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Posts tagged 'Alvin Singleton'

Momenta Quartet Champions Alvin Singleton's String Quartets

Alvin Singleton'sSomehow We Can was commissioned in 1994 by the Eastman School of Music in memory of the celebrated contralto Marian Anderson, and has been recorded and released by Tzadik Records on an eponymous album from 2002. Now, Somehow We Can has become recently celebrated as a repertoire staple by the Momenta Quartet, which has also performed Singleton's earlier quartet, Secret Desire to be Black. On November 19th, Somehow We Can saw its Philadelphia premiere, and as Momenta violinist Emile-Anne Gendron notes, Momenta is dedicated to incorporating this work as an "important addition to the string quartet canon."

The free improviser Eugene Chadbourne writes of Somehow We Can:  "The composer effectively uses the instruments to create an impression of the human voice, sometimes speaking alone, sometimes raised in a kind of aggressive rabble. Wonderful moments of melody float through, bringing to mind Duke Ellington's quote about grey skies being 'clouds passing over.'"

Singleton's work is also becoming a staple of cellist Seth Parker-Woods, who has incorporated Argoru II into his concert repertoire. Parker-Woods will perform the Seattle premiere Argoru II in an upcoming concert on December 9th.

Argoru II, as well as Secret Desire to be Black, will soon be published by PSNY, available as digital and hard-copy editions. Check out Momenta's performance of Secret Desire to be Black 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.

Alvin Singleton's "Sweet Chariot" at the National Museum of African American History & Culture

On February 26, members of the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" performed Alvin Singleton's Sweet Chariot in the recently-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Sweet Chariot, composed as a "tentet" with multiple reed doublings, sets the traditional spiritual with Singleton's characteristic inventiveness and unique compositional voice. Carman Moore writes,

Sweet Chariot seems to be, much like Singleton’s recent orchestral work Different River, created from a series of disparate events, often divided from one another by silences or long-held tones. Some of them seem lyrically mournful, some fanfare-esque, some dancey (at one point almost salsa-like), some joyful, some loud, some soft, high and low…but always highly-contrasted and unpredictable. 

If you weren't in DC, you can still watch the performance, which was live-streamed and recorded here (starting at 57:45); Sweet Chariot was also recorded and released on Albany Records in 2014.

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