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Phil Kline and Gregory Spears Premiere New Works with String Orchestra of Brooklyn

On June 8th, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn presents two world premieres of new works by Phil Kline and Gregory Spears, along with a new arrangement of Julius Eastman's classic Gay Guerilla. Vocalist Theo Bleckmann will perform four songs from his ongoing collaboration with Kline entitled Florida Man, so named after the enigmatic tales of people from that eponymous state which have long fascinated Kline. The composer writes: 

I began collecting Florida Man headlines a few years ago. Found texts fascinate me; they’re like secret messages not meant to be set to music. It was important to me that they were authentic, so I vetted them to see if there were actual news stories attached. Did this couple really sell golden tickets to heaven? No, they didn’t. Did this guy really get arrested for a joyride with an owl? Yes, he did! Interestingly, while the Florida Men were characteristically wacky, the Florida Woman stories were sadder. I was drawn into a kind of dialog with these characters, with whom I felt a kinship much keener than I would have imagined.

Bleckmann will perform four songs, including "Waffle House," and "Search and Destroy," which uses the lyrics from Iggy Pop's song of the same name, in honor of his recent residence in the Sunshine State. Florida Man, which is a song cycle in progress, will be published by PSNY upon completion. In the meantime, check out an excerpt from Kline's Exquisite Corpses below:

Spears will premiere a new concerto for two trumpets and string orchestra, performed by the SOB and soloists Brandon Ridenour and Andy Kozar. Spears takes common extramusical associations of the trumpet—the sounds of ceremony, war, and formality— and has composed a piece that he "had no narrative, and yet would play with those associations and let them interact with one another in unexpected ways." The texture of two trumpets against a string orchestra allows Spears to compose a contrapuntal concerto that evokes a pastoral and conversational quality.  

For a taste of Spears's instrumental writing, check out his 2010 String Quartet, Buttonwood

Michael Hersch's "Carrion-Miles to Purgatory" Released on New Focus Recordings

The music of Michael Hersch is direct, powerful, and expressive: it makes the pulsing nerve of the human condition audible, laying bare some of the most intense and powerful human emotions. Hersch's new album, Carrion-Miles to Pugatory, released May 31st on New Focus Recordings, documents three works—each composed for two musicians—that address what frequent collaborator Patricia Kopatchinskaja calls "this dark side, this shadow and blood." Indeed, for this album, Kopatchinskaja commissioned a new work by Hersch, "...das Rückgrat berstend," which takes its title from the poetry of Christopher Middleton, translated at the violinist's request into German. Throughout the piece, Kopatchinskaja speaks selected fragments from Middleton's poetry in a fervent, carefully-notated declamation, without excessive dramatization. This spoken, scored text, echoing and simultaneously transcending techniques such as Sprechstimme, accompanies highly charged gestural writing in high and low strings—violin and cello—that mirror, ilustrate, react to, and metabolize the poetry in music. While Middleton's poetry has long played a role in Hersch's poetic compositional imagination, appearing frequently in the written matter of his sketches and scores, das Rückgrat berstend—"the spine exploding"—is a powerful sonic expression of Hersch's voice.

Carrion-Miles to Purgatory takes its name from an excerpt from the American poet Robert Lowell's Lord Weary's Castle, his second book of poetry, published in 1947. Hersch's work, for violin and cello, meditates on themes of loss, death, and tragedy in thirteen short movements that resemble "thirteen fragments of a single shattered geode," as David Plylar writes in the album's liner notes. Here, Carrion-Miles to Purgarory is exctingly performed by violinist Miranda Cuckson and cellist Jay Campbell. Each movement develops its own musical logic in the dimensions of pacing, harmony, gesture, and rhythmic complexity; the movements form a gestalt of emotion, each reflecting and refracting the same ineffable subject. 

Also included on this album is a rare performance by Hersch himself, alongside violinist Miranda Cuckson, recorded during a live performance at National Sawdust in 2018. "Music for Violin and Piano" incorporates nearly thirty short movements from five of Hersch's works, along with new material composed for the concert, influenced by the poetry of Christopher Middleton, Phillip Schultz, Primo Levi, and Chesław Miłosz. The resulting performance is eleven kaleidoscopic minutes of exactingly-notated music, pushing Cuckson and the composer himself to technical extremes, seamlessly creating a new narrative that is driving, engaging, and always intense. 

TAK Ensemble Releases "Oor," Featuring Erin Gee & Ann Cleare

Over the past six years, New York's TAK Ensemble has emerged as a unique ensemble in contemporary music: the quintet has already released two albums, collaborating with composers Taylor Brook and Mario Diaz de Leon, which show the ensemble's dedication to working directly with composers and artists to create new work. Now TAK has launched their own record label, TAK Editions, and will release their third album—Oor—featuring works by PSNY composers Erin Gee and Ann Cleare, in addition to works by Tyshawn Sorey, Ashkan Behdazi, David Bird, and Natacha Diels. 

Erin Gee's Mouthpiece 28, included on the album, was premiered by TAK in 2016, and here sees a pristine studio recording that captures every minute sound of vocalist Charlotte Mundy's voice, turned into a non-semantic instrument complimeted by bass flute, bass clarinet, violin, and percussion. Oor also features a recording of Ann Cleare's unable to create an offscreen world (c), which explores "ideas of wrongness, incompatibility, and inability with ferocious streams of energy, confidence and hope."

TAK writes: 

The album is called Oor (roughly translating to naked) because these works, to us, share a sense of raw openness, unvarnished emotion, and urgency. This visceral collection of pieces, primarily written for the ensemble, highlights fierce virtuosity, uncanny blends, and otherworldly timbral landscapes.

Preview the album at I Care If You Listen or TAK's Bandcamp page, and if you're in New York, be sure to check out their album release event on May 18th.

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