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Blog Archive



Ted Hearne's "Law of Mosaics" in Chicago; "The Source" CD Release

Ted Hearne is not a composer to shy away from the real world. From his now-canonical Katrina Ballads, which sets texts related to the 2006 Hurricane of the same name, to his modern-day oratorio project The Source, which sets texts surrounding Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks, Hearne's music draws from the complexities of politics and recreates similar tensions and complexities within his music.

Hearne's 30-minute work for string orchestra, Law of Mosaics, is no exception to this rule. Hearne borrows the title from a passage in David Shields' Reality Hunger: "The law of mosaics: how to deal with parts in the absence of wholes." Commissioned in 2013 by A Far Cry, and released on CD alongside Andrew Norman's The Companion Guide to Rome in 2014, Law of Mosaics can be read as an essay in five parts. Picking up on Shield's metaphor of weaving a fabric between digital and analog media and culture, Hearne crafts a loosely-knit pattern of musical references and inspirations; if these form the weft of his weaving, then his own compositional voice constitutes its warp. In the end, the "patterns" woven together by Hearne resemble less a tightly-knit pastiche than performative absence of seamlessness, a reminder of the gaps and voids that constitute our everyday lives. 

Law of Mosaics will be performed as a part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series, co-curated by Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams, on November 23rd at Chicago's Harris Theater. 

Hearne's critically-acclaimed project The Source, which premiered at the 2014 Next Wave Festival at BAM, is also newly available as an audio recording on New Amsterdam Records. Writing in Pitchfork, Seth Colter Walls calls it "some of the most expressive socially engaged music in recent memory—from any genre." Check out a video excerpt of its premiere at BAM below. 


"The Branch Will Not Break" at Present Music

"Upshore from the cloud— / The slow whale of country twilight— / The spume of light falls into valleys / Full of roses." Thus begins James Wright's "By A Lake in Minnesota" from his 1963 book of poetry, The Branch Will Not Break. Wright's evocation of a solitary existence in the wonders of the natural permeates the book, which Christopher Cerrone has used as inspiration for his new work, The Branch Will Not Break, for vocal ensemble and ten instruments, which will premiere at Present Music's annual Thanksgiving concert.

Wright writes about the Upper Midwest as a home tinged with sadness. Speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Thanksgiving, Cerrone says "It's a complicated holiday [...] You want to return to the place you're from. It's a time to reflect and it can be sort of melancholy." Returning to the cold Midwest from his tenure at the American Academy in Rome, Cerrone will be present at the November 22 premiere of his new work, and will also give a pre-concert talk (sponsored by Milwaukee's own Colectivo Coffee about the poetic world of this piece. 

Cerrone's works that set poetry are numerous and powerful; his settings of Tao Lin can be heard in I Will Learn To Love A Person, of Bill Knott in The Naomi Songs, and of Ryōkan in Not One Word. Check out some recordings below to get a feeling of Cerrone's poetic settings: 

Two New Works by Timo Andres

It's hard to claim a real achievement in the month of November. For many, surviving the transition to colder weather, the pressures of the work week, and the onslaught of holiday advertising is enough. But PSNY composer Timo Andres is different: on top of his performing career, which saw him perform Christopher Cerrone's Sonata for Violin and Piano with Tim Fain at LPR earlier this month, he'll also see two new compositions premiered by the Takács Quartet and Jonathan Biss with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Andres' new string quartet Strong Language premiered on November 15th at Shriver Hall. The Baltimore Sun praised Andres' piece for creating "fascinating little journeys" in a "clear, vivid, and commanding" performance by the Takács Quartet. On November 19th, the piece will be performed again at Carnegie Hall, which co-commissioned the work. With three movements lasting roughly 23 minutes, Strong Language is a concise exploration of three musical ideas, one per movement. Get a taste with an excerpt from Andres's earlier string quartet, Thrive on Routine:

As Andres describes, The Blind Banister, his new piano concerto for Jonathan Biss and the SPCO, is a kind of "fraternal twin" to Strong Language; the pieces were written back-to-back, and share a 3-movement structure. However, Andres' piano concerto sees him writing for much larger forces— including, for the first time, timpani. In the meantime (and if you can't make it to Saint Paul for the premiere), check out a sample of Andres's recent completion of the Mozart "Coronation" Concerto:


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