Catharsis Update

Last summer, Hannah and I spent a week with David Crowell at Avaloch, workshopping his new piece for cello/percussion and pre-recorded cello/percussion. We spent a few days at Guilford Sound tracking, and David has been busy mixing the piece, adding some synthesizer parts and fine tuning the sound.

I’m happy to report that Catharsis is done. Two movements, each of which includes multiple cello and percussion parts. Take a listen here:

I can’t wait to play this piece with the rest of the consortium!

November News

Yesterday, I celebrated daylight savings time with a solo recital at the University of Kansas, my home base. I took a break from my typical diet of “all new music all the time” to share some slightly older music.

David Crowell’s Celestial Sphere was commissioned by a consortium of percussionists led by the amazing Ian Rosenbaum.  The piece is for many, many marimbas: some pre-recorded, and one live.  Celestial Sphere got me back in touch with David, which led to our current cello/percussion collaboration (more about that soon). I first played Elliot Cole’s Bloom Suite when working with Elliot and his Living Room Music cohorts on a concert for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.  It’s a real shred fest!

To those, I added two classics—Iannis Xenakis’ Psappha and Georges Aperghis’ Le Corps à Corps.  Both of these pieces are really special to me.  In my ears, Psappha is still an outlier more than 40 years after its composition: a coalescence of ancient Greek scansion, layered counterpoint, and modernist brutality, alternately jagged and suave. Le Corps à Corps is a grim motorcycle crash alternately reacted to, acted out, and narrated.  Aperghis toes the line between theater and concert hall, a boundary more transparent in percussion than any other instrument. Both are collaborations between composers and performers which have deeply inspired my own work as a musician, and I was excited to share both again.

Lastly: the world premiere of Hannah Lash’s Start. Hannah wrote this piece as part of my Unsnared Drum project.  Our mission is to reinvent the snare drum through commissioning, sharing, and recording new works from four really interesting composers, and I think Hannah’s piece is a stupendous first completion.  

Next, I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for a performance with my new ensemble, the Percussion Collective.  We’ll be presenting a show at the Percussive Arts Society’s International Convention, premiering a new work by Alejandro Viñao alongside Steve Reich’s Sextet and Garth Neustadter's Seaborne. For those of you who don’t know PASIC, just think mash together the Modern Language Association Conference, a giant drum store, and the country’s biggest high school marching band competition.  Lots of lanyards and earplugs, and you always leave with more stuff than you anticipated. It’s a joy to play with this group, and a real honor to play for so many percussionists.

The next day, New Morse Code is teaming up with Roberta Gumbel for the premiere of *dwb*: Driving While Black.  This opera, with music by Susan Kander and libretto by Roberta, tackles issues of race through the lens of a mother teaching her child to drive in a country where DWB can be fatal.  We presented part of piece last year at KU, and are excited to bring the piece to a larger audience at the Lawrence Arts Center.  

Next up is a trip to Queens for the premiere of George Lam’s The Emigrants.  We made a video talking about the project, for which George interviewed immigrant musicians living and working in Queens:

I love where this piece is going.  George used the voices of his interviewees and to create a piece where spoken word and music intermingle, and the result is a powerful way of highlighting these musicians’ stories. We’ll be presenting the piece at the Queens Museum, with performances from some of the musicians featured in the piece.  More info is available at our project website.

The Emigrants and *dwb* are projects which tackle complex issues by presenting people’s experiences.  Stay tuned for more info about these and other projects NMC is undertaking, and how you can be a part of them!

Limestone and Felt

New video alert! Caroline Shaw’s Limestone and Felt, arranged for cello and marimba (from the original viola/cello) by New Morse Code. Once again, HUGE thanks to Four/Ten Media for their amazing videography. I love the way Evan and Kevin use shadows and light to mirror the echoes and ostinati in the piece. The light is also a sly nod to Caroline’s inspiration—hearing music in big, reverberant (and shadowy) cathedrals. Thanks as well Vic Firth for distributing.

Start

I’ve been having fun digging into Hannah Lash’s Start, her contribution to Unsnared Drum. Here’s the opening:

The piece uses a kind of developing variation, with different rhythmic patterns highlighted by timbral shifts using different techniques, sticks, and beating spots. Like a lot of Hannah’s music, Start is full of energy and incessant forward motion.

Last summer, Hannah and I brainstormed some ideas. Cameras in the throat! Speech rhythms! New notational paradigms!

As you might have noticed, her completed piece includes none of these, but it does include a lot of Hannah’s experiences with her drum. I sent her a drum and the people at Vic Firth provided a set of mallets and sticks. It turns out that being a phenomenal harpist is the perfect preparation for tuning snare drums and for developing the kind of control we percussionists covet.

A Facetime-based tuning session…

I’m going to premiere Start on my faculty November 4th here at KU. Come out, or tune into the live stream!

Mariel

In February of 2017, Hannah and I brought Kevin and Evan of Four/Ten Media out to Kansas for 2 full days of filming. It was freezing outside, but a broken HVAC left the concert hall at about 90 degrees. I think I toweled off after each take…

I’m so glad to share one of the duos we recorded that weekend, Osvaldo Golijov’s Mariel.

Mariel was commissioned by the Steve Schick/Maya Beiser project, a group who provided a much inspiration for NMC’s work. I remember buying their CD from the Steve Weiss print catalog, and delighting in its sonically diverse, expressively immediate and brilliantly performed world. For Hannah and I, Mariel is a classic—it’s older than many of my students, and wasn’t written for us. We love the way it speaks to audiences, and we never fail to hear stories and memories of listeners after a performance. Enjoy!