshua Modney, and percussionist Ian Antonio, all of the Wet Ink Ensemble.

But Ipsa Dixit is much more than a recording: it has also existed as a staged performance, with lighting, projection, and costumes, and its individual movements also function on their own.  These movements—Poetics, Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say, Rhetoric, The Crito, Metaphysics, and Cipheralso function on their own, and indeed have been performed by Soper and her collaborators since 2010. In each, Soper offers a multi-faceted exploration of fundamental questions of textuality, communication, and sound, through setting texts by Aristotle, Guido d'Arrezo, Lydia Davis, Michael Drayton, Robert Duncan, Plato, Sigmund Freud, Jenny Holzer, Sophocles, Sarah Teasdale, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.  

All of this led to Ipsa Dixit being a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music, whose committe described it as "a breakthrough work that plumbs the composer’s fertile musical imagination to explore the relationships between idea and expression, meaning and language."

Ipsa Dixit will also be performed live, by Soper, Lesser, Antonio, and Modney, at a Portrait Concert at Columbia University's Miller Theatre, on October 27th. This performance, directed by Ashely Tata, will feature costumes, lighting, and projection, by the same creative team that premiered the evening-length work in 2016 at EMPAC. Check out a video recording of Poetics from that performance below. 

Katie Young Featured in Wet Ink: 20, WasteLAnd Music Concert Series

Though composer, improviser, and bassoonist Katie Young is now based in Chicago—the "Third Coast"—she will also be present this autumn on America's other two coasts, featued by two leading new music ensembles. Wet Ink, the venerable new music organization based in New York, is celebrating its 20th anniversary season, and in conjunction, has released Wet Ink: 20, which features Young's like a halo. This sextet, performed by members of the Wet Ink Large Ensemble, accompanies works by Eric Wubbels, Sam Pluta, Anthony Braxton, Kate Soper, and Alex Mincek, on a masterfully produced album, recorded at Oktaven Audio, mixed by Pluta, and mastered by Matthew Mehlan. In conjunction with the release of the album on September 15th, Young's like a halo will also be released on Score Follower, to give listeners a chance to follow along in a visual medium. 

Young's work is also featured this season by the Los Angeles based WasteLAnd Music, which has programmed Young's works on five of its concerts. Throughout their season, WasteLAnd will perform Young's Puddles and Crumbs, slam creak bzzz, and Underworld (dancing), and at least six other works. On October 5th, WasteLAnd will premiere Young's BIOMES, an extended work for improvising performers using electroacoustic sound, light, video, movement, set design, or other means, which they also commissioned. Follow WasteLAnd on Facebook to keep up to date on their upcoming season! 

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