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Vijay Iyer's "Trouble" at Ojai and Beyond

As the Music Director of the 2017 Ojai Festival, Vijay Iyer believes that festival-goers will "discover a great deal—not just about music, but about themselves." Stacking the festival program with close collaborators such as violinist Jennifer Koh, and legendary ensembles such as the AACM and ICE, Iyer wants to force an "update" of what contemporary music can mean today. 

On June 8th, Iyer will perform the American premiere of Emergence for jazz trio and orchestra, along with bassist Stephan Crump, drummer Tyshawn Shorey and the International Contemporary Ensemble alongside players of the Oberlin Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble. Emergence, which premiered in 2016, combines the forms and notational traditions of classical music with the possibilities of improvised traditions, asking performers to listen to each other in real time and make performative decisions. 


(Koh with Oberlin Sinfonietta and Tim Weiss in workshop performance of "Trouble"; photo: Yevhen Gulenko, courtesy of Oberlin Conservatory)

That evening's concert also includes the world premiere of Trouble, featuring violinist Jennifer Koh, accompanied by ICE and the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, and led by Steven Schick. Trouble is a violin concerto in three movements, the second of which is dedicated to Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American auto-worker killed in a hate crime in 1982. During rehearsals at Oberlin, Koh's colleague Claire Solomon, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature, was inspired to write a "voluntary response" to the piece (you can read Solomon's full account in our PSNY Greenroom, part of our new "Composer Spotlights" series). As Solomon writes, 

Trouble opens up something scarce and endangered that classical music doesn’t even know it needs. Trouble isn’t programmatically anti-racist; it doesn’t represent Chin’s murder but testifies to the rhythmic relay of lives of which his was only one, and demands that we see the pattern. It grieves the racial tragedy that shapes our future because we do not work through it, and it opens up a space for what Derrida called the work of mourning as he might have pointed out an area for his cleaning lady to take care of – but Trouble doesn’t let us off the hook as rubberneckers; it summons us to a reckoning. As Vijay said in the Museum Q&A, it pins us to the present: a moment in which to tell white audiences not to be racist.

Trouble will also be performed at UC Berkeley and Tanglewood, both of which co-commissioned the work.  

The rest of the Ojai Festival is packed with talks and performances, including two that feature flautist Claire Chase. On June 9th, Chase will perform excerpts from Marcos Balter's Pan, and on June 10th, Chase performs a free pop-up concert of Mario Diaz de Leon's Labrys and Mysterium

Ann Cleare & Alex Mincek in ICE's "Animal Behaviors"


(Ryan Muncy, saxophonist)

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) consists of some of the best instrumentalists in contemporary music, who regularly champion ensemble works by some of the most fascinating composers of our time. In a free "pop-up" concert at Columbia's Miller Theatre on June 6th, members of ICE will split off to perform solo and duo works that dig into the sonic profiles of individual instruments and players, in a program titled "ICE: Animal Behaviors". 

ICE saxophonist Ryan Muncy will perform Ann Cleare's luna (the eye that opens the other eye) for alto saxophone, as well as Alex Mincek's Pendulum III, for alto saxophone and piano, alongside pianist Jacob Greenberg. In Cleare's luna, the composer writes that "the saxophone should be thought of as a dragonfly with eyes so big they cover almost its entire head, giving it a helmeted appeaance and a full 360-degree field of vision." Check out a recording below. 

ICE and Cleare will return to the Miller Theatre in 2018 with a Composer Portrait concert, featuring a newly-commissioned work, two world premieres, and performances of the square of yellow light that is your window and dorchadas

Mincek's Pendulum IIIis an early entry in the composer's Pendulum series, in which musical material oscillates between two poles, accellerating, decelerating, reaching tipping points, and repeating. Check out a 2015 recording by Michael Ibrahim and Ron Stabinsky below. 

Seth Parker Woods Plays Alvin Singleton's "Argoru II"



Cellist Seth Parker Woods has risen to the top of his generation: a virtuoso cellist who knows no boundaries, Woods easily travels between (and indeed blurs the differences between) the worlds of new music, improvisation, performance art, and electro-acoustic experimentation. On June 1st in Athens, Greece, as a part of Documenta 14, Woods will perform Alvin Singleton's Argoru II, alongside George Lewis' Not Alone and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay's asinglewordisnotenough (invariant), in a concert that also features veteran composer, performer, and instrument designer Peter Zinovieff

Argoru II forms part of Singleton's Argoru series of compositions for solo instruments. "Argoru", in the Twi language spoken in Ghana, means "to play". As Carman Moore writes,

In Argoru II the composer constructs a world of "strange characters" for whom he seems to have created an original language which they use to scream out, cajole, shout, mumble, and chuckle. Single powerful shots alternate with long phrase ultra-soft scramblings. This is the theatre of sound."

Check out a recording of Argoru II, performed by Ronald Crutcher, below.

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