It's that time of the month again! Time to showcase all the latest new releases that have come across the desk (and made it ALL THE WAY OFF of the desk, in fact!) John Schaefer sorts through the stacks of new CDs, the Soundcloud files, and other digital submissions direct to his inbox to present some of the finest new music for the month.
We'll explore the deep tones of bands like Gato Loco whose lead instruments are the bass clarinet and the tuba on this New Sounds program. There's even more from the tuba with music by Tom Heasley and some bass clarinet work by Marty Ehrlich. We'll also hear the jazzy extensions of the bass saxophone in the works of the Maikotron Unit.
For this New Sounds, we'll hear new releases from the New York-based collective NOW Ensemble and the sax foursome, the PRISM Quartet. Three of NOW's founding members are composers, including Judd Greenstein, who also heads up the record label, New Amsterdam. Greenstein's music blends a bit of jazz, the fun syncopations of hip-hop, and nifty interlocking groovy riffs of minimalism, and can just as easily be heard in a club as it could be in a concert hall. He's also one of the so-called "indie classical" composers, those from a younger generation who have absorbed minimalism, but incorporate electronics, electric guitar, and all sorts of non-traditionally symphonic instruments into their music. From NOW Ensemble's latest, "Awake," we'll hear "Change."
For this New Sounds, listen to new music from violinist and vocalist Caleb Burhans. His latest release “Evensong” explores both the secular and sacred, along with works both instrumental and choral. Listen to his "The Things Left Unsaid," one of the instrumentals on the record. Also, hear music by Nico Muhly, which draws from both the minimalist tradition and Anglican hymns. Then listen to a classic masterwork by Meredith Monk - "Dolmen Music." Plus, an ambient-sounding work from Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti and more.
Listen to music that features the orchestra as a non-western ensemble. Hear music from a new tribute record, “The Road to Jajouka,” a recording honoring (and with proceeds supporting) the legendary Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar. Then, the orchestra provides a drone in a live recording made at the Fes Festival of the traditional call to prayer. Also, hear the orchestra as an Indian instrument with the Bombay Dub Orchestra and as an instrument of the gypsy or Roma tradition in music from the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio. Plus, hear Jherek Bischoff’s orchestral arrangement of the music from Congotronics by Konono No. 1, and more.
Listen to music made in or about the underground – catacombs, cisterns, cellars- on this New Sounds. There’s music by sax player, percussionist, and a composer for Sesame Street - Ken Field from his release “Subterranea,” recorded in several underground rooms in Roswell, New Mexico. Ranging from overdubbed saxophones, 'sticks on juice cans, sticks on suitcase' and lots of percussion, the pieces include titles like “Five Saxophones in Search of Meaning” and “Om On the Range.”
South African fingerstyle guitarist Guy Buttery joins John Schaefer in the studio to perform a live acoustic set without effects. His exceptional world music for solo guitar evokes the rhythms of his native land unconsciously, while drawing on influences like Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges. Listen to a bit of guitar as percussion instrument in one of his pieces, “Sleep Deprivation.” Then, hear another of Buttery’s insanely inventive techniques on a tune where he plays the guitar like a zither, as an extension of tapping, to achieve slap harmonics.
On this New Sounds show, hear a world premiere recording by Dylan Mattingly written specifically for the New York-based ensemble of young musicians, Contemporaneous. Mattingly is a composer, cellist and one of the founding co-artistic directors of the group (he’s also a pitcher for Bard College’s first ever club baseball team.) Listen to part two of his epic and emotional poem for chamber orchestra depicting Amelia Earhart’s final flight, called “Atlas of Somewhere (On the Way to Howland Island): Islanded in a Stream of Stars.”
This New Sounds program is one devoted to the Latin Groove, especially the cumbia rhythms that we’ll hear in several pieces on this show. We’ll begin in Argentina with Chancha via Circuito, the alter ego of producer Pedro Canale, who enjoys chopping up and then mixing folk guitar, flutes, and Coke-bottle percussion to make retrofitted cumbia for the clubs.
The new music string quartet Brooklyn Rider certainly does get around. They’ve been part of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, recorded Debussy as well as all five string quartets by Philip Glass,write and perform their own originals, and even collaborated with the kemenchech (Persian fiddle) virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor. They’re currently touring with multiple Grammy Award-winning banjoist Béla Fleck. Brooklyn Rider joins us in the studio for this New Sounds program, and they’ve brought an extra player – the Celtic fiddler Martin Hayes (of County Clare.)
Hear songs and instrumental pieces that are informed by classical music, yet ones which expertly ride the divide between classical and post-rock, or perhaps classical and electronica, on this New Sounds show. There’s music from vocalist and composer Julianna Barwick, who does a lot of looping of her own sound. Listen to “Forever,” from her latest record, “Nepenthe,” recorded with Sigur Rós collaborator Alex Somers in Iceland. Barwick continues to play with layers of reverb, and even adds members of múm and the string quartet Amiina - in all, making luminous and dramatic music that is easy to get lost in.
Hear fragile and glassy music on this New Sounds program, including low-fi, 1-bit electronic music by New York-based composer Tristan Perich. Listen to the collision of math, physics, and code, in Perich’s “Observations,” for two crotales. (Incidentally, 1-bit is the lowest possible digital representation of audio.) Then there’s also music by Michael Hearst (he of One Ring Zero), from his latest, “Songs for Unusual Creatures.
Listen to new music with old roots on this New Sounds program. Hear from the latest release, “Bella Ciao” by New York band Barbez, led by Dan Kaufman. Inspired both by ancient Roman-Jewish melodies, Italian neorealist cinema,and more immediately, by the songs of resistance during the Nazi occupation of Rome by the Italian partisans of World War II. The tunes weave European folksong, post-war classical, and experimental rock into heavy otherworldly protest cinema-scapes.
For this New Sounds, listen to music that mixes together the traditions of South Asia and the middle East and just as far west as Turkey. Brooklyn-based Nashaz brings the Arab classical music influence to their oud-led jazz outfit, playing with scale, “Hijaz.” (Leader and oud player Brian Prunka also runs an Arabic jazz blog, as well as an oud site, for delving into the all the music theory.) Also, Niyaz, the Montreal-based Iranian-American group, brings the Persian influence, and features hammered dulcimer.
For this New Sounds, we’ll sample some recent ambient electro-acoustic music from the likes of New Jersey-based composer Frances White, Canadian electronic/ambient producer Loscil (Scott Morgan), and Fazio. Listen to electroacoustic chamber music by Frances White, which she wrote especially for eighth blackbird, and incorporates the traditional Japanese shakuhachi flute.
For this New Sounds, we’ll hear from both Meredith Monk and David Hykes, two pioneers in what is now called “extended vocal technique.” Composer, vocalist, choreographer, and innovator Meredith Monk has lately been expanding into the worlds of orchestra and string quartet. And on her release, "Songs of Ascension" she achieves a new balance with her pairing of voice and instruments together with a combination of East and West in the shruti box (a drone instrument from India) together with string quartet.
For this New Sounds program, we’ll listen to music inspired by birdsong, whether it’s by composers who are birders, or naturalists. Some of these sounds are electronically processed, and some are recreated acoustically. We’ll listen to Alaska-based John Luther Adams’ recording “Songbirdsongs,” where an ocarina imitates the birdsong, along with music from Tasmanian Ron Nagorcka played on digeridoo and with samples from the cockatiel family. Plus music from producer Chris Hughes, his “Slow Motion Blackbird,” and music from Maria Schneider as well.
Hear songwriters take their ambitious ideas and go for the orchestral and operatic on this New Sounds program. There’s music from Jherek Bischoff, a songwriter, producer, performer and composer who helped kick off this year’s Ecstatic Music Festival back in the early spring. Bischoff’s new recording, “Composed” is nine orchestral pop songs, meticulously layered, all featuring different vocalists, including Caetano Veloso and David Byrne.
Composer, producer, performer, conductor, record label founder, and musical ringleader John Zorn (add “genius” in there too – he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship) joins us for this New Sounds program to present selections from his massive Masada Project, Book 2: Book of Angels. Comprised of over 300 tunes, the Book of Angels is inspired by traditional Jewish music and at various points combines jazz with elements of psych-rock, many world music traditions, brass band parades, and thrash metal. On the occasion of his 60th birthday, Zorn came by the studio to present music from just some of the recordings of The Book of Angels. Listen to selections by Secret Chiefs (members of Mr. Bungle), pianist Uri Caine, Pat Metheny, the Masada Quintet featuring Joe Lovano, Mycale (a vocal quartet), cellist Erik Friedlander, and many others. The rest of the music, which was too much to fit into one New Sounds show is part of this Bonus Podcast.
New music made on old instruments, and older music in positively modern settings is what’s in store for this New Sounds program. Listen to a record from the early music vocal group Orlando Consort in collaboration with jazz rock band Perfect Houseplants, called “Extempore” – literally “out of time.” There’s also a folk setting involving banjo of a 14th Century tune by Guillaume de Machaut, and music by abbess, composer, and recently sainted Hildegard von Bingen in a decidedly modern arrangement from violist (and viola d’amore wielder) Garth Knox.
Pre-empted by special coverage of the New York City mayoral primary election.
For this program, hear an hour of recent soundtracks for both film and dance. Listen to music from the new, otherwise silent film, “Visitors” by filmmaker Jon Kane – about our ambivalent relationship with technology. Seven years in the making, "Visitors" is the fourth collaboration between director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. Also, hear selections from the keyboard-driven soundtrack, “The Beauty Inside,” from the American pianist/composer Dustin O’Halloran, who now lives in Berlin.
For this New Sounds, listen to selections from Sarah Kirkland Snider's epic song cycle, Penelope. From a New Sounds Live recorded in March of 2011 at Merkin Hall as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, hear composer/vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond. together with the versatile sextet yMusic. Also, yMusic performs Snider's instrumental piece, "Daughter of the Waves."
For this New Sounds, we’ll hear three recordings that feature a blend of acoustic instruments and electronic processing. From a score to the new film by Bill Morrison, “The Miners’ Hymns,” listen to organ, brass ensemble, and electronics, by the master of mixing electronic and acoustic sounds - Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.
For this New Sounds, hear a load of European music from composers responding to American minimalism, including music from pianist and composer Arthur Jeffes – son of the the late Simon Jeffes, founder of Penguin Café Orchestra. Hear some music by Sundog, the first new project on the Penguin Cafe Label, which is Arthur Jeffes on piano and Oli Langford on violin, and is something like "chopped up post-electro" minimalist chamber.
Listen to music from mid-sized ensembles on this New Sounds program. There’s music from Daniel Wohl and members of TRANSIT from his record, “Corps Exquis,” as a sextet, involving electronics. Then listen to the Bar Kokhba Sextet playing music by John Zorn, from Book of Angels; the volume is titled “Lucifer.” The record is one of many in the 2nd part of his large “Masada” collection of pieces, all performed by other artists and ensembles.
Listen to some music for Rosh Hashanah, ("head of the year"), the Jewish New Year, on this New Sounds program. Hear some music by Frank London of the Klezmatics, from his soulful collection of classic synagogue chanting (hazonos), scored for trumpet solo, harmoniums, glass harmonica and bass. There's also music by Steve Reich, from "Tehillim," - Part 3. Plus, music by clarinetist Andy Statman and small ensemble music from John Zorn's Masada project.
Listen to some new music from the concert hall on this New Sounds program. There’s music from composer Bryce Dessner, who has been working with Kronos Quartet on a series of pieces. We’ll hear his “Aheym,” (‘homeward’ in Yiddish), touching on the idea of flight and passage, and dedicated to his grandmother, Sarah Dessner.” Also, hear new music from composer, singer, violinist and multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans and his latest release, the “emo-classical” epic, “Evensong.”
“Chamber Music,” the quietly elegant record from Ballaké Sissoko, who plays the traditional kora, a lute-harp from Mali, and Vincent Ségal, the French cellist who plays for the trip-hop band Bumcello, came about because Sissoko approached Segal after a Chocolate Genius show. Following improvisatory leads, they wrote intimate and warm global chamber music, which sounds like it came about in the still of the night.
For this New Sounds listen to new works for lots of drums and other things to beat on, especially the University of North Texas Percussion Ensemble playing music by Graham Fitkin, from a recent recording, "Vespertine Formations." Also, there's music for percussion based on American minimalism, and works informed by Indonesian gamelan. Plus, listen to music from Swedish jazz drummer/composer Bengt Berger inspired by Ghanaian funeral drumming.