Lawler + Fadoul ~ On Prelude Cocktail and Related Things

Left, Zara Lawler, flute; right, Paul Fadoul, marimbaslider-2

The flute and marimba duo Lawler + Fadoul had a few mintues to discuss their CD Prelude Cocktail, which you folks should most certainly pick up, it is a really cool collection of preludes transcribed for the 2 instruments by these very gifted artists.

You can purchase/download the album here or on the link on the bottom.

CM: I want to start off by saying I was quite blown away by this album, it sounds incredible! The thing is, I really enjoy hearing the art of transcription–It’s so special, and some people are probably wondering how it’s so special when it’s music that already exists, but it just gives a whole other sound to something. And these pieces you guys did are mostly written for the piano–Of course, I love the piano, but it has this really cool, sort of chimey elegance with the marimba. And the flute takes up the melody. It’s a nice, fresh approach. BTW, I feel like I just said everything you were going to say, so forgive me…

[all laughing]

Zara: That’s ok, I don’t think we would have come up with the phrase “chimey elegance”, but…

Paul: We like “chimey elegance”! Continue reading

Hilary Hahn’s Recital in Turkey ~ A Review

Hilary Hahn performing at the İş Sanat Cultural Center, Istanbul, Turkey (Photo courtesy of İş Sanat)hilaryinistanbul

Hilary Hahn–Recital
Selections from In 27 Pieces and music from Bach, Corelli and Fauré
Hilary Hahn, violin
Cory Smythe, piano
Istanbul Concert Hall at İş Sanat Cultural Center
Istanbul, Turkey
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Written by Alain Matalon

It is not, and certainly should not be, exclusive to luxury brand sponsored male pianists to make a fashion statement on the concert stage. Before she dazzled our ears, Ms. Hilary Hahn, stunned our visual slant as she appeared on stage in a close-fitting nude-colored gown adorned with ethnic embroidery on top, and below the waist, ten rows of golden tassels (that, as a friend put later “danced a frenetic foxtrot, or a genial waltz depending on the music she happened to be playing”). Accompanying her was Mr. Cory Smythe on the piano for an evening celebrating the union of the very old, the old, and the very new.

The duo was in Istanbul for a special evening to mark the fruits of Hilary Hahn’s recent In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores project. Out of the eight pieces that were played, four of them were World Premieres (and, according to Ms. Hahn, the other four were “Northern Hemisphere debuts”). The program was designed to reflect as much contrast as possible with the encore pieces scattered around the traditional ones.

hilaryinistanbul5The Corelli Op. 5 No. 4 in F Major, a rather easy feat for the competent pair, kicked the evening to a jocund start followed by three encores from the project in their world premiere: James Newton Howard’s “133… At Least”, a fast and uneasy number dealing mostly with rising and falling chromatic melodies in Ms. Hahn’s expert hands; A.G. Abril’s “Three Sighs”: a peculiar amalgam of lush and lyrical violin against sharp, staccato piano attacks from Mr.Smythe and Mason Bates’ “Ford’s Farm”, a rhythmically structured dance music accentuating the perfect sync between the two musicians. Continue reading

2012 ~ The Year in Music (In My Mind)


This has not been a year where a lot of things jump out at me. I guess it’s safe to say that I am not a great music journalist when not every recording comes out and speaks to me in such a powerful way. Other people seem to find various strong points even about music they find only marginally satisfying. I tend to be less outspoken. I’m also still the sole writer and operator of this page, so, that is another factor, when it is very difficult to have the ability to even make the time for every recording and rank them accordingly.

I also have to say that it’s really against my personal beliefs to have a list of “best” albums in an order that gives the impression that I think certain recordings are better than others. Yes, I do have favorites, but it’s tough when you want to make a big list, and you put really good albums at the bottom end of it. And what are the factors that put lesser or greater value on those picks, exactly? I had a list last year, and even though I swore that it was not a list in the order of greatness, I still had the Hilary Hahn Ives recording listed first. That was definitely pointed out right away, but I still feel that I broke my own rule for the sake of Hilary Hahn, almost to the point that I was being biased. I do really like her Ives album, but I suppose that it was easier to start with that. I randomly listed some other releases last year, some of which I actually reviewed on the blog and others I didn’t, but did hear beforehand. Leah Kardos’ Feather Hammer was, for sure, a dark horse candidate for album of the year, and, in my opinion, a debut CD (even though she’d made music previously as My Lithium & Me) that surely sounds like a recording that’s going to be a difficult one for Ms. Kardos to top in the years to come.

Getting back to 2012, I think it’s easier to just talk about the year in music when I look at it this way: There were quite a few really good moments, but this year for me, Silfra by Hilary Hahn and Hauschka is definitely the clear winner if I were to choose a winner. Being that I like HH and everything, that is a certainty, but when I heard about it and I saw the cover, I knew that it was not going to be like the rest of her catalog. Continue reading

Jennifer Koh ~ On Playing Violin and Einstein

Photo courtesy of Juergen Frank

Violinist Jennifer Koh had some time to talk with me about a few things: her multi-tiered project Bach & Beyond, which is both a compelling series of concerts as well as her upcoming CD. She’s also been performing in this interesting stage production you may have heard something about: Philip Glass’s opera Einstein On The Beach at BAM, where she got to not only play the violin part but also portray Einstein himself. Number one, how often do we see a concert violinist perform in any kind of opera onstage, and how often is it a female violinist portraying a male character?

In any event, look for some interesting projects from Jennifer, including the CD, some West Coast performances of Einstein, and more performances of the Bach & Beyond concerts. Continue reading

Lara Downes

Pianist Lara Downes is someone that I thought I just knew from twitter, but I was totally fascinated when I checked out her current CD 13 Ways Of Looking at the Goldberg, a collection of 13 newly-composed variations/re-imagined takes on Bach by the same number of living composers (Among them Jennifer Higdon, William Bolcom and Lukas Foss), along with the original Bach collection’s plaintive “Aria”. On top of this, I realized she’s not just a great pianist but an incredible presenter and conversationalist of the music she plays. She even has, besides a regular cool website, a second one titled On The Bench where she turns the tables and interviews other pianists. This was kind of like those interviews, except I’m not nearly as good a pianist!
Lara spoke to me via Skype. Continue reading

Simone Dinnerstein

Simone Dinnerstein (THAT one, yes) is doing a Glass interview! Wow!

Simone, the lady that made a self-financed CD of the Bach Goldberg Variations and managed to eventually garner critical acclaim from the NY Times, LA Times, The New Yorker, and have a brilliant career as a concert pianist is giving some time to this still budding publication. Still need a pinch.

The new CD, Something Almost Being Said, is her newly-recorded collection of music by Bach (by now her trademark) and Schubert. Simone talks a bit about the record, Tift Merritt, correctional facilities, and that damn iPhone. Continue reading

God and Music

I should explain at the outset here that I do believe God exists, and I am not using this to denounce any church or religion, or any religious icons, nor do I want to upset people that don’t have that belief. At the same time, I do feel that there are times where I can understand the point of view of both the faithful and the skeptical and I end up somewhere on the fence (What is that exactly? A half-conscientious observer of religion of some sort?), so hopefully this explains where I am approaching this from. And I also want to keep this squarely focused on classical music, not going anywhere near any gospel or Christian music or any genre tied in with those.
For the record, it should be noted that I was raised a Catholic and attended Sunday masses every week up until I was in high school. I was even in the church folk group for a time. Not really sure when it grew apart from me or why. Continue reading

Musicians: Anne Akiko Meyers

This lady needs no intro, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t make some kind of attempt at it.

Internationally-renowned violinist Anne Akiko Meyers (Yes, that Anne Akiko Meyers) has agreed to talk to The Glass. I need another pinch.

Scheduled to be released on February 13, 2012 (Just in time for that Valentine’s Day gift, music lovers) is Anne’s new CD The Bach ‘Air’ Album, a CD that will feature the Bach Violin Concertos, including the Double Violin Concerto where Anne will be performing both solo parts; one of them on the famous 1697 Strad Molitor that she acquired recently (More about this later), and the 2nd one on her 1730 Strad.
Anne continues to perform numerous classics on the concert circuit as well as premiering new works by David Baker, Mason Bates, Jennifer Higdon, Arvo Part, Somei Satoh, and John Corligliano. She’s also collaborated with artists as diverse as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Michael Bolton. Continue reading

Composers: Jennifer Jolley

Photo courtesy of Liz Remizowski

Just putting it out there that I’ve now interviewed 2 female composers in a row named Jennifer. What are the odds?

This Jennifer, Jennifer Jolley, hails from Long Beach, CA. Originally having a specific interest in scoring films (Which explains both her love of film soundbites in some of her sound collages and her interest in writing opera), Jennifer later focused more on straight composing after her graduation from U.S.C. and further studies at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where she now lives with her librettist and her 2 cats Lindsay Lohan and Coco Chanel. Having been commissioned by many contemporary ensembles and having one of her works presented at MATA’s 2011 Make Music Winter Workshop (“Press Play”), Jennifer writes a blog about her career (Titled “Why Compose When You Can Blog”) and even has time to write several other blogs (Building a Better Opera, MusicX Musings; She also contributes to the official blog for Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music: Center For Computer Music), and she’s also an instructor at University of Cincinnati. I’m just glad there was time for her to take a break and talk to me.

CM: You seem to have different sides to your music; Some of it is minimalist or modern orchestral, and some of it is electronics, tapes or sound collage. Is this a way of saying that you would rather explore and flesh out these styles simultaneously than focus on just one way of composition?

JJ: Maybe I’m accidentally fleshing out my styles simultaneously! Ultimately I want to work with a style that conveys my concept the best. If I need to write minimalist music to get my point across, then I’m going to use it. If I need to use a vocoder, so be it. Over the past two years I’ve changed my approach in my pre-compositional process—I merely thought about harmonies, melodies, and timbre before working on a piece, and now I think about what I’m trying to say with my music and which style would work best. After I figure out my concept, I think about harmonies, melodies, and timbre. Right now I’m working on an opera that’s a retelling of both the Narcissus and Pygmalion myths, and holy cow, I might be writing a neo-classical opera. I’ve already completed a da capo aria, and it looks like I might include secco recitative. Honestly I’ve been a little self-conscious about the style so far (because it may be a little conservative), but I feel that the style fits the story and concept.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Our discussion of Jennifer’s new opera is coming up shortly. ;))

CM: “Paint My Chopper Pink” is one of the tape pieces, and I really like the direction it takes toward the middle (It gets into a tinny-sounding section that is quite soothing to my ears, just so you know). Can you talk about the subject of this piece and about how this was recorded?

JJ: I wanted to write a motorcycle motet for four voices! Since I loved listening to motets and motorcycles, I wanted to combine the two. So, I found four different sound clips of motorcycles starting online (yes, this is probably cheating) and processed them in a Max/MSP external called PerColate. I was also obsessed with the convolve patch which combines any two sounds you like, and I wanted to combine the agressive sound of motorcycles with gentle bell sounds. On a side note, an art professor suggested I create an acoustic version of this piece, and I might do it! I think it would be great to have a live motorcycle motet. Of course, I don’t know what to do about the exhaust, and I don’t have access to four timbrally-different motorcycles…

Paint My Chopper Pink

CM: “Get Your Ass To Mars” and “More Human Than Human” are collages that feature dialogue from “Total Recall” and “Blade Runner” respectively. Were these pieces meant to direct a different point of view on the films’ stories, or were you just making a whole new statement with each one?

JJ: I was creating a Philip K. Dick triptych of tape pieces that would indeed create a whole new statement with each one. I had to go this route because the films are recent—those who are familiar with the films will instantly visualize scenes from the film, and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of retelling the movie. I mean, I instantly visual Arnold Schwarzenegger every time he speaks!

CM: “All Grief Empty, The Clear Night Passes” is one of your orchestral pieces, and it has a powerful cadenza for percussion (It almost sounds like a brief concerto)

JJ: This piece did not have a master structural plan when I started. I had a general idea that I wanted to start with high pitches then meander to lower ones. Then when I finished the first section, I decided to pick up the tempo a bit and then climax to a big percussion section. That cadenza section was fun to write, although I don’t know if the other sections tempered the fiery percussion duet. That’s okay though—I wrote this piece in 2008, and I’ll have more of a master plan when I write my next orchestra piece.

All Grief Empty, the Clear Night Passes

CM: “Laments By The Sea (III: A Farewell)” is so minimalist and current-sounding to me, yet it has a classical beauty towards the middle (EDITOR’S NOTE: Jennifer has 2 other movements of this she hasn’t posted on Soundcloud yet).

JJ: This piece grew from a song for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble that I wrote in 2001. 2001! And then my conductor friend Nathan Madsen asked me if I would be willing to expand the piece in 2007. The biggest challenge for me was linking the two bookend movements with the original one (“The Three Fishers”), and I thought the best way to do this was to have the text dictate the music. With the third movement, I thought it would be appropriate to compose calm and placid music since the narrator is dying and uttering his last words.

CM: Would you program this piece on the same night as “Paint My Chopper Pink”?

JJ: Absolutely not! The concepts of the pieces are completely different and would not curate well on the same concert. Now, if I wrote an electronic piece that had to do with the sea or death, I would reconsider.

Laments by The Sea (III: A Farewell)

CM: The audience participation piece “Press Play” is basically the Ricercar from Bach’s late work The Musical Offering. The first recording of it sounds like you transcribed the original (And THAT sounds so beautiful to begin with!) for various instruments on tape, but when it came time to do what you set out to do with the recording devices at the concert premiere, it took on a whole different feel altogether as some parts were slightly off kilter and there was what sounded almost like a more jarring orchestration of it. Was this exactly what you were looking for, or is this a randomness that works in your favor?

JJ: Thankfully this randomness worked in my favor. I wanted the audience to experience their childhood again by performing and interacting with a childhood tape recorder (I specifically searched for tape recorders from the 1980s) and listening to a piece of music that was performed on toy instruments. (Granted, the only two toy instruments on this piece were the toy piano and glockenspiel, but most pitched children’s instruments are diatonic, and Bach’s fugal line is chromatic.)

So, what tonal piece would survive a toy orchestration and irregular playback from thirty-year old tape recorders? The Bach Ricercar. I figured it survived a Webern orchestration, so surely it must survive vintage tape playback.

The playback was a little more “off” than I expected, but I loved the results. My main fear was that people would think that this was a pure orchestration of the Bach piece, but instead the different tape speeds produced a new piece. Of course, I wouldn’t mind having the original orchestration performed live.

Press Play (Recorded live at the Sonic Explorations concert, Cincinnati, OH 4/19/11)

CM: Your blog “Why Compose When You Can Blog?” (Great title, btw) is such a great read and looks like it can be insightful for budding composers. In it, there are entries you call “Composer Fail” where you talk about your rejections. I love that you can talk about these things that probably make other people embarrassed and shy away from discussing them. Did you always set out to talk about the failures?

JJ: Well, not specifically. My composer FAIL posts began as a catharsis for my turning thirty. As a twenty-nine-year-old composer, you worry that you won’t be successful because thirty is the cutoff year for entering huge young composer competitions. When I was twenty-nine, I had this urge to enter every single “young composer” competition while I could, and I was still receiving rejection letters. So I thought, why not share and talk about my failures? It is my way of dealing with rejection at this point. And now I’m glad I’ve continued this series on my blog because not only does it help me deal with rejection, but I think it also shows other composers that failing is a part of success. Composers (and anyone else, actually) will be rejected more times than they are accepted, but that is part of the process. I’ve learned that competitions aren’t working for me, so I’ve focused more time on establishing my connections and having my music performed. So, I hope to defang composition competition rejection letters and show young composers that you don’t have to rate your success based on your winning a competition.

CM: Okay, about your upcoming opera project–Supposedly it’s about a futuristic society where they practice cosmetic cloning. Can you say anything more about it at this point? Any other opera concepts you have in mind?

JJ: Yes! The opera I mentioned on my blog takes place in the near future, where a woman decides to clone her husband for an upgrade, only to be dismayed when the original starts to fall in love with the copy. Building a Better Joshua, the name of the opera, is a comic retelling of the Narcissus myth, as a vain couple sees their world spiral into chaos.

My librettist and I are also thinking about creating a sitcom opera about Ronald and Nancy Reagan. We’ll see what happens.

CM: What fantasy project/musician would you like to work/commission with? Personally, I would love to hear how you would write concertos of any kind!

JJ: I’m going to cheat here and say that I’d love to work with LA Opera. I was not a fan of opera growing up, but once I saw Billy Budd at the LA Opera, I wanted to write one. If LA Opera ever produced an opera of mine, I would be absolutely thrilled. (I just realized I would have to figure out what director I’d like to work with, but I haven’t done much research on opera directors.)

[As for soloists] I would love to work with Vicki Ray; she’s such a dynamic and skillful pianist. When I was in high school I went to the Piano Spheres concerts in Los Angeles and heard her perform a piece that required her to read Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis while playing the piano. (I wish I remembered the name of the piece.) She made it seem so effortless! Now, what would I write for her? A piano concerto with percussionists? An installment in my Sounds from the Gray Goo Series? Something for toy piano?
Sounds from the Gray Goo 2.01 (Rebecca Danard, bassoon with pre-recorded clarinet; Northside Tavern, July 2011)

Please do check out Jennifer’s webpage, her YouTube and Soundcloud as she has even more music on those pages that I didn’t feature here.
I highly recommend the blog as well. Official website
Why Compose When You Can Blog? Jennifer’s blog
Jennifer’s YouTube channel
Jennifer’s Soundcloud page