Category: Listen

Different Cities Different Voices: New Orleans

DCDV banner image with overlay of photos of New Orleans

Different Cities Different Voices is a new series from NewMusicBox that explores music communities across the US through the voices of local creators and innovators. Discover what is unique about each city’s new music scene through a set of personal essays written by people living and creating there, and hear music from local artists selected by each essayist.  

The series is meant to spark conversation and appreciation for those working to support new music in the US, so please continue the conversation online about who else should be spotlighted in each city and tag @NewMusicBox.

An introduction by Ashley Shabankareh
(Member of the New Music USA Program Council)

Ashley Shabankareh

New Orleans possesses a rich cultural landscape of musical talent, with tradition and community at its core. While New Orleans is most commonly viewed as the birthplace of Jazz, it should be recognized and uplifted as the birthplace of American music. Whether it’s jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, classical, bounce, hip-hop, or brass band music, the sounds of New Orleans play a big part in our culture. Our community is close-knit, laidback, and relies deeply upon family traditions that are passed down from the older generation to the younger generation and from them to their successors.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we have seen many ebbs and flows within the New Orleans community. The pandemic hit at the worst possible time of year for New Orleans – festival season – where a large portion of income is earned for those in the music and cultural economy. Like numerous communities across the world, the pandemic caused gig cancellations, which negatively impacted many whose lifestyle often is sustained from gig to gig. Numerous music, arts, and service organizations, including, but not limited to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, MaCCNO, and Culture Aid NOLA, quickly stepped in, offering grants, food relief, and other assistance to help sustain our musicians and culture bearers and work to ensure that our culture was not lost as a result of the pandemic. As the weeks turned to months, the uncertainty continued; would New Orleans’ music and culture be able to be sustained after the pandemic?

We began to see optimism within the community when live music was able to occur within outdoor spaces, including at porches and new opened outdoor venues like the Broadside and Zony Mash. As vaccine distribution began to pick up, performances began to happen indoors. We saw more and more gigs happening and the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant allowing more and more spaces to finally reopen. But then hope quickly turned to disappointment as what was anticipated to be a very robust festival season in the fall was canceled. Shortly thereafter, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Ida, leaving the city without power for close to a month. Many were forced to leave their homes, and for some, they had to find a new home to live in due to damages caused by the storm.

However, despite the consistent hardships over the past 21 months, New Orleans saw our community grow even stronger than before. We’ve recently seen our City Council take steps towards the legalization of outdoor music in New Orleans, a huge step to ensure that outdoor spaces that opened as a result of the pandemic can legally continue to operate. New Orleans has also seen the Office of Economic Development propose an Office of Nighttime Economy, which myself and numerous other advocates hope will support cultural activity, not enforcement, to provide true equity of opportunity within the community.

As our vulnerable city continues to recover after both a hurricane and a pandemic, one thing is for sure – our community has become more vibrant and creative. In this installment in Different Cities, Different Voices, you’ll hear from 5 New Orleans musicians: Jason Marsalis, Helen Gillet, Clint Maedgen, Delaney Martin, and Dylan Trần.

[Ed. note: Listen to music by the contributors and other New Orleans-area artists throughout the essays below, and on our Different Cities Different Voices playlist.

Photo: Naveen Venkatesan, Unsplash


JASON MARSALIS – percussionist, bandleader

Jason Marsalis playing the vibraphone at a performance.

Jason Marsalis

Since I was a kid, I’ve been involved in the New Orleans music scene. Growing into adulthood, I started to see the city receive recognition that it hadn’t in previous years. A huge growth of young musicians occurred in New Orleans during the 1990s. At the same time, New York was always the place to be when it came to music. However, the dynamics of the scene changed when aspects of the music business were no longer vibrant. New Orleans has always had a connection with its traditions. Even when music changes, aspects of New Orleans groove was always in the music. However, the music in New York was deemphasizing the swing element while embracing a darker ambient sound. New Orleans was maintaining its fun element while New York was losing theirs. It was during that time I decided to stay in New Orleans.

I discovered that working in New Orleans would help me develop my “swing”; it’s an element of a groove in the music that makes the people want to dance. There are gigs that are based on the swing element that you can play in New Orleans. In New York, those gigs are not as common as they once were and many drummers haven’t developed the swing element at all because of it. Now that doesn’t mean New Orleans doesn’t have its challenges. In the past year of the pandemic, I lost my father pianist Ellis Marsalis to Covid-19. It was not only a loss for me but for the music scene as a whole. He was a teacher and leader that believed in young people playing music. He would use his bandstand as a way for younger players to grow and develop. His passing left a hole in the music scene that will have to be filled in other ways. Those ways include other people understanding how to pass on music to the next generation. As for me, even when the gigs were shut down for a year, I was able to use my creative outlet in other ways. I did more teaching, posting videos, and performing the music online. One way that I have fared with this major change is through teaching. The more music that is taught and passed on to the younger musicians, the music and all of its elements have a better chance of survival.

Listen to a Performance by Jason Marsalis:

The Jason Marsalis Quintet performs the music of Ellis Marsalis: “Three in One”

Listen to Jason Marsalis’s New Orleans Artist Recommendation:

Dr. Michael White: “Give It Up – Gypsy Second Line” Live at Little Gem Saloon

 


HELEN GILLET – singer/songwriter, cellist

Helen Gillet surrounded by various cellos.

Helen Gillet (photo by Jason Kruppa)

There were no other cellists I could see around town when I first moved to New Orleans in 2002. There were also very few women instrumentalists out and about. I was raised by strong women, so this struck me as odd. But the spirit of New Orleans music can be very welcoming to newcomers who are willing to show off their talents if they have enough sincerity, talent, and show respect to the city and the musical legacy that came before.

Sure enough, I managed to talk my way into a variety of musical contexts, convincing bandleaders I could fill the role of trombone, guitar, bass, violin, and eventually drums, synthesizer…all using the acoustic cello, and later on the looping pedal. I have learned to: “turn it up to 11” in funk bands, rock bands and even solo to play loud enough to cut through the noise of a drunken tourists yelling “Sake Bomb” as she stumbles into a Frenchman dive. Especially during the post-Katrina musical renaissance, I became a resident recording cellist around town, notably Piety Studios under the tutelage of Mark Bingham. I learned about recording music, playing in front of amazing microphones and into headphones; creating and weaving my cello parts to lift countless records for artists such as beatnik poet Ed Sanders, Marianne Faithful, Cassandra Wilson, Dr. John, Wardell Quezergue, Sonic Youth, Arcade Fire, Leroy Jones etc.

I was blessed by the city in 2004 during my first ever Jazz and Heritage Festival appearance as cellist in Smokey Robinson’s band, a decade before my first solo Jazz Festival appearance under my own name. I have been blessed by two Smokeys, the second of which was my neighbor of ten years, Fats Domino’s drummer and grandfather of funk Smokey Johnson. He became like a father figure to me, encouraging me every day to “Go lay it on ’em” and to “go get ’em killa'” — He also was instrumental in helping me figure out I had worth as an artist and how to demand more money for my music. “Girl, you know some S@&*..I hope they payin’ you for what you know!” We all need a great cheerleader in our lives, especially before we learn to do it for ourselves, and I was fortunate to find the best ones just four houses down the street from me. He helped me see past my gender and just do my thing in music. I not only managed to carve out a decent living for the past 19 years I have followed my own path along the way. Thank you Smokey and thank you New Orleans!

Earning the reputation to be a first call for innovative musical projects looking for a cello player has been a wonderful privilege. Within a few years of living here, I was playing in a musical jazz arena alongside Johnny Vidacovich, James Singleton, Kidd Jordan, visiting world renown Jazz improvisers such as Frank Gratkowski, Hamid Drake, Wadada Leo Smith, Tatsuya Nakatani, Cooper More, so many more… I played in a local Medieval Band. I am fond of my yearly appearance at The New Orleans Noize Fest, playing in spontaneous Punk Bands, Rock n Roll Circus Bingo Show, Mardi Gras Indian Funk Orchestra, Southern Rock bands, with Singer Songwriters, Traditional and Progressive Jazz, Vaudevillian French bands and even a Disco band called “Bubble Bath” — I have workshopped my Belgian inspired surrealist ideas with some of the world’s finest improvisers and come up with a style that is my own. It was a natural evolution to put all my favorite grooves, melodies, and sentiments from this plethora of inspiration into my own music.

You often feel like there are just as many musicians in New Orleans as there are houses in New Orleans. Live music is everywhere, in the streets, in the clubs, restaurants, churches, sports fields, public parks, private courtyards, schools, barber shops, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, spilling out into Steamboats over the Mississippi and up over the West Bank into Algiers Point. Since the pandemic began, that spirit made its way onto people’s front porches, rod iron balconies, driveways, car ports … you name it; if you were strolling outside on any given day, you’d likely run into a live band playing a show. When music is such an important part of the fabric of a city, the musicians are put to work. I remember drummer Claude Coleman from Ween coming up to me in the artist tent at Voodoo fest in New Orleans and saying, “You New Orleans musicians are the best in the world because you play so often with so many different kinds of bands!” People often say I am very diverse, and I would say, look at any New Orleans full time instrumentalist…they are usually playing in at least 10 different style bands often and well. I am not sure where else in the world a cellist could have gotten a more diverse musical education.

I consider myself a Stoic optimist, having had to pivot many times during hard times. I understand things are likely to be tough and living is finding ways of surviving creatively. The city of New Orleans is a good place for someone like that. The outdoor music scene has exploded in New Orleans since March 2020. I was fortunate enough to have established my solo musical presence before the Pandemic hit, allowing me to live stream with my show and reach listeners eager for entertainment. Never receiving unemployment because I was working enough remotely to not be qualified, I just pushed as hard as I could to eke out a living. I played a lot of outdoor venues and during the welcomed pockets of time between waves of variants, I have even managed decent tour schedules across the USA. During long periods of staying home, I have worked on my relationship with my city, and have built a front porch worthy of live music performances and for the first time in the 14 years I have lived in my house, some of my neighbors have been able to hear my music for the first time. I am proud to be approaching my 20th anniversary living in this amazing and resilient city.

Listen to Music featuring Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet Trio: “Tourdion” from the album Running of the Bells
Tim Green: Conn-o-sax
Helen Gillet: vielle (medieval fiddle) and cello
Doug Garrison: drums with mallets

Helen Gillet: Helkiase (Solo Album)
Helen Gillet: cello, loops, vocals

Listen to Helen Gillet’s New Orleans Artist Recommendation:

Lilli Lewis Project: “We Belong”


CLINT MAEDGEN – multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, photographer

Clint Maedgen

I first moved to New Orleans in 1988. I wrote 150 songs while delivering food on a bicycle in the French Quarter from 1998 to 2005. New Orleans is an amazing place to be an artist, and this city has given me a lot. I have led my own bands over the years (liquidrone and bingo!) and also had the honor of playing saxophone and singing with the historic Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the last 17 years, and I’ve also taken thousands of photographs in the French Quarter and beyond.

New Orleans makes it very easy to be creative; it’s the kind of place where anything seems possible. This is also a town that still talks to one another, and that is a hard thing to live without if you’ve ever lived here and had to leave. The city gets in your bones in a forever kind of way, and I just couldn’t help but live here. I also still feel like a visitor here, and I am honored to be a small part of such an incredibly important place. Where would the world be without New Orleans? So many things started here, it is absolutely mindblowing.

As for the new music scene here today, I feel incredibly spoiled getting to hear so much music in the air at all times of the day and night. All kinds of music. Music is everywhere here. So many places to play, so many musicians. One of my favorite sonic experiences in New Orleans these days is to hear TRUMPET MAFIA playing on Frenchmen Street. The sound of 8 to 12 trumpets playing together has become this new electric current that is sent into the air on the regular, on Tuesday nights here lately. TRUMPET MAFIA is definitely a worldwide organization, but it’s amazing getting to hear them this much in New Orleans. Please check out these amazing musicians, and many more coming out of New Orleans today. It’s an exciting time for New Orleans music.

TRUMPET MAFIA concert:


Members of the TRUMPET MAFIA include: Branden Lewis, Ashlin Parker, and John Michael Bradford

This last year has honestly been one of the greatest years of my artistic life. I have performed well over 200 shows for my online subscribers, and through the use of Zoom have stumbled onto my new favorite interface for live performance. To me it’s like Hollywood Squares meets Austin City Limits. It is virtually the same audience every time we get together, so we have developed strong relationships in the context of these mini concerts that feel very intimate. Each person has their own square, so puppet dance parties are always a good idea. We have gotten to know each other over time, even though a few of us live in different countries.

Here is a three-minute sizzle reel of the PANDA FAM.

I wrote 24 personalized songs for my subscribers last year. I launched a deal where any member that purchased one of my French quarter doorbell throw pillows, I would write them a personalized song. Each person got to submit 10 words. That project set me free in so many ways, and I found the songs came to me quite quickly. The process reminded me of how I wrote music in the early 90s, recording onto cassette and ping-ponging between different devices to achieve a multi-track. It felt playful and wide open, And I love what it brought out in me.

Here is the video playlist:

As a group, we have collectively been raising funds to record each of the songs in the studio, with the intention of releasing the songs on vinyl upon completion. These songs have such an amazing energy to them, and as a songwriter I find myself amazed with an entirely new process to share and experience with an audience that really wants to be there.

Here is ELI AND THE SUGAR STATIC

As a photographer, my subscription-based audience has been a true blessing. Our group has also become a collectors club, and I have sold eight of my photographs this past year.

An original photograph by Clint Maedgen collaging an eye, a eye chart, and a carpet.

Clint Maedgen: Hindsight & Shadows

An original photograph by Clint Maedgen collaging abstract paintings and a silhouette of a man wearing a hat,

Clint Maedgen: Shadows & Colourburst

CONNECTION is the real currency. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And for creators to have the opportunity to convey that message with an audience that wants to participate online, I can’t help but think that we are living in the modern day gold rush. We finally have the opportunity to cut out the middleman and the gate keepers and connect directly in a very organic and convenient way. If you love what you do and you love to talk about it and you like sharing your excitement for it, I think that this platform is perfect for all creators of all walks of life. If 500 people give you $200 a year that is a really good living for an artist. I like to imagine a world where artists perform because they want to, not because they have to. I think the answer is finally here.

 


DELANEY MARTIN – multi-media installation artist and Creative Director, New Orleans Airlift

Delaney Martin

I met New Orleans pre-Katrina, 1998, in my early twenties. Meeting her upended my life in the best way. I’d been a savvy kid living in New York and LA, reading culture magazines from Europe. Not only was none of that available for purchase in New Orleans, none of it mattered. Moreover, the culture here was not for sale. What New Orleans lacked in terms of a global art trending was more than made up by its incredible living culture that paraded–no–danced, down streets every Sunday for second line parades, rounded a corner in the flowing feathers and hallucinatory splendor of Black Masking Indians during sacred times each year, and kept late hours and a big beats in small neighborhood clubs that rivaled any famous nightclub I’d ever visited. And that was just the Black culture. Though less famous, the weirdo White kids were running anarchist circuses, inventing instruments, costuming on a Monday morning and just generally building such a specific-to-time-and-place culture that I realized that literally everything I had valued before needed to be reconsidered in the most joyous way possible.

I eventually left to go to grad school in London, but I deferred for a year. And I returned as often as I could in the intervening years. I built an art practice in London, but New Orleans continued to ground me at a distance. When Katrina hit, I was looking for a way to help. Starting in 2007 my co-founder of New Orleans Airlift and I began a sort of import export culture business, bringing folks like Big Freedia to NY for the first time or an artist like Swoon to New Orleans to work with us collaboratively alongside local creators we valued. I expanded my art practice to function as a framework for collaboration, building bigger ideas than I ever could on my own by having so many hands working towards a common goal. These days we are most known for our collaborative juggernaut Music Box Village – a collection of interactive musical houses hand built by artists in the dozens, an ever-expanding krewe exploring this idea of a performative musical architecture. This idea born of New Orleans is an ode to our city’s culture, its architecture; it’s the music you can hear coming through thin old walls or around the corner of your block, yet it is an idea that resonates around the world. We invite world-renowned musicians to compose and perform the musical houses. Part whimsy, part serious new music pursuit, the Music Box Village has become a landmark in our city, building off the rooted, but living, evolving culture that defines New Orleans.

I love creating here. I’ve created in many cities, but this is my speed. Jump in a truck with your friends, hit the wood dump, build from nothing, make make make, but all at a livable pace that prioritizes catharsis, ritual and release.

COVID allowed me to slow down. Slowing down and reflecting and moving with change is good. The pandemic of course shut down our performance schedule and was terrible for musicians. But it was growth for myself and for my organization. We pushed up against the obvious challenges by saying, well what do we have time for now. We were able to gather musicians we work with for conversation, have difficult conversations, make decisions to work on difficult projects around race and hard histories that continue to shape our lives. The pandemic created such a rare opportunity to make space for change.

That said, second lines are back. And we terribly missed dancing through the streets. It gives us life. New Orleans without its culture is a city with pretty buildings, but terrible education, pollution, crime, corruption!!! None of us would live here, but the culture trumps all of that and so we do.

Hurricane Ida – now that is a different story. We can celebrate the spirit of mutual aid that defined our community’s response to this tragedy, but it was a tragedy and more will come. New Orleans’ place on the map of the mind is huge, but Ida was a stark reminder that its place on the map may not exist into the very near future. Our neighbors in the river parishes continue to be without homes. This easily could have been New Orleans fate. We were just lucky by 20 or so miles. No amount of culture or music can save us. But we must save the culture. To be honest, we are still in this moment of Ida recovery – it’s too soon to say we’ve overcome it.

Because New Orleans is so storied musically, this idea that it is all tradition can become a perception problem from the outside, but it’s not really a problem from the inside. We know tradition here does not mean something stale or a museum culture. It’s all very alive down here, evolving, well-loved. These so-called traditional forms are understood to be more than music, but sound connected to the spirit in deep ways. There is not a snobbism about, say brass band culture, amongst new music people. It is a blessing that we get to be in this swirl. In turn, these so-called culture bearers are not closed off; they are welcoming. They are also experimental. The musicians we have in our space are not all people making new music. They are brass bands, they are Black Indians, they are superstars of the new music world, they are pop stars. What we give them is a context to work together in an unlikely setting and unlikely pairings. There is an openness. Recently we had two big players in their respective new music circles live in our town for some years: Yotam Haber, the Rome Prize-winning composer and Mikel Patrick Avery, known more as a Chicago character and perhaps most known for his work band leading for Theaster Gates’ Black Monks of Mississippi. We worked extensively with both of them, and the effect of New Orleans on their practice was profound – they wanted to dig in, not dig out. They’ve moved on to other cities and opportunities, but it was great to have their gifts here for a while and we knew that our city was a gift to them too.

Listen, clearly New Orleans is not a mecca of “new music”, but it is open, collaborative, and knows deep in its bones that we make music that matters to the world and so much of that music was the new music of its time.

Listen to Delaney Martin’s New Orleans Artist Recommendations:

Taylor Lee Shepherd: “The Blue Sea Hushed Him”, from Flight of Icarus @ the Music Box Village

So much to choose from at Music Box, but selecting this piece by my music box co-founding sound artist Taylor Lee Shepherd. He leads this project with me. We’ve built musical houses in collaboration and our Shake House is well heard on this track. But he is also the daily technical director of Music Box Village, maintaining all the musical houses by our collaborating artists, and so intimate with all the sounds. This song is from his one man show Flight of Icarus. For the show he exclusively used the sounds and interfaces of the houses, looping and building on their sounds via connected looper pedals he installed throughout the space.

Leyla McCalla: “Mèsi Bondye” from Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes

I really like this particular track. Sort of a nice spare, feminine counterpart to Taylor’s Shepherd’s piece. It also speaks to the evolving exploration of rooted music that New Orleans artists explore – in this case both Leyla’s and New Orleans’ deep connection to the music and culture of Haiti.

 


DYLAN TRẦN – composer and Marketing Coordinator at New Orleans Opera

Dylan Trần

My experience in New Orleans can be summed up in one word: opportunity. I’m a first generation American on my dad’s side, born into poverty in the Deep South. If it weren’t for the fact that Loyola University New Orleans has a free undergraduate application and ample scholarship opportunities, I’m not sure I would have been able to go to college, much less pursue a career as a composer. Even my career as a composer, at this point, is only financially possible because of my administrative position at the New Orleans Opera Association.

Throughout my undergrad I had many interests: conducting, composing, singing, film, photography, marketing, languages, history, diasporas, media, activism, sociology, etc. I had very supportive professors in all of these areas that encouraged me to develop my skills in these interests; this held true when I left school as well. This is a huge reason I have stayed in New Orleans— as my artistic career evolves, the city has allowed me to discover, create, and share opportunities to facilitate my growth and exploration.

The reasons I believe this city is so prime for making your own opportunities is a bit of a double-edged sword. There’s a famous Cajun French phrase, “laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll). That lovely, laidback vibe permeates the music scene as well, setting the scene for the biggest challenge I’ve experienced in New Orleans—outside of jazz, funk, and other popular genres, there is a lack of infrastructure for “classical” music artists. Because of this, most of my commissions come from online and social media networking, as opposed to local groups.

In a way, this lack of infrastructure creates space, an opportunity to build community and art without having to follow an extant institution’s rules—but, the work is not easy. As artists, we are no strangers to being our own advertisers, agents, accountants, etc., something I experienced intimately while I was pursuing a local singing career. As a composer, however, one of the only ways I’ve been able to create the art I want is to take on the additional titles of project manager, development officer, employee organizer, community liaison, etc.—basically running my own small business.

This may sound scary to someone who is trying to be exclusively a composer, but if you are someone in a more exploratory part of your career, New Orleans is an excellent place to do that. I don’t think there are many other places where I would have had as many opportunities to be compensated for trying new things. I’m not just talking music commissions either. I’ve been hired to direct music videos, film documentaries, write articles, run marketing campaigns, develop guest instructor lessons, be a guest speaker, etc. I did not have a huge amount of professional experience with many of these things prior, but because of the nature of the city, if you put some work in and cash in some social currency here and there, you can really explore anything!

Beyond that, I do think the “classical” new music scene in New Orleans is in a blossoming era at the moment. In terms of large organizations: the Marigny Ballet regularly performs world premieres, the New Orleans Opera Association (while not a regular commissioner of new works) is known for championing second and third performances of emerging works, and the LPO will occasionally commission a local composer to accompany an extant “canonic” masterwork. Versipel New Music is a particularly talented collective working exclusively in new music, and there is New Music On The Bayou in North Louisiana, but I am not familiar with many others locally. That being said, every year, I meet more and more composers and groups in the city, so I believe that, while the new music scene may be small at the moment, it is vibrant, growing, and will continue to flourish.

Stepping outside of strictly “classical” new music, the New Orleans musical world opens up tremendously. Some days it seems like there isn’t a genre unrepresented in the city. Hip-hop, folk, indie, jazz, rock, metal, and indigenous musics are ubiquitous in the community. More and more as of late the larger “classical music” organizations have begun to reach out and collaborate with these other genres. For example, it has happened on more than one occasion that the LPO will share the stage with Tank and the Bangas. If you are interested in exploring many genres of music, and the intersections and collaborations therein, New Orleans may be the place for you.

Listen to Music by Dylan Trần:

Dylan Trần: String Quartet No. 1 on Việt Themes

Listen to Dylan Trần’s New Orleans Artist Recommendation:

Lilli Lewis: “Incantation: Wind”


 

Listen to the Different Cities Different Voices playlist on Spotify:

The series is meant to spark conversation and appreciation for those working to support new music in the US. Please continue the conversation online about who else should be spotlighted in each city and tag @NewMusicBox.

 

Photo: Mana5280, Unsplash

Quick Cuts for Big Ears

A crowd of people outdoors

Attending the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville is a delicious game of choice and chance, forcing you to pick between such things as overlapping performances by Rhiannon Giddens, Theo Bleckmann, and Joan La Barbara—and that’s just the first night! But with only a week to go until the kickoff of the 2019 edition of the festival (March 21-24), decisions will need to be made, so we’re combing through the schedule and getting excited to consume as much music as we can cram into our ears (and the hours available each day).

Meanwhile, we’ve been digging through our archives and revisiting the amazing conversations we’ve had with some of this year’s featured artists to get ready for what’s ahead.

The time Joan La Barbara gave us a masterclass in extended vocal techniques

(“The Unexpected Importance of Yes” 3/1/06; @ Big Ears here)

These are things to play with; they’re just ways of experimenting. These are the beginning rudiments of extended vocal techniques. What I want to give to you and what I want to give to every singer is just to play with voice, just play with it and see what else it can do. There are all sorts of wonderful things and if you listen to the music of other cultures you’ll hear very, very different uses of the voice.

The time Gabriel Kahane told us the tale of the golf sweater, the crumpled letter, and the Tupperware container of chocolate chip cookies hidden in the back of the closet

(“NewMusicBox LIVE! Presents” 8/4/15; @ Big Ears here)

The time Meredith Monk spent an hour sharing personal stories and trading ideas about music with Bjork

(Radical Connections, 3/16/07; @ Big Ears here)

Counterstream Radio OnDemand: Meredith Monk and Björk

 

[nm_stream_boxes ids=”277006, 272862, 270886″ title=”More on using the voice with this year’s Big Ears artists:”]

The time Wadada Leo Smith explained how to leave room for personal interpretation

(“Decoding Ankhrasmation” 5/1/12; @ Big Ears here)

I have all kinds of music, but I use the specific language that I have to experiment with instruments and people, sometime extracted from their history, sometime using their history as well. Most things that artists do will find this course.

[nm_stream_boxes ids=”274664, 271855, 277478, 275469, 274957, 273586″ title=”Other deep conversational dives with this year’s Big Ears artists:”]

The time Carl Stone showed us how to make music on a laptop using MAX (in the year 2000)

(“Intellectual Property, Artistic License and Free Access to Information in the Age of Sample-Based Music and the Internet” 11/1/00; @ Big Ears here)

[nm_stream_boxes ids=”271023, 147595, 274129″ title=”More from Stone on intellectual property and the creative experience:”]

The time Alvin Lucier offered us some excellent advice on evaluating new music

(“Sitting in a Room with Alvin Lucier” 4/1/05; @ Big Ears here)

I’m not interested in your opinions, but I’m interested in your perceptions.


With an admittedly overwhelming number of options to explore, last year I took festival founder Ashley Capps’s advice when selecting from among the myriad options:

The art of fully enjoying the festival experience is to “be here now” as they say, and once you make your decision, to go all in and be fully immersed in what that experience has to offer.

It was guidance that held up under the pressure of so many great performances in 2018. We’ll be reporting from the festival again live this year via our social channels if you want to follow along, or get a taste of what’s to come right now with our 2019 Big Ears Playlist.

The Tennessee Theatre

The Tennessee Theatre, Big Ears 2018. Photo: Molly Sheridan

NEWMUSICBOX MIX: 2018 STAFF PICKS

Before we sing another chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” and bring the curtain down on 2018, we have an annual tradition among the staff here at New Music USA of revisiting some of the tracks that caught our ears and hung on for any number of good reasons. Don’t see a 2018 favorite of yours? We hope you’ll tell us more about it below in the comments so we can all give it a listen.

PLUS: New this year, you can stream the entire mix using our playlist feature. This listening option will allow you to easily save tracks to your own playlist as well.

“NEWMUSICBOX MIX: 2018 STAFF PICKS”
LISTEN TO THE FULL PLAYLIST NOW
Happy Holidays from New Music USA!!


Motherland

Jennifer Jolley: Prisoner of Conscience
Quince

Album: Motherland
New Focus Recordings

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes / Bandcamp
The score on ISSUU

I know that Quince’s second album made our list last year, but to me their latest (Motherland) is, to recontextualize Mao Tse Tung, a “great leap forward.” The centerpiece of this third Quince disc (featuring four recent compositions by four different women for unaccompanied female vocal quartet) is Jennifer Jolley’s Prisoner of Conscience, a substantive musical response to the 2012 trial and imprisonment of three members of the Putin-defying Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Though it was composed back in 2015, Jolley’s not-fit-for-radio-airplay, eight-movement cantata with spoken-word interludes is the ideal soundtrack and perhaps balm for our current “toxic” (to replay the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year) times.

—Frank J. Oteri, Composer Advocate and Co-Editor, NewMusicBox


12 Little Spells

Esperanza Spalding: 12 Little Spells

Album: 12 Little Spells
Concord Records

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

“Grounded sensation of perpetual connection with the immensity of the external world,” reads the photo accompanying the release of “12 Little Spells,” an overture dedicated to the thoracic spine. With it, Esperanza Spalding conjures the grounding, expansive, connecting force of the twelve vertebrae between the pelvis and the base of the skull that anchor the ribcage and protect the spinal cord. This spell/song has cinematic swells that feel like breathing, like unfurling, like taking a giant full-body morning stretch while returning to your corporeality after a deep sleep. Spalding’s voice, supported by strings and guitar and bass and brass, stretches and expands alongside her lyrics.

On her website, Spalding writes that the concept behind her newest album, 12 Little Spells, came to her as an embodied tingling healing sensation. She touches upon her initiation into reiki and writes that she wanted to “harness these 12 little sensation-revelations into sounds, words, imagery, and performance that activates this healing, tingling effect in others.” For me, this collection of spells feels more like a grimoire than an album in the best possible way. If you are a body in need of some magical grooves, I would highly recommend treating yourself to a meditative hour of musical healing, courtesy of Esperanza Spalding’s 12 Little Spells.

—Mallory Tyler, Administrative Associate


Autobiography

Jlin: Abyss of Doubt

Album: Autobiography
Planet Mu

Purchase via Bandcamp / direct

Admit it, we’ve all been there. That’s what makes this short, intense track so compelling. Suggested listening mode is loud and with good headphones for the most dramatic impact.

After working in steel factory in Gary, Indiana, Jlin has taken the electronic music world by storm. An indefatigable touring performer, she’s been on the road almost constantly since May 2017. Despite that, she still found time for collaborating with choreographer Wayne McGregor on a major new work, Autobiography, from which this track and album resulted.

—Eddy Ficklin, Director of Platform


This is Not a Land of Kings

Gelsey Bell: This is Not a Land of Kings
Gelsey Bell, Amber Gray, Grace McLean (vocals)

Album: This is Not a Land of Kings
Gold Bolus Recordings

Purchase via Bandcamp

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for the center of the Venn diagram of folk, a capella, experimental, female vocals. On this track and across the entire short EP, Gelsey, Amber, and Grace demonstrate the full expressive power of the human voice. Extended techniques mingle effortlessly with deeply satisfying consonant and dissonant harmonies. This track helps me suspend time for a moment before I get back to “rolling up [my] sleeves.”

—Megan Ihnen, Content Associate


The Landscape Scrolls

Peter Garland: mid-day
John Lane, percussion

Album: The Landscape Scrolls
Starkland

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes / Bandcamp

In the chaos of modern life which often sets my mind skipping, I found Peter Garland’s The Landscape Scrolls to be a recording which instantly focused my ear and attention. Spare lines of distinctly diverse timbres fuel the five-movement, 50-minute-long piece, expertly delivered by percussionist John Lane. In this setting, Garland’s musical imagination cuts an aural path that is striking for its clarity of expression and inspired in its cumulative effect. I have yet to find the lucidity many have achieved through the practices of yoga or meditation, but the resonances in The Landscape Scrolls shush the contemporary noise machine and offer up a centering sonic touchstone.

—Molly Sheridan, Director of Content


A Very Wandelweiser Christmas

Franz Xaver Gruber, arr. Meaghan Burke: Silent Night
The Rhythm Method

Album: A Very Wandelweiser Christmas

Purchase via Bandcamp

The Rhythm Method are, individually and collectively, fierce, fearless, and virtuosic performers. They’re also a group of players who are unapologetically stylistically omnivorous and versatile, and have a definite sense of humor – which shows in their choice to release that rare animal, a new music Christmas album. (The last one I remember is Jerseyband’s Christmasband… in 2001? Which is also awesome but on a completely different level, volume-wise, to this one.) The quartet describe this album as “a cheeky but earnest tribute to the ethereal, soul-flossing music of the Wandelweiser composers’ collective” drawing on “those composers’ deep engagement with silence and slowness, with gentleness and the sort of beauty you have to lean in to hear.” If you like your holly jolly on the quieter, experimental, ASMR side, this is for you.

—Eileen Mack, Software Engineer and Platform Strategist


Yo Soy La Tradicion

Miguel Zenon: Viejo
Miguel Zenon and Spektral Quartet

Album: Yo Soy La Tradicion
Miel Music

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

Miguel Zenon has for many years used his enormous artistic vision to draw attention to the music from his own cultural heritage. This collaboration with the Spektral Quartet is a striking addition to his body of work. This entire album is worthy of some deep listening, and it was recorded just at the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, making the project all the more compelling. I chose this particular track because it demonstrates a more introspective side of the music, which often goes unnoticed.

—Deborah Steinglass, Interim CEO


Book of Travelers

Gabriel Kahane: Model Trains

Album: Book of Travelers
Nonesuch Records

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes / Bandcamp

Gabriel Kahane is such a phenomenal storyteller. On the album Book of Travelers, he captures many personalities and snapshots of lives within the romanticism of long-distance train journeys throughout America. In “Model Trains,he relates the story of a train-loving husband and father who goes slowly mad after hitting his head. The harmonic palette one might liken to romantic art song, which is probably what carried the story so poignantly for me upon first hearing it.

—Amber Evans, Grantmaking Associate


Aviary

Julia Holter: Chaitius

Album: Aviary
Domino

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes / Bandcamp

I’ve always really enjoyed Julia Holter’s work, and her new album, Aviary, is stunning. Each track offers its own beautiful, terrifying, and joyous world, worth multiple listens. I was initially taken by “Everyday is an Emergency,” which is full of bagpipe, brute-i-full amazingness. However the energy and chaotic-ness of “Chiatius” grabbed my attention. It delivers something of a more classical vibe mashup. It’s as if there are multiple pieces overlapping, ebbing and flowing over the top of each other.

—Scott Winship, Director of Grantmaking Programs

An “Inspired by Midwest Clinic” Playlist Curated By Nicole Chamberlain


Our goal with user-generated playlists is to give you the power to curate the music you love on our New Music USA platform. You can now save, organize, listen to, and share videos and recordings from both projects and profiles by using playlists.

Using playlists is simple and intuitive. When you are logged in and on a profile or project page, if you see a video or sound recording that you want to add to your playlist, just click “Add to Playlist.” Once you do that, you can access your playlist at any time by navigating to “My Playlist” underneath the user tab at the top right of the page. The recordings you’ve added will now appear in your playlist.

Our friend and colleague Nicole Chamberlain agreed to curate a playlist inspired by the upcoming Midwest Clinic with works that she sourced from across the New Music USA platform. She put together this fantastic list featuring tracks from Alex Shapiro, Molly Joyce, Jennifer Jolley, Emily Koh, Alan Theisen, Russ Zokaites, and more! Nicole’s picks are helping us get pumped to experience Midwest Clinic through and through. Click the link and join us in the excitement.

LISTEN TO NICOLE CHAMBERLAIN’S
INSPIRED BY MIDWEST CLINIC PLAYLIST

About Nicole Chamberlain 
Atlanta Composer and Flutist Nicole Chamberlain (b. 1977) has composed numerous works for flute and has won NFA’s 2017 Flute Choir Composition Competition, 2016-2018 Newly Published Music Awards, The Flute View Composition Competition, Areon Flutes International Composition Competition, finalist in the Flute New Music Consortium Competitions, and finalist for the Kappa Kappa Psi’s 2018 Female Band Composition Competition. She has been commissioned by the Atlanta Opera, Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Gonjiam Music Festival, Oklahoma Flute Society, Atlanta Flute Club, and many others. An album of her music, Three-Nine Line, released in 2018 by MSR Classics. Learn more about Nicole at www.nikkinotes.com

A New Music Halloween Playlist Curated By Vanessa Ague

One of the exciting ways to use the New Music USA platform is user-generated playlists. Our goal with playlists is to give you the power to curate the music you love on our site. You can now save, organize, listen to, and share videos and recordings from both projects and profiles by using playlists.

Using playlists is simple and intuitive. When you are logged in and on a profile or project page, if you see a video or sound recording that you want to add to your playlist, just click “Add to Playlist.” Once you do that, you can access your playlist at any time by navigating to “My Playlist” underneath the user tab at the top right of the page. The recordings you’ve added will now appear in your playlist.

Our friend and colleague Vanessa Ague agreed to curate a Halloween-themed playlist with works that she sourced from across the New Music USA platform. She found some great tracks that include performers such as Atlantic Guitar Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Nadia Sirota, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and more! Vanessa’s picks are helping us get into the Halloween mood. Click the link and take your Halloween listening to the next level.

LISTEN TO VANESSA AGUE’S
NEW MUSIC HALLOWEEN PLAYLIST

NewMusicBox Mix: 2017 Staff Picks

 

This isn’t meant to be just another 2017 “Best of” list. Rather, New Music USA being all about the discovery of new sounds, staffers here like to celebrate the end the year with a shout out to a track that caught their ears and hung on for any number of good reasons. Don’t see a 2017 favorite of yours? We hope you’ll tell us more about it below in the comments so we can all give it a listen.

Follow the links for further listening and to add the albums to your own collection.

Happy Holidays from New Music USA!!


This Is The Uplifting Part

Natacha Diels: Child of Chimera
Ensemble Pamplemousse

ALBUM: ..​.​This Is The Uplifting Part
Parlour Tapes+

Purchase via Bandcamp / USB

I love that Pamplemousse’s collective musicmaking is utterly virtuosic and serious but also light and often playing with humour. It elevates the concept of new music while simultaneously questioning its very underlying fabric. This is also the *only* physical media I’ve bought this year. It comes as a usb stick nestled in a laser-cut bamboo “cassette tape.”

–Eileen Mack, Junior Software Engineer


Passionate Pilgrim

Brad Balliett: My Flocks Feed Not
Oracle Hysterical/New Vintage Baroque

ALBUM: The Passionate Pilgrim
Via Records

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

I caught the CD release show for this album at National Sawdust and was completely entranced by the mix of materials used to create its unique soundworld. With period instrument and modern timbres, words that feel timeless, and musical language that cuts across eras, it was easy to enter this world and hard to stop exploring it (especially with the voices of Majel Connery and Elliot Cole in my ear). Passionate Pilgrim remained in rotation for me for weeks after the show, and I’m excited to revisit it again as part of this year-end reflection.

–Molly Sheridan, Director of Content, and Co-Editor, NewMusicBox


Memory Bells

Night Foundation: Memory Bells

ALBUM: Memory Bells
Lobster Theremin

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

Grab that eggnog (or adult beverage of choice) and chill with some seriously lush downtempo from the Night Foundation—a.k.a. the Miami-based Richard Vergez—crafted with love, hardware, real tape loops, and a trumpet.

–Eddy Ficklin, Director of Platform


Glorious Ravage

Lisa Mezzacappa: Shut Out the Sun

ALBUM: Glorious Ravage
New World

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

Lisa Mezzacappa’s album Glorious Ravage, featuring the stunning vocals of Fay Victor and an ensemble of incredibly talented musicians and improvisers, took me on a far off journey through the lens of largely forgotten female explorers. Mezzacappa transforms the words of these female explorers into song and also developed visuals for the live performance. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the live performance, the music itself is completely captivating. I still feel I need at least a few more good listens through the whole album to really get my ears and mind around the music, but this makes the work all the more rewarding. I particularly enjoyed Shut Out the Sun. If you’re looking for a taste of this inspiring work, it will be well worth your time.

–Kristen Doering, Grantmaking Associate


Hushers

Kate Soper: Songs for Nobody: “III. Song”
Performed by Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble

ALBUM: Hushers
New Focus Recordings

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

Choosing just one track from one recording is just so difficult—I’m not a “favorites” kind of person. Who’s my best friend? I have many friends and I love them all. So I want to say a special shout out to Fabian Almazan for his really superb recording Alcanza, and I urge everyone to give it a listen. Meanwhile, I love the Quince ensemble’s pure and compelling vocal sound. I also adore this Kate Soper song, and together, this is a nearly perfect recording—at least as perfect as art could ever be!

–Deborah Steinglass, Director of Development


Okónkolo

Yosvany Terry: Okónkolo (Trio Concertante)
Bohemian Trio

ALBUM: Okónkolo
Innova Recordings

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

The title track from The Bohemian Trio’s debut recording, Okónkolo (Trio Concertante), springs a joyous escape from the porous walls of the genre prison. How to label this? Who cares! It’s crafted with expertise, performed with seemingly spontaneous precision, and a blast to listen to.

–Ed Harsh, President and CEO


Wake in Fright

Uniform: The Light at the End (Cause)

ALBUM: Wake in Fright
Sacred Bones

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

“The Light at the End (Cause)” is a standout track from Uniform’s 2017 Wake in Fright. Making the most of electronic and analog tools to produce ear-splitting, heart-pounding noise, the NYC duo has imbued a recording with the strength of a live show. This track, and dare I say the entire record, is worth a listen.

–Madeline Bohm, Software Engineer and Designer


Soft Aberration

Scott Wollschleger: Soft Aberration
Karl Larson, piano; Anne Lanzilotti, viola

ALBUM: Soft Aberration
New Focus Recordings

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

A beautiful, slow meditation delicately and deftly handled that will only further reward with repeated listening.

–Scott Winship, Director of Grantmaking Programs


Knells II

The Knells: Poltergeist

ALBUM: Knells II
Still Sound Music

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

“Poltergeist” by The Knells really stood out to me this year amid the sea of new releases. I love the blending of genres to create something totally unique, and the music video is awesome.

–Sam Reising, Community Platform Strategist and Grantmaking Manager


Composer's Collection: John Mackey

John Mackey: Foundry
North Texas Wind Symphony conducted by Eugene Migliaro Corporon

ALBUM: Composer’s Collection: John Mackey
GIA Composer’s Collection

Purchase via Amazon / iTunes

The latest addition to the exceptional GIA Composer’s Collection series is surprisingly the first commercial CD release devoted exclusively to the music of John Mackey and features 12 stunning examples of the wonders he works in the wind band idiom. There are many treasures in this two-disc collection, but the piece I’ve pressed the replay button to hear the most is Foundry, a relatively brief (just 4 ½ minutes) 2011 “grade 3” piece (for what that means, read Garrett Hope) that was originally written for a consortium of junior high school and high school orchestras. Here the usual mix of winds, brass, and percussion are augmented with a wide array of found objects; ideally a group of 12 percussionists are asked to strike piles of metal, pipes, wood, and mixing bowls, as well as to whack a whip. Written nearly a century after Iron Foundry, Alexander Mosolov’s famous orchestral paean to Soviet industrial accomplishments, Mackey’s piece is less about work and all about play. Junior high school is one of my worst memories, but I’d re-enroll today if I was given a chance to participate in a performance of this!

–Frank J. Oteri, Composer Advocate, and Co-Editor, NewMusicBox

Inspect the Unexpected: 10 Years of Counterstream Radio

Counterstream Radio Desk

Ten years ago today, our own Counterstream Radio was launched into virtual existence with an invitation to listeners to “inspect the unexpected.” Since then, our library of recorded tracks has continued to grow, as has our fan base. We’ve now broadcast the work of thousands of composers representing a wide range of styles and perspectives to listeners around the globe.

To inaugurate the station’s launch, we presented a conversation between Meredith Monk and Björk, two vocal artists and composers who had never met but who had plenty of fascinating things to share with one another. We celebrated our first year on the air with a repeat of this “radical connections”-style program, this time featuring a conversation between Phil Lesh and Elliott Carter. You can listen to both of these programs on-demand whenever you wish.

But really, what fans seem to have appreciated most about the station is the unfiltered access it provides to an incredibly wide and diverse catalog of new music. There is perhaps no more powerful advocacy that can be done for the work than by allowing it the space to speak for itself. To celebrate this 2017 anniversary milestone, we’ve programmed a special playlist of pieces that have been recorded since the station launched.

 

▷▷▷Tune in to Counterstream Radio▷▷▷

 

Is there a piece you’d like to hear on Counterstream? Drop us a line!

NewMusicBox Mix: 2016 Staff Picks

holiday lights

Before we ring in 2017, it’s become a bit of a tradition here at New Music USA to give a cheer for some of the standout music of the past year. Below you will find a selection of tracks streamed separately with a bit of commentary on what made them notable, as well as a continuous playlist of all of the music at the bottom of the post. Follow the links for further listening and to add the albums to your own collection.

Don’t see a favorite of yours? We hope you’ll add it below so we can all give another round of applause to the great work that hit our ears in 2016.

Happy Holidays from New Music USA!!


Timber Remixed

Michael Gordon; remixed by Ikue Mori: Timber
Performed by Mantra Percussion

ALBUM: Timber Remixed
Cantaloupe Records

Purchase via the Bang on a Can Store / Amazon / iTunes

I love the idea of keeping a work alive by recreating it in a variety of ways, and for this work Michael Gordon and Mantra partnered up to shine light on a number of composers, each with a very different voice. Why this particular track? On a personal level, I just really respond to Ikue Mori’s aesthetic. I shared this with the hope that many of you listening will explore the entire release, and then dig deeper to explore all the composers on it further. –Deborah Steinglass, Director of Development


Nicolas Jaar: No

ALBUM: Sirens
Other People

Purchase via Other People / Amazon / iTunes

An atmospheric delight. Imagine walking the halls of a slightly run-down, crowded apartment building on a sultry August evening. Lots of background, a shifting and elusive foreground—you never know what you’ll hear next. Here’s a track, but seriously, you need to sit back and just listen to the whole thing. –Eddy Ficklin, Director of Platform


holographic

Daniel Wohl: Formless
Performed by Daniel Wohl, Lucky Dragons, Olga Bell, Caroline Shaw, Bang On A Can All-Stars, Mantra Percussion, Mivos Quartet, and Iktus Percussion

ALBUM: Holographic
New Amsterdam Records

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

I’m a sucker for post-rock and ambient music. Eno’s Music for Airports done by the Bang on a Can All-Stars was one of the first introductions that brought me to contemporary classical composition. Listening to Daniel Wohl’s Holographic reminds me of this area of post-minimalist/classical and post-rock/ambient genre cross-talk that has always interested me. This record exhibits that style of slow and thoughtful musical development with well-orchestrated blends of electronic textures and instruments. — Blake Whiteley, Development Assistant


Brighter

Oneida / Rhys Chatham: You Get Brighter

ALBUM: What’s Your Sign?
Northern Spy Records

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

I first heard Oneida play in a disused public parking lot Brooklyn in 2001. It was a pretty dark time for New York and we were all young and angry. Oneida’s sound has matured without losing any of that passionate, furious energy which struck me then. Teamed up with composer Rhys Chatham, Oneida have recently issued What’s Your Sign?. While some of the tracks are a little uneven, “You Get Brighter” is definitely worth a listen. –Madeline Bohm, Software Engineer and Designer


stone people

Martin Bresnick: Ishi’s Song
Performed by Lisa Moore, piano

ALBUM: The Stone People
Cantaloupe Records

Purchase via the Bang on a Can Store / Amazon / iTunes

Lisa’s playing (and singing) here is, as always, supremely musical and controlled and full of intent, and the piece, like all of Martin’s music, is profound, surprising, and rewarding to delve into. The Ishi of the title was the last of his people–the Yahi Indians–and the piece is based on transcription of a traditional song he recorded after being taken in by anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley (his story is definitely worth reading). I’ve heard Lisa play (and Martin introduce) Ishi’s Song live a number of times now, and each performance feels like a brief glimpse into a lost world. The original melody is sung and then braided into shimmering, shifting textures, creating a mirage-like sensation, like being on the edge of seeing or grasping something that ultimately remains elusive. –Eileen Mack, Junior Software Engineer


dogdays

David T. Little: Winter – Act III, Scene 2, “Endgame”
Performed by James Bobick, Marnie Breckenridge, Cherry Duke, John Kelly, Michael Marcotte, Newspeak, Alan Pierson, Peter Tantsits, and Lauren Worsham

Album Name: Dog Days
Vision Into Art Records

Purchase Amazon / iTunes

Dog Days, the opera by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, is terrifying, and that’s why I love it so much. There’s something about watching a family fall apart in a post-apocalyptic world that’s deeply disturbing (especially–spoiler alert!–when cannibalism is involved), but at the same time it’s too fascinating to look away. David’s score is a haunting representation of the action on stage, and this track reflects the tension, panic, and loss of humanity and hope we’ve reached at the climax of Dog Days. –Sam Reising, Community Platform Strategist and Grantmaking Manager


real enemies

Darcy James Argue: Dark Alliance
Performed by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

ALBUM: Real Enemies
New Amsterdam Records

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

Darcy James Argue brought a certain amount of swagger to the table just by forming an 18-piece big band in New York City. I’m pretty sure the first show I caught featuring his amazing crew of co-conspirators packed the stage so tightly that the bass player was effectively in the club’s kitchen—and they were still killing it! But what I really walked away thinking—and to even greater degrees after every performance I’ve heard since—is that Argue has a gift for attracting committed, remarkable players and feeding them a stream of witty and sophisticated material, a potent mix that excites the audience’s ears as well as their toes. With Real Enemies, his exploration of conspiracy-driven politics through the decades (originally designed as a theatrical event), his cross-era cuts are particularly incisive. –Molly Sheridan, Director of Content, and Co-Editor, NewMusicBox


duopoly

Kris Davis: Tim Berne
Perform Kris Davis and Tim Berne

ALBUM: Duopoly
Pyroclastic Records

Purchase via Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

This improvisation featuring Kris Davis and Tim Berne, is from Kris Davis’s aptly named album Duopoly. The album consists of Davis playing one composed and one improvised duet with eight different musicians (the first half of the album is all of the composed pieces and the second half is all of the improvised pieces) in a package that comes with an audio cd and a visual record documenting recording session. While the individual playing throughout the album is wonderful, what really appeals to me about this track is the way in which the musicians play off each other to creates a piece whose structure I found to be complex and organic. –Brad Lenz, Development Manager


wild cities

Clint Needham: On the Road: Nothing Behind Me
Performed by Francesca Anderegg (violin) and Brent Funderburk (piano)

ALBUM: Wild Cities
New Focus Recordings

Purchase via New Focus / Amazon / iTunes

I was first drawn to Francesca Anderegg’s album Wild Cities having known her and the pianist during my graduate studies, but I was especially taken with the work, On the Road: Nothing Behind Me by Clint Needham. The first listen had me Googling for sheet music! The piece is a mixture of playful lightness and distant, far-off memories tinged with wistfulness and the fading sunlight. –Kristen Doering, Grantmaking Associate


stay

Jennifer Bellor: Chase The Stars
Performed by Jennifer Bellor, Rasar Amani, Lynn Tsai, Ivan Ivanov, Samantha Ciarlo, Tammy Hung, David Chavez, Lindsay Johnson, Bennett Mason, Sean Carbone, Tim Jones, Kyle Bissantz, Summer Kodama, Jeremy Klewicki, and Bronson Foster

ALBUM: Stay

Purchase Amazon / iTunes

Since so many extraordinary recordings are released every year, it usually borders on the impossible to sing the praises of just one of them. But JCOI-alum Jennifer Bellor’s self-released Stay seems to be several albums at the same time. Equal parts jazz and contemporary chamber music, but also indebted to indie rock, hip-hop, and even golden age Broadway musicals, this kaleidoscopic collection of 13 originals is a wonderful demonstration of how to maintain a highly individual compositional identity without needing to take refuge in pre-post-genre musical silos. I love Moments Shared, Moments Lost (a 2016 duo for clarinet and pipe organ), and AfterHours (a 2014 drum set solo), but nothing probably sums up the dazzling eclecticism of this release more effectively than Chase The Stars, a 2015 setting of an Emily Brontë poem in which Bellor’s own operatic voice is accompanied by flute, bass clarinet, string quartet, piano, electric guitars, three percussionists, and a rapper! –Frank J. Oteri, Composer Advocate, and Co-Editor, NewMusicBox


Stream the full list:

Stream the 2016 Bang on a Can Marathon

Tune in to this page to watch the Bang on a Can Marathon live stream from 4-10 PM on Saturday, July 30. This year, the Marathon is taking place at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) as part of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival.

Below is the approximate schedule for the Marathon:

4pm-6pm
Julia Wolfe: Tell Me Everything
George Crumb: Ancient Voices of Children
John Luther Adams: In a Treeless Place, Only Snow
David T. Little: sweet light crude
Akiko Ushijima: Distorting Melody

6pm-8pm
Brian Petuch: Protosaurus
Frederick Rzewski: Coming Together
Orchestra of Original Instruments (O of OI) led by Mark Stewart
Andrew Hamilton: Music for People Who Like Art
David Lang: ark luggage

8pm-10pm
Ken Thomson: Boil (world premiere)
Missy Mazzoli: Still Life with Avalanche
John Luther Adams: The Light Within
Louis Andriessen: Hoketus
Steve Reich: Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ

You can also download the Bang On A Can Summer 2016 Mixtape for free on Bandcamp.