The Callithumpian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘stephen drury’

SICPP 2013!

In concerts, SICPP on June 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm


SICPP 2013 HAS ARRIVED!  We are thrilled to welcome BnG Composer-in-Residence Rand Steiger this summer at SICPP, as well as guest artist Winston Choi. Our evening concerts pack a punch this year — performances by Steve DruryYukiko TakagiWinston ChoiScott DealStuart Gerber,Corey HammAdrienne ArdittiJessie LaFargue, and yours truly, the Callithumpian Consort, Sunday eve through Friday eve. We end the week as usual: with the legendary SICPP Iditarod on Saturday, June 22, which runs from 4pm until whenever (last year it ended around 3am; this year may look to be a little more sane!).

In addition to the evening concerts, SICPP participants will perform solo repertoire in midday concerts at 11:30am on MondayWednesdayThursday, and Friday at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 The Fenway). Museum admission fee is waived if you tell them at the door that you are attending the SICPP concert in Calderwood Hall. The Gardner is closed on Tuesdays, so Tuesday’s midday concert will be in Williams Hall, and will feature the percussionists of SICPP.

All concerts are free, except for Thursday’s SICPP/GuitarFest at the Fenway Center.

Sunday, June 16 @ 8pm, Jordan Hall
Stephen Drury, piano; Elizabeth Keusch, soprano; Jessi Rosinski, flute
Charles Ives: Concord Sonata
Helmut Lachenmann: Got Lost

Monday, June 17 @ 8pm, Jordan Hall
Winston Choi, piano
Elliott Carter: Two Diversions
Hans Thomalla: Piano Counterpart
Jacques Lenot: Cités de la nuit; Ils traversent la nuit
Brian Ferneyhough: Lemma–Icon–Epigram
Conlon Nancarrow: Two Canons for Ursula

Tuesday, June 18 @ 8pm, Jordan Hall
Yukiko Takagi, piano, electronics, video; Stephen Drury, piano;
Scott Deal, Stuart Gerber, percussion; & members of the Callithumpian Consort

Johannes Kreidler: Klavierstück 5 für Klavier und 4-kanalige ZuspielungStudie für Klavier, Audio- und Videozuspielung
John Zorn: Camarón for piano and four percussion (from Aporias)
Franco Donatoni: Hot
Béla Bartók: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion

Wednesday, June 19 @ 8pm, Jordan Hall
Corey Hamm, piano; & members of the Callithumpian Consort
Rand Steiger (composer-in-residence): RésonateurA Menacing Plume
Tristan Murail: La Barque Mystique
Dorothy Chang: Ephemera; Echoes; Toccatina (from Five)
György Ligeti: L’Arrache-Coeur
David Rakowski: Étude No. 8: Close Enough for Jazz
Noël Lee: Étude No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 70: Legatospielen
Dai Fujikura: Étude No. 1: Frozen Heat
Earle Brown: Available Forms I

Thursday, June 20 @ 5pm, Fenway Center
$10 gen. admission / FREE students, seniors, NEC & NEU alumni
SICPP/Boston GuitarFest: Redcoat Reversal, New Music 
Clarence Barlow: …Until…
Rand Steiger: A Good Diffused
Rebecca Saunders: Vermillion
Jonathan Harvey: Still
More information here.

Thursday, June 20 @ 8pm, Jordan Hall
Yukiko Takagi, Stephen Drury, Corey Hamm, piano;
Scott Deal, Stuart Gerber, percussion; Keith Hamel, Caroline Park, electronics;
Adrienne Arditti, soprano; Jessie LaFargue, dancer; Callithumpian Consort

Rand Steiger (composer-in-residence): A Good DiffusedWoven Serenade
Elainie Lillios: The Rush of the Brook Stills the Mind
Keith Hamel: Touch
Kaija Saariaho: Six Japanese Gardens
Caroline Park: Music For Phrases

Friday, June 21 @ 4pm, Pierce Hall
Electronic Workshop Concert
Fresh new works for fixed and live/interactive electronics
by the participants in SICPP’s 2013 Electronic Workshop.

Friday, June 21 @ 8pm, Brown Hall
Stuart Gerber, percussion; & members of the Callithumpian Consort
Mathias Spahlinger: música impura
Alan Sentman: Patchwork
Iannis Xenakis: RebondsOkho
Adam Roberts: Anakhtara
Ulrich Kreppein: Abendlich auf schattenbegleiteten wegen

Saturday, June 22 @ 4pm, Brown Hall
THE SICPP IDITAROD: music starts at 4pm, come and go as you please!
a 6-hr-plus marathon concert featuring performances by the Fellows of the Institute, including music by Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, Luciano Berio, Frederic Rzewski, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Rand Steiger, George Crumb, Scott Deal, Charles Ives, Roger Miller, Mathias Spahlinger, Steve Reich, and the composers of the SICPP New Works program.


Earle Brown: Beyond Notation

In concerts on January 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm


This Friday and Saturday, January 18 and 19th, Boston celebrates the American avant-garde composer Earle Brown (1926-2002) in the symposium Beyond Notation, hosted by Northeastern University. A native of Massachusetts, Brown studied at Northeastern and Schillinger House (now Berklee College of Music) before establishing his career in New York and Europe as a groundbreaking composer and conductor of graphic notation and “open form” music.

Stephen Drury and the Callithumpian Consort are among the international group of presenters, hailing from music, art, and dance disciplines, who will come together in examining the life and musical legacy of Earle Brown. Presenters include Kyle Gann (Bard College), Richard Toop (Sydney Conservatorium), Susan Sollins Brown (President, Earle Brown Music Foundation), Thomas Fichter (Director, Earle Brown Music Foundation), Carolyn Brown (Merce Cunningham Dance Company), Louis Pine, pianist Steffen Schleiermacher (Leipzig, Germany), and Mickey Katz (Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players).

Callithumpian Consort will be performing in two evening concerts, sharing the bill both nights with pianist Steffen Schleiermacher. On January 18th, the program includes Earle Brown’s Times Five, Folio, Octet I, and String Quartet, alongside Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstueck XI (Schleiermacher), Lee Weisert’s New England Drift, and Christian Wolff’s Microexercises.  January 19th‘s program will feature Earle Brown’s Available Forms I, Sign Sounds, Centering, and Corroboree (3 pianos), as well as John Zorn’s For Your Eyes Only and Pierre Boulez’s Constellation-Miroir (Schleiermacher). Both evening concerts will be at 8:00 PM at the Fenway Center.

The U.S. premiere of Brown’s sound installation, Music for Galerie Stadler (1964) will be hosted by Gallery 360 at Northeastern University alongside a photo exhibit, January 14 – February 26. Events will be held at the Fenway Center of Northeastern University, Blackman Auditorium, and Calderwood Hall at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Click here to register for any of the events/performances of Beyond Notation. All events are free and open to the public, but registration is recommended, as seating may be limited. The Art and Music of Earle Brown session on January 18 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will be subject to museum admission fees for registrations submitted after January 17.

See the full schedule and register at

1-2-3: Solos, Duo, Trio

In concerts, upcoming on September 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm

John Harbison (photo by Katrin Talbot)

Callithumpian Consort is back! — and ready to kick off the new season. We’re in Jordan Hall on Thursday, October 4th with an intimate program, focusing more inside the ensemble to reveal our individual, virtuostic soloists. The opening concert features two premieres (a Harbison world premiere, and a Roberts US premiere) performed by cellist Benjamin Schwartz.  All in all, the night contains a wide-ranging array of detailed sounds and ideas, coming from around the world and stretching deep into the mind and imagination.

Karina Fox begins the evening with Tristan Murail’s C’est un jardin secret, ma soeur, ma fiancee, une source scellee, une fontaine close… . The subtle work, written for viola (and as a wedding present for two of Murail’s friends), is described by Julian Anderson as “an exquisite miniature” containing the particular timbres and senses we come to identify as coming from Murail’s soundworld. Next, Trevor Bača gives us this pristine image for his Sekka (for unaccompanied flute): “Shining white sounds. A shifting multiplicity. And an intense and sculpted whisper.” The title essentially is a fusion and play on the Japanese characters for “snow” and, in part, “flower”, opening to a beautifully minimal analogy perfectly suited for the design and structure of the instrument. Flutist Jessi Rosinski performs.

Clarinetist Rane Moore and pianist Elaine Rombola team up to explore the sonic contours and extremes in the terrain of Jonathan Harvey’s Be(com)ing, and cellist Benjamin Schwartz presents two premieres this evening: Invention on a Theme by Wm. Shakespeare by John Harbison (a world premiere) and Anakhtara by Adam Roberts (US premiere). Both are commissioned works; the Harbison was commissioned for Schwartz’s 40th birthday (a treat from family and friends), and the Roberts piece was commissioned by the cellist himself.

Gabriela Diaz performs Roger Reynolds’s Kokoro for solo violin, a 27-minute work in 12 parts, exploring the idea of “kokoro” in its various meanings: the actual, physical heart, the emotional “true” heart, the mind, soul, and spirit (Daisetsu Suzuki). According to a program note, Reynolds found this multi-tiered concept to be “irresistable”, and in a performance note, imagines the ideal performance as “involv[ing] the assumption of an entirely new psychological stance for each of the parts.” Finally, we close the night with the conceptual Georges Aperghis’s Les guetteurs de sons, performed by percussionists Mike Williams, Jeff Means, and Nick Tolle.

Join us for this rare program highlighting our soloists within the Consort — Thursday, October 4th in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall at 8:00 PM; free admission. Not to be missed!

— your friendly webbottress.

Closing Notes on SICPP (+ photos!)

In reviews, SICPP on July 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

11-hr Iditarod proof. Photo by Elaine Rombola.

Because, in the end, eleven hours wasn’t all that bad—the sheer bulk of time encouraging a get-comfortable attitude that made every piece feel a little more generous than it might on a regular concert… SICPP and its audience is, by definition, a like-minded bunch on at least a basic musical level. But, as in Cage’s music, and Wolff’s music, and the Iditarod itself, it’s the chaos of agreement that’s so much fun.” — Matthew Guerrieri

Many thanks to Matthew Guerrieri, who stayed for all 11+ hours of the Iditarod this year and wrote this heart-felt, lovely review on NewMusicBox, noting every piece from Cartridge Music (4:00 pm) to Concert for Piano and Orchestra with Aria (around 3:00 am).  Read the complete review here.

We began the week of concerts with an all-pianist fest on Sunday afternoon, June 17 in Jordan Hall: Christian Wolff’s Sonata (for three pianos), performed by Stephen Drury, Steffen Schleiermacher, and Yukiko Takagi, sandwiched by John Cage’s Winter Music, performed by Louis Goldstein, Joseph Kubera, and Schleiermacher, and Music of Changes, performed by Joseph Kubera — who, according to Boston Globe’s Matthew Guerrieri, “more than met the challenge”.  The full Globe review can be read here.

Monday evening’s program consisted of the world premiere of Christian Wolff’s Overture (performed by Callithumpian Consort), as well as Wolff’s Hay una mujer desaparecida (performed by Stephen Drury), Cage’s Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra (with Yukiko Takagi on prepared piano), and Cage’s Music for Seventeen (performed by Callithumpian Consort).  Wolff’s Overture, comprised of smaller, intertwining subsets within a larger ensemble, culminated in the much larger picture of a greater aural collage: a refreshing angle, which some modernists may see as only separated, trite conversations.  In Cage’s Music for Seventeen (or for any number of players, up to 17), each performer has his / her own score and timer — very much like musicians in a Merce Cunningham performance — and performs on his / her own, as there is no universal score.  Callithumpian Consort, spatialized across the entire stage (with Stephen Drury and Yukiko Takagi bowing the pianos in large motions, Drury at stage left, Takagi at stage right), became a visual system: a fascinating and (depending on the individual) challenging experience to breathe in.  David Patterson of the Boston Musical Intelligencer noted Yukiko Takagi’s performance in the Concerto as “graceful” and “highly sensitized”, and that “…the silences as well as the sounds were perfectly — can I say, harmoniously — delivered seriatim.”

Tuesday’s concert, Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts (performed by Gabriela Diaz, Ethan Wood, Karina Fox, and Benjamin Schwartz) and the complete Sonatas and Interludes (performed by the one and only Louis Goldstein), was clearly the melt-in-your-mouth program of the week.  Of the Quartet, Fred Bouchard of the Boston Musical Intelligencer writes that the performers were “equals in adept phrasing and observing Cage’s deft conceptual flow.”  Bouchard describes the Sonatas and Interludes as “Cage’s microcosm of eternity… As Goldstein gently unrolled and rerolled Cage’s universal scrolls, he stopped the clock, left us calmly ecstatic, with a transcendent glimpse into a quizzical afterlife.”  Read the complete review here.

Jessi Rosinski and Ethan Wood gave a terrific and thrilling performance of Nicholas Vines’s Obsidian Magnified on Wednesday evening, then followed by a well-framed, approximately 31 minutes of simultaneous Cage music played by champion performers Steffen Schleiermacher (31’57.9864″ for a pianist), Karina Fox (26’1.1499″ for a string player), and Scott Deal (27’10.554″ for a percussionist).  The program rounded off with the Callithumpian Consort performing Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together / Attica: the first, a driving build-up of energy, followed by the much slower and calmer Attica, with David Prum and Paul Howe as the narrators conveying the spectrum of energy.

Steffen Schleiermacher gave an incredible solo piano recital of the New York and Darmstadt avant-garde in Jordan Hall on Thursday; if you missed it, you’d be lucky to have his CDs in your hands, full listings of which you can find here.  Earlier on Thursday was the SICPP / Boston GuitarFest concert at the Fenway Center, at which Jeremy Eichler of the Boston Globe noted the “unflappability” of the musicians, especially in Philip Glass’s Music in Fifths.  On Friday in Brown Hall was the anticipated (and delayed) world premiere of Alvin Lucier’s Braid, a beautifully-threaded piece with patterned layers of microtonal beatings, performed exquisitely by Callithumpian Consort.  The evening then shifted gears to an amazing, full staging of Christian Wolff’s The Exception and the Rule (play by Bertolt Brecht) with Jennifer Ashe, Brian Church, Paul Howe, David Prum, Wesley Ray Thomas, and Callithumpian, wrapping up the night.

Phew!  And then of course was the aforementioned, 11+hr Iditarod, with every piece mentioned in this stellar review by Matthew Guerrieri.  What a week.  Happy 100th, John!  The way we listen continues to change…

It was wonderful to have you as a part of this special week: the 2012 SICPPies, Christian Wolff, Stephen Drury, Louis Goldstein, Joseph Kubera, Steffen Schleiermacher, Tanya Blaich, Scott Deal, John Mallia, Yukiko Takagi, Nicholas Vines, Callithumpian Consort, Aaron Likness, Dave Tarantino, Michael Unterman, Ryan Krause, Corey Schreppel, Alex Hug, Perry Johnson, Marie von Kampen, Lisa Nigris, Aaron Dana, Bob Winters, Richard Feit, Ching Yeo, and finally, our very own wonderful program director, Elaine Rombola.  Thank you!

Photos can be found at the SICPP 2012 Flickr set, and we’re always looking for more — if you have some photos you’d like to share, feel free to send them on over to and we’ll put them up (and credit you, of course).

Signing off with Stephen Drury’s words: “Remember us in your wills, and enjoy the noise.”

until next time,

SICPP 2012 Begins!

In concerts, SICPP on June 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

design by Aaron Dana (

It’s that time of year again, when SICPPies (pronounced: “sick puppies”) from all over congregate at the New England Conservatory for the annual SICK PUPPY festival: the Summer Institute of Contemporary Performance Practice.  This year we celebrate John Cage’s 100th birthday, feature world premieres by composer-in-residence Christian Wolff (as well as the rescheduled world premiere by Alvin Lucier), and immerse ourselves in an incredible amount of new music from every angle.

Join us, as we celebrate the Cage Centennial in 7 days of concerts, starting this Sunday afternoon (6/17) and ending with Saturday’s infamous Iditarod (6/23). In addition to the full-length, (mostly) evening concerts listed below, there will be lunchtime concerts throughout the week (Mon-Fri) in the Keller Room at New England Conservatory.

All concerts are free at the New England Conservatory of Music, with the exception of the SICPP/Boston GuitarFest concert on Thursday, June 21 at the Fenway Center.

Sunday, June 17 @ 3 pm
Joseph Kubera, Steffen Schleiermacher, Louis Goldstein, Stephen Drury
John Cage: Music of Changes
John Cage: Winter Music
Christian Wolff: Sonata (for three pianos)
JORDAN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Monday, June 18 @ 8 pm
Stephen Drury, Yukiko Takagi, Callithumpian Consort
Christian Wolff: Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida
John Cage: Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra
John Cage: Music for Seventeen
Christian Wolff: Overture (world premiere)
JORDAN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Tuesday, June 19 @ 8 pm
Louis Goldstein, Callithumpian Consort
John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes
John Cage: String Quartet in Four Parts
JORDAN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Wednesday, June 20 @ 8 pm
Steffen Schleiermacher, Karina Fox, Scott Deal, David Prum, Callithumpian Consort
John Cage: 31’57.9864″ for a pianist
John Cage: 26’1.1499″ for a string player
John Cage: 27’10.544″ for a percussionist
Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together/Attica
Nicholas Vines: Obsidian Magnified
JORDAN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Thursday, June 21 @ 5 pm
SICPP/Boston GuitarFest: NachBach
Jonathan Godfrey: Sonatina for solo guitar
J.S. Bach: Contrapunctus XIV (unfinished) from Die Kunst der Fuge
Elliot Carter: Shard
Alvin Lucier: Canon
Philip Glass: Music in Fifths
Fenway Center at Northeastern University
Ticketing information and directions here.

Thursday, June 21 @ 8 pm
Steffen Schleiermacher: The Early 50’s: New York + Darmstadt
Christian Wolff: For Piano I (1952)
Bernd Alois Zimmerman: Exerzitien (1951-53)
John Cage: Music for Piano #4-#19 (1952)
Hans Ulrich Engelmann: Suite I op. 7 (1950)
Morton Feldman: Extension 3 (1953)
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Klavierstück VII + VIII (1954/55)
Earle Brown: Folio (1952/53)
Olivier Messian: Cantéyodjâya (1948)
JORDAN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Friday, June 22 @ 8 pm
David Prum, Paul Howe, Brian Church, Jen Ashe, Callithumpian Consort
Christian Wolff: The Exception and the Rule (fully staged)
Alvin Lucier: Braid (world premiere)
BROWN HALL at the New England Conservatory

Saturday, June 23 @ 4 pm
The SICPP Iditarod: beginning at 4 pm and going until whenever.
A six-hour-plus marathon concert featuring performances by the Fellows of the Institute;
highlights will include music by Christian Wolff and John Cage, Steve Reich’s Drumming,
2010 SICPP Fellow Mark Poliks’s tress/burl ( a Callithumpian/SICPP commission),
new works by the SICPP 2012 Composition Fellows, and music by
Morton Feldman, Linda Dusman, John Zorn, Lee Hyla, Luciano Berio, and George Crumb.
BROWN HALL at the New England Conservatory

see you there,

Debussy, Mori, Murail, Vines, Zorn

In concerts, upcoming on January 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

photo + artwork: Chippy (Heung-Heung Chin)

Happy New Year! We’re kicking off 2012 with an exciting and powerful program on January 25th, with Debussy, Ikue Mori, Tristan Murail, Nicholas Vines, and John Zorn, featuring special guests: electronic artist / musician Ikue Mori, and the incredible soprano Adrienne Pardee. Here’s the line-up:

Claude Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp
Ikue Mori: Confucius Becomes Popular
Tristan Murail: Lachrymae
Nicholas Vines: The Economy of Wax
John Zorn: Orphée

Ikue Mori has quite the colorful range of experiences in the avant-garde and electronic art + music realms since her days with the seminal NO WAVE band DNA. Lately Mori has been working on her animation + live music project, Kibyoshi, which was released on DVD in 2011. Translated as “The Yellow Covers”, Kibyoshi were very popular picture books during the Edo period (1600-1860), comprised of unique woodblock prints and satirical texts directed at society, with narratives creating “the most preposterous views of art, culture, religion, and all aspects of people’s daily lives.” Mori’s Confucius Becomes Popular from Kibyoshi is definitely something not to miss — more information on Kibyoshi can be found here.

Tristan Murail was our composer-in-residence at Sick Puppy 2011 (Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice); Murail composed a new work, Lachrymae (alto flute + string quintet), for the Callithumpian Consort. At the world premiere, the piece was described by the Boston Globe as “a more intimate and emotional aspect of Murail’s personality”. Here’s your chance to hear it again (and here’s the full review from the world premiere).

The Economy of Wax (soprano, flute/piccolo, viola, + harp) by Nicholas Vines was commissioned in 2009 by soprano Jane Sheldon and biologist Peter Godfrey-Smith with the idea of setting portions of Darwin’s Origin of Species to music for soprano and chamber ensemble. In Vines’ work, the focus is on the “meticulous descriptions of how bees construct honeycomb … the music reflects this structure’s intricate mathematics, the intense activity of the bees themselves and Darwin’s keen, and on occasion, ecstatic observations.” Since its premiere at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, The Economy of Wax has been performed at Stanford University in California, at the Australian National University, and at Tanglewood Music Festival among other disparate venues. This performance in Jordan Hall will feature soprano Adrienne Pardee, who performed The Economy of Wax at Tanglewood in 2010.

And to round things off, we pair John Zorn‘s Orphee with Claude Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp. Depicting the legend of Orpheus’s trip to the Underworld to rescue Eurydice, Zorn mirrors Debussy’s lush romanticism and instrumentation, adding percussion, keyboards, and electronics. Electronic artist Ikue Mori will be performing in Zorn’s Orphee. (

Wednesday, January 25 at 8pm in Jordan Hall: a solid start to the new year, and a night not to miss — free admission, too.

Cage, Bartok, & Reich in Idaho

In concerts on September 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hello from Moscow, Idaho!  We’re performing tonight at 7:30 pm at the University of Idaho with a piano-and-percussion heavy program, kicking off the 2011-2012 Auditorium Chamber Music Series.  On the bill tonight: Cage’s Credo in Us, Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and Reich’s Sextet.  Our touring ‘Thumpers this time around are our own Stephen Drury and Yukiko Takagi on piano, as well as our rockstar percussionists Scott Deal, Jeffrey Means, Bill Solomon, and Nick Tolle.

We’re in residence this week, giving demos, masterclasses, and concerts to the folks here in Moscow.  Feel free to come by if you’re in the area, and don’t be shy — we’ll be hanging around after the concert for a meet-and-greet.  More information on our residence can be found here and here.

See you tonight!


Kicking Off: Murail, Reich, Liang

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

(photo of Tristan Murail by E. Schneider)

Happy September!  We’re off to a hefty start this season, kicking off with Tristan Murail‘s Le Lac, Steve Reich‘s Sextet, and Lei Liang‘s Aural Hypothesis on Wednesday, September 14th in Jordan Hall.

This past summer, we were thrilled to have French composer Tristan Murail in residence here in Boston at our annual Sick Puppy (SICPP: Summer Institute of Contemporary Performance Practice) festival, where we performed a large array of his music, including the world premiere of Lachrymae (2011) as well as our first performance of Le Lac (2001).  Murail describes this work (scored for an ensemble of 19) as being inspired by the emergent and ephemeral layers he experienced at a lake to the north of New York City.  “Every day, every hour, the lake has a different light, a new mood. It is ever present but ever changing, reflecting and magnifying the incessant movement of the seasons and climates.” (

Steve Reich‘s Sextet (1985) is written for percussion and keyboards: a shifting exploration of melody and harmony, at times revealing itself as foreground, then melting into the background (and back again).  Without a doubt, Sextet is a work of utmost focus, with its cyclic weaving of rhythm and patterns lasting just under half an hour.

Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang brings us Aural Hypothesis (2010), scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and vibraphone.  In the approximately eleven minutes that elapse, quiet and intimate sounds suddenly rush into a saturated storm, making its exit with glissandi and staccati carving and punctuating an elusive sonic texture.  A beautiful work, not to be missed live.

These three works — Le Lac, Sextet, and Aural Hypothesis — are guaranteed to blow you away into new musical worlds.  What better way to start the season?  Come join us on Wednesday, September 14th at 8pm in Jordan Hall and share this experience with us.

— your friendly webbottress.

Sick Puppy, 2011

In concerts, SICPP, upcoming on June 9, 2011 at 2:50 am

© 2011 Aaron Dana (

Yes, we will have T-shirts (original graphic by Aaron Dana) to purchase at this year’s SICPP festival, which is happening soon: June 18 – 25 at the New England Conservatory in Boston.  SICPP (also known as “Sick Puppy”) is an intensive performance seminar on music of the 20th & 21st centuries for advanced instrumentalists, vocalists, and young composers.  It’s a full schedule: 8 days of master classes, lessons, back-to-back rehearsals and concerts — invaluable for anyone interested in the newest music and ready to tackle the challenges of this special repertoire under a faculty uniquely experienced in learning, performing, and teaching this music.  In many cases our SICPP faculty have worked directly with the composers themselves — Cage, Reich, Wolff, Czernowin and more — and can impart first-hand information about the music.

A few things to note: this year we welcome our 2011 composer-in-residence, Tristan Murail, who has written Callithumpian Consort a new work, Lachrymae, for string quartet, bass, and flute, which will be premiered during the festival.  We also welcome guest artist, pianist Ursula Oppens, who will be giving a solo concert of Corigliano, Rzewski, and Wuorinen as part of the SICPP festivities, as well as coaching our pianists on a variety of repertoire.  Another exciting bit of news: during SICPP, Stephen Drury and Scott Deal will premiere John Luther Adams‘s Four Thousand Holes, a work commissioned by Drury, which was recently released on Cold Blue Records, selected by Alex Ross as one of his top CD picks, and which received a stellar review from Textura.  And finally, a new Callithumpian-commissioned work, Counterfactual by Joshua Fineberg, will be receiving its second performance after a successful Spectral Summer concert at Boston University last weekend.

A full bill this year!  Lots of exciting things to look forward to.  Check out our concert listing, now up on our website, or visit the NEC calendar events page.  You can find detailed program information on both sites, and you can follow us on Twitter or “like” us on our brand new Facebook page for the latest.

More soon — SICPP countdown starts now!

until next time,

Learning by Doing: Spectral Summer Interview

In concerts, interviews, upcoming on May 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm


Stephen Drury and the Callithumpian Consort will premiere Joshua Fineberg’s Counterfactual during the Spectral Summer Professional Performance workshop at Boston University’s CFA School of Music on Sunday, June 5 at 8pm. The event is free and no tickets are required.

In this unique interview, Matthias Röder converses with Artistic Director Stephen Drury and Composer-in-Residence Joshua Fineberg about Spectral Music: what it is exactly, and what sounds are to be expected at the culminating concert on Sunday, June 5.

Matthias RöderThis year’s Spectral Summer workshop at Boston University is coming up soon. The workshop consists of classes and a final concert. Tell us a little bit about what the courses will look like.

Steve Drury: Learning by doing! The courses are basically rehearsals: we will prepare a range of music from very early, “pre-spectral” repertoires to a most recent work by Josh Fineberg especially written for us to play at this event. The workshop program includes Grisey’s Echanges, his first published work, written when spectralism was barely a gleam in his eye (he was 22 at the time) as well as a fascinating work by Murail which uses two pianists with one playing exclusively inside the instrument, accompanied by a single bass fiddle. We will also work on more familiar compositions such as Murail’s Feuilles à travers les cloches (“Leaves across the Bells”), a tribute to Debussy’s prelude Bells across the Leaves as well as completely unfamiliar music by Grisey and Levy for solo saxophone. The performers are players of the Callithumpian Consort, serving as faculty/mentors playing alongside some younger adventurous musicians.

MR: Some of our readers may wonder, what is spectral music? Is this a new kind of music?

Joshua Fineberg: Spectral Music, is a trend that dates back to the mid 1970’s. It is not exactly a new kind of music, but it has represented an important shift in attitude towards composing. In the visual arts in the nineteenth century, most painters would have said they painted pictures of things, but the impressionists came along and said they were painting light, texture and shadow. In the same way, many early 20th century composers viewed music as being constructed of pitches, rhythms, motives, counterpoint, etc. but spectral composer’s viewed music as being sound evolving in time as perceived by a listener. This flipping of subject and object sounds trivial, but has enormous implications for all aspects of art making.

In particular, viewing sound as the starting point, not the end result, means that many of the innovations from modern acoustics and psychoacoustics can directly inform the musical possibilities and music can be created that requires less of an explicit historical context to be appreciated. This music as sound attitude has now become so ubiquitous that it can be easy to forget what a foreign idea it was even 20 years ago.

MR: What are some of the challenges in performing spectral music?

SD: First of all: reading the notation! The music is frequently written in “space=time” notation rather than in conventional quarter-notes as you would expect. Then it is quite difficult for young performers to adjust to playing in new tuning systems. Many of the pitches in spectral music fall “between the cracks” on the piano. But most important is listening, which is true for all music, but in this case the notes of various players frequently combine to create a kind of composite cloud-sound; you imagine hearing a new instrument which doesn’t really exist but kind of floats in the air above the players.

MR: (to Joshua Fineberg) the Spectral Summer Workshop ends with the premiere of your newest piece, Counterfactual, a composition that is based on what you call the “central gesture” of Giacinto Scelsi’s Okanagon. Will it be possible for the listeners to hear that connection or is this something that is present only in the inaudible super structure of the composition?

JF: No it is not only audible, but evident that the very unique trio from Okanagon (amplified tam-tam, harp and double bass) will be present in the middle of the stage to create a sort of touch-stone ‘original’ that opens the door to a ‘fictional’ world built around it.

MR: Throughout the history of music, making reference or commenting on the music of others has been an important artistic strategy for composers. Do you think that creating connections and relating to music that exists next to a particular composition or style is especially important in today’s fragmented music culture?

JF: For me it was really about that remarkable sonic object. As Proust found that astounding color in the wall of a Vermeer painting that led to a whole beautiful passage, the sound at the heart of Okanagon was uniquely and powerfully evocative to me and I wanted to see what it could become in my world of transformation and illusion as opposed to Scelsi’s world of repetition and ritual.

— Matthias Röder