Tag: best of


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.

Happy Holidays from New Music USA!!


Jennifer Jolley: Prisoner of Conscience

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


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

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


Julia Holter: Chaitius

Album: Aviary

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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:

NewMusicBox Mix: 2015 Staff Picks

Staff Mix 2015

Before we bid farewell to year that was, New Music USA staff members have surveyed the 2015 recordings crowding their desktops (real and virtual) and chosen some of their favorite tracks from the past twelve months for a special NewMusicBox Mix. Below you will find each track streamed separately with a bit of commentary on what made it stand out, as well as a continuous playlist of all of the tracks at the bottom of the post. Follow the links for further listening and to add the albums to your own collection.

These artists have very generously allowed the use of their tracks in this project, and we encourage you to support them by purchasing their albums and letting them know if you enjoy what you hear!

Happy holidays to all!


Tristan Perich: Telescope for 2 bass clarinets, 2 baritone saxophones, & 4-channel 1-bit electronics
Performed by Sara Budde, Eileen Mack, Argeo Ascani, and Alex Hamlin.

ALBUM: Telescope
Physical Editions

Purchase via Bandcamp

In 2015, Tristan Perich began releasing his “Compositions” series of recordings on his own label. So far the run includes four discs, each featuring a single composition scored for acoustic instruments in conversation with Perich’s signature 1-bit electronics. Plus, the sleek, chapbook-sized packaging also includes a fold out poster of the full score! It’s an incredibly compelling visual element that’s not often revealed to the listener and provides a poignant reminder of the composer’s presence in the audio mix.

Molly Sheridan, Executive Editor, NewMusicBox and Director, Counterstream Radio


TIGUE: Cerulean

ALBUM: Peaks
New Amsterdam

Purchase via Bandcamp

Tigue rocks. Literally. Last year they rocked the New Music Bake Sale, and they’ve got a growing following among non-new music types, too. This track is the most “Tigue” on their new album, and features a great big ritardando that makes you more excited.

Kevin Clark, Director of Platform


Du Yun: San
Performed by Matt Haimovitz, cello

ALBUM: Orbit: Music for solo cello (1945-2014)

Purchase via primephonic

While most of the world might think solo cello begins and ends with Bach, we know better. And thanks to the talented and adventurous Matt Haimovitz, we have a three-disc set of modern cello pieces to prove it. The repertoire on these discs spans a huge range and is a testament to his skill, musicality, and eclectic tastes. The track featured here is San by Du Yun, an atmospheric, and sometimes dark, journey for a lone cello through a forest of shifting electronic sounds.

Eddy Ficklin, Senior Software Engineer


Son Lux: Change is Everything

ALBUM: Bones

Purchase via Bandcamp

There is so much great music out there! I especially want to shout out to Jen Shyu, Steve Coleman, and Rudresh Mahanthappa for their recent releases. So how to choose? I went with Son Lux’s “Change is Everything” from the album Bones, for so many reasons—not the least of which was the focus of Ryan Lott’s newish band with Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia on inventing and reinventing, something I deeply believe in. The music is great, and the message of change seems perfect as we enter the new year.

Deborah Steinglass, Director of Development


Sarah Kirkland Snider: The River
Performed by Padma Newsome, DM Stith, Shara Worden, and the Unremembered Orchestra

ALBUM: Unremembered
New Amsterdam

Purchase via Bandcamp

Sarah Kirkland Snider’s arresting new song cycle, Unremembered, deserves to be listened to in order at least twice. But if you have to pick one track, listen to “The River.” Snider’s music moves swiftly, murmuring along, with a burbling vocal line and hand claps that catch the listener and indicate that not all is well on the banks of this river. It’s haunting, graceful melody will stay in your head long after you finish listening

Hannah Rubashkin, Development Manager for Institutional Giving

anthracite fields

Julia Wolfe: Flowers
Performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Choir of Trinity Wall Street

ALBUM: Anthracite Fields

Purchase via Bandcamp

Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music, is one of the most ambitious in her collection of works based on the lore of Appalachia. The oratorio harkens back to the plight of the coal miners in northeastern Pennsylvania and was created after extensive research Wolfe gathered from everything from oral histories to children’s rhymes. Anthracite Fields is a haunting and moving journey into the lives of those who inhabited the region at coal’s height as well as those who remain there today.

Sam Reising, Grantmaking and Social Media Manager

glass partita

Philip Glass: Partita VII. Chaconne, Part 2
Performed by Tim Fain
ALBUM: Tim Fain Plays Philip Glass: Partita for Solo Violin
Orange Mountain Music

This is the kind of recording that makes me hunt for sheet music. The Partita For Solo Violin, and especially “Chaconne 2,” showcases Philip Glass’s ability to work inside a form and create something new. Tim Fain’s performance showcases both the dance like, baroque rhythms and the minimalist harmonies of this incredible piece.

Debbie Milburn, Junior Software Engineer


Jason Eckardt: Subject
Performed by JACK Quartet

ALBUM: Subject

Jason Eckardt’s heavy metal and jazz backgrounds are readily apparent in the title track from his new album, “Subject.”  The piece, which is based on CIA interrogation techniques that manipulate senses, juxtaposes rapid and cacophonous phrases (expertly played by JACK) with periods of silence sometimes slashed with single chords, effectively hinting at (albeit certainly in a reduced way) the experience of that type of interrogation.

Brad Lenz, Development Associate for Individual Giving

african math

Martin Scherzinger: African Math (featuring Hallucinating Accordion and Mirror Notes / Slow Noises)
Performed by Tom Rosenkranz, piano; Jen Choi, violin; Chris Gross, cello

Album: African Math
New Focus Recordings

Some folks may find it odd that a classical piano trio is a group comprising a piano, a violin, and a cello and not simply three pianos, but they’ll be even more surprised when they hear the very non-classical sounding compositions on South African-born, NYU-based Martin Scherzinger’s 2015 CD African Math in which these instruments play music typically played on mouth bows in the Kalahari or on mbiras throughout Zimbabwe. This joyous music is a perfect soundtrack for Kwanzaa or whatever holiday you’re celebrating this December.

Frank J. Oteri, Composer Advocate and Senior Editor, NewMusicBox

NewMusicBox Mix: 2014 Staff Picks

Before we close the file on 2014, New Music USA staff members have chosen some of their favorite tracks from the past twelve months for this edition of the NewMusicBox Mix. Below you will find each track streamed separately with a bit of commentary on what made it stand out, as well as a continuous playlist of all of the tracks at the bottom of the post. Follow the links for further listening and to add the albums to your own collection.
These artists have very generously allowed the use of their tracks in this project, and we encourage you to support them by purchasing their albums and letting them know if you enjoy what you hear!
Happy holidays to all!

Staff Picks 2014

Ghost Quartet

Dave Malloy: The Astronomer
Performed by Brent Arnold, Brittain Ashford, Gelsey Bell, and Dave Malloy

ALBUM: Ghost Quartet
Blue Wizard Music
Purchase via Bandcamp
I love Dave Malloy’s shows more than is, strictly speaking, reasonable. It seems as if he throws himself into his sources with enough force that he breaks through the other side with everything he needs for a show in pieces on the ground around him. In the case of Ghost Quartet, Malloy’s brain seems to have gone down the rabbit hole of the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters,” which goes back at least to the 1650s. On his way back, Malloy brings you through Iran, a modern subway platform, a series of distilleries, and a very strange shop somewhere in, I think, the Pacific Northwest. It’s not that important. It’s just an awesome album and an awesome song.

Kevin Clark, Strategic Director for Public Engagement


Chris Kallmyer: this nest, swift passerine
Performed by wild Up

Populist Records
Purchase via Populist Records
Purchase via Bandcamp
I love that the recordings on this disc are live, not assembled with precision and science in the laboratory of a recording studio. And I love that they reflect a new music scene in LA that’s likewise exploding with life. The musicians’ human energy, digitized though it is, leaps through the speakers at you, even in the quietest, most curiously affecting track of the bunch: this nest, swift passerine by Chris Kallmyer.

Ed Harsh, President and CEO

Haas Kowert Tice: You Got This

Haas Kowert Tice: The Decade

ALBUM: You Got This
Purchase via Bandcamp
Brittany Haas (Crooked Still, Dan Trueman), Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), and Jordan Tice (Tony Trischka) are three friends who also happen to be top talents in bluegrass music and beyond. There are so many interesting tracks to choose from on this album—their first of what I hope will be many—but my favorite track is “The Decade.” It’s a short and incisive cut featuring Haas’s extraordinary fiddle playing and excellent ensemble work by Kowert and Tice. It’s complex, yet visceral and immediate, which is what drew me to this style of music in the first place. I hope it draws you in too!

Ethan Joseph, Development Manager for Individual Giving

Gabriel Kahane: Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)

ALBUM: The Ambassador
Sony Masterworks
Purchase via Bandcamp

With characteristic wit—musical as well as lyrical—Gabriel Kahane takes the listener on a tour of some of Los Angeles’s landmark addresses and the complex history on which they stand. The subject matter gives him plenty to meditate on—from the architects who designed the city to the slumlords who run it. In “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.),” he plays a sharp verbal game that seamlessly mixes commentary on clerestory windows and cantilevered beach houses with a consideration of Bruce Willis’s hair line and the modernist leanings of Hollywood’s bad guys.

Molly Sheridan, Executive Editor, NewMusicBox and Director, Counterstream Radio

Ambrose Akinmusire - Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child, and Rollcall for Those Absent

Ambrose Akinmusire: Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child, and Rollcall for Those Absent
Performed by Ambrose Akinmusire, Cold Specks, Sam Harris, Harish Raghavan, Justin Brown, Charles Altura, and Muna Blake

ALBUM: the imagined savior is far easier to paint
Blue Note

I’ve been a fan of Ambrose Akinmusire’s music for a number of years now, having first heard him at The Jazz Gallery when I worked there. His second release on Blue Note, the imagined savior is far easier to paint, which came out in the spring of 2014, displays his maturation as an artist—the essence of his music, the uniqueness of his voice as a composer and trumpeter, was present from a very early age, but it has amplified as he’s grown and on this CD it’s also amplified by the presence of the exceptional musicians he collaborates with. It’s deeply personal and unmistakably his—honest, probing, emotional, thoughtful, communicative, uncompromising. At the same time, it resonates with our common humanity, and challenges us to feel, think, and act. I chose these tracks, Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child and Rollcall for Those Absent for their artistry and their timeliness.

Deborah Steinglass, Director of Development

Donald Womack: Breaking Heaven

Donald Reid Womack: Breaking Heaven
Performed by Seizan Sakata, shakuhachi; Asako Hisatake, cello; Reiko Kimura, koto

ALBUM: Breaking Heaven
Albany Records

While blurring and blending a wide range of traditions has been a defining trait of 21st-century American music-making, some of the recent music coming out of Hawaii—situated in Oceania halfway between Asia and the Americas—is a direct response to its multicultural history. For the past decade, Hawaii-based Donald Reid Womack has been creating a fascinating body of chamber music utilizing both Western and Asian instruments and has claimed that through writing such music he has finally found his identity as an “American” composer. Breaking Heaven, Womack’s trio for cello, shakuhachi, and 21-string koto, is a great starting point for listeners eager to hear the exciting sonic result of this synthesis.

Frank J. Oteri, Composer Advocate and Senior Editor, NewMusicBox

Battle Trance - Palace of Wind

Battle Trance: Palace of Wind: Pt. II

ALBUM: Palace of Wind
New Amsterdam Records
Purchase via Bandcamp

This track from Palace of Wind, the first album-length work from tenor sax quartet Battle Trance, showcases the collaborative and sonic possibilities of the instrument in a whole new light. Intricate fast lines interact seamlessly with more meditative sections, anchored by multiphonics and circular breathing, creating a hypnotic flow of sound that is like nothing else I’ve heard this year.

Hannah Rubashkin, Manager of Institutional Giving

A Coffin in Egypt

Ricky Ian Gordon: The Open Prairie

ALBUM: A Coffin in Egypt
Albany Records

A small gem of an opera that embraces intimacy and takes the listener (in the case of this recording) on a cinematic journey through one woman’s tragic life and indomitable spirit.

Eddy Ficklin, Technology Manager and Developer

Jacob Cooper - Silver Threads

Jacob Cooper: Silver Threads
Performed by Jacob Cooper and Mellissa Hughes

ALBUM: Silver Threads
Purchase via Nonesuch

As the title track of this stunning minimalist song cycle, Silver Threads is Jacob Cooper’s quiet and contemplative interpretation of modern-day lied. An album I often revisit, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing portions of the entire cycle performed live; the immersive experience his work elicits both in person and in recording never disappoints.

Emily Bookwalter, Grantmaking and Community Manager

A Far Cry - The Law of Mosaics

Ted Hearne: Law of Mosaics: Excerpts from the Middle of Something
Performed by A Far Cry

ALBUM: The Law of Mosaics
Crier Records

A Far Cry’s The Law of Mosaics pairs Andrew Norman’s Companion Guide to Rome with Ted Hearne’s The Law of Mosaics. The release cements the string orchestra as a force to be reckoned with, presenting the unique voices of both Brooklyn exports and allowing them to shine on one of the best releases of 2014.

Sam Reising, Grantmaking Assistant

Three Words for 2014: Chicago Musicians Reflect and Aspire in the New Year

2014 sparkler
1. Alex Temple
2. Kyle Vegter
3. Amanda deBoer Bartlett
4. Anthony Cheung
5. Nina Dante
6. Ryan Muncy
7. Renee Baker


Alex Temple

Alex Temple

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Probably a piece called Switch: A Science-Fiction Micro-Opera, which I wrote for Cadillac Moon Ensemble last summer. It’s the most political thing I’ve done, and also the most directly I’ve dealt with trans issues in my work, so I had to be careful not to be too heavy-handed. It’s a dark and angry piece, but with a lot of humor in it. I actually wasn’t sure if it would make emotional sense until I got to hear it in the venue, the day of the concert!

The other thing about Switch is that it has rhyming lyrics, which I’ve only done a few times before. I wanted the rhymes to be witty and memorable, in a Tom Lehrer sort of way, and while I’m pretty proud of what I came up with (one of my favorites: “writing ambidextrously” and “she was never quite direct with me”), it took forever.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
Chairlift’s album Something is definitely a candidate. I actually discovered it last year, through the video for “Amanaemonesia“—a wonderfully unsettling New-Wave-ish song built out of repeated melodic cells that don’t always combine in the way you’d expect them to — but I’ve been listening to the album a lot this year, too. It reminds me of an old favorite of mine, Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age of Wireless: poppy on the surface, but melancholy and strange when you look a little closer.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
First some background: last spring I spent a lot of time watching Wagner operas in preparation for one of my qualifying exams. Wagner is…problematic for me. His work is full of mysterious, evocative moments, but they’re almost always surrounded by long-winded exposition and endless churning.
About a month ago, I was lying in the bath listening to Gesualdo. I usually find his chromaticism beautiful in an abstract, detached way, but that night, I heard the ending of “Mercè grido piangendo” for the first time. The line “Potessi dirti pria ch’io mora” is sung twice, and both times, it ends with a startling chromatic shift. I thought of all those moments in Parsifal where the music suddenly moves to a pure major triad in a distant key, and I suddenly realized: this is the stripped-down Wagner I’ve been wishing for, and it predates him by almost 300 years.

4. What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
I’ll finally have time to work on my podcast-opera, End! I’ve been planning this piece for years, and it deals with a lot of topics that are personally important to me: the American landscape, the strange resonance of obscure mass-media artifacts, and the idea of being punished for breaking an arbitrary metaphysical rule that you didn’t even know existed. I keep putting it off to work on other, less daunting projects, but now that it’s been approved as my dissertation, I’ll have to write it!
Also: the next season of Mad Men. I know, the show has been hyped to death, but I’m continually amazed by how psychologically, politically, and aesthetically nuanced and complex it is. I’ve actually lost interest in film since I started watching it, because after all, how much depth can you go into in two hours?
5. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
Worldwide queer liberation!


Kyle Vegter

Kyle Vegter

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
1) Figuring out a way to really, really get down (git down) to the bottom of Jenny Zhang’s poem for the Parlour Tapes+ *AND record compilation thing. In working with Jenny there were more than a few moments of, “OMG, I will never live up to her ultimate ART PERFECTION.” Instead I wrote a slimy little jam and pretended I was Roy Orbison on psilocybin/percocet/psilocybin again.

2) This new project I’m doing with Zach Schomburg where whenever he thinks he sees someone talking to themselves but they’re actually talking on a bluetooth headset, he immediately writes a little poem using something they’re talking about and texts it to me. Wherever I am at that moment, I have to stop and record myself singing the lines—whatever comes out on take #1. So far it has required me to leave a meeting, go to the weird grimy bathroom down the hall, and emote over Aunt Fran’s death into my iPhone.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
I think this year I’ve been doing a lot learning HOW to listen, in a very Cageian touchy-feely way. I had a bunch of opportunities to teach sound design this year (for theater/film but more specifically for puppetry). My approach to sound design comes from a very biological, even evolutionary place, and a lot of these classes were focused on trying to get my students to have real, meaningful experiences with sounds they hear all the time/may not even notice. We’d go on long silent sound walks and have discussions afterwards about our experiences, etc. Doing all that deep listening and hearing about my student’s experiences really had an impact on the way I think about sound and music and how it becomes meaningful to me.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
Manual Cinema (my shadow puppet/performance company), did a huge insane-o-hustle summer of performances in Chicago and Pennsylvania and New York for four weeks, including the NYC Fringe. It was exhausting and the most fun thing ever and we drove a devastating amount in our tiny cars with puppet trailers hitched to them.

There was this one performance, though, at the National Puppet Festival at Swarthmore U (yes, there is a national puppet festival, and it’s EXACTLY WHAT YOU THINK IT IS>>) that was packed with something like 800 puppeteers from all across America. I had just driven overnight from Chicago and was pretty completely out of it physically and emotionally. The music for the show is really slow and drone-y and terrifying and performing it in that state for 800 psyched out of their minds puppeteers was one of the most beautifully surreal experiences I’ve had as a performer.
Kyle Vegter performance
4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014? If you don’t have one, why not?
I think I have more resolutions than I even realize. They’re lying all over the place. Like I want to use less laundry detergent, and I want to make more diverse smoothies, and I want to take less showers, and I’d really like to wear more collared shirts.
The big overarching one though is to be more honest with myself about how I want to spend my time.

5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
Making the new Manual Cinema show (to premiere in January 2015). We’ve been jonesing to make a new show for years now, and I’m so excited to be working on new material with my Manual Cinemaites it hurts a little bit. They’re some of the smartest, most honest and intuitive creative people I have ever met, and getting to work with them every day feels like a dream that I’m constantly dreaming. The new show is shaping up to be like nothing we’ve ever made and it WILL involve sexy shadow puppets.
ALSO, ALSO, I’m moving my studio and home to Pilsen in June, and my love is moving in with me there. Uggh.

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
(beets), (beats)


Amanda deBoer Bartlett

Amanda deBoer Bartlett

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Recording music by Aaron Einbond with Dal Niente. Hands down. The music is in the extremes of my range and hinges on these intensely fragile textures. I had to rely heavily on the ears of the composer, engineer, and advisers in the control room. Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time in the studio (something I’d like to change), so the process isn’t completely natural to me yet.
However, at this point, I’m a leading expert at singing into thunder tubes and ceramic cups.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
I made many a road trip this year (I-80 is my nemesis), and something my friends know about me is if you put on any pop country radio song, I can sing every line with harmonies. It’s terrible, I know. These songs are sexist, commercial garbage, but they kept me awake. And now I can sing all about hoppin’ up into your truck with my painted on jeans…
Amanda deBoer Bartlett road trip
But it’s not all so dire. Here’s the soundtrack of my year:
While working:Noosa
Sunday mornings:Kurt Vile; Brahms
Pump up album:Janelle Monáe
Calming my road rage: Joni Mitchell
Long road trips: Mumford and Sons; country radio

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
My husband was out of town, and I had a night off–a rare combination–so I went to see The Tallest Man On Earth at The Waiting Room in Omaha. I like going to concerts by myself, but I don’t get to loud, sticky clubs often. I was pretty close to the stage, and Kristian Matsson was making intense, awkward eye contact with the audience. It was just him and his guitar, sweating it out in the middle of Nebraska. Everyone was swaying and vibing pretty hard. Then he played “The Wild Hunt” and I was transported back to Bowling Green State University. I listened to that album pretty continuously during my final year there, sitting on my friend’s carpeted apartment floor, eating pot-luck meals like lentil soup and grilled cheese, and quoting stupid comedies from the ‘90s. Oh, and complaining about comprehensive exams! I’m a pretty forward-looking person, so taking a moment to bask in nostalgia and honor that time was a rare treat.

4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014? If you don’t have one, why not?
Get better at disappointing people. I want to be a let-down! Really, in order to accomplish anything, I need to focus my energies and stick to my guns this year, which means I can’t be everything to everyone.

5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014? This can be a meal, a musical project, a trip, a party—whatever springs to mind.
Going to Italy with my husband! We both travel for work, but traveling together is tremendously rare. I just love it. Generally we bypass the museums and go straight for the consumables. Here’s what I want: outdoor seating, hand-rolled pasta with a slow-cooked red sauce, local wine, and some sort of perfect chocolate thingy for desert.

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
more coffee please


Anthony Cheung

Anthony Cheung

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Very generally, distractions. An increasingly endless stream of information and stimulation, musical and otherwise, while keeping me apprised of everything current, was often detrimental to my creativity. When I was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome earlier in the year, it was a very good “problem” to have: long conversations with other artists and scholars, constant excursions, and amazing meals. Nourishment for future creative projects.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
Many things, but two albums that come to mind are Steve Lehman/Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Dual Identity, and Toby Twining’s Eurydice. Neither was released in 2013, but I first heard them in the past year and both made deep impressions and led to repeated listenings.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
Well, bear with me as I list three: one as a composer/conductor, one as a performer, and another as a witness to history. The first was conducting the Scharoun Ensemble, which is comprised of musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic, in performances of Time’s Vestiges. After the premiere in Rome, they were kind enough to repeat the piece in Berlin, and getting to work with them one night and hear them play the Symphonie Fantastique under Abbado at the Philharmonie the next was an absolute thrill.
Then in August, at the Newport Jazz Festival, I performed in Steve Coleman’s new piece, Synovial Joints, written for the Talea Ensemble. Steve is one of my favorite musicians and a generally acknowledged guru of improvisation, and getting to play with him and the special guests he brought in (trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and drummer Dafnis Prieto) was a revelatory experience.
Anthony Cheung performance
And finally, back in March, at the conclusion of the papal conclave, when white smoke finally billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, I was made aware of this momentous event not by internet headlines or word of mouth but simply by being in my studio at the American Academy in Rome with the windows open, hearing all the bells of the city ringing simultaneously.

4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014?
One is definitely getting to know Chicago better, as my wife and I have recently relocated here and haven’t ventured out nearly as much as we’d like. The cultural and culinary options seem endless. Though I’m not yet sure about changing my allegiances to the Bears from the 49ers. The UChicago community is incredibly engaging, and I’m loving my interactions with students here. Offering them the best advice and support I can will be my absolute priority.

5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014? This can be a meal, a musical project, a trip, a party—whatever springs to mind.
Premiere performances of my new orchestral work for the New York Philharmonic in June.

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
Renewal without regress/regrets.


Nina Dante

Nina Dante

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Without a doubt, the greatest challenge of 2013 was re-dedicating myself to exploring and understanding the workings of my voice. I am more than happy to get lost in the wilderness that is extended vocal techniques, but expression is limited without a strong connection to the “raw” voice. This summer, I decided to see what I could accomplish if I spent more time with my unique instrument, finding ways to master its natural strengths and weaknesses not only through fundamental vocal exercises and breath work, but also through active listening to vocalists across the genres.

My new obsession is singing every vowel on a single note, and exploring the unbelievable range of timbre and expressive coloring available in this single note, making it a sort of three-dimensional musical object. As a performer of new music, it is amazing to be aware of and have access to this vast palette.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
Led Zeppelin, in all seriousness. For whatever reason, before the fall of this year I had never listened to their music; but this October, fate pulled the trigger and after one listen to “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” I lost my soul to them. Undeniably, they are wild, wild performers, and what makes them completely irresistible to me is that I know the music was really happening for them while they performed; it has an emotional and physical rawness that you don’t find otherwise. For me, it isn’t a question of losing your mind while they play, it is inevitable. (Robert Plant is my current fascination.) Check out at least the first few minutes of this live performance.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
In the summer of 2012, I worked with the French singer Donatienne Michel-Dansac, at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. Most memorably for me, she said that if you interpret a piece of music before you perform it, then you will only ever be able to perform it in that one way.

My favorite moment performing this year was premiering Pablo Chin’s Boschiana with Fonema Consort. With Donatienne’s words in mind, I dedicated myself to keeping the interpretive slate blank, until the moment of performance could make its hand print. I spent my practice time learning the music as meticulously as possible, with the hope that this would free me to let go of interpretive control and perform honestly and spontaneously, through the labyrinth of the music.
It was an eye-opening performance experience for me. The music pulled from me something that felt honest, and at the same time, spontaneous enough to interact with the expressive prerogative of the pianist and saxophonist. I felt that I was speaking, rather than singing—it was thrilling.

4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014? If you don’t have one, why not?
Since 2012, I have dedicated much of my artistic life to the new music ensemble that I co-founded, Fonema Consort. Serving as general director in addition to singing in the group is a fascinating journey: learning to make a decipherable budget alongside learning to sing microtones, negotiating with venues and presenters while diving into artistic collaboration with the musicians of the ensemble … heaven, for me.
This year, a new and very personal goal for the new year is to strengthen my artistic relationship with some of the deeply inspiring musicians I have met and performed with through my work with Fonema Consort. I am eager to see what collaborative possibilities await. New adventures!

5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
I am beyond psyched for the release of Fonema Consort’s (and indeed, my own) debut CD project this spring. The album, Pasos en otra calle (Steps in another street), is a compilation of chamber works for voice and instruments by Costa Rican composers Pablo Chin and Mauricio Pauly. Not only will we celebrate the release of the CD at home in Chicago, but Fonema Consort will travel to Costa Rica for a release event as well, which is definitely something to look forward to!

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?


Ryan Muncy

Ryan Muncy

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Finishing my first album—and doing it in a way that was artistically satisfying and true to myself—was by far my biggest musical challenge of 2013. It allowed me to push myself to a new level and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for recording projects.
Certain pieces from 2013 really pushed me to the extremes as an interpreter and technician. The first that comes to mind is Sam Pluta’s 60 cycles for sopranino saxophone, violin, cello, and feedback televisions, a largely improvised piece we premiered at the Walden School in July 2013 with the composer himself performing the feedback TVs. Sam is one of the finest musicians and improvisers I’ve worked with—and he regularly plays with Evan Parker, an iconic figure in improvisation and arguably the world’s greatest living saxophonist—which forced me to rise to the occasion. It’s a piece that makes you Fight To Win; I remember the feeling of my forearms and wrists burning in pain midway into the piece.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
This year I found myself listening to the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, especially in his performances of Vivaldi’s arias, as well as my friends bassoonist Rebekah Heller, flutist Claire Chase, and Spektral Quartet on their groundbreaking new albums.
Also, I became a fan of the podcast Throwing Shade, hosted by Erin Gibson and Brian Safi. I’m really picky when it comes to podcasts, and this one is everything.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
The blackout section during Dal Niente’s performance of Haas’s In Vain. I’ve never felt so exhilarated and terrified during a performance. My heart was beating out of my chest. You know: that insane C major chord with the string section pulsing, gliding, oozing all over the place. Lights flashing, gongs ringing, 24 musicians playing ten minutes of music from memory in total (hallucinogenic) darkness, the audience beat into submission.

4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014? If you don’t have one, why not?
When it comes to resolutions for the new year, I attempt to position myself for success. As a result, my resolutions are pretty lame. Last year I resolved to drink eight glasses of water each day. I did O.K. For 2014, I’ll probably resolve to spend more time in the kitchen.
Like many arts organization, our fiscal year begins on July 1. For me, this date feels more like the occasion for turning over a new leaf.
5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014? This can be a meal, a musical project, a trip, a party—whatever springs to mind.
I might be letting the proverbial cat out of the bag, but I’m looking forward to Sunday, May 4, 2014, when Claire Chase, Nadia Sirota, Rebekah Heller, and I will present a 40th birthday portrait concert of Marcos Balter in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the City’s “Loops and Variations” concert series. We’ll perform pieces Marcos has previously written for us, as well as the world premiere of a new quartet. Marcos is a composer who has greatly influenced the landscape of new music in Chicago, so it’s fitting to celebrate his 40th with a bang.

Also, I’m looking forward to finally earning “Silver Premiere” status at United, whatever that means.

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
beautiful, ugly, REAL.


Renee Baker

Renee Baker

1. What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013?
Doing three recordings in three weeks in Berlin and Graz with musicians I knew and some that I didn’t.

2. What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year?
Two masters—trying to get inside the heads of Anthony Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith. I’ve been listening to anything written by these two AACM luminaries.

3. What was your favorite musical moment of 2013?
Presenting a 16-page graphic score at the Vermont College of Fine Arts with the Jazz Tentet from New York. I was SO mad that I couldn’t get a sound check that I threw all my anger and angst into that comprovisation and brought down the house! Then I left and went home, still pissed but vindicated. That group kicked ass!
Renee Baker
4. What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014?
Simplify everything.

5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
Finding a place in Berlin.

6. If you could sum up what you’d like 2014 to be in three words, what would they be?
Tea. Create. Be.

Scratch That: Glance Back, Look Ahead

As Chicago braces for a freezing cold start to this new year, let’s pretend the internet doesn’t exist and email is an impossibility. Imagine that I bundled up and trudged all over the city to visit these Chicago musicians in their natural habitats: meeting Julia Filson for a drink at The Aviary, running into Cliff Colnot at an Esperanza Spalding show, or visiting Hans Thomalla in his studio as he worked with a young composer. Picture Andrew Nogal drinking the best possible coffee before getting to work on some new reeds; imagine Mike Junokas fusing electrical wires together in Wicker Park. There’s a lot of fascinating work being done by musicians in Chicago, and behind that work is a group of fascinating people. I picked an eclectic bunch and asked them what they loved about 2012 and where they’re headed in 2013. I learned that most composers don’t like to make resolutions. But as we embark on a fresh set of months, I think you’ll be inspired by these reflections–and the good-looking headshots.

Check in with:
Julia Filson, French horn player of Gaudete Brass
Andrew Nogal, oboist of Ensemble Dal Niente and The City of Tomorrow
Jenna Lyle, composer and doctoral student at Northwestern University
David Skidmore of Third Coast Percussion
Mike Junokas, composer/performer of HARD R
Augusta Read Thomas, composer and professor, University of Chicago
George Flynn, composer, chair emeritus of the composition department at DePaul University
Cliff Colnot, conductor, composer, arranger, and director of ensembles at DePaul University
Nomi Epstein, composer and performer
Melissa Snoza, flutist and executive director of Fifth House Ensemble
Hans Thomalla, composer and co-director of Northwestern’s Institute for New Music

New Music USA’s Supported Projects Are On Everybody’s Lists

Coming up to the end of the year, we’ve been watching projects funded through New Music USA’s grant programs turn up on “Best of” lists and snag a couple Grammy nominations, too. It’s great to see stuff we helped make happen do so well out there in the world.

Steve Mackey’s record with eighth blackbird, Lonely Motel—Music from Slide, got a Grammy nomination earlier this month. In 2008, the project won a commissioning grant to create a really wild theater piece, including the music on this disc. Lonely Motel got nominated for both the Best Classical Composition as well as the Best Small Ensemble Performance.

Gabriela Lena Frank’s music is also catching Grammy attention in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category (and as we’ve highlighted before). Currently Music Alive composer-in-residence with the Annapolis Symphony, the nod came for this disc on Naxos.

Gabriel Kahane, currently Music Alive composer-in-residence with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, took the number two spot on Steve Smith’s list of the best records this year with his album, Where Are The Arms.

And Meredith Monk, most recently awarded a Commissioning Music/USA grant with the St. Louis Symphony for Weave, won Musical America’s 2012 Composer of the Year.

What have been your triumphs in 2011? Want to give a shout-out to a project making waves in your world this year? Let us know in comments!